How to Argue with A Racist

A familiar face to many at Alleyn’s, it was a pleasure to welcome Dr Adam Rutherford - science writer, broadcaster and ex-Scientist-in-Residence at Alleyn’s, to deliver this year’s RV Jones Science Lecture based on his book: How to Argue with a Racist.  

Dr Rutherford was welcomed by Headmaster Dr Savage and Director of Science Mr Jones; and took to the stage in front of a packed Great Hall. The audience included parents, pupils and as well as colleagues and students from other Southwark Schools’ Learning Partnership (SSLP) member institutions. 

Dr Rutherford explained that race is real because we perceive it. And racism is real because we enact it. However, neither race nor racism has foundation in science. And yet the appeal to science to strengthen racist ideologies is on the rise - and increasingly part of the public discourse on politics, migration, education, sport and intelligence. 

Taking us on a tour of historic texts and present-day platforms, Dr Rutherford explored how stereotypes and myths about race are expressed not just by overt racists, but also by well-intentioned people whose experience and cultural baggage steers them towards views that are not supported by the modern study of human genetics. He explained that, if understood correctly, science and history can be powerful allies against racism, granting the clearest view of how people actually are, rather than how we judge them to be. 

After a lively FAQ session, Dr Rutherford joined the audience in the EAB for a convivial book-signing session in conjunction with Village Books. 

Thank you, Dr Rutherford, for a fascinating manifesto for a twenty-first century understanding of human evolution and variation, and a timely weapon against the misuse of science to justify bigotry.