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The Rushton-Suzuki debate

For over three decades, David Suzuki has been Canada's foremost environmental conscience. From his experiments with fruit flies to his warnings about genetically modified food, Suzuki has made science relevant, interesting and full of wonder to his audiences. As a broadcaster for the CBC, he has issued frank warnings against industry, the economy and his fellow scientists. Passionate and outspoken, he has also won his fair share of critics. But despite, or perhaps because of this, Suzuki remains undeterred in his message.

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David Suzuki and professor Philipe Rushton sit on stage before a politically charged crowd. This one-on-one debate is about race and genetics. Rushton, a psychology professor at the University of Western Ontario, has released his controversial study that places Orientals, Caucasians and Blacks in an evolutionary hierarchy. The crux of Rushton's argument is that Orientals have higher IQ, are more law-abiding and are more sexually restrained than the other races.

Suzuki debunks Rushton's work as pseudo-science. "I do not believe that we should dignify this man and his ideas in public debate," Suzuki says to a cheering audience.
• "I did not want to be here. I do not believe that we should dignify this man and his ideas in public debate. His claims must be denounced, his methodology discredited, his grant revoked and his position terminated at this university. This is not science." — David Suzuki in the debate.

• While Suzuki was widely accepted as the winner in the debate, some critics felt that he didn't attack Rushton's study on a scientific basis.

• Philipe Rushton was removed from the classroom temporarily and delivered his lectures via video. On the basis of intellectual freedom he was subsequently reinstated in the classroom and continues to teach at the University of Western Ontario as of 2003.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Feb. 8, 1989
Guest(s): Phillipe Rushton, David Suzuki
Host: Knowlton Nash
Duration: 1:51

Last updated: March 27, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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