New study confirms even researchers can be idiots

Ben Goldacre, a doctor, writer for The Guardian and blogger at, writes about a study by some researches in the Messina University in Italy, that compares Down's Syndrome patients to Oriental people. In 1866 John Langdon Down wrote “Observations on the Ethnic Classification of Idiots”, which was the first paper to describe Down's Syndrome patients. In that paper Down compared various "idiots" and classified them according to which ethnic group he felt they belonged in, arguing that mental retardation was really a genetic throwback to the less-evolved, non-white races. Down described (what's now known as) Down's Syndrome patients as Mongoloid.

Fast forward to today when an Italian university publishes a paper with such gems as:
Another aspect of Down person that remind [us of] the Asiatic population, are alimentary characteristics. Down subjects adore having several dishes displayed on the table and have a propensity for food which is rich in monosodium glutamate (a salt of glutamate), such as parmigiano, beef broth, tinned food, etc.. The Chinese food abounds in monosodium glutamate that seems to be responsible for the fifth taste or ‘‘umami taste’’ and of the ‘‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’’.
But it gets worse:
The tendencies of Down subjects to carry out recreativereabilitative activities, such as embroidery, wicker-working ceramics, book-binding, etc., that is renowned, remind [us of] the Chinese hand-crafts, which need a notable ability, such as Chinese vases or the use of chop-sticks employed for eating by Asiatic populations.
Fascinating. I can't wait for their next paper, which will compare black people to chimpanzees. The full text of the paper is available on Dr. Goldacre's website, or here.

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