‘I Have Had A Good Life’
John Jackson, American Renaissance, October 6, 2020
Richard Lynn, Memoirs of a Dissident Psychologist, Ulster Institute for Social Research, 2020, 476 pages, £25.
“We are each of us a link in a chain that stretches back into the past and, if we have children, goes forward into the future. It is our biological purpose to be able to transmit the genes that have been passed down to us through hundreds of millions of years . . . .” – Richard Lynn
One of the first things that stands out about dissident English researcher Richard Lynn’s autobiography is its accessible style. Although Dr. Lynn is a psychologist and has done extensive scholarly work, he does not write in the tedious style of an academic. Dr. Lynn was 90 years old when he finished this book; he has clearly kept his lucidity into his old age.
Born in 1930 in London, Dr. Lynn is known for his research on group differences in IQ, including racial, national, and sex differences. Like many in the field, he believes these differences are largely heritable — as are individual personality differences. Dr. Lynn describes his mother as unconventional and suggests that her independent character had an influence on his own personality. She rejected her given name Marjorie and began calling herself “Ann” as soon as she turned 18. Several years later, Ann conceived Richard in an illicit affair with a married man. Her father arranged a sham marriage with a pseudonymous “Richard Lynn,” from whom the younger Lynn got his name.
Ann was also a communist who read the Daily Worker, the newspaper of the Communist Party, and her son briefly shared her views. Starting at age 14, young Dr. Lynn was involved in a youth group called the Young Communist League, but by age 15, he was already disillusioned with the “specious arguments” in favor of communism. His mother kept the same views until her death.
Dr. Lynn’s mother was also a feminist at a time when such views were not taken for granted. She “felt acutely what she perceived as the injustice of the inferior status of women” and told her son that as a child, she wished she had been born a boy.
Dr. Lynn notes that although both of Ann’s parents and two of her brothers had science degrees from Imperial College, implying high IQs, she herself seemed ordinary. She was never good at bridge — an intellectually demanding game her father enjoyed — and “did not make any efforts to accelerate [her son’s] intellectual development.” While the younger Lynn showed a constant curiosity, his mother could rarely answer his questions about the world and once responded to them with, “do shut up.”
Although Dr. Lynn was raised by his mother alone, his father, Sydney Harland, seems to have had the greater influence genetic influence on both his intelligence and the strong work ethic that he considers necessary to achieve prominence in any profession. Harland was a plant geneticist with a degree in geology. He became the leading world authority on the genetics of cotton and held a variety of positions in several countries, including Director of the Institute of Genetics in Lima, Peru, and Professor of Botany at Manchester University.
Harland’s genes may also have influenced Dr. Lynn’s dissident mindset. Although Harland’s grandfather Thomas had been an evangelical preacher, Sydney was skeptical of religion “even before he was ten.” Margaret Storm Jameson, a classmate of Sydney’s in grade school and housemate in college, described him as “suspected of insolence, blasphemy and genius” as a schoolboy and noted that in college “the label fixed on him was: brilliant but probably unsound.” He was involved in a youth group called the Eikonoklasts that promoted socialism and anarchy while ridiculing bourgeois values.
Harland’s other grandfather was an architect named John Petch, some of whose personality traits Dr. Lynn believes he inherited. Petch was “an alderman in the Scarborough Council but never became Mayor because he was too forthright and independent of spirit to cooperate with his colleagues.”
Dr. Lynn was also influenced by his maternal grandfather William Freeman, who taught him about the theory of evolution at a time when it was not always taught in schools. This early introduction probably prompted his later interest in eugenics. Mr. Freeman was an exemplary student and completed a degree in botany. He worked in positions such as Assistant Director of Agriculture in Trinidad, where like Dr. Lynn’s father, he studied plant genetics, and was later Director of Agriculture for the West Indies.
It was obvious from his time at grammar school that Dr. Lynn was not as inclined to follow the herd as other boys. Students were assigned to “houses” — not separate dormitories, but merely abstract groups in imitation of the actual distinct houses in English public schools that the children of elite families attended. Dr. Lynn never felt any identification with his house and felt similarly about sports. Students played rugby and cricket, and many were enthusiastic cheerleaders, but Dr. Lynn found all such activities tedious: He “could not have cared less whether the school won or lost,” and this was an early sign he was “born a dissident.”
In school, Dr. Lynn was particularly interested in history and English literature, because they encouraged students to develop their own opinions, in contrast with the rote memorization that dominated subjects such as chemistry. He had no experience with psychology until, as a teenager, he met his father for the first time, who gave him Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War, a psychological study by Wilfred Trotter. It covered the human instinct to identify with a group, discussed how religion binds groups together, and suggested that this was one of the motives for war.
Dr. Lynn found this book fascinating and followed his father’s advice to consider studying psychology. His interest in the topic was reinforced by reading 19th-century English polymath Francis Galton’s Hereditary Genius, which argued that intelligence is largely inherited. In advanced civilizations such as his own, Galton suggested that the less intelligent have more children than the more intelligent, leading to the decline of average intelligence and thus of civilization. Dr. Lynn’s later work Dysgenics suggested that our own civilization’s intelligence has declined throughout the 20th century, and, as Galton would have agreed, our health and moral character have declined as well.
At King’s College in Cambridge, Dr. Lynn earned his undergraduate degree in psychology. However, he had little interest in much of the psychological research done there, being more attracted to what became known as the London School, based in University College, London, which was doing work on group differences in IQ and other traits. Psychometrician Arthur Jensen described it in 1996 as “a general view of psychology as a natural science and as essentially a branch of biology. Its central concern is variability in human behaviour. [I]t views . . . individual and group differences . . . in certain classes of behaviour as products of the evolutionary process.” The school focused on experiments and quantitative analysis, in contrast to much of the research at Cambridge, which was observational or theoretical.
It was also at Cambridge that he wrote his PhD thesis, about the connection between intelligence and anxiety in primary and secondary school students. He found a positive correlation between anxiety and IQ test scores, particularly reading ability. Years later, dissident psychologist J. Phillippe Rushton studied anxiety in international samples and came to similar conclusions across racial groups. He found that East Asians, the most intelligent, had the highest anxiety, followed by Europeans, with the less intelligent sub-Saharan Africans the least anxious.
In 1967, Dr. Lynn accepted a professorship at the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin (ESRI), which was studying the “economic and social problems of Ireland and [finding] policies that would help solve them.” Chief among these was the fact that the country was much less economically developed than Great Britain. Inspired by existing research on the correlation between intelligence and income, as well as a study by John MacNamara showing an average Irish IQ of 90, Dr. Lynn had two of his associates conduct an IQ test on a sample in Dublin. They found an average IQ of 88 — dramatically lower than the British average of 100.
Although this was a plausible explanation for Ireland’s lack of development, Dr. Lynn considered that the Irish would be insulted to be told by an Englishman that they were less intelligent. Further, any proposed policies aimed at improving IQ by eugenic means would be tarred as Nazism; so he did not publish his results immediately. Instead he wrote an article arguing against contemporary policies that would further decrease Ireland’s average intelligence by encouraging the most intelligent to emigrate, namely high taxes and too much university education. So many Irish were trained as doctors, for example, that they could not find work and many left for the United States.
His ideas were not well received. Many Irishmen argued that Ireland had a duty to give its young people every possible advantage in life, even if that meant they left the country. Among those offended was Kenneth Whitaker, the chairman of the council of ESRI.
Dr. Lynn’s proudest accomplishment while at ESRI was his research on the national level of anxiety, which he thought would be less offensive than research on IQ. He found that northern Europeans in general had low anxiety, in contrast to both southern Europeans and the Japanese. His work was later included in a larger book.
The most controversial element of Dr. Lynn’s research, though, was his conclusion that the Irish do not have a serious problem with alcohol. As alcohol is often used to cope with anxiety, anxious people should drink a lot. But his research showed that both per-capita alcohol consumption and deaths from cirrhosis of the liver, a common effect of long-term alcoholism, were low in Ireland. This finding was unacceptable to many Irishmen; some academics had built their careers studying what they believed was a particular affliction of the Irish, and many Irishmen took pride in their reputation as heavy drinkers.
The ESRI published Dr. Lynn’s work, but he alienated many at the Institute. One slighted academic “blackballed” him when he was nominated to join the Royal Irish Academy. As Dr. Lynn put it, he had made “the same mistake my father had made in the 1930s of criticising those who had the power to punish me.” This did not hold him back significantly, though; he continued doing research for other institutions, including as a professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, beginning in 1972.
In the early 1990s, Dr. Lynn found that men are on average more intelligent than women. The expert consensus had been that men and women have the same average IQ, although men’s IQ varies more widely, with both more geniuses and more idiots. However, in 1992, J. Phillippe Rushton and Dave Ankney both independently demonstrated that men have larger brains. Ankney found that the average male brain is about 100 grams heavier than the average female brain, even after adjusting for body size, and Rushton found that men’s brains have a higher volume by a similar margin.
Dr. Lynn suspected that since brain size has a correlation of about 0.4 with intelligence, people with larger brains should be more intelligent. He examined existing studies and found that although boys and girls under the age of 15 or 16 have equal intelligence, after this point, boys begin to gain an advantage over girls. Adult men have a higher average IQ by 4 to 5 points, with a particular advantage in spatial ability. Dr. Lynn’s later research confirmed these results.
National IQ differences have been an important subject of Dr. Lynn’s research for many years. In 2000, he met with Finnish political science professor Tatu Vanhanen. Two years later they published IQ and the Wealth of Nations, which argues that there is a strong correlation between a nation’s average IQ and its per capita GDP. The data have since been updated and expanded in their 2006 book, IQ and Global Inequality, their 2012 work Intelligence: A Unifying Construct for the Social Sciences, and finally in Dr. Lynn’s 2019 collaboration with David Becker, The Intelligence of Nations. These books analyze the correlation between average IQ and a wide range of desirable factors, including greater wealth, higher life expectancy and lower rates of crime and corruption.
Dr. Lynn’s research in this area has included not only IQ differences between nations but also between regions within a nation. One paper he delivered at a NATO conference on intelligence in York in 1979 covered regional IQ differences in the British Isles, France, and Spain. These differences correlated with income, employment, and educational attainment. He noted that average IQ is highest in London, decreasing with greater distance from the city. Scotland’s IQ was given as 98, and Ireland’s, apparently much improved from the time of his earlier research, was 96. In France, his research suggested that IQ is highest in Paris and lowest in Corsica.
In 2008, Dr. Lynn presented similar research to the International Society of Intelligence Research on the regions of Italy. Intelligence in northern Italy is “the same as in central and northern Europe,” while it declines toward the south. In Sicily, which is much poorer than the north, the average IQ is only 89. Dr. Lynn proposed that this finding explained the long-standing differences in development between regions, and that it is caused by historical admixture between low-IQ North Africans and southern Italians.
Dr. Lynn’s studies of group differences did not ignore race. His 2006 book Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis estimates the average IQs for 10 racial groups and provides a framework for how these differences evolved. Dr. Lynn subscribes to the cold-winters theory, according to which a higher degree of intelligence was needed to survive in cold climates such as those of Europe or Northeast Asia.
Dr. Lynn’s most recent book on the topic is Race Differences in Psychopathic Personality, which has already been reviewed at American Renaissance. This work suggested that the differences in life outcomes that cannot be explained by IQ can largely be explained by race differences in antisocial personality.
Dr. Lynn has also studied Jews. Many scholars have commented on their socioeconomic success and have tried to explain it, but few consider intelligence. Dr. Lynn suspected that Jews have a high average IQ because of their great overrepresentation in many professions as well as among chess champions and Nobel prize winners, and carried out his own research.
He concluded that average IQ differs between the four main Jewish groups. For the majority group, the Ashkenazim, he found an average IQ of 110. He estimated Sephardic IQ at 99 and Mizrahi Jews, who live mainly in the Middle East, at 91. Finally, Ethiopian Jews, although religiously Jewish, are ethnically black, so their IQ is similar to other Africans at 66.
One key aspect of a successful dissident mind is to avoid being moved by emotion to disregard unpopular facts. Dr. Lynn notes that some have strong emotions about racial IQ differences, and have personally attacked scientists who study them. In 1990, an organization called the Anti-Nazi League disrupted Dr. Lynn’s lectures and put up posters demanding that he be fired. The University of Ulster stripped Dr. Lynn of his emeritus status in 2018 under pressure from activists who were offended by his research. He reports that he never had any emotional reaction to these questions; it was simply a matter of finding the facts.
Dr. Lynn concludes his memoir with words that should encourage dissidents. He says his life has been mostly happy, with only the typical personal tragedies rather than any sorrows over political or scientific conflict. He is glad to have made contributions to science and to have fulfilled his biological purpose by passing on his genes to three children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He writes: “I have had a good life and I do not fear death . . . . When I come to the bourne from which no traveler returns, I shall go gentle into that good night.”