Richard Lynn on Race Differences in Intelligence

Edward Dutton, Mankind Quarterly, Summer 2016

Richard Lynn, Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis, 2nd Revised Edition, Washington Summit Publishers, 2015, 425 pp., $27.95.

Reviewed by Edward Dutton, University of Oulu

Richard Lynn is perhaps best known for his work on national differences in IQ, conducted with Tatu Vanhanen. In 2006, in the first edition of this book, he brought together all the studies then known to calculate race differences in intelligence. This second revised edition adds another 100 pages and many more studies to Richard Lynn’s first definitive compilation of racial IQs. The conclusions given in the first edition are largely confirmed by many more studies in this new edition and are summarized in the table below.


Clearly, this new book will now be the definitive resource for anyone interested in understanding race differences in intelligence. There are many important changes when comparing it to the first edition. One of the most important of these is the discussion of the IQ of Europeans. In the first edition (apart from a few low IQ outliers such as Ireland and Greece) Europeans were argued to have an IQ of roughly the Greenwich median of 100. In this edition, drawing upon more recent studies, it is argued that both Eastern Europeans (i.e. much of the former Communist Bloc) and southern Europeans have lower average IQs than Western Europeans by about 3 points on average. In the case of Eastern Europe Lynn puts this down to poor living standards, but it could also be a function of dysgenics: more intelligent Latvians, for example, being disproportionately slaughtered by the Soviets as they cleansed the intelligentsia and also having been more likely to have made the necessary plans to flee the country around this time.

In the last edition, the Balkan countries were shown to have lower IQs than Western Europe. Lynn argues that they are clines, reflecting genetic admixture with peoples from the Near East, where the IQs are in the range of approximately 90 (Turkey), 87 (Lebanon) and 83 (Syria) and hence the peoples of the southern Balkans are a mixed race cline of European and Near-Eastern populations with IQs intermediate between the two peoples. Likewise, in the last edition, Lynn noted that Portugal’s IQ was significantly lower than other Western European countries, something he put down to Early Modern African slaves, an issue which was not a factor in Spain, for example. In this edition, it is shown that the IQ in the far south of Western Europe is, in general, significantly below 100. In Sicily and in the South of mainland Italy it is 90, and in southern Spain it is 95.5. Lynn argues that the populations here are a European-North African cline, so the IQ is intermediate between Europe and North Africa. He quotes many expert sources–often verbatim and at length–to back up these interpretations and also substantiates his interpretation with gene frequency data.

In this new edition, Lynn takes pains to respond to many critics of his findings of his earlier work. For example, he sets out in detail how the conclusion that the Sub-Saharan African IQ is 76 is erroneous and based on elite samples. However, based on more recent information, this edition revises the Sub-Saharan African IQ up from 67 in the first edition to 71. This edition also discusses the relatively high intelligence of African infants which it puts down to their developing more quickly than European children, who soon surpass them. Lynn responds to the criticism that the estimated IQ for Bushmen, of 55, is impossibly low because it would render them severely mentally retarded by European standards. He notes that 55 IQ points (according to adult norms) is the average intelligence of a European 8-year-old, these generally being literate. Apes, with the mental ability of human 4-year-olds, notes Lynn, survive well as foragers. One potential criticism here is that Lynn doesn’t take the time to pull apart the popular (but ludicrous) theory of ‘stereotype threat,’ which is logically incoherent but is widely used by Lynn’s critics.

The second half of the book is concerned with the evolution of these IQ differences and restates the cold winters theory that Lynn first proposed a quarter of a century ago. This states that when early peoples migrated from equatorial East Africa into the more northern latitudes of North Africa, South Asia, Europe and Northeast Asia they encountered progressively more cognitively demanding environments that required greater intelligence, including the need to hunt large animals, build fires and shelters and make clothes. The colder the winter temperatures and the more northerly the environment, the higher were the IQs that evolved. In corroboration of this thesis, Templer & Arikawa (2006) have reported a correlation across 129 nations of .66 between national IQs and low winter temperatures. Lynn’s cold winters theory has now become widely accepted, e.g. by Becker & Rindermann (2016), Rindermann, Woodley & Stratford, (2012), Rushton (2000), Templer & Arikawa (2006), Woodley, Rindermann, Stratford, Bell & Piffer (2014).

Lynn proposes that there were two genetic processes in the evolution of higher intelligence in the northern latitudes. The first was that the frequencies of the alleles for lower intelligence were reduced and those for higher intelligence increased as a result of selection against those with lower IQ. One of the effects of this was to increase the frequency of the alleles determining brain size, which today averages 1,283 cc in Sub-Saharan Africans to 1,369 cc in Europeans to 1,416 cc in Northeast Asians. The second was that mutations for new alleles for higher intelligence must have appeared after the dispersal from Africa. Lynn proposes that this has to be assumed to explain the IQ of only 91 of the Arctic peoples who inhabited the coldest region and might be expected to have evolved the highest IQ if the only genetic process was a change in the frequencies of alleles that had been present already in the out-of-Africa population. His proposed explanation is that the Arctic population has been very small and the mutations for new alleles for higher intelligence never appeared in it.

This is an important work, documenting all of the available data, and prosecuting the most parsimonious case to explain it. Developing it further, there are many other smaller groups whose IQs need to be collected. For example, we lack data on the Arctic peoples in Russia. Critics of Lynn’s study tend to pick up on minor errors in it, using them to argue that the entire body of work must be suspect. For this reason, it would be useful to develop this into a huge database from which the original studies are made available to all interested researchers, so that Lynn’s critics can easily access all of the original studies upon which he draws.

Looking into the future, Lynn’s book provides a starting point for studies into the recent evolution of human intelligence. Rapid progress in the molecular genetics of intelligence and related constructs (Okbay et al., 2016), and in the sequencing of fossil DNA (Mathieson et al., 2015), mean that the genetic theory that Lynn espouses in his book can not only be tested in living populations. Studies of ancient DNA from populations that lived thousands of years ago can show directly whether the frequencies of intelligence-influencing genetic variants changed over time, when and where these changes took place, and whether any new mutations arose after the exodus from Africa about 60,000 years ago.


Becker, D. & Rindermann, H. (2016). The relationship between cross-national genetic distances and IQ-differences. Personality and Individual Differences 98: 300-310.

Mathieson, I., Lazaridis, I., Rohland, N., Mallick, S. et al. (2015). Genome-wide patterns of selection in 230 ancient Eurasians. Nature 528: 499-503.

Okbay, A., Beauchamp, J.P., Fontana, M.A., Lee, J.J. et al. (2016). Genome-wide association study identifies 74 loci associated with educational attainment. Nature 533(7604): 539-542.

Rindermann, H., Woodley, M.A. & Stratford, J. (2012). Haplogroups as evolutionary markers of cognitive ability. Intelligence 40: 362-375.

Rushton, J.P. (2000). Race, Evolution and Behavior. Port Huron, MI: Charles Darwin Research Institute.

Templer, D.I. & Arikawa, H. (2006). Temperature, skin color, per capita income and IQ: An international perspective. Intelligence 34: 121-140.

Woodley, M.A., Rindermann, H., Stratford, J., Bell, E. & Piffer, D. (2014). The relationship between microcephalin, ASPM and intelligence: A reconsideration. Intelligence 44: 51- 63.

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