Thomas Jackson, American Renaissance, November 2001
Eugenics: A Reassessment, Richard Lynn, Praeger Publishers, 2001, 384 pp.
Richard Lynn, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, is one of those rare social scientists who not only understand genetics but are willing to draw conclusions about how biology affects society. This volume builds upon his 1996 Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration in Modern Populations, and lays out the clear choice science now sets before all developed nations: whether to let the genetic quality of their populations continue to deteriorate, or use a combination of old and new techniques to improve it. In Prof. Lynn’s view, this is a high-stakes game, in which those who refuse to play will be certain losers. This careful analysis unquestionably establishes the author as the foremost eugenicist of our time.
Eugenics is an exhaustive treatment that includes a history of the movement, its objectives, its successes and failures, moral arguments for and against it, and a bold prediction of how eugenics will dictate the balance of world power in the 21st century. This book will offend many people, but they will find its relentless logic difficult to refute. The age of widespread population engineering is upon us, and to begin with Prof. Lynn’s concluding quotation from Francis Galton, “the nation which first subjects itself to rational eugenical disciplines is bound to inherit the earth.”
Galton (1822–1911) was, of course, the British genius who coined the term “eugenics.” He first introduced it in his 1883 Inquiries Into Human Fertility, in which he argued that human abilities are greatly influenced by genetic inheritance, and that when the less able outbreed the more able, the quality of a population declines. Galton recognized that the winnowing effects of natural selection had been artificially reversed in the West, so that “the race gradually deteriorates, becoming in each successive generation less fit for a high civilization.”
Galton proposed that the British population be divided into three categories: desirables, undesirables, and passables. Desirables should have incentives to have more children, undesirables should have no children, and passables should be left alone. Galton proposed that the desirables and undesirables each include only about five to ten percent of the population, leaving the great majority passable and therefore untouched. He hoped a program that affected only 20 percent of the population would win broad support. He recognized undesirables would have to be coerced into childlessness, but was not specific about how this should be done.
From Galton’s time until the Second World War, eugenic movements attracted strong support. Bertrand Russell, John Maynard Keynes, Winston Churchill, H.G. Wells, Linus Pauling, Teddy Roosevelt, and Oliver Wendell Holmes were all ardent eugenicists. Margaret Sanger, the early American champion of birth control, clearly saw contraception as a means to keep the lower orders from multiplying. As her British counterpart Mary Stopes put it: “more children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief issue of birth control.”
Prof. Lynn notes that at the height of the eugenics movement, people knew little about the science of genetics, but they understood the importance of breeding. In an early round of the “nature/nurture” debate, Edward Thorndike pointed out in 1913, “There is no more certain and economical a way to improve man’s environment as to improve his nature.”
Previous generations were not squeamish about distinguishing between desirables and undesirables. In his 1916 multi-generation study of the degenerate Jukes family, American scholar A. H. Eastabrook called it “the scum of society . . . inefficient and indolent, unwilling or unable to take advantage of any opportunity which offers itself or is offered to them.” As Prof. Lynn explains, “The Victorians understood with a clarity that became lost in the second half of the twentieth century that rigorous social control was necessary to contain the growth of a subclass of undeserving poor.”
The eugenics movement gave rise to one important form of rigorous social control: forcible sterilization. In 1907, Indiana was the first jurisdiction to pass a law “to prevent the procreation of confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles, and rapists.” The U.S. Supreme Court upheld laws of this kind in the 1927 decision Buck v. Bell, and by 1931, 30 states had eugenic sterilization laws.
Most European countries adopted similar measures, and Nazi Germany was relatively late with its 1933 Eugenic Sterilization Law. Prof. Lynn points out that despite claims to the contrary, the Nazis did not target Jews for eugenic reasons, and sterilized relatively few people. As a percentage of the population, Sweden sterilized twice as many of its citizens as Germany. The Soviet Union, which was going through a Lysenkoist rejection of genetics, was one of the few developed countries that did not require eugenic sterilization, and Japan did not repeal its sterilization law until 1996.
After the war, eugenics was mistakenly associated with Nazism, and lost almost all support. In 1953, Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, proposed a tax on child-bearing to deter the shiftless, and argued for making prospective parents apply for licenses, but eugenics as an explicit movement was essentially dead in the West.
Eugenics joined “racism” as one of the era’s blackest crimes. The European Parliament passed a resolution saying, “cloning of human beings . . . cannot under any circumstances be justified or tolerated by any society . . . as it permits a eugenic and racist selection of the human race . . .” The French eugenicist Alexis Carrell won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1912, but frenzied anti-eugenicists removed his name from street signs and from the medical school of the University of Lyon.
Opposition to eugenics drove some people to absurd positions. Theodosius Dobzhansky of Columbia University took the view that there is no such thing as a bad gene. J.D. Smith of the University of South Carolina wrote that genes for mental retardation should be kept in the population because “mental retardation is a human condition worthy of being valued.”
A few people managed to overcome their initial irrationality. Biologist Arthur Kaplan’s first reaction to the news of a sperm bank that sought contributions only from geniuses was that it was “morally pernicious.” He later changed his mind, saying: “We mold and shape our children according to environmental factors. We give them piano lessons and every other type of lesson imaginable. I’m not sure there is anything wrong with using genetics as long as it is not hurting anyone.”
It was Asians, however, who were least diverted from eugenic thinking. China continues to strengthen laws that curtail reproduction by criminals and defectives. In Singapore, Premiere Lee Kuan Yew gave generous tax incentives to better-educated women to have more children, and succeeded in increasing the percentage of births that were to women with secondary education from 36.7 percent to 47.7 percent. The women who get the most education are the more intelligent, and they marry smart men; Prof. Lynn considers the Singapore program a rare and notable success for modern eugenics.
Westerners perhaps overvalue the individual, whereas Asians think certain individual rights must be sacrificed to broader interests, “one of which,” Prof. Lynn writes, “is the right of society to protect itself against the social costs incurred when these [less able] groups have children.” At the same time, Western societies have changed considerably in this respect. It used to be common, for example, to quarantine carriers of infectious diseases, but we now give AIDS carriers complete freedom to infect others.
Prof. Lynn points out there is great irony in frantic opposition to eugenics, per se, when many accepted practices in the West are plainly eugenic. In Britain, for example, parents of a retarded woman can have her sterilized, which implicitly recognizes that some people should not have children. Infertile women seeking donor eggs advertise for them at elite universities, and are prepared to pay huge premiums for them, once again recognizing that some genes are better than others. Prof. Lynn has found offers of eggs from fashion models at $90,000 each, and reports there are exclusive sperm banks stocked by Harvard and MIT students.
The most common eugenic practice today is “therapeutic abortion.” Amniocentesis is a widely-used procedure that can detect certain chromosomal abnormalities of the fetus. According to a Canadian study, 80 percent of women who learn their fetuses have serious defects abort them.
From 1970 to 1986, German judges gave sex offenders the option of castration rather than jail. During this period only three percent of the castrated men committed more sex crimes while 46 percent of a matched control group became repeat offenders. As an added eugenic bonus, the castrated group had no children.
American welfare reform in the 1990s also had a faint whiff of eugenics. Some states stopped increasing benefits along with the number of children, and the federal government introduced new rules to make it much harder to stay on the dole. As Prof. Lynn points out, taxing the competent to support procreation by the incompetent is flagrantly dysgenic. Some state legislatures floated bills that would have made welfare conditional on using subcutaneous contraceptives like Norplant, but none of these bills succeeded.
Although Prof. Lynn believes that classic, Galton-style eugenics is out of the question in Western democracies, some eugenic policies might be slipped into place under more acceptable colors. He points out that to the extent there are any difficulties at all in getting contraception or abortions, this is dysgenic. More competent people will take the trouble to use contraceptives or get abortions, while the incompetent will not. He therefore favors universal free abortion, and suggests governments should subsidize contraceptive pills and sell them over-the-counter. He would favor offering criminals a choice between castration and prison, and suggests it could be possible to foster a moral climate in which the most talented people could be made to feel it was their duty to have more children.
Anything more explicit probably has no chance. The late Nobel Prize winner William Shockley argued we should pay people with low IQs to be sterilized. According to his “Bonus 1000” plan, a good incentive would be $1,000 for every IQ point under 100. Psychologist Raymond Cattell suggested the government should seek out intelligent children and pay their parents to have more. David Lykken of the University of Minnesota has once again floated the idea of licenses for parents. Sociologist Hugh LaFollette points out that couples must meet standards if they want to adopt a child; why not set standards for people who want to make a child?
Prof. Lynn states his own preference: “The ideal for humans would be a contraceptive virus acting for about 10 years that could be given to 12-year-old boys. When they were aged 22, they could apply for licenses for parenthood. If they failed to obtain these, they could be vasectomized.” Needless to say, ideas like this are going nowhere for now; as Prof. Lynn points out, according to the UN Declaration on Human Rights everyone has an absolute right to as many babies as he can make.
From the outset, Galton recognized that immigration policy can be eugenic or dysgenic, and argued that nations should admit only good prospects. Today, in Europe, almost all immigration takes place according to the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Prof. Lynn points out that at the time of the convention, almost all refugees were Europeans; now that they are almost all non-white the signatories have every right to reconsider their obligations.
Even if no Western nation is likely to start eugenic programs any time soon, Prof. Lynn explains what they could achieve. The least controversial goal of eugenics is to reduce the frequency of genetic diseases, and Prof. Lynn finds that about a quarter of all hospital beds are occupied by people with these diseases. If they were eliminated, it would save about a quarter of every developed country’s medical budget — a saving of about two percent of GNP. Institutions for people with genetic diseases consume perhaps another 1.5 percent of GNP, and the costs of schizophrenia, depression, and manic-depression taken together add up to another estimated one percent. Eliminating these disorders would be a huge saving and would also spare family members much worry and sorrow.
Prof. Lynn warns, however, that it might be a mistake to eliminate all genes for mental illness, because a certain level of mental instability is associated with creative genius. He notes that writers and artists have two to three times the rate of psychosis and suicide attempts as the rest of us.
Psychopathic personality, on the other hand, should be eliminated completely. About 60 percent of male prison inmates are psychopaths, and they almost always commit the most horrifying crimes. About six percent of men and one percent of women are psychopaths, but in America only about 13 percent of them are in jail, which means 87 percent are on the loose, causing all sorts of damage.
Psychopaths often have a high opinion of themselves. One study of 125 incarcerated teen-age psychopaths found that 78 percent claimed they would be good role-models for children. Psychopaths are well represented in the underclass, but intelligent ones often make good politicians. There is clearly a genetic predisposition to psychopathy, and eliminating the genes would be a great service to society.
The most obvious trait of interest to eugenicists is intelligence. As Prof. Lynn explains, the general level of intelligence is an excellent indicator of quality of life, and there is no reason to believe a country needs low-IQ citizens. In a high-IQ society, many repetitive, unsatisfying jobs can be automated, and those that cannot will be filled, provided the wage is right. Low intelligence is strongly correlated with everything every society is trying to reduce: crime, illegitimacy, and unemployment.
People of the lowest intelligence — the mentally retarded — are a particular cost to society that could be virtually eliminated by eugenics. About 2.2 percent of the babies of normal people are retarded. The figure rises to 17 percent if one parent is retarded, and to 48 percent if both are retarded. Because of the association of low intelligence and crime, prisoners are about four times more likely to be retarded than the rest of the population. Many retarded men in institutions make crude sexual advances to women, so must be cared for by male staff.
The mildly retarded are usually the naturally-occurring low end of the intelligence bell curve, and for this reason are more likely to be born of low-intelligence parents. People in the lowest 25 percent in income have about half the mildly retarded children. The severely retarded usually suffer from less predictable genetic abnormalities, and can come from all levels of society.
In America, retarded women have slightly higher fertility than normal women. This is because they are ignorant, and because men can easily exploit them. A study of female retardates living in sheltered housing found that only four percent knew semen is necessary for pregnancy. Sixty-one percent had been pregnant, but only 48 percent said they had ever had sexual intercourse.
At the other end of bell curve, Prof. Lynn explains that eugenics can raise the average IQ, but it cannot easily increase the theoretical maximum. This is because the optimum combination of IQ genes — which yields a score of about 200 — has already occurred in humans through millions of more or less random combinations. Nevertheless, raising the average would have a dramatic effect on the number of geniuses. An increase in the average to 115 would mean the frequency of IQs over 158 would jump 30 fold, from one in 30,000 to one in 1,000. Such a society would have a huge advantage over any other in terms of productivity and creativity.
Prof. Lynn predicts Western democracies will eventually adopt a new kind of eugenics based on advances in genetic screening. The most promising technique is embryo selection (ES). This involves harvesting a woman’s eggs and fertilizing them in vitro with her husband’s sperm. As many as 100 fertilized eggs could be screened for genetic qualities, and the most promising one chosen for implantation. Prof. Lynn suggests it will not be long before an embryo check will yield accurate readings for everything from good looks to musical ability. One hundred potential children would have a 30-point range in IQ, split above and below the average of the two parents, so the best choice from this many eggs would guarantee a 15-point improvement over the parents IQs. Even a woman in her 40s has tens of thousands of viable eggs, so harvesting and fertilizing 100 at a time is only a matter of developing the techniques.
Prof. Lynn recognizes that ES will probably be banned in Western countries. The Catholic Church, which teaches that ordinary intercourse is the only proper way to create new life, would lead the opposition, but it would have many allies. Egalitarians would take the confused position that genes don’t count for anything, but ES is bad because only the rich could afford it. Prof. Lynn points out that the principle of ES is the same as therapeutic abortion — the undesirables are destroyed — but it should be considered more humane because it would not require a woman who wants a baby to have an abortion.
Banning the procedure will do no good, because at least a few countries are sure to permit it, and wealthy, far-sighted couples will pay large sums for it. Europe and America could easily forbid their citizens to patronize foreign ES services, but once the embryos were implanted it would be impossible to know how they got there. “When this procedure becomes widespread,” writes Prof. Lynn, “it will become evident that embryo-selected children are virtually always superior to naturally conceived children with respect to their health, intelligence, and personality.” “Couples will realize,” he adds, “that it is more cost-effective to pay for an embryo-selected child than to pay for a quality education for a normally conceived child,” and predicts that eventually 80 to 90 percent of the babies born in rich countries will be products of ES.
Those that are not selected will be the children of the underclass, and within just a few generations the IQ gap between the two groups could reach 50 points. “Eventually,” he writes, “despite strong ideological opposition it would come to be understood that the underclass of the unplanned [conceptions] was primarily a genetic problem and would require genetic interventions.”
Prof. Lynn is convinced, however, that an Asian country — most likely China — will soon institute a mandatory ES program for its population, and that the resulting improvement in its gene pool will tip the international balance of power decisively in its favor. Attitudes in China radically differ from those in the West. Chinese law already requires sterilization of mental retardates and those with genetic illnesses. Prenatal testing of fetuses is mandatory, and defectives must be aborted. No one with mental illness, venereal disease, or hepatitis may marry.
In the mid-1990s, a poll-taker asked Chinese and Western doctors the following question: Should there be mandatory sterilization for a single, blind woman on public welfare who has already had three children by three different men, all of whom are absent from the household? Only five percent of Western doctors but 82 percent of Chinese doctors said “yes.”
Now that socialism is discredited, Prof. Lynn thinks the Chinese will fill the ideological void with eugenics. He predicts it will become the first, full-fledged eugenic state: all 12-year-old girls will be fitted with contraceptives, only approved couples will be permitted to have children, and ES will be used for all births. Psychopathy and genetic diseases will be eliminated, and IQ will stabilize at the theoretical maximum of about 200 in six or seven generations. Licensing parents will seem just as reasonable as licensing drivers.
Prof. Lynn predicts that in the short run, China’s rulers will clone themselves. In most cases this will mean talent and ability are passed on to the next generation, and it will make it easier for the oligarchs to pass on power to people they can trust — their own twins.
Prof. Lynn’s best guess at a timetable is that ES will be perfected and in obligatory use in China within ten years. Twenty years later there will be the first generation of ES adults, and 20 years after that, half the working population will have come from selected embryos. In 50 years, therefore, China will be the world’s most formidable power.
In the meantime, Prof. Lynn predicts that the United States will have continued to decline because of dysgenic fertility and dysgenic immigration. He says the country may break up into warring ethnic enclaves, but “however the details of the decline of the United States work out, it will forfeit its position as the leading world economic, scientific, and military power, and eventually cease to be a major force in global politics.”
He expects Europe to maintain its influence a little longer, because is has fewer non-white immigrants, but it will be no match for a racially homogeneous, eugenically bred China. China will eventually dominate the globe and run it like a colonial empire. In certain provinces, it might impose ES on the natives, but in places like Africa, which do not have the infrastructure for ES, it would be more likely to impose “robust classical eugenics.”
What are we to make of these predictions? Geneticists appear to agree that it is only a matter of time before ES is perfected. It is also true that Chinese have a deep racial patriotism that drives their desire for hegemony (see book review, Feb. 2001). This, together with their penchant for ruthless social engineering and appreciation of population genetics, makes Prof. Lynn’s predictions entirely believable. Eugenics makes a strong case for the view that unless the West has the will to act upon the advice of one of its own 19th century geniuses, whites can well look forward to serfdom under Oriental masters.