Thomas Jackson, American Renaissance, April 1997
Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration in Modern Populations, Richard Lynn, Praeger Publishers, 1996, 237 pp.
Human traits are heritable. Children resemble their parents. Does it therefore make any difference who has children and who doesn’t?
Farmers have understood selective breeding for thousands of years, and common sense suggests that the same principles apply to man. Indeed, from the mid-19th century until part way through the 20th, it was understood that if people of low ability outbred their betters it posed a threat to society. Only in the 1950s and 1960s did dogmatic egalitarianism force eugenic thinking underground.
The publication of Dysgenics, by Professor Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, marks a very significant and promising beginning to the rehabilitation of eugenics. Some recent books, such as The Bell Curve and The Decline of Intelligence in America have pointed in this direction, but Dysgenics is the first book in decades to make a comprehensive case for protecting the human gene pool.
As Professor Lynn points out, it was a now-forgotten Frenchman, Benedict Morel, who first argued for eugenics. Writing in 1857, even before Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, Morel noted that the upper classes were having fewer children than the lower classes. He thought this could not help but drag down the population, since the upper classes were healthier, more intelligent, and of better character than the lower. The eugenicists of Victorian England took the same view, but it was not until 1974 that William Shockley gave the name dysgenics to society-wide genetic decline.
Professor Lynn explains that from the dawn of human existence up until only a century or so ago, people with the best qualities had the most children, thus spreading superior characteristics through populations. This is still happening in primitive societies, where able men achieve high status and have the most children. For example, a 1979 study of the !Kung San tribe (Bushmen) of the Kalahari desert found that 62 percent of the men — the least successful hunters — had no children, whereas the most successful men had multiple wives and many children.
In most non-Christian societies polygamy has been one of the rewards of high status, and to the extent that status reflects ability, polygamy is eugenic. It allows huge differences in the numbers of children men can produce; Moulay Ismail the Bloodthirsty, a Moroccan emperor, is said to have fathered 888 children.
In Europe as well, up until about 1800, the wealthy had considerably more children than the poor. There was no pubic assistance for single mothers, so there were strict sanctions against illegitimacy. Women generally did not marry men who could not support them, and many people in the serving classes therefore did not marry or have children. Prof. Lynn notes that when the lower classes had illegitimate or unwanted children they often exposed them; dead babies were a common sight in gutters or on rubbish heaps.
The 20th century has eased many of the forces that once culled the lower classes, but a few remain. Infant mortality is still higher among the poor than among the middle and upper classes, and this is true without regard to access to medicine. Prof. Lynn writes that this is because the parents are less disciplined and health-conscious.
The poor show other signs of what Prof. Lynn calls a lack of conscientiousness. They are more likely to die from drowning, fire, traffic accidents, and suffocation. They are also more likely to smoke cigarettes and drink to excess. Sexually transmitted diseases are also far more common among the lower classes; venereal diseases can render women infertile and AIDS is lethal. Until cures are found, reckless sexual behavior will have a reproductive price.
How then do the less able manage to outbreed the more able? As Prof. Lynn explains, the main reason is birth control, which the provident use more successfully than the improvident. Until its invention there was no “dysgenic fertility,” to use the specialist term.
The first book on contraception to have a real influence on the English-speaking world was Every Woman’s Book, published in London in 1826. It explained the withdrawal method and how to use sheep-gut condoms. This was followed by the even more successful American book, somewhat opaquely entitled The Fruits of Philosophy. Later in the 19th century, contraception got an enormous unintended boost from the obscenity trials of several Englishmen who had published books on birth control. With the invention of the rubber condom in the 1870s, people who wanted to limit their families had a reliable way to do so.
Of course, not all social strata had the foresight, discipline, and means to use condoms. The intelligent and far-sighted were most likely to use them. As Prof. Lynn writes: “Once contraception became widely available, dysgenic fertility became inevitable.”
Proof by Numbers
Although the eugenicists of the 19th century had a common-sense understanding of the dysgenic threat, it was not until the 20th century that its effects could actually be measured. One of the great strengths of Prof. Lynn’s book is his careful presentation of the data that have been gathered over several generations of research.
Once IQ tests became available in the 1920s, researchers found a clear trend: children with high IQs tended to have few brothers and sisters. This was later shown conclusively to be an effect of dysgenic fertility rather than any kind of IQ-depressing effect of large families. The correlation between IQ and number of siblings is on the order of -.18.
Later population studies have taken a different approach, measuring the IQs of parents and counting their children. On the basis of all available data, Prof. Lynn concludes that the overall genetic IQ decline in the developed world is something like one point per generation. In Britain, for example, he estimates genetic IQ to have declined 6.2 points from 1890 to 1980. All studies seem to show that the decline was greatest in the first half of the 20th century, when contraception use was even more concentrated in the upper classes than it is today.
Recent, fine-grained studies of fertility have confirmed other important findings. In the United States, multi-racialism itself is dysgenic since blacks and Hispanics have more babies than whites. Also, dysgenic trends are more pronounced among blacks than among whites, since the black underclass is outbreeding high-IQ blacks at a greater rate than the equivalent populations among whites. The IQ of white Americans is probably declining at a rate of just under one point per generation, whereas the decline for blacks is estimated at just over two points.
Another interesting finding is that dysgenic trends are sharper among women than men. The most intelligent women often spend many years in school and at work. Once they are in their mid-30s they may not find husbands, and they have also cut short their child-bearing years. Intelligent, successful men who delay marriage have less trouble finding suitable wives.
As Prof. Lynn explains, the sex difference is exacerbated by behavior at the low end of the intelligence curve as well:
Low-IQ women tend to have higher fertility because they are inefficient users of contraception and there are always plenty of men willing to have sex with them. Low IQ men, on the other hand, tend not to have such high fertility because many of them are unattractive to females and lack the social and cognitive skills required to secure sexual partners.
Greater dysgenic fertility among women than men is particularly pronounced among blacks. College-educated black women have a notoriously small number of children whereas the underclass is fertile.
Although Prof. Lynn considers contraception to be the primary dysgenic force, he also notes the baleful effects of welfare. This has been the medium in which the underclass grows, and it has fueled illegitimacy rates among blacks that now approach 70 percent. Prof. Lynn notes that this cannot but be dysgenic:
It is easy to understand why single mothers tend to have low intelligence and weak character. They are less able to foresee, and they care less about, the adverse consequences of having an illegitimate child.
In fact, in the United States, over half of the single women on welfare are in the bottom 20 percent for IQ.
Interestingly, much of the developing world is going through the same, steep dysgenic decline that Europe and the United States suffered earlier in the century. In much of Latin America, for example, contraception is used almost exclusively by the upper classes while peasants still show “natural fertility.” Black Africa is the one great exception. Prof. Lynn reports that almost no one practices birth control there, so the genetic stock is not deteriorating.
Professor Lynn devotes a chapter to the so-called Flynn effect, the finding that performance on IQ tests has actually been rising during the 20th century despite dysgenic fertility. This trend is confirmed when IQ tests are routinely renormed to give an average score of 100. Today’s test-takers score better on tests normed for the 1940s and 1950s than they do on tests normed for the 1990s.
How can this be? Prof. Lynn accepts that the approximate three point per decade rise in IQ since the 1930s is real, and not an artifact of better education or greater literacy. Since the rise has been the same for small children as for adults, experience with test-taking appears not to be the cause. Prof. Lynn believes that better nutrition and the control of most childhood diseases explain performance gains that have masked the decline in underlying genetic intelligence.
Prof. Lynn likens this to using progressively poorer seed on increasingly fertile land. Crops may improve in the short-run but even the best land will some day be unable to make up for degraded seed. Figures for IQ decline are therefore calculations of what must be happening at the genetic level despite higher measured intelligence.
The Flynn effect — named for the New Zealander, J.R. Flynn, who publicized it — is one of the most perplexing findings in current IQ research. Prof. Lynn’s treatment of it is as convincing as any in the literature.
Intelligence is not the only important trait now shaped by modern techniques. Medicine has a dysgenic effect on health, since weak children who would ordinarily have died young now survive to have children of their own. In the case of some heritable diseases that can now be treated, there will be a sharp increase in defective genes. In the next 30 years, hemophilia is likely to become 25 percent more common, and cystic fibrosis and phenylketonuria (PKU) will increase by 120 percent and 300 percent.
Prof. Lynn also notes that criminal propensities, which he considers separately from intelligence, are also spreading through the population. Although this is a field that has been almost completely ignored, Prof. Lynn’s own findings are that, at least in Britain, criminals and psychopaths are 77 percent more fertile than other people. Given heritability estimates for criminality derived from twin and adoption studies, Prof. Lynn finds that the excessive fertility of criminals alone probably accounted for a 52 percent crime increase in Britain in a single generation. He considers the spread of criminality a potentially greater problem than the decline of intelligence.
Perhaps the book’s most dismal assertion is that the current reproductive habits of Western populations not only ensure decline, they rule out even the theoretical possibility of genetic improvement. In an era when the most able members of society limit themselves to two or three children, even the most dramatically favorable mutation would have no way to spread through a population. Improvement requires eugenic fertility, which is no longer found in Western populations. They have reached a genetic dead end.
What can be done? Prof. Lynn is silent on the subject of policy, but not from shyness. Dysgenics is to be followed by a second volume, which will outline the steps that can and must be taken to stop genetic deterioration. This volume could be even more important than the first.
[Editor’s Note: This review is in A Rage Against Time: Racial Heresies for the 21st Century, a collection of some of the finest essays and reviews published by American Renaissance. It is available for purchase here.]