Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration in Modern Populations
Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 1996
When it comes to population, quality matters more than quantity. While educated Westerners never tire of sprinkling their conversations with the word “overpopulation,” voicing concern about population worth is taboo. Put it this way: you have to spend the rest of your life in a city filled with Nigerians or Japanese. You can either pick the ethnic makeup or the amount of people in the city. Which would you choose? As it’s settled that genes influence character and intelligence, could these traits be declining in some or all populations? Has it to some extent? Anecdotes exist about single educated women and fertile welfare queens, but hard data is needed.
While support for eugenics has been around since the time of Plato, the first person to worry about genetic deterioration was French physician Benedict August Morel. He’s an obscure figure today and much better known is the more important Sir Francis Galton, who coined the term eugenics in 1883. He thought that more genes for lower intelligence and poor character were concentrated in the lower classes, whose higher fertility would lead to a decline in genetic quality. Galton spent his life working to reverse the trend. He eventually convinced Darwin himself of the danger. Biologist Alfred Russell Wallace wrote:
In one of my last conversations with Darwin he expressed himself very gloomily on the future of humanity, on the ground that in our modern civilisation natural selection had no play and the fittest did not survive.
It wasn’t until 1974 that Nobel prize winning physicist William Shockley called the process dysgenics. Darwin went on to despair over the excessive breeding of “the scum.” Data has always been needed on whether his fears had been justified. Richard Lynn brings together studies and data from the last 200 years dealing with the connection between fertility and intelligence/socioeconomic status from all over the world. How afraid should we be?
Selection throughout Time
The conditions that hunter-gatherers lived in insured an upkeep of genetic quality. Usually there was a chief who had to have a certain amount of intelligence to acquire and maintain his position. He had the most access to females, there would be relatively high ranking men who had one wife and many of the unfit never bred. Mutations that popped up which adversely affected health would be weeded out. Early nation-states continued with polygamy.
With Western man’s transition to civilization selection was weakened but not eliminated. The higher social classes enjoyed better nutrition so had better health and children more likely to survive into adulthood. Christianity struck a blow against the Western gene pool by enforcing celibacy among the priesthood but probably more than made up for it by prohibitions against adultery. Most who have children out of wed-lock then and now have/had lower intelligence and less self-control. Overall, the years 1500-1800 were good for Europe’s gene pool. In England from 1620-1624 the middle classes reported 4.4 children per woman compared to 2.1 for the working class. Part of the reason why is life expectancy. In Berlin from 1710-1799 the average life expectancy for the upper class was 29.8 years compared to 20.3 for the lower class. The numbers for Geneva, Rouen and Neuruppin in the 18th century are similarly tilted towards the former. This didn’t mean that everybody died when they were 20-30 years old but that more of the lower classes were dying in childhood before they could mate.
Lynn understands that for these numbers to mean anything it would have to be shown that there was social mobility. If everybody was stuck in their own class with no opportunity to rise or fall then we would expect different social classes to be similar and not worry about differences in fertility. Pitrim Sorokin looked at a wide range of societies and found that there has never been one with no social mobility at all. The closest thing has been the caste system in India, but even these classes weren’t absolutely closed. Economist historian S.J. Payling concluded that there was significant social mobility in Europe from at least the 14th century on.
Natural Selection Breaks Down: Health and Intelligence
Mutations occasionally pop up in any population. Since the vast majority are adverse, stable fertility for an entire population still means deterioration. The maintenance of the quality of the population requires not just a stable population at all levels but the active weeding out of the unfit. The results of the slacking of selection in our modern world is apparent in disease. Today, almost 1% of children born have a mutation for a common genetic disorder. Due to carriers of bad genes surviving and new mutations, it’s estimated that the rates of hemophilia, cystic fibrosis and phenylketonuria are increasing every generation by 26%, 120%, and 300% respectively. Humanity requires that we save children that can be saved but breeding for those with diseased genes needs to be restricted. Lynn hints that better genetic screening and selective abortion can offset some of the consequences of modern medicine.
American psychologist Theodore Lentz was the first to devise a method for finding the relationship between intelligence and fertility. He tested the IQs of children and found out how many siblings they had. Assuming that children have the same IQ as their parents, if those with lower IQs had more brothers and sisters than children with high IQs then it could be determined that dysgenics is happening. In 1927 Lentz calculated an IQ drop of 4 points per generation. Calculations in Britain found a drop of about 2 points per generation. These surveys didn’t include the childless but since they are disproportionately those with higher IQs the studies actually underestimate the extent of dysgenic fertility. Reviewing various studies and using findings from twin and adoption cases showing that IQ is 82% heritable, Lynn calculates a genotypic IQ decline of 5 points in Britain from 1890-1980. In the US he calculates a drop of 2.5 IQ points for whites and 6.2 for blacks over three generations. Interestingly, women are shown to universally have more dysgenic fertility than men. This is partly because low IQ men probably have a harder time finding mates than low IQ women.
The Fall of Greece
Greece is a particularly interesting example. Papavassiliou (1954) looked at IQ, socioeconomic status and fertitlity for men and came up with the following results.
Intelligence and Fertility in Greece, 1950s
|Socioeconomic Status||Number Surveyed||Mean IQ||Number of Children|
My calculations give an IQ of 96.9 for the parent generation and an IQ drop of 4.9. Using a heritability of .82 for IQ puts the IQ of the children’s generation at 92.9 (IQ of parent generation – .82 x 4.9). Lynn has found elsewhere that the IQ of Greece is 95. This low (for Europe) figure is surprising considering the country’s historical accomplishments. Papavassiliou’s data may solve the puzzle.
Does the Flynn Effect Disprove Eugenics?
While science has shown that traits for IQ and socioeconomic status are heritable and those with poor genes are outbreeding those with good genes, actual performance on IQ tests in the industrialized world has risen over the last century. How can this be? This seeming paradox is called the Flynn effect, after the scientist who estimated IQ gains of about 3-4 points per decade over the 20th century.
We can rule out the effect of increased familiarity with written tests or better education because these gains are present in children as young as two years old. It is doubtful that it is due to increased stimulation because adoption studies show that the effect of shared environment is negligible; two biologically unrelated people raised in the same house are no more alike than any two random strangers. Lynn’s explanation is that the Flynn effect is due to better nutrition. This seems like the best explanation, as over the same time period height and brain size have increased by one standard deviation: the same as the increase in IQ.
So while genotypic intelligence, which can be seen as underlying genetic quality, has decreased, actual performance, phenotypic intelligence, has seen an increase. This increase can’t last forever and the evidence shows that in the developed world, with even the poorest suffering from obesity, the Flynn effect has hit its ceiling. We can now expect a decrease in observed intelligence in the developed even discounting low IQ third world immigration.
The Case of Character
Francis Galton and the early eugenicists weren’t only concerned with the decline in intelligence and health but what they called character: a moral sense, ability to delay gratification and work towards long term goals and sense of duty. Modern psychologists call this conscientiousness and Lynn gives a working estimate for it being 66% heritable. The news here is even worse than the data on intelligence.
Looking at criminals and psychopaths and their number of siblings yields a decline in consciousness that is twice the rate of the decline in intelligence. This has had real life consequences
The straightforward prediction is that the high fertility of criminals has led to an increase in the number of genes in the population responsible for crime and this will show up in increasing crime rates. These increasing crime rates have certainly occurred in most of the economically developed nations during the second half of the twentieth century. In the United States, crime rates approximately tripled between 1960 and 1990; in Britain they quadrupled, and similar increases have occurred in many other countries.
Rates of out-of-wedlock births tell a similar story. Western populations are morally worse than ever and we can expect the modern welfare state to continue to accelerate the decline. Unfortunately, most social scientists and policy makers are too steeped in the environmentalist dogma to deal with these problems.
Does the Universality of the Problem Mean It’s Hopeless?
While there are no direct studies for IQ and fertility in the third world we can check to see how socioeconomic status and education, both correlated with IQ, relate to number of children. Lynn calls the birth rate of the lowest class over the birth rate of the highest class the dysgenic ratio. For example, if those in the lowest class have 3 children per woman and the higher class have 2, the dysgenic ratio is 3/2 = 1.5. Anything over 1 indicates dysgenic fertility and anything under 1 indicates eugenic fertility. While a number over 2 is high for modern Western nations, ratios have been calculated at 3.1 for Columbia, 2.6 for Guatemala, 2.7 for Mexico and 3.1 for Brazil. Muslim and African countries have lower ratios, but only because even the highest classes have large numbers of children. In a worldwide survey the only exceptions are Bangladesh, Fiji and Indonesia who have ratios of 1.01, 0.93, and 0.86 respectively. The developing world can be expected to remain “developing” indefinitely.
So dysgenic fertility is found everywhere: among rich and poor and every race. Does that mean it’s hopeless? We won’t know until we at least acknowledge and try to deal with the problem. Communism once controlled half the planet and today its equivalent is globalization and the supposed triumph of liberal democracy. While communists can say that true communism “has never been tried” and continue to be liberals, the legacy of Nazism poisons the eugenics movement. Of course, blaming the ideas behind eugenics for the crimes of the Nazis is as silly as blaming the ideology of the welfare state for Soviet labor camps. So there is no rational reason why eugenics can’t capture the hearts and minds of policy makers the way it did 100 years ago. While the facts of differential fertility may discomfort our feminized elites we must never stop repeating that the cost of doing nothing is the end of civilization. There’s no virtue in ignoring that.
Source: HBD Books