Jul 2, 2009

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The Coming Chinese Superstate: Richard Lynn’s Eugenics

Eugenics: A Reassessment
by Richard Lynn
Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers 2001

Richard Lynn

Richard Lynn

One of the only valid points made by the critics of The Bell Curve was that if the science was accepted, then eugenics, which Hernstein and Murray refused to endorse, becomes the rational solution to society’s ills. Steven Pinker, the next major public thinker associated with the hereditarian position, likewise refused to follow his own logic far enough. One scholar who doesn’t flinch is psychologist Richard Lynn. Eugenics is not only right, but we have a duty to increase the frequency of genes for positive traits and reduce the frequency of genes for negative traits. Once you determine that something is a genetic problem it cries out for a genetic solution. Eugenics: A Reassessment looks at the history of eugenics, the ethical case for it and its future. Here Lynn goes beyond his role as a psychologist and gives us his own theory of the coming end of history.

The Rise and Fall of Eugenics

Eugenic ideas existed long before the publications of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man. In The Republic, Plato pictured a society where rulers, soldiers, and workers would be bred on the same principles of the breeding of plants and livestock, about which much must have been known in 380 B.C. Still, it was the discovery of evolution that was the catalyst of these ideas taking off in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Biologist, statistician, and psychologist Sir Francis Galton was the main prophet of eugenics. He spent his life forming organizations, writing, and spreading the word about humanity’s potential for improvement. He carried out the first studies that showed nature to be more important than nurture in determining intelligence and character.

By the early 1900s eugenics was endorsed by practically all biologists and geneticists, politicians such as Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Woodrow Wilson, and Winston Churchill, and thinkers across the political spectrum, including Bertrand Russell, H. L. Mencken, and George Bernard Shaw. Lynn makes the distinction between positive eugenics, encouragement given to society’s best to produce children, and negative eugenics, trying to set limits on the breeding of the inferior. It was the latter that was easier to legislate on. The first American sterilization law was passed in Indiana in 1907 “to prevent the procreation of confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles, and rapists.” By 1913 similar acts had been passed in 12 states and a further 19 had laws on the books by 1931. The constitutionality of these laws was challenged in court and in 1927 Buck v. Bell went to the supreme court. The case centered around a mentally retarded woman who was born to a mentally retarded mother and gave birth to yet another retard. Her hospital applied to have her sterilized, and Christian groups protested. The court ruled 8-1 in favor of sterilization. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the following in the famous decision.

We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices . . . in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute the degenerate offspring of crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit for continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccinations is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

Unfortunately, over the twentieth century only about 60,000 American sterilizations would take place, which amounted to less than 0.1 percent of mentally retarded and psychopathic people. Sweden did a little better, sterilizing the same amount, totaling one percent of the entire population. In Japan, 16,520 women met the same fate until their law was repealed in 1996. In Denmark, a third of all retards over a ten year span. Unsurprisingly, the all-time champions of sterilization were the Germans, who sterilized 300,000 people after their sterilization law was passed in 1933.

As Lynn points out, it’s not all that unusual for a scientific theory to be accepted and then rejected. What makes eugenics unique is that it’s a rejected theory that turned out to be true. While the importance of heredity in determining individual and group traits is well-established, by the end of the twentieth century to call something eugenic was to condemn it. The author blames horror at the crimes of Nazi Germany and the increasing value given to individual over social rights. In recent years courts in the US and Britain have said that parents can have retarded women in their care sterilized, ruling against civil liberties organizations who’ve joined with Christian groups in arguing that all people have a right to as many children as they can produce. While these legal decisions aren’t made on eugenic grounds, we should be thankful for the effect.

The arguments against eugenics don’t hold up. First is the claim that we can’t decide what positive and negative traits are. It’s hard to argue with Galton’s original three characteristics of intelligence, health, and character (close enough to conscientiousness in modern psychology) being desirable. Who would argue that disease could be preferable to health or stupidity to genius? It’s a case of moral relativism taken to the extreme.

Lynn looks at other characteristics we may select for but doesn’t find any beyond Galton’s original three. Society needs a wide range of people on the continuum of extraverted/introverted and neurotic/relaxed in a way that it doesn’t need a wide range of propensity to break the law or catch diseases. He also says that beauty provides no social good, and people have different definitions of it. Here is the only place I part ways with the author. Among environmentalists (people who care about the environment, not anti-hereditarians), beauty is seen as a legitimate reason to preserve certain forests and trees that provide no economic good. It’s why we save redwood trees but not swamps. As far as the lack of a universal standard, Peter Frost demolishes that as a PC myth. Even if everyone didn’t agree that blue eyes and white skin were the most beautiful, every race could select based on their own standards.

The idea that eugenics wouldn’t work is also answered here. If we determined that it wouldn’t be possible to select for certain traits in living organisms, then not only eugenics but horticulture, animal domestication and even evolution itself would all have to be rejected too. As a matter of fact, heritability of running speed among horses has been found to be between 15 and 35 percent heritable, lower than the lowest estimates for intelligence or psychopathy among humans. Any trait that is passed on genetically can be made more or less common or enhanced among a population.

Classical Eugenics

Lynn differentiates between classical eugenics and new eugenics, the use of biotechnology. A section is given to each.

The only country to practice classical positive eugenics in the modern world has been Singapore, under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew. Higher earners were given tax breaks for children and a government unit was set up to bring college graduates together in social settings like dances and cruises to encourage relationships and procreation. In three short years, the results were impressive.

Births in Singapore

Education Level of Mother

1987

1990

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Below Secondary

26,719

61.3

26,718

52.3

Secondary and above

16,012

36.7

24,411

47.7

Between 1987 and 1990, births to college educated women went from 36.7 percent of all births to 47.7. Obviously, it’s not hopeless and the problem of dysgenics can be corrected if a government sets its mind to it. In Nazi Germany, loans were given to couples determined to be of good genetic stock. For each child they produced, 25 percent of the loan would be written off. Whether such things can be done in a democracy, especially a multi-racial one, is a different question.

The biggest victory for negative eugenics has been the liberalization of abortion laws. Although justified as based on a “woman’s right to choose,” those who have unintended pregnancies are usually of low intelligence and those with anti-social tendencies. Thus, increasing the availability of abortion is eugenic. Those who are concerned about good breeding should support causes traditionally associated with the left like abortion on demand and making birth control freely available.

The Promise of Biotechnology

The most exciting part of this book is the section on the new eugenics, and how biotechnology may make all the questions raised here obsolete. Prenatal diagnosis can now screen for some of the most common genetic diseases, and the fetuses can be aborted. In the 1990s, this was estimated to reduce incidences of genetic disorders at birth by 5 percent. As the technology becomes better and more widely available we can expect the rate of genetic disease to drop. It’s a matter of time before embryos can be screened for other traits like beauty and intelligence.

Gene therapy is the attempt to help an individual by inserting genes for positive traits. These genes are then passed on to offspring. In the 1980s, this technology was used on mice to treat a heredity disease and by the 1990s was used to treat human disorders. Like prenatal screening, it’s only a matter of time before this technology can be used for the selection of whatever parents desire.

Embryo selection consists of taking a number of eggs from a woman, fertilizing them with the sperm of a partner in vitro, testing each for desirable traits and inserting the best embryo. The second, third, and fourth best can be saved for possible future use and the rest discarded. When Lynn’s book was written in 2001, it was possible to test for sex and thousands of genetic diseases.

In the twenty-first century it will become possible to test embryos for the presence of genes affecting numerous other characteristics, including late-onset diseases and disorders; intelligence; special cognitive abilities, such as mathematical, linguistic, and musical aptitudes; personality traits; athletic abilities; height; body build; and physical appearance. It will then be possible for couples to examine the genetic printouts of a number of embryos and select for implantation the ones they regard as having the most desirable genetic characteristics.

Before this happens some technical issues need to be addressed, such as identifying the desirable genes. That’s going to happen over the next few decades. Right now it’s possible to hormonally stimulate a woman to produce around 25 embryos at one time. With this technology, even parents of poor stock will be able to produce at least average children. Couples can be expected to produce embryos within a range of 30 IQ points; 15 over the parents‘ average to 15 below. With embryo selection the IQ of a population will have the potential to be raised 15 points in a single generation. Average intelligence can be expected to keep increasing until we hit our limit and new mutations pop up, the way average speed among thoroughbreds has been rising without the fastest times doing so in decades. In 2001, in vitro fertilization cost between $40,000 and $200,000 in the US and $3,000 to $4,000 in Britain, due to lower health care costs in general. Today, it’s a fraction of that. Like all technology, the quality can be expected to improve and the price to drop.

Western governments may outlaw all these technologies, but they will be legal somewhere and as these options became cheaper and better known more couples will travel to take advantage of them. The situation will be similar to when abortion was only available in certain US states or European countries, and women desiring to have one would simply take a bus.

Not everybody will be able to afford biotechnology, and some ethicists reject it on those grounds. Of course, there are all kinds of things that rich people can afford that the poor can’t; we don’t outlaw them all. Lynn optimistically points out that no technology that can help humanity has ever been successfully suppressed. The inherent quality gap between the genetically engineered upper class and the ‘natural’ lower class will continue to grow until the former decides to sterilize the latter or forces them to use biotechnology themselves.

Why China is the Future

In 1994 China passed the Eugenic Law. All pregnant women were required to undergo embryo screening and abort fetuses with genetic disorders. This was a follow-up to the famous one-child policy introduced in 1979 that brought the birth rate down to 1.9 per woman.

Attitudes of elites and those who work in the relevant fields are likely to determine what technologies are accepted and how liberally they’ll be used. A survey was conducted between 1994 and 1996 asking geneticists and physicians around the world whether they agreed with the statement “An important goal of genetic counseling is to reduce the number of deleterious genes in the population.”

Country

Percentage of Geneticists and Physicians Agreeing with Eugenic Goals

China

100

India

87

Turkey

73

Peru

71

Spain

67

Poland

66

Russia

58

Greece

58

Cuba

57

Mexico

52

Major

Western

Democracies

<33

In addition to the negative attitudes of the elites towards anything eugenic, other reasons we can expect these ideas not to win fast acceptance in the West are the value placed on individual rights, democracy, and the existence of low IQ minorities who would be disproportionately affected by any measures aimed at improving the genetic quality of the population. While many countries in the third world might feel positively about eugenic measures, the attitudes in China are the most favorable and when that is combined with the advantages of an authoritarian government, a lack of dysgenic immigration, and a high IQ starting point it’s not hard to believe that the Chinese will continue to be the most enthusiastic and efficient users of biotechnology.

So how will this nation of a billion people treat the rest of the world after it’s raised its IQ to 150+? Lynn might be too optimistic here. He believes the Chinese will colonize the world and try to improve the IQs and living standards of their subjects. The Europeans will be kept around for their biological uniqueness and admired for their cultural accomplishments, the way that the Romans subjugated the Greeks but appreciated their philosophy and art. If the Chinese decide that the Europeans should be preserved they’d be doing more for them than whites are currently doing for themselves. A global eugenic superstate led by by the Chinese will be the “end of history.”

Lynn’s forecasts the next 100 years with a stone-cold detachment. The first government to utilize the power of biotechnology will take over the world. Thanks to third world immigration and egalitarianism, the decline of the West seems inevitable and eugenic policies unlikely. The future of humanity being in the hands of the dictators in Beijing may not be the most comforting idea in the world, but at least the reader of Eugenics may be convinced that intelligence and civilization will continue somewhere.

For a review of Richard Lynn’s work Dysgenics see here.

Richard Hoste runs the website HBD Books.

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  1. These past two articles on Dr. Richard Lynn have been incredible. If anyone reading this blog has sufficient means, I recommend putting up the money to have these books, Eugenics and Dysgenics, reprinted on lulu.com or through another print on demand medium.

  2. Thanks to third world immigration and egalitarianism, the decline of the West seems inevitable and eugenic policies unlikely. The future of humanity being in the hands of the dictators in Beijing may not be the most comforting idea in the world…

    Frankly, I think the realization of this fact might be what it takes to push a lot of white people into our camp. Try to explain the Jews and the problems they cause to most people and they just look befuddled. It’s too complex for them, they don’t know much about Jews and don’t see them as very different from other whites, they’ve been conditioned not to think anything “anti-Semitic”, and fundamentally it’s just hard to get people to take the threat of people inside our own society seriously.

    But EVERYONE can understand the threat of subjugation at the hands of foreigners (i.e., very obviously different people from another country, such as the Chinese). And that threat might make people start to look seriously at what the domestic problems are that have weakened us.

  3. I agree. I cannot believe these books have not been reprinted (along with Lynn’s history of the Pioneer Fund) just like Kevin MacDonald did with his titles. These works deserve a larger readership.

  4. Eugenics is in print but its ridiculously expensive. It’s hardcover but only about 385 pages, but at €85 ($120) it’s a bit pricey, to say the least. Hopefully a cheaper paperback version will be released in the future. Everyone should read this book.

  5. avatar
    paul rimmer said:

    Morality? It was christian morals that gave europe the inner strength to resist Islam & then dominate the world. Unbelief has led to our demise.

  6. Interesting and frightening, at least for this traditional Christian. I would say I stand with the Lynn and his version of the right in acknowledging the reality of human differences, including cognitive ones, but with the left (and traditionalist Christians) in not extrapolating eugenics as the solution. If you think about it, the manipulation of genes (the “rightist” solution) shares with the manipulation of environment (the “leftist” solution) the assumption that human perfection is a goal that can be achieved by rational means. The problem is that in traditional Christian thought, human perfection is a spiritual endeavor that requires the right faith. From the traditionalist point of view, Lynn’s support of eugenics is not at all conservative, but on the contrary just as progressive in its assumptions as any Marxist social engineer.

  7. Some of the notions of the learned Mr. Lynn, are a boundless transgression against the Universe.

  8. “Unfortunately, over the twentieth century only about 60,000 American sterilizations would take place, which amounted to less than 0.1 percent of mentally retarded and psychopathic people.”

    Is this correct? There were 60 million mentally retarded/psychopathic over that period in America?

  9. Margaret Sanger certainly believed in this; as does Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg – she said exactly this in the New York Times and has never refuted it. Abortion gets rid of undesirables. But I simply do not understand the contradiction of progressives who both advocate for abortions to eliminate “undesirables” (t use Ginsburg’s word) and advocate for more and more immigration from emerging and third world nations to get votes. Amnio is also why so few babies are born with Downs syndrome these days – it is not because there are fewer conceived, it is that most are aborted and are never born. Of course, the Nazis believed in a superior race.

  10. One thing this argument is missing, at least from the brief overview given here, is the fact that intelligence, for better or for worse, is not everything. With an incredibly intelligent yet extraordinarily maladjusted human you may get something like the Unabomber (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Kaczynski).

    China may win on eugenics, but they have quite a few problems with their culture they still need to overcome. For one little data point, there have only ever been 11 Han Chinese Nobel Laureates, and literally none of the science award winners were affiliated with China (they were all in the US except one in the UK) at the time of their award winnings. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chinese_Nobel_laureates

    Compare that to 328 Nobel Laureates in the US. http://www.jinfo.org/US_Nobel_Prizes.html

    We’ve got a while to go before China’s taking over the world, even with eugenics on their side. And 100 years is a long time, especially now that progress is accelerating – if our cultural attitude on eugenics can flop in half that time, who’s to say they won’t flop again?

  11. avatar
    Mwaba Matimba said:

    This is a brilliant article. It raises some concerns though. Who decides the limit of what is acceptable to continue in the ‘pro-creation’? Suppose we decide to remove from the scheme all with IQ less than 140, will that be acceptable to all of us? As I see it, the world is in constant evolution and it’s human population is bound to improve. There are enough adversities as it were that can take the role of natural eugenics; diseases, famine, joblessness, wars, environmental degradation, etc. Furthermore, and in my opinion, it is highly unlikely a single nation or race will achieve this high IQ status. Rather, a ‘mixed group’ is most likely to get that. I do not think superior human beings with high IQs will be ones more inclined to disturb natural evolution and the environment in which people with varying IQs are part of. We know this with our current IQs – I expect them to do better here.

  12. avatar
    Long Gone said:

    Wish it were true, but if you ever happen to visit a maternity ward in a regular Chinese hospital you will quickly realize that they are far from genetically screening the newborns. In fact they are still trying to get rid of the rats running around on the corridors, battling bureaucracy and hordes of patients attended by too few and too ill prepared personnel. If you don’t believe it take a walk in any city or town apart of Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and other metropolis. Notice the street hospitals too, where people take a dip for whatever reason in the most unhygienic conditions.

    True, they have BGI in Shenzhen, the largest genetic engineering lab in the World. They have encouraged the brighter to reproduce more, by allowing higher education graduates to have more than one child. But mass technological eugenics? They are not so bright, nor so bold. Wish they were, wish all of us were.

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