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Niels Bohr Dec3-03 11:31 PM

Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration in Modern Populations
Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration in Modern Populations

by Richard Lynn
- Praeger, 1996
237pp., $59.95
1-800-225-5800 (for 20% off mention F238)

reviewed by Marian Van Court


[A somewhat abbreviated version of this review appeared in the Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, Volume 23, Number 2, Summer 1998. MVC]

Countless volumes have been written about the past evolution of the human species, yet hardly any attention has been paid to the crucial question, "Where are we evolving now?" Richard Lynn, of the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, courageously addresses this question in his controversial book Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration in Modern Populations. Professor Lynn presents compelling evidence that much of the world is deteriorating in its genetic potential for intelligence, health, and conscientiousness (or good character). The word for this is "dysgenics," the opposite of "eugenics."

The Bell Curve devoted one chapter to the question of where we are evolving with regard to IQ (Herrnstein and Murray, 1994). Dysgenics picks up where The Bell Curve left off. Professor Lynn surveys studies from all over the world, and everywhere finds the least intelligent people having the most children. The only exception is sub-Saharan Africa where contraception is rarely used. Our genetic potential for intelligence has been declining in Europe and North America since the mid- 1800s, with a total loss of about 5-8 IQ points. Currently, we are losing almost one IQ point each generation.

The decline in genotypic intelligence coincided with the dissemination of information about contraception. For several centuries prior to 1800, married couples had natural fertility, essentially uninfluenced by efforts to limit it. During this period, there was a strong taboo against sex outside of marriage, and many people never had children because they were too poor to marry. Illegitimacy was rare. Infant mortality was high, especially among the lower classes. Harsh though it may have been, natural selection operated to maintain a healthy population, and to keep intelligence gradually increasing.

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