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The Case for Eugenics in a Nutshell

Abbot Handerson Thayer, Experience [1]

Abbot Handerson Thayer, 1849–1921, Experience

4,593 words

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines eugenics as “the organic betterment of the race through wise application of the laws of heredity.” Yet most people draw a blank when they hear the word, or else it conjures up images of swastikas and jack‑booted Nazis. Contrary to this warped image, eugenics has had a long history, extending back to ancient Rome and beyond.

Eugenics is concerned with the current direction of human evolution. Thousands of articles have been published in scholarly journals, tons of dirt have been sifted through with tiny brushes in search for skulls, vast amounts of grant money awarded to researchers, and many entire careers spent trying to discover how we evolved larger brains and greater intelligence up to the point of Homo sapiens—a fascinating and worthwhile endeavor.  But what is urgent, what is arguably the most important question facing our species, is the current direction of human evolution.  Are we evolving in a favorable direction, or an unfavorable one?

It’s true that natural selection has virtually ceased to operate in many parts of the world today, but evolution continues because human reproduction is far from random. Just as history marches on indefinitely into the future, both in war and in peace, so, too, does evolution. The reproductive patterns of each generation shape the innate character of successive generations, whether for better or for worse.

Abbot Handerson Thayer, The Sisters [2]

Abbot Handerson Thayer, The Sisters

Most of us want to give our children as much as our parents gave us, preferably more. We want them to have the best possible education, and every advantage we can afford. We also hope to leave them a better world than the one we were born into. However, the most important legacy we can bequeath to our children is their own biological integrity: good health, high intelligence, and noble character.  These traits go a long way towards ensuring their personal happiness and well‑being.  Taken collectively, these traits constitute the ability of a population to maintain and advance civilization—the most precious of human gifts—for without civilization, chaos reigns, “might makes right,” and suffering abounds.

In making the case for eugenics, the focus of this paper will be on intelligence.  Here’s the argument, in a nutshell:

First, human intelligence is largely hereditary.

Second, civilization depends totally upon innate intelligence. Without innate intelligence, civilization would never have been created. When intelligence declines, so does civilization.

Third, the higher the level of civilization, the better off the population. Civilization is not an either‑or proposition. Rather, it’s a matter of degree, and each degree, up or down, affects the well‑being of every citizen.

Fourth, at the present time, we are evolving to become less intelligent with each new generation. Why is this happening? Simple: The least‑intelligent people are having the most children.

Fifth, unless we halt or reverse this trend, our civilization will inevitably decline. Any decline in civilization produces a commensurate increase in the collective “misery quotient.”

Logic and scientific evidence stand behind each statement listed above. Let’s examine each point in closer detail.

First, human intelligence is largely hereditary.

Scientists have found that identical twins separated at birth and raised apart are very similar in IQ.  Remarkably, twins reared apart are as similar as identical twins reared together by the time they’re adults. They also resemble one another strikingly in their mannerisms, the way they laugh, their likes and dislikes, phobias, temperament, sexual preference, educational achievement, income, conscientiousness, musical ability, sense of humor, clothing style preferences, whether they’re criminals or law‑abiding, and a whole range of testable areas, even traits as peculiar as which vegetables they refuse to eat (Bouchard, 1993). The extent of their similarity amazes the researchers and even the twins themselves.

Abbott Handerson Thayer, Townsend Bradley Martin, 1919 [3]

Abbott Handerson Thayer, Townsend Bradley Martin, 1919

The primacy of genes is likewise demonstrated by adoption studies. Adopted children’s IQs resemble those of their biological parents far more closely than they resemble those of their adoptive parents, who essentially provided them with their environments from the time of birth onwards. When adopted children are grown, there’s no virtually resemblance between their IQs and those of their adoptive parents (Loehlin, Willerman, and Horn, 1987).

The dominant role of heredity in determining intelligence levels is not a theory, it’s an established fact—the consensus of hundreds of studies conducted in different times and places by many different researchers.  But the public is largely unaware of this fact because the liberal media have told them repeatedly that most experts in IQ testing believe intelligence is largely the result of one’s environment. In reality, the majority of researchers in the field of intelligence testing believe heredity is the more important factor (Snyderman and Rothman, 1988).

Second, civilization depends totally upon innate intelligence.

This assertion is pretty much self‑evident. Lions, wild dogs, bees, ants, chimpanzees, and many other animals live in social groups.  They may cooperate in various ways, yet they have nothing that could be called civilization. Why not?  Because they’re not nearly smart enough!

Obviously, if civilization depended entirely upon exposure to an “enriched” environment, we’d all still be skulking about in caves.  If human beings first existed in primitive conditions, and the environment counted for everything and genetics nothing (as some assert), how could any progress ever have occurred?  It’s obvious there’s an inborn streak of genius that drives the creation of technology and civilization.

One way to look at the relationship between intelligence and civilization is to investigate ancient civilizations, studying why they rose, and why they fell. But a far more straightforward approach would be to simply look around us, and to survey the various countries of the world. Today, in 2004, there are countless gradations of civilization all over the globe.  Japan’s population has an average IQ of 104, compared to the US average of 100. Japan is an economic powerhouse, despite its comparatively small size, in fact, roughly the size of California, limited resources, such as coal, timber, etc., and recent fluctuations in its economy—comparable to the boom and bust cycle of any capitalist economy. It’s also a peaceful and predictable place in which to live. In Tokyo, a bag of money left on a park bench may sit there for a while until someone eventually turns it in to the authorities.

Abbott Handerson Thayer, Virgin Enthroned, 1891 [4]

Abbott Handerson Thayer, Virgin Enthroned, 1891

Although Japan has a higher average IQ than the US, Mexico has a lower one, and black African nations have the lowest. The very same hierarchy of nations replicates itself within the US, both in IQ scores and in socioeconomic status (SES). For example, Americans of Japanese ancestry score higher on IQ tests, and are more successful, than average Americans. Blacks in America score lowest and are least successful.  The fact that people of Japanese ancestry—both in Japan and in the US — score above average neatly disposes of the common objection that IQ tests are “culturally biased” in favor of Caucasians.

Interestingly, SES among individuals within one family is influenced by innate intelligence. One US study found that in families with 2 or more brothers, boys with higher IQs than their fathers tended to move up on the socioeconomic‑economic ladder when they became adults, whereas those with lower IQs tended to move down (Jencks, 1982).  Brothers have almost identical environments—same parents, same house, same food, same schools, and same neighborhood. Why do they often differ? Because they get different rolls of their parents’ genetic dice. Siblings share their environment almost entirely, but on average, they share only 50% of their genes. Some will share more, some less. [Sperm and eggs comprise half the genes of each parent, so that when they unite, the fertilized egg will have the full complement of genes. But one child won’t get the identical half from his father, and the identical half from his mother, that his sibling got.] Is it any wonder brothers and sisters often grow up to be quite different? The fact that the smarter ones move up, and the duller ones down, proves that SES is significantly influenced by innate intelligence levels.

Third, the higher the level of civilization, the better off the population.

Abbott Handerson Thayer, The Virgin, 1893 [5]

Abbott Handerson Thayer, The Virgin, 1893

To say, “The higher the level of civilization, the better off the population” is axiomatic, much like saying, “It’s better to be healthy than to have a disease.”  It’s plain for everyone to see that people who live in countries with a high level of civilization have more of everything which is universally considered good, and less of everything which is universally considered bad.  For example, they have more money, more fun, better food, nicer clothes, bigger and better houses, better educations, longevity, less pain and disease, less uncertainty in their lives, less crime, better medical and dental care, more personal power, more happiness and fulfillment, less anguish and despair, and produce more stable political systems.

Question: “Why do large numbers of people from countries with low levels of civilization risk their lives every year to get to countries with high levels of civilization, while the reverse never occurs?”

Answer: “They risk their lives because they think life is much better there, and they’re right.” If this were not the case, why would such one‑way migration occur?

Economic prosperity makes up a large part of this picture.  In IQ and the Wealth of Nations, Lynn and Vanhanen (2002) gathered data from 185 countries and found that the average IQ of a nation correlates .7 with its per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and that IQ is the single most important factor in the wealth of a nation.  (Free market economy and presence of natural resources were second and third.)  This is a major discovery which hasn’t gotten a tiny fraction of the attention it deserves.

Fourth, at the present time, we are evolving to become less intelligent with each new generation.

Abbott Handerson Thayer, Angel, 1889, modeled by his daughter Mary [6]

Abbott Handerson Thayer, Angel, 1889, modeled by his daughter Mary

For hundreds of years, until the early 1800s in England and America, there was natural fertility, i.e., no efforts to limit the number of births.  Married couples tended to have many children, but not everyone could marry.  Men who didn’t earn enough to support a family remained single and childless, and the net result was a small positive relationship between fertility and intelligence. Then several books on contraception were published which naturally affected those who could read disproportionately. Condoms and diaphragms became available, and the birth rate of the middle and upper classes declined.  By the middle of the nineteenth century it had become apparent that educated people were having fewer children than the uneducated.

This caused considerable alarm, and a number of studies were undertaken both in England and America in the early decades of the twentieth century.  Schoolchildren’s IQs were found to correlate negatively with their number of siblings, which seemed to confirm fears of dysgenic fertility, but this conclusion was questioned because there was no way to know the IQs of the childless.  Later, some US studies of adult IQ and number of offspring reported negative correlations, but other similar studies found no correlation.  However, the samples used in all these studies were not representative of the US population as a whole—they were restricted either in terms of race, birth cohort, or geographical area.  So, by mid-to-late twentieth century, there was still no definitive answer to the question of dysgenic fertility.  Then in 1984, Frank Bean and I had the good fortune to discover an excellent data set, the General Social Survey (GSS), to test the hypothesis.  It included a short vocabulary test devised by Thorndike to provide a rough grading of mental ability which was ideal for our study.  The GSS had interviewed a large, representative sample of the US population whose reproductive years fell between 1912 and 1982, yielding data which provided the unique opportunity of an overview of the relationship between fertility and IQ for most of the twentieth century.  In all fifteen of the five-year cohorts, correlations between test scores and number of offspring were negative, and twelve of fifteen were statistically significant.  The childless were, on average, slightly more intelligent, indicating that their omission in earlier sibling IQ studies had not invalidated conclusions of dysgenic fertility (Van Court and Bean, 1985).

Recently, Richard Lynn and I did a follow-up study which included new data collected in the 1990s by the GSS, and we got very similar results.  We calculated that .9 IQ points were being lost per generation (Lynn and Van Court, 2003). To find out how much has been lost during the twentieth century, we can simply multiply .9 x 4 generations = 3.6 IQ points.  There are no precise data for the latter half of the nineteenth century, but there’s every indication that the period of 1875–1900 was seriously dysgenic.  So as a rough (but conservative) estimate of the total 125-year loss, we can multiply .9 x 5 generations = 4.5 IQ points lost from 1875 to the present.  A loss of this magnitude would approximately halve those with IQs over 130, and double those with IQs below 70.

In his wonderfully thorough book, Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration in Modern Populations, Richard Lynn (1996) surveyed populations across much of the entire world and found that dysgenic fertility is the rule rather than the exception.  There haven’t been as many studies done in Europe, but it appears to be about on a par with the US in terms of the severity of the trend.  The only place dysgenic fertility is not found is sub-Saharan Africa, where birth control is not used.

As the reader may have begun to suspect, the main reason for dysgenic fertility is that intelligent women use birth control more successfully than unintelligent women do.  Greater birth control failure on the part of unintelligent women seems to be the case regardless of which method is used. Women of high, average, and low IQ all want, on average, the same number of children, but low IQ women have far more accidental pregnancies.  If all women had the exact number of children they desired, there would be virtually no dysgenic fertility (Van Court, 1984). This is encouraging because it means that no extreme measures or enormous costs would be required for us to break even genetically.

Fifth, unless we halt or reverse this trend, our civilization will inevitably decline.

This conclusion follows logically from premises 1–4.

The concept of civilization is abstract, but here’s one easy way to conceptualize what, precisely, it means when “civilization declines”:  North Americans, Europeans, and Japanese can simply imagine living their entire lives in Mexico. Mexicans can imagine living their entire lives in Africa.  That’s what a decline in civilization means.

In The Bell Curve, Herrnstein and Murray (1994) reported that all social problems were exacerbated when they moved the average IQ down statistically in their sample by just three points, from 100 to 97. The number of women chronically dependent on welfare increased by almost fifteen percent, illegitimacy increased by eight percent, men who were incarcerated increased by thirteen percent, and number of permanent high school dropouts increased by fifteen percent.  With an actual three-point drop, these percentages would represent the unhappy lives of millions of real people, plus a major tax burden for millions more.  There’s also the top end of the IQ distribution to consider when the average IQ is decreased by three points—all the scientists, statesmen, entrepreneurs, inventors, and free-lance geniuses never born, and whose positive contributions would never be made.

Egalitarianism: Politically Correct, Scientifically Wrong

Why are we doing nothing to reverse dysgenic fertility? In a word, egalitarianism.  Egalitarianism is simply the belief that all people are born equal in intelligence, character, talents, and every other way, except for trivial differences in hair color, eye color, and so on.  It’s the ideology the Western world has embraced since the end of World War II. Immediately the question arises, “If we’re all born equal on everything, how did we end up so different?” Differences are said to be caused by various environmental factors, and any kind of social problem or pathology is said to be the result of “cultural deprivation,” “traumatic experiences,” “sub‑standard housing,” or that ubiquitous arch‑villain, “society.”

There’s not one shred of scientific evidence to support egalitarianism, and there’s a mountain of evidence that disproves it, but that doesn’t deter egalitarians, who give the pretense of scientific legitimacy by pointing to studies that report associations between one social pathology and another.  For example: “Children who grow up in poor neighborhoods tend to become criminals.” On this basis, efforts are made to build nicer housing projects and spruce up the slums, with (big surprise) no impact on crime. It’s obvious to any casual observer that correlations exist between poor environments and pathologies of various sorts. But correlation does not prove causation! Roosters crow at sunrise. Does this mean roosters cause the sun to rise?  If poverty actually causes crime, shouldn’t the crime rate have increased astronomically during the Great Depression? Well, it didn’t.

Programs designed to solve social problems based on egalitarian propaganda disguised as science are universally ballyhooed at the beginning. Despite high hopes, lofty rhetoric, and truly enormous expenditures, demonstrable benefits have been tiny, transient, superficial, or non‑existent. Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the main welfare program in the US, was intended to eliminate poverty and ameliorate the host of social problems associated with it. A major study of its effects reported that it has actually made the problems it was intended to solve worse, while costing taxpayers billions (Murray, 1986).  Head Start was begun in order to raise the IQs of disadvantaged ghetto children by providing them with an “enriched” early environment, yet there have been no lasting IQ gains.  Somehow its original purpose has been forgotten, it’s lauded as a great “success,” and it grows ever larger and more expensive.

“Superstition Ain’t the Way”

We often feel a smug, self‑satisfied superiority when we read about follies of the past, such as the Salem witch trials, the Inquisition, or bizarre medical practices, such as letting blood or applying leeches to cure disease.  Old films of man’s early attempts at flight are guaranteed to get a laugh.  But how do we know that we ourselves are not, at this very moment, in the grips of one staggeringly stupid delusion which will make us look like fools to people in the future? How embarrassing!  It wouldn’t be far‑fetched to say egalitarianism is the most prevalent “superstition” of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries—probably of all times—given that it is a belief about causality which millions of people accept, and for which there is no scientific evidence, which science has, in fact, disproved.  Does egalitarianism qualify as superstition?  Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary defines superstition as: “[A] belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation . . . a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary.”

A popular song by Stevie Wonder entitled “Superstition” contains lyrics that go like this:  “When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer. Superstition ain’t the way!” This sums up our situation quite nicely. The Western world has accepted uncritically a huge amount of misinformation about human nature, and as a result of our “mega‑superstition,” we’re causing ourselves, and all our descendants, “mega-suffering.”  We squander vast amounts of time, effort, and money on misguided programs when all the while our innate intelligence, the very foundation for our civilization and well-being, is silently and steadily slipping away.

Three Factors

Why is the Western world in the grips of such a vast illusion?  For thousands of years everyone took it for granted that some people are born smarter than others simply because it’s so obviously true. As late as the early decades of the twentieth century, egalitarianism would have been laughed at, and eugenics was widely accepted by prominent people whose views spanned the entire political spectrum. To list just a few proponents: George Bernard Shaw, Charles Darwin, Margaret Sanger, H. G. Wells, Francis Galton (who coined the term “eugenics”), Theodore Roosevelt, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Lindbergh, and Winston Churchill.  Julian Huxley described eugenics as “of all outlets for altruism, that which is most comprehensive and of longest range.” Yet today eugenics is considered evil! Although fads and fashions come and go throughout history, it baffles the mind that a scientifically valid and empirically demonstrated concept such as eugenics continues to generate widespread condemnation. However, below are three factors which probably enter into this particular volte-face in public opinion:

First, after World War II, the salient beliefs of the vanquished countries were universally rejected.  Hitler strongly advocated eugenics, though not in the same way eugenicists do today. (Hitler opposed IQ tests on the grounds that they were “Jewish.”) Genetics, behavior, and race came to be regarded as unsavory topics.  The eugenics movement originated in Britain and the United States; twenty-seven countries besides Germany enacted eugenics legislation during the same period, and neither genocide nor anything else dreadful happened in those countries, so no remotely reasonable case can be made that eugenics causes genocide.  The Communists took the opposite view—that the environment is all-important and genetics counts for nothing—yet they murdered far more people than the Nazis.  Nevertheless, no matter how unfairly, eugenics has become stigmatized because it’s associated in the minds of many with Hitler.

Second, public opinion in the Western world is largely shaped by the mass media (which, it should be pointed out, bear some of the responsibility for promoting this unfair association with Hitler). Countless studies have found that journalists tend to be far more liberal politically than the general population. Among university students, business, and hard‑science majors tend to be the most conservative politically, and literature and journalism students the most liberal, suggesting a self‑selection among students who enter the field of journalism.  In other words, people who are attracted to journalism, for whatever reason, tend to be liberal by temperament. Along with the liberal journalists, Marxist academics with admittedly political agendas have contributed quite substantially to promoting egalitarian propaganda.

Snyderman and Rothman (1988) compared what was reported about IQ research—on TV, in newspapers, and in magazines—to what scientists doing research on IQ actually said about it. They found that the media consistently gave extremely biased accounts, suggesting that IQ didn’t really measure anything, that it was irrelevant, that it was “culturally biased,” and that most experts on IQ agreed with such assertions, when, in fact, most experts disagreed with these assertions.

On the issue of race, the media have failed utterly in their responsibility to report scientific findings to the public. Actually, it’s far worse than “failing in their responsibility to report the facts,” because that would imply that they were a bit lackadaisical, or that they just didn’t do all they should have done. In reality, the media have blatantly lied to the public, and this has been going on for decades.  To some, “blatantly lied” may sound like inflammatory rhetoric, but there is proof of their deception, so one might well respond to that accusation, “How much worse must dishonesty be before it deserves to be called ‘blatant’?” One would be hard-pressed to think of anything more egregious.  Snyderman and Rothman (1988) found that the majority of scientists who do research on IQ believe part of the black‑white difference in IQ is genetic. By analyzing hundreds of media reports, they also found that the media overwhelmingly portray this view as one held only by a few screwballs.

This massive disinformation campaign about intelligence, genetics, and race has been waged by liberal journalists and Marxist academics against the Western world since the 1950s. Like an octopus with far-reaching tentacles, it has wreaked havoc in a multitude of ways, not the least of which is that it is currently impossible to have a serious public debate about eugenics, an obvious prerequisite to implementing a eugenics program. Such wholesale dishonesty might be expected under a Communist regime, but for this to take place in democratic societies is extraordinary, and it cries out for an explanation.

Third, to fully understand why egalitarianism reigns supreme and eugenics has been made into a taboo subject, this topic must be viewed as an outcome of larger societal and political trends, which also includes obeisance to “diversity” and “multiculturalism,” reverse discrimination, attacks on Christianity, support for ruinous immigration policies, promotion of promiscuity and homosexuality, advocacy of miscegenation, and moral relativism, much of which remains insulated from criticism under the rubric of political correctness.  As Western societies have evolved into modern liberal democracies, an underlying philosophical acceptance of radical egalitarianism has gradually displaced traditional values of quality, merit, and selection in human populations.


The results of one large, highly respected study of mental retardation illustrate the potential power for good of eugenics.  Two percent of the sample were retarded, and they produced thirty-six percent of the next generation of retardates (Reed and Reed, 1965).  Clearly, if that two percent had not had children, mental retardation would have been reduced by thirty-six percent in one generation in that group.  With only slight modification, these figures can be applied to the general population.  If the retarded were given sufficient cash or other incentives to adopt permanent birth control, mental retardation could be cut by approximately one third in just one generation.  This is only one among many possible eugenic measures, but this step alone would significantly alleviate all social problems, prevent a good deal of child abuse and neglect (retarded people generally make very poor parents), provide a big boost to the economy, and cause the “misery quotient” to plummet.

Egalitarians take a circuitous route to solving social problems—they keep trying to change people’s behavior by altering their environments. Despite witnessing their abysmal string of failures, our natural desire to alleviate suffering and improve the world persists. This desire finds new hope in eugenics based on science, not propaganda or wishful thinking. Eugenics takes the direct route. It holds the unique potential of actually creating a better world, of making profound, concrete, lasting improvements in “the human condition” by improving human beings themselves.


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Lynn, Richard. (2001). Eugenics: A Reassessment. Westport, Conn.: Praeger.

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Murray, Charles. (1984). Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950–1980. New York: Basic Books.

Reed, E. W., and S. C. Reed.  (1965). Mental Retardation: A Family Study. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.

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Snyderman, Mark, and Stanley Rothman. (1988). The IQ Controversy, the Media, and Public Policy. New Brunswick: Transaction Books.

Van Court, Marian. (1983). Unwanted births and dysgenic reproduction in the United States. The Eugenics Bulletin (Spring), www.eugenics.net [7].

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Source: The Occidental Quarterly, vol. 4, no. 4 (Winter 2004-2005).