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16 September 2011

Interview with Richard Lynn

Alex Kurtagic

Professor Emeritus of Psychology Richard Lynn is a key reference in the literature about human biodiversity. Son of a renowned botanicist, Professor Lynn has over the past twenty years become known for his research involving race differences in intelligence, something he has combined with his interest in personality and economic performance. My first encounter with his work was in 2004, via his 2001 book, Eugenics: A Reassessment. I first corresponded with him in the mid 2000s, while in an effort to find out whether there were any plans to re-print the sought-after companion to the abovementioned volume, Dysgenics (a new and updated edition—something I subsequently suggested to him—was published a few months ago). In this extensive interview, we find out more about this independently minded scholar, including his recollections of the Britain of his early years, his early career, and professional development. We also get a few rare insights into his daily life and personality.

You were born in 1930, a citizen of the British Empire. How do you remember the Britain of your childhood and what strikes you the most, on a personal level, when you compare it with the Britain you know today? What are some of the everyday features of life that were taken for granted in the 1930s, but which would seem inconceivable today?

Three things strike me. First, there has been a huge increase in the standard of living. Up to around 1950, telephones, refrigerators, automobiles, and even radios were luxury items that only the fairly rich could afford. Today, all these things, as well as new items like televisions, mobile phones and computers, are possessed by almost everyone.


Nuclear family in Britain in the 1950s.

Second, and also up to around 1950, Britain was a very law abiding country. Crime rates were about 10 per cent of what they are today. Many cars did not have locks because it was taken for granted that no-one would attempt to break into them. An uncle of mine made a living as stamp dealer. He used to send out booklets of stamps each of which was priced to potential purchasers, who would take out those they wanted and send back the booklets together with a cheque for those they had taken. No doubt it will be amazing to the younger generation today that it was possible to run a business in this way.

Third, and again up to around 1950, Britain was an all-white society. I do not remember ever seeing a non-European before this time. This began to change as a result of two developments.

The first was the British Nationality Act of 1948, which conferred citizenship and the right to live in Britain on all members of the Commonwealth and Empire. The Commonwealth comprised Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa, while the Empire consisted of the Indian sub-continent, about one third of sub-Saharan Africa, Hong Kong, Malaysia, most of the Caribbean islands, and a number of smaller territories. This act meant that huge numbers of non-Europeans—some 800 million—had the right to live and work in Britain. Curiously, the probable consequences of this act were not much debated in the House of Commons. Enoch Powell, at that time a new MP raised the question of whether this was a sensible measure and Clement Atlee, the Labour government’s Prime Minister, assured him that very few British subjects would take advantage of this opportunity. This was, of course, wrong. Only a few weeks after the act was passed into law, the first boat—the Windrush—of West Indians arrived in Britain. It was to be followed by many more.

The second development responsible for the transformation of Britain into a multiracial society was signing up to the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which allowed entry of a large number of asylum seekers. The result of these two developments was that the number of non-Europeans (of all races) living in Britain recorded in the census of 1951 was 138,000. By 1971, that number had increased to 751,000, and in 2001 census it had increased 3,450,000. These non-European immigrants are almost entirely in cities, in a number of which they today comprise approaching half the inhabitants.

Traditionalists have a tendency to romanticise the past, and imagine that the man of yesteryear was incomparably harder, cleverer, more articulate, more self-reliant. Evidence from research goes some way to support the view (e.g., your own book, Dysgenics). Even films like Scott of the Antarctic (1948) show Englishmen in an altogether different class from what we can expect today. But does the romantic view of today’s nostalgics—many of whom were born only a few decades ago—really accord with your own observations from your early years? Were the English really that much hardier? Is the gap between, say, a modern 25 year-old and their counterparts from yesteryear really as noticeable as it is made out to be?

The modern 25 year-olds have a higher IQ but is less honest than their counterparts from yesteryear. Whether they are more or less hardier is difficult to say.

When I was growing up, the year 2000 was far away and seemed incredibly futuristic. How did you imagine the future during your early years? And how did, when it finally arrived, the year 2000 differ from what you had imagined?

I never imagined the changes that have taken place, and nor did many others.

What where the key texts and authors that most impacted you during your early years?

Francis Galton’s Hereditary Genius, Cyril Burt and Ray Cattell on the decline of genotypic intelligence arising from dysgenic fertility, and Hans Eysenck’s work on personality.

In the late 1960s the comprehensive schooling system was introduced in Britain. Comprehensive schools do not select for aptitude, which meant pupils of divergent ability are thrown hidgety-pidgety into the nation’s classrooms and changed the atmosphere within. What was the atmosphere like the schools you attended during the 1930s and 1940s? What were their virtues and vices? What do you think has been the effect on the population of comprehensive schools, bearing in mind that by now 90% of Britons have attended them?

I went to the Bristol Grammar School which was and is an elite academic school, so the atmosphere was scholarly. The comprehensive schools differ a great deal according to where they are and the population they serve. In the country, where the people are virtually entirely indigenous and fairly well disciplined, I think the comprehensive schools are fine. In the cities with their multiracial populations they are not so good. There are many comprehensive schools in which few of the students speak English as their first language, or even at all, so this makes teaching difficult. Black children are a particular problem because of the high prevalence of disruptive behaviour, as a result of which they are expelled or suspended at approximately seven times the rate of whites and Asians. There is the same problem in the United States.

Many of the establishment politicians and academics that are inconvenienced by your research today are a direct product of the 1960s. How did you view those involved in the 1960s upheavals and subculture at that time? Were you, as was Kevin MacDonald in his day, able to sample some of those specimens?

I was opposed to the so-called “progressive” movement in education, which included the abolition of the grammar schools and their replacement by comprehensives, and the abolition of streaming and setting by ability, and so on. In 1969 Brian Cox, who was Professor of English at the University of Manchester produced the first of four Black Papers on Education. These were an attack on progressive education, a body of ideas of the 1950s and 1960s that was designed to produce a more equal society. Its policy objectives included the use of discovery methods instead of the rote learning of arithmetic number bonds and tables, the replacement of learning to read by phonetics by the whole word method, the abolition of streaming by ability, the end of examinations, the dismissal of correct spelling as unimportant, and the closing down of the grammar schools and their replacement by comprehensives. It was believed that all these things had hitherto favoured middle class children and were therefore unjust. By the late 1960s many of these progressive objectives had been achieved in numerous schools. Children no longer sat in rows of desks and listened to the teacher. The desks were thrown out and replaced by tables which the children sat around doing their own thing.

Naturally, streaming children by ability, or tracking as it is known in the United States, was disapproved of by the progressive educationists because it identified some children as more able than others. In many schools it was abolished altogether and teachers were assigned the task of teaching children of all abilities in the same class. Many head-teachers recognized that this was pretty well impossible and they devised various ways of tackling the problem.

Later in 1969 Cox and Dyson produced a second Black Paper, for which Sir Cyril Burt, Hans Eysenck, and I contributed articles. I wrote on article on intelligence and I argued that educational attainment is principally determined by intelligence and secondarily by the values acquired from the family, that intelligence is largely determined genetically, and that there are innate social class differences in intelligence that would ensure that children from middle class families would always tend to do better in any system. I argued that the progressive agenda would reduce the educational standards of the most able and cited the much lower standards in American comprehensives compared with the selective European secondary schools as proof of this. I also argued that the grammar schools were a valuable conduit by which able working class children could rise in the social hierarchy. Sir Cyril Burt and Hans Eysenck also contributed articles and made similar points.

In 1970, Cox and Dyson produced a third Black Paper to which I contributed an article on the arguments for and against streaming by ability and setting by aptitude in particular subjects. I reviewed the studies on streaming and concluded streaming raises educational standards for all children. The fourth and last Black Paper appeared in 1977. I contributed an article on the merits and demerits of competition. It is one of the articles of faith of progressives that competition is undesirable and should be discouraged. I argued to the contrary that competition is natural, is a motivator for achievement for children, and introduces them to the idea that effort is required for success and that success is rewarding.

Looking back on these disputes of the 1960s and 1970s, I think all the points I made in my contributions were valid. We lost the battle to save the grammar schools, nearly all of which were closed down during the 1970s by Margaret Thatcher and Shirley Williams and replaced by comprehensives. But this has not achieved the social equality sought by progressives. Most middle class parents have reacted by moving to affluent catchment areas where the comprehensives have reasonably high standards, or by sending their children to private independent schools. The effect of this has been to divide society more rigidly along class lines than it was previously. We won the battle on progressive play and discovery methods and on tracking and streaming, and by the early twenty-first century virtually all comprehensives had adopted tracking and streaming or setting by aptitude for maths, science, and foreign languages. By the twenty-first century it has become universally agreed among experts that intelligence is largely genetically determined and this has become widely accepted among the informed public.

Your early work was on personality. What interested you about personality? What made you want to study it in relation to national character and entrepreneurship? I have noticed an interest in entrepreneurship and economic performance recurs even in your more recent work.

I found Hans Eysenck’s personality theories enthralling. They were very ambitious attempts to integrate personality theory with Pavlovian conditioning, American behaviourism, and neurophysiology. By around 1970 I came to the conclusion that Hans Eysenck’s personality theories were overambitious, and he came to the same conclusion at about the same time.

I took up the relation of personality to national character because in 1967 I took up a position at the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin. The brief was to work on economic and social problems in Ireland, so I looked at the demographic and epidemiological characteristics of Ireland to see if I could find any problems I would tackle. The first thing I noticed was that the Irish have an exceptionally high rate of psychosis. I knew from my earlier work on anxiety that anxiety is low in chronic hospitalised psychotics, consisting mainly of those with simple schizophrenia and retarded depression. I wondered whether a low level anxiety in the population might explain the high rate of psychosis and looked at other data that might corroborate the theory. I discovered that the Irish had an exceptionally high per capita calorie consumption, which is also a function of a low level of anxiety. The next step was to see whether there was an association between rate of psychosis and the calorie consumption across nations, so I checked this out by examining these in the 18 economically developed nations for which there were reliable statistics. I found that the correlation was 0.58. I thought this was promising start, so I began looking for other phenomena that might further substantiate the theory. I looked at suicide rates. These are functions of high anxiety, so if the Irish had a low level of anxiety that should have a low rate of suicide. I found that the rate of suicide in Ireland was extremely low, and again I checked whether suicide was associated across nations with my other two variables. Again, I found that it was. The correlation the rate of psychosis was -0.50, and with calorie consumption was -0.26.

Up to this point everything seemed to fit the theory, but then I hit a problem. An obvious variable to look at was alcohol consumption and alcoholism. Alcohol is a well known anxiety reducer, so in a supposedly low anxiety country like Ireland people should not drink much alcohol and there should be alcoholics. Yet it was widely asserted that the Irish had serious alcoholism problems. I checked the facts on Irish alcohol consumption and alcoholism. I found that per capita alcohol consumption was low in Ireland, and alcoholism measured by death rates from liver cirrhosis (the usual index for alcoholism) were also low. So I added these to the variables for the measurement of national anxiety and found they fitted in well. For instance, the correlation the death national death rates from liver cirrhosis and the rate of psychosis was -0.49.
Next I found another four variables that fitted the theory. These were road accident death rates as an index of high anxiety, and death rates from coronary heart disease, and caffeine and cigarette consumption as indices of low anxiety. They all fitted the theory. I factor analysed the inter-correlations and found a general factor that accounting for about 50% of the variance. I identified this general factor as anxiety.
The final step was to treat the nations as if they were individuals and use the data to score the nations on the anxiety factor. The result was that Ireland emerged as the nation with the lowest level of anxiety. I then looked at the other nations to see if there was any general pattern. It was evident that the northern Europe nations also had low anxiety, while the southern European nations and Japan came out as the high anxiety nations. It was impossible to avoid the conclusion that there are genetic differences in anxiety among the northern and southern sub-races of Europe, and between Japan and Europeans. This was my first excursion into the thorny field of racial differences.

As regards entrepreneurship, I have had a long standing interest in psychological factors that contribute to economic growth and a major factor for this is a strong entrepreneurial culture.

What is your favourite book from that phase and why?

Hans Eysenck’s The Dynamics of Anxiety and Hysteria (1957) was his most ambitious book that, as I have noted, attempted to integrate personality theory with Pavlovian conditioning, American behaviourism, and neurophysiology. Hans Eysenck liked to formulate grand big theories, and I have the same taste.

How did the advent of the PC and then the internet change the way you write and research? What was it like, by contrast, to conduct scientific research and write book-length monographs in the 1960s and 1970s? Bear in mind that the average Briton in 2011 barely remembers what Windows 3.1 looked like, so a bit of anecdotal colour would be in order.

The PC and the internet make research and writing much easier. Before these, we used to write papers and books in longhand, and a secretary would type them out. Inevitably, she made errors, so you had to read through the typescript carefully to detect these and have the page retyped. Sometimes, new errors would appear in the second typescript and have the page had to be retyped again. This was all rather annoying and time-consuming.

You discovered the superior South East Asian average IQ in 1977—provisional results that were subsequently confirmed and which seems to have defined your subsequent career . How was your 1988 book on the Japanese received at the time?

This was Educational Achievement in Japan and was about the Japanese education system and how to explain the very high standards compared with those in Europe and the United States. It concluded that the principal factors were the high Japanese IQ, strong motivation arising from competitive examinations, the government’s specification of the curriculum, and the longer school year. It was mostly quite well reviewed, although some reviewers were unhappy about my conclusion that competitive examinations generated strong motivation to work hard for academic success.

Since then, and especially from the 1990s onward, your research has become progressively more fearless in tackling topics that are inconvenient to our current crop of academics, mediacrats, and politicians. Since the 1990s, it seems every few years the press explodes with dismay at some finding or another from professor Richard Lynn. What happens on the days when the press is abuzz about your research?

Inevitably I have made a number of enemies but I can’t say this has upset me. William Hamilton in his review of my Dysgenics said I must have a thick skin and I suppose he was right about this.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, Steve Jones referred to you and J. Philippe Rushton as ‘superannuated’, suggesting that your perspective belongs to the bad old days, and his to progressive modern Britain. Yet, Jones is 67, born during World War II, and Rushton, who looks vastly younger, is only four months his senior. What is more, it seems to me that, given the mounting evidence from genetics, you and Rushton’s perspective represents the future, and Jones’ the past. It gets worse: another proponent of equality, Richard Nisbett, also featured on the Channel 4 programme on Race and IQ where you and Rushton appeared in 2009, relies, by his own admission, on data collected in the 1930s(!) When I brought to his attention your latest research on race, IQ, and skin colour, Nisbett said he did not need to read it. What are your thoughts on the extraordinary behaviour displayed by these gentlemen?

I would hesitate to say that Steve Jones and Richard Nisbett are dishonest. To give them the benefit of the doubt, I think they have strong ideological commitments that prevent them from seeing the truth.


Prof. Richard Lynn, with his wife.

During the past 15 years you have written numerous research papers, no less than 7 scientific books, and still have found time to do television and press interviews and speak at conferences overseas. This evinces a prodigious level of energy, even for a man half your age. In the face of such output, I have for the past ten years imagined that you spend every waking minute in front of the computer, a human tornado of data crunching and analysis. Give us an insight into a typical day for Professor Richard Lynn.

I normally start work at about 9.0o am and work to 1.00 pm. Then I have a light lunch during which I listen to the news. I have a siesta from about 2.15 to about 3.30. Then I have a cup of tea and work from around 4.15 to around 7.30. Then I join my wife, read the paper, maybe watch some TV or read a bit. On two days a week a week my wife and I play bridge at the Bristol Bridge Club. Bridge requires a good memory as well as powers of logical inference and I find these have not deteriorated, so the dreaded Alzheimer’s seems not to have struck—yet.


Prof. Richard Lynn, with Prof. J. Philippe Rushton

What do you like most about daily life in the early 21st century, and what do you find most frustrating?

I am deeply pessimistic about the future of the European peoples because mass immigration of third world peoples will lead to these becoming majorities in the United States and western Europe during the present century. I think this will mean the destruction of European civilization in these countries. I think the scenarios are only marginally better for Canada, Australia, New Zealand. European civilization may survive in Eastern Europe, including Russia. However, Eastern Europe will be no match for China. With the introduction of a market economy it has developed rapidly during the last two decades, and is projected to overtake the United States to become the world’s largest economy in approximately 10 years, and in as little as 20 years the Chinese gross domestic product is on course to nearly double that of the United States. With its high average IQ of 105, its powerful economy, and its large population of around 1.3 billion, it seems inevitable that China will become the world super-power sometime in the coming century, and probably sooner rather than later. I am profoundly thankful for the existence of the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans. The torch of civilization will pass to them.

Your literary style epitomises my conception of scientific prose: cold enough to freeze helium. Yet Eugenics: A Reassessment stands out among the other books in that it was written in the coldest imaginable style; had Spock been an android, he would have written like that. Was this a conscious decision? I know that the authors of The Bell Curve, for example, were worried about a hostile reaction to a controversial topic.

Yes, I try to keep my writing as cold and dispassionate as possible. I think the late Stephen Jay Gould is a good example of the opposite that is best avoided.

Many are disturbed by the gap in standards of living between developed nations and Sub-Saharan Africa, and development programmes aim to reduce this gap. Leftists blame economic underperformance in Africa partly on a temporary spell of European imperialism that ended half a century ago. Yet I would argue that development programmes are a form of Eurocentric imperialism, since a society is considered developed by in the measure in which it converges with the European model. I would further argue that the peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa should not have been forced to ‘develop’ at all. What are your thoughts on this matter? Should sub-Saharan Africa be developed, or should we limit ourselves to managing a process of de-industrialisation? Or is there a case, given Africa’s immense mineral deposits, for some form of colonialism?

Tatu Vanhanen and I discuss the problem of Sub-Saharan Africa in our books IQ and the Wealth of Nations (2002) and IQ and Global Inequality (2006). We are pessimistic about its future and doubt whether it will ever develop economically of culturally, because we believe its low IQ is largely genetically determined and unalterable.

Your newest book has been recently published and it deals with Jewish intelligence. Tell us about this new book.

This is The Chosen People: A Study of Jewish Intelligence and Achievements. It summarizes the evidence that Ashkenazi (European) Jews have high average earnings, educational attainment, wealth, socio-economic status, and intellectual achievements in all countries where they are or have been present in significant numbers, and argues that a major part of the explanation for this is that Jews have a high average IQ, which I estimate at 110 based on studies in Britain, Canada, Israel, Poland, and the United States. I attribute part of the explanation for the high Jewish IQ as due to eugenic practices but other factors have been involved, notably the persecution of Jews that has culled out the less intelligent.

Are more books currently in the works or at least under consideration?

A Second Revised Edition of Dysgenics was published on 1 June, 2011. It updates the evidence for dysgenic fertility in economically developed nations and also contains two new chapters. The first of these documents the decline of the world’s IQ arising from the high fertility of low IQ populations worldwide, compared with the low fertility in high IQ populations. The second is concerned with the effects of immigration on the intelligence of the populations of the United States and Western Europe, in which I argue that most of these immigrants have lower IQs that the host populations, and hence that as their percentages in the host populations increase, the IQ of the populations will inevitably decline.

Finally, how would you like to be remembered in 100 years?

Somewhat in the same way as Thomas Malthus, who was buried in Bath Abbey in 1834, about fifteen miles from where I live and write this. Malthus was of course famous for this theory that living standards could never rise because as they began to do so, populations would increase and consume the excess produce, reducing the population to their former level of poverty. And of course he was wrong about this. Still, it was a good theory. His memorial tablet in Bath Abbey reads as follows:

Thomas Malthus was one of the best men and truest philosophers of any age or country raised by native dignity of mind above the misrepresentations of the ignorant and the neglect of the great. He lived a serene and happy life devoted to the pursuit and communication of truth supported by a calm but firm conviction of the usefulness of his labours, content with the approbation of the wise and good. His writings will be a lasting monument of the extent and correctness of his understanding. The spotless integrity of his principles, the equity and candour of his nature, his sweetness of temper, urbanity of manners, tenderness of heart, and his benevolence are the recollections of his family and friends.

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