An Introduction to Eugenics

Eugenics is the improvement of the human species by selective breeding. Proposals for ameliorating undesirable qualities of the human race date from ancient times. The first thorough exposition of eugenics, however, was made by the English statistical pioneer Sir Francis Galton. Galton was a cousin of Charles Darwin and was much influenced by Darwin's theory of evolution. He coined the term eugenics in 1883 from the Greek eugenes, of good stock, and devoted the latter part of his life to propagating the idea of improving the physical and mental makeup of the human species by selective parenthood.

The reverse of eugenics is termed dysgenics, where the quality of successive generations deteriorates. There is evidence that the physical and mental constitution of human populations is declining today. Two factors responsible for this decline are modern medicine and contraception. Medical advances enable patients to survive heritable diseases who would have previously died. They are then able to reproduce their defective genes, thereby increasing the prevalence of these diseases in the population. Under natural selection the genes would be eradicated, provided that the disease occurred before reproductive age. Much of modern medicine is concerned with developing drugs to combat inherited disease, requiring ever increasing numbers of laboratory animals - not to mention the cost. The same diseases are unknown in farm animals because they are selectively bred from healthy stock.

There is a practical difficulty in identifying carriers if they don't have the disease or defect themselves. Genetic testing is of limited value since the genetic basis of many diseases is not yet understood. Even if advances were made in genetic knowledge, testing may be beyond the resources of less affluent countries. Despite these difficulties, animal and plant breeding was successfully practiced for centuries before the principles of genetics was understood.

Reliable condoms have been available since the 1840s. Since that time the more educated have chosen to limit their family size, while the less educated and intelligent have reproduced in greater numbers. It has been estimated that we have been losing at least one IQ point per generation from this disparity. In Britain the process has been accelerated by government policy - the provision of local authority housing, family allowances and state benefits. Having children at public expense is a simple way to advance one's progress on the housing waiting list. Once a property is procured, having more offspring will assure progress to larger accommodation. The provision of this assistance accelerates the growth in numbers of the less able and intelligent in our society. Criminals generally also have high rates of reproduction and low intelligence, and there is evidence that some types of criminal behaviour are heritable.

There are also factors which discourage reproduction in the more astute. Single sex education in British Grammar Schools and independent schools is one of these. Students will remain in these cloistered environments until 18 and have far less opportunity for meeting members of the opposite sex than pupils in other educational establishments. Single sex education is known to be an influence in the development of homosexuality, although there are also genetic factors. The more able students will go on to University and will start their family even later. Educated women also expect to have careers nowadays and will not consider a family until they are established. So the University educated couple are unlikely to reproduce until their mid-20s, by which time the working class couple may be on their second or third. Even if educated couples were to reproduce in the same numbers, their proportion would still decline because the age between each generation is greater.

The same patterns of reproduction in social classes can also be seen in races and it is established that intelligence is unevenly distributed amongst different races. (By intelligence I mean measurable intelligence such as mathematical or verbal ability. One can have average intelligence and have outstanding musical or artistic ability for example, but this is not easily measurable.) It is generally accepted that northern Europeans, Jews, Asiatics and Orientals are of high intelligence, the Hispanic races being lower, and Black Africans lower still. (The difference in measured IQ between African Americans and Whites has remained at about 15 IQ points for decades.) Black Africans and Hispanics have higher reproductive rates than northern Europeans. However, there are anomalies in the argument that it is only the less able races that reproduce excessively. India and Pakistan have the capability to produce atomic weapons, yet both nations reproduce prolifically, in spite of the abject squalor of so many of their citizens. This clearly demonstrates a failure to plan over the longer term.

What action could future governments take to arrest the decline in health and intelligence?

Why is none of this happening, given that eugenic ideas have been popular since the Victorian era? Two explanations I can give are the persistence of religious belief and the growth of democracy.

With the exception of the old communist regimes, almost all political leaders and monarchs adhere to some religious belief. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc were dreamt up aeons ago and have no basis in science or rationality. But religion is not concerned with investigation or rational discussion. It is a rigid set of rules to which its followers must adhere in order to enter heaven, paradise or wherever in the next life. Take Catholicism and contraception as an example. The official Catholic doctrine in that condoms are forbidden and that they offer no protection against HIV, while millions die from malnutrition and HIV infection across the world. Naturally Catholics in wealthy countries use birth control while it is unavailable to the poor in many countries, who are encouraged to practise sexual abstinence. Yet there is little dissent among wealthy intelligent Catholics to this appalling policy. It is my experience that religious belief is more prevalent among females and males from arts backgrounds who have a limited rational faculty. In order to preserve religious dogma in the face of scientific evidence it is necessary to indoctrinate each generation from childhood and the state, education system and broadcasting media appear to favour the former.

Most western style democracies have a universal franchise. Even if they are not very democratic (e.g. parties funded by huge corporations, lack of proportional representation and media bias) unpopular governments can be removed. While I am wholeheartedly in favour of democracy it does have disadvantages. Under a universal franchise the winning party must appeal to the masses. Encouraging the less well-off to make greater use of contraception is not likely to win votes whereas providing subsidised housing for them will. It is impossible to ever provide sufficient subsidised housing for the poorer sections of society as they merely increase their numbers to take up the supply. Quite apart from the loss of natural environment, house building is very expensive, leading to higher taxes. With an inadequate housing supply in the UK the less well-off have to rent in the private sector. This causes a poverty trap where families are better off unemployed than working and paying exorbitant rents. So the net effect of intervention is the tax payer contributing vast sums to private landlords while many of the tenants remain out of work. The growth in numbers of the urban poor helps to keep the Labour Party in power so there is little appetite for reform. Now suppose that Britain had a laissez-faire government without housing subsidies or child benefits. I am inclined to think that the populace would then make far greater use of contraception than they do at present.

I should add that I feel no personal animosity towards any race, colour, creed or class. I have not achieved any academic distinctions myself to speak of and my own health is rather poor due to inherited disease.


Reproduced from the Office for National Statistics publication Social Inequalities 2000 Edition


Reproduced from the Office for National Statistics publication Population Trends 93 (from which Figure 2.7 above is derived)

This data has been omitted from Focus on Social Inequalities 2004 Edition. Political correctness also appears in the Under 16 Conception Data 98-03. See Note: To preserve confidentiality, counts for City of London, Isles of Scilly and Rutland UA have been combined with those for Hackney LB, Penwith CD and Leicester UA respectively. In other words data from the poor area of Hackney has been combined with the wealthy City of London statistics which conveniently hides the disparity in under 16 conception rates. I was advised that the Office for National Statistics does not release figures on conceptions by age for local authority areas where the count is less than 3, to protect disclosure of information about individuals (ONS reply 22.6.06.pdf). I cannot see that confidentially is an issue here since the individuals are anonymous.

It would appear that the Office for National Statistics (i.e. the government) no longer considers the disparity in birth rates to be an important issue. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away.


Future Generations

Richard Lynn    Lecture on Human Diversity: The Global Bell Curve

Galton Institute

The Pioneer Fund

Sir Francis Galton F.R.S.

Optimum Population Trust

Marie Stopes International

UN Population, Environment and Development 2001

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