See, earlier, by Steve Sailer: Why Pacifist Eugenicist David Starr Jordan May Someday be Seen as More Literally Hitler Than Hitler
I have reported before on the growing body of evidence that IQs in developed countries appear to be in decline, at least partly for genetic reasons. Intelligence is about 0.8 heritable and it is weakly negatively associated with fertility, partly because less intelligent people are less efficient users of contraception. As the U.S. teeters on the brink of World War III against Iran, let’s consider a related question: Is war good or bad for national IQ? Does war make us more intelligent—or does it speed up the decline of average IQ in developed countries?
Fortuitously, in a recent edition of the academic journal, Mankind Quarterly, British psychologist Richard Lynn—who is still regularly published at 89 and is best known for his research on national IQs, most recently in his book with David Becker The Intelligence of Nations —has addressed this very topic. His literature review [The Eugenic and Dysgenic Effects of War, Mankind Quarterly Vol 6, No. 1.2019] makes for thought-provoking reading.
Lynn concludes that war was “eugenic” in primitive societies. It killed off the least intelligent and actively promoted the evolutionary fitness of the most intelligent. But in modern warfare, this relationship may be startlingly reversed. Modern warfare is more likely to kill “the best of the breed” and kill them at a relatively young age, so their genes are lost to history.
However, the actual statistical evidence for this, Lynn finds, is inconclusive.
In primitive societies, explains Lynn, “survival of the fittest” also appears to mean “survival of the smartest.” A number of early social scientists e.g., Jakov Novikow (1849-1912) of the University of Odessa writing in 1910, Franz-Carl Muller-Lyer (1857-1916), and Charles Darwin himself, concurred that tribes engage in warfare to secure better territory and resources. The tribe that is more internally cooperative—a trait that it correlated with intelligence—and that is superior at planning, producing effective weapons and that is more militarily adroit, is likely to triumph in such battles.
This will result, overall, in the more intelligent groups killing the males in the less intelligent groups and taking their womenfolk as the spoils of war. Consistent with this, notes Lynn, about 15% of males in the kind of hunter-gather societies from which we descend die in battle and 90% of these societies engage in frequent and bloody warfare.
Beyond these battles between groups, Lynn presents evidence that females sexually select for males who display evidence of success in warfare, meaning that the hunter-gatherer equivalent of the “man in uniform” tends to have more children.
Lynn reports that, among the Yanomamö of the Amazon Basin, 44% of males had killed other males in conflicts and that these males had more wives and offspring than those who had not done so.
However, observes Lynn, the best evidence of the “eugenics of war” can be seen in whom the Europeans, with their average IQ of 100, have decimated in recent centuries: Native Americans (86), Australian Aboriginals (62) and New Zealand Maori (90). Intelligent tribes tend to triumph under Darwinian conditions.
Moving on to more advanced societies, Lynn observes that more intelligent people will be better able to protect themselves from the ravages of war due to the relationship between intelligence and wealth. Intelligent people also have longer time horizons, meaning that they are more likely to plan for future negative eventualities, including the possible impact of war.
Accordingly, argues Lynn, part of the reason why the Renaissance and the Enlightenment occurred when they did may be due to intense warfare a few generations earlier. And the Renaissance probably occurred in northern, rather than southern Italy, partly because northern Italy had been a battle ground to a much greater extent in the preceding centuries, which had the effect of weeding out the less intelligent.
However, very modern warfare, in particular World War I, argues Lynn, appears to be dysgenic. Concerns were raised about this even during the Great War, in such works as War and the Breed: The Relation of War to the Downfall of Nations by David Starr Jordan, in 1915 .
Suddenly, there is no longer a battle between most of the males of the two groups or even between a representative body of males from each group. Instead, there is battle between professional armies.
The military will attract males who are high in such traits as bravery, valor, self-sacrifice and other characteristics which ensure in-group cooperation and thus the success of the group. They will be killed, leaving behind—to put it bluntly—people who are cowardly and selfish.
Lynn quotes Anglo-Syrian physician Caleb Saleeby (1878-1940), writing in 1915: War involves “what students of this subject call ‘reversed selection’—in which the best are chosen to be killed, and the worst are preserved to become the fathers of the future.”
To make matters worse, in earlier wars in Europe, battles tended to be fought according to the rules of chivalry. In World War I, by contrast, there was trench warfare in which officers—who tended to be from high status backgrounds, and thus more intelligent, or who had risen through the ranks by virtue of being more intelligent and braver—led their men from the front. The result of this, observes Lynn, is that officers were much more likely to be killed. Some 13% of British conscripts in the Great War lost their lives, compared to 20% of junior officers. A UK study, observes Lynn, found that the IQ of ordinary soldiers from Scotland in World War II was 97, compared to 122 for officers [Childhood IQ and in-service mortality in Scottish Army personnel during World War II, by J. Corley et al., Intelligence, 2009].
Lynn then cites a number of different studies all showing the same thing: In World War II, smarter soldiers were more likely to be killed than dumber soldiers. This was because more intelligent soldiers tended to be officers, leading the troops into risky situations such as sniper-filled abandoned towns; and also because intelligence is associated with being pro-social, including with bravery and self-sacrificial behavior,
Nevertheless, observes Lynn, the numbers killed in World War II do not appear to have been sufficient to have adversely impacted the British gene pool. Perhaps this striking result is because extremely bright males were used as intelligence operatives and also because a tragic 28% of males killed in the British army in World War II already had children. (IQ tests were not widespread in 1914, so we can only speculate on the effect of that war.)
So, overall, Lynn remains neutral on the impact of modern warfare on IQ. We would expect it to reduce IQ. However, we only have quantitative evidence from World War II and it does not appear to have done so.
So, the worst that can be said of the Third World War is that it may be dysgenic.
What a comforting thought!
Lance Welton [email him] is the pen name of a freelance journalist living in New York.