Eugenics Q&A:  Some Old, Some New,
Some Surprisingly Encouraging 

by Marian Van Court

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1. Doesn't the Declaration of Independence state that all men are created equal?

This is an objection that is frequently brought up. The Declaration of Independence reads, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." This means they are equal before the law, that government can't (or shouldn't) take away these fundamental rights. The historical record is quite clear that the Founding Fathers meant equal before the law, not that everyone was born equal in intelligence, talent, or athletic ability. Their other writings amply attest to the fact that they did not believe in biological equality – between individuals, or between races. A number of them were slaveholders. In a letter to John Adams, Thomas Jefferson rejected the aristocracy based on one's birth as an artificial one, and spoke of "the natural aristocracy of talent and virtue," which he felt was our country's most precious gift. (And isn't that a lovely turn of phrase to express what he valued most highly?) Furthermore, in spite of the great admiration Americans rightfully feel towards the Founding Fathers, even if they had made the assertion that all people are biologically exactly the same (which they didn’t!), then it could be easily demonstrated that science has subsequently proven it to be false.


2. Is there something inherently bad about having a low IQ?

Yes! The chances for a happy, successful life are considerably reduced because low-IQ people are much more likely to become criminals, chronically dependent on welfare, unemployed, illiterate – in fact, they’re way over-represented in every category of social problems. From the standpoint of our whole society, it’s also bad because these social problems cost taxpayers billions of dollars annually.

The Bell Curve, by Herrnstein and Murray, is a brilliant book. It's wonderfully well-written, and easy to read. It explains the role of IQ in our society far better than I can here. Anyway, the authors found that when they moved the average IQ of their sample down statistically by just 3 points, from 100 to 97, all social problems were exacerbated: the number of women chronically dependent on welfare increased by 7%; illegitimacy increased by 8%; men interviewed in jail increased by 12%; and the number of permanent high school dropouts increased by nearly 15%.

Everyone should be treated with respect, even retarded people, but compassion requires us to face the fact that they frequently suffer from a variety of problems, and they are a big drain on our economy.

3. In the British Medical Journal (# 7108, September 6, 1997, p. 563) there’s an article entitled "Thousands of women sterilized in Sweden without consent.” The Swedish government is investigating why thousands of women were forcibly sterilized on eugenic grounds from the 1930s to the 1970s. There are similar allegations about forced sterlisations in Switzerland, Austria and Finland. Is this the kind of thing you support?

This conjures up shocking images: a young woman – selected for no good reason – is dragged from her home, kicking and screaming, pinned to the operating table, and sterilized against her will. But it's really hard to imagine that such things happen in Sweden. Sweden certainly appears to be a highly civilized country. Could it be the case that in every imaginable respect it's a highly civilized country, except for these isolated, totally atypical acts of barbarism? Or is it possible there's a higher ethical principle operating here that we can see only if we probe beneath the surface? The sad fact is that there are women in this world who are mentally incompetent (either severely retarded or mentally ill) who are also fertile. They present a serious ethical dilemma. It's easy to condemn Sweden's actions, but it's difficult to find alternatives that are demonstrably better. 

There's a very real danger that if such women aren't sterilized, they'll get pregnant, because history has shown that there are plenty of unscrupulous men ready to take advantage of them. In mental institutions, women are sometimes impregnated ("raped" is probably more accurate) by attendants or janitors. Then, the infant is taken away from the mother (is this a good thing?) and given up for adoption. In many cases, the adoptive parents are never informed that the biological mother is a schizophrenic who was raped by an employee of the institution (is this fair to the adopting parents?). Most of the children born of such unions will be alright, but as a group, they are far more likely to develop psychopathologies of various sorts, causing them and their families much unhappiness.
And what, precisely, does the phrase "without consent" mean when talking about mentally incompetent people? By definition, mentally incompetent people cannot make rational decisions on their own. And what if they were to give their consent? What would such consent even mean if they were incapable of understanding what they were consenting to? Maybe the authorities in Sweden realized they'd have to decide the issue of reproduction for these women, just as they must decide many other issues for them. Maybe they didn't bother to ask permission because they knew it would be meaningless.

Furthermore, it might be asked, "Did these women give their consent to get pregnant, give birth, and have their babies taken away from them?" The answer is “No.”

At the risk of stating the obvious, pregnancy and childbirth, in and of themselves, are not terrific experiences! They involve nausea, depression, mood swings, bladder problems, severe discomfort towards the end (just from being so fat), to say nothing of pain. Surrogate mothers are paid considerable sums of money by infertile couples, presumably because there aren't lots of women volunteering to do it for free. If, after being pregnant for nine months, a woman delivers a baby and then has it forcibly taken away from her, this is a wrenching experience which is far more traumatic than having a simple operation to prevent pregnancy in the first place, a procedure that many thousands of normal women choose to have each year.

One crucial point must be emphasized:  By sterilizing these women, Sweden is not depriving them of the joys of motherhood – they are already denied that by the fact that they would be  unfit mothers as a consequence of their severe mental impairment. Rather, society is depriving them of the dubious joys of pregnancy and childbirth, which, as the majority of women would attest, is doing them a big favor. In addition, it's preventing altogether the heartbreak of having babies taken from their mothers at birth, never to be seen again. (It should be noted parenthetically that the problem of fertility among mentally incompetent men is not nearly as serious because they are rarely able to find sexual partners.)

It's inappropriate to use words like "coercion" in such a situation because there's no way of knowing what the women would want if they were rational and could see things clearly. The only sensible and compassionate solution is for the authorities to do for them what most women would want in their position, and most women would much rather not risk getting pregnant if they couldn't keep the baby.

The mentally incompetent must have decisions made by others for their own good, and for the good of everyone involved, in the area of reproduction, just as in all other facets of their lives.  Clearly, it's in their best interest, and in the best interest of society, if these people do not procreate.

4. Everyone knows that IQ tests are biased – what makes you think they’re not biased?

“Everyone knows” that IQ tests are biased because the media keep telling us this, but it’s an outright lie. Here's an example of real bias: Say an IQ test is created and standardized in England, and the vocabulary section includes words like "lorry" and "scones." If this same test were given to American kids, these items would stand out rather conspicuously. When you looked at the data, you would recognize immediately that: (1) answers to these questions were merely random guesses, (2) kids who scored high on the test as a whole weren’t any more likely to get them right than those who scored low, and (3) older kids didn’t do any better than younger kids. This means they're worthless questions with no predictive value for the American kids, because all they do is add "noise," thereby reducing the reliability and validity of the test. Furthermore, if nobody ever bothered to look at the data and delete these questions from the American version, they could legitimately be said to be "biased" against American kids in relation to the English kids.

By analyzing the data this way, it’s possible to determine definitively whether a test is, or is not, biased against any group, or whether particular items are biased. If a test doesn't satisfy the criteria for bias, it's not biased. People's feelings, and what may appear on the surface to be bias, have nothing to do with making this determination. Also, there's the crucial question of whether the test predicts success equally well for all groups. The fact is that IQ tests and other standardized tests predict success in college and in career in blacks as well as whites.

In Arthur Jensen’s authoritative work on the subject, Bias in Mental Testing, he found that IQ tests are not biased (using statistical criteria), except that the tiny unreliability of the tests slightly favors low-scoring groups. Also, it’s hard to imagine how the argument of bias in favor of Caucasians could be refuted any more effectively than by the finding that American kids of Japanese ancestry score higher on average.


5. Wouldn’t it be impossible to make a serious dent in the incidence of recessive metabolic disorders through eugenics?

Yes, that’s a good point. Most children born with them come from parents who didn’t know they were carriers.  But nowadays, there are many powerful new ways to deal with these problems. Parents can be tested to see if they’re carriers, and if a fetus is affected, they have the option to abort. Or, they could have in vitro fertilization, and implant only the fertilized egg that is not affected. These procedures are part of contemporary eugenics, which has many more options than early eugenics had.

6. There are good reasons to reject eugenics, even if it’s scientifically valid. One is that the world is not ready to handle this research. It’s true the media have a kind of filter that is heavily biased in favor of equality, so pro-eugenics views are hardly ever heard. However, there’s a reason this filter exists: it’s more important for the majority of people to have a good life than it is for them to consider dangerous or volatile ideas.

Ahh, now you've hit on something! You very aptly describe the suppression of these ideas as a "filter." I agree absolutely that this belief – that the public should be protected from radical ideas, particularly ones the media themselves find distasteful –  is a major reason journalists and others have lied to the public about IQ. But as reasons go, this one is not nearly good enough!  Don’t journalists have an ethical obligation to report the facts? In The IQ Controversy, Snyderman and Rothman showed that in this debate, the ultra-liberal media have actually kept expert opinion from the public.

Are you suggesting that the public is too stupid and too unstable to be trusted with the truth? What a handy rationalization for journalists and others who are simply too cowardly to express an unpopular truth! They don't even have to admit it to themselves. Instead, they can congratulate themselves on being "real humanitarians.”

To me, the attitude you express conveys a chilling arrogance, and utter contempt for the humanity of the public. It indicates they (you?) don't value truth, or freedom, very much. Because you "care" about them, you want to decide what's best for them to believe?! Would you want people to "care" about you that way? Who are you – who is anyone – to decide what truths the masses can, and cannot, be told? Do you believe in freedom of speech? Or is it only for certain people? Who is the fascist here?

7. There are many admirable human qualities that aren’t measured by IQ tests. There will never be consensus on what all of those qualities are. What gives any of us the right to decide which ones to phase out?

There’s already a consensus on the fundamental traits we value – for example, what traits would you want to see in your children? Most people want their children to be healthy, intelligent, sane, law-abiding, and conscientious – meaning possessing good character (honest, hard-working, concerned for well-being of others). These are universally valued traits. Have any parents, anywhere, ever said, “We’re hoping our son will grow up to be a psychopath”? Or, “We hope our daughter will be retarded”? These values were exactly the same 100 years ago, and 1000 years ago.

Another way this consensus is expressed is in government expenditures on hospitals, research on diseases and mental illness, prisons, police, etc. We as a society are already very clearly trying to change people, using environmental engineering in a marginally-effective attempt to make people smart, law-abiding, sane, and healthy. Why not do something that really works?

A “right” implies there’s something in it for us, when in reality, there’s nothing in it for us. I believe that we have a responsibility to future generations, and a great and unique opportunity to help them. We already agree on what is good, and what is not. There’s absolutely no doubt about it – we are quite sure that we wouldn't want to be diseased, retarded, a criminal, a psychopath, or insane – so it's no great leap of faith to assume people of the future don't want that, either.

But it's not as if a “Eugenics Court” will dictate each individual who can and cannot be born!  A likely scenario is that legislators, in response to public opinion, will form a new Eugenics Department that will provide attractive incentives for criminals and the mentally deficient to be sterilized, and incentives for bright, healthy couples to have more children, and medical professionals to help prospective parents make decisions on how best to utilize the new reproductive technologies.

8. Lately, the issue of over-population has pretty much gotten drowned out by other problems in the world. But wouldn't well-educated people be more likely to know about it, and take it seriously, than poorly-educated people? And wouldn't this have a dysgenic effect?

Absolutely.  People who have no children, or fewer children, as a result of concern about over-population would most likely be smart, well-educated, and altruistic, with a sense of social responsibility, and these are all traits we need more of, not less.

Around 1970 (back when I was just a “fledgling eugenicist”) I had a friend, a retired professor, who was the leader of Zero Population Growth for the San Francisco Bay Area.  I told him about my concerns about ZPG, and he was interested.  He invited me to give a little presentation at the meeting of all the regional leaders held yearly in Northern California.  Looking back on it today, it's almost funny to recall that I honestly expected that they would all welcome my talk with enthusiasm. I was quite naïve (21-years-old), but I really should have had enough common sense to realize that some of them had been working on ZPG for a long time, and they were all “rah rah” about the cause, yet there I was, telling them that actually, all their hard work was doing more harm than good!!  But they listened politely until the end, when a middle-aged physician became positively livid. “What you're talking about is exactly the reason we fought World War II!” he declared angrily.  I really had no idea how to respond to that, so I just stared at him for a long, awkward moment, and then sat down.  Interestingly enough, three regional leaders came up to me later to thank me, saying they had the very same misgivings.

9. Maybe there are valid reasons why many people are ignorant about sociobiology and eugenics – i.e., because they are scared of their implications.

But is it ever a good strategy to stick our heads in the sand like an ostrich? The scientific facts are basically the same things people have believed since the beginning of time – that individuals and races differ genetically. Now science has confirmed what common sense told people for millennia, so there’s no reason to think these beliefs will somehow bring about the end of the world. The belief that everyone is born exactly equal on everything that matters is totally fabricated, and has only empty assertions to back it up, nothing in the way of evidence. Before Marx and Freud and political correctness, it would have been scoffed at, and it will be scoffed at again in the future, because a gigantic falsehood – especially one this blatantly obvious – can’t sustain itself indefinitely.

10. What is intelligence?

One simple, straightforward definition of intelligence is is “problem-solving ability.”  Another definition is “that which IQ tests measure.”  Egalitarians will object, "Since we can’t all agree on a definition, it’s a useless concept." Not true! Intelligence is like heat. We know the difference between hot and cold, and we can measure fine gradations of heat. Some people will say, "It's too hot in here!" while others say, "It's too cold!" Does this mean we must discard the concept of heat? No. Almost any definition of any word could give rise to disagreement. We don't have unanimity on definitions of many important constructs which we use every day, but we carry on nevertheless, and we are much better off with them, than without them.

Egalitarians also love to say, "But IQ isn’t everything!" That’s true. (Is there anything which is  everything?) But IQ clearly is something very important. Those who pooh-pooh it have an impossible task explaining why IQ is the single best predictor of success in school and in life. How could anything which measures nothing – or even something trivial – predict success so well?

11. It seems like there’s a total "disconnect" on this issue between science on the one hand, and popular opinion, on the other.

You’re absolutely right. There are 2 arenas in which the Nature-Nurture debate is taking place – the scientific one, and the public one – and the outcomes are exactly opposite. Scientifically, the egalitarian (Nurture) position that heredity has no influence on behavior, that everyone is born exactly the same, and that the environment determines everything – is totally bankrupt. Proponents of this view have been not just beaten, but clobbered by overwhelming evidence from numerous twin studies and adoption studies, despite the fact that the "playing field" is absurdly uneven in their favor – it is far easier to get funds for research if you take an egalitarian stance, your articles will be greeted with great interest and approval, and you won't have even one-thousandth the problem finding a publisher for your book, which will get rave reviews and sell lots of copies. In spite of all that, the egalitarians have been thoroughly trounced in the scientific arena for the plain and simple reason that they’re wrong, and the evidence against them is overwhelming.

In the public arena, just the opposite is true, and Nurture has clearly won the day. The egalitarian strategy has been to snipe at the research of the hereditarians. [I use "hereditarians" to mean people who believe heredity exerts a strong influence on behavior. No hereditarians I’ve ever heard of believe the environment is unimportant.] Egalitarians use ad hominim attacks, portraying hereditarians as evil men who deliberately distort their data because they want to make themselves feel superior, and because they want to deliberately make other people feel bad.  (Oh please! How stupid can you get?!)

Egalitarians have no evidence and they know it. They try to confuse the issue: "Nobody can ever know for sure." "It hasn't been proven." They like to say that heredity and environment are so hopelessly entangled, how could anyone figure out the relative influence of each? [Easy – by studying identical twins reared apart.] Their obscurantist strategy is powerless against vast areas of new research such as biological correlates of IQ (e.g., .4 with brain size) so they simply ignore them. They point to a small flaw in one twin study done 50 years ago, for example, in an attempt to discredit twin studies, but neglect to inform their readers that a dozen more studies conducted since then have reported exactly the same results. They give examples of questions taken from IQ tests discarded decades ago, saying they’re "obviously biased," as if it's sufficient to simply make an assertion and leave it at that. But do the egalitarians really want to get at the truth? Ask yourself this question, "What research have Gould, Kagan, Lewontin, Rose, et al ever produced?" Answer: None.

Among researchers in the field of IQ, it’s been common knowledge for many years that the leading proponents of egalitarianism are not merely mistaken or misinformed, they are thoroughly dishonest. They deliberately mislead people into accepting egalitarianism in order to further their own political agenda, and their allies in the media do likewise. (And in so doing, they all make lots of money – they must be in hog heaven.)  Brilliant and sincere scientists, such as Jensen, Whitney, Lynn, Rushton, Herrnstein, and Murray, who consistently report the truth even though they know it’s unpopular, are branded “racists” and “bigots,” while the egalitarians portray themselves as the "good guys." It’s downright disgusting the way they take on pious airs while blatantly lying to the public.

Everyone knows that if a person listens to only one side in a bitter divorce, he/she is likely to come away with a totally biased impression. (The wife's friends say "The husband is a monster!" and the husband's friends say "The wife’s a psychopath!") But even though we know better, we still fall prey to believing what we hear based on just one side, and we do it all the time, because there are only so many hours in a day, and we can’t probe deeply into every single issue. On the question of genetics and behavior, the egalitarians and the liberal media have tightly controlled public discourse, so for decades, only their side has been presented to the public. Is it any wonder the public accepts what they say uncritically? It’s certainly not anyone’s fault for believing it. If I didn't happen to study and do research on IQ, I'd probably believe it, too.

But then maybe someday, I might think to myself, "Why not just see what the other side has to say?" Many, many people are incapable of doing this, because they’re terrified the other side might be right, and to discover that they've been completely wrong would be such a jolt to their psyches they might never recover.  Anyway, just imagine I summoned up the courage to venture into forbidden territory – I might read one really good book, such as The Bell Curve, by Herrnstein and Murray. I'd think to myself "Gee, what a totally different world this is! It's not a pretentious piece of propaganda like Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man – it's down-to-earth, clearly stated, interesting, even engrossing. Hmmm . . . kind of exciting! It’s easy to read, yet it feels more . . . substantive, more satisfying, like meat-and-potatoes compared to that other stuff, which was like cotton candy. And look – all these interesting graphs and tables! I guess that's because this is, well, science." And when I'd finished, I don't think I'd feel foolish at all – I think I'd be plenty angry at the dishonest low-lifes who had blatantly lied to me for decades.

12. Whatever happened to The Repository for Germinal Choice? I read that it closed in 1999, but were the children born from this program ever studied?

All prospective parents signed statements promising that they would take part in surveys in the future, but I remember Graham saying that when they sent out questionnaires about the children, many parents never returned them, so this was a source of frustration and disappointment to him.  He understood their desire to protect their privacy, but he wanted very much to follow the children to see how they turned out, yet this study was never done.  I interviewed him in Austin, TX in 1983 for a small publication I edited, The Eugenics Bulletin.  I also met with Graham maybe a dozen times or so over the years for lunch, dinner, or coffee.  (As a man, I found him to be warm, kind, gracious, and very smart.)

The Genius Factory:  The Curious History of the Nobel Sperm Bank, by David Plotz, was published in 2006.  Plotz, a journalist, wrote a series of articles about The Repository, and each time he published one, people who had been involved with The Repository – mothers, children, and even a few donors –  contacted him.   Of the over 200 children born from this program, he eventually communicated with 30.  Some children even met their donors.  It’s an interesting book, although I detected several inaccuracies and instances of bias.  For example, he writes something to the effect that “William Shockley loved attention.”  This kind of statement naturally raises a red flag about an author’s objectivity because it’s such a transparent cheap shot.  Plotz portrays Graham as a kook who thought he could create a bunch of little geniuses, but that’s demonstrably false, and quite frankly, I suspect that Plotz knew it was false when he wrote it.  Nowhere in Graham’s book or in his interviews did he ever say he expected all geniuses to be born from this program, a majority of geniuses, or even half geniuses.  So why did Plotz characterize Graham that way, in the complete absence of any evidence to support it?  Perhaps Plotz felt obligated to forsake truth and conform to standard journalist scorn and ridicule for fear of being ostracized by the “politically correct club,” and a “kook” may be a better subject for book sales than a courageous, innovative, and altruistic man.  Graham had amassed a fortune, and he was no fool – he understood mutations, regression to the mean, and other basic facts of genetics, and he understood probability, and he told me once that, as a matter of chance, there were bound to be a few Repository children who were not blessed genetically, possibly one with something as serious as Down’s syndrome. 

Graham said in his interview with me: “Look at it from the point of view of the parents. These are couples who want a child, but can't have one because the husband is infertile. With this program, they can have a child, and they can maximize the probability [my emphasis] of having a bright, healthy and creative child. Consider the child, too. As a consequence he spends his life with the genes of the donor, as well as those of the mother. Why not provide the best genes possible?”

In spite of his obvious bias, Plotz tells some interesting stories about the children, the mothers, and the donors, some positive and some not, but given questions about his credibility, it’s difficult to know how much faith to have in them.  However, by far the most important thing I learned from the book is that The Repository really revolutionized artificial insemination.  

Before The Repository, most doctors inseminated patients whose husbands were infertile with little concern about the donors.  Prospective mothers were sometimes able to select the donor’s hair and eye color, but little else.  The Repository opened in 1980, and it gave much more detailed information about each donor – in addition to his coloring, his height and weight, age, occupation, accomplishments, hobbies, athletic pursuits, whether he played a musical instrument, often his IQ, and so on.  Donors also had to pass very thorough medical exams.  Suddenly women didn’t need doctors anymore, they had the power to choose what they wanted, and this changed everything.  From the very beginning, there was far more demand for sperm than The Repository could provide.  Despite constant indoctrination by the media that genes don’t matter, apparently many women weren’t so easily brainwashed.  The Repository demonstrated that, overwhelmingly, they wanted the very best sperm.  Paul Broder, who worked for Graham, later co-founded his own sperm bank, the California Cryobank, and he readily acknowledges his debt to Graham.  Basically, all sperm banks became eugenics sperm banks because The Repository showed that that’s what women want.

Today, California Cryobank, one of the largest sperm banks with over 200 donors and offices in Los Angeles, Palo Alto and Cambridge, provides a great deal more information on donors than did the Repository, and it charges for the information, and for the sperm. It also pays donors.  Whereas The Repository gave “germinal material” only to married women with infertile husbands, nowadays sperm banks also cater to lesbians and single women.

According to Plotz, there have been about a million children born from artificial insemination in America as of the year 2000, with around 30,00 more born each year.  Graham was disappointed that The Repository children were never studied, but the whole point of studying them was to show how well they turned out, so other sperm banks might follow his lead.  The study would have been interesting, but it was largely a means to an end.  Graham died in 1999, but he accomplished his objective much faster than he anticipated because The Repository revolutionized sperm banks.  Half the genetic heritage of upwards of a million children – with many thousands more each year – has been greatly improved as a result, and that is a huge victory for eugenics.