John Derbyshire On Richard Lynn At 80: The Festschrift


Does the relatively muted reaction to Nicholas Wade’s recent A Troublesome Inheritance mean that the Political Correctness Ice Age is receding—and that we might even have another interglacial, like the brief period in the 1990s which saw the publication of books like Jared Taylor’s Paved With Good Intentions, Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve and even VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow’s Alien Nation?

Can Richard Lynn come in from the cold?

If you know Lynn’s name, it’s probably from reading, or reading about, the book he wrote in collaboration with political scientist Tatu Vanhanen twelve years ago: IQ and the Wealth of Nations.

Lynn has also made occasional appearances as a guest writer here on VDARE.com. He wrote here in 2009 on the dysgenic consequences of mass immigration into Britain; in 2012 on race and equality; in August that year responding to some points Ron Unz had made about IQ and the Wealth of Nations; and last year on the centenary of IQ.

At Lynn’s 80th birthday in 2010 the scholarly journal Personality and Individual Differences, to which he has contributed regularly since its founding 34 years ago, published a collection of papers honoring his contributions to social psychology—what is known in the academic world as a Festchrift.

The Ulster Institute of Social Research has now gathered those commemorative papers together and published them as a book, Race and Sex Differences in Intelligence and Personality, which can be purchased from the Institute’s website.

The book is edited by Helmuth Nyborg, retired Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. Nyborg supplies a brief preface and two other contributions.

The first of those contributions, and the first chapter in the book, is a 20-page Q&A with Lynn himself, covering Lynn’s life and career. Peter Brimelow tells me that he will be publishing this chapter in its entirety here on VDARE.com at some date soon, so I shall say no more about it.

Nyborg’s second major contribution is his 2011 paper “The decay of Western civilization: Double Relaxed Darwinian Selection,” which brought him a formal censure from the Danish Council for Scientific Misconduct. Wikipedia has (as of today) a brief account of the controversy that is surprisingly sympathetic to Nyborg—surprisingly, I mean, in that the Wikipedia “line” is mostly straight Cultural-Marxist.

The Double Relaxed Darwinian Selection Nyborg refers to in the title of his paper is the combination of two hypothesized effects:

Both effects are described with reference to work Lynn has done on dysgenics.

Nyborg’s paper is grouped with four others under the heading “National Differences.” The book’s other groupings are:

  • The evolution of differences in intelligence and personality (3 papers).
  • Sex differences (2 papers; and I’d like to register a personal thanks to the editor for writing “sex” instead of the current faddish mis-usage “gender.”)
  • Intelligence and dysgenic fertility (1 paper).
  • The Lynn-Flynn effect (2 papers).

The last of those group headings refers to what is more commonly called “the Flynn Effect” after New Zealand psychometrician James Flynn.

Between about 1930 and 1990, scores on broad-spectrum IQ tests increased steadily in industrialized Western countries at a rate of about three points per decade. Flynn identified the phenomenon for the U.S.A. in 1984; Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray attached Flynn’s name to it ten years later.

Lynn, however, had written up the effect as it applied to Japan in a 1982 paper in Nature. In fairness, therefore, the Flynn Effect should more properly be called the Lynn-Flynn effect.

As the authors of one of these papers point out, the Lynn-Flynn effect might even more properly be called the Tuddenham Effect, since R.D. Tuddenham had observed it in American military conscripts as far back as 1948. [PDF]

The causes of the Tuddenham-Lynn-Flynn Effect are not dispositively known. Tuddenham thought it was better education. Lynn himself thinks that improvements in nutrition have been the major factor. Flynn favors the more cognitively stimulating “background” of later 20th-century society (movies, TV, the Internet). Smaller families, more outbreeding, and reduced “pathogen stress” freeing up bioenergetic resources for brain development, have all been mooted.

In one of the papers here British researcher Michael Woodley offers a more general theory of adaptation to modernity via “slower” i.e. less stressed life histories, resulting in more cognitive diversity and specialization.

One prediction of this theory would be that the Lynn-Flynn effect would have a natural upper bound, like height. Indeed, there is evidence from some Western nations that the effect may have ceased or even gone into reverse. Lynn argued this for the case of Britain in his last paper on the subject, in 2009.

(The dysgenesis that Nyborg writes about is not, as one might think, a confusing factor here, as Lynn-Flynn and dysgenesis work on different components of intelligence.)

It is possible that the Lynn-Flynn Effect acts differently on males and females, at least in respect to test scores on scientific knowledge. This is one of the curiosities turned up by three Estonian researchers mellifluously named Mikk, Täht, and Must in their paper “Sex differences in educational attainment.”

To judge from the two papers on sex differences published here, this is one of the iffiest areas in psychometric studies. Conventional wisdom is that adult males and females have the same mean IQ but with greater variance among males—more of us out at the extremes, while females bunch closer around the mean.

Lynn has challenged both these notions. He has argued in the first place that while mean IQ is indeed the same up to age 15, males thereafter pull away, ending up in adulthood with an advantage over women of 3 to 5 IQ points.

He has also cast doubt on the view that there is greater male variability in intelligence. A paper by Paul Irwing of the University of Manchester supplies data supporting Lynn’s arguments.

Iffier still, in fact out at the furthest frontier of psychometric research, are race and sex differences in personality. Lynn was a pioneer here with a 1971 monograph titled “Personality and national character,” inspired by a spell of work for the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin.

The Irish, he noticed, had high levels of psychosis, and correspondingly low levels of anxiety. (The two things are inversely correlated.)

This led to a comparative study of 18 economically developed nations, from which it emerged that the southern European nations and Japan had the highest levels of anxiety. Ireland’s level was the lowest.

Comparative studies of personality have advanced somewhat since 1971, but it’s uphill work. Researchers have to rely to some degree on self-reports; and these get confused by the very traits we are trying to measure, trapping analysis in vicious circles.

Conscientiousness, for example, is generally agreed to be a key dimension of personality; but if, in order to quantify it, you have your test subjects working through lengthy self-report questionnaires (“Do you often leave tasks unfinished?” etc., etc.) then you are depending to some degree on your subjects’ conscientiousness …

Another Estonian, Jüri Allik of the University of Tartu, covers this territory in a paper titled “National differences in personality.” On the self-report problem he tells us:

People everywhere see themselves as more neurotic and open to experience compared to how they are seen by other people. External observers, on the other hand, generally hold a higher opinion of an individual’s conscientiousness than he or she does about him or herself.

Conscientiousness is a bit of a conundrum altogether, delivering counterintuitive results when measured.

Aggregate national scores of self-reported conscientiousness were … negatively correlated with various country-level behavioral and demographic indicators of conscientiousness, such as postal workers’ speed, accuracy of clocks in public banks, accumulated economic wealth, and life expectancy at birth … Nations with high self-reported conscientiousness were not less but more corrupt.

Paradoxes abound in this field.

In countries where more people are generally happy and satisfied with their lives, the suicide rate is higher than in those countries where people tend to feel more miserable.

As I said, this is a real scientific frontier. We don’t even have good metrics for personality traits. There is no Conscientiousness Quotient. Where I see these traits quantified it is mostly as high, medium, or low.

The book is rounded off with a crisp epilogue by psychologist James Thompson of University College, London, whose review of Nicholas Wade’s recent book A Troublesome Inheritance I noted on VDARE.com a few days ago as “judicious and mostly positive.”

Thompson gives a summary of Lynn’s work in all the various topics to which he has turned his attention:

I need hardly say that all these topics are scandalous to the guardians of ideological orthodoxy in the Western world (perhaps excluding Russia).

So what? Let them sputter and squeal. Those of us who believe in an external reality outside the bounds of ideological control should firmly, calmly, patiently insist on the primacy of scientific curiosity.

Richard Lynn has always done so. It is plain from the tenor of his work, and from his exchanges with Helmuth Nyborg in the first chapter of this book, that Lynn has pursued his researches in these ideologically fraught areas for no other reason than that he finds them intellectually fascinating. “A methodical and tenacious assembler of facts and figures,” Donald Templer calls him in Chapter 4 (“Richard Lynn and the evolution of conscientiousness.”)

To carry out such research through a career spanning almost sixty years, pushing forward steadily against fierce ideological headwinds, bespeaks great fortitude. Or as Helmuth Nyborg observes in his preface: “The work he has undertaken demands remarkable personal stamina.” It surely does.

All credit and honor then to Richard Lynn, and to those he has travelled with—and often argued with—in his quest for understanding: Cyril Burt, Hans Eysenck, Arthur Jensen, Phil Rushton, Tatu Vanhanen, Satoshi Kanazawa, Linda Gottfredson, …

These are the Galileos, Brahes, and Keplers of human nature studies, struggling to make sense of facts about the world with instruments that often deliver only poor resolution and ambiguous images.

They get little respect in the Western world today, where ignorance is bliss and also the gateway to a successful Main Stream Media career.

But if our civilization survives, our descendants will honor their names.

 

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. His most recent book, published by VDARE.com com is  FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle).His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.

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