Wednesday 13 July 2016

Some thoughts from China


You may remember that I posted up some research on dysgenic trends in China,.

Mingrui Wang, the lead author, has now added some further comments.

The paradox of democracy
In democratic societies, the government is elected by the people and it will respect their wishes. Sometimes, their wishes can be conflicting. For example, there can be a paradox between differential fertility desire and the development of society.
Rational individuals ought to hate eugenic policy and love dysgenic fertility.
There are two kinds of eugenic policies that try to alter the relative fertility rate of individuals with different breeding value (e.g., IQ) - positive and negative eugenics. Positive eugenics policies aim to increase the fertility of high IQ individuals. Negative eugenics policies aim to decrease the fertility of low-IQ individuals. These two kinds of policies are self-evidently unwelcomed by affected individuals because they aim to deviate their behaviour from their wishes. The reproductive behaviour of individuals who fall between these two extremes is unaffected by eugenic policies. They should hate eugenic policies too because if the proportion of high IQ individuals rises while the proportion of low IQ individuals falls, they and their offspring tend to become the new low IQ individuals. Eugenic policies, therefore, conflicts the interest of every individual in the society.
In the real society, low and high IQ individuals both have their wishes respected. As the proportion of low IQ individuals rises and high IQ individuals decreases, IQ of medium IQ individuals and their offspring rises quietly. Don't forget IQ is actually a sorting tool, setting population average=100, SD=15. More than the performance on a test, their relative rankings in wealth also rise in the society. Don't forget, people feel happy because they are better than others. You may enjoy far more modern gadgets, eating more kinds of food, than any ancient emperors, but not feeling happy as they did. When controlling for an individual's own income,
higher earnings of neighbours are associated with lower levels of self-reported happiness. Dysgenic fertility and immigration will, therefore, increase the happiness level of individuals in the medium class. Hence, dysgenic fertility ought to be favoured by people from each class of the society.
On the other hand, individuals also desire the benefits from a strong society (e.g., defence and welfare), which might not be possible if dysgenic fertility persists for a long time. Therefore, democracy might be a paradox because it respects conflicting wishes from the people.
Although China is considered by the west as an authoritarian nation, the rise of thoughts on individual rights might make eugenic policies also not feasible here. Breaking fertility regulations in China will face fines, which make it look like a
crime. Behaviour genetic research suggests all psychological traits show significant and substantial genetic influence, so there might have been a selection favouring genes that predispose individual to break such policy. The rise of regulation-breaking genes will make any eugenic policy not long-term sustainable, even in China.
You may think China have already implemented a eugenic policy. The fertility policy indeed contains some element of "good birth". But it is mainly about a good rearing of children and the elimination of genetic defects. It completely ignores the literature of behaviour genetics. In the 1980s, there are Chinese scholars who have noticed the possible "inverse selection" on the urban status and they were ignored. In 2007, Di Zhenwu, the dean of School of social and population college of Renmin University of China published
an article rejecting this claim by pointing out the increase in the proportion of the urban population and the large gains in the quality of the rural population. He did not consider the possibility that selective immigration wakened genetic quality of rural population because those who have left were those had been less able to move out. I expect critics continue to urge that the lower IQ of individuals with a higher fertility is completely due to environmental reasons. So at the end of the paper, I challenged them to refute by conducting molecular studies.
Perhaps the only solution is genetic engineering, a kind of within-family eugenics, if it is technologically possible. For the issue of dysgenics, I am planning to write a Chinese language review to raise awareness on it. I hope more research in related areas can be done.
Recommended readings
Lynn, R. (2011). Dysgenics: Genetic deterioration in modern populations (2nd revise). London: Ulster Institute for Social Research.
Lynn, R. (2001). Eugenics: A reassessment. Greenwood Publishing Group.
Woodley, M. A., & Figueredo, A. J. (2013). Historical variability in heritable general intelligence: Its evolutionary origins and socio-cultural consequences. Buckingham: The University of Buckingham Press.
Kind regards,


  1. The argument is sound for coercive eugenics, where individual desires are ignored or denied, but it's not clear that it would apply if propaganda techniques and positive incentives were employed to influence people's desires. It's likely that people can be persuaded to want larger or smaller families by these means, and I think evidence can be found of such persuasion.


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  3. Many of the types of eugenic policy that have been discussed in this article have been shown not to be effective, however, I believe I have an idea for one that can be effective. This involves scanning the population, figuring out which members have undesirable traits, and then getting those members to undergo surgery that will prevent them from being able to reproduce.