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Dysgenics (also known as cacogenics [1]) is the study of factors producing the accumulation and perpetuation of defective or disadvantageous genes and traits in offspring of a particular population or species.[2][3]

The adjective "dysgenic" is the antonym of "eugenic". It was first used c. 1915 by David Starr Jordan, describing the dysgenic effect of World War I.[4] Jordan believed that healthy men were as likely to die in modern warfare as anyone else, and that war killed only the physically healthy men of the populace whilst preserving the disabled at home.[5]

Dysgenic mutations have been studied in animals such as the mouse[6] and the fruit fly.[7][8]

In the context of human genetics, a dysgenic effect is the projected or observed tendency of a reduction in selection pressures and decreased infant mortality since the Industrial Revolution resulting in the increased propagation of deleterious traits and genetic disorders. Richard Lynn in his Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration in Modern Populations (1996) identified three main concerns: deterioration in health, in intelligence and in conscientiousness.

Genetic disorders[edit]

Improved medical and social care may possibly lead to increased incidence of genetic disorders. Practices such as genetic counselling and prenatal screening may counteract this effect.[9][10]

Fertility and intelligence[edit]

Lynn argued that natural selection in pre-industrial societies favored traits such as intelligence and character but no longer does so in modern societies.[11] The hypothesized dysgenic decline in human intelligence is traced to a change in the distribution in fertility and intelligence by Woodley (2015).[12][11]

Lynn (1996) has received both favourable[13][14][15][16][clarification needed] and unfavourable[17]reviews.[18][19][clarification needed]

Selective fertility[edit]

Lynn and Harvey (2008) suggest that designer babies may have an important counter-acting effect in the future. Initially this may be limited to wealthy couples, who may possibly travel abroad for the procedure if prohibited in their own country, and then gradually spread to increasingly larger groups. Alternatively, authoritarian states may decide to impose measures such as a licensing requirement for having a child, which would only be given to persons of a certain minimum intelligence[citation needed]. The Chinese one-child policy was an example of how fertility can be regulated by authoritarian means.[20] Geoffrey Miller claims the one-child policy was implemented to reduce China's population explosion, and "to reduce dysgenic fertility among rural peasants."[21] However, the one-child policy has made longstanding exceptions for rural families so that those families could have 2 children.

In fiction[edit]

Cyril M. Kornbluth's 1951 short story The Marching Morons is an example of dysgenic fiction, describing a man who accidentally ends up in the distant future and discovers that dysgenics has resulted in mass stupidity. Mike Judge's 2006 film Idiocracy has the same premise, with the main character the subject of a military hibernation experiment that goes awry, taking him 500 years into the future. While in the Kornbluth short story, civilization is kept afloat by a small group of dedicated geniuses, their function has been replaced by automated systems in Idiocracy.[22]


  1. ^ "cacogenics". Freedictionary.com. Retrieved 2008-06-29. Cacogenics, the study of the operation of factors that cause degeneration in offspring, especially as applied to factors unique to separate races. Also called dysgenics. 
  2. ^ http://www.bartleby.com/61/60/D0446000.html
  3. ^ http://medical.merriam-webster.com/medical/dysgenics
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  5. ^ Jordan, David Starr (2003). War and the Breed: The Relation of War to the Downfall of Nations (Reprint ed.). Honolulu, Hawaii: University Press of the Pacific. ISBN 1-4102-0900-8. 
  6. ^ Tanabe T, Beam KG, Powell JA, Numa S (November 1988). "Restoration of excitation-contraction coupling and slow calcium current in dysgenic muscle by dihydropyridine receptor complementary DNA". Nature 336 (6195): 134–9. doi:10.1038/336134a0. PMID 2903448. 
  7. ^ Kidwell MG (March 1983). "Evolution of hybrid dysgenesis determinants in Drosophila melanogaster". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 80 (6): 1655–9. doi:10.1073/pnas.80.6.1655. PMC 393661. PMID 6300863. 
  8. ^ Almeida LM, Carareto CMA (June 2002). "Gonadal hybrid dysgenesis in Drosophila Sturtevanti (Diptera, Drosophilidae)". Iheringia, Sér. Zool. 92 (2). doi:10.1590/S0073-47212002000200007. 
  9. ^ Holloway, S. M.; Smith, C. (1975). "Effects of various medical and social pracitices on the frequency of genetic disorders". American Journal of Human Genetics 27 (5): 614–627. PMC 1762830. PMID 1163536. 
  10. ^ Matsunaga, E. (1983). "Perspectives in mutation epidemiology: 5. Modern medical practice versus environmental mutagens: Their possible dysgenic impact". Mutation Research/Reviews in Genetic Toxicology 114 (3): 449–457. doi:10.1016/0165-1110(83)90040-4. 
  11. ^ a b Lynn, R. (2008). "Dysgenic fertility for criminal behaviour". Journal of Biosocial Science 27 (4). doi:10.1017/S0021932000023014. 
  12. ^ Woodley, Michael A. (2015). "How fragile is our intellect? Estimating losses in general intelligence due to both selection and mutation accumulation". Personality and Individual Differences 75: 80–84. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2014.10.047. 
  13. ^ Hamilton, W. D. (2000). "A review of Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration in Modern Populations". Annals of Human Genetics 64 (4): 363–374. doi:10.1046/j.1469-1809.2000.6440363.x. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  14. ^ Loehlin JC (1999). "Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration in Modern Populations, reviewed by John C. Loehlin". Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. JSTOR 1049316 – via JSTOR. (registration required (help)). 
  15. ^ Vining DR (1998). "Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration in Modern Populations, reviewed by Daniel R. Vining, Jr". Population Studies 52: 120–121. doi:10.1080/0032472031000150216. JSTOR 2584772 – via JSTOR. (registration required (help)). 
  16. ^ Dysgenics: Genetic deterioration in modern populations: by Richard Lynn. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996, 238 pp. $59.95., Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems, Volume 21, Issue 3, 1998, Pages 343-345, ISSN 1061-7361, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1061-7361(98)80008-8 "This could be one of the most important books written in the last fifty years. "
  17. ^ Leon K (February 1995). "The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life". Scientific American 272. Lynn's distortions and misrepresentations of the data constitute a truly venomous racism, combined with scandalous disregard for scientific objectivity. 
  18. ^ Rosenthal S. "Academic Nazism". Department of Sociology, Hampton University. Retrieved 2008-06-28. 
  19. ^ Berhanu G. "Black Intellectual Genocide: An Essay Review of IQ of Wealth of Nations" (PDF). Gotberg University, Sweden. Retrieved 2008-06-28. 
  20. ^ Lynn, R.; Harvey, J. (2008). "The decline of the world's IQ". Intelligence 36 (2): 112–120. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2007.03.004. 
  21. ^ Edge, Chinese Eugenics, http://edge.org/response-detail/23838/
  22. ^ Mitchell, Dan (2006-09-09). "Shying away from Degeneracy". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-29. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Devlin, Bernie; Fienberg, Stephen E.; Resnick, Daniel P.; et al., eds. (1997). Intelligence, Genes, and Success: Scientists Respond to the Bell Curve. New York (NY): Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-94986-4. Lay summary (13 November 2010). 
  • Neisser, Ulric, ed. (1998). The Rising Curve: Long-Term Gains in IQ and Related Measures. APA Science Volume Series. Washington (DC): American Psychological Association. ISBN 978-1-55798-503-3. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]