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30 april 2021
Edward Dutton on the decline of Western civilization

Dutton about Moldova: “You’re the poorest country in Europe and this also means that you are the least decadent country.”


I noticed that we, people from Europe’s periphery, tend to see Western Europe in a highly romanticized way. Our perception was shaped by its glorious past, ideals, high culture, and standards of living. No wonder we see people waiting in line to become EU citizens and immigrants from Africa drowning in the Mediterranean trying to get to Europe.  However, Europe in the 21st century is a different creature that was not yet studied and presented in our history books. It’s quite difficult to sense these cultural changes, abstract oneself from the concrete reality and analyze it. Nevertheless, we’ll try. Thus, I’m happy to present Prof. Dutton, who identified some very curious cultural processes.  

Edward Dutton is a Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Asbiro University in Łódź (Poland). He researches in the field of evolutionary psychology, human biological differences, and intelligence. The last topic is especially controversial and was analyzed in his book “At Our Wits’ End”. The message is shocking – we are significantly less intelligent now than we were a hundred years ago. How is it even possible? We live in the Era of Artificial Intelligence, speaking robots, and plans to colonize Mars. From a historical perspective, the living standards have never been higher. We are also well familiarized with the Flynn effect - the phenomenon whereby average IQ scores have substantially increased throughout the 20th century. In this interview, we discussed the evidence and causes of the decline of Western civilization. The prognoses are quite gloomy, to say the least. For more evidence and articles, visit edwarddutton.com and Edward Dutton’s YouTube channel The Jolly Heretic.


Dear Prof. Dutton, you claim that Europeans are becoming less intelligent, which is quite shocking. Moreover, it contradicts the Flynn effect. So why do you consider the Flynn effect a delusion and why aren’t IQ tests an appropriate measure of intelligence over time?

Well, the IQ test itself is not a perfect measure of intelligence. It measures other things that weakly correlate with intelligence, which means that those things, what we call specialized abilities (like doing up your laces or driving the car), are pushed up very quickly. Consequently, the phenotypic maximum can come across on an IQ test as an IQ score increase, even though the intelligence is staying the same or even decreasing. Imperfect IQ tests also measure training effects (if you practice more IQ tests you get better at them) and conscientiousness. If those things are pushed up very rapidly, they will show a rise in IQ even though it’s not happening.

The problem is that, across time, we have been pushed to see the world more analytically – to perceive the world in a way that makes us better at IQ tests. We are not necessarily more intelligent (this involves analyzing things and making connections between them). Similarly, how well you do at school exams is not a good measure across time. Students may be getting more As now than 20 years ago, but it does not mean that students are more intelligent. It simply means that they are getting better at doing those kinds of tests, due to the environment that has pushed to its phenotypic maximum this specialized ability. What we saw in about 90s/80s is that phenotypic maximum was reached and, since then, we observed a genetic decline in IQ. We now have a negative Flynn effect in western countries on IQ tests.

What is then a better measure of intelligence if not IQ tests?

There is no perfect measure but you can have measures that are more invariant across time (which are less influenced by environmental factors) – I look at those in the book (“At Our Wits’ End”).

One of those would be reaction time (the shorter it is, the cleverer you are). It has been getting longer across time, consistent with an IQ decline of about 15 to 20 points between 1880 and the year 2000.  Another measure is color discrimination (this is a part of intelligence because part of solving problems is the ability to notice subtle differences) and we’ve been also getting worse at it. Another one is the per capita number of major innovations per decade (the small fraction of society would innovate interesting things). We find a peak in innovation in about 1870 and, since then, they are going down.

Your hypothesis certainly contradicts the idea of humanity evolving towards its superior forms, suggesting that we left the glorious epoch of our civilization behind us. So, when did Western civilization attain its full potential and how did it manifest?

I do think that the idea that we are going in a linear direction towards being better is religious and it’s nonsense. If you look at the history of humanity, the Greeks and the Romans, all noticed cycles of civilization. Civilizations start primitive, being subject to a harsh level of Darwinian selection. This selects for intelligence, because, if you are subject to a harsh, yet stable ecology, then you are more likely to solve problems and, therefore, to live and pass on your genes.

Similarly, you get competition between the species for resources. More intelligent people are more able to attain those resources and their children are more likely to survive. Thus, you get this harsh selection for intelligence and, this way, intelligence goes up. Another marker associated with intelligence is socioeconomic status. For example, in England, across the medieval and early modern period, if you divide the population between the richer 50% and the poorer 50%, the completed fertility (surviving children) of the richer population was about double that of the poorer 50%. This means that we almost certainly were selecting for intelligence. The living standards did not change much between the Dark Ages and the Industrial Revolution but, even so, literacy goes up, criminality goes down, corruption goes down, murder levels go down, head size goes up (another objective marker of intelligence). Eventually, we reach a situation where we are so intelligent, that the super-intelligent among us innovate brilliant things and we achieve the Industrial Revolution. 

Then when and why did the selection for intelligence stop?

Once we got beyond the Industrial Revolution, we built this huge amount of capital. Even if our intelligence is declining, we can still get better by just tinkering with what we have. After 1870, the innovation starts to go backward, because we reduced the selection pressures – child mortality collapses from 50% to 1 %, group selection collapses (there is no more war and violence). So, Darwinian selection pressure was reduced and we created an environment that is an evolutionary mismatch. We are evolved to live in an environment where we are under a mortality salience! Once you take away the stress, people become less religious, less instinctive and start thinking to themselves “what’s the point of having children at all?”. Intelligent people stop having children, as they also better use contraception and have better impulse control. Heritability of intelligence is 0.8 and so the intelligence of the society starts to go down.

Get rid of religion and patriarchy simply collapses. This way, we arrived at feminism, where women like you will spend all of their 20s and, maybe even the first half of their 30s, on your careers. You’ll be becoming a mother in your mid-30s, when your friends at school that dropped out at 16, will be becoming grandmothers. Another reason is the social system, namely welfare schemes – people with low IQ can just live off of that. You also have immigration, which is often law IQ immigration. All of these factors reduce intelligence in Western Europe.

What we have shown is that this is happening for genetic reasons. The prevalence of alleles, genes that are associated with very high intelligence, has decreased over the last hundred years in the European samples. On this model, by the end of this century, the average IQ in European countries will be about 85, which is the same as the IQ now of poorer South American countries.

But what about the growing literacy rate and the growth in higher education graduates that we observe? How would you correlate this with your hypothesis that we are getting more stupid?

The expansion of higher education does not imply that people are getting more intelligent. It simply implies that there is a governmental policy to expand higher education. Our economy is increasingly based on jobs, where people have to have a certain kind of knowledge, which they can get through higher education. That’s the first thing. The second is what you really have with the expansion of higher education is a bubble – the promotion of the idea that it is good to have higher education and it’s bad if you do not. The nature of the jobs people are doing today is not totally different from those people were doing in the 90s, just now they need a degree. You could totally argue that it is consistent with people becoming less intelligent, due to the debasement of higher education. More intelligent people are interested in truth, logic, reason, etc. The new kinds of degrees are not based on it (like a degree in tourism management, in looking after kids, being a secretary or whatever). A lot of these degrees are not intellectual degrees, but qualifications that were previously received at colleges. It is just a corruption of higher education. The standards of getting into higher education are changing, to make money. You could argue that, ironically, the expansion of higher education is consistent with us getting more stupid.

I’m wondering what impact these changes have on us…

What seems to happen is that until the 60s European countries had group-oriented foundations and, at some point, more and more people started advocating individualistic foundations. As selection pressure reduces, you are going to get more and more people who have these individualistic foundations for genetic reasons. Those people will become a certain percentage of the population. Eventually, a point is reached where the old system is undermined. Then you move to runaway individualism where everything is about harm avoidance and equality. It used to be that children would grow as a part of the group, educated to not regard themselves as particularly important. Children were raised in a harsh way that prepared them for group selection. What we observe now, with the rise of individualism, is all about getting children nice and positive memories and assuring them that everyone’s a winner. These are feminizing values. Children are not prepared for life. This way we got this concept of the snowflake – the person who is completely unused to being criticized and has not developed any coping mechanisms. In Eastern Europe, however, how people bring up children is more aligned with group-oriented values. The second thing is that Eastern Europe industrialized later.

So how do you think the future will develop in the next decades, considering the above-mentioned processes?

Well, you have runaway individualism in the West and child mortality of 1%. What I expect is that intelligence will become associated with conservatism and it’s already happening.  Generation Z, your generation, on several traits, seems to be increasingly right and conservative. You already see this polarization between right and left in the West, which you, in the East, never used to have. As a result, the society will break up and we’ll get areas that are gentrifying (people that are intelligent moving to certain areas). We are in the winter of civilizations. In the winter you always get the same things – feminism, multiculturalism, declining intelligence, a collapse of sexual moralism, and a collapse of patriarchy. A retreat of civilizations into Byzantiums, that’s what I think will happen. Conservative, high IQ Byzantiums.

Western European academia is also taken over by left-wing ideas. They do not believe in the truth but in certain moral foundations that are more important than the truth. On the other hand, in Eastern Europe, you still care about the truth. Civilization will be, most probably, preserved in Eastern Europe…perhaps even in Moldova! Because you are so poor! You’re the poorest country in Europe and this also means that you are the least decadent country. People suffer, people have mortality salience, people are aware of death, people are group-oriented (it is like England in the 40s, in some aspects).

Do you mean that Moldova has the potential to build a vigorous civilization?

Yes, because you’re so poor. There’s the suffering, which is important! If you take that away, you just become decadent and do not care about anything. You start to despise religion and anything eternal, living for the now – that’s the decline of civilization. In Eastern Europe, you have preserved the idea of eternity and that you will rise up and be better. You have a sense of the future, whereas, we, in the West, have the idea that our best days are gone, so what’s the point? We want to create equality against the truth.

Still, even though we might have developed a strong character under the pressure of suffering, we need bright minds and technology…so how can we advance?

If you are nationalistic and religious then you have a certain motivation to make your country better. You have a focus on divine values, like truth, and you look after people who come up with new important ideas. Thus, your values are group-oriented. That’s not the case in Western Europe. Here, the good of the group is irrelevant.  It’s the good of the individual that is important. For example, we should say that men who say that they are women and we should be persecuted for disagreeing with that obvious lie. Over time, groups that adopt group-oriented values are getting higher in ethnocentrism and they are less likely to become decadent or to fall apart. Shortly, they are more likely to maintain civilization and become prosperous. Whereas, the groups that do not do that, will allow inward immigration, which will cause a collapse in trust and cooperation. They will not promote the best people.  They will promote people because they are women, or they are black, or gay. What is happening in our countries is that we are having a negative Flynn effect, which you probably do not yet. We have immigration from low IQ countries, which you do not.

So I am hopeful for the future of Eastern European countries. Let me check the IQ for Moldova… (Dutton searches for a book).

Oh, please look up and for the IQ of our neighbors, Ukraine and Romania…

So the national IQ of Moldova seems to be 92 (8 points lower than in Western European countries), for Ukraine, it’s 90, for Romania it’s 86 and Russia is about 96. Moldova is doing better than I thought.

I am very hopeful that Moldova will rise to the peak of civilization…

Well, let’s hope so.

But, in the end, why would we care so much about intelligence at all? For many people, it might be more important to be nice and kind…Then why bother at all, if the criminality rates stay low and we are all-inclusive, tolerant, and peaceful?

But the criminality won’t stay low! If the intelligence goes down, the criminality rates will eventually rise and they will rise faster than we can deter it through innovations. Security cameras and DNA decrease criminality rates artificially (it is now more difficult to get away with murder than it was in 1990), but what you would expect is that these things would take over and we won’t have the money to sustain the security system. Civilization is underpinned by intelligence and, eventually, if intelligence goes down, civilization collapses. You could argue that this is already happening because we can’t put Concorde back in the air, as there are too many people making stupid mistakes all the time.

You say that kindness is more important than intelligence, but if that’s what you thought we’d be still living in bloody chaos. You moved to Austria from Moldova…if you don’t care about intelligence you just go to Zimbabwe, to the collapse of civilization and I think that even the most loving and kind people would not want that.

This way, I’m leaving this interview with a feeling of hope for Moldova’s glorious future.

Thank you, Prof. Dutton!

Mihaela Dima

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