Sunday, July 08, 2007

Since when was eugenics breaking news?

The New Zealand left is very small, so I've known of Jim Flynn for ages. He always seemed like an old-fashioned, decent, social-democrat. I guess I didn't realise how old-fashioned.

Apparently university educated women have 1.85 babies by their early 40s, while women with no tertiary education 2.57 babies. Jim Flynn commented on this (the article I'm quoting from isn't on-line, but you can get the jist here):

Everyone knows if we only allowed short people to reproduce there would be a tendency in terms of genes for height to diminish. Intelligence is no different from other human traits. It's a function of the brain and brain physiology. A persistent genetic trend which lowered the genetic quality for brain philiology would have some effect eventually
Is a basic knowledge of history too much to ask? People have been worrying about declines in intelligence, and that educated (or in times when they said what they meant white middle class) women are not having enough babies, ever since they started believing Darwin. Those fears have always proved to be unfounded.

Of course they're unfounded. The class system gives some people privilege and others poverty. Those differences of resources cause any differences between classes, whether it's number of babies women have, or the way you perform on standardised tests. To suggest otherwise, to say poor people are poor because they are stupid, should be deeply offensive to anyone to the left of John Kerry.

Jim Flynn's cure is as horrific as his diagnosis:
"I do have faith in science, and science may give us something that renders conception impossible unless you take an antidote," he said.

"You could of course have a chemical in the water supply and have to take an antidote. If you had contraception made easier by progress, then every child is a wanted child."
I think I'd be more offended at this idea, if it wasn't so totally preposterous. It obviously comes from someone who has never had to worry about contraception, knows nothing about what is available, and thinks hormonal contraceptives are side-effect free (and that there's an anti-dote available).

It's sad that an old man, who has done good things, is spouting this rubbish, and apparently every news outlet in New Zealand is passing it on.


  1. Oh, but its all OK because he "wasn't serious". Uh-huh.

  2. Anonymous8:47 pm

    I'm a little unsure why Jim Flynn is equating having a university degree with intelligence?

    I've met some real plonkers with degrees who would fly in the face of this assumption.


  3. Anonymous5:06 pm

    Jim is not actually endorsing contraceptives in the water as a good idea and is simply putting the idea out there. Surely we all know enough of the media to know that they will miq-quote something, or take something out of it's intended context in order to sentationalise the issue and get the responses i have read in various blogs. Come on, arent' we all a bit past that. Anyone who has read anything by Flynn would know that he is actually against what he is talking about. All Flynn has done is made public an acedemic debate, and as many of s politico's have done before he has highlighted a point made by someone else to illustrate a point. Come on people, have some flexibility to see sometimes people represent ideas that are not there own but are good for public debate. On Close Up last night, Flynn endorsed public eduation, paid parental leave and a myriad of other things as the best way forward for the country. Which they would be.

  4. Anonymous - Jim explicitly said that he saw no problem in such a contraceptive device.

    Leaving aside the horror of blaming poverty on the poor (which I will not), he obviously has no respect for women's right to control their own body.

  5. Did he say anything about restricting access to the antidote to this hypothetical future contraceptive? Wouldn't it be giving us more control over our own bodies if we got to make an active choice to become fertile instead of having to remember to continually chose to avoid fertility? This is assuming a perfect contraceptive and antidote with no side effects at all for anyone, and no risk of restrictions to access being imposed by outside forces - not likely, perhaps, but the context was "wouldn't it be nice if...", not "we should implement this now with existing technology".

  6. I don't know Jim Flynn, but apparently the Sunday Star Times article largely misrepresented him, his views on the issue are clarified .

  7. Anonymous6:03 pm

    I guess its a bit like saying that you could end black slavery by not putting the black slaves in the 'breeding rooms'.