No, Toby Young, the poor aren’t ‘genetically stupid’ and no, eugenics isn’t okay

I’m doing biological anthropology so shut up, biatch

My family background is hardly academics and aristocrats. I come from a long, diverse history of grubby faced, unskilled immgrants settling across London in the 1870s to 1900s. Proper cap in hand, factory worker stock. Yet, astonishingly, I am at university after doing 4 A levels, and not in a scullery where Toby thinks mudblood degenerates like me genetically belong. How can this be? Am I a genetic mutation? Or is it something to do with environment, opportunity and education?

Poverty: not a gene thing

Obviously, if you are mentally impaired or differently abled, you are at a social and economic disadvantage. You will probably experience more problems than other individuals in education, employment and, of course social discrimination. While there are laws against disability prejudices, issues like travel, independence, ableism, employment flexibility and sick leave all massively impact the average paycheck for someone who has a mental or physical disability. It is therefore much easier for disabled individuals to fall into poverty. This is a correlation fallacy; being poor doesn’t make you disabled: being disabled makes you more likely to be poor.

“So,” I hear @toadmeister burbling smugly, “When they breed, these plebs have stupider children, and evolve differently!”

Nice theory, but most poor people are not disabled. In fact, the upper classes suffer from a higher level of genetic disability than the rest of the population. Also, it actually doesn’t make sense. My parents, for example, are stockbrokers, not, as their ancestors were, dockworkers and factory labourers. My other father (long story) is a computer networking consultant. Various relatives are university lecturers, chemical engineers and bank managers. Yes, there are a mix of people who do more traditionally working-class jobs, but I wouldn’t say my family was particularly stupid. It almost definitely isn’t genetic. So why the massive shift in the 1900s?

Well, education and class mobility. All my family has had access to state education, the grammar school system, and increased healthcare and contreception. Amazing what not having 10 children can do for family resources. Also astonishing what access to an environment where you can learn to read and write can do for you. When my mother was offered the opportunity to learn how the stockmarket worked, definitely not something offered to her great grandmother, she had the chance to use skills that others were simply not privileged enough to attempt. The whole ‘poor people are stupid and lazy’ thing simply doesn’t stand once you look at what areas have failing schools, what areas suffer from parental neglect, and what areas suffer high poverty.

It’s not too hard to understand why a child living in an a place where food was scarce, money needed to be made to simply survive, and their parents simply didn’t have the time or education to assist them with extra-curricular learning, might have a much harder time doing as well academically as their middle class equivalents. Simple skills like reading or counting are usually taught before school starts (to some extent) by parents who can invest in a nanny or extended maternity leave. Take that away? Again, the child has to start at a disadvantage. Having to do a job through A-Level reduces study time, not being able to afford a tutor reduces your grade prospects, and having a huge class size with little support makes it harder to be spotted if you are struggling.

The problem with ‘race realists’ or ‘class eugenicists’ is that they are appalling at looking at the wider picture. They are so sneering towards social scientists, ethnographers, anthropologists and social workers that they tend to overlook vital factors when looking at any form of data. Dismissing all social or cultural factors as ‘not science’ is like refusing to acknowledge the use of sunblock in skin cancer cases because ‘sunblock is a man made thing’. You massively impair the epistemological truth of your work.

So do genes affect intelligence? Yes. Is it why poverty exists? No.

And killing poor people off on that basis is morally disgusting.

Written by

24 year old with an awful lot to say about everything. Opinions entirely my own. Usually. madelaine@madelainehanson.co.uk

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