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Richard Lynn and his Bell Curve

The following is an Op-Ed written by our intern, Bowie Fritsch. Bowie is a high-school senior from Austin, Tx. 


Richard Lynn is a white supremacist psychologist who is famous in alt-right circles for his studies on IQ and race. He is most known for his book ​IQ and the Wealth of Nations​ which argues that certain countries are poor because they have low IQ populations and that indicators like GDP correlate to the average IQ of that country. Studies like these are used to justify the exploitation of poorer nations by wealthier ones and stop immigration to “white countries” from “nonwhite countries”. When white nationalists reference “the bell curve” they are referencing Richard Lynn’s research.

“In 2016 Rindermann & Thompson calculated that ​the intelligence of immigrants in all European countries is lower by an average 6 IQ points than that of indigenous populations​. Further data confirming this conclusion for a number of economically developed countries have been reported by Woodley of Menie, Peñnaherrera-Aguire, Fernandes & Figueredo in 2017.”​ (American Renaissance is a known white supremacist site)

This map is based on 2006 estimates by Lynn and political scientist ​Tatu Vanhanen​, it is often referenced by “race realists”. The map and list can be seen ​below​.

The issues in this map stand out without even looking at the methodology. For example the lowest IQ country on this list is Equatorial Guinea with an IQ of 59. Let us just assume for a moment that whatever methodology used here was accurate. Assuming this, an average IQ of 59 seems unreasonable. People who score this low on an IQ test typically have congenital problems or have been in serious accidents. An oil producing country which is well off by African Standards is highly unlikely to have a population with such low intelligence.

Examining the methodology of Lynn’s data collection closely reveals strong biases. The clearest is that in the case of developing countries, people with poor nutrition, living conditions, and education are destined to score lower than people from developed countries on IQ tests. On top of this, Lynn purposefully disregarded high IQ findings of people from certain countries(1). The inherent flaws in Lynn’s research explain why despite the claims of his supporters (2) immigrants, even from so called “low IQ countries”, often outperform natives when given the chance (3).

White nationalists also often cite ​Charles Murray’s​ book ​The Bell Curve​ as evidence of lower IQs among blacks and hispanics. Murray’s work, like many others, uses Lynn as a reference. His main goal is to prove that class differences among races arise from innate intelligence differences.

“​Murray whitewashes the individual people who provided the intellectual foundation for ​The Bell Curve.​ To take only one example, ​Murray and Herrnstein described Richard Lynn, whose work they relied on more than any other individual, as “a leading scholar of racial and ethnic differences​.” In his many subsequent defenses of Lynn, Murray neglected to mention the many serious methodological criticisms of Lynn’s work, or his contributions to white supremacist publications including ​,​ ​American Renaissance​ and ​Mankind Quarterly​, the last of which Lynn also serves on the editorial staff of.”



IQ deficit