The Arc of Modernism Parallels the Rise and Fall of IQ

The Arc of Modernism Parallels the Rise and Fall of IQ. By Paul Kingsnorth.

Average IQs in Europe, and especially England, rose steadily from 1100 AD, under harsh Darwinian selection. Richer people’s children tended to survive past five years, and there was steady downward social mobility for centuries. Rising IQs meant the per-capita rate of technological innovation steadily increased, and by the 1700s it had increased enough to usher in the huge breakthroughs of the industrial revolution. For the first time in history, a large group of humans were able to outrun the Malthusian limit, which had always strictly limited the population and meant that many were near starvation. From the 1600s, starting in England, the population began to increase — both in numbers and in girth — and politics changed radically, from survival to quality of life. Modernism, the Enlightenment, and democracy followed.

Average IQ peaked in England in Victorian England. It has been falling quickly since 1880, due to dysgenics (brighter woman have careers rather than kids, modern medicine means most everyone survives to breed and genetic problems accumulate). The only IQ cohorts that are breeding above replacement level now are those under 80. Reaction time data shows that the average IQ dropped about 15 points from 1880 to 2000, which is the typical difference between a doctor and a teacher. We are currently on course for another 15 point drop by 2100. Currently the average IQ in England is back to the level is was at in about 1600, in the reign of Elizabeth 1.

This is affecting politics in a big way. It is the underlying force driving woke politics, which can be seen as a war on talent by the vastly more numerous mediocre. We are now seeing the end of modernism, the Enlightenment, and democracy, because those ways of behavior depend on average IQs being above some threshold. Presumably we are reverting to a more feudal, authoritarian society under some new aristocracy. Our ruling class is becoming stupider.

Paul Kingsnorth looks at the arc of politics on the way up:

The first modern revolution was neither French nor American, but English. Long before Louis XVI went to the Guillotine, or Washington crossed the Delaware, the country which later became renowned for stiff upper lips and proper tea went to war with itself, killed its king, replaced its monarchy with a republican government and unleashed a religious revolution which sought to scorch away the old world in God’s purifying fire.

One of the dark little secrets of my past is my teenage membership of the English Civil War Society. I spent weekends dressed in 17th-century costumes and oversized helmets, lined up in fields or on medieval streets, re-enacting battles from the 1640s. …

English Civil War, 1642–1651

I was a pikeman in John Bright’s Regiment of Foote, a genuine regiment in the parliamentary army. We were a Leveller regiment, which is to say that this part of the army was politically radical. For the Levellers, the end of the monarchy was to be just the beginning. They aimed to “sett all things straight, and rayse a parity and community in the kingdom”. Among their varied demands were universal suffrage, religious freedom and something approaching modern parliamentary democracy.

The Levellers were far from alone in their ambitions to remake the former Kingdom. Ranters, Seekers, Diggers, Fifth Monarchists, Quakers, Muggletonians: suddenly the country was blooming with radical sects offering idealistic visions of utopian Christian brotherhood. In his classic study of the English Revolution, The World Turned Upside Down, historian Christopher Hill quotes Lawrence Clarkson, leader of the Ranters, who offered a radical interpretation of the Christian Gospel. There was no afterlife, said Clarkson; only the present mattered, and in the present all people should be equal, as they were in the eyes of God …

Modernise Clarkson’s language and he could have been speaking in the Sixties rather than the 1640s. Needless to say, his vision of free love and free religion, like the Leveller vision of universal equality, was neither shared nor enacted by those at the apex of the social pyramid.

But though Cromwell’s Protectorate, and later the restored monarchy, attempted to maintain the social order, forces had been unleashed which would change England and the wider world entirely. Some celebrated this fact, others feared it, but in their hearts everyone could sense the truth that Gerard Winstanley, leader of the Diggers, was prepared to openly declare: “The old world … is running up like parchment in the fire.”

Now we’re on the way down:

Nearly four centuries on, England and the wider West is again being turned upside down. Again, we are living in the aftermath of a system that is dying or dead: then, the last gasp of medieval monarchy; now the Anglo-American Empire — and perhaps modernity itself.

Again, we are living in a period of radical technological change: then, the printing press and the end of censorship, which allowed the distribution of radical pamphlets on an unprecedented scale; now, the internet’s enabling of global dissent and chaos. Again, we are living in a period in which the cultural mores of previous centuries are being upended: then, feudal assumptions governing everything from landownership to the meaning of marriage; now, the endless ructions of a tedious and unending “culture war”. …

The West’s ongoing decline has caused its elites to lose faith in their cultural inheritance, and this loss of faith has now reached pathological proportions. As a result, the leading lights in Western society — the cultural elites, and sometimes the political and economic elites too — are dedicated not to upholding the cultural forms they inherited, but to turning them on their heads, or erasing them entirely. …

If you want to “get on” in Britain — which means to win the approval of the upper-middle class elite which runs the show — it has long been an unspoken rule that you cannot be seen to commit yourself to any of the pillars of the old orthodoxy …

Modernism, and the politically liberal recipes that worked for the last three centuries, are being abandoned for the older, stupider, and more authoritarian ways:

Patriotism, Christianity, cultural conservatism, sexual modesty, even a mild nostalgia for a vanished rural England or a love of once-canonical novels: all are more or less verboten, and the attitude towards them is rapidly hardening.

Until recently simply giggled at or patronised, these kinds of views in the 2020s may see you labelled a “white supremacist”, or the more general but still-lethal “hater”. The old world is again running up like parchment in the fire, and nobody who wants to be part of the new one can be seen to defend it. …

This is not a new culture being built: it is an old one finally being administered its coup de grace.

This explains why, for example, a (white male) BBC editor would stand before an audience of mostly similarly pale-skinned people and explain that nobody wants to hear white men explaining things anymore. It explains why people would topple statues of long-dead slave traders whilst filming the whole thing on smartphones made by actual, living slaves. It explains taking the knee and decolonising the curriculum and cisheteronormativity and stale pale males and diversity training.

All of this is not so much a desire for actual meaningful change as a giant rolling statement by those who control the levers of power in the post-Western West, a statement that says: We are the opposite of what we once were. We reject our ancestors and our history. We are now something entirely new — even if, as of this moment, we have no idea what.

As civilization fades once more, beware the barbarians. The Chinese? The Guatemalans?

It would be nice if some part of the world could reverse these demographic forces and maintain civilization. North America might be beyond saving already. England and western Europe just don’t seem to have the will to face up their problems and deal with them. Perhaps Australia, but we are traveling in the wrong direction right now.



hat-tip Stephen Neil