Press F for James Flynn

Unfortunately, I never met or even personally communicated with James Flynn. There is a good chance this would have happened during the annual ISIR conference that was to take place in Amsterdam this year, but then Corona-chan happened instead. That said, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from Mr. XYZ, one of the regular commenters here, that Flynn had heard of me and was familiar with at least some of my poasts:

This is in reference to my 2012 article on Race Denial vs. Racism – A False Dichotomy.

This letter* says a lot about Flynn.

Flynn takes the position that the “genetically privileged” owe a certain noblesse oblige to those not so endowed, which is certainly a very reasonable defense of redistribution while acknowledging HBD realities. Similar points have been echoed in years past by leftist HBD-aware blogger Robert Lindsay (who came up with the original “Alt Left”, before Trump redefined the term), as well as by Steven Pinker in The Blank Slate, and endorsed by a number of HBD-aware bloggers, including amongst others JayMan, Robert Stark, and yours truly. But it is the Woke Left who ended up far more numerous and politically successful, they have tabooed all such discussions over the past half decade and doubled down on efforts to overturn biological reality through propaganda and quotas. Well, good luck to them – the bigger the ensuing failure, the greater will be the ultimate reaction. Even if the ultimate results will be sad for everyone concerned.

It is also telling there no references are made to my “toxic” reputation online, which has been manufactured by a small group of ideological activists. This reflects the fact that he was willing to engage with people of various ideological hues and to recognize wokeness and cancelation as a long-term danger to epistemic integrity and the possibility of a fair society. This is particularly praiseworthy in light of Flynn himself having been the victim of McCarthyist rightoids for his socialist political beliefs in the early 1960s US, who made it impossible for him to keep down a job and eventually contributed to his departure for New Zealand.

Flynn certainly made major contributions to psychometrics, most prominently through his work on the eponymous effect of secular rises in IQ across racial and socio-economic groups (minor irony is that said effect was noted slightly earlier by Richard Lynn, though Lynn modestly doesn’t take credit either; in his recently released autobiography, he points to similar observations made by about 20 different people to as early as 1948). But Flynn was certainly the scientist who made the most of it, challenging the hereditarian position and forcing it to clarify and elaborate its arguments while simultaneously defending the likes of Arthur Jensen and Charles Murray from the SJWs of yesteryear – a tradition that he vigorously maintained into the LCI era of controversies in intelligence research.

There are multiple issues on which one may agree or disagree with Flynn. As late as this podcast with Scott Kaufman in December 2018, he remained quite strongly environmentalist, at least as regards the B/W Gap in the US, in my judgment relying on arguments that were already quite thoroughly addressed in The Bell Curve, to say nothing of subsequent work (e.g. Emil Kirkegaard’s admixture studies). And I think he was way too blithe in his position that IQ doesn’t really matter so far as society at the macro level is concerned – I would say it’s the most important consideration of all, at least so both national performance in the now and advanced civilization in the future is concerned.

On the other hand, there certainly are “hard” hereditarians who go too far and need to have their enthusiasm reality checked. For instance, “demonstration effects” on cognitive performance do certainly exist – pupils allowed to interact with bright peers will do better than otherwise. (Though, less often spelt out, but also true: The converse). And Flynn also rather convincingly debunked the theories, mostly associated with right-wingers like Tomislav Sunić, that Communist “cullings” crippled the genotypic potential of the societies that they misruled, demonstrating that even in Cambodia – an extreme aristocidal outlier even by commie standards – they could not have produced a drop of more than 2 points in the average genotypic IQ at most.

Finally, Flynn was perfectly capable of updating his positions, even at his advanced age, and there are anecdotal hints – as suggested in James Thompson’s obituary – that he was beginning to move from 20% hereditarianism* to something closer to the center towards the end:

He came to dinner with many of us on the last night, talking with many, particularly Woodley. I think the Piagetian data had made him even more sympathetic to the Woodley effect, but they had worked together easily for several years anyway.

Flynn represented the best of the humanistic liberal tradition, which is now sadly in retreat as demographics attritions its most eminent champions and conformist, low IQ NPCs of both Right and Left fill up the resultant void. By 2020, James Flynn was getting canceled himself, with his publisher refusing to publish his last book, tellingly titled “In Defense of Free Speech: The University as Censor” (since released as “A Book Too Risky To Publish”).

PS. Emil Kirkegaard & Co. have set up a memorial website for James Flynn:


* The letter that was in response to:

… I am writing to you because I am an admirer of your research in regards to intelligence (the Flynn effect, et cetera) as well as your willingness to be open to and to defend the hereditarian hypothesis in spite of you personally disagreeing with it. I am also writing to you because I wanted to share this seven-year-old article by Anatoly Karlin with you:
In this article, Karlin argues that the choice between “race denial” and “racism” is a false dichotomy and that there should be a new definition (“race realism”) that would allow people to reject “race denial” (or at least to be open to rejecting “race denial”) without actually embracing “racism”. Specifically, Karlin argues that the term “racism” should be restricted to views that actually argue in favor of discrimination based on race. So, someone who is a hereditarian in regards to human group average IQ differences would not be a racist by Karlin’s definition if he or she doesn’t actually advocate in favor of discrimination based on race.
In this article, Karlin also does a good job of demonstrating that the “colorblind conservative” position in regards to human group average IQ differences could be more harmful towards underperforming minorities than a “liberal race realist” position would be. After all, the former would likely oppose things such as a strong social safety net while the latter would likely support things such as this. Also, the former believes that underperforming minorities underperform due to their own moral defects (such as allegedly not trying hard enough, having a culture of welfare dependence and anti-intellectualism, allegedly not creating a sufficiently good learning environment for their children, listening to too much gangster rap music, et cetera) while the latter acknowledges that underperforming minorities might underperform due to genetics rather than due to anything that’s actually within their own control. So, yeah, “liberal race realism” could actually be viewed as being better–perhaps even significantly better–for underperforming groups than “colorblind conservatism” would.
Anyway, hopefully you would be willing to take a look at Karlin’s article. It is relatively short and is pretty easy, interesting, and fun to read. Reading it should only take several minutes or so of your time. I don’t think that you have ever seen this article before–hence my e-mail to you.
Have a good day and take care. Best regards, Mr. XYZ.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Please keep off topic posts to the current Open Thread.

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  2. While I certainly appreciate this thoughtful and balanced take on JF by AK I want to share my take form much narrower angle:
    James Flynn was a good guy. His chief accomplishment was bringing to the light the cover up of the fact that the IQ scale is local in space and time and thus all claims about the universality of the IQ scale are unwarranted. But James Flynn was also a weak person because he permitted to be appeased and placated by the IQist establishment that incorporated his finding into the body of IQisms as the Flynn Effect. Apparently this was enough to assuage his vanity. Instead of being the St. George who slew the dragon he settled for being a village fool who cleans up the dropping left by the dragon so the village remains clean and pristine. New Zealand is small and far away place where the loneliness and craving for attention of the big world in which the real things happen can be a big challenge for an ambitious person’s character. For James Flynn the challenge was to big.

  3. Occasionally, blank-slatists with a very superficial knowledge of psychometrics humorously confuse “Flynn” with “Lynn.”

  4. Hyperborean says

    Not directly about IQ, but does concern statistics and race/ethnicity.

    The Danish Social Democratic-led Leftist coalition government is going to reclassify foreigners in Denmark:

    Denmark currently sorts immigrants into those of ‘Western’ (EU, UK, US, Canada and Australia) and ‘Non-Western’ (everywhere else) origin in immigration and other population statistics.

    However, Immigration and Integration Minister Mattias Tesfaye has now announced the introduction of the so-called MENAPT group (Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Turkey), a separate category in official statistics.

    “We need more honest numbers, and I think it will benefit and qualify the integration debate if we get these figures out in the open, because fundamentally, they show that we in Denmark don’t really have problems with people from Latin America and the Far East. We have problems with people from the Middle East and North Africa,” Tesfaye said.


    In 2018, 4.6 percent of young men from MENAPT countries were convicted of committing a crime, compared with 1.8 percent from all the other 190 non-Western countries on the list combined.

    The same year, MENAPT women had a 41.9 percent employment rate while women from other non-Western, non-MENAPT countries boasted a 61.6 employment rate.

    Descendants of immigrants will now also be classified as foreign under the new statistical regime, despite being born in Denmark. Curiously, Tesfaye, who describes himself as “half Ethiopian and 100 percent Danish,” falls under this category, and insists “I think you should be proud of who you are.”

    Immigrants and their descendants account for roughly 14 percent of Denmark’s 5.8 million population, while those from the MENAPT group specifically account for 54.5 percent of the total 516,000 non-Western classification.

    I covered Danish ethnic statistics before:

    They were a decent proxy before, but this will make them noticeably more useful.

    I am quite happy with this, though a future improvement would be to break up some of the remaining groups into Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and and Far East.

    Also, from a political perspective, it is a further break away from euphemisms that obscure the national question (and under a social democratic government even).

  5. HyperDupont says

    Interesting and noteworthy that Flynn didn’t retreat towards conformity and timidity when faced with the rising tide of wokeness in academia, whereas a prominent academic associated with HBD like Pinker, while not explicitly abjuring prior positions, has been very timid recently, defending an overall Panglossian view of the world which is getting better and more peaceful, except for bad people like Putin, Assad and Trump, with the occasional minimalist defense of academic freedom (at least for centrists or center-right people).

  6. Hyperborean says

    Also, from a political perspective, it is a further break away from euphemisms that obscure the national question (and under a social democratic government even).

    As demonstrated by the “infamous” ghetto law, collection of these statistics can actually lead to beneficial policies and are not just symbol politics.

  7. In more accurate analogy it is the HBDism that is Panglossian. The biology did what it could. The world can’t be better than it is. This world is best of the possible worlds.

    But I get your point.

    P.S. Voltaire was unfair to Leibniz. Pangloss was a straw man created by Voltaire.

  8. The Spirit of Enoch Powell says

    Occasionally, blank-slatists with a very superficial knowledge of psychometrics humorously confuse “Flynn” with “Lynn.”

    An alternative name for the Flynn Effect is the Lynn-Flynn Effect, because as Karlin notes in this article

    (minor irony is that said effect was noted slightly earlier by Richard Lynn, though Lynn modestly doesn’t take credit either; in his recently released autobiography, he points to similar observations made by about 20 different people to as early as 1948)

    It was Rushton who proposed this name for the effect, although it obviously hasn’t become the standard term as giving credit to a thought criminal like Lynn is not permitted.

  9. The Spirit of Enoch Powell says

    Isn’t the hand-wringing over ethnic data collection in continental Europe due to misplaced concerns about the legacy of Nazism? You know lists of Jews and Gypsies come to min for some?

    I was actually quite surprised to discover that the UK has one of the most detailed ethnic data collection in the West. It would just be simpler if they added country of origin categories as opposed to these broad based one.

  10. An alternative name for the Flynn Effect is the Lynn-Flynn Effect, because as Karlin notes in this article

    I know, but I mean in the sense of believing that Flynn is some bad-thinker, who believes in genetically-based mental deficits between groups and countries. It’s because the names sound similar, and they are both prominent names.

    It would be funny if they made the opposite error – if Lynn were invited to give a talk about his research in front of a group of rabid blank-slatists.

  11. Isn’t the hand-wringing over ethnic data collection in continental Europe due to misplaced concerns about the legacy of Nazism?

    I thought the Danes closed up like a steel trap, after Kirkegaard got IQ proxies for immigrants from the Danish military. I think it sometimes works like that – they are bureaucratically tallying statistics, and then stop or hide the info, when HBD enthusiasts expose it.

    The French aversion to statistics has always struct me as being based in the rhetoric of the Republic. I think there’s at least an equal fear there, that people will start to talk about “closing the gap.” Though, I am ignorant about the true historical underpinnings of the policy.

    I suppose, that post-war, everything is justified by references to WW2. But, it seems to me that, if we look at the US – people were used to interacting with whites, and probably couldn’t imagine these mass movements of people taking place today. As a result, it seems that the original census categories were kind of sloppy. Hispanics (a silly category, anyway) were counted as white. They only broke down blacks into quadroon and octoroon, on the 1890 census, which burned – surely that is a more interesting question than anything else the census ever asked.

    I’m an advocate of the idea that we need a racist culture in order to preserve civilization, and that, if it happens, it will be a process that takes time to develop.

  12. P.S. Voltaire was unfair to Leibniz. Pangloss was a straw man created by Voltaire.

    For a long time I only knew about Leibniz via Voltaire and his Candide. Then I came across the Principle of Sufficient Reason and realised that idea is probably more valuable and interesting than anything I had read from Voltaire; Leibniz was the Chad and Voltaire was the gnome.

  13. One Marxist philosopher I knew listed Leibniz and Frege as his two most admired philosophers.

  14. Excellent obituary for James Flynn, Anatoly! 🙂

    I do find it interesting that more leftists don’t embrace Flynn’s position in regards to free speech. I mean, surely more leftists are aware that the idea of suppressing free speech in the past could have also been used against them, no? This was certainly true of pro-Communist speech in the West in the 1950s, for instance. Also possibly of pro-leftist speech at various points in time in places such as Tsarist Russia. The Wokes cry about how hereditarianism could be used to give ammo to racists, but Marxist ideology has literally been responsible for tens of millions of excess deaths–if not even more than that. So, by their own logic, why exactly shouldn’t Marxist and pro-Marxist speech likewise be silenced and suppressed?

    To be honest, I was a bit surprised that James Flynn didn’t live to age 90+. He seemed like he was in sufficiently good shape to pull this off, but unfortunately sometimes one’s luck runs out earlier than one would have expected. 🙁 C’est la vie! 🙁

  15. I think even the framers of the 1965 law though that the demographics of the US would remain like the old comics Archie or Peanuts for the foreseeable future, and did not fully understand the multiplier implications of chain migration.

  16. OT, but I knew someone who had a bachelor degree in math and a master’s degree in education, she regularly trains high school students who win in the national math olympiads, which are made up of the top public high schools in the country (think of Stuvesant and TJHS when it comes to the quality of the students there) and the major Chinese high schools.

    As for her personality, she has a fairly easygoing personality that is basically made for handling high school students, and may not be a good fit in a corporate office or for doing research work while staring at a computer screen all day.

  17. Politicians are probably terrible predictors.

    I wish that they would be required to make frequent predictions and that it would go on record. Bet some would predict a heavier ball would fall faster.

  18. My own feeling is that the framers of the 1965 law knew exactly what they were doing. Their propaganda was just window dressing.

  19. Moon Watcher says


  20. Wow based! Perhaps it’s good for me to hang on to my Danish passport.