Biologisches Zentralblatt 111 (1992) 185-186

To promote equality is no task of science

 Volkmar Weiss


In his famous novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” ORWELL (1949) presented his vision of humanity, brutalized and manipulated by a totalitarian system. On the contrary, what we have seen and will see in the future is the breakdown of such systems, even in the remotest corners of the earth. A single state-owned computer could be used for totalitarian control of each movement, phone call, and letter of any inhabitant. However, the victors of history are dwelling in those democratic states, where a computer can be bought cheaply and run by anybody without any special permission and where a car can be bought by anybody, in order to clog the streets and to pollute the environment.

MÜLLER-HILL’s demands (1991) are written in the best tradition of democratic ideals and his basic intention to strengthen the rights of the individual, has to be understood as a necessary extension of human rights. Yes, no doubt, every person should have the right to know his genotype in full, in part, or, if he wishes, not at all. The genotype should be the exclusive business of its carrier. Because nobody should be obliged to insure his life by a company or be forced to be employed by a determined employer, in the case of voluntary insurance the insurance company as well as the freely chosen employer should have the right (but for many jobs of course no obligation), to ask for the genotype of the particular person. For example, until now all over the world some carriers of genotypes (especially red-green blindness) are not employed to drive a truck loaded with gasoline. Clearly, this is a violation of equal rights. But by what kind of state should this violation made a criminal offence, by what kind of system such violations could be effectively prohibited?

It was one of the tragic errors of human and especially German genetics to believe, that the ideals of eugenics could be realized by the laws and by support of a state and even better by a totalitarian state, dedicated to race improvement. In full agreement with MÜLLER-HILL, I am convinced that a similar bond of action between the science of genetics and a state will have a similar outcome. Therefore, when a lesson is to be learned from history, the democratic rights of the individual have to be strengthened against the interest of the state and its institutions. No third person, insurance company, employer, and the like, should have the right to ask for the genotype of a particular person, or to determine it, without the consent of that particular person. With consent it should be possible. And one can easily imagine self-breeding clans and professional organizations, for which membership depends on a certificate of the genotype of a given locus or a number of loci. Imagine a society, where such clans and organizations are forbidden for reasons of equal rights, competing with a free society, where such clans are not only allowed (see, but also protesting against their existence and founding counter-organizations. In the course of some decades, the more restrictive society will be outdistanced by the more democratic society, as it is occuring with the contemporary communist societies.

By formulating his demands, MÜLLER-HILL’s (1991) main concern was about the consequences of progress in medical genetics, and for carriers of genes, connected with a higher risk to develop a depression or a schizophrenia, his line of defence of individual rights can be followed for good reasons. But journalists will disagree, for example, if such a carrier would apply for the presidency of the United States.

What MÜLLER-HILL overlooks completely, are the consequences of the discovery of the genotypes underlying physical and intellectual achievements in the normal range. At the present state of knowledge, to be a mathematician with a university degree, to have a test IQ of 130 and to have a high EEG power spectral density means to have another phenotype of general intelligence as has an average truckdriver (WEISS 1992). Intelligence has its profound effect on the structure of society, because it may have the widest and most stable distribution among all the traits that are valuable in industrialized nations. That is, differences in intelligence probably constitute a bigger and more consistent restraint on performance of individuals and societies than do more manipulatable attributes, so they are the most likely substrate from which differentially valued occupational positions will arise. Although the status and income of individual workers are only weakly to moderately dependent on their own intelligence levels, the hierarchy of occupational positions for which individuals compete is itself ultimately an outgrowth of individual phenotypes in general intelligence (GOTTFREDSON 1986). Even already today to get a mark 1 in mathematics at an ordinary school means to have another phenotype than a child with mark 4. As a consequence (WEISS 1993), some partisans of equal rights try to abolish all measurement of performance in school and elsewhere and access to a university should be free to everybody. Breach of this should be made a criminal offence. (And IQ tests were actually forbidden in the communist countries since 1936; compare WEISS 1991).

As any biological species mankind has the inherent potential to evolve into another species or to split into several species, which would be inhuman from the point of view of present mankind. The power of a species and a population as a whole, stretching over different environments, is a function of its genetic variance. Some economists would like to draw an analogous conclusion for human populations: The greater the variance of social parameters, the greater the power of adaptation of a nation, as long as social peace is guaranteed. Others will fervently disagree.

During our life as a scientist we have to play different social roles, as student, father or mother, teacher, citizen and maybe adherent of a political party. It is neither unscientific nor unethical for a scientist to be a member of a political party, which stresses the economic meaningfulness of a certain degree of social inequality. But a scientist should understand his profession and his activities for political aims as separate social roles. It is no task of science to promote equality (as the Radical Left will make believe; compare PEARSON 1991), but only to promote objective knowledge.


GOTTFREDSON, L. S.: Societal consequences of the g factor in employment. J. Vocat. Behav. 29 (1986) 379-410.

MÜLLER-HILL, B.: Biosciences in totalitarian regimes: The Lesson to be learned from Nazi Germany. In: ROY, D.,   WYNNE, B. E., and R. W. OLD (eds.): Bioscience – Society. Wiley, New York, 1991, pp. 67-76.

ORWELL, G.: Nineteen Eighty-Four. London: Secker and Warburg, 1949.

PEARSON, R.: Race, Intelligence and Bias in Academe. Scott-Townsend, Washington, 1991.

WEISS, V.: It could be Neo-lysenkoism, if there was ever a break in continuity’ Mankind Quarterly 31 (1991) 231-253 – see

WEISS, V.: Major genes of general intelligence. Person. individ. Diff. 13 (1992) 1115-1134 – see 

WEISS, V.: Leistungsstufen der Begabung und dreigliedriges Schulsystem. Z. Päd. Psychol. 7 (1993) 171-183 – see

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