Intelligence – Genes or Environment

The ‘Burt Affair’ in Perspective

STEVE BRADY reveals some little known aspects of the ‘Burt Affair’ and makes some interesting points about the evolution of intelligence

THE FUNDAMENTAL issue which divides the Racial Nationalist world-view from the alternatives – Liberal, Liberal-Capitalist and Marxist – does not, at root, lie in the field of policies. It lies in our attitude to the basic nature of Man. We believe that human nature, collective and individual, is essentially genetically determined, inherited, and therefore essentially fixed, over the historical timescale at least.

Our opponents, whatever their other differences, are united in believing that human nature is environmentally determined, the product of social, economic and similar factors, and so able to be changed fundamentally by sufficient social and economic changes.

This belief is vital to their entire ideology, since to have any hope of attaining their ideals – the construction of a multi-racial internationalist World-State, giving free rein to Capitalist multinationals or universal communism – they need, as they themselves proclaim, to change human nature drastically.

Our ideals, and the policies we advance to realise them, are based on the realisation that human nature is essentially immutable. Thus we should do the best we can with human nature as it actually exists.


If our opponents’ view of human nature as environmentally determined and mutable was proved correct it would do us no harm: our ideas are predicated on leaving that nature as it is. But if human nature were proved to be genetically determined and essentially immutable it would destroy our opponents’ ideologies utterly.

It would prove that they can never achieve their objectives, since the basic changes in human nature needed to create any sort of egalitarian, stably multiracial, internationalist society – let alone a Communist global or even sub-global human ant-colony are forever impossible. Worse still for them, it would leave Racial Nationalism as the only ideology and world-view with any serious claim to objective scientific validity.

Even the proof that an important aspect of human nature, such as intelligence, is genetically determined, or even mainly genetically determined, would be fatal to our opponents’ ideologies. If intelligence – or to be more precise, the observed differences in intelligence – is primarily the result of inherent genetic factors, then men and races of men are fundamentally and forever unequal. In that knowledge, the whole elaborate ideological superstructure of Liberalism and Marxism comes crashing in ruins to the ground, and we alone are left, triumphantly vindicated.

It is in that wider context of ideological struggle that the controversy over the work of the eminent British psychologist Sir Cyril Burt must be set.

Until his death in 1971, Sir Cyril was widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on the measurement and inheritance of human intelligence. Professor of Psychology at University College London from 1931 to 1950, for many years editor of the learned British Journal of Statistical Psychology and devisor of the widely used Binet-Burt IQ Test, Burt was regarded as Britain’s most distinguished educational psychologist.


His published work on intelligence centred mainly on ‘Twin Studies,’ an elegant method of distinguishing between genetic and environmental origins of differences in human intelligence. The simplest way, in principle, to achieve such a distinction would be to compare the difference in intelligence between two people with identical genes reared in different environments with that between two people with different genes reared in the same environment.

If intelligence differences reflect genetic differences, one would expect the former, ‘same genes/different environment’ pair to have more similar IQ’s to the latter, ‘different genes/same environment’ pair. The opposite result would imply that the measured IQ differences are due to differences in environment.

Even more information can be derived from the results of the experiment. Any differences between the measured IQ’s of the two people sharing whichever is found to be the main intelligence difference-causing factor must be due to the other, lesser factor, once inherent testing errors and the like had been allowed for.

If, for example, the results showed the measured IQ differences to be mainly genetic in origin, then any difference – small though it then must be – between the genetically identical twins must be due to the different environments.

Thus it should be possible not only to find out whether genes or environment are mainly responsible for observed differences in intelligence, but also the exact relative contributions of both factors to such differences. No-one disputes that, whichever is the main cause of the differences in peoples’ intelligences, the other factor must play some role, however small.

Fortunately, Nature provides a suitable supply of pairs of genetically identical people for such studies. Once in every three hundred births amongst our people, when the fertilized egg divides into two daughter cells, those cells, instead of remaining together to divide again and again and give rise to one embryo, separate, and from each one an embryo and ultimately a baby grows, genetically identical to its twin, sprung from the same egg.

Any differences in appearance, character and intelligence between such a pair of genetic ‘carbon copies’ as they grow up can obviously only be due to environmental effects. If, as sometimes happens, the twins are split up in infancy – orphaned, for example – and fostered in different homes, we have the perfect ‘same genes/different environment’ situation.

The ‘different genes/same environment’ case is harder to arrange as neatly. The only way two people can share exactly the same environment is to spend all their lives at the same place at the same time! But ordinary, fraternal twins, sprung from two separate eggs fertilized at the same time but by different sperm share a very similar environment if of the same sex and brought up together, but only 50% of the same genetic inheritance. Adopted children share an environment with their adopted siblings, but no common genetic inheritance beyond that common to the population they all come from. Likewise with children reared in orphanages.


In a series of papers, culminating in 1966, Sir Cyril Burt published accounts of thirty years of such twin studies, involving 53 pairs of identical twins, reared separately, and studies of the IQ’s of unrelated children in the same orphanage etc. On the basis of these results, he concluded that 80% of observed differences in human intelligence were due to inherited genetic factors, and only 20% to the environment, and his published figures appeared to support this firmly.

If unchallenged, this result would be fatal to the liberal/Marxist “Environmentalist” world-view. Quite simply, if Burt was right, Marx and the liberals were wrong, provably wrong and fundamentally wrong. Attempts to argue around these damning results, for example by questioning whether intelligence exists at all or can be measured, sound lame and unconvincing. Burt’s results appeared to point a dagger unerringly at the heart of the Marxist-liberal ideologies. Fortunately for them, there seemed a way out. For, even before his death, Sir Cyril Burt’s results had been received with some scepticism amongst a number of psychologists, many of whom accepted his basic hereditarian thesis but were suspicious of figures which attained statistically most unlikely three-decimal-place agreement with theoretical predictions.

But it was not until after Burt had been dead for three years, in 1974, that the storm broke, with the first allegations that this distinguished academic had ‘cooked his books’ and faked his figures.

These first surfaced in the murky depths of the academic Nebelheim of an obscure neo-Communist sect, “Psychologists for Social Action,” in a book by a left-wing PSA member Leon Kamin, then an assistant professorial nonentity at the academically insignificant New York City University (in other words, little more than the equivalent of a polytechnic lecturer in Britain).

But in October 1976, the Sunday Times raised Kamin’s allegations from the nether regions in which they had been spawned and brought them blinking into the daylight. The paper’s medical correspondent, Oliver Gillie, long noted for his opposition to the hereditarian viewpoint on intelligence, published Kamin’s charges that Burt had made up his results, published papers jointly with non-existent co-workers, fiddled his figures and that his alleged ‘pairs of identical twins’ never existed.

At first, many scientists reacted to this savage attack on the reputation of a distinguished scientist after death robbed him of the ability to defend himself, with shock and anger. The antics of Kamin and his politically unsavoury associates appeared reminiscent of jackals emerging from the undergrowth to yap after the lion was safely away. Leading psychologists, such as Professor Hans Eysenck of the Maudsley Hospital, Professor Arthur Jensen of the University of California at Berkeley, and Professor John Cohen of Manchester University, came to Burt’s defence.

Evidence was produced to indicate that at least one of Burt’s allegedly fictious co-workers, a Dr. Margaret Howard, had existed, though neither she nor any of the others came forward themselves, no doubt to be promoted in the media from figments of Sir Cyril’s imagination to co-conspirators in Sir Cyril’s alleged fraud!

Nevertheless, the affair sparked off investigations of Sir Cyril’s published results by reputable scientists which convinced most of his supporters, such as Prof. Eysenck, Burt’s official biographer Professor Leslie Hearnshaw, and finally the British Psychological Society, that Sir Cyril Burt did indeed ‘fiddle his figures,’ rendering suspect the entire body of his published data.


Thinking that they had thus got off one of the innumerable hooks on which their ideology wriggles, liberals and Marxists were quick to use the Burt Affair to smear the whole case for the inheritance of intelligence. Within a month of Gillie’s Sunday Times expose of Burt one Dr. Joseph Schwartz, an associate of Kamin’s at the New York City University, was arguing in the New Scientist (11th November 1976) that all the studies showing intelligence to be inherited, not just Burt’s, were invalid, an argument dismissed in that magazine’s next issue by Professor Eysenck as “careless and bizarre.”

Kamin, who had profited mightily by the whole affair (to the extent that he has risen to the exalted heights of a Princeton University professorship) has gone on to “re-evaluate” all the other non-Burtian identical twin studies – which, as we shall see, are not few and not faked – in the hope evidently that they will go away.

He claims that, subjected to his omniscient if hardly impartial gaze, these studies do not show what everyone thought they showed and indeed there is “no evidence from which to deduce that there was any heritable component to IQ differences at all.”

This piece of wishful thinking on the part of the Marxist Kamin was disseminated as “hard fact” to 50,000 British teachers by his fellow Marxists in the Communist Party-led, SWP-run National Union of Teachers in the pages of a booklet Race, Intelligence and Education: A Teacher’s Guide to the Facts and Issues published by the NUT in September 1978.

This booklet, which can only be dismissed as inaccurate, ill-argued propaganda, was penned by Professor Steven Rose, Head of the Open University’s Biology Department (at which the “careless and bizarre” Dr. Schwartz is a visiting senior research fellow) and a Maoist crank of epic proportions. (In February 1975 he informed the present writer that he “could not care less” if the entire population of Britain had to be shot in order to create a Chinese-style “workers’ paradise” here!)

Despite his frequent expatiations upon the subject of the environmental origins of human intelligence and racial differences therein, Professor Rose has confined his own actual experimental work to the arguably not inappropriate subject of the mode of functioning of the rat’s brain.

The general impression gleefully given by our opponents, and now shared by rank-and-file Reds, liberals and many ordinary members of the public, is that the discrediting of Sir Cyril Burt’s results destroyed, or at least cast grave doubt upon, the entire case for the inheritance of human intelligence. Alas for them, nothing could be further from the truth.


Firstly, his jiggery-pokery with certain figures in no way alters the fact that Sir Cyril Burt was a distinguished psychologist who believed, on the basis of 50 years of studies (which he did perform) that intelligence is primarily inherited.

It has been suggested that he turned to forging his results after genuine results, the products of years of work, were destroyed in a wartime air-raid. Whether this is so or not, Burt would not have been the first great scientist to ‘help’ his results toward the right conclusion. Sir Isaac Newton and Gregor Mendel are now known to have done this, publishing results clearly ‘too good to be true’ in terms of precise agreement with their theoretical predictions. Yet for all that no-one today questions the validity of their conclusions about gravity, optics and genetics, however suspect their published data. If massaging results, however deplorable, did not discredit Newton and Mendel, why should it discredit Burt?

But more importantly, Burt’s contribution, monumental though it appeared, was only a small part of the vast weight of scientific evidence which shows that intelligence is inherited. Quite separate and independent twin studies of unimpeachable genuineness have been performed by scores of British and American scientists.

These include: Newman, Freeman & Holzinger, 1937; Erlenmeyer-Kimling and Jarvik, 1963; Huntley, 1966; Bulmer, 1970 and the American National Merit Scholarship Corporation study of the 1960’s reported by Loehlin & Nichols in 1976. (This last mentioned work studied more than 2,000 sets of identical twins, compared to Burt’s 53 sets, and many more fraternal twins.)

All these studies confirm the picture of individual differences in intelligence being primarily genetically caused.

Professor Christopher Jencks of Harvard, who always regarded Burt’s data as “suspect,” concluded on the basis of his own research that intelligence is “at least 60%” determined by hereditary factors, and that irrespective of the validity of Burt’s data his conclusions were essentially correct. The same result emerges from studies on relatives other than twins raised apart and together.

In his classic 1969 paper (‘How much can we boost IQ and scholastic achievement,’ Harvard Educational Review 39/1, pp.1-123) Prof. Arthur Jensen summarises the results of over a hundred separate studies, all indicating that intelligence is primarily inherited.

Prof. Henry Munsinger of the University of California, after critically reviewing all the work done on adopted children, including some twin studies (‘The Adopted Child’s IQ: A Critical Review,’ Psychological Bulletin of the American Psychological Association, September 1975) was led to conclude that “the available data suggests strongly that, under existing circumstances, heredity is much more important than environment in producing individual differences in IQ.”

That is evident also when we simply plot what the distribution of IQ’s in the population would be if intelligence were entirely genetically determined and if it were entirely environmentally determined and compare these two curves with what the IQ distribution actually is. The observed similarity between the observed curve and the 100% hereditary IQ curve fits a 75-80% hereditary IQ conclusion.


This is precisely what would be expected from basic biological first principles anyway. Unless human intelligence was primarily genetically determined, it is hard to see how it could ever have evolved in the first place. The machinery of Natural Selection which powers the evolutionary process can only engage its gears on variations which are genetically controlled.

The selective survival or reproduction of individuals and groups on the basis of variations in a character which are merely the product of the environment during the organism’s lifetime – as Liberals and Marxists would have us believe human intelligence is – is evolutionarily useless, since the gains in that character made by the selection of the parents are not passed on to their offspring. If one accepts, as all but the ignorant and the eccentric now do, that human intelligence, like all aspects of the human organism, is a product of evolution, then it follows that it must be a trait primarily determined by genes, the units which actually are selected and ‘do the evolving.’

Human intelligence seems to have evolved extremely rapidly: it took 60 million years for the horse to evolve its running powers, but only 3 million for our ancestors to quadruple their brain capacity. Only if intelligence is inherited could it have evolved, presenting Liberals and Marxists with a conundrum, since they cannot accept ‘Creationism’ or any of the other unscientific alternatives to evolution as an explanation of human origins any more than they can accept the inheritance of intelligence which is a prerequisite for that evolution of man to have taken place!

And if differences in intelligence primarily reflected genetic differences in the past, as they must have done for selection for higher intelligence to be reflected in the gradual genetic increase in human intelligence shown by the fossil record (even Marxists concede that the differing intellectual endowments of a modern man and a proto-hominid ‘ape-man’ are primarily genetic in origin!) – then they must still do so now. The more so as environmental factors such as education, nutrition and health would cause intelligence to be more uniform in Western societies today than they have been for centuries. Yet differences in intelligence remain over the same range as ever.

So, the Burt affair notwithstanding, the case for the hereditary determination of human intelligence remains overwhelming, both on the basis of scientists’ findings and on a priori expectations based upon fundamental biological principles. All the huff and puff over one man’s questionable figures should not be allowed to distract attention – as it is clearly intended to do – from that fact. It is indeed a commentary on the desperation of those whose ideological survival depends on keeping the environmentalist view of human nature afloat that, bereft of scientific support themselves, they are reduced to seeking speciously to smear the results of hundreds of scientific studies on the basis of one allegation of malpractice.

Science provides ever more confirmation of our Racial Nationalist world-view, undermining all alternatives and leaving them as mere intellectual castles in the air, devoid of any basis in reality.

It only remains for us to make sure the world knows this, to hammer home the fact that our policies, our ideas, are not merely what we and millions of our countrymen inwardly believe in but are the only logical products of a true, scientific, objectively correct appreciation of the human reality.

Further reading:
1) RACE by Prof. John R Baker.
3) THE BIOLOGY OF THE RACE PROBLEM by Prof. Wesley C. George.
4) I.Q. AND RACIAL DIFFERENCES by Dr. Henry E. Garrett.

From New Nation, No. 3 (Autumn 1982, edited)

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