Toby Young’s views on ‘progressive eugenics’ are ‘incredibly dark and very dangerous stuff’, said Robert Halfon MP, chair of the Education Select Committee, in the Commons yesterday.
Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, responded by saying he would look at the article which Halfon waved. Young had ‘apologised unreservedly for comments that, in some cases, were made in the 1980s’, Johnson said. He asked MPs for ‘focus’ on what Young did rather than what he said.
But publishing an article, blog or tweet is more than just words – it is a deed. It’s a deliberate act to publically promote views. This can be defended by free speech. Young used that defence to excuse his tweets. And then censored himself by deleting thousands of them.
The article which Halfon carried into the Commons was not made before Young became involved in education, however. It was published in September 2015.
In his article, Young refers to low-income people with low IQ. These could be given free access to screening to find the ‘smartest’ among a batch of embryos fertilised in the lab using sperm and eggs from low IQ couples in poverty. Quite how it would be possible to discover IQ in embryos is unclear but Young says the technology will become available.
Young’s proposal would decrease the gap between the disadvantaged and the advantaged, he argues. It’s not eugenics as normally understood – the weeding out of certain groups of people – because it’s ‘progressive’ and would work in favour of the poor. And it would be voluntary.
Rather than suggesting genetic screening for intelligence to people in poverty, it might be better if policies were put in place to raise people out of poverty. Young actually suggests this by discussing a guaranteed basic income. But he admits he’s more interested ‘in the potential of a technology that hasn’t been invented yet: genetically engineered intelligence’.
It is Young’s reference to ‘progressive eugenics’ and its application to poor people with low IQ which disturbed Robert Halfon.
Toby Young isn’t the only person to be criticised for views about low IQ. In 2013, when he was London Mayor, our foreign secretary Boris Johnson, brother of Jo who had the task of defending Young’s appointment yesterday, said those with low IQ not only lacked ‘raw ability’ but ‘spiritual worth’.
A class of untermensch, then, comprising ‘16% of our species’?
If Halfon thinks Young’s views on IQ are dark and dangerous, he now needs to look at Boris Johnson’s.
UPDATE 14:15, 9 January 2018. Since writing the above, Jo Johnson has been moved from his post as university minister. He's now minister for transport. The Times suggests the demotion was punishment for 'his botched appointment of Toby Young' at the OfS. Johnson has been replaced by Sam Gyimah. Gyimah was criticised by the UK Statistics Authority when he was previously a schools minister for misleading the 2014 Tory conference. He had told delegates that a third of school leavers left school unable to read and write - this was not true.