A review of Evolution and Human Behavior by John
Cartwright, 2000 MIT press.
Cartwright can be reached at email@example.com for comments and rebuttals.
Chapter 12—Epilogue: The Use and Abuse of Evolutionary Theory
I usually only review books that are exceptionally good or exceptionally bad, but every once in a while I come across a book that is both. Cartwright states in the Preface that this book, "is intended primarily to serve as a text for undergraduates studying courses of which the evolutionary approach to behavior forms a significant part." And a very good textbook it is, at least chapters 1 through 11. It tackles most of the significant issues in behavior genetics thoroughly, pointing out consensus opinions and offering doubts where they exist. But overall, it is one of the best books available that discusses such issues as the evolution of brain size, sexual selection, modularity of the mind, intra- and intergroup conflict, altruism, etc. But then political correctness overtakes him, and Chapter 12 turns into a sermon rather than science.
The reason I decided to deconstruct Chapter 12 is precisely because I have seen this all before. Just ahead of the evolutionary juggernaut, academics especially, apparently to protect themselves from censorship, but more frighteningly perhaps because they really believe it, they go into a wrathful denial of what they are in fact stating. That is, they deny that what they are saying has any "real" significance with regards to the sensitive issues of eugenics, racial differences, and those other areas of science that continue to be beyond contemplation for the intellectually timid.
To save space, I have
deleted the two discussions of "sexism" and "reductionism."
Neither section had much to say that I would take issue with. The rest
of Chapter 12 is kept in tact to provide an easy reference and to assure the
reader that I am not taking anything out of context. Instead of using
quotes, the original text will be in Times New Roman and my comments [will
be in Arial type face and in brackets].
Chapter 12—Epilogue: The Use and Abuse of Evolutionary Theory
"Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it." (George Santayana, 1863-1952)
We pass lightly over sentiments like those of Santayana these days, and we do so at our peril. Familiarity may have blunted their edge, but there is one area more than any other where such thoughts should still strike us with full force, and that is in the history of attempts to define human nature. Nothing could be more important, yet in no other area has science been so betrayed. Good ideas have been neglected and bad ones pursued to tragic ends. In this field in particular, scientists have an obligation to the past and to the future to be aware of the history of their discipline and the social ramifications of their ideas.
[ Likewise, we should be wary of dogma, whether by the church, Marxism, or the new religion of multiculturalism. Truth should always be pursued no matter what, and history tells us that new dogmas are no better than the old ones. The question is then, has Cartwright really learned anything from history with regards to empiricism or the pursuit of science? It doesn't appear so from his following statements of faith rather than objectivity. And science can never know beforehand what is a "good idea" to pursue and which is a "tragic idea." Were nuclear weapons and nuclear power bad or good ideas? Science always pursues knowledge—never has it been advocated that we only pursue "good ideas." To do so destines us to assume foreknowledge of outcomes, an absurd position for any empiricist to undertake. History in fact never repeats itself perfectly, only vaguely at best.]
The impact of Darwinism on other disciplines has been enormous: philosophy, theology, psychology, anthropology, literature, politics—the list could be continued—have all been radically altered by the import of evolutionary ideas. Given that the theory deals with fundamental questions about the human condition this is not altogether surprising. The results, however, have not always been welcomed and, in the sphere of politics in particular, the consequences have been messy. There have been unwarranted extensions from facts to values, and some odious political philosophies have sought their imprimatur from evolutionary thought. In this final chapter, we will examine the interaction between scientific ideas and their social contexts. In particular, we will attempt to separate readings of Darwin that fall foul of empirical or logical errors from those which are legitimate. The first part of the chapter describes the way in which evolutionary ideas have been subject to a variety of political interpretations and extrapolations over the past 150 years. The sections that follow then tackle some of the philosophical issues raised.
[ One man's odious political philosophy is another man's cherished redeemer. Cartwright seems to embrace multiculturalism and egalitarianism as being correct and unquestionable. I find these values to be odious, and instead I embrace nationalism and eugenics, just to mention a couple. I and Cartwright both have values outside of pure empiricism, but does that mean I should ignore human behavior in pursuit of my values? If I want to develop the nationalist/eugenic state, why shouldn't I try to understand human nature in order to make it a better system. That is, if I want to pursue a set of values, and I want them to be adopted by others, I need to understand what motivates "the other." Ethnocentrism, reproductive drives, kinship, altruism, the free-rider problem, in-group/out-group evolutionary strategies, etc. should all be areas of interest to nationalists as well as socialists I would think. And isn't it all about "let the best value system win?"]
12.1 Evolution and
politics: a chequered history
When evolutionary theories of human development and origins began to emerge in the early 19th century, they were attacked by the political and religious establishment as being radical, destabilizing and a threat to the social order. The evolutionary views of Lamarck were met with contempt and dismissed as atheistic, revolutionary and subversive. Nothing better illustrates the hostility to evolutionary ideas among conservatives than the reaction to a book written by the Edinburgh publisher and amateur naturalist Robert Chambers. The book was called The Vestiges of Natural Creation and was published anonymously in 1844. In fluent prose, mixing religious speculation and scientific facts, Chambers gave expression to the idea that life had evolved and that species were mutable. The Anglican establishment came down hard on Chambers. Adam Sedgewick, a Cambridge don and former tutor of Darwin, called it a 'filthy abortion' that would sink man into a condition of depravity and poison the well-springs of morality. One of the reasons why Darwin delayed publication until 1859, despite the fact that he had the essential mechanism of natural selection to hand by about 1838, was that, as a respectable and prosperous middle-class Whig, he feared the use to which it would be put by radical agitators such as the atheists and Chartists who were clamoring for reform. As Desmond and Moore (1991) remark in their masterly study of Darwin's life: "Anglican dons believed that God actively sustained the natural and social hierarchies from on high. Destroy this overruling Providence, deny this supernatural sanction of the status quo, introduce a leveling evolution, and civilization would collapse." (p. 321)
When Darwin's On the Origin of Species finally came out in 1859, there had been a sea change in British life. Despite Darwin's own anxieties on the eve of publication, wealthy entrepreneurial Britain received his ideas gladly. After the publication of the Origin, there grew up a movement known as social Darwinism. In fact, much of the thinking contained in this movement can be found in the writings of Herbert Spencer before 1859, and the movement could more deservedly be called social Spencerism; the association with Darwin has, however, stuck. It was in fact an assortment of ideas rather than a fully coordinated political philosophy, but the basic premise was that evolutionary biology could teach a political lesson.
[ It seems that we are still calling most things Darwinian 'filthy abortions' or 'racist' or some other pejorative. Here, in discussing Darwin, Cartwright fails to provide the full title of Darwin's masterpiece: Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. So it seems that from the very beginning, Darwin has been all about looking at selection with regards to races, breeds, sub-species, etc. But Cartwright would have us believe that these pursuits should not be undertaken—they are off limits in some circuitous way of thinking. And what about social Darwinism? Well, like the denial of 'pure races' it is a straw man that is set up to be knocked down. The fact is however, just like the concept of 'pure races,' 'social Darwinism' has not been pursued by any advocates of nationalism/eugenicism to my knowledge. If anything, we on the empirical Right reject social hierarchies for the third way—neither socialism nor elitism. We want a meritocracy where no matter where one is born in terms of social economic status, the best and the brightest can rise to the top if they have the drive, and those born with a silver spoon in their mouths can fall to bottom if nature so has it.]
Since, as biology has shown, struggle, competition and survival of the fittest are natural phenomena that have operated to shape well-adapted and complex organisms such as ourselves, this clearly is how the social world should be organized. The natural world had operated to weed out the weak and feeble, there had been no support from any central authority, yet naked competition between individuals pursuing their own ends had indubitably led to progress. To the social Darwinists, the political message was clear: colonialism, imperialism, laissez-faire capitalism, disparities of wealth and social inequalities were all to be justified and encouraged. One of the leading social Darwinists in America was William Graham Sumner (1840-1910), a professor at Yale University. For Sumner, any redistribution of wealth from rich to poor favored the survival of the unfittest and destroyed liberty: "Let it be understood that we cannot go outside this alternative: liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest; not liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best members; the latter carries society downwards and favors all its worst members." (quoted in Oldroyd, 1980, p. 215)
[ What is so bizarre is that maybe conservatives embrace "social inequalities," but none on the far Right do to my knowledge. Those who fall into the fascist, national socialist or nationalist movements are almost to a person anti-elitist and reject social Darwinism as Cartwright has described it. If he understood these movements, he would realize that the value system embraced is one where both elitism and socialism are controlled for moderate egalitarianism. Nowhere does the Right embrace colonialism, imperialism, etc. If anything, these are features of the current Bush doctrine, and firmly embedded in social democracy.]
Darwin himself was not immune to the ever-present temptation to mix social and biological concepts when he observed in a letter that 'the more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence' (Darwin, 1881). But if the capitalists and their apologists drew succor from Darwin, so did the Communists. In a letter of 1861, Marx wrote that 'Darwin's book is very important and it suits me well that it supports the class struggle in history from the point of view of natural science' (quoted in Oldroyd, 1980, p. 233).
It is easy to see why social Darwinism appealed to industrialists, entrepreneurs and those who had gained or stood to gain from the operation of the free market. Its additional appeal for Marx was that it eliminated teleology and design from nature. Marx saw that evolution could be used to undermine his ideological enemy—organized religion. Ironically for contemporary Marxists, Darwinism has proved to be a double-edged sword. Marx's own views on human nature were ambiguous, but most Marxists have adopted the view that human nature is plastic in the sense that 'being determines consciousness'. Modern Darwinism shows that there is a universal human essence. It was the expression of this essence that brought about the downfall of the Soviet bloc—Soviet man was never quite plastic enough.
[ Is this the 'odious philosophy' mentioned earlier—Marxism? One doesn't get that feeling and yet Marxism is only mentioned in passing. However, when we look back over the last century, it was egalitarianism, under Communism, that murdered over 100 million people.]
The political affiliations of another group that drew inspiration from Darwinian ideas, the eugenics movement, are harder to define. Eugenics is often treated as a subset of social Darwinism but is in fact dissimilar in both motivation and policies. The eugenics movement in Britain began with the work of Francis Galton (1822-1911). Galton, who was Darwin's cousin, adopted a strong hereditarian position and argued that there was a correlation between a person's social standing and his or her genetic constitution. As early as 1865, Galton had tried to sway public opinion to his view that upper classes should breed more and the lower classes less, but with little effect. However, the eugenics movement flourished in Edwardian Britain, where the social strains between rich and poor and the effects of international competition were beginning to tell (MacKenzie, 1976). The general worry was that if the lower classes were breeding faster than the upper, a general lowering of the genetic stock of Britain would result.
On the eve of World War I, the eugenics movement flourished on both sides of the Atlantic. The first International Congress of Eugenics, held in London in 1912, had Winston Churchill as the English vice-president, with Charles W. Eliot, the president of Harvard University, as the American vice-president. Eugenics societies included some distinguished geneticists as well as the likes of socialists such as Beatrice and Sidney Webb. In Britain, eugenics ideas appealed particularly to the professional middle classes. They preyed upon middle-class fears of a rising working-class population and a concern among the establishment with the poor medical condition of working-class recruits for the Boer War. It was particularly attractive to the professional middle classes and intellectuals since it suggested that experts and meritocrats like themselves should play a role in an efficient, state-organized society (MacKenzie, 1976). In America, Galton's recommendations on selective breeding were not taken seriously until Lamarckism was discredited among biologists and social scientists (Degler, 1991). In a Lamarckian framework, if the environment worked upon individuals and the modifications thereby induced could be inherited, the main hope for social progress lay in improvements to social conditions. Once the inheritance of acquired characters is removed as a scientific possibility, selective breeding becomes a serious option for improving the race.
One of the most prominent eugenicists in America was Charles Davenport. Davenport held positions at the universities of Harvard and Chicago before becoming director of the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor. Davenport and his workers initially adopted the Mendelian assumption that each human trait was the work of one gene. They then traced the genealogical path of such traits as criminality, artistic skill and intellectual ability. Their warning to the nation about the effects of uncontrolled breeding is exemplified by their analysis of the Jukes family. Davenport examined the burden on society brought about by the offspring of one Margaret Jukes, a harlot and mother of criminals. He concluded that as a result of her protoplasm multiplying and spreading through the generations, the State treasury was worse off to the tune of $1.25m in the 75 years up to 1877 (Richards, 1987; Degler, 1991). As the eugenicists saw it, one way to stem the march of degenerate protoplasm was to restrict immigration into the United States of those racial types who were expected to belong to inferior stock.
[ Fair enough with regards to a stuttering early eugenics program. Mendelian simplicity of course doomed eugenics as it was first theorized. Just like medicine probably killed far more people than it saved, it eventually got it "more right" and we now save far more lives than we kill. Science is a bumpy business, and the early eugenicists were just beginning. Nevertheless, their observations were often correct, but more often now they have been distorted for political reasons. For example, it is a distortion of historical fact that immigration policy was based on notions of "inferior stock." It simply got no more than a passing mention at the time, and to insinuate otherwise is just plain false.]
In the United Kingdom, the movement was attractive to Fabian socialists who believed in state intervention to cure the inefficiencies of an unplanned economy. For this reason, it could be described better as socialist Darwinism rather than social Darwinism. The eugenicists made, by today's standards, some outrageous proposals. There were suggestions, for example, that the long-term unemployed should be discouraged from breeding since they obviously carried inferior genes. Major Leonard Darwin, fourth son of Charles Darwin, in his book Eugenic Reform, was strongly opposed to the advancement of scholarships to bright children from the lower classes. His reasoning was that once such children were promoted by their educational attainments to the class above, their fertility would decrease, whereas if they were left as they were, they would probably have more children, so their gifted genes would be more likely to propagate. In addition, argued Major Darwin, the existence of scholarships would worry the parents of children already in the higher social classes since they would now face more competition, and this would further reduce their already low fertility. Looking back, these ideas appear comic, but in other countries they led to extreme and tragic consequences. In the 1920s, 24 American states passed sterilization laws and, by the mid-1930s, about 20,000 Americans had been sterilized against their will in an effort to stamp out inferior genes.
[ I agree that Major Leonard Darwin's logic is rather ridiculous, but it is no more ridiculous than the cult of multiculturalism or diversity is today. Both of these positions have been swallowed by the public via Marxist proponents without any empirical data. In fact, there isn't even a working definition of "diversity." It is used as a crowbar for social policies that discriminate against Whites in favor of minorities. That aside, Cartwright's statement that it is outrageous to equate chronic unemployment with inferior genes is of course false. We don't use the terms inferior/superior today because of the difficulty in definition. But there is an enormous amount of ongoing research that shows that those with low intelligence are more likely to be chronically unemployed. And it is also a fact that intelligence is about 80% heritable. So genes are important to employability—and it doesn't matter if the unemployability of a person is due to low levels of conscientiousness, intelligence, genetic disease, or drug addiction—genes play a major role. Here, Cartwright is just flat out lying. He is familiar with the research (see my web site and books) and chooses to ignore it. He does what the Left always does when they are caught with unpalatable data—they just skip over it. In addition, as for sterilizing the chronically unemployed, I see nothing wrong with it, nor need it be coercive. Simply put, the state has the right to require those people who are in no position to care for children, to accept sterilization in return for welfare-for-life. What is tragic is that eugenics ended too soon, not that people were sterilized. ]
By the 1930s, natural scientists in Britain and America were realizing that the early deliberations of the eugenicists were based on faulty assumptions about the nature of inheritance. Most traits were simply not the product of single genes as had been supposed. Features such as intelligence, moral rectitude and personality were, if they had any genetic basis, the consequence of the action of many genes in concert with environmental influences. Consequently, it was extremely difficult to predict the outcome of any given union of parents. Even enthusiasts for negative eugenics realized that there were formidable problems. If a genetic abnormality caused an abnormality in the homozygous condition, heterozygous carriers could go undetected. It was not at all clear to the eugenicists what could be done about carriers.
[ It is true that the early assumptions were too simplistic. Today, we know about how many genes are involved in different traits, how they can be manipulated, and we are in fact altering them on a regular basis. So let me state what virtually all eugenicists propose: genetic engineering should be used to prevent children from suffering genetic disease, everything should be done to increase the intelligence of children, and other personal genetic traits such as blue eyes or stature should be pursued as the technology avails itself, including picking a mate or donor as one desires to enhance a child's future prospects. Simply put—no genetic diseases and high intelligence—with a smattering of other traits as parents desire. Why high intelligence? Because it is the single best determinate of a person's life chances at success. The enormous amount of data on this is certainly known by Cartwright but he chooses to ignore it. In fact, the modern eugenicist is very reluctant to meddle with personality traits until we understand a lot more about human nature (see my review of Eugenics: A Reassessment by Richard Lynn). So we are primarily concerned with the health of children and their genetic capabilities with regards to intelligence. We have learned from the past, keep it simple. With a population of highly intelligent people, other rewards such as stable democracies, or even direct democracy, will become possible. As a matter of faith, I hold that prospect to be desirable.]
By the late 1930s, skepticism over the viability of eugenic principles among Western biologists and social scientists turned to revulsion as it became clear to what depths the Nazis had sunk in their application of eugenic ideas. It is known that, while in prison, Hitler imbibed the ideas of eugenics from The Principles of Heredity and Race Hygiene by Eugene Fisher. In the hands of Hitler, the eugenic ideal of improving the national stock had become twisted to a concern with racial purity—the enhancement of the Aryan race and the outlawing of mixed race marriages between Aryans and the supposedly inferior Jews, Eastern Europeans and blacks. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they set about the systematic forced sterilization of schizophrenics, epileptics and the congenitally feebleminded. Deformed or retarded children were sent to killing facilities, an estimated 5000 dying in this way. Seventy thousand mentally ill adults were also targeted and put to death (Steen, 1996). The horrific culmination of this reasoning was the Holocaust and the extermination of about 6 million Jews, homosexuals and others deemed unfit.
[ Hitler also used gas ovens for 'odious' ends, but we still use gas ovens. Socialists admittedly believed in eugenics at the time. So why would Hitler be indelibly linked to eugenics any more than all gas ovens should be linked to Hitler? For that matter, again, the rejection of genetics in favor of radical environmentalism slaughtered over 100 million people. So why this Hitler=eugenics=bad simplemindedness? Well, because it works, it is called brainwashing and the West has bought into it. But not East Asia where China has recently adopted a eugenics program. The Marxists use Hitler for political leverage, and it is unwarranted and quite frankly usually a lie. First, Hitler did not think the Jews were inferior but that they were highly intelligent and a threat to the German volk. This was NOT eugenics but WAR. Communists and Jews were seen as mortal enemies of the Reich and were forthwith disposed of. Not unlike what Israel is trying to do to the Palestinians today. Further, hospital beds were emptied in Nazi Germany not so much because of eugenics, but because of the war. It is true that a eugenics program was in place, but killing the mentally ill was primarily for expediency of the war effort. They couldn't contribute so they were exterminated, exactly the same policy that Stalin used in Russia. There, one fought to the death or they would be mowed down by rear detachments of the security forces. If a soldier was captured, they were later shot if they survived and their families were sent to prison camps. To link Nazism with eugenics is just like linking Leninism/Stalinism with environmentalism. It is extremely dishonest.]
While support for biological accounts of human nature ebbed away in the 1930s and 40s in Britain and America, Konrad Lorenz in Vienna was developing his theories of instinct and was laying the foundations of ethology. The reception of Lorenz's ideas in the English-speaking world was heavily influenced by an essay review of his work written by the biological psychologist Daniel Lehrman, and it seems likely that Lehrman's appraisal was influenced by the apparent sympathy shown by Lorenz for Nazi ideology (Lehrman, 1953). Others were similarly concerned. When Lorenz won his Nobel prize in 1973, for example, Simon Wiesenthal, the Head of the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, wrote to him to suggest that he should refuse it (Durant, 1981).
The precise linkage between Lorenz's science and his early attraction to the Nazi cause is not straightforward. There is no doubt that Lorenz initially showed sympathy for the Nazi ideal. He joined the Nazi party after the annexation of Austria by Germany (the Anschluss) and wrote articles for Der Biologic, a journal with explicit Nazi connections. In some aspects of his thinking, he displayed typical Nazi fears, such as the belief that urban man had unwisely acted to suspend the cleansing force of natural selection and consequently faced biological deterioration (Kalikow, 1983). The assertion that Nazi ideology molded his scientific approach is, however, debatable. He might have developed his theory of instincts and the assertion that human aggression has an innate basis with or without the rise of the Nazis, and he certainly continued to develop these ideas after the war. More generally, it would also be wrong to overstate the connection between scientific Darwinism (as opposed to a more nebulous commitment to evolutionist thinking) and Nazi ideology. There is little evidence, for example, that the Nazis approved of the idea that the Aryan race evolved from ape-like ancestors roaming the African plains. The Nazis drew upon other intellectual traditions such as Hegel's philosophy of the state, the concept of superman found in Nietzsche and a romantic and racist attachment to the idea of the German Volk.
Marxists also distorted evolutionary theory for political purposes. In revolutionary Russia, Darwinian theories of natural selection never really took hold. The revolutionaries regarded natural selection as tainted with capitalist notions of competition. It was in this ideological climate that a quack geneticist called Trofim Lysenko (1898-1976) managed to steal the show. In place of natural selection, Lysenko asserted the mechanism of Lamarckism. Mendelian genetics was denounced as 'bourgeois', and its adherents were forced to recant or were exiled to Siberia to reconsider their position. Lysenko claimed that his philosophy and methods would bring about improvements in the Russian grain harvest. The effects were, however, disastrous. Only in the 1950s, after Stalin's death, did the science of genetics recover in Russia.
12.1.1 Race, IQ and intelligence
In the United States in the 1930s, support for eugenics ideas faded. In psychology also, the theory of instincts, which always seemed to have a slender empirical base, was gradually abandoned. A supposed link between race and intelligence was, however, more difficult to sever. One reason was that, by the 1920s, there had accumulated plenty of experimental data to suggest that there were biological differences in the innate mental capacities of different racial groups. Looking back, we can only groan at the crudity of the tests used and the mentality that lay behind their use. However, the sheer momentum built up by the process of intelligence testing, linked to immigration control, helps to explain the seeming paradox that as behaviorism was abandoning the concept of instincts, the idea of a link between race, biology and ability remained and was not really expunged from psychology until much later.
[ Why would any scientist 'groan' at the crudity of any nascent scientific discipline? Of course, the earlier intelligence tests were crude, and they were thought to be so by those using them. They looked at the data and were skeptical themselves. That is how science progresses, hypotheses are stated, they are tested, they are refuted, then refined, discarded, and then resurrected again, in an endless cycle of getting at the truth. So again, why does Cartwright 'groan.' Would he say the same thing about Newtonian physics? I highly doubt it.]
The greatest challenge to the validity of intelligence testing between racial groups came from Otto Klineberg, a psychologist at Columbia University. Klineberg became professionally acquainted with Boas and dedicated his book Race Differences, published in 1935, to him. Klineberg systematically and methodically set about to test suggestions of Nordic superiority and black inferiority. His results showed that, once background and upbringing were controlled for, the data were far more ambiguous. Any differences that did remain Klineberg attempted to explain through environmental influences. Despite Klineberg's well-intentioned and well-researched efforts, the connection asserted to exist between heredity and intelligence was weakened but never totally severed. Despite a preference for cultural and behaviorist explanations in the social sciences, anthropology and psychology in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, the issue of race and intelligence arose periodically to trouble the academic community (Harwood, 1976, 1977).
[ I'll return to intelligence later. For now, note how Cartwright inserts an old study, from 1935, and then moves on. This is a tactic used often by the Left. When they have no answers, or they don't like the data, they cite one study and end the discussion. Fortunately, he returns to the subject and I will comment then.]
12.1.2 A poisoned chalice
Against this background, it is hardly surprising that biological theories of human behavior are treated with great suspicion. It is a natural tendency of ideologies to seek support and corroboration from other fields of thought, and Darwinism has always provided an axe for virtually anyone to grind. Looking back, it now seems almost inevitable that when evolutionary explanations of human behavior began to emerge in the 1970s, based on new evidence and theories in evolutionary biology, some hostility would result. Thus, in Wilson's Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, published in 1975, 95 per cent of the subject matter was concerned with animal behavior and only 5 per cent with humans, yet the outcry was vociferous and at times hysterical. Referring to the discipline of sociobiology, the 'Science as Ideology Group of the British Society for Responsibility in Science' wrote that: "Sociobiology arrives at a time when there are wide-ranging challenges to the existing social order are being made... It is of course racist and sexist and classist, imperialist and authoritarian too." (BSSRS, 1976, p. 348)
Attacks like this were common throughout the late 1970s and the early 1980s. The general thrust was that, by identifying universal human traits that were genetic rather than cultural, evolutionary theory applied to humans was guilty of propagating an oppressive biological determinism. Rose et al. (1985) saw the universities as having a special role in this process: "Thus, universities serve as propagators and legitimators of the ideology of biological determinism. If biological determinism is a weapon in the struggle between classes, then the universities are weapons factories, and their teaching and research facilities are the engineers, designers, and production workers." (p. 30)
Such ideological reactions were common in the United Kingdom and America from those left of center. In France, however, Wilson's book met with a far more favorable reception from the liberal intelligentsia. The eminent anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, for example, certainly no sociobiologist, deplored the fact that American liberals were denouncing sociobiology 'as neo-Fascist doctrine'. Looking to France, he observed wryly in 1983 that sociobiology had been embraced by the political left out of a 'neo-rousseauiste inspiration in an effort to integrate man in nature' (quoted in Degler, 1991, p. 319).
In the 1990s, the debate over the application of evolutionary ideas to human nature thankfully shifted somewhat from the zone of class conflict, and ideas began to be considered more for their scientific merits than their position in an ideological battleground. Some have even found support for a left of center radicalism in the new evolutionary ideas. In an article on the need for a more Darwinian approach in anthropology, Knight and Maisels (1994) conclude: "Regardless of precise political affiliations, Dawkins and his atheist allies are iconoclasts and anticlerical radicals, behind whose godless banner the left in all logic should rally." (p. 20)
The awkward and uncomfortable history of the political uptake of biology, the cranky and outrageous ideas that have resulted, and the hysterical reactions to even moderate attempts to probe the biological basis of human nature, should not blind us to the fact that there are serious and important issues at stake. Nor will it do simply to assert that scientists have no moral responsibility outside their subject area. At one level, it may seem only an academic exercise in the history of ideas, but ideas can ultimately affect lives. Evolutionary thinkers have a duty of care in this area, and we must carefully examine the tangled relationship between evolutionary thinking and moral, social and political thought as objectively as possible. In the next few sections, we will look at just a few of the specific issues that arise from the implications of Darwinism.
12.2 Social Darwinism
12.2.1 Social Darwinism
Nowadays, the term 'social Darwinist' is one of abuse. Denouncing someone as a social Darwinist is often thought to be a sufficiently crushing argument in itself. But why exactly is social Darwinism an untenable exercise? Spencer's phrase 'survival of the fittest' has become a catch phrase for those who advocate the virtues of free competition. There may indeed be virtues, but Darwinism, to the disappointment of any contemporary would-be social Darwinists, must remain silent on the issue. At one level, it is not at all clear that nature runs strictly along red in tooth and claw lines anyway: animal groups show plenty of signs of cooperation, and even vampire bats share a meal with their needy brethren. If we look at some taxa, such as the ants, competition between individuals seems entirely suspended in favor of caring and sharing for the common good. If we wish to model human society on the natural world, it is difficult to know which group of organisms we should consider: the message from, for example, ants, bats and dandelions will be entirely different.
It could be retorted that genetic self-interest lies at the heart of all these manifestations of altruism and that we must allow this as a scientific statement. Perhaps we should. We could also allow the fact that nature (as far as we can tell) is not regulated by some external conscious agency and that indeed the purposeless process of natural and sexual selection has led to such complex organisms as ourselves. But does it follow that society should also be left to the unregulated outcome of the effects of individuals all pursuing their selfish ends? The answer is no. To believe otherwise is to make a huge and invalid leap of logic. The Scottish philosopher David Hume is credited with first exposing this fallacy. In his Treatise of Human Nature (1964 ), Hume pointed out that 'is' does not imply 'ought'. The way in which humans want their social world to operate is a matter of values; biology is no more reliable a guide to what values we should hold than, for example, chemistry or astronomy. The suggestion, contra Hume, that one can infer values from descriptive facts is now known as the naturalistic fallacy.
[ This is where Cartwright steps into his own social engineering abyss. He warns against eugenics but then says that we can have value systems that will decide what we as a society should pursue—and not leave it up to the individual. After all, having children when there is no hope of providing adequately for them is an underlying value system rejected by eugenicists. We also have a vision of 'the good society.' So why does Cartwright seem to embrace socialism while rejecting eugenicism, when they are both just value systems competing with each other? This is a curious double standard from someone who at times rejects the mingling of science and politics, and at other times embraces it.]
The invocation of Hume's law—the impossibility of deriving the 'ought' from the 'is'—is often thought to be sufficient to deal the death blow to social Darwinist reasoning, but we should be careful here that we do not shoot ourselves in the feet. As some stage, the Darwinian will want to give a naturalistic account of value and morality and this, in the absence of any transcendental notions of goodness, will presumably have to be based on a factual account of the natural world.
Midgley (1978), who is certainly no social Darwinist and is even skeptical about the full potential of the Darwinian paradigm, makes the point that values must at some level be related to facts. It is the factual nature of the human condition that enables us to express what human wants are and what are good things for humans. We value a society that allows couples to have children, for example, because this is allowing freedom of expression to our biological nature. We need to think carefully, therefore, about the reasoning underlying social Darwinism and the reasoning used to dismiss it.
We must in fact be aware of at least two layers to morality. One is the phenomenon of moral behavior, of which a good Darwinian may be able to give a plausible account, in other words why people erect rules and choose to live by them and how such rules relate (or otherwise) to fitness gains in any given environment. Another layer is the question of whether such codes and rules are right. A large number of people, from T. H. Huxley onwards, have argued passionately that ethics transcends nature and have despaired at any attempt to draw ethical premises from evolutionary thought. A modern exponent of this view is the Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould. Gould, who has done much to expose the sexist and racist bias in some attempts to capture human nature, is of the opinion that 'evolution in general (and the theory of natural selection in particular) cannot legitimately buttress any particular moral or social philosophy' (Gould, 1998).
[ This seems fair to me, and as such, nationalism/eugenicism is as legitimate as socialism/egalitarianism. Cartwright seems to be under the assumption that eugenicists start with Darwinism and proceed to eugenics, but this is absurd. The breeders of dogs have no Darwinian basis for doing so, only the knowledge that it can be done. Likewise, eugenicists start with the desire to change human nature based on a value system—a religion really. The tools of how best to proceed are then taken from Darwinism. Knowledge of human behavior is the sculptor's tools for creating a new human. The first steps are to increase intelligence so that we may better know how to proceed from there. This is no different than the socialist/egalitarian agenda except for one thing—we don't discard empiricism for fear of discovering what is, instead of what ought to be.]
Returning to the logic of social Darwinism, we can show that the reasoning is fallacious, but we need to do better than simply to evoke Hume's law. What the social Darwinist does is to confuse the consequences with the value of natural processes. If fierce unbridled competition got us to our present state, there is no obvious reason why it should still serve our ends. Suppose, for example, that one could demonstrate that periodic famines on a global scale or massive doses of gamma rays from solar flares were instrumental in the course of the evolution that led us to Homo sapiens. I doubt if even the more ardent social Darwinist would suggest that famine and ionizing radiation are to be welcomed as means by which we can improve the human stock.
[ Cartwright couldn't be more confused here. He is certainly familiar with bottleneck effects, the rapid evolution of small population groups, etc. Nevertheless, these are mere observations. Social Darwinists no longer exist as he is describing them, he is trying to knock down a straw man. The only political position that argues for a "fierce unbridled competition" is a libertarian one, and they take this position because they think it is a better system than social democracy. Again, one becomes confused about who he is referring to. It is unfortunate that he never names the advocates or the political positions that he assumes are advocating social Darwinism. He is attacking, as far as I can see, a non-group or position.]
The social Darwinist is also guilty of smuggling teleology in through the back door. Another reason why social Darwinism should be called social Spencerism is that it was Herbert Spencer rather than Darwin who kept ideas of progression in his system of thought. The abyss into which Darwin stared was always too much for Spencer, who clung to a belief in steady evolution towards perfection. The essential point here is that it is the very purposelessness of the natural world that makes it a doubly unreliable guide. Natural selection does not make organisms better in any absolute way: it merely rewards reproductive success. There is no progress measured on an absolute scale but merely change. The whole thing is not going anywhere.
[ Oh really? Then why do we have the United Nations, conferences on: global warming, starving children, the spread of aids, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons? If it is not going anywhere, why are we wasting our time? Actually, Cartwright is correct about evolution and life for that matter being meaningless. We all just end up dead, and to my knowledge no one has made a good argument for why life is worth living. People love to go to sleep at night and often hate to wake up. So why is being awake or alive so wonderful? It seems to me the most logical answer is that our selfish genes gave us an irrational desire to hang onto life, because we are the vehicle that contains the selfish genes. Having accepted that, and I am not so sure Cartwright would disagree with me on this point, we pursue our political agendas frankly to fill up time. We have extra time now that we have evolved beyond hunter-gatherers, and we do things. Some of those things are political or religious or both. Nationalism, eugenicism, socialism, our obsession with wealth; these are all just pursuits. No "social Darwinian" justification is required.]
Eugenics represents the other side of the coin from social Darwinism. Rather than let nature take its course, the eugenicist wanted to intervene to put it right. Eugenicists were concerned that the processes operating in urban societies were such that people producing the most offspring resided in lower socioeconomic groups and were therefore genetically inferior to those in the higher strata of society. Needless to say, those promulgating the idea regarded themselves as being genetically superior. The remedy for the eugenicist lay not in competition and laissez-faire—since civilization for ethical reasons had already accepted the burden of helping the weak—but in active measures to encourage the spread of good genes (positive eugenics) and discourage the spread of weak ones (negative eugenics). The whole eugenics program was so fraught with scientific, ethical and practical difficulties that no one today would seriously advocate the sort of measures proposed earlier this century. In fact, any hint of sympathy for eugenics ideas in the United Kingdom is regarded as a blight on the career of a politician. It is arguable that Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party in 1974 because of a speech made by her mentor, and the then favorite leadership candidate, Keith Joseph, in which he suggested that 'the balance of our human stock' was threatened by the rising proportion of children born into the lower social classes (Thatcher, 1995).
[ Maybe the above paragraph can give us some insight into Cartwright's purpose here. But first, just to name one, Richard Lynn is the most published eugenicist today, and he is also a leading proponent of East Asian's having a higher IQ than Caucasians by about five points. So why the lies? No one has claimed superiority or inferiority, the brain is an expensive organ to carry around. Intelligent people may not be as reproductive as the less intelligent. He keeps lapsing back to arguments that were once heard 100 years ago, but not today, not by academics anyway. Maybe he reveals himself when he says, "any hint of sympathy for eugenics ideas in the United Kingdom is regarded as a blight on the career of a politician [or academic]." So here, he seems to admit that eugenics is not discussed because it is taboo in English academics. I then have to wonder what else he is covering up? If he is admitting here that he wrote his final chapter as an antidote against accusations by the Left that he is a racist, then why should we trust any of the material in his book? Is it factual or is it altered to be politically correct? I intend to ask him. (Note: Cartwright's reply to my article follows the article *.)]
The fertility of different social groups is of course an empirical matter and could be settled by statistical means. It is also possible of course that certain genes are more frequently found in certain social groups than others. Problems start hereafter for who is to define what genes are desirable and worth increasing in frequency? At this point, we need to import an ethical system to help our judgments and, fortunately for our sanity, there is no general consensus on what qualities make up desirable human beings, and what standards there are shift with time and vary across cultures. Nor, I think, would most people wish to see any committee pronounce on this subject. As if this were not enough, there is then the practical problem of how the state could alter gene frequencies without an unacceptable infringement of other human values, or whether the state even has a responsibility to its gene pool that overrides its responsibility to the welfare of individuals and the preservation of individual freedoms.
[I think the state does, if it wants to preserve democracy, economic efficiency, scientific progress, etc. Notice how Cartwright will not even use the word race here, but instead uses 'social groups.' That seems to be carrying caution a bit far, because everyone knows it is about race. The American Psychological Association determined in 1995 that Blacks scored lower in intelligence tests than Whites, and that the tests were unbiased. Jensen et al. have confirmed that there is a wide gap between races in average intelligence: Ashkenazi Jew at 115, Whites at 100, and sub-Saharan Blacks at 70. Not one study, or Factor X, can explain this wide gap other than that based on genes. The more I read and re-read this chapter, the more I get the feeling that Cartwright is truly caught in a dilemma—"how do I get out from under this 800 pound IQ gorilla." For intelligence is in fact the only 'desirable trait' that underlies the Left's dilemma with eugenics. Notice how he almost chokes on the sentences above. And yet it is simple—we can raise the intelligence of our offspring through eugenics by: joining a eugenic religion to share resources and genes (that's right, the Jews have already done that), practice eugenics by individuals (yup, humans have always been doing that), or it could be promulgated by the state, as it is being done in Sweden, China, and Singapore today. Quite simple really.]
In a profound sense, however, the eugenics program is unrelated to the evolutionist's paradigm. From an evolutionary perspective, successful genes are simply successful genes. An ardent evolutionist desperate for meaning might be tempted to encourage the proliferation of fecund genes rather than any other qualities. Even this mad speculation is, however, cut short by the constant reminder (which we need in this territory) that evolution involves no sense of progress. Successful genes are no better on any absolute scale of values and certainly not on any human scale—we do not admire aphids because of their fecundity.
[ That is precisely why we should liberate ourselves from our genes and make them serve us! Eugenicists have no interest in "the proliferation of fecund genes." We don't want to be controlled by genes, we want to control genes for our own benefit and happiness. A eugenicist is no different from a breeder, we envision a desired form and we want to breed for that form. We couldn't give a crap about the prosperity of the genes, only the phenotypic expression that genes provide us: health, happiness, beauty, athleticism, and of course, intelligence. Every breeder or eugenicist may have a different vision of the final product, but most of us would agree on the basics. I have never heard anyone say that they wanted to have a child with low intelligence. Can we at least agree that intelligence is something we would all want our children to have? Will Cartwright concur? Not without a great deal of mumbling I suspect.]
We must be alert to eugenics issues since gene technologies are increasingly delivering into our hands powerful tools to screen individuals for genetic defects. Prenatal screening enables doctors to assess whether the fetus is genetically defective for a wide range of conditions. If, for example, parents choose to terminate a pregnancy because of the condition of cystic fibrosis, this involves the judgment that a child with cystic fibrosis is too great a burden to justify its birth. Some have argued that this is a form of eugenics through the back door. The comparison with eugenics thinking is not, however, strictly accurate in these cases. Certainly, the motivation of the parents is not to eliminate the genes from the human population: their concerns are about the suffering of the child and the burden to the family. In fact, by such procedures it is extremely difficult to alter gene frequencies.
[ Nevertheless, it is still eugenics. First, to make sure that a child does not have a debilitating disease frees up resources for a couple to have normal children. This is clearly eugenic. Eugenics encompasses everything that improves the life of children and the children's children, even if there is not one formula for the perfect child. Presently, for about $10,000, medical clinics will harvest about 20 of a woman's eggs, fertilize them, then test all of them and pick a few with the best genes for implantation. Does Cartwright really believe that if this is done generation after generation that it will not have a profound effect on the frequency of genes? Once the genes for intelligence are found—only one of about two dozen have been found so far—there will be an intelligence arms-race between people with the resources to make sure that their children are at least smart enough to compete in a highly technological world. That is eugenics! It is here, it is now, and it will accelerate exponentially.]
A child with cystic fibrosis is born when the relevant genes are homozygous in the recessive state; that is, it has two copies of the defective gene, one from each parent. If it has only one copy, it is said to be a carrier. People who are carriers live perfectly normal and healthy lives, never realizing that they are carriers until they mate with another carrier. About 1 in 25 Caucasians are thought to be carriers of the recessive allele for cystic fibrosis. The chance of two carriers meeting is thus about (1/25)^2 = 1 in 625, or 0.0016. The chance of a child from a union of these parents having both recessive alleles and hence displaying the condition is one quarter of 0.0016 = 0.0004, or 1 in 2500. Hence about 1 in 2500 Caucasian children are born with cystic fibrosis. Simply removing those affected by cystic fibrosis, that is, those who are homozygous, will not remove the allele itself. In fact, the heterozygous condition only needs to carry a 2.3 per cent advantage compared with non-carriers for the recessive allele to persist indefinitely (see Strachan and Read, 1996). The only way for a true eugenics program to work in this context would be to screen for carriers and discourage carriers from breeding with anyone. Such a program would of course be impractical and ethically unacceptable.
[ True enough, and a good reason why eugenicists do not try to eliminate genes for cystic fibrosis or similar recessive alleles. Nevertheless, there are dominant genes that show up later in life, like Huntington's disease. Only one copy is needed, and it expresses itself after about the age of 35. It would be hard to eliminate all of these dominant alleles of course, but using genetic testing to prevent people from having to go through this horrible disease is in fact eugenic. Cartwright again puts up the straw man but fails to respond to dominant diseases that show up after a person has reproduced. Again, testing for and eliminating dominant genetic diseases that show up later in life will have a very positive outcome for everyone in the future. As we reduce the frequency of these genes even by say 50%, it makes selection of other beneficial genes easier. No one said eugenics was going be quick, only goal directed.]
biology and sexism
12.4 Evolutionary biology and racism
Racists have often turned to biology for support. Even before the evolutionary thinking of the 19th century, racists, particularly in the United States, used a mixture of biology and religion to justify their exploitation of African natives. It was both bad theology and bad biology. Following the advent of Darwinian thinking, the exponents of racism had to shift their ground but, unsurprisingly, came to similar conclusions as before: that some races were higher or more developed than others. This view crept into medicine. Down's syndrome, a problem caused by an error in the chromosomal inheritance of a child, was called 'mongolism' by its Victorian discoverer, John Langdon-Down. To him, it seemed an appropriate term; sufferers from this condition had slipped a few places in the evolutionary hierarchy to resemble a race lower than the Europeans—the Mongols.
[ Note again the straw man: "some races were higher or more developed than others." Nevertheless, the modern consensus is that races do differ in average intelligence, and Cartwright has chosen not to address this issue. Why has he ignored the recent but still readily available research on racial differences in intelligence? There has been an enormous amount of research showing that the races do differ, and it is not insignificant. But not a peep from Cartwright.]
In the 20th century, much emphasis has been placed on the vexed question of the heritability of IQ within and between racial groups. One may of course question the value of IQ and even question the ethical desirability of research in this area given the political context. Nevertheless, it has been done and probably will be done again in the future. The debate on this subject recently resurfaced with the publication of The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life by Herrnstein and Murray (1994). The authors were accused of scientific racism despite the fact that, in their overall view, the evidence that black/white differences in IQ had a genetic basis was ambiguous. These authors did, however, claim that lower social castes, which include a disproportionately large number of African-Americans, had a lower IQ and that IQ was to a large degree (40-80 per cent) inherited. The authors went on to argue that, since the lower socioeconomic groups tend to be more fertile, the 'cognitive capital' of the United States is facing decline.
This all of course sounds familiar. The scientific claims of Herrnstein and Murray with regard to the connection between IQ, social class and the heritability of IQ could, with some difficulty, be examined empirically if it is thought worth the effort. The most interesting feature of their work, however, is that the authors, like the eugenicists before them, draw political prescriptions from scientific findings. They suggest, for example, that more money should be put into programs for gifted children and that the state should seriously question its commitment to equal opportunities. Similar arguments have been used in the past: if intelligence is largely inherited, why waste money trying to improve the skills of those with a lower IQ? Here, of course the logic, as is so often the case when we move from facts to policies, comes unstuck. It simply does not follow that the state should withdraw resources from those who are regarded as having a poorer genetic constitution. No one would reasonably argue, for example, that spending on health should be diverted away from those with genetic disabilities to those who are perfectly healthy.
[ Yup, the standard socialist reply. Cartwright's book was published in 2000 but he ignores all of the research that followed The Bell Curve and vindicated its assertions on intelligence and racial differences (again see Jensenism). He also ignored his own countryman's book The g Factor by Christopher Brand that was eventually de-published by John Wiley after the thought police in England went after the publisher. (see my web site for a link to a free copy of Brand's book, not to be confused with Arthur Jensen's book The g Factor.) This is the standard tact used by the Left when they are outflanked, cite one rather old source and let it go at that, ignoring all of the most recent data. As to the "political prescriptions," where is it written that eugenicists are forbidden from advocacy just because the advocates of Marxism have taken over academia and the government? Note the agony, that eugenicists dare have an opinion! It seems only fair that gifted children be given as much to succeed as the disadvantaged. In fact, the only fair way it seems to allocate scarce resources is to give exactly the same amount of money to every student, regardless of need. Though in the eugenicists world, there would be far fewer disadvantaged or disable children, so all children would be better treated. A proposition that seems to escape Cartwright.]
The consensus view among Darwinians is that interracial biological differences are trivial. It is not, however, the only view among scientists. In the late 1980s, J. Phillipe Rushton, a professor at the University of Western Ontario, achieved notoriety by publishing a series of articles purporting to show basic biological differences in IQ and personality between Africans, Caucasians and Orientals. Rushton's thinking derived from what are known as 'r/K' models in ecology. Put crudely, organisms can either be 'r' strategists or 'K' strategists. r strategists such as aphids go in for explosive breeding and produce masses of cheap, short-lived offspring. Most die, but enough survive to reproduce for the next round. Humans are a typical example of K strategists: we produce a few biologically expensive, long-lived offspring. Rushton claims that there are differentials among human K strategists such that a hierarchy exists. By looking at data on brain size, genital measurements, age of death and so on, Rushton suggests that Orientals are more 'K-like' than Caucasians, who are in turn more 'K-like' than Africans. Translated into behavioral terms, Rushton was implying that blacks invested more heavily in traits related to sexuality and procreation than whites, and consequently blacks were less intelligent, less sexuality restrained and less law-abiding.
[ The fact of the matter is, over the last thirty years, and especially since the implementation of genetic studies of racial clines, there has been a steady stream of data that shows that behavioral differences between races are more pronounced than physical differences. Cartwright of course is familiar with this information but has chosen to leave it out of his textbook. Instead, he chooses again to try and refute a single researcher—Rushton. And the last I looked, no one has disputed his data, available in his book published in 1995, Race, Evolution, and Behavior (and now available in paperback). In fact, Cartwright even helps corroborate Rushton's work. He notes that the testis of Danish men are twice the size of the testis of Asian men, which supplements Rusthton's position. In addition he notes how behaviorally different the bonobo chimpanzees are from the standard chimpanzees. These two species readily bred in captivity before it was noticed that they were two different species. He totally ignores the analogy between races of humans. (see my article on these chimps in my review of the book Demonic Males.)]
The outcry was predictable and understandable. Rushton was vilified in the media, threatened with dismissal from his tenure and even investigated by a special force of the Ontario and Toronto police service on possible charges of spreading hate literature. Here is not the place to assess Rushton's work, but it serves as an illustration of the sensitivity of the issues and the need for reliable science and a scrutiny of the ethical value of research. The desirability of attempting to study interracial differences in a culture where racial harmony is an objective but not yet a reality is, to say the least, debatable. Numerous academics have questioned Rushton's methodology and assumptions as well as the reliability of his data. Fredric Weizmann in particular has been instrumental in exposing what many believe to be sloppy science (Weizmann et al., 1990).
[ Cartwright seems to endorse academic censorship when "racial harmony" is a universal objective. But isn't this a "political prescription," flowing from politics to science? Isn't this why Lysenkoism supplanted genetics under Stalin, and millions of people starved to death from the disastrous agricultural results of famine? Does Cartwright advocate totalitarianism to settle academic disputes, or does he want the free flow of information and consensus building? We see the re-emergence of authoritarianism when intolerance shuts down debate on sensitive subjects. The more sensitive, the more we need to find the underlying cause of the issue.]
In the main, modern evolutionary thought and the science of genetics are destructive of racist ideas. It turns out that the concept of race is not a particularly useful one for the biologist. It was realized long ago that all races belong to the same species, Homo sapiens. (Given the fact that racism is a problem in our culture, one can only shudder at what the world would be like had another Homo species survived into the present epoch.) If we start with, for example, skin color as a criterion for dividing people into groups, it transpires that only about 10 genes out of a total of at least 50,000 on the human genome are responsible for skin color. We might then look for correlations between skin color genes and others. When we do, patterns in the distribution of one set of genes are not matched by distributions in others. The human races are remarkably heterogeneous, possibly because of our relatively recent origin. Most of the genetic diversity between individuals occurs because they are individuals rather than because they are members of the same race. Put another way, most of the world's genetic diversity is found in any one race you choose. On the whole, the evolutionary approach to human behavior is concerned with human universals—cross-cultural features that unite the different groups of the world and reveal our common evolutionary ancestry. The mental modules or Darwinian algorithms to which evolutionary psychologists refer were laid down before races differentiated.
[ First, human races are not divided up by skin color but by differences in gene frequencies between population groups that diverged over time, with some exchange of genetic material, but not enough to swamp out salient racial differences. This is the straw man again, race is being dismissed because it is uncomfortable. The leading deniers of race are Cavalli-Sforza et al., who have carried out numerous genetic studies on races—oops, population groups. They have published The History and Geography of Human Genes, and have found that the major separation between races is between sub-Saharan Africans, then Caucasians, East Asians and South Asians. In fact, Caucasians are closer to East Asians than East Asians are to South Asians. And is the study of races useful? Well they sure seem to be. Forensic medicine can determine the race of human remains from skull shape to genes. And medicine is just now entering into studying different treatments for different races, it seems we are quite different after all. Cartwright also forgets to mention that there is a massive amount of new evidence that shows that East Asian's brains are larger than Caucasians, and Caucasian brains are larger than Blacks—just like Rushton and numerous other scientists have said for over 100 years. It is true that evolutionary psychology does deal with human universals, but population studies also deal with racial differences. They are both in need of exploration. It is also true that there is more genetic difference between individuals in a race than there are between races. These differences however are meaningless to the racial differences argument. Much of the genetic variation between people is left over from our primate past, about 85 percent. It is the other behavioral and intelligence differences that are of interest, and it only takes a couple hundred genes to provide these differences. (Again see Shattering the Myth of Racism books, free at my web site for further reading.)]
It follows that the concerns of the eugenicists over the heritability of various traits is not of particular concern to the evolutionary theorist. The concept of heritability describes the percentage of variation between individuals that results from inheritance. Assuming for the moment that IQ has some validity, the heritability of this feature is a measure of the extent to which differences between individuals are attributable to genetics or environment. If we say that IQ has a heritability of 50 per cent, this means that half of the variation in IQ between, for example, two people is caused by genetic influences and half by environment. A heritability of 100 per cent would imply that all the difference between individuals is caused by genes, and 0 per cent would imply that any difference is entirely due to upbringing.
Now, in studying human nature from a Darwinian angle, we are dealing with low heritabilities. The premise is that all humans have mental hardware that predisposes them to behave in ways that are adaptively similar. This mental hardware is laid down by the genes, but the variance is small. As an analogy, consider the number of lungs (two) possessed by most people. The heritability of this is near zero: nearly all people are born with two lungs. If we examine people who have only one lung, it will usually be found to be a product of the environment—usually the surgeon's knife. The possession of two lungs is an inherited trait (very adaptive) but with low heritability. A feature such as eye color will have nearly 100 per cent heritability, differences between people being almost entirely the result of genetic influences: the environment does not shape eye color. This raises another point: features with low heritability tend to be more interesting. Heritability itself is not a good guide to establish whether something is under genetic control. We need say no more about the IQ heritability debate; it is not a part of the evolutionary paradigm applied to humans.
[ What? we are just going to sweep intelligence under the carpet, after all the time spent trying to figure out why humans have such large brains? Re-reading this as I write, it is hard to fathom that we have sunk so far into political correctness. How dare he declare what is of interest in science. How dare he declare what is off limits. How dare he exist as an academic! What next, off to the gulags with any who dare question the official dogma?]
But racism exists and is in need of an explanation as well as a cure. We must consider the slightly frightening prospect that racism has some adaptive function. To offer an explanation is of course not to condone the behavior. If we explain racism sociologically, for example, which is commonly done, this neither supports racism nor excuses it. Nor, crucially, does it undermine the sociological approach. If there is a biological basis to racism, it is something that we must face squarely.
[ Why would Cartwright face anything squarely now? He has so far evaded all of the tough issues, and he will evade this one. There is not one mention in his book of group evolutionary strategies with regards to humans even though it has resurfaced over the last few years as one of the more interesting challenges in human evolution. But he really needs to become more familiar with evolutionary terms, refrain from using the term racism, and use the proper terms ethnocentrism or xenophobia. And yes, it is present in all human races, though apparently more so in some than in others.]
Numerous attempts have been made to investigate whether the roots of racism lie in biology. One promising line of research stems from the inclusive fitness theory of Hamilton: inclusive fitness is increased if individuals are nice to those who bear copies of the same genes. Some have seen this as a basis for ethnicity: by distinguishing between those most likely to share copies of your genes and those less likely to do so, it is possible to distribute cooperative behavior more effectively. Reviewing the evidence, however, Silverman (1987) concluded that most intergroup conflicts that have taken place are within an ethnic grouping rather than between such groups, and that such conflicts are explicable in terms of resource competition. Silverman also concluded that if racism were a fundamental part of the human psyche, any small gains to inclusive fitness that were gained by racial discriminations would be outweighed by a loss of the ability to form cooperative coalitions between groups as conditions changed. Thus, racism at this simple level would not be adaptive.
[ And he couldn't be more wrong. Again Cartwright has lapsed back into a just-so story provided by Silverman in this case. Group evolutionary strategies have taken place between chimpanzee troops and between human groups. We have evidence that chimpanzees go on warring parties and over time will annihilate other troops. Our human past seems to have had the same scenario, there is no evidence that there was a beneficial gain from forming cooperative coalitions rather than slaughtering competing neighboring groups. Each approach would be followed as ecological conditions changed. However, he does a great disservice to his readers by omitting this important part of human nature. So I was right, he is not ready to face the tough problems. He will therefore never be capable of providing and honest picture of human evolution.]
What may have been adaptive of course is the post hoc rationalization that accompanies group conflict. As we have argued in Chapter 11, morality may be an adaptive device to ensure that we cooperate in conditions where it is favored by fitness gains. If, however, circumstances favor the exploitation of a former ally, or favor cheating on obligations, racism could be a device to guard us from the full illogicality of our moral position. In this sense, racism may have acquired a function as a consequence rather than a cause of intergroup strife. Silverman's arguments are plausible and in a sense give reason for hope. Our self-deceptions are often fragile and open to elimination by education.
[ They may be plausible but they are not relevant. The above reasoning is outside of evolutionary behavior. It may have been floated at one time, but it does not hold any sway today. In fact, THE book on group evolutionary strategies by Sober and Wilson, Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior, 1998, has no reference to Silverman. Cartwright just does not want to discuss ethnocentrism in any realistic fashion—he would rather hide behind obscure and untested rationalizations.]
An expose of the political abuse of evolutionary ideas may suggest that there is some sort of natural and therefore suspicious affinity between Darwinism and unpalatable political philosophies. Here, we should be wary. Scientific ideas can be taken up into pre-existing debates without inspiring them, and indeed with little logical connection to them. Sexism, racism, militarism and imperialism, for example, all existed before the Darwinian revolution and will probably persist for a long time thereafter. Looking again at the eugenics movement in America, it can be seen that it drew particular inspiration from the new science of Mendelian genetics, yet the early Mendelians rejected the notion that natural selection had been important in evolution. For the eugenicists, a belief in the necessity of artificial selection was not based on any acceptance of the power of natural selection. When it comes to notions of racial superiority, it was, as Bowler notes, Lamarckianism that was more easily incorporated into attempts to construct a racial hierarchy with Europeans at the top (Bowler, 1982).
In summary, this section should have demonstrated that Darwinism provides no ammunition for the eugenicist and little comfort for the racist. It does, however, provide an essential ingredient in our search for self-knowledge, and this theme is explored in the next section.
12.5 The limits of
12.5.1 Reductionism and determinism
perfectibility of man
There is an age-old philosophical debate that goes back to the time of the Greeks concerning the origin of human vices and virtues. In the modern period, the debate was sharply defined by Hobbes and Rousseau. Hobbes, writing in England in the 1650s after the chaos of a civil war, argued that, in the natural state, the life of man was 'nasty, brutish and short'. Left to his own devices, man would live in a squalid state of perpetual struggle and conflict. The solution for Hobbes was for the state to impose order from above to curb the excesses of human nature. At the other end of the debating spectrum lies Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In his Discourse on Inequality, published in 1755, Rousseau argued that humans are by nature basically virtuous but are everywhere corrupted by civilization. Rousseau gave Europeans the image of the noble savage living in a state of bliss before the arrival of civilization. Rousseau's arguments were in part polemical and designed to expose the decadence in French culture, but his picture of the noble savage stuck and was profoundly influential. Ever since the time of Rousseau, weary Europeans have sought examples of the blissful and guiltless lives that Rousseau described.
The reality has, however, never really matched up to the expectations, but on one occasion it looked as though Rousseau's vision had been found. In 1925, Margaret Mead went to the Polynesian island of Samoa to study the life of the islanders. Mead spent just 5 months among the islanders before returning to New York. Her subsequent accounts in Coming of Age in Samoa, published in 1928, were seminal works. Mead claimed to have discovered a culture living in a state of grace, free from sexual jealousy or adolescent angst. Violence was extremely rare, and young people enjoyed a guilt-free, promiscuous lifestyle. Mead became a major celebrity; her books were best-sellers and became required reading for generations of undergraduates. She even had a crater on the planet Venus named after her.
Unfortunately, Mead was duped. At the onset of her career, she was strongly influenced by the anthropologist Franz Boas, who, appalled at the eugenic thinking that he encountered in his native Germany, propounded a culturalist view of human nature. Mead imbibed this, and her work was a product of her own expectations coupled with faulty data collection. Her errors were exposed by Derek Freeman, who, like Mead, spent time (five years) among the Samoans but who came to an entirely different conclusion. Mead had constructed her account of the care-free love lives of the Samoans from the reports of just two adolescent girls, Fa'apua'a and Fofoa. When Freeman interviewed the girls, by then old ladies, he heard how, in a state of embarrassment about Mead's questioning of their sex lives, they had made up fantastical stories of free love. So it was that a whole view of human nature in social anthropology was based on a prank by two young women (Freeman, 1996).
[ Apparently Cartwright fails to see the irony in the above tale. Not only was Mead duped by the Samoans, she and the West was duped by Boas's environmental determinism. He, and his Marxist allies, almost completely shut down evolutionary science between about 1930 and 1970 (pendulums swing slowly, and dates are hard to pin down). Modern empiricism has struggled to try to climb out from under the oppression of academic Marxists, who still control professorships and the content of texts, and which this author lends further evidence of its impact. We are still not allowed to discuss or explore vast areas of human behavior.]
12.6 So human an animal
12.6.1 Fine intentions
It is easy to see why the left and the liberal intelligentsia should be so attracted to environmentalist conceptions of human nature. For a start, right of center ideologies have often looked to a static human nature to support their claims. At a deeper level, however, there lies the often-unquestioned assumption that if human vices are the product of social circumstances, then by changing the circumstances, we can change human nature—for the better of course—and the perfectibility of man is at hand. Similarly, feminists have often argued that the unequal distribution of power between the sexes, the differences in historical cultural achievements between men and women, gender stereotypes and the 'glass ceiling' are products not of biological differences between the sexes but of socialization in a patriarchal society. Change the society and we can change the roles.
Such thinking seems to have lain at the heart of the environmentalist program of Boas. As a Jew, Boas found the anti-Semitism in Germany in the 1870s and 80s both discouraging and alarming. He foresaw a career path strewn with obstacles and disappointments merely as a result of his own racial identity. In contrast, Boas saw an America (before the proliferation of eugenic ideas and restrictive immigration policies) beckoning with an outlook that stressed equality of opportunity and intellectual freedom.
Boas almost single-handedly swung American anthropology away from explanations based on inherited mental traits towards cultural relativism. The transformation in anthropology was mirrored in the lives of individual social scientists. Carl Kelsey, who was a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, is a particularly interesting example. In his early career, Kelsey embraced Lamarckism and regarded the race problem in America as a product of inherent differences between blacks and whites brought about the exposure of thousands of generations to radically different environments. The downfall of Lamarckism that led some scientists to turn to eugenics as a method of effecting national improvement led others such as Kelsey to move in the opposite direction. If, as Boas had shown, nurture was instrumental in shaping character, Kelsey reasoned that social progress could be achieved by improving environmental conditions. Such a procedure had the additional merit of being faster than either selective breeding or waiting for the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Within this framework, Darwinism was an irrelevance. Some psychologists were quite open in their commitment to a science that was in keeping with liberal values. One such was Thomas Garth of the University of Texas, who in 1921 laid down a rule for students who were set upon examining racial differences: "In no case may we interpret an action as the outcome of the exercise of an inferior psychical faculty if it can be interpreted as the outcome of the exercise of one which stands higher on the psychological scale, but is hindered by lack of training." (quoted in Degler, 1991, p. 190)
The rule is of course an amusing and ironic allusion to the canon laid down by Morgan 26 years earlier (see Chapter 1).
There is at present much controversy surrounding the proper application of Darwinism to human psychology. The journalist Andrew Brown draws a picture of two main warring camps, which he calls the Gouldians and the Dawkinsians, the former being skeptical and the latter optimistic about the whole project. The Gouldians include Stephen Jay Gould, Steven Rose and Richard Lewontin. Among the Dawkinsians, we find Richard Dawkins, John Maynard Smith, Daniel Dennett and Helena Cronin. If one wishes to examine the extra-scientific commitments that lie behind the rival philosophies of these groups, one may discern among the latter a distrust and rejection of the pretensions of organized religion. This is coupled with a belief that a science of human nature can guide social action and policy. As Brown notes, however, it is the background of the Gouldians that is especially interesting (Brown, 1999). Of the three names noted, all are Jewish and all vaguely Marxist. Sociologically, this may be significant: Jewishness would give a strong motivation for being suspicious of any attempt to draw up a biological profile of human nature, and Marxism too, at least in the 20th century, became largely committed to a philosophy of biological egalitarianism and the belief that social existence determines human nature.
[ Jews have been at the leading edge of race denial, but the above does not explain why. Are they naturally egalitarian? It doesn't seem so after the creation of Israel. They seem just as racist as everyone else. However, recent genetic studies carried out by Jews have shown that while the Ashkenazi Jews were in Europe for over a thousand years, they maintained their racial distinctiveness. They took in just enough Indo-European genes to look more Western, but they continued with a eugenics program of their own. That eugenics program included racial isolation, strict enforcement of codes of conduct that separated Jews from the goyim, arranged marriages based on scholarship/wealth, and selective banishment of those tribal members who lacked the necessary cohesiveness or xenophobia towards outsiders. See my review of Kevin MacDonald's book A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy, 1994. It seems from the evidence then that the liberal anti-racism stance of Jews is really self-serving. They are an exceptionally intelligent and cohesive racial group that has traditionally lived amongst others. There were great rewards and great tragedies for this evolutionary strategy, and that is why it needs to be studied. Like Gypsies and other diaspora peoples, living amongst 'the other' can be dangerous, for both sides. Moreover, we may well be on our way to yet another global war because of our human genocidal ethnocentrism. Does Cartwright really think it is best to ignore human nature, ignore ethnocentrism, and let humans go on killing each other? It seems to me that if we can understand racial tensions, we might be able to solve the problems, if not the hostile feelings themselves. Humans naturally form all kinds of groups that are hostile to each other. Why are races expected to be any different?]
The history of ideas tells us that Darwinism is not the property of any single political ideology. It is a scientific view of nature that can be used to inform political discussions but one that does not translate easily into simple political remedies. It is simply misguided to imagine that the scientific enterprise of examining the evolutionary roots of human behavior is somehow impugned by the errors of the past. In the coming years, skill will be needed to sift the legitimate from the spurious applications of Darwinism. We already factor a knowledge of human nature into our social systems in a myriad of ways. Consider the undeniable and biological propensity for humans to fall asleep. This is not something we learn—we are born with this tendency—but modern society relies upon the ability and willingness of some individuals to work through the night. A knowledge of biology tells us that there is a price to pay in terms of performance and fatigue, and elementary psychology tells us that we may need inducements to persuade people to work through 'unnatural' hours. But it can be done. Biology is not destiny, but it can provide a useful contour map.
This is the approach taken by the Australian philosopher Peter Singer, who argues that 'it is time to develop a Darwinian left' (Singer, 1998, p. 15). For Singer, Darwinism informs us of the price that we may have to pay to achieve desirable social goals. Uninformed state attempts to make socialist man have failed because they ignored human nature. For Singer, some aspects of human nature show little or no variation across culture and must consequently be taken account of in any social engineering. Singer's list includes concern for kin, an ability to enter into reciprocal relationships with non-kin, hierarchy and rank, and some traditional gender differences. To ignore these is, according to Singer, to risk disaster. The abolition of hierarchy in the name of equality, as attempted in the French and Russian revolutions for example, has all too often simply led to a new hierarchy. This, for Singer, is not an argument in favor of the status quo. The political reformer, like a good craftsman, should have a knowledge of the material with which he or she works. The trick is to work with the grain rather than against it.
A set of deeper problems arises with the view that the promise of a humane society lies only within an acceptance of the opinion that our humanity is culturally determined and defined. Supposing we could structure a society to shape people in the way in which we desire. Who draws up the blueprint for Homo perfectos? From where do we draw our notions on what constitutes ideal man? Reason by itself is not enough. Reason needs motives to act; it needs the will, beliefs, goals, ideals, something to serve, in other words human nature. Reason cannot lift itself up by its own bootlaces. Perfectly rational man would be a monster.
The blank slate approach to human nature that is still unquestioned in some branches of the social sciences would, if it were taken seriously, be a tyrant's license to manipulate. Liberals would have to stand back powerless and impotent as a tyrannical state molded its people into instruments of whatever crazy ideology was in fashion. There would be no basis for any objection since this would have been jettisoned when biology was thrown out: if human nature is anything that a society structures it to be, there is nothing to be abused.
Associated with the view that human nature is culturally determined is the philosophy of cultural relativism. If there is no fixed nature, there can be no single way of life conducive to its expression or fulfillment. Consequently, there is no judgmental moral high ground. Cultures in which the limbs of criminal offenders are severed, mixed-race marriages are forbidden and females undergo genital mutilation must be contemplated in silence. As the French philosopher Finkielkraut said, 'God is dead but the Volksgeist is strong' (Finkielkraut, 1988, p. 104).
We should remember that the Enlightenment project of progress through reason, science and the intellectual challenging of authority delivered human freedom precisely at the expense of culture. To resurrect culture as the new authority risks all that we have gained and threatens to tip us into a state of intellectual bankruptcy and moral free-fall. Fortunately for anyone so inflicted, Darwinism is the best antidote around to the fashionable fallacies of postmodernism.
In the coming decades of the 21st century, more pieces of the human jigsaw will be put in place with advances in the human genome project and neurobiology, and with Darwinism cutting ever deeper into the human psyche. One of the major challenges ahead will be knowing how to conduct research in this area wisely and ethically, and, just as importantly, how to integrate scientific findings into social life with intellectual and moral rigor.
Looking back over the 20th century, historians will probably see a struggle for the ownership of human nature. They will note how many scientists and intellectuals, sometimes for the best of motives, allowed it to be snatched away by the social sciences and cultural relativists. It is time for an evolutionary understanding to reassert itself, and there are ample signs that this is just what is happening. For as Blaise Pascal noted 'If the earth moves, a decree from Rome cannot stop it'.
[ Nor can a decree from Marxism! The genome is out of the bottle.]
Written by Matt Nuenke, September, 2002.
Web site articles are available at www.neoeugenics.net
Following is John Cartwright's reply to my article.
Dear Matt: Here is my reply which I also attach as word document in case this is useful
Dear Matt Nuenke,
Thank you for your review and the opportunity to comment on your deconstruction of Chap 12 of my book. The fact that I had not commented earlier in no way, of course, meant I agreed with your analysis as you suggested. This is the logic of the witch hunt.
Anyway, here I am goaded into a reply. I will keep it short to a few points.
1. Of course science cannot totally define the good or bad ideas to pursue. Science presents us with knowledge and it is wider factors (politics, ethics etc) that suggest what to do with it. Therefore, in the area of moral philosophy, it is quite logical to say good ideas are being neglected and bad ones pursued. What I had in mind of course is that the good idea that human nature has an evolved essence had been neglected and the bad ideas of eugenics ( yes) and the social engineering of Mao, Pol Pot and Stalin were pursued. The latter was bad because it ignored scientific findings, the former was bad because it had an unsound ethical basis.
2. The "odious" political philosophies I referred to were communism ( at least in its attempts to flatten human nature) and the eugenics policies of the Nazis.
3. Overall it seems that your analysis is predicated on the view that I was trying to promote some particular set of policies and attack current representatives of others. The main intention of chapter 12, however, was the academic analysis of the history of drawing political inspiration form Darwin. The fact that some of these groups (e.g. Social Darwinists, no longer seem to be around does not matter; it is the reasoning that is important.
4. With regard to the issue of racial differences in behavior and intelligence etc, my position is this. It may turn out that there are significant differences when we can adequately define such things as race and intelligence, this is an empirical matter and I guess given enough research and time a consensus may be reached, unless we avoid such research for political reasons. My own interest in Darwinian psychology, however, is to establish the adaptive function of behavioral dispositions that are likely to be common to all humans. We ally know so little about the mind and brain that we are at the level of early 17th century anatomists still trying to figure out how the lungs work. Well it turns out that two lungs are common to all people, genes build them and we have a pretty good idea about gaseous exchange in them and so on. This was not worked out by focusing on inter-group differences or how best to get rid of people with defective lungs.
5. My position on the direction that science can give to politics is not as muddled as you suppose. Policy makers need some knowledge of human nature (the material with which they work) and some notion of right and wrong. Darwinian psychology can help with the former and it has traditionally been supposed that only ethical philosophy can help with the latter. My view is that it may be possible for biology to illuminate notions of right and wrong. Hence there may be something that evolution can tell us about ethics - I do not dismiss this prima facie. In the US Larry Arnhart seems to be making a lot of sense on this subject. This does not mean I endorse your "empirical right eugenicist" position. It seems to me our grasp of genetics is still too weaker, our grasp of ethical philosophy too tenuous, and our wisdom to use whatever science gives us wisely in its infancy. Worse still, is the standard of political debate on these issues.
5. The fact that you misread the tenor of the whole chapter seems to be indicated by your very last remark . I quoted Pascal about a decree from Rome being unable to stop the earth, and you noted that neither could a decree from Marxism. Precisely! Did you really think I meant Rome ? ( A rhetorical question to which no reply is wanted). The quote was to be used as a metaphor against the mindset of political correctness that ignores scientific findings because they do not fit easily with some particular ideology. I was here aiming at the left of centre liberal intelligentsia (S.J.Gould, Stephen Rose etc) and if you were not blinded by your own spluttering spleen into assuming that I am a crypto Marxist you would have noticed this.
6. Oh dear here I am becoming personal and I withdraw, of course, that last remark. I do so because what really dismays me about your analysis is the personal nature of the attack and your intemperate language. Phrases like "he is lying" and "unlike you I do have honor and integrity" will only give the impression that your views are those of a fanatic rather than serious-minded person. Like all honest academics I do not know everything in my field, I have not read everything in the literature and my ideas in many areas ( especially the relationship between facts and values) are still being worked out. You are an ardent eugenicist but the terms in which you conduct the debate are such that I do not wish to engage any further. If you are a person of honor and integrity though I would be pleased to see that you have incorporated this reply in you deconstruction.
Date sent: Sat, 28 Sep 2002: 22:40:15 -0500