A review of the book From
Chance to Choice: Genetics and Justice, 2000.
Allen Buchanan is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona.
Dan W. Brock is Professor of Philosophy at Brown University [Dan_Brock@brown.edu].
Norman Daniels is Goldthwaite Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University.
Daniel Wikler is Professor in the Program in Medical Ethics and in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Every person born is a highly probabilistic creature, having been randomly put together by a chance selection from twenty-three chromosomes from each parent. The combinatorial variation is remarkable even in extremely homogeneous populations, and even more so in multicultural populations where there are great disparities in the average abilities of different groups. Blacks excel in running speed leading to their total dominance in professional sports. Jews excel in verbal intelligence leading to their remarkable dominance in law, academics, politics, and the media. And other groups fall in between these group-based genetic differences. However, it is evident throughout this book that these issues will not be dealt with honestly and directly. They will be tiptoed around, especially intelligence.
This book dismisses the more communitarian morality of Asian countries and/or Western particularistic moral theories. They do take it up in Appendix II, "Methodology." There they state simply that a communitarian moral theory only exists as a condemnation of liberalism---communitarian advocates (philosophers) do not attempt to put forth their own moral theory as rigorously as has been put forth by liberalism or a Rawlsian theory.
In reality of course, a communitarian ethical system is part of the discussion within neo-Darwinism and what is considered to be the origin and evolutionary purpose of natural human moral systems. This is not philosophizing but is empirical research regarding how humans came to have certain moral beliefs, or ethos if you will. It encompasses all of those human behavioral traits that selected for human intelligence: tribalism, group cohesion around a shared ethos, mistrust and aggression against outsiders, and control of tribal hierarchy by controlling upstarts or "free riders." That is, our very evolutionary changes---selecting for higher intelligence---carried with it a communitarian cultural system (see Hierarchy in the Forest by Boehm).
So what these philosophers see as a missing proposal by philosophers for a communitarian ethical system is really merely their own ignorance of other disciplines that are more empirical, and therefore more grounded in what can reasonably be expected of humans. That is, there is no point trying to enforce morality via a cultural determinist solution when that solution is not viable within the parameters of possible human behavior. It simply cannot work because it is based on wishful thinking by egalitarians who envision an unattainable utopian paradise.
While ignoring human evolutionary moral systems then, these authors are concerned that society will become more stratified with regards to the accumulation of genetic capital by various groups, the very process that pushed humans to higher levels of intelligence in the first place. That is, the well-to-do will be able to use genetic engineering to eliminate unwanted genes as well as enhance their children's potential by inserting new "improved" genes into their genetic code---including altering the germline genes that will be carried on to successive generations. Is this a fair criticism? Not really, because this is how evolution progresses and it has already occurred as I stated above. Groups, because of different breeding patterns, are not the same. Again, using the example of Ashkenazi Jews or East Asians who dominate the economies of south Asian countries, multiculturalist societies are already made up of groups who are not equal. Ashkenazi Jews have an average IQ of 117 and live among populations with an average IQ of 100. Malaysians have an average IQ of 90 with a troublesome East Asian minority that will not assimilate, and has an average IQ of about 106 that dominates the economy. Australians have a troublesome minority of aborigines with a low IQ. These and many other examples show that there is nothing new about some groups eugenically rising above other groups, in terms of intelligence at least. But now that we have new tools at our disposal, those of us who would like to acquire the high intelligence of Ashkenazi Jews for example are told that it is somehow unjust!
So what does human genetic engineering consist of, but our own interaction with nature in directing our evolutionary changes as intelligent beings. What we have done as just simple organisms with higher powers of cognition, is to mold our environments to our needs as we also mold our own genes to the needs of our new environment. This is a natural process, no more or less natural than any other evolutionary process. It does not require us to justify it outside of nature because it is the process of nature itself, and nature has no limits with regards to how far any one organism can be allowed to dominate its environment or its own genetic nature when it acquires the tools to do so. It is our bodies, and we have every right to alter it and our progeny as we see fit, without considering how it will affect others, anymore than I have to contemplate how sending my daughter to Yale has any adverse impact on those who may never make it to Yale or any other university.
The book also ignores another fundamental principle of human nature. Humans have traditionally pruned their broods after birth. That is, humans have for thousands of years had children and then decided whether the children should live or die based on many factors relating to reproductive success (see Mother Nature by Sarah Hrdy and/or my review of her book). For this reason alone then, once we understand our true human nature, it is all too apparent that a liberal interpretation of eugenic policies is in error, and only reflects a moral perspective that is relatively new and not sustainable in a multiculturalist society. But what is really frustrating about these omissions is that they were in fact discussed by socialist eugenicists circa 100 years ago! They likewise understood that socialism would be problematic in a society where different racial or ethnic groups had widely differing abilities, such as intelligence.
The one well developed perspective of this book is its attack on those advocates for the disabled who feel that ridding population groups of genetic diseases is some how exclusionary. That is, if we do not have enough crippled people around, society will become less tolerant of cripples. Or that society should change the way it looks at genetic disease, rather than trying to eliminate it by having healthy rather than flawed children. But the fact that the "exclusionary reaction" has to be argued against only shows how far the totalitarian left has come in coercing the West towards a radical egalitarianism that has no basis or sustainability. That is, it is purely an ideology put forth by an elitist dogma that has captured our sensibilities through a relentless propaganda campaign and will not now be easily shed.
Finally, one could make the case that these liberal authors, without knowing it, are arguing for a new national socialism. On the one hand they systematically ignore the importance of intelligence in determining how prosperous an individual will be in this society. That is, in study after study, intelligence is the single most important trait there is in earning a living, being healthy, not getting into car accidents, forethought in planning for the future, etc. But they never seem to mention this fact directly, as if it is an embarrassment. On the other hand, aside from eliminating genetic disease, they seem to be arguing for a racial hygiene program where the lowest levels of society will be raised up via genetic engineering to the level of the very brightest in our society. So we see again, liberal contortionists, trying to salvage individualism and justice while simultaneously ignoring our evolutionary past and our human nature. One step forward---three steps back. The arguments are elegant and thorough, but fall apart when looked at from an evolutionary perspective that is empirical rather than normative as these authors admit. That is, "our moral arguments are better because they are the only ones in town." Any other moral arguments such as communitarian or evolutionary are either dismissed out of hand or simply ignored. (For an evolutionary perspective of group-evolutionary strategies see Kevin MacDonald's trilogy.)
For neoeugenicists then, this book is an important addition to our understanding of how some on the left are attempting to subsume eugenics into their universalist world vision. Most of course will continue to oppose human genetic improvement, denying any genetic differences in human traits while they pursue their cultural determinism. Pass enough laws, indoctrinate the children, and destroy national sovereignty and the left will impose its vision on humanity regardless if it is workable or not.
Before I look at specific quotations from this book, I would like to explain briefly the moral justification for the authors' positions. They are based on John Rawls's two major books A Theory of Justice (1971) and Political Liberalism (1993). Rawlsian morality simply states that society should "allow inequalities only to the extent that they benefit the worst-off group in society" (see A Darwinian Left by Peter Singer, 1999). That is, it is based on what liberals would like to have humans become while simultaneously ignoring where humans have been; filtered through an evolutionary selection process that limits absolute control of behavior by the state that does not take human behavior into consideration. Humans are not infinitely malleable and any attempt to control morality must invariably lead to totalitarianism if it is meant to be universalistic rather than particularistic to the tribe or nation. But these new Rawlsian moralists would like to expand the group-based redistribution of not only resources, but of genetic capital also. That is, they want to escalate further the transfer of not only wealth, but also genes from those who have genetic capital to those who do not.
Finally, consider this Rawlsian redistribution of genetic capital. Humans have allowed themselves to be taxed in numerous ways that result in the transfer of wealth from some groups to others, but only so far as it seems fair and just and will not severely limit their own well being. Now, consider the transfer of genetic enhancements from one group to another. It is a zero-sum transfer because any genetic enhancements that could have been bestowed upon one's own children will now be given to someone else's children due to the high cost of the technology. And if the enhancement is made to the germline, that transfer of genetic enhancement not only affects the immediate children but all future offspring of the family---an extreme monetary investment in the future. That is, under this socialist scheme, genetic quality is to be transferred from one family to another merely because one family's genetic quality is less and they therefore cannot afford to spend the money on additional genetic improvement. Of course, we want to improve the genetic quality of everyone in the society through genetic counseling and an equitable distribution of benefits. But to hold back one group for the express purpose of making the genetically unfit equal to your very best and brightest is a shocking proposal.
Of course, actual genes may not be transferred, but the money that is required for genetic enhancement is. And it results in the same differential benefit of genetic enhancements being made from one family, tribe, or race to another's family, tribe or race! That is, one group is literally stealing intelligence, beauty, health and mental happiness from a family's children to give to their own. And I would argue that this genetic enhancement transfer is more akin to raiding one person's organs for implantation into someone else than is a mere redistribution of material wealth. With this in mind, let us look at the actual text.
DECONSTRUCTING THE TEXT
The primary objective of this book, accordingly, is to make a contribution toward answering a single question: What are the most basic moral principles that would guide public policy and individual choice concerning the use of genetic interventions in a just and humane society in which the powers of genetic intervention are much more developed than they are today?
That is, the authors want to know what will happen to the underclass if genetic interventions become commonplace. They are primarily seeing the writing on the wall: they will not be able to stop eugenics, so they must make sure that the majority of its benefits accrue to the worst off in society. And while they make their arguments for using eugenics to increase the intelligence of population groups who are worse off because they are on average less intelligent, they must never say so directly. That is, they must argue their point while deceptively ignoring the importance of intelligence.
We also argue that equal opportunity, as an important principle of justice, has another bearing on genetic intervention. This principle can impose conditions on access to genetic interventions that go beyond the prevention or cure of disease. If, for example, it should ever become possible to enhance some normal desirable characteristics, a consistent commitment to equal opportunity might rule out an unrestricted market for the dissemination of the relevant technology, for if valuable enhancements were available only to the better-off, existing inequalities in opportunity might be exacerbated. Under such conditions, equal opportunity might require either making the enhancements available to all, even those who cannot pay for them or preventing anyone from having them. How we respond to the fifth scenario sketched earlier---The Genetic Enhancement Certificate---will depend on whether justice requires constraints on unequal access to enhancement technologies.
They are talking about intelligence, but like they do numerous times in the book, they cannot bring themselves to admit it. If they admit that population groups are not equal in intelligence, then they are embracing Jensenism; that different racial groups vary in innate intelligence. And yet, that is their fear, one senses in this book. The well-to-do will by reason of their higher intelligence have the money to make their children even more intelligent and enhanced genetically in a myriad of ways, leaving the poor to struggle with the genes they have naturally. And of course, that just isn't fair!
[W]e argue that the most straightforward and compelling case for developing and using genetic interventions is to fulfill one of the most basic moral obligations human beings have: the obligation to prevent harm. People have especially demanding obligations to prevent harm to their offspring, but through the agency of their political institutions, they also have obligations to prevent harm to others.
The problem here is that they have no way of defining "others." Are they talking about individuals in a homogeneous society like Japan? Are they talking about withholding genetic enhancements for Whites to improve the intelligence of Blacks in the United States? Are they talking about withholding genetic enhancements to all Europeans until the average IQ of sub-Saharan Africans can be raised up from an average of 70 to the average in Europe of 100? Are they going to stop all Ashkenazi Jews from using genetic enhancements until every citizen in the world has an average IQ of 117, equal to the average IQ of the Ashkenazi Jews?
This bizarre request for distributive justice when it comes to genetic enhancements again can only occur under a totalitarian regime, one that would be willing to again kill the intellectuals similar to Cambodia's Killing Fields. For this is the only way to bring about such a quick redistribution intelligence, by killing anyone who is too intelligent.
Theories of justice generally begin with the assumption that the most fundamental problem is how to distribute fairly the burdens and benefits of a society---understood as a single, cooperative framework in which all members are active and effective participants. This way of formulating the issue of justice overlooks two vital points: first, that increasingly human beings can exert some control over the character of the basic cooperative framework within which the most fundamental questions of fair distribution arise; and second, that the character of the most basic cooperative framework in a society will determine who is and who is not "disabled." In other words, what the most basic institutions for production and exchange are like will determine the capacities an individual must have in order to be an effective participant in social cooperation.
They argue here that the type of culture we construct will determine whether a person has the "genetic equipment" to prosper. For example, as we become a highly technical society, it must be altered in some way to allow for the least intelligent to become more intelligent so that they can participate. Here, they are laying the foundation for arguing for an almost totalitarian system of redistribution of intelligence, though they prefer not to deal with this heritable trait directly.
The source of most of the public's distrust, no doubt, stems from the widespread realization that genetic information may be used to deny insurance and employment. It takes no subtle philosophy to understand that anyone is vulnerable to exclusion from these and other economic and social arrangements should their genes be examined and found wanting. These risks have rightly occupied center stage in bioethical debates over how the new genetics will be used.
But the flip side of this argument is that if I have a superior set of genes, in the eyes of employers or insurers, then why can't I be allowed to advertise my worth? This same argument could be used to try and eliminate all competitive sports, because they allow some people to "advertise" their superior physical abilities while denigrating those who are not as athletic. Now, the government could pass laws restricting employers and insurers from requesting genetic information about applicants. After all, employers can no longer give intelligence tests because the courts found them biased against Blacks---the courts basing their decision on cultural determinism, which is no longer valid.
But would they also bar me from carrying around in my briefcase and distributing a certificate of my genetic excellence? I could give this certificate to a potential spouse, employer or insurer. What laws could stop individuals from giving voluntarily to others information with regards to their health, intelligence, and genetic code? To ban this type of advertising then is again totalitarian in nature, and must be resisted at all costs. I can see a future where labs are set up so that those of us who are not ashamed of our genetic quality, intelligence and/or personality traits can have them all tested and certified to be distributed as we wish. This is no different than a resume, a college transcript, or an architect's portfolio of buildings designed. These are all provided to others to improve one's standing in competition with others. And would any of us be perfect? I sincerely doubt it. We all understand we have a lot to offer, but we also usually know we have shortcomings---and we learn to deal with these as best we can. After all, we don't go around smashing mirrors because we can't tolerate the knowledge that we have love handles or a myriad of other less than perfect body forms.
Eugenics in Germany, while distinctive in having a medical leadership, had been marked by much the same divergences of opinion as the movements in other countries. Though numerous prominent eugenicists were racist and anti-Semitic, others were avowedly antiracist (and some were Jews), and a number stood on the political left. The Nazis imposed a uniformity of viewpoint, securing the allegiance of the many eugenicists who rallied to its cause for a thoroughly racist, nationalist eugenic program that recognized no limits in the pursuit of "racial hygiene."
Eugenics was central to the entire Nazi enterprise, joined with romantic nativist and racist myths of the purebred Nordic. The emphasis on "blood" called for a purifying of the nation's gene pool so that Germans could regain the nobility and greatness of their genetically pure forebears.
As Robert Proctor (1988) and other historians have shown, the subsequent programs of sterilization, euthanasia of the unfit (a program that took the lives of tens of thousands of "Aryans," mostly young children), and eventually the Holocaust itself were part of the unfolding of this central idea. The sterilization and "euthanasia" programs, which did not initially target Jews and other minorities, were an exercise in negative eugenics designed to improve the native German stock from its degenerated condition. Legislation barring sexual relations between Jews and "Aryans," and ultimately the Holocaust were intended to prevent further adulteration of the "pure" German nation with inferior genes. Jews and others who contributed "evil" genes were the disease afflicting the German nation, which Hitler, the physician, would cure.
The above is pretty much the standard historical revisionism that occurred after the war. First off, if the "nationalist eugenic program" had no limits in pursuit of "racial hygiene," neither did the Bolsheviks in Russia have any limits in pursuit of "cultural hygiene." That is, Marxists preach cultural determinism and it is this philosophy that led to the slaughter of over 100 million people during the 20th century. So the only fear should be totalitarianism itself, not the pursuit of goals. And the universalism promoted by this book is again achievable only by a totalitarian state.
Second, even Hitler did not believe in such a thing as a pure race. One has to separate propaganda from what was actually believed by the regime. When American propaganda says, "you can be what ever you want to be," they are of course using the same language to pump up the masses. They know there is no real truth in the statement. So the Germans were merely following what all of the other eugenic nations were doing at the time. The difference was not eugenics but totalitarianism and militarism. As these authors point out, the first to be eliminated in the name of eugenics were Germans, not Jews and other minorities. The Jews were eliminated along with Slavs and Gypsies as much because of the war and the need for slave labor than for a "eugenics' program." These alien population groups were seen as being in the way of German expansion and later caught up in the war. They were simply seen as enemies to be destroyed.
Not all eugenicists concluded that reproduction should be controlled by the state. Galton, for example, wanted to secure voluntary acquiescence with eugenic guidelines by making eugenics a civil religion, and some eugenicists focused entirely on positive eugenics, which could scarcely be compulsory. This social understanding of reproduction was accompanied by a view of the germ plasm as a social resource, its use governed by considerations of the public good---although, once again, eugenicists of different political colorations drew very different implications from this shared premise.
This book does in fact argue again for state coercion to bring about a eugenic's program. The difference is that it uses the same methodology of the welfare state. There are now transfers of money by taxation from the productive to the unproductive, who are on average less intelligent than those who are more productive. This leads to a dysgenic trend in society as the less intelligent have more children than the middle or upper classes, who usually opt for quality rather than quantity when having children.
So reproduction is in virtually every country controlled by the state, and therefore state policy is in fact responsible for either a dysgenic or a eugenic movement in average genetic quality, however one defines it. But it is never stagnant, or simply a matter of choice by individuals. Only a libertarian state leaves reproduction entirely up to the individual.
Though the pseudoscience, bias, bigotry, and racism that abounded in eugenics make the movement's bad reputation richly deserved, these features of the historical movement do not in themselves demonstrate that eugenics must be avoided in the future. The eugenics movement was a creature of its time. The science of genetics was in its infancy. Racism, class snobbery, and other forms of bias were openly expressed even by learned scholars; these sentiments, so obviously objectionable today, were invisible then, because, of course, they were so widely shared.
There is no shortage of class, race, and national biases today, although they are no longer displayed openly in polite society, and vigilance is needed to ensure that they do not infect social policy involving applications of genetic science (as in every area of social life). Part of the fierce opposition to the theses of Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve, which occupied center stage in intellectual debate for a season, can be understood as a response to their disparaging remarks---couched, to be sure, in soothing and reasonable language---about not only the intelligence but even the moral character of both the poor and African-Americans. But, as we note later in this chapter, racism and other biases were not unique to eugenics.
This book is about increasing the intelligence of racial minorities, along with prevention of disease, though the authors usually hide behind deceptive language to make their points concerning intelligence. This is one of the rare places that they even mention intelligence directly, and note how it is dismissed in just a few sentences. They also try to dismiss the evidence of the genetic differences in the average intelligence of differing racial groups by pretending that The Bell Curve was a "seasonal" phenomenon.
The fact is the American Psychological Association convened a task force in 1995 to review the data presented in The Bell Curve, and concluded that in fact Blacks were less intelligent than Whites, it was not test bias, the tests do matter in life, and this data cannot be dismissed as racist or pseudoscientific (the report entitled Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns is available at my web site http://www.neoeugenics.net/apa.htm). Following this, Arthur Jensen published his life's work on intelligence The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability (1999) that shows conclusively that racial differences in intelligence are primarily genetic. And the academic journal INTELLIGENCE has coined the term Jensenism to pay honor to his work and to carry on research in differential psychology and psychometrics.
This is hardly a "seasonal" blip in a century old debate that has now seen the tide turn from cultural determinism 30 years ago to a recognition that intelligence is primarily (60 to 80%) genetic. The nature by way of nurture perspective is the only viable alternative for researchers who are determining for various human traits or behaviors the heritability versus environmental factors that make people different. That is, genetics allows an organism to grow by means of the environment it inhabits. Nature and nurture act together, but without the genetic code there would be nothing for nature to work with, and vice versa.
We now consider five answers to the question, Why was eugenics wrong? Each goes beyond the movement's poor science and evident prejudice to attempt to locate errors of moral wrongs inherent in any eugenic program. We endorse the fifth, the lack of a concern for the fair distribution of burdens and benefits, but several of the others come close to the mark.
Thesis I: Replacement, not Therapy: Eugenics sought human betterment, but in a distinctive way: by causing better people to be conceived and born, rather than by directly bettering any people. Benefits to people already born would be indirect: freedom from the burdens placed on society by the unfit, sharing in the productivity of the gifted. The distinction has been drawn vividly, albeit in a different context, by Richard Lewontin: "To conflate. . . the prevention of disease with the prevention of lives that will involve disease, is to malign completely the meaning of preventive medicine."
The problem is, eugenics is about the cumulative improvement in the human genome over time. It is not the same as preventive medicine because they both have different life histories. The goals are essentially the same, as the objects of concern are humans in both cases. It is like saying we are conflating the management of timber industry forests with the prevention of destroying the rain forests of Brazil. They are different projects and sometimes advocated by different philosophical perspectives who are antagonistic towards each other---one is concerned only with the immediate future and the other the survival of the planet. Medicine likewise has rarely been about the future quality of the nation's gene pool; it has been about reducing suffering, preventing harm, and curing disease of those now living. There is a large overlap between eugenics and medicine, especially with the ultimate quality of life, but they have different methodologies for attaining that goal and the time frame to do so. Eugenics, like saving the rain forests, takes the long view.
Thesis 2: Value Pluralism: "Who was to set the criteria for ideal man? In a complex modern society no particular human type could be characterized as 'the best'. Is the very idea, of a eugenic program self-defeating? If there is no best, how can eugenicists promote it? Eugenicists are rightly blamed for promoting a particular conception of human perfection, failing to appreciate the essential plurality of values and ideals of human excellence.
Its true that the old eugenicists used a myriad of criteria to describe the best, but the errors in the early eugenics' programs were no different than the errors made in medicine when people were "bled" to cure diseases---along with numerous other atrocious practices. They had to start somewhere, and likewise the early eugenicists were using a Mendelian view of differences in people that we now know to be far too simplistic. However, neoeugenicists today use primarily only primarily one criterion for improvement---intelligence. It has been firmly established that general intelligence is the main determinant in a person's employability, number of accidents, health, crime, and numerous other social behaviors that make the difference in the quality of life for the person as well as the nation itself. A nation with a high average intelligence will be a more prosperous, less crime-ridden nation.
Thesis 3: Violations of Reproductive Freedoms: Apart from the Nazis' crimes, the involuntary sterilization of tens of thousands of Americans and Europeans is the worst stain on the record of the eugenics movements. (Other great wrongs, such as curbs on immigration and the miscegenation laws, stemmed from a variety of causes.) In many instances, those who warn us of a return to eugenics have infringements of reproductive freedoms in mind. Indeed, the eugenic program, once LaMarckian theories of heredity were abandoned, consisted largely in trying to influence (or to dictate) who would breed with whom. This was the sole technique the eugenicists had for influencing the genetic makeup of new generations. It may seem appropriate, then, to identify eugenics with violations of reproductive freedom, and in turn to condemn both on the same grounds.
Of course humans have never had reproductive freedom. In the past, marriages were arranged, and the ethos of the tribe dictated what was permissible and what wasn't. In some tribes, infanticide was very common and even enforced by local custom. Some children were forced into celibacy, or even sold into slavery. And of course, deprivation and a lack of resources severely limited the number of children that could be supported until very recently.
Simply put, today the welfare state that diverts money away from those who can to those who are unfit is also destroying the reproductive freedom of the middle class. Neoeugenicists are merely intent on reversing this dysgenic program with a eugenic one. If you can support your children through your own efforts, without assistance from the state, then you are free to have as many children as you want. If not, you suffer the consequences of your actions. This is realistically the only viable form of reproductive freedom.
Thesis 4: Statism: In a recent address, James Watson (1997) reviewed the odious history and possible future of eugenics and concluded that the most important safeguard is to eliminate any role for the state.
And again, if the state has no business in improving the overall genetic quality of future generations, then it also has no business in improving the quality of life for those who have become a burden on society. Eugenics only has to obey the laws while eliminating welfare. Then for those who would turn to crime to sustain lives not viable in a modern state, they would be put in jail where they could not reproduce.
So the state's role in eugenics could be a completely passive one, or libertarian in nature. If the state should have no concern in eugenics, then it also should have no concern for education, the general welfare, childcare programs, etc. Socialists cannot argue for almost total state control of the economy and the redistribution of wealth, while denying that the state has a valid interest in the genetic quality of its future generations.
Thesis 5: Justice: Daniel Kelves (1985) concludes his managerial history of the eugenics movement with the observations that eugenics has proved itself historically to have been a cruel and always a problematic faith, not least because it has elevated abstractions---the "race," the "population," and more recently the "gene pool"---above the rights and needs of individuals and their families.
Is eugenics anymore "cruel" than say patriotism during war, when young soldiers are sent off to be maimed or killed for the good of those people who are left behind? It seems that we all understand human sacrifice, and we have some concept of judging the level of sacrifice under different circumstances. So lets take a closer look at this so-called "cruelty" of eugenics.
If a couple were to marry, and both sides of the family had a history of mental illness, or low intelligence, or numerous other genetic diseases, how much of a sacrifice would it be for them to decide not to have children because the odds are poor that all the children will be fit and intelligent. Also, we know that many professional women have abandoned having children because to have a career and raise a family imposed too many burdens. Mother nature made sexual attraction a much more desirable goal than having children. That is, the need for sex is much greater than the need for children, at least for men. And yet men are told that they should give up sexual desires and wait until they are married. But many of them will die for their country before experiencing sexual gratification. Is that not far more cruel?
I don't mean to be flippant, but the fact is, having children is as much a need for most people as having a nice car. It is not cruel in either case not to get what one desires. To equate not having children with cruelty is just not realistic. Couples without children are happy, and quite often more so even though there is a great deal of social and familial pressure to have children. Breeding children by the fit can achieve the overall good of society, while restricting the less fit from breeding, without any cruelty. Every human alive has numerous goals and desires given to us by nature and many of those goals will not be met. It is not cruel to be deprived of this or that minor need or desire. Cruelty involves physical or mental pain beyond our control like starvation, torture, exposure, or sever depression. So in the long run, the best way to prevent cruelty is for humans to both reduce genetic disease and to increase the average intelligence of their people.
According to this proposal, parents do not practice eugenics when they seek "the perfect baby." The reason is that these parents presumably do not employ clinical genetics with the population's welfare in mind. Any testing, or indeed genetic engineering, which they employ will be done because they want their child to have every advantage the new genetics can bestow. The cumulative impact of decisions like theirs may have a substantial impact on the well-being of others, and on society over time, but, in seeking clinical services, this is not their personal concern.
But can these two concerns, one for the prospective child and the other for society, be so neatly distinguished? Consider these statements:
Ia--I favor a genetic intervention because I want my child to have the "best" (healthiest, etc.) genes.
Ib--We favor genetic interventions (on behalf of each of us) because we want our children to have the "best" (healthiest, etc.) genes.
Ic--I favor genetic interventions (for each person in our group) because I want our children to have the "best" (healthiest, etc.) genes.
If Ia is morally acceptable, it doesn't become wrong when voiced by several people (in the form of Ib). And how can one person be faulted for endorsing that group's hope (Ic)? Ib and Ic are merely the aggregate of many instances of Ia. One might expect to hear Ic uttered by, say, a health official or a legislator who sponsors a measure that would provide genetic services to large numbers of people. Concern for the welfare of large numbers of people is part of their job descriptions.
It seems to me that the above statement supports the communitarian morality that neoeugenicists propose. We fully agree with the above justification for state directed eugenics.
Many contemporary theorists of justice follow Rawls, who holds that the principles of justice include a principle of equal opportunity. There are disagreements, however, about how equal opportunity is to be understood. Three major alternative interpretations of equal opportunity may be distinguished in the historical and contemporary literature:
I--Equal opportunity requires only the elimination of legal barriers to similar prospects for persons of similar talents and abilities (sometimes called "Formal Equality of Opportunity," or "Careers Open to Talents").
II--Equal opportunity requires the elimination of legal and informal barriers of discrimination for persons of similar talents and abilities ("informal barriers" includes extra-legal discrimination based on race, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, class, religion, etc.).
III--Equal opportunity requires not only the elimination of legal and informal barriers of discrimination, but also efforts to eliminate the effects of bad luck in the social lottery on the opportunities of those with similar talents and abilities. (The "social lottery" here refers to the ways in which one's initial social starting place---family, social class, etc.---affect one's opportunities. Hence, one of the most important measures required by this third conception of equal opportunity is free basic education).
Item II above calls for elimination of discrimination. Unfortunately, the left has never fully accepted that differences are found primarily to be genetic. Racism has been eliminated, as is shown by the fact that East Asians make more money in the United States on average than do Whites because of their conscientiousness and high intelligence (note that second to intelligence in performing well in life is conscientiousness, which is also highly genetic). Likewise, Blacks will always do poorly because of their genetic low intelligence. With universal education and an end to discrimination we no longer have barriers based on race, sex, etc. What we have are disparities in innate intelligence between different races.
Item III is nothing more than a call for totalitarian egalitarianism similar to Communism. That is, we will make people equal in outcome no matter how much they in fact differ in innate ability; they will ignore this disparate innateness and blame society for individual failings. This has been the pattern of cultural determinists; ignoring all empirical data that shows natural differences in population groups.
But an individual's place in the distribution of natural assets can severely limit her opportunities even in cases in which she does not suffer from anything that would uncontroversially count as a genetic disorder or a disease. For instance, suppose that only those whose genetic assets fall within certain parameters tend to develop certain cognitive abilities beyond a certain level. Suppose also that, in general; only those who develop these abilities beyond this level are able to learn the mathematics needed to succeed in all but the very least desirable jobs in a technically advanced society. Under such conditions, those whose genetic constitutions prevent them from reaching the needed threshold of abilities will experience significant limitations on their opportunities unless something is done to overcome this impairment.
Notice that the preceding example of a significant natural inequality that is not a disease is presented as hypothetical. At this point in the infancy of genetic science, no one can say whether there will turn out to be a significant number of genetic conditions that do not qualify as diseases but that seriously limit peoples' opportunities. Notice also that the hypothetical does not buy into anything so gross and problematic as the view that IQ is genetically determined. Instead, it only suggests the possibility that some particular aspect of cognitive functioning might turn out to have two features: First, there are significant inequalities among individuals in its distribution within the range of normal functioning for our species (hence those with lower levels of the skill do not have a disease), and second, because of particular features of the society in question, those with lower levels of the skills experience significant limitations on their opportunities. Our main concern is not whether there are such differences, but rather what the possibility that there are shows us about how we should think about justice.
The above statement puts much of this work into the category of pseudoscience. The position that intelligence has no genetic component is no longer credible. As the APA has stated categorically in 1995, intelligence is real and it is from 60 to 80% heritable. These authors therefore are driven by a political agenda that is pure cultural determinism, which is as radical and unacceptable as the old genetic determinists. The difference now is that the only acceptable schema with regards to intelligence is the one that considers nature and nurture working together. To dismiss genetic intelligence is not defensible.
First, there is the possibility that through the misuse of genetic intervention we might destroy those features of our nature that make morality possible for us. French Anderson, a pioneer of gene therapy, suggests a related possibility when he worries that some germline intervention might inadvertently destroy our capacity for the "contemplation of good and evil" (Anderson 1990).
Actually, we are doing that now. During the environment of evolutionary adaptation, the problem of free riders or upstarts was resolved. When humans developed weapons, upstarts were simply assassinated. That is, the real egotistical bastards of the tribe were suppressed, one way or another (see Hierarchy in the Forest by Boehm). Now, under socialism, there is no communitarian check on upstarts---such as Sociopaths, pure egotists, manipulators, etc. They will be free to return in higher numbers because they are protected by an egalitarian ethos that denies personal responsibility.
And these traits of course have a high level of heritability. So the question for a Rawlsian moralist is, how are you going to prevent the natural reemergence of genes for free riders? So even without direct germline intervention, social policy can also over time destroy what we consider to be morality, as we know it.
The effectiveness of people's motivation to act consistently on universal moral principles may depend significantly on whether they share a sense of common membership in a single moral community. But whether this sense of moral community could survive such divergence is a momentous question. Even if the correct view of our nature is that we are simply rational beings, and even if (barring some cataclysmic accident) we do not change this, it is quite possible that the sorts of rational beings we happen to be or will become must, as a matter of psychological fact, have more in common with one another than our rationality if we are to be effectively motivated to treat one another as equal citizens in the moral community. For all we know, it might turn out that if differences among groups in characteristics other than a common rationality became pronounced enough, they would not treat each other as moral equals. History is replete with instances in which human beings have failed to empathize with their fellows simply because of quite superficial differences in physical appearance or even in customs and manners.
Again as before, it seems to me that they are here arguing for a form of nationalism or communitarianism, where people who are alike can coexist without conflict. We know humans have an innate sense of kin, then to have a strong moral community means having a community of one's own kind, whether it is culture, genetic or both. In many ways, this book actually makes many arguments for a nationalist/communitarian form of culture. Homogeneous societies have far less conflict than multiculturalist ones.
First, the two most prominent contemporary approaches to liberal theories of equal opportunity---the social structural view and the brute luck view---require genetic interventions for the sake of preventing or curing diseases. Second, both of these approaches, as well as the resource egalitarian theory of justice, allow for the possibility that genetic interventions may be required to counteract the opportunity-limiting effects of natural inequalities that do not constitute diseases.
Much of the current debate over the ethics of genetic interventions centers on the question of whether genetic enhancements of normal traits, as opposed to genetic treatments for disease, are morally permissible. Our analysis of equal opportunity and resource egalitarian theories shows that on some accounts enhancements may be not only permissible but obligatory, as a matter of justice. We have argued that both resource egalitarianism and the brute luck view of equal opportunity appear to be committed to the thesis that justice may require interventions to counteract natural inequalities, whether they constitute diseases or not. So such views are committed to the obligatory nature of enhancements, not just treatments, whenever a natural inequality can best be prevented by enhancement.
And just when we thought we were through with the brutality of Communism. These new totalitarians are about to redistribute GENES in order to make everyone equal. And notice again how they are most surely talking about intelligence. Talk about duplicitous arguments and subterfuge!
It is one thing to say that justice, at least on certain accounts, does not require genetic enhancements or would only rarely do so. It is quite another to say that enhancements are not a concern of justice. There are strong social forces at work that make it extremely unlikely that genetic technology will be limited to preventing or curing diseases. The profit motive---which is both guided by consumer demand and stimulates it through the arts of marketing---may soon extend genetic technology beyond treatments into the realm of enhancements. If this occurs, it may become necessary, in order to prevent existing unjust inequalities from worsening, to regulate access to interventions.
Suppose that it becomes possible to identify, synthesize, and implant in embryos complexes of genes that will greatly increase the probability of an individual possessing certain desirable characteristics to a significantly higher degree than the average person in a given population. Such characteristics might include superior memory, the ability to concentrate for long periods of time, and resistance to common illness (such as colds, common types of cancer, arteriosclerosis, and depression). Alternatively, and more likely, suppose that these benefits could be gained by genetic pharmacology. If access to this "enhancement" technology depended solely on ability to pay, then its use would exacerbate and perpetuate disadvantages already suffered by the poor and various minority groups, including disadvantages that are the result of past injustices.
It seems to me that the only egalitarian program that will satisfy these people is one where everyone is exactly the same---take the most average person on the planet and clone that genotype to the exclusion of every other genotype. Then, the playing field might finally be level enough for them!
The other more expansive interpretation of equal opportunity focuses on a central moral intuition---that we have a claim on others for assistance whenever we are worse off than they are through no fault or choice of our own. This is the single, underlying intuition that we earlier labeled the brute luck view.
If we are miserable because we have chosen to cultivate extravagant tastes or even because we affirm values it is costly to live up to, even if we did not originally choose to have them inculcated in us, or if we have bad "option" luck as a result of choices we make, then we do not have a claim on others. Others do not owe it to us to make up for the bad or costly choices we have made. But if we are miserable because we have had instilled in us---through no choice of our own---certain tastes or values that make it difficult for us to be as happy as others, then our equality of opportunity for welfare has been compromised, in this view. Having had these costly preferences imposed on us is like other forms of bad brute luck, like other bad outcomes we might receive in the natural or social lottery for capabilities that give rise to egalitarian claims on others.
One has to wonder how far removed these authors must be from evolutionary principles to make a moral claim like the above. Nothing like it is found in nature nor can it be justified rationally under any moral system to date. It is a utopian vision without foundation. If life is to be understood as a rational system, it must be within the context of evolution, and nature has never been concerned with "happiness."
Nature is a blind tinkerer, an algorithm, and a set of rules for replication, selection, death, and random juggling of genetic material. Desires are nothing more than nature's way of telling you that you are doing a good job meeting the goals of the selfish genes that control us all (as these desires were originally established in the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation many thousands of years ago). Happiness is not the goal, but the reward system for acting on the selfish gene's behalf. The Rawlsian moral system is a non-starter. Humans will not easily comply with such a draconian system of genetic resource redistribution. The system would have to be totalitarian to enforce compliance---as we have seen under Communism.
Individuals do not just contrast themselves with the state and pursue individual goals. They form themselves into associations united by comprehensive moral, political, and religious views about the good life, and these shared views produce communitarian goals. Hence, the standard challenge to liberalism is to respect not just individual autonomy, but the form this autonomy takes when it is expressed through group associations or communities of this sort. The challenge is to articulate a fair basis for social cooperation in the context of an unavoidable pluralism regarding views about the good life.
We currently think of such communities as linked by their shared beliefs and practices. In the presence of a "genetic marketplace," however, communities could try to forge links that rest on more than beliefs or practices. They might try to shape their offspring genetically in ways that facilitate pursuit of their ideals for a good life. To put this point simply, if fancifully, if their ideals are Spartan, they would pursue particular genetic traits in their offspring that would be of lower priority among Athenians. If they were Christian fundamentalists, they might pursue traits that promote agape or love, but if they were survivalists, they might seek traits that supported fierce independence or even aggression and ruthlessness. The shaping here is not the creation of human nature in their own ideal image but a redistribution of the diverse traits that comprise our varied natures. (We are supposing as well that this fanciful---probably science fiction---scenario could be fleshed out so that it does not involve the erroneous beliefs involved in genetic determinism.)
The fact is this is not science fiction at all but has already taken place numerous times. The most outstanding example is that of the Ashkenazi Jews, who have because of their scholarly culture and breeding patterns have used a eugenic program for several thousands of years to elevate themselves to a level of average intelligence that is far superior to anyone else's. Their average IQ is 117, but their verbal IQ is 127!---a rather bizarre asymmetry not found in any other race of people that I am aware of. And that is because they have bred their people for verbal scholarship, primarily through debating of their holy books. Those males who were the best were married to rich merchants' daughters.
For a full expose of this process and the culture that produced it see Kevin MacDonald's book A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy, 1994. A review of his books on evolutionary group strategies is available at my web site.
This is all that the moderately egalitarian liberalism of Rawls demands. It would call on the state for a much more active interventionist role on behalf of the less well off than we have seen in the United States for several decades, but it is does not demand that the egalitarian liberal deny the possibility that humans differ in natural ability or talent, and no discoveries turned up by the Human Genome Project will undermine this philosophy.
Is one to assume that the redistribution of genes is a "moderately" egalitarian proposal? This whole book is just short of proposing that tall people should give up a small portion of their spines to be implanted in short people for the common good!
These four authors, and the other like minded egalitarians, make Stalin look like a boy scout in their zest for equalizing all humans to one bland index of mediocrity. Such proposals are the most dangerous I have seen in a long time, and to even contemplate what they are demanding in the way of a redistribution of what is in effect body parts, is outrageous.
A disaffected member of what the media refer to as a religious cult announces that the group is attempting to implement its vision of the good society by "mass producing" human embryos cloned from the group's leaders. He claims that the group has its own genetics lab and hopes to adapt for use on humans techniques for cloning embryos commonly employed in the commercial production of animals. Several members of Congress express outrage and urge that the government take action against the religious group. A spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union says that if we value reproductive freedom and freedom of religion, we must respect the right of religious communities to attempt to transmit their beliefs and way of life to future generations, whether by the traditional methods of teaching and indoctrination or by the application of genetic technology. [and later in the book]
Contrary to Galton, we see neither the need nor the benefit of enshrining eugenics, conceived here narrowly as concern for the genetic constitution of future generations, as a public religion or anything close to it. Again, Galton's outlandish proposal stemmed from the fact that individuals would, in his view, have to be furnished with eugenic motivation adequate to overcome one of the strongest of human desires---the wish to bear genetically related offspring. Since this is neither necessary nor desirable at present, it is unnecessary to create a "Eugenics Church," even if it is not the state's established religion. Our argument applies with even greater force against any thought of state action that would violate hard-won reproductive freedom, as would sterilization or forced abortion, on the altar of eugenics.
Do you see a contradiction in the first paragraph that is found on page two of the book and the second paragraph towards the end of the book? The fact is, a eugenic church that can protect its members from these totalitarians, who would deprive us of our freedoms is absolutely necessary. A new eugenics church, the Church of Prometheus, is aimed at just this protection at www.prometheism.net/index.htm.
It is crucial to emphasize, however, that our support of individual liberty over state compulsion of the sort encouraged by the public health model does not translate directly into a brief for unregulated markets or an endorsement of the unalloyed personal choice model for genetic intervention. "Back-door eugenics" threatens individual liberties and well-being in a manner reminiscent of state eugenics programs, even if this outcome is the unintended effect of private decisions made on grounds of self-interest. The state must intervene as needed to protect the vulnerable from stigmatization and exclusion, as social justice requires, even though these interventions necessarily abridge the benefits that markets can provide to many.
Simply put, they do not believe in individual liberty. They cannot as long as they subscribe to a radical egalitarianism that now includes literally the redistribution of body parts to make everyone equal.
Consider the following example, described by Lewontin. Suppose a heterogeneous collection of corn seeds is planted in a single environment E1. Since all the plants experience the same environment, all the variation in height must be due to genetic differences. Now suppose that a second experiment is performed in which the same collection of seeds is planted in a quite different environment L2; once again, all the phenotypic variation in this experiment will be due to genetic differences. However, what should we say about the difference between the average height exhibited in the first experiment and the average height obtained in the second? This difference will be due entirely to the environmental difference between L1 and L2, since the two experiments tested the same range of genotypes. The fact that genetic differences explain phenotypic variation within two groups does not mean that genetic differences explain phenotypic variation between those two groups.
Unless of course the two groups have very similar environments. The latest academic research on environmental causation of differences in intelligence has shown that an enriched environment will increase intelligence only very slightly, and a deprived environment will not lower one's intelligence but a very small amount. They have done studies for example on war orphans that were severely undernourished and traumatized, and they developed a normal intelligence when they were later placed in their adopted homes. The only indication that a difference in intelligence will be damaged by environmental factors is for those rare instances where extreme child abuse occurred, and that means extreme---criminal---child abuse.
Humans are not plants, they move around and locate suitable environments. That is, humans are not stuck in the ground and waiting for nourishment. Children today do not show any signs of the type of trauma that damages intelligence, so the argument is not relevant. We are not plants, we have mobility. Jensen calls this argument "looking for factor X." That is something, anything, in the environment that can cause the wide disparity between the average Black and White average intelligences. So far, no one has been able to find more than a few factors that can boost IQ more than just a few points such as universal immunization, fewer children per family, and better nutrition. So Lewontin's absurd analogy is a non sequitur.
What justifies our reliance on a liberal framework for our ethical inquiry? The short answer is that, as our brief remarks about the method of wide reflective equilibrium indicate, we (like everyone else) must start somewhere. The longer and somewhat more satisfying answer is that we believe that a liberal approach to moral and political philosophy is to date the most carefully worked out and best defended approach available. In our opinion, there simply are no antiliberal or nonliberal (e.g., communitarian) moral-political theories that come close to the degree of systematic argumentation and power that we find in the writings of liberal thinkers such as John Rawls, Joel Feinberg, Ronald Dworkin, Thomas Scanlon, and Joseph Raz. Communitarian writings have tended to be criticisms of liberalism rather than constructive theories in their own right.
As we have seen above, this just is not true. Communitarian writings are woven within the fabric of neo-Darwinism. That is, these liberal moralists are totally unaware of the empirical nature of evolutionary theory and its reliance on sound scientific principles, which include looking at the human communitarian past.
The liberal position or Rawlsian morality that is the basis for this book's moral perspective, is based entirely on a normative morality, one based on wishful thinking without any basis in fact. That is, the foundation for this theory is formulated by the sheer volume of intellectual works that read more like science fiction than anything else. It cannot be sustained because its conclusions are in contradiction to what we know about human nature.
This is exactly the same problem that Communism faced, it looked good on paper but the human spirit prevailed over its totalitarian solution---as the human spirit with prevail over these new neo-totalitarians.
 The following excerpts from Garrett Hardin's essay Discriminating Altruism, 1982, explains the problems with universalism and how it leads to an increase in political control over individual freedom, and ultimately to totalitarianism:
Until recently, tribalism has been a very minor kind of altruism in America, but some observers now see the rise of ethnicity and the insistent preservation of multilingualism as signs that America is moving into a tribalistic phase. The bloody conflict in Northern Ireland and the threat of national fission in Belgium are also viewed as tribalism on the rise. It should be noted that since the founding of the United Nations in 1945 there has been much fissioning of nations and no fusion. It would be naive to suppose that the days of tribalism are over.
Patriotism is nation-wide altruism. I prefer this term to 'nationalism', the connotations of which are now so unfavorable as to discourage objective inquiry. Even patriotism is in some bad odor. Later I shall argue that patriotism can be a virtue. For the present, let us pass to the last and most inclusive altruism, namely universalism.
Universalism is altruism practiced without discrimination of kinship, acquaintanceship, shared values, or propinquity in time or space. It is perhaps shocking, but entirely accurate, to call it promiscuous altruism. Its goal was aptly expressed by a now unknown poet soon after the end of World War I: "Let us no more be true to boasted race or clan, But to our highest dream, the brotherhood of man."
The roots of universalism are to be found in the writings of philosophers and religious leaders thousands of years ago, but the promiscuous ideal was given a great boost by the generalized idea of evolution in the nineteenth century. W.E.H. Lecky (1838-1903), in The History of European Morals, wrote: "At one time the benevolent affections embrace merely the family, soon the circle expanding includes first a class, then a nation, then a coalition of nations, then all humanity...?" From this passage the contemporary philosopher Peter Singer derived the title of his book, The Expanding Circle. Singer believes, of course, that total universalism is not only praiseworthy, but possible---perhaps even inevitable.
Universalism is commonly coupled with the political ideal of a world state. The fatal weakness of this dream was pointed out by Bertrand Russell: "A world state, if it were firmly established, would have no enemies to fear, and would therefore be in danger of breaking down through lack of cohesive force?" By his phrase "if it were firmly established" Russell indicates that he has carried out a thought-experiment of the sort described earlier in demonstrating that a universally altruistic species could not persist. Russell pulls his punches however in saying that a world state would merely be "in danger of breaking down?" In fact, it would be certain to break down.
To people who accept the idea of biological evolution from amoeba to man, the vision of social evolution from egoism to universalism may seem plausible. In fact, however, the last step is impossible. The forces that bring the earlier stages into being are impotent to bring about the last step. Let us see why.
In imagination, picture a world in which social evolution has gone no farther than egoism or individualism. When familialism appears on the scene, what accounts for its persistence? It must be that the costs of the sacrifices individuals make for their relatives are more than paid for by the gains, realized through family solidarity. In the aggregate, individuals who practice familialism have a competitive advantage over those who do not. That is why the step from individualism to familialism is made.
The pattern of the argument just given is characteristically biological, but it is essential to realize that it does not depend on the genetic inheritance of differences in behavior. It assumes no other inheritance than that of the impulse to help and the ability to discriminate. Both impulses can be presumed to be nearly universal in the species. That inherited differences are not required by the argument is shown by the following thought-experiment. Assume a random exchange of children resulting in all children being raised by foster parents. Culture alone can be assumed to dictate who does, and who does not, behave familialistically. If familialism is competitively advantageous over the lesser form of altruism (individualism), then familialism will persist. Since biology need not be invoked to account for this cultural step, there is no reason for anti-hereditarians to take umbrage at the thought that familialism confers a selective advantage to its practitioners, "selective" being understood in the broadest sense.
Note also that a 'higher' grade of altruism does not necessarily extinguish the grades below it. The word environment is a singular noun, but the actual social environment in which people have their being is a mosaic of many microenvironments, complicated beyond our ability to capture it in words. In some spots, individualism will confer an advantage over familialism, in others the reverse is true. If this were not so, social life would not exhibit the mosaic of behaviors that it does.
The argument that accounts for the step to familialism serves equally well for each succeeding step---except the last. Why the difference? Because the One World created by universalism has---by definition---no competitive base to support it. Familialism is supported by the competition of families with each other (which favors those with the greater family loyalty) and by competition of families with simple individualists. Similarly tribalism is supported by competition between tribes, and by competition of tribal individuals with individuals who give their loyalty only to smaller, less powerful groups. But those who speak for One World speak against discrimination and for promiscuity: "Let us no more be true to boasted race or clan?" What in the world could select for global promiscuity? Only---as science fiction writers have often pointed out---the enmity (competition) of people from Mars, from other worlds. And if the unifying factor of an external threat were to come into being, it is highly probable that the idealists who now speak out for One World would then agitate for One Universe. Evidently what these idealists dislike is discrimination of any sort. Unfortunately for their dreams, the promiscuity they hunger for cannot survive in competition with discrimination. . . .
It becomes ever more apparent that the burning questions of our time need to be subjected to the discipline of the ecolate question, "And then what?" Unfortunately, this question is seen as threatening by many vested interests, none more than those philosophers who habitually deal with ethics in a purely literate way. Ethicists of the deontological [study of moral obligations] persuasion attempt the impossible if they try to solve ethical problems only with such dull tools as sin, duty, right and obligation---all words blind to number and time-related processes. Consequentialist ethicists, by contrast, are both ecolate and numerate in their approach, insisting that numbers, time and consequences matter. . . .
The ineradicable opposition of small group loyalty to the sheer political power of large numbers [confounds] the supposed drive toward universalism. Because of the egocentric predicament the inference of sincerity in the 'other' is always risky, and the greater the number of 'others' in a group the greater the risk. The power of loyalty is deeply rooted in innate biological responses to [kin or similarity in nature] and repeated association. The power of loyalty to the few constantly erodes the political power of the many. Patriotism depends more on intellectual arguments than does cronyism; this is a key weakness of patriotism. This inherent weakness helps explain the adaptive significance of the theocratic state which proclaims the 'divine right of kings'. Whenever the support of a state can be made a divine imperative, patriotic loyalty is removed from the realm of rational doubt and shielded from the corrosion of cronyism.
Do the opposing forces create an intermediate point of stability? This seems unlikely. The life histories of individuals vary immensely; the relative [attraction/aversion] of political power and loyalty power in the character of each individual is determined by his particular experiences. A crude statistical average might be made for each culture, but there is no reason to think the average would be stable. History forever roils the social systems of the world. Compare the England of Rudyard Kipling with England in the 1930s with its pacifistic "Oxford Oath" taken by millions of young men. The Boer War and World War I moved the statistical balance point of the discriminations 'downward' (on the list in figure 2---no ethical interpretation is implied). Then when Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939, the Oxford Oath was abruptly jettisoned and the balance point moved decisively 'upward' toward patriotism. It has since fallen in England. In America it has fallen even more, as a result of the Vietnam War. The manifest dangers of nuclear war argue (to some) for a permanent abandonment of patriotism, but the argument is valid only if there are no reasons other than war for supporting discrimination at the national level. We will return to this point later.
Liberalism is an ill-defined term of constantly changing meaning; yet, whatever its meaning, it is not far off the mark to say that liberalism enjoyed more praise than power in the nineteenth century, whereas now it enjoys more power than praise. Hell, as someone said, is when you get what you want. With power, self-doubts have come to the liberals. The fashionable journals of the literate world are now pulsating with liberal [lamenting].
The political philosopher Michael Novak has put his finger on a key weakness of what is, in our time, called liberalism: "The liberal personality tends to be atomic, rootless, mobile, and to imagine itself as 'enlightened' in some superior and especially valid way. Ironically, its exaggerated individualism leads instantly to an exaggerated sense of universal community. The middle term between these two extremes, the term pointing to the finite human communities in which individuals live and have their being, is precisely the term that the liberal personality disvalues."
That liberals should regard themselves as elite---literally 'chosen'---means nothing more than that they are human. They enjoy an esprit de corps, a feeling which those outside a chosen circle identify as ethnocentrism (a sin, be it noted, especially deprecated by contemporary liberals.) What needs explaining is the apparent paradox, or irony as Novak calls it, of combining in the liberal personality individualism and universalism with no 'middle term'.
In the assemblage presented in figure 2; Novak's 'middle term' is decomposed into four different altruisms. Of these, the most conspicuously lacking among contemporary liberals is patriotism. Forster's condemnation of this form of altruism could easily be matched by hundreds of other statements coming from the liberal, 'intellectual', literate community. Patriotism has had a bad press ever since Doctor Johnson's offhand remark, "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel?"
Never has the defense of individual 'rights' been as strong as it is in our time. Why then, to paraphrase Novak, does exaggerated individualism lead to exaggerated universalism? To a biologist this puzzle presents little difficulty. Among altruisms, individualism is clearly a borderline case; psychologically it is close to naked egoism. Homo sapiens is a social animal; his social appetite is not completely satisfied by an altruism that goes no farther than the I-Thou relationship of Martin Buber. Our groupish hungers are seldom completely satisfied by purely dyadic relationships. A significant fraction---perhaps even a large fraction---of humankind craves identification with groups larger than I and Thou.
Radical individualism is often linked to hedonism. One sees this clearly in the multitude of magazines in the Playboy mode. A practicing playboy is not a complete egoist because "it takes two to tango," but his individualism is of a low order, for the other is little more than a sex object. In the past, women (more than men) may have been the guardians of community values; now there is a Playgirl magazine that seeks to erase the difference. For Americans, the Declaration of Independence has supplied a banner for hedonism: "the pursuit of happiness?"
Hedonists of both sexes should be informed of what the nineteenth century philosopher Henry Sidgwick called the "Hedonistic Paradox": those who most actively pursue pleasure as a primary goal are least likely to achieve it. Personal happiness is best gained by indirection, by serving some larger cause. I think this can be taken as an empirical fact. By way of theoretical explanation I would point to two factors.
First, since we are social animals who find pleasure working with others, the horizon of our attention must be broadened beyond the bounds of egoism; perhaps the greater the cause the greater the pleasure in serving it. Second, human beings find so much pleasure in overcoming difficulties that they even seek out difficulties to overcome. We climb mountains that stand not in our way---and thus discover new ways to happiness. Behavior that to a simple rationalist might seem perverse plainly has contributed to the success and progress of the human species. Progress has selected for temperaments that find the simple hedonism of unalloyed individualism too low a peak for complete satisfaction. Not all human beings transcend the demands of simple hedonism, but enough do to affect the course of history. To forego short-term hedonistic gain for a dream that may---only may---be realized in the future is to fall into a behavioral pattern that supports altruism.
The dreams of today's more far-seeing individualists are most commonly universalist dreams: One World, the Brotherhood of Man and the like. Although universalists disparage the moral value of lesser groups, in furthering their cause they necessarily rely on cronyism. Ironically, cocktail parties to which liberals alone are invited are a great place to denounce elitism, the enemy of promiscuity. Thus is the cause of promiscuity advanced by discrimination.
All causes succeed through close-knit, small groups. The effectiveness of a great army, serving patriotic ends, is determined by the cronyism of multitudinous small squads, a fact long recognized by the military. Similarly, the effectiveness of liberals in pursuing universalist ends is determined by the cronyism developed in small groups. The grass roots of patriotism and universalism are the same, only the ends differ. Why has patriotism been rejected by contemporary liberals? It is to this that we now turn our attention.
The universe may or may not be finite, but prudence demands that we assume that the portion practically available to humankind is finite. Technology effectively expands this portion somewhat, but at a rate that is less than the expansion of our expressed demands. Hence the unending complaints of scarcity. The analytical model for productive economic thinking must be that of a 'closed system', a system in which input matches output (diminished somewhat by entropic loss). The enduring task of political economy is the allocation of scarce resources.
No sizeable, prosperous society has been able to persist for long under a rule of equal distribution of income, wealth, or privilege. This empirical fact has not interfered with the persistence of the dream of distributing goods by the rule "to each according to his needs," to use Marx's language for an ideal furnished him by the religion he despised.
 Peter Singer, as mentioned by Garrett Hardin, tries to argue for universalism. In his latest book A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution and Cooperation, 1999, he summarizes what a Darwinian Left would be comprised of. And it is not in keeping with the authors of From Chance to Choice: "A Darwinian left would not: Deny the existence of a human nature, nor insist that human nature is inherently good, nor that it is infinitely malleable; Expect to end all conflict and strife between human beings, whether by political revolution, social change, or better education; Assume that all inequalities are due to discrimination, prejudice, oppression or social conditioning. Some will be, but this cannot be assumed in every case.
"A Darwinian left would: Accept that there is such a thing as human nature, and seek to find out more about it, so that policies can be grounded on the best available evidence of what human beings are like; Reject any inference from what is 'natural' to what is 'right'; Expect that, under different social and economic systems, many people will act competitively in order to enhance their own status, gain a position of power, and/or advance their interests and those of their kin; Expect that, regardless of the social and economic system in which they live, most people will respond positively to genuine opportunities to enter into mutually beneficial forms of cooperation; Promote structures that foster cooperation rather than competition, and attempt to channel competition into socially desirable ends; Recognize that the way in which we exploit nonhuman animals is a legacy of a pre-Darwinian past that exaggerated the gulf between humans and other animals, and therefore work towards a higher moral status for nonhuman animals, and a less anthropocentric view of our dominance over nature; Stand by the traditional values of the left by being on the side of the weak, poor and oppressed, but think very carefully about what social and economic changes will really work to benefit them.
"In some ways, this is a sharply deflated vision of the left, its utopian ideas replaced by a coolly realistic view of what can be achieved. That is, I think, the best we can do today---and it is still a much more positive view than that which many on the left have assumed to be implied in a Darwinian understanding of human nature."
Written by Matthew Nuenke, December 11, 2000