Ian Morris on Why the West Rules…For Now

Brenton Sanderson


Ian Morris is professor of classics and history at Stanford University. His latest book entitled Why the West Rules — For Now: The Patterns of History and What They Reveal about the Future was published in 2010. The British-born Morris attempts in his book to explain why “the West” has exercised global dominance without parallel in history over the past two centuries. His overriding concern, in this endeavor, is to debunk any “racist theories” that could possibly account for this Western dominance. Morris observes that in the 18th century “Europeans found that they had a problem: but as problems go, it was not a bad one. They appeared to be taking over the world but didn’t know why.” He notes that many Europeans drew the obvious (and reasonable) inference: Westerners were simply superior to other people, claiming that “For 200 years this thought cheered up western imperialists as they battled malaria, mosquitoes, and ungrateful natives, and still has a few champions today. But thanks to two sciences — archeology and genetics — we now know that it is clearly, unambiguously wrong” (p. 33). In making this unwarranted assertion Morris proves himself and the thesis of his book to be clearly, unambiguously wrong. (See also Ricardo Duchesne’s scathing review at Reviews in History.)

Morris writes that “Proclaiming racist theories contemptible is not enough. If we really want to reject them, and to conclude that people (in large groups) really are much the same it must be because racist theories are wrong, not just because most of us today do not like them” (pp. 50–51). A central proposition of his book is that the falsification of the multiregional theory of human evolution by studies of mitochondrial DNA, which supports the “out of Africa” single origin theory of human evolution, debunks any notion that White racial traits played a role in the rise of the West. For Morris, it is axiomatic that “If modern humans replaced Neanderthals in the Western Old World and Homo erectus in the Eastern regions without interbreeding, racist theories tracing contemporary Western rule back to prehistoric biological differences must be wrong” (p. 70). He acknowledges that modern Eurasians share 1 to 4 percent of their genes with the Neanderthals “but everywhere from France to China it is the same 1 to 4 percent.” He notes that other racial groups like modern Africans have no Neanderthal DNA, but that “the implications of this are yet to be explored” (P. 60).

Professor Ian Morris

Morris believes that now that the multiregional theory of human evolution has been falsified, “Racist theories grounding Western rule in biology” have been proven to have “no basis in fact.” People, in large groups, he tells us, “are much the same wherever we find them, and we have all inherited the same restless, inventive minds from our African ancestors. Biology, by itself, cannot explain why the West rules” (p. 73). Morris neglects to explain to us why, given that “we are all much the same,” those of “our ancestors” who stayed in their African homeland failed, despite their “restless, inventive minds” to develop cities, wheeled vehicles, mechanical contrivances with moving parts such as scissors or hinges, a means of joining pieces of wood together, coins or money, a single written language in the entire region, law codes, literature, philosophy, or mathematics other than simple arithmetic. Rather than tackling this important question, Morris simply reassures us that science has definitively proven that Europeans are no better than anyone else, and racial differences, to the extent that they exist, are “only skin deep.” He writes:

Our kind, Homo sapiens, evolved in Africa between 200,000 and 70,000 years ago and spread across the world in the last 60,000 years. By 30,000 years ago nearly all the older versions of humanity, such as the Neanderthals, were extinct. By 10,000 years ago a single kind of human — us — had colonized virtually every niche on the planet. This dispersal allowed humanity’s genes to diverge again, but most of the consequences (such as color of skin, eyes or hair) are only skin deep, and those mutations that go deeper (such as skull shape or lactose tolerance) have little obvious connection to why the west rules. A real answer to our question must start from the fact that wherever we go — east, west, north, or south — people are all much the same. (p. 33)

Unfortunately for Morris, the single origin “out of Africa” theory of human evolution in no way undermines the case for the existence of important racial differences in physical and psychological traits — including general intelligence as measured by IQ tests (which Morris completely and egregiously ignores). 40,000 years of differential evolution was enough to create the obvious physical differences between the races (skin, eye and hair color, skull shape etc.), and it is implausible that selection pressures for physical traits existed in isolation from selection pressures for psychological and behavioral traits like intelligence. Indeed, the premier psychologist researching the biological origins of race differences in IQ and in life history strategy, J. Philippe Rushton, has been a prominent advocate of the out-of-Africa theory of human origins (e.g., in his book, Race, Evolution and Behavior; see here).

Nearly a century of psychometric testing has established that differential selection pressures for general intelligence did exist and resulted, after 40,000 years, in significant differences in mean IQ (and associated behavioral tendencies) among the races — and that this has had, and continues to have, profound consequences in determining the civilization-building capacities of different racial groups. It is also a key reason why Third-World immigration to the West is so dysfunctional. Years before Darwin’s Origin of Species, the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer noted the clear link between skin color and intelligence, and offered a cogent explanation for this nexus, noting that:

The highest civilization and culture, apart from the ancient Hindus and Egyptians, are found exclusively among the white races; and even with many dark peoples, the ruling caste, or race, is fairer in colour than the rest, and has, therefore, evidently immigrated, for example, the Brahmins, the Inca, and the rulers of the South Sea Islands. All this is due to the fact that necessity is the mother of invention, because those tribes that emigrated early to the north, and there gradually became white, had to develop all their intellectual powers, and invent and perfect all the arts in their struggle with need, want, and misery, which, in their many forms, were brought about by the climate. This they had to do in order to make up for the parsimony of nature, and out of it all came their high civilization. (Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 2, (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1974), pp. 158–159.)

Schopenhauer’s intuitive understanding of the link between race and intelligence has been more recently affirmed by psychologists like Richard Lynn and J. Phillipe Rushton, who contend that groups that resided for many millennia in regions with cold winters gradually — through the process of natural selection — evolved higher intelligence than groups living in milder climates. Rushton notes how “colonizing temperate and cold environments leads to increased cognitive demands to solve the problems of gathering food and gaining shelter and general survival in cold winters.” According to Rushton, “cognitive demands of manufacturing sophisticated tools and making fires, clothing, and shelters (as well as regulating the storage of food) would have selected for higher average intelligence levels than in the less cognitively demanding environment in sub-Saharan Africa. Those individuals who could not solve these problems of survival would have died out, leaving those with alleles for higher intelligence as the survivors” (J. P. Rushton, Race, Evolution and Behavior, 3rd ed., pp. 228—229)

World IQ in 1500

A consequence is that those tracing their origins to Northern Asia and Europe now have mean IQs of about 100, while those from sub-Saharan Africa have a mean IQ of around 70, and those from the broad intermediate zone (stretching from north Africa across southern Asia and into Indonesia) have mean IQs in the 80–90 range. These figures are confirmed by numerous IQ tests taken over a period of more than 80 years from around the world, measures of average brain size (which is positively correlated with general intelligence), the poor relative performance of Blacks in Europe and America in intellectual endeavors, and the extreme backwardness of the countries in the “secluded zone” of sub-Saharan Africa before they had contact with either Islamic or European civilization, continuing up to the present day. Moreover, as Michael Hart notes:

The countries in sub-Saharan Africa remain backward today, compared with third-world countries on other continents. Most of them have largely discarded the democratic institutions bequeathed them by the Europeans countries that once ruled them, and on virtually every measure of social, cultural, or economic well-being they rank at the bottom. Countries such as Angola, Gabon, Zimbabwe, Guinea, and Uganda are separated from each other by thousands of miles; they differ in topography, climate, language, religion, and history. The only factors they have in common are race and the low average intelligence of their inhabitants. (Michael Hart, Understanding Human History: An analysis including the effects of geography and differential evolution, Washington Summit Publishers, Augusta GA, 2007, p. 111).

Despite the abundant IQ data and the huge gulf in civilizational attainment between the races, Morris steadfastly adheres to his contention that the falsification of the multiregional theory of human evolution has debunked all racial explanations for the rise of the West. He writes:

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century many Westerners thought biology was the whole answer to why the West rules. The White European race, they insisted, had evolved further than anyone else. They were mistaken. … [T]here is only one kind of human, which evolved gradually in Africa around a hundred thousand years ago and then spread across the globe making older kinds of human extinct. The genetic differences between modern humans in different parts of the world are trivial. For another thing, if Westerners really were genetically superior to everyone else, the graphs of social development [in chapters 4–10 of his book] would look very different. After taking an early lead, the West would have stayed ahead. But that, of course, is not what happened. …

The West did get a head start at the end of the Ice Age, but its lead grew at some times and shrank at others. At 550 CE it disappeared altogether, and for the next twelve hundred years the East led the world in social development. Very few scholars nowadays propagate racist theories that Westerners are genetically superior to everyone else, but anyone who does want to take this line will need to show that all the mettle was somehow bred out of Westerners in the sixth century CE, then bred back in the eighteenth; or that Easterners bred themselves into superiority in the sixth century, then lost it in the eighteenth. That, to put it mildly, is going to be a tough job. Everything suggests that, wherever we look, people — in large groups — are all much the same. (pp. 557—559; notice the politically correct usage of CE rather than BC—an invention of Jewish scholars not wanting to date history from the birth of Christ.)

Here Morris assumes a strict genetic determinism that few race realists have ever accepted. Genes and environment have always interacted to determine the fate of nations and civilizations (the disruption caused by natural disasters and disease pandemics like the Black Death spring to mind). To maintain that, because the rise of the West (when compared to the Far East) did not occur in a strictly linear progression, advantageous European racial traits must not exist, is absurd. Europeans have, according to the abundant data Morris shamefully ignores, evolved higher intelligence than any other racial group else except for East Asians (who have higher visual-spatial intelligence but lower verbal intelligence than Europeans). Morris deceptively uses “the East” (meaning China and Japan) as his historical plumb line of comparison with the West on measures of social development. However, he neglects to tell us when exactly the West slipped behind sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, South-East Asia, Australia or Oceania in the various measures of social development. Then again, that, to put it mildly, was always going to be a tough job.

Morris falsely creates the impression that the hierarchic social-Darwinian race theories of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were totally dependent on the validity of the multiregional theory of human evolution, and that such racial theories have, accordingly, been debunked along with the multiregional theory itself. He writes:

In the heyday of so-called scientific racism in the 1930s, some physical anthropologists insisted that modern Chinese people were more primitive than Europeans because their skulls had similarities (small ridges on top, relatively flat upper faces, non-protruding jaws, shovel-shaped incisors) to those of Peking Man. So, too, these anthropologists pointed out, the skulls of Australia’s indigenous people had similarities — ridges around the back for attaching neck muscles, shelf-like brows, receding foreheads, large teeth — with those of Indonesian Homo erectus [Java Man] a million years ago. Modern Easterners, these (Western) scholars concluded, must have descended for these more primitive ape men, while Westerners descended from the more advanced Neanderthals, and that might explain why the West rules. (p. 70)

Illustration showing Peking man as intermediate between apes and humans

Note how Morris lumps together the relatively sophisticated Chinese with the comparatively backward Australian Aborigines, as if Europeans made no real distinction between these racial groups. European anthropologists certainly did speculate whether East Asians evolved from Homo erectus (a theory favored until very recently by the Chinese themselves), but few regarded them as necessarily inferior to Europeans on that basis. If they made such a value judgment it was based on a comparison of the civilizational attainments of the Chinese compared to the West at particular points in history. In fact, throughout most of European history the Chinese and Japanese were held to represent a superior human type. Hart points out how: “In the 19th century, when European explorers first entered the ‘secluded zone’ of sub-Saharan Africa, they were struck by how extremely primitive the tribes in the region were. This was not because the Europeans were blinded by ethnic chauvinism. When European traders had reached China, they had brought back glowing accounts of Chinese civilization: The Chinese might be heathens, but there was no disputing their wealth, nor the quality of their engineering skills, nor the volume of their literature” (Hart, Ibid, p. 19).

So how then, does Morris account for the rise and global dominance of the West over the last two centuries? Predictably, he draws on Jared Diamond’s theory of geographical determinism as outlined in his 1997 book Guns, Germs and Steel (which won Diamond a Pulitzer Prize). Diamond, who is Professor of Geography and Physiology at UCLA, argued that the West and China were successful because they were fortunate enough to be situated in a band of “Lucky Latitudes” running across Eurasia from the Mediterranean to the Yellow Sea that made the agricultural revolution possible. They were also fortunate to have many plants and animals suitable for domestication. The comparative backwardness of the Western Hemisphere, sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia, and Australia in AD 1500 was entirely due the corresponding lack of these geographic factors. This, he claims, made it more difficult for these regions to develop agriculture, and which, in turn, delayed their development of science and technology. Morris buys this theory wholesale:

Humans may all be much the same, wherever we find them, but the places we find them in are not all the same. Geography is unfair. Human societies have all followed the same sequences of cultural development, but geography has dictated that they have not done so at the same speed. … If we look back nearly 12,000 years to the end of the last spasm of the Ice Age, what we see is that climate, topography, and ecology conspired in these Lucky Latitudes between China and the Mediterranean (and a similar band stretching from Peru to Mexico in the New World) to allow the evolution of unusually large numbers of plants and animals that could be domesticated, vastly increasing humans’ food supply. Because people (wherever we find them) are all much the same, it was in these Lucky Latitudes that humans first domesticated plants and animals. Fuelled by these resources, it was also in the Lucky Latitudes that people went on over the next 10,000 years to create the world’s first cities, states and empires. People in Australia, Siberia, and sub-Saharan Africa stuck with hunting and gathering not because they were lazier, stupider, or better attuned to nature than people in the Lucky Latitudes. Geography had simply endowed their homelands with fewer resources, and domestication therefore took longer. (p. 35)

Morris, like Diamond, is eager to show there is no genetic component that might explain how the Europeans became far more advanced technologically than the inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa, the Western Hemisphere, South-East Asia, and Australasia. Diamond states in Guns, Germs and Steel that the idea that there are genetic factors which cause Europeans to be more intelligent (on average) than Australian Aborigines is morally loathsome. The clear anti-White agenda of Diamond (who is Jewish) is revealed by the fact that two pages after making this statement he informs us that, as a result of natural selection, the aborigines of the New Guinea highlands are, in all probability, genetically superior to Europeans in mental ability.

Jared Diamond (on the left)

The real problem, however, with the Guns, Germs and Steel thesis, is that the facts refute the theory, particularly when applied to a comparison between sub-Saharan Africa and Mesoamerica. Hart notes how the geographic factors mentioned by Diamond strongly favored sub-Saharan Africa over Mesoamerica — meaning that civilization should have begun there earlier, and it should have progressed more there (prior to the European expansion of modern times) than it did in Mesoamerica. Sub-Saharan Africa had at least five useful wild cereal crops to Mesoamerica’s one, and sub-Saharan Africa possessed many potentially useful farm animals such the wild ancestor of domestic cattle, as well as sheep and goats had spread south of the Sahara by four thousand years ago, while Mesoamerica did not have a single large domesticable animal. Despite sub-Saharan Africa’s many advantages, by AD 1000, Mesoamerica was far more advanced than sub-Saharan Africa was, or ever had been. Hart notes that: “Mesoamericans had originated writing on their own, had constructed many large stone structures, and had built large cities (rivaling any existing in Europe, and far larger than any in sub-Saharan Africa). Furthermore, the Mayan achievements in mathematics and astronomy dwarf any intellectual achievements in sub-Saharan Africa” (pp. 176–177).

Diamond attributes the failure of Australia’s Aborigines to domesticate plants and animals to “the lack of domesticable animals, the poverty of domesticable plants, and the difficult soils and climate” (p. 307).  Richard Lynn (The Global Bell Curve, p. 46) notes that on the same page Diamond confirms that yams, taro, and arrowroot grow wild in northern Australia and could have been cultivated along with two native grasses which could have been bred to produce cereals. Furthermore, Australia’s climate is very varied and that “apart from the deserts of the central region is potentially suitable for the agriculture that was developed during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by Europeans.”

Of course, even if the Diamond thesis is partly true, it does not prove that there is no genetic component to the respective civilization-building capacities of the different racial groups, and to the startling success of the West. Not that this obvious point would matter to Morris — whose thesis is so distorted by confirmation bias that he does not even deign to mention the voluminous data confirming the existence of racial differences in IQ. Nor does he deal with theories linking the rise of the West to Western individualism, either as a cultural variant (Ricardo Duchesne) or as resulting from a unique evolutionary history as northern hunter-gatherers (Kevin MacDonald).

Likewise, he has no time for any suggestion that Western culture is better than other cultures.

The triumphs of western culture have been extraordinary, but time and again, they turn out to have been local versions of broader trends, not lonely beacons in a general darkness. And if we think about culture in the broader, more anthropological sense of ways of life rather than the achievements of geniuses, the west’s history again seems to be one example of a larger pattern rather than a unique story. For most of their 200,000-year history, humans lived in small, egalitarian hunter-gatherer bands. After the Ice Age, some hunter-gatherers settled down in villages and domesticated plants and animals; some villages grew into cities, with ruling elites; some cities became states, and then empires, and finally industrialized nations. No society has ever leapt from hunting and gathering to high tech (except under the influence of outsiders). Humans are all much the same, wherever we find them, and because of this, human societies have all followed the same sequence of cultural development. There is nothing special about western culture. (p. 34)

The problem with this analysis is that many racial groups throughout the world never did (prior to European contact) settle down in villages or domesticate plants and animals — let alone go on to develop into states, empires, or industrialized societies. So the sequence of historical development he describes is not an inexorable larger pattern of human development at all. This is most likely because, as Hart points out (pp. 162–163), “The idea of planting crops, protecting them, and eventually harvesting them is not obvious or trivial, and it requires a considerable degree of intelligence to conceive of that notion. No apes ever conceived of that idea, nor did Australopithecus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, nor even archaic Homo sapiens. It seems unlikely that such a notion could be originated by a group of humans with an IQ of about 70.”

Therefore, the evolution of sufficiently high intelligence was an essential preliminary for the invention of agriculture, with an average IQ of about 80 needed for the independent invention of agriculture. Hart observes that even in a region with a warm climate and abundant rainfall this single factor explains why agriculture was not invented a million years ago — nor 100,000 years ago, nor even 50,000 years ago — even though plants and animals suitable for domestication had been available throughout the Pleistocene Era. Richard Lynn notes that the transition to agricultural societies was not possible until people evolved sufficient intelligence to take advantage of wild grasses, and that it was only after the last glaciation that they were cognitively fit to do this. As Rushton points out in Race, Evolution, and Behavior (p. 232): “Lynn’s view provides an explanation for why these advances were never made by Negroids or those southeast Asian populations who escaped the rigors of the last glaciation.”

In speculating about the future, Morris sees the global balance of power shifting, over the course of this century, from the West to the East. Given his oft-stated refrain that “people are much the same wherever we find them,” and his apparent lack of any racial feeling, he seems unconcerned about what this—not to mention mass Third World immigration to the West—may mean for the future of White people. He is more concerned that this immigration be managed successfully, and that environmental problems, nuclear proliferation, and global food shortages be dealt with effectively at a global level. “The 21st century,” he asserts, “is going to be a race between worldwide transformation, and worldwide catastrophe, each on an unimaginable scale. Whichever wins out, the next 100 years are likely to bring more change than the previous 100,000” (p. 36).

In the final analysis, Professor Morris’s book is an exercise in the kind of White ethno-masochism that is guaranteed a warm reception from the Jewish-dominated intellectual establishment. The book was showered with praise by the usual types. David Landes, the Jewish author of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations declared: “This is an astonishing work by Ian Morris: hundreds of pages of the latest information dealing with every aspect of change. Then, the questions of the future: What will a new distribution bring about? Will Europe undergo a major change? Will the millions of immigrants [to the West] impose a new set of rules on the rest? There was a time when Europe could absorb any and all newcomers. Now the newcomers may dictate the terms.” Predictably, Jared Diamond extolled the book as “an exciting novel that happens to be true; an entertaining but thorough historical account of everything important that happened to any important people in the last ten millennia; and an educated guess about what will happen in the future. Read, learn, and enjoy!” The Business Standard even called it “The greatest nonfiction book written in recent times.”

Ultimately, the purpose of books like this, which on an intellectually flimsy neo-Boasian pretext, proclaim Europeans to be no better than anyone else, is to erode the racial and cultural self-esteem of White people in order to hinder White ethnocentrism — and thereby allow the White dispossession that is part and parcel of the multicultural project to proceed apace and unchallenged. The flip-side of this tacit objective is, of course, to bolster the self-conception (and the sense of self-righteous historical grievance and entitlement) of non-Whites. You will search long and hard for books by Jews, Asians, or Africans that seek to deconstruct their group’s supposed achievements and claims to uniqueness. On the contrary, non-White ethno-triumphalism is a well-established sub-genre of the culture of critique that flows out of ethnic studies departments of Western universities. Conversely, books like Why the West Rules…For Now are the inevitable result of the successful establishment of a perverted system of incentives in the world of academia that rewards White scholars like Morris who harm the interests of their own people.

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