Why Was the Understanding of Ethnic Genetic Interests Delayed for 30 Years?

The suicide of the West is far more than a figure of speech. All Western societies — and only Western societies — are voluntarily allowing mass immigration of peoples who are not ethnically connected to historical Europe. Not only are they allowing massive non-White immigration, it is being promoted as fulfilling the lofty ethical goal of increasing ethnic diversity rather than any practical goal such as the needs of the labor force.  What this means in the long run is that Europe will cease to be Europe, not only culturally, but also genetically.

There are several ways that one might think about this phenomenon, but certainly a compelling one is to think in terms of Frank Salter’s concept of ethnic genetic interests. EGI is of fundamental importance for ethnic and racial nationalism, and for the preservation of European-derived peoples because it provides a powerful intellectual  counterargument to those on the left who deny the reality of race.

In this article I first summarize the basic idea of EGI (see also here) and then review a Mankind Quarterly article by Dr. Salter which implies that the reasons that EGI was not discovered sooner were mainly obfuscation by the political left.

Salter’s argument is that all people have reproductive interests — ethnic genetic interests — in the continuity of their ethny or race. Human groups have genetic differences because they were isolated from each other for thousands of years. The result is that we share many more genes with people in our ethnic group than people from different ethnic groups.

For example, a grandfather has about 12.5% more genetic overlap with his grandchild than with a person taken at random from his ethnic group; similarly, I have about 12.5% more genetic overlap with a person taken at random from within my ethnic group compared to a randomly chosen person from outside my ethnic group. And of course there is a gradient of genetic similarity among ethnic groups: Swedes are more closely related to Poles than they are to sub-Saharan Africans

The result is that humans have an enormous genetic interest in their ethnic groups. Just as with genealogical kinship where people with larger families have a higher inclusive fitness, this genetic interest becomes enormous because it is tied to the actual number of ethnic group members which, in the modern world, can total in the millions, or, I suppose billions, in the case of the Chinese.

This is an explosive argument because it implies that ethnic competition is rational in a Darwinian sense. That is, it is rational for an ethnic group to retain control over a territory because allowing people from other ethnic groups to immigrate constitutes a genetic loss to those who were already there.

But of course, this is exactly what the cultural left does not want to hear. Mass immigration into Western societies has been a project of the cultural left for many decades now, culminating in the United States in the watershed immigration law of 1965. Other Western societies went in a similar direction around the same time.

Salter’s argument is basic Darwinism quantified. Since the mathematics of natural selection have been well understood at least since the late 1970s, one would think that evolutionists would accept the rationality of ethnic competition. We can imagine Harvard professors testifying before Congress intoning that immigration is a genetic disaster for receiving countries and that allowing mass immigration would be the height of folly. Allowing mass immigration would be entirely analogous to a situation in nature where a population of a territorial species ceased defending its space against invaders. Zoologists would scratch their heads and wonder what caused such pathological behavior — behavior that is akin to suicide or self-mutilation.

Instead, we have Harvard professors like Richard Lewontin and Steven Pinker continuing to question even the biological reality of family ties, much less racial ties.

Yet, until formally stated by Dr. Salter, the fact is that there had been no discussion of EGI in the scientific literature. And even today, there are some who would deny the importance of, or even the existence of (!), EGI.  Dr. Salter’s Mankind Quarterly article is an attempt to dissect the reasons for the long and continuing obstruction of the EGI concept.

Salter attempts to answer that “why?” The history of all modern thinking in this area begins withWilliam D. Hamilton, the brilliant population geneticist, and his theory of kin selection. In his 1964 papers Hamilton thought of kin as having genes that were “identical by descent.” For example, you and your brother share about half your genes because you received them directly from your mother and father — that is, the genes you have descended from the same mother and father, so they are identical by descent.  

Hamilton’s idea was that because you shared genes identical by descent you would be more likely to help your brother. Famously, from the standpoint of the genes, it really didn’t matter if you had a child or helped your brother have two additional children. It was all the same genetically. Because your brother on average shares half your genes, there would be the same number of genes “identical by descent” in the next generation whether you fathered one child or let your brother do the heavy lifting of fathering two.

Hamilton’s next big breakthrough was when he realized that it didn’t really matter if the genes came from the same parents and were therefore identical by descent. All that mattered was that the genes were identical — period. Instead of identical by descent, it was enough that they were “identical by state” — that they were in fact the same genes.  This implies that ethnic groups really are like extended families. Why? Because if the gene sequences are exactly the same, it really doesn’t matter how the identity was established.

Thus, “identity by state” means that the gene sequences are the same — the “state” of the sequences is the same — even though there is no direct and recent genealogical relationship between the individuals in question.  Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones are unrelated, yet they share the same exact gene sequence. Perhaps they share the same gene sequence because they belong to the same ethnic group. Other ethnic groups are much less likely to have the gene sequences that Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones have.

To summarize: Shared genes are shared genes and it does not really matter how and why the genes are shared.  And this in turn implies that people have an interest in preserving their entire ethnic group, not just their family, as the original version of kin selection implied.

This evolutionary logic implies that people should not limit themselves to struggling to better themselves within the group (family or ethnic group) but also work to defend the group as a whole in its competition with other groups. In 1979 Henry Harpending made the final step by quantifying how helping your own ethnic group could be adaptive because it would improve the fortunes of the entire group in competition with other groups.

The moral is that it would make biological sense for a person with no biological relatives to devote himself to the good of this ethnic group. In fact, armed with that logic, a White person who sacrificed his life to prevent the 1965 immigration law from being enacted would have behaved in a very biologically adaptive manner. He would have increased his biological fitness dramatically more by helping his race accomplish an immigration cutoff than by having children of his own.

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So why didn’t this evolutionary logic take hold among academics and in the popular media? The first “problem” Salter identifies is “disciplinary boundaries,” in which academics are narrowly focused in their one field and they do not look beyond that more broadly. Salter criticizes Cavalli-Sforza:

The question remains as to why Cavalli did not explore the theoretical potential of inclusive fitness theory applied to whole populations after the 1970s. … Based on his best known publications, one would never guess that parents had a genetic interest in their children, let alone in their ethnies. The majority of Cavalli’s research dealt with matters not impinging on altruism, such as the history of human migration. Yet he also discussed social issues, including those contingent on ethnicity and race, from Darwinian perspective…. He denied the genetic reality of these categories, and did not discuss the possible adaptiveness of ethnocentrism.

Salter is being a bit too charitable I think in postulating “disciplinary boundaries” as an explanation here. Isn’t it possible that these scientists did not explore, or recognize, the reality and importance of ethnic kinship simply because the implications of this work were politically unacceptable? After all, it certainly does not fit with the leftist zeitgeist to conclude that ethnic genetic differences are real and these differences make ethnic conflict entirely rational from a Darwinian point of view.

Then there is the issue, popularized by Richard Lewontin, that “there is more variation within groups than between groups; therefore, race does not exist.”  More than any other argument, this one by Lewontin had a huge influence. One could almost guarantee that everyone down to the lowliest graduate student would be able to recite it pretty much verbatim.

This argument has been refuted in a number of places, most notably by Dr. A.W.F. Edwards. In addition, Salter shows that within-family genetic variation is roughly three times that of between-family variation; thus, if we were to follow Lewontin’s racial analogy, we would have to conclude that is there no such thing as family!

Given Lewontin’s long association with the political left, it would seem that perhaps politics is more important at this point than “disciplinary boundaries,” and one can consider the ethnic interests of certain scientists as well. Indeed, Lewontin is one of the cast of scoundrels in Chapter 2 of Kevin MacDonald’s The Culture of Critique which discusses the role of Jewish Marxist intellectuals in vitiating biological views in the social sciences. As E. O. Wilson wrote of him, “By adopting a narrow criterion of publishable research, Lewontin freed himself to pursue a political agenda unencumbered by science.”

Salter spends much time deconstructing the ideas of Richard Dawkins — the darling of the media when it comes to presenting evolutionary biology to the public. Salter’s piece-by-piece demolition of Dawkins (whose website is labeled “a clear-thinking oasis”[!]) is too comprehensive to be covered in detail here. Salter recounts Dawkins flip-flopping on the question of “identical by descent/identical by state” as well as his confusion over the work of Hamilton and his resistance to Hamilton’s 1971 and 1975 reformulations. Salter reminds us of a typical Dawkins quote in which Dawkins states — against all reason — that kin selection applies only to “immediate close family” and not to those who “happen to be the same color as you” — as if all the genetic differences between ethnies conflate to the single trait of skin color, and as if the differences between family and ethny are somehow mystically essential, and not one merely of degree.

Salter also shows how, despite Dawkins’ obsession in pointing out others’ “misunderstandings of kin selection,” Dawkins himself makes the basic error of confusing helping one’s own ethnic group (which makes excellent sense) with universal altruism (which makes no sense at all). Universal altruism is of course the creed of racial liberals. The reality is that we live in a remarkably diverse human world of competing ethnies, in which gradients of distinctive genetic information do indeed constitute important interests at the group level.  This fact cannot be responsibly evaded.

Salter points out that given Dawkins’ high reputation and easy access to the media, his lack of interest in ethnic kinship and his muddled analysis of ethnic genetic interests and group kinship competition have contributed to holding back this field of study.

Salter finishes by discussing what I believe the main factor in the resistance of academia to honest analysis of ethnic kinship: leftist political preferences. Salter recounts the politicization of biology and sociobiology and the harsh criticism directed toward realistic scholars in these fields. He also notes that the concept of ethnic genetic interests does not fit well with the ideas of academic elites in the West: Since the 1960s the left has been ascendant in expressing its values in academic discourse, including mainstream journals.

Ignoring or underplaying ethnic kinship accorded with the political orientation of the Anglo-American academic elite, which led and still leads discourse in evolutionary biology … Highly individualist thinkers as well as those with a universalist vision of society tend to overlook the reality of solidary groups of various kinds, or treat them as inconvenient or irksome obstacles to the ideal society.

And of course, this filtered down to the popular media to become a pillar of the anti-White intellectual left.

I think that Salter could have expanded this section into the preceding parts of his essay, since one can strongly suspect that the alleged “disciplinary boundaries” and “confusions and misinterpretations of Dawkins” possibly have a political basis.  Is it merely a coincidence that all of these scholars who, according to Salter, have contributed to holding back the advance of biopolitical analysis, are individuals who, in whatever public comments they’ve made on the subject, fall, generally speaking, into the group of “racial liberals?” These people believe that “race has no real biological validity” and that any expression of White racial consciousness constitutes racism.

Obviously, these are exactly the people who would strongly disagree with the Salter’s EGI thesis and its many implications. It seems quite reasonable then to suppose that the obstruction of EGI has always been primarily motivated by political considerations.

Ted Sallis (email him) writes on scientific issues.