Evolutionary Psychology

Ted Sallis: Ethnic Nepotism: A Prescription for Fitness

Ted Sallis: In the comments section on my previous blog on Jewish genetics, Hunter Wallace pointed out this screed by Ian Jobling — a leading proponent of the Philo-Semitic Branch (PSB) of pro-White activism.  While I hope that the academics whose work was unfairly attacked in that essay will directly respond on their own sites, I would like to reproduce a heavily edited version of something I had previously written. 

Jobling confuses descriptive and prescriptive arguments about ethnic nepotism. As we shall see, he is not the only one who makes such an elementary error.  There has in fact been a lot of “squid ink” squirted around this issue by individuals who really should know better, if they were not so blinded by ideological concerns.

For example, a favorite quote from Richard Dawkins (for Asian supremacists and their followers) is as follows, this from The Selfish Gene

Kin selection is emphatically not a special case of group selection. … If an altruistic animal has a cake to give to relatives; there is no reason at all for it to give every relative a slice, the size of the slices being determined by the closeness of relatedness. Indeed this would lead to absurdity since all members of the species, not to mention other species, are at least distant relatives who could therefore each claim a carefully measured crumb! To the contrary, if there is a close relative in the vicinity, there is no reason to give a distant relative any cake at all. Subject to other complications like laws of diminishing returns, the whole cake should be given to the closest relative available. (p. 290) 

There are problems with this cake analogy. The pursuit of ethnic genetic interests (EGI) is not about parceling out “goodies” (“cake”) to co-ethnics in an indiscriminate fashion. It’s about making relevant and contextual choices to maximize your proportion of distinctive genetic information in the next generation. 

It’s also not about the “evolution” of anything. As discussed more fully with respect to Brigandt’s article below, there is no reason why a specific behavior that would enhance EGI needed to have “evolved.” We are talking about rational thought mechanisms able to make an adaptive decision about what is prescriptively adaptive — not instinct. 

A problem with the cake analogy is that the “cake” in question may be a collective good or some form of action or sociopolitical ideology which is suited for application on a large, population scale, and is not relevant to “close kin.” All things being equal, it would be more adaptive to “spread the cake” of immigration to America to your close kin overseas rather to non-related co-ethnics. When it comes to immigration policy, we are not talking about making a choice between your uncle Joe immigrating or some random co-ethnic. We are instead asking whether (large) numbers of genetically distant peoples should be allowed to migrate to your territory; we are making a choice of whether the future demography of your nation will consist of co-ethnics or aliens. If the “cake” in question is access to the carrying capacity of an entire nation, then obviously, the “cake” cannot be reserved for “close kin.” No person that I know of has an immediate family that numbers in the millions or tens or hundreds of millions. Only ethnies fill the bill for certain rather large “pieces of cake.”

Therefore, certain types of “cake” are not scalable down to individuals and extended families

Of course, the thing about this is that the “cake” goes in both directions: By giving co-ethnics the “large cake” by successfully influencing immigration policy, you are getting the “small cake” of your own genetic interests being maximized. Note also that Dawkins says that when a closer relative is in the “vicinity,” then that is who should get “the cake.” 

In other words, he is suggesting a relative, contextual metric, despite earlier stating that we should not give out “cake” based on relative genetic distance. If the close relative is at hand, give the cake to him; this implies that if the closer relative is not at hand, give it to the more distant relative. Indeed, then, looking at “cake” which is scaled to populations, one favors the “close relative” of co-ethnics over others when given the choice. Even at the individual level, in circumstances in which favoring family is not possible, the “close relative” of co-ethnics, “when in the vicinity,” takes the “cake” over the “distant relative” of non-ethnics. 

Of interest to this issue is Brigandt’s confused article (“The homeopathy of kin selection: an evaluation of van den Berghe’s sociobiological approach to ethnicity,” Politics and the Life Sciences 20: 203–215, 2001). There he attempts to explain why ethnic nepotism is not “adaptive.” The problem is that the argument  boils down to Brigandt’s definition of a behavior being adaptive only if it has evolved. He asserts that ethnic nepotism could not have evolved because various population groups were isolated from each other during their evolution; hence, there was no selective pressure for ethnic nepotism. As a result, ethnic nepotism could not have evolved and therefore it makes no sense to say it is adaptive. 

Putting aside the argument of whether ethnic nepotism could have evolved (see Notes 1,2), the problem here is the semantic one of defining ‘adaptive.’ If we wish to define ‘adaptive’ in the sense that Brigandt does, then he may be correct, given that caveat of the notes below. However, let’s look at this crucial quote by Brigandt from the same paper (emphasis added): 

True enough, it is an evolutionarily better strategy to spend beneficial behavior towards fellow ethnics than towards outsiders, because you are more closely related to them. 

Well, yes. That, in one sentence, is a reasonable summary of Salter’s entire prescriptive argument — which is different from Brigandt’s descriptive argument about the likelihood that ethnic nepotism could have evolved. Indeed, herein lies the problem, in that Salter (and I) would define adaptive as “an evolutionarily better strategy.” In this sense of adaptive, whether a strategy is adaptive is independent of whether or not is has evolved

Most people would define adaptive in the sense that Salter and I use it, and not as Brigandt uses it. (See also Kevin MacDonald’s comments here and here on how rational choice mechanisms are capable of adaptively attaining evolutionary goals in novel environments — including the multi-racial environments of the contemporary world.) In other words, for most people, adaptive means “an evolutionarily better strategy” — a strategy that succeeds better than alternatives in maximizing fitness in future generations. 

How about a more specific example?  Let us assume that an Irishman has no evolved tendency to favor Irish over Nigerians. Is it, or is it not, adaptive for him to invest in preventing Ireland from being over-run with Nigerians, and the Irish being displaced?   This is the important question here.  Does an Irishman have any genetic interests beyond that of his immediate family?  Or, once beyond that family, do all human magically become genetically identical from the interests of our specific Irishman?  

If groups are not genetically identical — as alleged “race realists” should know — then interests differ depending upon, as Brigandt admits, how closely related you are to people.  The extent of these interests depends on numbers and more important on relative genetic distance.  From an Irish perspective, a Nigerian immigrant does more genetic damage that a Chinese, who in turn does more damage than a Pakistani, who does more than a Syrian, who does more than a Greek, who does more than an Italian, who does more than an Austrian, who does more than an Englishman, who does more than a random Irish unrelated co-ethnic.  

Context is crucially important.  In many cases, there is no advantage to the Irishman to engage in ethnic nepotism.  If the Irish were demographically secure, if no non-Irish were in Ireland, if there was no ethnic competition, then the Irishman should concentrate on helping immediate kin against the non-familial Irish competition.  However, in cases in which Irish interests are faced with non-Irish interests, particularly on issues on a scale beyond normal familial interests, then ethnic nepotism can be adaptive. 

On the other hand, in some cases, “humanism” is adaptive — joining humanity to fight an alien invader, or to avert some global ecological catastrophe.  Alternatively, in some cases, a narrow struggle as between the Irish and English is adaptive.  

Given the world-wide racial crisis for European peoples, sometimes an intermediate racial nepotism may be adaptive.  Context always matters.  Relative interests always matter.  There is no set-in-stone rulebook which says one must always engage in indiscriminate ethnic or racial nepotism — that’s a straw man that no one is advocating, and that’s not part of Salter’s prescription.  Instead he advocates a nuanced, nested view of genetic interests in which a person normally invests mostly in self and family, but, at times, may also need to invest in the ethny, dependent upon circumstances.  

Context may change.  Regardless of the past, the English vs. the Irish are hardly the major threat each group faces today, given Third World immigration and racial displacement in each nation.  In the past, persons of Irish and Italian ancestry engaged in conflict in East Coast American cities, due to competition over urban ecological niches.  Today, after decades of extensive intermarriage between those groups, assimilation, as well as the emerging colored threat in the cities, that ethnic hostility as in large part completely disappeared.  

Where to invest in genetic interests, and when to do so, will always be legitimate questions that depend upon context.  EGI is fluid, not completely fixed.  However, what is beyond question is that EGI exists, since genetic differences between groups exist and to quote Brigandt: “it is an evolutionarily better strategy to spend beneficial behavior towards fellow ethnics than towards outsiders, because you are more closely related to them.”   

It is curious — quite curious — that an anti-racist academic can admit this, but an alleged “pro-White race realist” like Jobling attempts to deny it.  Cui bono?   It would be one thing if what he’s saying in these essays was correct — after all, there is the long Western tradition of valuing truth-telling over political convenience. 

But it is not correct – and he’s making himself look foolish defending the narrow interests of a group that has heretofore opposed all manifestations of race realism — moderate or otherwise. 

What about arguments such as “don’t people have genetic similarities to mice?  We should avoid killing mice!”  

The whole point of EGI is differences in distinctive genes (or as I would put it, distinctive genetic information).  Harpending makes this point in the article reproduced in the appendix to On Genetic Interests (OGI), when he refers to the fact that people share many genes with an onion. But what is important is genetic similarity beyond that of random gene sharing.  After all, evolution ultimately works on the differences in genetic information within and between populations.  

It is quite clear that if all organisms were perfect genetic clones of each other, then there would be no basis for the natural selection of those types best “fit” for a particular environment.  Selection works on differences; kinship is based upon relative differences.  An Irishman and his brother share many genes with a random, unrelated Irishman.  What’s important for distinguishing the familial interests of the brothers from that of an unrelated co-ethnic is the genetic information shared by the brothers that the unrelated stranger lacks.   

From the perspective of a human, the relationship between humans and mice, from a purely reductionist genetic standpoint, are the genes and gene sequences shared by humans that are distinct from mice.  Random gene sharing does not require humans to place murine interests above their own.  Random gene sharing does not require one human population to favor another if the two are in conflict. 

This mouse-human example also ignores the issue of relative interests and context as described above for our Irish case.  Killing a mouse does not reasonably harm the genetic interests of any individual human in comparison to another person not killing the mouse.  Indeed, if the mouse carries harmful germs, eliminating that rodent can be adaptive; there are no counter-balancing relative interests imposing genetic costs.  That is contrasted to ethnic activism in favor of your ethny, and against an alien ethny which, for example, promotes mass immigration, racial integration and miscegenation, and “civil rights” for other alien ethnics. 

The mouse “argument” also importantly ignores genetic structure. We may share X% of gene sequences with a mouse, but a mouse is structurally different genetically than a human, so that an infinite number of mice do not, and can not, ever constitute an interest to a human greater than one other human. (Note: one cannot completely blame Jobling for this point, since I am not satisfied with how this was handled in OGI).  

Likewise, from the standpoint of an Englishman, any number of English-Bantu hybrids will never exhibit the genetic information characterizing a genetic structure (e.g., coinheritance of genome-wide units of distinctive genetic information) typical of a single given Englishman.  Genetic interests are ultimately about genetic information, not merely the numbers of copies of individual genes or gene sequences.  This flaw in the original EGI concept is one that I hope will be corrected in future editions of OGI.  

Nevertheless, the point is obvious.  How could “kin selection” for our vaunted “family kin members” have evolved anyway?  After all, don’t numbers of non-familial ethnics, non-ethnics, and even mice contain more copies of particular genes than our immediate kin?   The same ridiculous “argument” about “gene sharing” used against ethnic nepotism can be used against familial nepotism.  Jobling no doubt shares more total gene copies with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team than with a single member of his own immediate family.  Should he invest all his resources in buying new sneakers for the globetrotters?  Or, perhaps, in feeding a nest of house mice? 

Further, genetic identity (e.g., population genetics, forensics, paternity) is not based on the numbers of gene sequences, but the patterns of gene sequences within individuals and within groups.  Ultimately, evolution is working on differences in gene (sequence) frequencies in organisms and populations, not those scattered randomly throughout the biosphere.  Genetic structure is important, and recent published work has begun the process of quantifying it. 

In conclusion, I have to tell Hunter Wallace: you are right and my “fence-sitting” about the PSB was wrong.  Even after all the destructive memes that have been emanating from the PSB: a multiracial White separatist (sic) state, racial preservation for its own sake is “insane”; Whites needs to surrender to the racial status quo, and all the rest. 

I naively held out hope that an accommodation could be found between the PSB and traditional “pro-White” factions.  I hoped that the only real differences between the PSB and traditional racial nationalists was merely that the former wanted inclusion of Jews, and that something — perhaps Svigor’s assimilation idea – could be a long-range solution for bridging that gap. 

But, this was mistaken.  There are fundamental differences that set the PSB apart — their ultimate interests are different from ours.  I am concerned — as I believe Hunter Wallace is — that the PSB may attempt to subvert racialism in the same manner that the neoconservatives subverted traditional American conservatism.  If this occurs, racial nationalism (for European-derived peoples) will be replaced by some sort of anti-EGI, aracial culturalism that defends White values rather than White people.  We’ll be told to accept “Asians and others” and to distinguish between the bad “NAMs” (a concept meant to condition us to accept “high-IQ, law-abiding” non-Whites) and the good “AMs.”  As genetic studies continue to emphasize the differences between Jews and Europeans, the PSB can be expected to further critique and attempt to delegitimize EGI and ethnic nepotism.  

Whatever the PSB strives for with their activism, their vision and goals are not ours. 


1. Given that selective pressures on humans have continued up to the present, and may be accelerating, it is quite possible that selection for ethnocentric behavior could have taken place during periods in which different ethnies were in close proximity (e.g., in historical times). It may even be taking place today, as non-ethnocentric ethnies are being demographically displaced by those who place a higher value on such behaviors. And, of course, brain scans show that Whites have a stronger (negative) response to Black faces than to those of Whites, which suggests an evolved heightened “danger” response to the phenotypically alien. 

Although this does not in any way alter the irrelevancy of Brigandt’s argument, it is worth noting that the argument itself may just be plain wrong. We also need to follow through on the implications of Brigandt’s argument. Let us say he is right in that the bulk of behavioral evolution took place within homogeneous groups/societies and, thus, selection for ethnic nepotistic altruism could not have evolved. 

The problem is that the Whites of today, most of them, live within multiracial, multicultural societies quite different from that in which their “instincts” evolved. And the overall “small world” globalist environment means that peoples in general are being exposed to things for which their mental/behavioral modules have not been “evolved” to handle (again, this is assuming Brigandt is correct). Therefore, “evolved behavior” cannot be deemed as “appropriate” — i.e., it cannot be truly adaptive in the modern world, can it? 

You cannot have it both ways. If ethnic nepotism cannot have evolved because human behavioral evolution took place in “racial isolation,” then one cannot assert that behaviors that evolved in such isolation can “protect” the adaptive interests of individuals in radically different environments today.  We have now introduced a factor that simply did not exist in the “environment of evolutionary adaptiveness” — group competition between the co-ethnics and non-ethnics. Broader genetic interest didn’t exist before, as the only group in the environment was co-ethnics, and the only genetic distinctiveness was at the individual and familial level. 

Sorry — that doesn’t apply anymore in multiculturalism or in the “global economy” as a whole. There is now the whole issue of group genetic interests. If Brigandt is correct, “evolved behavior” took place in isolation; hence, such behavior cannot handle the modern realities. Rational thought processes are needed for adaptive behavior today, just as Salter has argued. 

2. See here for a view that competition between groups can create conditions suitable for intra-group cooperation. Given that human evolution has been accelerating, perhaps the argument that ethnic nepotism could not have evolved is wrong.  Again, if certain human traits have been selected for since the Neolithic, and, indeed, during historical times, then human behavioral evolution has been occurring during the period in which different ethnies have been in contact and in conflict.  In those circumstances, ethnic nepotism may have evolved, and in the context given, they may well have been adaptive.  As explained above, there are circumstances in which the “cake” can only be distributed between large population groups, and is not scalable to familial kin.  In those cases, ethnic conflict can select for ethnic nepotism without any conflict to narrower spheres of genetic interest.  However, in the last analysis, whether ethnic nepotism “evolved” is not required for it to be the “evolutionarily better strategy.”

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Evolutionary Psychology: The Really Dangerous Idea Is That It’s Wrong

Sharon Begley is at it again, flailing away at evolutionary psychology because it doesn’t fit well with her feminist, liberal agenda. This is ironic because evolutionary psychology owes its very existence to political correctness.

I remember the excitement when, as a graduate student, E. O. Wilson’s Sociobiology came on the scene. People talked about nothing else. Because of my background in philosophy and in leftist politics, I was a skeptical of sociobiology. But I was converted finally by Robert Trivers’ evolutionary theory of sex. The basic idea is that reproduction is very costly for women because of the huge amount of time and energy involved in pregnancy, lactation, and child care. On the other hand, the basic act of reproduction for males is quite inexpensive, requiring only a small amount of time and energy. This means that in the same time period that a female could raise one child, a male could sire a huge number of offspring. Males benefit from having multiple mates because that raises the probability of their leaving many offspring, i.e., of having reproductive success.

E. O. Wilson

It follows, theoretically, that a principal male motive for seeking wealth and power is gaining access to multiple sexual partners. And this has indeed been the pattern throughout the world.  From Chinese emperors to African chieftains, males at the top of the social hierarchy were able to mate with many females. Most famously, Sultan Moulay Ismail (the Bloodthirsty) of Morocco sired 888 children with his many wives and concubines. This is an enormously powerful theory, and it continues to be the workhorse in the field of  evolutionary psychology.

Once one starts to see the world as shaped by our evolutionary history, it’s impossible to go back. And it was impossible not to notice that sociobiology was being viciously attacked by academics like Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, both of whom were Harvard professors associated with the far left and both of whom, as I later thought significant, were Jewish.

The Book That Changed It All

The vicious assault on sociobiology by the left was a sight to behold—culminating in a woman pouring a pitcher of ice water over Wilson’s head at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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But the left succeeded. Evolutionary psychology became ensconced as the heir of sociobiology. The word ‘sociobiology’ was virtually expunged from the lexicon, and the most important academic journal in the field changed its name from Ethology and Sociobiology to Evolution and Human Behavior. I heard it on good authority that Wilson described those who carried out this coup as acting like “beaten dogs.”

Without the baggage of the term ‘sociobiology,’ the field was free to reinvent itself.  The trick was to loudly proclaim the idea that evolution did indeed sculpt the mind, but that all humans were alike because we all evolved in the same environment. This takes issues like race differences completely off the table.

And since we were all the same, the only source of differences between humans was that people were exposed to different environmental contexts. Why is one person more aggressive than another? The evolutionary psych answer is that some people are exposed to contexts that bring out aggression, such as poverty and low social status — explanations that fit well with a leftist zeitgeist. The  fact that some people have genes that predispose them to be more aggressive than others was out of bounds.

Evolutionary psychology also posited the “massively modular” mind — the idea that the mind was nothing more than a set of mechanisms each designed to solve a specific problem in our evolutionary past: a mechanism for falling in love, a mechanism for finding someone sexually attractive, one for fearing snakes, etc.

This neatly avoids talking about IQ — the one measure that is most feared by the left. That’s because differences in IQ are powerfully associated with success in modern societies, because IQ is strongly genetically influenced,  and, most importantly, because we don’t have any environmental interventions capable of getting rid of race differences in IQ in developed societies. IQ doesn’t fit well with evolutionary psychology because intelligence was not designed to solve any particular problem from our evolutionary past. Rather, it was designed to integrate information from a wide range of areas and use this information to solve novel problems. Humans can solve a whole lot of problems that were not around in the environments we evolved in. That’s why it’s important  for success in school — and modern life.

But despite doing its best to stay in the good graces of the  left, evolutionary psych never quite succeeded. For the left, any hint of biological influence must be resisted at all costs. Hence people like Begley.

The real irony is that taking the power of culture seriously is something that is a double-edged sword for the left. The reason is that if culture can control human behavior, then becomes important for biological fitness. And then we must begin ask ourselves how the culture of the left affects the biological fitness of different groups of people — such as White people in America.

For example, in thinking about the history of sociobiology, we would ask questions like the following:

  • How did the Jewish leftist background of Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin figure into their critique of sociobiology? Did they think of themselves as Jews and see their work as advancing the interests of Jews?
  • Was the demise of Darwinism in the social sciences the result of Jewish intellectual activists like Frank Boas who saw themselves as Jews and thought that destroying Darwinism would be good for Jews?
  • How did the triumph of the culture of the left leave Western societies defenseless against massive non-White immigration so that in the long run Whites will suffer an enormous loss of biological fitness?
  • How does leftist control of the media make White people feel guilty for having positive attitudes about their own group and negative attitudes about non-Whites? Do Jews have any particular influence on the media that conflicts with the interests of European-derived people?
  • Is ethnic conflict over the construction of culture between Jews and formerly dominant Anglo-Saxons the key to understanding the decline of Whites in America?

This, of course, is the direction that I have taken, most notably with my book The Culture of Critique, but also more recently with my academic papers on the theory of cultural control at the psychological level and with elaborating my conflict  theory of culture.

Obviously, it is massively ironic that I am  being hounded as a “racist” by organizations such as the $PLC and the ADL. My background as a cultural leftist led me to interpret human behavior as very much influenced by culture. My early work showed how culture could shape the behavior of men in ways that contradicted the predictions of the evolutionary theory of sex. And if culture can contribute to making men monogamous (or nearly so), it can also cement humans together into cohesive groups. A group evolutionary strategy,  such as Judaism in historical societies, is only possible because people can monitor other group members and punish those who violate group norms (such as marrying outside the group) — and that’s culture, not biology. A viable group strategy requires a belief system in which the aims and practices of the group are rationalized — Judaism as the Chosen People, the Light Unto the Nations, etc.

That’s fairly innocuous and unlikely to get people riled up. But the more I read about Judaism, the more I realized the Jewish role in developing cultural movements that have been so influential in controlling human behavior in recent times and for the decline of Whites throughout the Western world: ideology and culture as ethnic competition. And that is a very dangerous idea indeed.

Kevin MacDonald is a professor of psychology at California State University–Long Beach.  Email him.