Western Civilization

Can Church Influence Explain Western Individualism? Comment on “The Church, Intensive Kinship, and Global Psychological Variation,” by Jonathan F. Schulz et al.

Because of its uniqueness, Western individualism presents a daunting question for scholars and in particular for a theory based on evolutionary psychology. There are essentially two ways for an evolutionary perspective to attempt to understand uniqueness. One is to propose a unique evolutionary environment resulting in genetically based uniqueness; the other is to propose universal psychological mechanisms interacting with particular cultural contexts.  Jonathan Schulz et al.’s “The Church, Intensive Kinship, and Global Psychological Variation” is an example of the latter. It presents a theory of Western individualism in which the cultural context created by the medieval Catholic Church, particularly the prohibitions on relatedness in marriage, played a central role in the development of the individualistic psychology of the West. More precisely, the paper attempts to explain “a substantial portion” of the variation in psychological traits widely recognized to be characteristic of individualism (“individualistic, independent, analytically minded, and impersonally prosocial [e.g., trusting of strangers] while revealing less conformity, obedience, in-group loyalty, and nepotism”) by exposure to the medieval Western Church.[1] Within this cultural framework, there is no attempt to present the motivations of the Church for creating this cultural context in terms of particular psychological mechanisms.

These issues intersect with much of the discussion in my recently published Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition: Evolutionary Origins, History, and Prospects for the Future. However, my theory is based on the proposal that Western uniqueness derives ultimately from unique ancestral environments in northwestern Europe, with emphasis on a north-south genetic cline in the relative genetic contributions of northern hunter gatherers, Indo-Europeans, and Early Farmers from the Middle East. While Schulz et al. control for a wide range of variables, they do not control for regional genetic differences within Western Europe that have been uncovered by recent population genetic research (reviewed in my Chapter 1), nor do they review research by family historians indicating important regional variation within Western Europe that does not at all map onto exposure to the Western Church (reviewed in my Chapter 4).

However, I do discuss the influence of the Western Church, concluding that the Church’s

influence was directed at altering Western culture away from extended kinship networks and other collectivist institutions, motivated ultimately by the desire to extend its own power [analyzed as an evolved human universal]. However, although the Church promoted individualism and doubtless influenced Western culture in that direction, this influence built on individualistic tendencies that long predated Christianity and were due ultimately to ethnic tendencies toward individualism unique to European peoples (Chapters 1–4). [From Chapter 5, 170]

My approach thus combines pre-historic natural selection for individualist psychology with particular cultural contexts, one of which is the influence of the Catholic Church, the latter interpreted as building on pre-existing tendencies. My Chapter 5 on the medieval Church argues, on the basis of data similar to that cited by Schulz et al., that the Church facilitated individualism—and may well have sped up the establishment of individualism, but did not cause it. Given that Schulz et al. claim to have achieved only a partial explanation, there is thus no fundamental disagreement. However, based on my treatment, here I attempt to show why exposure to the medieval Church is an inadequate explanation of psychological individualism in the West.

There is much that our approaches have in common. In particular, they note that kinship relationships are central in understanding human societies and that the general trend has been a shift away from extensive kinship relationships typical of hunter-gatherers throughout the world (i.e., relatively weak ties to many people of varying genetic distance—discussed in my Chapter 3) to intensive kinship relations (i.e., kinship deeply embedded within closely related groups, e.g., clans and kindreds with a distinct hierarchy based on degree of genetic relatedness) commonly found in agricultural societies. Read more

New book: Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition: Evolutionary Origins, History, and Prospects for the Future

Available at Amazon: Paperback or e-book.

Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition argues that ethnic influences are important for understanding the West. The prehistoric invasion of the Indo-Europeans had a transformative influence on Western Europe, inaugurating a prolonged period of what is labeled “aristocratic individualism” resulting form variants of Indo-European genetic and cultural influence. However, beginning in the seventeenth century and gradually becoming dominant was a new culture labeled “egalitarian individualism” which was influenced by preexisting egalitarian tendencies of northwest Europeans. Egalitarian individualism ushered in the modern world but may well carry the seeds of its own destruction.

Triggered by Bach: Classical Music as Implicit White Supremacy

“White supremacist” has long been the preferred Jewish epithet to throw at White people who have the temerity to do what Jews do routinely: openly advocate for their ethnic interests. This hackneyed label has always been utterly beside the point: whether Whites are superior to non-Whites has no logical bearing on the moral legitimacy of White people defending their collective interests. Having said this, everyone is well aware that the achievements of White people in countless cultural and scientific domains surpass those of other groups, and can objectively be regarded as “superior.” A conspicuous example is the Western musical tradition.

The superiority of Western classical music is so decisive one could almost rest the argument for the superiority of Western culture on it alone. There exists a hierarchy in the world of sound, as in other phenomena. Noise occupies the lowest rung in this hierarchy; it is an undifferentiated mass of sound in which no distinction exists. The lowest kind of music, say that of Australia’s Aborigines, most closely corresponds to noise. Western classical music, by contrast, exists on the highest rung because it apprehends sound in the most highly differentiated way possible. It is the farthest from noise and most fully exploits the inherent potential of the world of sound.

How well this potential is apprehended and developed can lead to Bach’s inimitable counterpoint, the extraordinary tonal architecture of Beethoven’s symphonies, Bruckner’s sonic cathedrals — or to banging on a hollow log with a stick. Besides stimulating pleasure in audiences, great classical music has an unrivalled capacity to shed light on our ontological predicament and connect aesthetic experience with the transcendental. Goethe once noted, with reference to Bach’s great fugues, where as many as five separate lines of musical argument are simultaneously sustained, that “it is as though the eternal harmony has a conversation with itself.” Only Western classical music, I would argue, can create this sublime impression.

To point out the foregoing is to trigger rage from anti-White commentators who huff that it has “long been an argument of white supremacists, Nazis, Neo-Nazis, and racial separatists that ‘classical music,’ the music of ‘white people,’ is inherently more sophisticated, complicated, and valuable than the musical traditions of Africa, Asia, South America, or the Middle East, thus proving the innate superiority of the ‘white race.’” The problem with this assessment, aside from denying the very existence of the White race, is the inability to demonstrate (or even attempt to demonstrate) that Western classical music is not inherently more sophisticated, complicated (and yes valuable) than other musical traditions. Read more

The Rise and Decline of the West: Review “At Our Wit’s End” by Edward Dutton and Michael A. Woodley of Menie

 At Our Wit’s End: Why We’re Becoming Less Intelligent and What It Means for Our Future
Edward Dutton and Michael A. Woodley of Menie
Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 2018

We in the West have long become accustomed to the idea that scientific and technological progress is the normal state of things, although decline—technological deterioration and loss of knowledge—is by no means uncommon across world history. The contemporary West may be declining in many ways, but what stage in our history could we point to as the summit of our scientific knowledge and technological capability if not the present? And wouldn’t it be absurd to suppose this progress has reached its completion?

Authors Dutton and Woodley, however, would note that a civilization may pass its peak long before the sum of its achievements is complete. We may look for our greatest era not when our knowledge and capabilities were most extensive, but when they were growing most rapidly. And that point, they believe, is already well behind us.

They begin their study by drawing our attention to two technological breakthroughs of the year 1969: the first flight of the Concorde supersonic passenger jet, cutting transatlantic travel time from eight to three and a half hours, and the first manned moon landing. At the time, most people assumed more such aeronautical wonders lay in store. This writer can remember the ubiquitous “artist’s impressions” of future manned flights to Mars and beyond; every little boy of that generation wanted to become an astronaut.

But a Concorde crashed due to human error in 2000, and all flights were discontinued three years later. We have not returned to the moon since 1972. The authors do not mention this, but by 2010 a NASA administrator was saying that “perhaps [the] foremost” of the space agency’s missions was to “reach out to the Muslim world … to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.” We are not exactly aiming for the stars any more.

In the authors’ view, the best explanation for such regression is extremely simple: we are becoming less intelligent. Other explanations have some validity: the end of the cold war, e.g., partly accounts for the lowered ambitions of NASA, although not the end of the Concorde. But on Ockhamist principles, as the authors write, “if we can plausibly explain two separate events with one theory, that is superior to having a different theory for each event.” Read more

A Conversation with Ricardo Duchesne, Part 3 of 3

Go to Part 1.
Go to Part 2.

Grégoire Canlorbe: It is not uncommon to claim the self-assertive longing for “prestige,” “respect,” and “fame” is fully intelligible within the framework of the selfish-gene theory, according to which the individual is biologically designed to propagate his genes—and therefore, to pursue personal survival, reproduction, and kin solidarity. Despite the Indo-European warlord’s disdain for his own biological survival, and despite his heroism being recognized and praised by people who are not necessarily related to him genetically, do you still subscribe to the universal relevance of the selfish-gene framework?

Ricardo Duchesne: In Uniqueness I contrasted the aristocratic obsession with honor and respect to the universal instinct for survival, giving the impression that Indo-Europeans were somehow standing above the evolutionary pressures that all groups face in maximizing their chances for reproduction and survival. Kevin MacDonald correctly clarified, in his long review, that “prestige and honor among one’s fellows is in fact typically linked with material possessions and reproductive success. Like other psychological traits related to aggression and risk-taking, the pursuit of social prestige by heroic acts is a high risk/high reward behavior, where evidently the rewards sufficiently outweighed the risks over a prolonged period of evolutionary time.”[1]

Darwinian selective pressures are always at work. But this should not be taken to mean that human culture does not have its own internal dynamics, and that all our beliefs and behaviors are explainable in Darwinian terms. Evolutionary psychologists (not MacDonald) can be quite presumptuous in their fundamentalist belief that they can instruct sociologists, philosophers, and members of the humanities, about human nature and the ultimate origins and biological foundations of our cultural practices. They like to emphasize the cultural patterns, institutions, customs, and beliefs that occur universally across many cultures, as a demonstration that humans will only engage in cultural practices that are good candidates for evolutionary adaptations.

It is worth noticing, however, that the examples of cultural universals they offer — such as the universal presence of athletic sports, dancing, music, housing, funeral rites, language, greetings, courtship, calendars, division of labor, status differentiation, tool-making — are examples of basic cultural practices performed by everyday humans. They represent the lowest cultural denominator. They can’t account for the superlative achievements of Europeans in music, the fact that classical music is singularly European, in evolutionary terms. They can’t account for the fact that almost all the greatest thinkers are European, the architectural styles, the invention of sports, etc. Their inclination, rather, is to trivialize high culture and high achievements that are not easily fitted into an evolutionary scheme.

Why did Europe produce almost all the great scientists in history? Steven Pinker is not interested in these questions but concentrates on the universal traits of the human mind as “a neural computer, fitted by natural selection with combinatorial algorithms for causal and probabilistic reasoning about plants, animals, objects and people.”[2] How do we explain Europe’s superlative achievements in the arts? Pinker’s angle is that “the value of art is largely unrelated to aesthetics: a priceless masterpiece becomes worthless if found to be a forgery; soup cans and comic strips become high art when the art world says they are, and then command conspicuously wasteful prices.”[3]

They know that natural selection can only play a foundational role in understanding human culture and that “human culture itself,” in the words of another Darwinian hardliner, Daniel Dennett, “is a more fecund generator of brilliant innovations” than genetic endowment. This is why they came up with the concept of memes, which they think “can do justice to the humanities and sciences at the same time” by providing an explanation of cultural changes in terms of “new selective pressures” created by culture itself. They acknowledge that culture has evolved through cultural selection transmitted “perceptually, not genetically”[4]

Richard Dawkins defines the term meme “to refer to the ways of doing and making things that spread through cultures.” Dennett realizes that many selected memes have not enhanced human fitness, and that in fact “many of our most cherished memes are demonstrably fitness-reducing in the biological sense,” such as postponing procreation to get a very expensive college education. Once we meet our survival needs, humans “think there are more important things in life than out-reproducing their conspecifics.”  “We are the only species that has discovered other things to die for (and to kill for): freedom, democracy, truth, communism, Roman Catholicism, Islam, and many other meme complexes (memes made up of memes).”[5] We are the only species that articulates reasons to account for why we do things and the only species that attempts to persuade others why those reasons are good, often in the name of goals that cannot be accounted for in straightforward evolutionary terms. They have also argued that human cultural activity has changed the environments they respond to, creating “cognitive niches” or “cultural niches” with very different selective pressures. Pinker believes that humans evolved sufficient genetic capacities to be able to select the best memes and discard culturally inefficient or dysfunctional memes. Read more

A Conversation with Ricardo Duchesne, Part 2 of 3

Grégoire Canlorbe: Western civilization, originating from the Indo-European heroic ethos, turned out to be both the most creative and Faustian civilization and the most war-ridden and war-dominated one. Islamic civilization has been equally militaristic and expansionist; yet it quickly became frozen and hostile towards innovation and individual genius—despite the fact that praising Muhammad’s heroic lifetime has permeated Islamic societies to this day. How do you explain this duality?

Ricardo Duchesne: Almost all cultures have been expansionist, if not warlike, in one form or another. This universal trait does not make a people Faustian. Even highly expansionist peoples such as the Assyrians, Aztecs, Huns, Turks, or Mongols, were not Faustian. Oswald Spengler was aware that medieval and modern Europeans were not uniquely militaristic and imperialistic. Spengler spoke of the “morphological relationship that inwardly binds together the expression-forms of all branches of Culture.” For him, such things as Rococo art, differential calculus, the Crusades and the Spanish conquest of the Americas, were all expressions of the same soul. He saw something Faustian about all the great men of Europe, both in reality and in fiction: in Hamlet, Richard III, Gauss, Newton, Nicolas Cusanus, Don Quixote, Goethe’s Werther, Gregory VII, Michelangelo, Paracelsus, Dante, Descartes, Don Juan, Bach, Wagner’s Parsifal, Haydn, Leibniz’s Monads, Giordano Bruno, Frederick the Great, Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. For Spengler, Christianity, too, became a thoroughly Faustian moral ethic. “It was not Christianity that transformed Faustian man, but Faustian man who transformed Christianity —and he not only made it a new religion but also gave it a new moral direction”: will-to-power in ethics. This “Faustian-Christian morale” produced the incredible variety of personalities we witness in Europe, such as Luther, Loyola, Pascal, St. Theresa, “giant-men like Henry the Lion and Gregory VII, … the men of the Renaissance, of the struggle of the two Roses, of the Huguenot Wars, the Spanish Conquistadores, … Napoleon, Bismarck, Rhodes.”

By contrast, other than the Islamic efflorescence between 700 and 1200, which consisted primarily in commentaries on Aristotle, preserving some contributions from Persia and the Greco-Roman world, the Islamic world barely produced any truly creative personalities. Spengler attributed this to the “the Magian Soul” of Arabic-Muslim culture; in Islam “the civil and the ecclesiastical are identical.” This identification means that the world of man is subordinate to the dictates of Islam, everyone is essentially a believer or a non-believer, a member of the “We” of Islam or an outcast standing alone. There is no “I” in Islam, no room for personalities to affirm their “self-asserting egos” as we find in Christianity. Faustian Christianity “presupposes the strong and free will that can overcome itself.”

It is difficult to sum up this contrast, but perhaps this passage may do for this interview: “Whereas the Faustian man is an ‘I’ that in the last resort draws its own conclusions about the Infinite, … the Magian man, with his spiritual kind of being, is only a part of a pneumatic ‘We’ that, descending from above, is one and the same in all believers. As body and soul he belongs not to himself alone, but something else, something alien and higher, dwells in him, making him with all his glimpses and convictions just a member of a consensus which, as the emanation of God, excludes error, but excludes also all possibility of the self-asserting Ego. Truth is for him something other than for us. All our epistemological methods, resting upon the individual judgment, are for him madness and infatuation, and its scientific results a work of the Evil One, who has confused and deceived the spirit as to its true dispositions and purposes.”[1]

Once we understand the “morphological” unity of culture, we can see that Islam has not been “equally militaristic and expansionist.” There is a beautiful creativity in European expansionism that is lacking in all other cultures. Europeans were far more expansive, and successfully so: by 1800 they controlled 35% of the land surface of the globe, increasing this control to 85% by 1914. Almost every single military innovation in weapons, strategy, and organization, from ancient Greek times to the present, was European. There is no comparison. Read more

A conversation with Ricardo Duchesne, Part 1 of 3

Editor’s note: Prof. Ricardo Duchesne will be the featured guest on the monthly video show promoting TOQ with James Edwards and me on Monday, February 4—details to come. In addition to his contributions to TOQ, Dr. Duchesne has authored several books, including The Uniqueness of Western CivilizationFaustian Man in a Multicultural Age, and Canada In Decay: Mass Immigration, Diversity, and the Ethnocide of Euro-Canadians.

Ricardo Duchesne is a Canadian historical sociologist whose main research interests notably include the Indo-European aristocratic-warlike and individualist ethos, the Faustian mentality and the creativeness of Western civilization from ancient Greek times to the present, and the pernicious effects of the multicultural and multiracial ideal on modern Western society.

Grégoire Canlorbe: In your eyes, the European civilization of the White man has been systemically downsized by contemporary world historians—to name but a few, Patrick O’Brien, Sebastian Conrad, or Ian Morris. Could you develop?

Ricardo Duchesne: At this point in time, the downplaying of European civilization goes well beyond the observations I made in The Uniqueness of Western Civilization (2011). The globalist establishment is no longer satisfied with the replacement of Western Civ courses, which were part of the standard curriculum in North America throughout much of the twentieth century, with Multicultural World History surveys that emphasize “reciprocal connections within the globe.” The academic establishment is no longer satisfied instructing students that European achievements can only be understood in connection with the rest of the world’s cultures, that Muslims were key creators of the West no less than Christians, that the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution, were world historical affairs, that Europe only managed to industrialize thanks to the resources and hard labor of Africans and Aboriginals. That is no longer enough, they are now insisting, as I indicated in my second book, Faustian Man in a Multicultural Age (2017), that Europeans don’t have a distinctive identity because they have been mixing racially for thousands of years as a result of migratory movements. They are forcing their students to equate the current state-sponsored immigration movements from the Third World, purposely aimed at diversifying all White nations, with internal European migrations that occurred over the course of many centuries. They are trying to strip Europeans of any sense of ethnic identity, by making them believe that the race-mixing globalists are incessantly promoting today is a natural continuation of migratory movements thousands of years ago.

Rather that truthfully teaching students that the genetic makeup of Europeans, before diversity was imposed a few decades ago, remained very stable for most of their history, with next to zero genetic additions from Africans and Asians, they are indoctrinating them to believe that African/Asian-looking peoples were the original migrant-inhabitants of Europe. They are saying that Europeans were not indigenous to Europe, that this continent was the creation of waves of immigrants from outside Europe. They are extending the same false argument they have been making about the settler nations of America, Canada, and Australia — “Nations of Immigrants” — to all White nations. Yet, this argument does not even hold for these settler nations. As I argued in my best-selling book, Canada in Decay: Mass Immigration, Diversity and the Ethnocide of Euro-Canadians (2017), Canada was not a nation of immigrants but a nation built from the ground up by settlers and indigenous Quebecois, Acadians, and Anglo Loyalists. The same goes for America, Australia, and New Zealand; they were founded by White settlers who created a uniquely indigenous culture in these homelands.

Let it be said that these arguments are not being made by world historians alone, or by typically crazed academics in some half-baked field — what we now identify as “Grievance Studies.” What is so disconcerting, as I argued in “Deceptive Use of Scientific Data to Promote Ethnocide of Europeans,” is that academics in the natural sciences, population geneticists, archaeologists, paleogeneticists, and evolutionary biologists, are deceptively interpreting their otherwise objectively gathered findings (that there were intra-European migratory movements thousands of years ago) as if these movements consisted of non-Whites from Asia and Africa. They are arguing that these movements are a demonstration that there is no such thing as a uniquely German, a uniquely Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, or British people, because “all Europeans are already a mishmash of repeated ancient migrations” from non-European lands. But this is not true; what has been really documented is that there was some degree of intra-European racial mixing over the course of many centuries of migrations and invasions. It has also been documented that there was a “massive migratory movement” from the “Pontic-Steppes”, but these migrants were none other than the Indo-Europeans, once known as “Aryans”, and they did not come from “Asia” since the Pontic Steppes are part of the continent of Europe, and these migrants were White. The only migrants who came from outside Europe were the Anatolian farmers who started colonizing southern Europe about 8800 years ago, who did have considerable genetic impact on Spain, Italy, and Greece. Read more