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Fallout

Up until I was 23 or so, my beliefs were mostly left-wing. Unknowingly, I had been undermining the foundations of my worldview for years through learning more and more about evolutionary theory and game theory, and acquiring a taste for the clear and concise expression of thought. Biological realism, however, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Learning about it triggered a metaphorical phase change.

I remember the circumstances vividly: it was in august 2015, at a friend’s house in the countryside. I had volunteered to help around the farm – mowing and harvesting – for a few weeks, in exchange for his help in fixing my first car, that I had bought second-hand for the grand sum of 200€ right after getting my driver’s license. He was older than me and a mechanic by trade, but also a bit of a reclusive, low-key misanthropic pothead with a talent for recounting funny stories from his time in various far-left squatter communities in and around Rennes, Brittany.

A typical day would be spent mowing overgrown lawns and hacking through brambles to reclaim under-used areas, before going back home to prepare a vegetarian dinner like potatoes and cheese. After that, we’d crack open a can of beer and sit in front of a wood burning stove for a while, telling half-true, half-made-up stories one after the other. When it got late, I would go up to the attic where I lied on a mattress on the floor, arguing on reddit on my phone for hours before falling asleep.

The gentleman’s one and only way to prepare, and consume, taters.

The long and the short of it is that I ended up finding an openly racist subreddit (the name was a slur) shortly before it was banned, and started arguing there because, well, how can anyone sleep while people are wrong on the internet? Most of the people there were crass about racial differences and could not string together a coherent argument to support the positions their memes implied, but some of them engaged with me and sent me links to twin and adoption studies. I was reading those quite uncharitably, but in the end I had to entertain the possibility that I was wrong. Specifically, I remember being sent links to race-neutral studies, and at some point thinking: “most of the variance between individuals of the same race is explained by genetics, and there are significant average differences between races. While environmental factors could be invoked, it would be very strange if none of the variance between different races was explained by genetics.”

I remember turning off the phone and going through personal memories with a sinking, sickening feeling in my stomach. Among other things, I remembered having had fleeting thoughts about this when I was a teenager. I would later find this written in one of my notebooks: “Human populations are probably not exactly identical, but differences if any must be quite small and if they became known they would only serve to justify far-right ideas”. Reminiscing on this and seeing it as a rationalization of a mental no-entry sign while still having emotional baggage attached to it made me feel like some kind of monster. This was a very strange sensation, and since almost everyone I knew and cared about was very left-wing, I knew this reflected their norms as well. In the next few weeks, when talking to my friend, I could not shed the sensation of being a walking monster masquerading as a human, and that if I took my mask off for one second he would turn against me and expose me to our partially overlapping social circles.

Fleshing out the consequences of this new knowledge took me a long time. Race realism, perhaps surprisingly, ended up having remarkably little impact on my views. Its initial shock value was the bulk of it. Biological realism as a whole, on the other hand, caused a complete overhaul of my former left-wing worldview. In the larger sense, biological realism touches upon things like race differences, sex differences, individual differences, evolutionary psychology, malthusianism, eugenics and even ethics or the lack thereof. I know these overlap, but it is an umbrella term.

This personal experience makes me somewhat receptive to the meta-argument that we should censor knowledge regarding racial/biological differences, because that knowledge is liable to have political consequences. Or at least, I don’t find it absurd, because learning about it did change my views, and from the perspective of a younger me that would not have looked like a positive development. I am also aware that a lot of people would not take in that knowledge in quite the same way that I did, and would rather flip a mental switch in the “black people are bad” position.

However, from my current perspective, I see left-wing ideas as extremely destructive both on an individual level and a collective level, so undermining them through spreading heretical knowledge is a very desirable thing.

It is possible that normal people cannot be race realists and that as a consequence popular culture can only deny (“no such thing”) or idealize (“good or bad?”) race, not see it as a fact about society that we can simply pragmatically take into account when it is relevant. To that, I can only point out that the genie is out of the bottle anyways, and quote the end of my race realism crash course post:

“It is clear that race denialism does nothing to alleviate these problems: refusing to face the truth does not make it go away, it merely ensures that we will pour enormous amounts of resources into self-defeating endeavors. In much the same way, denying race differences only allows the aforementioned political groups to be alone in making those valid points, and to use them to claim the intellectual high ground we have left for them to occupy.”

We have to live with the fallout.

Limits of persuasion

Part 1 – outlining the problem

In all likelihood, there are things that you will never understand. For example, most of us will never understand advanced physics. Getting familiar with modern physics requires a large initial investment in time and effort, as well as a sharp mind. Some do not have the time. Some do not have the ability. Some are unsure as to whether they could, but are not willing to incur the cost of finding out. This can be generalized to subjects other than physics. As a result, we have a problem: since evaluating a theory or a belief requires understanding it, and since blindly following authority is irrational, a candid and rigorous truth-seeker is perfectly justified in rejecting ideas they cannot understand, as a rule of thumb, regardless of the merits of the ideas under scrutiny. This irreducible problem can be seen from two perspectives: that of someone trying to evaluate an idea, or that of someone trying to transmit one.

Part 2 – partial solutions

A partial solution is evaluating the ideas in light of their applications: I may not understand how an internal combustion engine works, but I can see that it does, and this provides me with indirect evidence that the theory is not too far off the mark. This, however, is only a partial solution, because some knowledge is also too theoretical: in other words, the only way to access it is to understand it. It cannot be applied and observed the way solid state electronics provide a demonstration of the probable validity of quantum mechanics. From the perspective of the person evaluating the idea, this issue is without a solution: if something is both beyond you to understand and too theoretical to be demonstrated in an accessible way, then your best course of action is to remain skeptical of it, regardless of whether it is ultimately true or not.

You might recognize someone is smarter than you and base your beliefs off of theirs, but an intelligent person can be deceitful, and perhaps more importantly they can be wrong. Without an ability to directly evaluate their beliefs, it is impossible to tell apart the wheat from the chaff. One possibility is trying to evaluate their character. You may not understand their ideas, and you wouldn’t know if they were honestly mistaken, but you might be able to determine whether they are likely to take you for a fool.  

From the perspective of someone trying to transmit an idea, the prospects are hardly any better, but being aware of this can at least save time. Does the idea require understanding ratios? Or feedback loops? Does it require an explicit, abstract knowledge of these things, or is an intuitive understanding enough? If the prerequisites cannot be acquired, then the idea cannot be transmitted.

One thing of note is that it is possible to demonstrate some abstract philosophical ideas through applying them to your own life and being successful. A layman may not understand the ideas, but he can look at your life and accept some of them as probably valid in light of their results. Personal success is a tool for persuasion, and it can even be an honest one.

Part 3 – further thoughts

As a tangent, and if your concern lies in understanding rather than transmitting, the first course of action should be acquiring foundational knowledge to the best of your ability. I have noticed that even among the able and willing, there is often considerable reluctance to studying. Many of us are trying to obtain insightful knowledge through passively watching youtube videos or reading books, and while that may get you some of the way there, at some point you need to be putting in the work. Game theory, genetics, calculus, probabilities, statistics, are all fields that are both highly relevant to understanding society, human psychology or the natural world, and necessitate active learning to be of use. Many people like to listen to podcasts about scientific and philosophical ideas in their spare time, but a better use of it would be cracking open a linear algebra textbook and doing all the exercises, or actually engaging in philosophical discussion. There is much to be gained in developing a foundation.

It sounds like I’m preaching, but rest assured that this observation stems from my own failings.

Pragmatosphere

I will use this post to list blogs and websites that I frequently refer to in my own blog posts, or that I simply deem to be excellent, or both. These authors tend to espouse a worldview that overlaps with mine.

Maybe I’ll add a book list too. More stuff will be added over time anyhow.

Eternal Anglo weblog: a blog about fertility and statistics. Pauca, sed matura.

The wayward axolotl: concise, clear, profound. “Concentrated thought on the human condition”, as the author puts it. I link to this blog frequently which is why it is there, but if you’re going to do a deep dive I recommend reading it in ebook form, which is much better than reading a blog. And there’s two.

State of the Nihil: a blog about epistemology, social constructionism, book reviews and plenty more.

Zero Contradictions Philosophy Blog: a treasure trove of organized content from different sources, as well as a lot of OC and topical FAQ-style overviews.

West Hunter is the blog of Gregory Cochran and the late Henry Harpending, authors of The 10,000 years explosion, a book about human biodiversity and human evolution since the dawn of agriculture. Part of the blog also exists in ebook form. Most of the posts are low-effort, yet frequently humorous and insightful.

Squaring the circle

Modernity presents us with two sets of problems: small-scale, individual problems, and large-scale, collective problems. They can be understood as the problems inherent to modernity-as-an-environment, and those inherent to modernity-as-a-system, and neither category can be fully addressed if the other isn’t.

Modernity-as-an-environment creates a mismatch between our emotional, instinctive toolkit and the outcome it evolved to produce in the premodern environment: reproduction. Giving away your time and energy to try and solve collective problems is a self-defeating enterprise if it happens at the expense of your ability to reproduce, because it means your characteristics, as an individual wishing to make modernity sustainable, are being weeded out of the population in the process of doing so.

Modernity-as-a-system causes rapid dysgenic effects, overpopulation and large-scale ecological risks (such as the decline in pollinator populations, clone crops being extremely vulnerable to disease, or global warming). This means modernity, as it is, is explosively self-destructive. On the other hand, modernity is the reason why the earth is able to support such a huge population. I’ve said in the past that we’d lose 80% of the population if modern agriculture were to come to a halt, but even that is an understatement, since losing this many people is guaranteed to create worldwide chaos and violence. Depending on what kind of person you are, that would also probably favor people who are adapted to a chaotic and violent environment over your own descent. There are also communities left and right who will have a much higher than average success rate, either due to being prepared or due being able to quickly organize and protect themselves. When all is said and done, I believe a lone individual exclusively focusing on their own reproductive success without taking into account the larger picture, would be lucky to have any descent at all in the long run.

So there we are. Trying to save the world while disregarding your own interests is futile. Trying to save yourself while disregarding the state of the world is risky. You are a part of society, so whatever happens to it will, to some extent, happen to you or your descent. Our best bet is to act on two levels at the same time.

The best way to solve the problems of modernity-as-an-environment, and to protect your progeny in the event of a local or global collapse, is belonging to a community. This community needs to be local, practical, based on memetic traditions, and to an extent insular. The best way to solve the problems of modernity-as-a-system is to create a movement with enough collective agency to be able to act on the world. This movement needs to be global, intellectual, based on memetics fashions, and involved with the mainstream. And of course, as previously discussed, the only way to fully solve either is to solve both. Therefore, regardless of the apparent contradictions between the two, that circle must be squared.

Being local and global

There are many examples of global communities with a mostly unified culture, that are organised as a network of local nodes, so I don’t think this is as much of a problem as it sounds, especially in this day and age. Cultural drift is slowed down by communication between nodes on the internet, which makes it easier to maintain cohesion. This kind of structure facilitates global cooperation. 

Global cooperation aiming to solve the problems of modernity, in turn, can relieve a very important cultural need for individuals in a community: a sense of being a part of something greater than yourself. In that sense, it contributes to the stability of a local culture, by providing a large-scale, universal goal to have in the back of one’s mind. This is valuable, because many deleterious ideologies fill that emotional need in order to plug into young people’s minds. Having an existing outlet for that instinct makes it harder for other fashions to take over. 

Being practical and intellectual

Day to day life involves relying on habits and heuristics. A loftier, more intellectual approach is needed in the context of an intellectual movement aiming to promote its ideas. To put it bluntly, this is a challenge because intellectuals are by and large bad at navigating day-to-day life, and practical people tend to be bad at abstract thinking. 

However, the two aren’t equivalent: a pragmatic attitude can be learned, an ability for abstraction mostly cannot. Therefore, being practical and down-to-earth in the context of your local community, AND able to think at a much higher level of abstraction in the context of a world-spanning think tank, can only be done by intellectuals educated into being grounded, pragmatic people – not the other way around. 

Being traditional and fashionable

The existence of an endogamous community is predicated on double standards. If you wish for your memetic system to be one thing, and for that of the mainstream to be something else, there is no way around being duplicitous: you must believe in x, and promote y, because believing in x while society believes in y benefits you. 

This does not mean that you must promote something widely different from what you actually believe, as that would be impractical. While the traditions of your community and the fashions the intellectual movement promotes cannot be identical, they can be compatible. Also, the memes we promote can be beneficial to society as much as they are to us, and ideally they should be.

Lucky for us, this has already been mostly figured out. The most important outcome we want to achieve in order to solve large-scale, collective problems is EPC, and the memetic system we should promote to that end is Rational humanism, which does not preclude the existence of an endogamous community existing within it. 

Being insular and involved with the mainstream

Easy to do if your citizens/members are smart. Create a culture with lots of specificities, but remain economically and culturally proficient and involved with society at large.

A change in perspective

I owe a great intellectual debt to Richard Dawkins. In particular, reading The Selfish Gene in my early twenties was a life-changing experience. Over the years, I have developed a deep appreciation for authors who go out of their way to be clear, concise and intellectually honest, and Dawkins was the first author I encountered who really fit this pattern. I had previously been reading books from Henri Laborit, a more obscure (and I daresay less concise) author, who titillated my interest for evolutionary theory and evopsych. Dawkins’ writing style was a breath of fresh air. It felt like every chapter contained new insight, original ideas and a commitment to accuracy.

The Selfish Gene was Dawkins’ first major publication, and while I remember it fondly I have come to accept that several of its core ideas are incorrect:

  • Kin selection theory is invalidated by the free rider problem;
  • Memetic viruses exist, but religious traditions are not viruses in a Darwinian sense;
  • The gene’s eye view of evolution is misleading, because selection operates on the phenotype, not the genotype, which means that the built-in function of an evolved organism is to reproduce, not to propagate (or maximize) its genes.

This blog post is about the gene’s eye view. As seen above, it fails descriptively: no organism on earth is evolved to maximize the frequency of its genes. As a matter of fact, if that were the case, it would more efficient for a human to raise mice than to have children. Evidently, our organs and instincts are not optimized for mice farming, they are optimized for reproduction.

However, a definition of what we are could go either way. We could see the self as a transient form, an ever-changing phenotypic expression of genes with a partly stable structure. We could also define it as information: we are our DNA, because the information carried by our DNA is the only thing about us that is stable from birth to death.

One step further: the only part of that information that is specific to you in your DNA is the 60-70 new mutations that you did not inherit from your parents, and the only part that is specific to you in your structure is the result of the unique interactions resulting from your specific mixup of genes.

Mutation, selection, reproduction. Mutation happens in the genes, selection on their expression, and as a consequence reproduction of the variable expression (the phenotype) propagates the relatively stable genes (the information). My evolved function is reproduction, and my subjective purpose is reproduction, but I see my objective self and others as ships of Theseus, defined by our information and structure.

This small shift in perspective has many consequences on one’s worldview, but here are a few :

  • Your relatives are partly you, and you are partly them. And so are mice, to a much lesser degree. Your children are you in a special sense: they carry within them some of the 60 to 70 mutations that are not only stable, but uniquely present in yourself, and a large part of the specific mixup that caused your structure to be what it is.
  • You are either male or female, and you life strategy hinges upon that fact. However, in the next generations, “you” will be playing both sides. If you are your genes, in the long run you are a perfectly androgynous entity. What’s the point then, in resenting the other sex?
  • Some of your specific information will not be passed down, either because it is not present in any of your offspring, or because it will be selected out of the population in the future. Eugenics, then, merely increases the chances of you passing down the best part of yourself, as opposed to the worst part or a random sample.

I am not claiming that this view is better than the phenotype-centric view, it is simply a different perspective on the same phenomenon. A change in perspective sometimes creates insight. Admittedly, it is a bit out there.

Forbidden knowledge

The feeling of having access to Forbidden Knowledge is very powerful. It gives you a feeling of intellectual superiority, and more importantly an illusion of power: you are one of the chosen few, you know something that other people don’t and (presumably) you may leverage that knowledge to gain an advantage.

The impression of being one of the few people who has access to the truth is a beguiling emotion, and it goes towards explaining why so many people hunger for the truth, and why they stop once they are under the impression they have found it – that kind of person, in practice, ends up being an ideology shopper.

I can’t think of any successful memetic system that does not include Forbidden Knowledge one way or another. It can take many forms: divine revelations, conspiracies, obtuse jargon or even profound-sounding life advice. This hints at the fact that giving an aura of secrecy to a memetic system and layering the information it contains can go a long way towards improving its virulence.
Since Forbidden Knowledge plugs into the drives for (intellectual) status and power, the people most easily seduced by it are those who are both powerless and desperate for intellectual status. In other words: the young, the moderately smart and the underachievers.

Memetically speaking: use it, don’t fall prey to it.

Conforming and contrasting

Not too long ago, I read a book by David Reich titled “Who we are and how we got here“. It’s an account of recent developments in ancient DNA analysis, and a summary of what knowledge has been gained. Some of it was devoted to the history of Neanderthals and Denisovans, and amusingly enough, as I was reading I noticed that I was rooting for Homo Sapiens. I don’t think I had ever thought of my species as an in-group before, because everyone I know belongs to it, so it isn’t usually salient. As a consequence, the “human” category doesn’t have a corresponding set of qualities that an individual could use to conform to, or contrast with.

The “human” category is quite pointless, but it brings into light the nature of identity-categories. An identity-category corresponds to a set of labels, and a label is some kind of quality that is both a truth claim about yourself, and in a sense a statement of intention. For instance, applying to yourself the label “hardworking” is threading the needle between believing that you are and deciding to be. The label itself isn’t made up by an individual, but is a cultural artifact and it is liable to change over time as it pushes people to conform themselves to it or contrast themselves with it. Both the observed and speculated behavior of individuals belonging to both of these groups then feed back into the definition of the label itself, making it shift over time in a way that is reminiscent of other chaotic systems: the definition can converge, diverge, fall into a pattern or remain unpredictable.

The identity-category comes as a bundle of such labels, and simultaneous feedback loops happen at several levels. It is further complicated by the fact that some labels are subsets of other labels, and that identity-categories are subsets of other identity-categories. There is something puzzling about this: every identity-category profoundly contradicts some of its subsets, or some of its supersets.

For example, I could identify as a European or a westerner. Some of the qualities of Europeans are being inventive, open-minded, trustworthy, hardworking. But I could also identify as a subset of Europeans like the French or the Celts, with different associated qualities, sometimes incompatible. As a matter of fact, at a lower level still I could identify with a subset of Europeans that produced exceedingly few people of notice: looking for Breton last names in science or philosophy turns up no results, and the ones that have gained notoriety are not numerous. They are mostly successful businessmen, with a few musicians and writers who by and large write about Brittany. Their stereotypical qualities are being headstrong, hardworking and wary of strangers (and more recently, left-leaning), but certainly not inventive or open-minded. I used ethnic categories to make this point, but it could easily be made with ideological, preferential or vocational categories.

I don’t want to get into the function of identity-categories, which has to do with ideologies and group conflict. Instead, I want to advocate for internally rejecting them. Identifying with a group is an unstable state of affairs, because of the cultural feedback loops discussed above. It is never going to be consistent, because every identity-category is nested within other identity categories, and has subcategories within it. I advocate for mentally stripping the categories you belong to from their associated qualities, thus making them as purely descriptive as possible. And if you find yourself under social pressure to demonstrate that you identify with a category, just say the words and do the gestures – no need to internalize them.

Some of the labels associated with your categories are applicable to you, but they give you very little actionable information about yourself because you have access to your own life history. Instead of taking pride or shame in the qualities or failings of a group you belong to, far better to directly ask the question: how have I behaved so far and how do I want to behave in the future?

As for Reich’s book: it was a good read. I recommend it. He pays a bit of necessary lip service to the orthodoxy because you can’t just say “ancestry” is real and get away with it nowadays, but it is easy to ignore.

Laissez-faire eugenics

This post is based on an exchange of messages, hence its unusual structure and tone.

I should begin by saying that dysgenic effects aren’t necessarily caused by policy. Some of them are, and our extensive welfare states are the most visible examples, but even in the absence of welfare, you would observe natural dysgenic effects due to abundance and the effectiveness of modern medicine: in the absence of a selective pressure, the genome degrades over time.

Welfare is dysgenic because it subsidizes the reproduction of unproductive people at the expense of the productive, through taxation. Having welfare can be justified for the sake of being humane, but the positive feedback loop it introduces (more dependents -> more welfare -> yet more dependents etc.) makes for an unstable system in the absence of a compensating negative feedback loop.

Modern medicine and abundance bear dysgenic effects because on average, everyone of us is born with 60 or so new, random mutations. Most are situated in non-coding DNA and are neutral. Of the ones that are not, the vast majority are a net negative because they introduce random change in a very ordered, highly functional structure: the human body. In a world with high newborn and child mortality, this “genetic load” is kept at a low level by repeated trimming. In the modern world, however, with very little selective pressure, genetic load simply accumulates and progressively messes up every organ, including our brains. There is still trimming occurring because we can’t save the desperate cases, but the better we are at salvaging dysfunctional bodies, the higher the threshold at which genetic load will stabilize.

Taken as groups, Europeans, East Asians and some others are well adapted to complex, modern societies and have, in that sense, a very high genetic capital. However, the dysgenic effects apply to them too. In the absence of immigration it would simply take longer for them to degrade to the point of being unable to maintain modern civilization, because they have more “capital” to burn through.

To be clear, when I say that some groups are adapted to complex, modern societies, I mean that they are able to establish one and keep it running. Of course, in an evolutionary sense, their current birthrates indicate that they are (if anything) less adapted to the conditions of modern society than overall parasitic populations. “Parasitic” here means free-riding, in the sense that welfare props up their birthrates.

Now, speaking of eugenics. Eugenics applies to populations, not individuals, and can be summed up as providing (negative or positive) incentives to individuals before they have children, in an effort to consciously manage the genome of a population.

Everything is a tradeoff: eugenics solves problems, and creates others. In the past, it was often confused with some kind of group selection (the nazis tried to do some of that, mostly neglecting that dysgenic effects happen within groups too), but the most widespread class of objections to eugenics is summed up in Goodhart’s law: when the measure becomes a standard, it ceases to be a good measure. You might, for instance, find that IQ is correlated with good outcomes in the lives of people, but as soon as you make that into a standard, or a criteria for reproducing, you will find that what you’re selecting for is people’s ability to ruthlessly game the system in many different ways: practicing tests, staying on welfare despite having a high IQ etc. It could be argued that even sloppily implemented eugenics is better than none at all, but overall this type of objection is perfectly fair and understandable.

That is the reason why I advocate for a form of eugenics that is tied to how functional you are in society, in its current form. If you can justify having enough resources to raise a child, you get a parental permit. This is quite hands-off and adaptable, because the thresholds are adaptable. Most people who are basically functional should be able to have a family, barring being completely dependent on welfare or committing heinous crimes. It doesn’t select for anything in particular, besides a general, slow drift in the direction preferred by society. For instance, being a dwarf is a disadvantage in life, but there is no reason why a dwarf who “makes it” in spite of his handicap (presumably because he has other, socially desirable qualities) shouldn’t be able to have a family, and the same goes for other kinds of disadvantages.

It’s also not race-based, although it would be dishonest to pretend that this would impact all racial groups equally. It would create a greater selective pressure on less functional groups, reducing their share of the population, but also bringing them “up to speed”, so to speak, quicker.

To those who fear that a system which uses resources as a basis for a parental permit system will create a caste-based society, I recommend Gregory Clark’s body of research. Here’s the gist: the rate of social mobility is extremely stable across time and space. It is excruciatingly slow, but also never brought to a standstill. There is one exception: endogamous communities.

Race realism crash course

This essay is a collection of strong arguments supporting race realism. It aims to be short and to the point. In contrast with most material dealing with this topic, I will avoid focusing too much on the empirical, statistical aspect of it. A good logical argument is just as valid a point as a statistical finding. In either case, there is no substitute for your personal judgment.

Part 1: what should we expect? 

We know that genetic differences cause behavioral differences. An example of this is how domesticated pets behave compared to their wild counterparts. Dogs are much more tame than wolves, and different breeds of dogs have different degrees of tameness, and different personalities.

We know that many human populations have been separated for tens of thousands of years, and in the case of the major racial groups, much longer than that. Is 20,000 years, or roughly 800 generations, enough time for significant evolution to take place? The answer is yes. Horses have been domesticated for about 5000 years or 800 of their generations. Not only do many breeds exist with different behavioral, physical and intellectual characteristics, but they are no doubt very different from their extinct wild cousins from Mongolia. Those probably behaved more like zebras, which are notoriously hard to break and panic at the drop of a hat. Contrast that with the behavior of European war horses in the 19th century, bred to be comfortable in battle, surrounded by thick smoke and yelling men, all while charging into crackling muskets and wearing heavy armor.

Evolution requires selective pressure to happen. Were humans under any kind of selective pressure during all this time? In other words, did humans consistently die prematurely or fail to reproduce because of their own behavior? Humans fought wars, starved to death, were executed, were imprisoned, failed to find a spouse, chose celibacy. Any of those things, if applied consistently, produces a selective pressure.

Divergence requires different environments or ways of life. Were human populations living in significantly different environments during the period of interest? Some were fully carnivorous (Inuits) while others were fully vegetarian (Indian Brahmins). Some lived in cold climates while others lived in warm climates. Some were farmers, others pastoralists and others were hunter-gatherers. Some lived in densely populated areas, while others lived in human deserts or frontiers. Some had strict laws against rape and murder, others had laws specifying when and where either was fine. Some mostly died from disease, others mostly died from starvation or war.

In conclusion, human populations have existed for long enough, under enough selective pressure and in different enough environments that we should expect significant genetic differences between them. Genetic differences cause behavioral differences, so we should also expect individuals from different human populations, or races, to exhibit behavioral differences on average. The opposite would be extraordinary. 

Part 2: does it fit the picture?

In other words, is this suspicion supported by observation? The answer is yes, in many different ways.

We find significant differences in economic outcomes between different ethnic groups when those are studied within a given society. We find significant differences in economic outcomes between countries that differ in their ethnic makeup, even with similar political systems and resource availability. Both of these points are true even on a subracial level. There are consistent differences in economic outcomes between subgroups of Europeans, Africans and East Asians.  

Across many different countries and populations, psychometric tests find recurring patterns that are compatible with the ones previously identified. This is true regardless of the psychometric test that we use, be it IQ tests, the wonderlic test, or military tests from around the world.

This same pattern is also visible in crime rates around the world, including violent crime rates and crimes such as rape that no amount of poverty would reasonably lead to. It is consistent with the idea that crime and poverty are influenced by the same underlying variables.

In all of these economic, psychometric and social measures, we find that mixed race people, on average, fall in between their parents’ racial group average, which is also consistent with the idea that most of the variance in human behavior between races, is caused by genetic differences.

Basic observation matches our expectations well. The picture fits. At this point, it would take a very strong counterpoint for us to require an alternative, more complex theory.

Part 3: nails in the coffin.

The first nail in the coffin is that we’ve discovered admixture from different hominins in different human races. It’s not a lot, only a few percentage points, but it would be enough by itself to introduce dramatic variation in human phenotypes. Different hominids like Neanderthals, Denisovans, Erectus and the unnamed hominins we can detect in Pygmy genomes, interbred with different racial groups in varying degrees. Those hominins were not races: they were more distantly related than races, probably either subspecies or proper species. As it happens, the lion’s share of genetic differences between human races is not caused by this admixture, but its existence makes the notion that they could not be significant, ridiculous.

The second nail in the coffin comes from twin and adoption studies. These are natural experiments allowing us to control for certain factors. For instance, real twins are genetically identical, so the variance between them is not caused by direct genetic effects. This allows us to estimate the strength of those direct genetic effects, even though it does not provide a lot of information about indirect genetic effects. Twin studies allow us to get an idea of the lower bound for the importance of genes in explaining individual variation in a given sample. Twin studies find that tests taken by identical twins are about as similar as those taken by the same person twice.

Adoption studies are not as airtight and they have more confounding variables, but the general picture they paint regarding race is very clear: races differ on a number of important metrics, and while individual variation is high, the pattern of racial differences is stable across many different cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic environments.

The third nail in the coffin comes from genomic studies. The genetic variants that correlate with intelligence and personality type are presently being identified and so far, their racial distribution follows the expected pattern.

Part 4: race denialism is supported with bad arguments.

One bad argument is that evidence from psychometric tests is culturally biased. If this were true, then we would expect psychometric tests not to have as much predictive power over the life outcomes of black people as they do for white people. This is not the case: psychometric tests are a strong indicator of how well a black person is likely to do in life, and predict the same kind of outcomes they do in white people, namely economic success and risk taking behavior. This indicates that whatever cultural biases persist in psychometric tests are not significant enough to invalidate the results.

It is also often claimed that race is a social construct, which is true, but does not constitute an argument against race realism. Rather, it is a false dichotomy: the social construct of beauty does not mean that humans look identical and that their appearance is only a product of perception. Likewise, race is a social construct built on top of a biological reality. 

Another common bad argument is that race is a fuzzy concept with no clear boundaries. This is also correct: races are not discrete entities, but should instead be thought of as clusters of traits that, in most cases, fall on a continuum. However, this is not the gotcha that people making this point think it is. Edge cases and in-betweens are a universal thing and do not prevent us from using concepts and making judgements. For instance, the existence of people who are neither really young or old, does not prevent us from using the concepts of young and old, and does not make them meaningless. This also addresses the often heard observation that variation within races is greater than variation between races. That the difference of averages between two samples should be smaller than the difference between the extremums of either is to be expected, and a non-sequitur to boot.

While it does not constitute evidence in and of itself, the existence of many separate but equally faulty lines of reasoning should make you suspicious of the notion that racial denialism is motivated by truth seeking. It is much more likely to be an ideological tenet in need of post-hoc justification.

Part 5: conclusion.

The last point I wish to address concerns the potential undesirable consequences of speaking out. While an appeal to consequences does not bear upon the validity of the position, it is a fair point to raise regarding the course of action that one should take once a conclusion has been reached.

I agree that race realism, and more generally biological realism, has uncomfortable implications, such as the relative pointlessness of trying to erase differences through education, or the low likelihood of establishing a self-sustaining modern economy in subsaharan Africa. I also agree that some more unsavory types will attempt to coopt the points being made to further their political agenda.

However, it is clear that race denialism does nothing to alleviate these problems: refusing to face the truth does not make it go away, it merely ensures that we will pour enormous amounts of resources into self-defeating endeavors. In much the same way, denying race differences only allows the aforementioned political groups to be alone in making those valid points, and to use them to claim the intellectual high ground we have left for them to occupy.

In conclusion the implications of evolutionary theory predict phenotype divergence between groups of humans ranging from minor to significant. Such predictions have been validated recurrently and conclusively by anthropological and biological findings. And finally arguments against race realism are supported by fallacious reasoning and/or ignorance of evolutionary mechanics. I hope that the taboo nature of this subject will not deter you from seeking the truth about it. I challenge my readers to use this knowledge to consider the true breadth and depth of human diversity.

Equality

Equality comes in different forms: the debate between “equality of opportunity” and “equality of outcomes” is well known and defines, to some extent, different political stances within the naive humanist framework. Roughly speaking, centrists care more about equality of opportunity, leftists care more about equality of outcomes.

Equality of opportunity is otherwise known as fairness. Equality of outcomes is otherwise known as equity, and sometimes thought of as a classless society – or at least a society without poverty. I’d be remiss not to post this infamous image contrasting fairness (which they here call equality) and equity.

If you’re curious, here’s a blog post that discusses in more detail what’s wrong with this image (towards the end).

There is a third conception of equality, which is not prescriptive but descriptive: equality of ability, which is otherwise known as the blank slate theory of human nature. This theory is wrong, and one could argue this conclusion was always staring us in the face, but modern biology really did hammer down the last nail in the coffin: defending the blank slate theory of human nature in the current year requires a considerable amount of both ignorance and self-deception. Lucky for us, neither of those qualities is in short supply.

Here’s the important part: if the blank slate theory of human nature was true, implementing equality of opportunity would produce equality of outcomes, bar some random, negligible variation. Forcing equality of outcomes would also produce equality of opportunity, in due time. It is, however, false, which means implementing equality of opportunity comes at the cost of equality of outcomes. Conversely, implementing equality of outcomes comes at the cost of equality of opportunity.

This is a big source of cognitive dissonance for most humanists, because the evidence of human inequality of ability (both at the group level and at the individual level) has now become very hard to deny. It is everywhere, readily available and easy to understand.

However, as long as you can maintain your belief in equality of ability, you can have your cake and eat it, too.