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 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.