Category Archives: Evolution

You looking at me?

Robert Henderson

Contents

The perception of facial expressions

The nature of the mis-identified emotions

The bias in the East Asian mis-identifications

How could  such a perceptual difference arise?

Possible variations in the perception of other non-verbal behaviour

Language is a signifier but what does it signify?

The political and social implications of the Glasgow research

Be cautious

Further research

The perception of facial expressions

A team  led by  Glasgow University  in Scotland   published  research in  2009 in the journal Current Biology on  differences in the interpretation of facial expressions by  different racial  groups (1).  The research  suggests  that Whites (2) and East Asians  differ significantly in their mode of scrutiny of faces and  their success in identifying emotions from facial expressions.

Whites  concentrate their attention on the eyes and the mouth equally while East Asians concentrate largely on the eyes. The consequence is that the latter have difficulty in distinguishing expressions which have a  similarity around the eyes. Whites, who use  two reference areas,  are significantly more adept at correctly identifying  such expressions  The difference in the mode scanning faces used by  the two groups  plausibly translates into a difference in  the emoticons  used . by Whites and East Asians   Whites  use representations of the mouth  :) for happy and :( for sad; East Asians  representations of the eyes^.^ for happy and ;_; for sad.

The research involved  White  and East Asian  subjects  (3) viewing still images of  faces  whose emotions were  classified  using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), which categorises emotion depending on the muscles used. Those wishing for the full technical details of the study can find them at the url given at note (1).

The subjects were shown  both White  and  East Asian photographs with expressions classified as Happy’, ‘Surprise’, ‘Fear’, ‘Disgust’, ‘Anger’ and  ‘Sadness’ plus ‘Neutral’ with Same Race  and Other Race  FACS-coded faces.

Whites correctly identified expressions all the time,  but East Asians  confused fear with surprise and disgust with anger, while the sadness, happiness and  neutral images produced similar results amongst both the White and East Asian subjects. Let us try to winkle out why this might be.

The nature of the mis-identified emotions

There are  two obvious differences between the expressions which are and are not correctly identified. First, all the emotions involved in incorrect identifications are in some manner unpleasant emotions, while happiness and  sadness contain one pleasant and one unpleasant emotion.

Fear and surprise and disgust and anger are pairs which have some tangential similarity. Indeed,  they may be experienced at the same time or at least in rapid sequence, giving the impression of emotions being mixed.   Probably because they are emotionally cousins to one another,  their facial representations have similarities, for example, we raise our eyebrows and widen our eyes  for both fear and surprise.

Contrariwise, happiness and sadness are two diametrically opposed emotions. They have no tangential similarity and their facial expressions are perceived as discrete and presumably  more easily recognised.

The second major point of difference is the response they produce in others. Fear, surprise, disgust and anger  are all what one might call active emotions. When we experience them we do so in an energetic way, for it is impossible to feel any of these  emotions without being physical aroused because  to experience them will result in a rush of adrenaline. Conversely,  sadness and  happiness, although they may be experienced in an energetic way,  for example in ecstasy or violent grief,  can also  be experienced in a physically quiet manner.

It is also arguable that the sadness or happiness of others, unless we are significantly  emotionally attached to the person, does not evoke as strong a response in an observer as fear, surprise, disgust and anger do, regardless of how well or little the person displaying the expressions is known to the observer. The reason for this is easy to see: fear, surprise, disgust and anger all offer a potential threat, whether that be  experiencing something unpleasant (disgust), concern about whether there is something to worry about of which we have yet to be aware  (fear, surprise) or the fear of someone indicating they are in a state to do you harm (anger).

The bias in the East Asian mis-identifications

There was a pattern to the East Asian mis-identifications. The showed a bias towards the softer, less threatening emotions. Faced with a choice between fear and  surprise they chose surprise and between  disgust and anger,  disgust.

The researchers attribute this tendency amongst East Asians to select  less threatening emotions  to be culturally determined. This may be the case,  but it would be rash to accept it as self-evident.   East Asians may  choose less threatening emotions when they misidentify  expressions simply because their mode of scanning the face makes one type of emotion easier to identify than another. Alternatively,  and more interestingly, East Asians could be genetically slanted towards selecting less threatening emotions.  Unless personality is not subject to any genetic influence, (4), then the genes which control personality will be subject to natural selection. If the form of a society favours the quiescent personality,  then those with the genes which tend towards such personalities will be favoured. There is evidence that  there are innate behavioural differences  between racial types and the reported differences in facial perception between Whites and East Asians seem to  fit into them.

A quarter of a century ago  Edward Wilson reported on studies by D G Freedman (1974, 1979)  on  new born   infants  which  “demonstrated  marked racial differences   in locomotion,  posture,  muscular tone and emotional response of  newborn infants  that cannot reasonably be explained as the result of  training or  even conditioning within the womb.  Chinese-American newborns,  for example, tend to be less changeable, less easily perturbed by noise and movement,  better  able to adjust to new stimuli and  discomfort,  and quicker  to  calm themselves than  Caucasian-American  infants.”  P274 Sociobiology; Abridged version.

More recently Professor Phil Rushton addressed the subject:

“Temperamental differences, measured  objectively by activity recorders attached to arms and  legs, show  up in babies.  African babies are more active sooner and  develop earlier than White babies who, in turn, are more active than East Asian babies.  Motor  behaviour  is  a  highly  stable individual  difference variable.  Even among Whites,  activity level measured during free play shows highly significant negative correlations with IQ: more restrained children average higher intellects. “ “Winning Personality” Masks Low Scores’

http://www.vdare.com/asp/printPage.asp?url=)

In my recent American Renaissance article (AR October 2009)  I addressed the failure of  East Asians  to become the dominant race, viz:  “despite their higher average IQ, Asians have probably failed to become the culturally dominant race because their innate personality traits work against them. They are too passive, too unquestioning, too lacking in initiative. The shape of their IQ with higher non-verbal scores and lower verbal scores may be wholly or partially the cause of these personality traits or, conversely, the shape of the IQ is simply an expression of the personality traits. Other biological traits such as low testosterone levels may also promote such behaviour.”

If East Asians are truly less able to interpret facial expressions than whites, this could provide an explanation of why, despite their superior IQ  distribution, they have failed to become the dominant racial type in terms of social development and intellectual  and technological advancement. The difference in ability to interpret facial expressions may mean that East Asians are less socially adept than whites with a consequent need for different social structures to Whites.

 How could  such a perceptual difference arise?

Some behavioural signals are almost certainly entirely  customary rather than innate. For example, Britons and Americans nod their heads to signify agreement and see black as the colour of death, the Chinese shake the head to signify agreement and see white as the colour of death. It is  conceivable that there are differences in brain function which determine such differences but that is improbable going on impossible.

Conversely, a trait such as the interpretation of emotions from facial expressions is most unlikely to be culturally determined.   We recognise emotions from facial expressions for the same reasons that our nearest primate relatives, the apes,  recognise behaviours to indicate calm, threat and so on. It is simply part of the species’ template. Unless human beings have some form of mental abnormality such as autism, they  recognise the meaning of facial expressions without consciously thinking about them. Nor do people have to be actively taught how to recognise facial expressions, although it may be that the facial expressions become associated with certain types of  behaviour as the child develops and from that information the child extrapolates from particular instances where an expression occurs to using the expression as a general signifier of an emotion rather than the response to an  event.  (The behaviour of children supposedly brought up without human contact – raised by animals of one sort or another for example – suggests that this may be the case).

But even if  the identification of expressions did occur that way it would not explain the  differences in mode of scanning which is  the most plausible cause of the difference in identification success.  There is absolutely no evidence of  cultural practices which would lead people of one racial type to behave in one way when they scanned a face and people of another racial type in another way. Indeed, it is difficult to even envisage such a cultural practice because the behaviour of scanning the faces of others  is such a natural thing, something which can be seen in very young babies.

But if the difference in scanning  is genuine how did it arise? If it is not cultural it must be genetic. A trait which was advantageous would be preferentially selected and spread. Why would it be advantageous? Perhaps the range of possible physical expression in East Asian faces is less than it is in Whites. Suppose further that the range of expression in East Asian faces is reduced around the mouth.  The most naturally efficient  thing for East Asians to do  would be to concentrate on the eyes. Natural selection would work on that trait favouring those best able to interpret from the eyes.

That leaves the question of why East Asian faces might be less expressive. If, has been suggested, the environment in which East Asians evolved was abnormally cold and as a response to the environment the East Asian face came to contain more fat and external physical facial features to guard against the cold, This may have so changed the morphology of the face that it restricted the ability of East Asians to communicate through facial expressions. It is possible that the old white jibe that “they all look alike” has a grain  of truth in it.

An alternative explanation could be some general  difference between the European and East Asian languages. Perhaps East Asian languages causes their users to move the mouth less energetically than  do European languages and this gives less non-verbal information from about the mouth area and  this causes  East Asians to concentrate on the part of the face which does give more accessible information.

Different languages use facial muscles in different ways. This affects the shape and mobility of the face which in turn will cause facial expressions to differ. These may be very subtle differences in terms of physical difference, but very significant differences in terms of perception by others. It is possible that differences in facial expressions perception vary not merely amongst racial groups but also amongst different cultures or even different groups within a population such as classes or  those with distinct accents or dialects.

Yet  another explanation may rest on the East Asian’s visual bias  as shown in their disproportionately high  strength  when dealing with non-verbal questions in IQ tests. It could be that the East Asian  concentrates on the eyes because that is the sense most important to them.

Finally, there is the possibility of  functional redundancy.

As any dog or cat owner will vouch for, animals can be incredibly sensitive to identifying human emotional states.  They do this entirely by picking up non-language signals. That ability they extend to other animals, both of their own and other species.  The ancestors of homo sapiens earlier forms of homo such as homo habilis and homo erectus must have been in much the same boat as animals.    Their language skills would be much less than that of modern man and like animals, interpretation of non-verbal signals such as facial expressions  would be much more important  to them than it would be to homo sapiens in a primitive state and vastly more important than such abilities are to men living in sophisticated societies.

As human beings evolve perhaps there is less need  for accurate interpretation of  emotions because  the reliance of human beings on one another for survival lessened as societies became ever more sophisticated – there is a big difference between living in a  tribe or band of 50-200 people where every individual is important to the survival of the tribe and living in a large city where the loss of an individual will not harm the community.

It could be that East Asians – with their superior average IQ – simply became less efficient at such social skills because they became less necessary to the type of society they naturally created. By that I do not mean that the society they created was the most advanced possible – indeed, the reality of  East Asian societies suggests that they put a block on technological and intellectual advance beyond a certain point. Rather, I am suggesting that the society their  innate behaviour created was an efficient means of managing East Asian populations and that was all it needed to maintain the society. .

 Possible variations in the perception of other non-verbal behaviour

Apart from interpreting facial expressions and using the overt meaning of language, individuals  have  many other ways of assessing emotion in others. Human beings definitely use  body language and the nuances of language structure (syntax, grammar)  and  responses  to the  quality of voice (pitch, timbre, speed and so on). They may also use less obvious clues such as pheromones.

This raises a problem for the Glasgow research. They have measured only one means of interpreting emotions in which one racial groups is apparently less competent than another. That is significant as afar as it goes. Where is it does not go is  into real life situations where  the whole range of verbal and non-verbal clues are available to allow the individual to make a judgement on the emotional state of others. In addition, in real-life human beings do not have to rely only on their own judgement to make such decisions, they can ask others. It could be that East Asians, while deficient compared to Whites when it comes to  facial recognition, are as effective as whites at identifying emotions,  more effective than whites or even less effective than whites when  more than facial scrutiny is employed,  with variations in ability arising from different combinations of  the various clues humans give to their emotional state, for example, facial expressions plus body language might trump facial expressions and  quality of voice in one racial group but not the other.

Language is a signifier but what does it signify?

It is one thing to call things  by the same name, quite another for the things called by the same name to be  the same thing to each individual.  To begin with there are the difficulties of exactly translating ideas from one language to another. For example, the word for disgust in Chinese may have different connotations to  the English word disgust, or the English word disgust may have  different  shades of meaning for those who have English as a first language but who come from significantly different cultures, for example, a white Englishman and white Barbadian.

It is certainly true languages are not equal in their functionality. Consider the case of the Piraha, an Amazonian tribe with several hundred members. They have been in contact with Brazilian culture for two centuries or more, yet they display some very odd traits one of which is to have no sense of number? An American linguistic anthropologist Daniel Everett has studied them from 27 years. Apart from their innumeracy, Everett reports that “the Piraha is the only people known to have no distinct words for colours.

They have no written language, and no collective memory going back more than two generations. They don’t sleep for more than two hours at a time during the night or day. Even when food is available, they frequently starve themselves and their children… They communicate almost as much by singing, whistling and humming as by normal speech. They frequently change their names, because they believe spirits regularly take them over and intrinsically change who they are. They do not believe thatoutsiders understand their language even after they have just carried on conversations with them. They have no creation myths tell no fictional stories and have no art. All of their pronouns appear to be borrowed from a neighbouring language.” (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LA C/20040820NUMBERS20/TPScience/ – Friday, August 20, 2004)

The Piraha’s innumeracy is particularly interesting. ‘Their lack of numbering terms and skills is highlighted in a report by Columbia University cognitive psychologist Peter Gordon that appears today in Science. Intrigued by anecdotal reports that Prof. Everett and his wife Karen had presented about the matchlessness of Piraha life, Prof. Gordon conducted a number of experiments over a three-year period. He found that a group of male tribe members — women and children were not involved because of certain cultural taboos — could not perform the most elementary mathematical operations. When faced with a line of batteries and asked to duplicate the number they saw, the men could not get beyond two or three before starting to make mistakes. They had difficulty drawing straight lines to copy a number of lines they were presented with. They couldn’t remember which of two boxes had more or less fish symbols on it, even when they were about to be rewarded for their knowledge. A significant part of the difficulty related to their number-impoverished vocabulary. Although they would say one word to indicate a single thing and another for two things, those words didn’t necessarily mean one or two in any usual sense. “It is more like ones and twos,” ‘according to Gordon.

‘Prof. Gordon said the findings are perhaps the strongest evidence for a once largely discredited linguistic theory. More than 60 years ago, amateur linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf argued that learning a specific language determined the nature and content of how you think. That theory fell into intellectual disrepute after linguist Noam Chomsky’s notions of a universal human grammar and Harvard University professor Steven Pinker’s idea of a universal language instinct became widely accepted. “The question is, is there any case where not having words for something doesn’t allow you to think about it?” Prof. Gordon asked about the Piraha and the Whorfian thesis. “I think this is a case for just that.” Prof. Everett argues that what the Piraha casedemonstrates is a fundamental cultural principle working itself out in language and behaviour.’ (Ibid)

If the Whorfian theory is correct, or at least describes a quality which profoundly affects the way the world is perceived, other behavioural divisions between the various populations of Man must exist. (The ideas of a universal grammar and a universal language instinct are not necessarily incompatible with the idea that a particular language determines thought, for there could be a basic language template that is then altered by experience. Moreover, it is conceivable that natural selection creates subtle brain differences between populations to accommodate differences in language). To any Whorfian differences in populations may be added the vast differences in cultural expression, some of which could be laid at the door of linguistic determinism of thought.

 The political and social implications of the Glasgow research

Assuming the research is sound the implications are profound. The Glasgow researchers conclude “Our results question the universality of human facial expressions of emotion, highlighting their true complexity, with critical consequences for crosscultural communication and globalization.”

Just so. If human beings do not share a common understanding on such a basic level as the recognition of emotions the scope for inter-racial friction is vast. It would mean that multi-racial populations must be forever conglomerations of  racial groups estranged from one another to varying degrees. It would mean that  racial wars will  always remain a possibility and that the possibilities of such wars will be enhanced by the settlement of different races on the same territory.  It could cause  warfare between states dominated by different racial types if one or both  see those of their own racial type being, in their view, mistreated by the other state.

It could be objected that the Glasgow research does not show that there is no shared facial recognition  between the Whites and East Asians . East Asians recognised  happiness and sadness as efficiently as Whites  and even  in the case of fear, surprise, disgust and  anger they were correct two thirds of the time, (although it is telling that East Asians  made fewer mistakes when presented with East Asian faces).  The liberal searching for a light at the end of the racial difference tunnel would undoubtedly point to the fact that East Asians identified emotions in the same way as Whites most of the time and that this agreement between the races proved a common biological emotional template.

The problem with that argument is that identifying emotions wrongly  a third of the time is not a small margin of error. It would be  a severe handicap to any understanding between people of different races.

It is not that the research shows that  different races have nothing in common when it comes to recognising emotions from facial expressions,  it is the degree of difference which is impportant. An analogy could be made with IQ. Every race has some of whatever it is that  IQ tests  measure, but the distribution of IQ varies according to race with the descending hierarchy being East Asians-Whites -Blacks. (In addition, the shape of IQs varies between races with, for example,  on average  Whites  scoring higher on verbal tests and East Asians on  visual tests.)  These racial differences in IQ are extremely important at both the individual and group level because they affect the way individuals and nations perform. Low IQ equals poor life outcomes for individuals in any society and societies where the average IQ is low are invariably poor. Similarly, if substantial differences in the ability to recognise  emotions in others exist, that may have  substantial effects on how different races perform in both the organisation of societies in which they dominate and societies in which they are in a minority. The societies in which they dominate may need a structure which is inimical to intellectual  and technological development beyond a certain point. Living as part of a minority, being unable to connect on an emotional level with the majority of the people about you  population could be as much a life definer as a low IQ.

If similar racial differences exist in the ability to interpret language,  body language, tones of voice and so on the opportunities for racial misunderstanding will be multiplied and amplified.

The idea that people of different races do have considerable difficulty in not misunderstanding the intentions of other races is given credence by the strong propensity of human beings of the same race to live together when they have the choice and the  universal racial suspicion found in racially mixed societies. In short, in the real world human beings behave just as one would expect them to behave if  the findings of the Glasgow study are correct.

If the Glasgow study is replicated and more work is done demonstrating other  innate behavioural differences between races it would leave the present elite ideology of globalism in an intellectual mess . It would undermine utterly the liberal internationalist idea that  human beings are all of a piece and may be readily placed in any society.  That would not of course immediately cause the elites to throw up their hands and say we have been wrong, most grievously wrong, but over a generation or so the elite position could be changed by such academic research. .

Innate racial behavioural differences are of course not the sole  explanation for racial conflict – my other three favourite candidates are the simple brute need to occupy a territory to gain physical security and enjoy its resources,  the aesthetic sense which favours those who resemble the individual exercising the sense and the sociological pressures which arise from the need of any  social animal to maintain a viable group. Nonetheless, innate differences in behaviour must rank as a powerful driver of racial conflict.

Be cautious

The research needs to be treated with caution. As yet it has not been replicated and it is based on a very small sample.    However,    much research in the social  and biological sciences uses similarly small samples which are treated as legitimate . Moreover, the nature of what was being tested in this research – the recognition of  facial expressions and the controlled physical measurement of the mode of scanning faces –  plausibly allowed for objective data to be extracted, while   the judgements required of the  subjects involved nothing that is obviously contentious, for they were simply being asked to interpret facial expressions and, consequently, questions of moral or political bias did not arise, as they often do in socio-biological research. But even if a participant had wanted to produce a desired outcome in their particular case,  he or she  could not have done so without the collusion of  at least of one of the two participating racial groups.

Nonetheless, the small sample size is a problem because the racial groups are from  a few societies, most notably in the case of  the East Asians where 12 come from China and one from Japan. The research needs to be replicated,  ideally with substantially larger numbers of subjects , and with subjects should be drawn from a wide range of societies to test whether the differences are stable across cultures, for example, compare Japanese-Americans with Japanese natives or  white Englishmen with white Italians.

There is also the objection that viewing still images in an artificial environment  is entirely different from interpreting facial expressions when inter-acting with others in ordinary life. This is not strictly relevant to the question of whether different races adopt different scanning behaviour or have significant differences in their success in identifying emotions. The mental processes which allow identification of emotions will operate in the same fashion in any situation . Of course, in real-life situations there will be distractions not found under laboratory circumstances which may cause facial expressions to  be missed completely or not properly heeded because of a lack of concentration.   But that would say nothing directly about either the efficiency of  recognition or the method of scanning faces.  At worst, all real life situations might show is that the White and  East Asian methods of scanning faces and interpreting emotions  is differentially affected by the distractions of real life situations. For example, it could be that concentrating on the whole face requires more concentration than simply taking information from the eyes.  But there still remains the problem I have already mentioned, namely  that in real life situations human beings use multiple clues to judge the emotional state of someone else. The ability of different racial groups to perform using multiple behavioural clues could perhaps be tested by using film of people using the full range of behavioural clues and asking research subjects to evaluate the emotional state of the  person in the film.

 Further research

It would be interesting to see the same tests applied to other racial groups. As many racial genetic differences such as IQ distribution and testosterone levels place the three main human races in the order of black-white-East Asian, I think it probable that blacks would be more adept at facial expression recognition than Whites. This would plausibly fit in with their higher extroversion scores if it could be shown that ability at facial recognition is potent trigger for emotional displays. Blacks are  also probably better at interpreting other non-verbal behavioural cues.

In addition to replicating and expanding  the Glasgow team’s research, there is ample room for related work  such as studies of  the interpretation of  other non-verbal clues to emotional states such as body language and voice elements to see whether they also vary between racial groups.

Despite the slender nature of the evidence presently available, the  Glasgow research has what might be called the ring of plausibility.  There is clear evidence that there are behavioural differences between races which appear to be innate – the variation in IQ s between racial groups being the most famous – and many instances of objective physical biological difference, from the considerable  external  racial differences which anyone can see to the covert physiological differences such as sickle cell anaemia in West Coast Africans such as Nigerians.  That beings who have evolved such differences might well have followed different evolutionary paths in the matter of perceiving emotions does not seem inherently far-fetched, because, provided a behaviour has a genetic base, it will be subject to natural selection.

Notes

1 . Cultural Confusions Show Facial Expressions are Not Universal. It is published by Current Biology which charges for its articles. A free copy of the draft report can be found at http://www.psy.gla.ac.uk/docs/download.php?type=PUBLS&id=1201

2 The research paper uses Western Caucasian for White.

3 Thirteen Western Caucasian (13 European, 7 females) and 13 East Asian (12 Chinese, 1 Japanese, 8 females) observers participated (mean age = 24 years 5 months; 23 years 2 months, respectively).

3. To conclude that the genes have  no part to play in determining behaviour would imply that all  behaviour is the product of mind and that mind is somehow divorced from the physical body and consequently not subject to natural selection mediated through the genes.

Politically incorrect film reviews – Coriolanus

Main Cast

Ralph Fiennes as Coriolanus

Gerard Butler as Tullus Aufidius

Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia

Brian Cox as Menenius

Jessica Chastain as Virgilia

John Kani as General Cominius

James Nesbitt as Sicinius

Paul Jesson as Brutus

Jon Snow as TV Anchorman

Coriolanus  competes  with Roman Chainsaw Massacre aka Titus Andronicus  as the least accessible Shakespeare play  today.   Its estrangement from the   modern Western audience  lies in its treatment  of subjects –  patriotism, treason, the warrior spirit  and revenge – which that peculiar creature the latterday  liberal has been remarkably  successful in suppressing from public view, although not from the privacy of the individual mind.   It is this expression of these unfashionable sentiments and emotions which make it so valuable a play for our times because they are fundamental to the way in which human societies organise themselves.  That is why it should be seen, even though it is not  one of Shakespeare’s great plays.

The play is set in the period following the fall of the Tarquins as kings of Rome, an event traditionally dated to 508 BC,  when the Republic is being established.  Rome is at war with the Volsci.  The Roman general Caius Martius is victorious over the Volscian city of Corioli and is granted the additional name of Coriolanus in recognition of the feat and seeks to become a consul, the most powerful and prestigious magistrate in the Roman Republic.  He is thwarted in this by an aristocratic pride which knows no restraint and drives  him into exile after  he refuses to sweet-talk the plebians.

In exile Coriolanus joins with  Volsci and leads an attack on Rome  to revenge himself. But before he attacks he is persuaded by his mother Volumina to spare Rome the sack and instead concludes a treaty between Rome and the Volsci.   By this time Aufidius has become jealous of  his one-time enemy’s charisma and power over the Volsian troops and has him murdered.

The character of Coriolanus is a common enough one, the great general who turns his hand to politics and finds it a very different business.  Wellington is a good example .On becoming prime minister he could not understand why his fellow cabinet members would not simply receive his orders and execute them, but instead argued and engaged in the dark political arts to subvert those policies they disliked.

Wellington is also an exemplar of the post-French Revolution  aristocratic reactionary, having an absolute belief in the right and need of his class to rule and the dire consequences of allowing  not only the masses but also the rising middle classes to  have any hand in government.  (Looking  mournfully at the first Parliament elected after the Great Reform Act  which placed a sprinkling of men of the middling sort  in House of Commons  he dolefully remarked  that he had “never seen so many bad hats in his life”. )

The patrician contempt for the masses  may seem to be merely self-serving, a justification for maintaining the status quo which privileges the patrician class.  There is an element of that,  but it is not simply self-serving  propaganda.  Elites commonly  have  a genuine fear of the masses and in societies without any history of representative government based on a broad franchise  those fears would seem reasonable.  Nor, in undemocratic but settled  societies ,  is the idea of noblesse oblige altogether a sham, for those  born into families which have long had social power in a particular area will often have a relationship with  the population about them  which is based on the duty of privilege as well as its power.

Coriolanus, like Wellington, has a  patrician cast of mind, but unlike Wellington  who had the manners of a gentleman and a strong sense of noblesse oblige,    Coriolanus has only his  insane pride which leads him to baulk at offering  the plebs even civil  words let alone flattering ones and is contemptuous of pleas to  remind them of his service to Rome on the battlefield by showing them his many  scars.

Wellington saw war as a bloody business to be avoided where possible,  although never shirked when necessary;  Coriolanus is in love with it “ Let me have war, say I; it exceeds peace as far as day does night; it’s spritely, waking, audible, and full of vent. Peace is a very apoplexy, lethargy: mulled, deaf, sleepy, insensible; a getter of more bastard children than war’s a destroyer of men. “ (4.5.238)

The idea that war is a desirable occupation in itself  is a strange one to those brought up in modern Western  societies which ostensibly promote peace at all cost and shudder at the very thought of war, unless of course it is war which suits their liberal internationalist purposes.   But the idea would have seemed perfectly natural, indeed praiseworthy, in most times and places throughout history, for  the warrior has commonly had an integral role in society.

The basic organising  template of homo sapiens has almost certainly not changed from the time when he wandered  in small bands. The anthropology of extant hunter-gathers  today  tells the same  story: men are  valued for  their courage and ability to hunt and fight;  the women do the gathering and child rearing.  It is not an unreasonable assumption to think that this is the way humans have behaved  throughout their history.

To the evidence of present day anthropology  can be added the fact that  such a division of labour between males and females makes perfect sense in tribal societies ,  both in terms of the obvious efficiency  of allotting different roles to men and women  where the women have the task of carrying and then weaning children and in the difference in size,  power and body shape of men and women. There is the further evidence of overt male dominance in societies generally throughout history and in most places today.   It is also worth noting that primates (and mammals generally) normally have  males which are larger and more powerful than the females and it would be very odd if homo sapiens did not display the same sexual dimorphism because we are descended from beings which had this quality.

War not peace has been the normal state for human beings throughout history.  There is a very good reason for that.  Because homo sapiens is a social animal we have to set limits to the group for  without such limits a hierarchy cannot evolve as there is no beginning and end to tie the hierarchy to.   Without a hierarchy no social animal can exist because there would be no means of the animal establishing the sorts of behaviours which make  social animals work,  most notably submission not through violence but by an acceptance of a place in the pecking order.  However, such submission has to be earned through violence for the hierarchy is established through physical dominance.

Homo sapiens being  self-conscious beings with  high intelligence and  possessed of language can, even at the level of hunter gatherers or more settled tribal peoples ,do better than simply establish a hierarchy through violence or even physical size.  Nonetheless, violence plays a part with high rates of mortality from fighting within tribes being widely reported in studies of tribal peoples. Not only that but conflict between tribes  is commonplace. This is unsurprising because each group which sees itself as a separate unit is doing what any other organism does which is fight  for resources,  whether that be territory, women or  food.  Fighting between tribes will reinforce the high status of the warrior within the band or tribe.

When societies get larger and more sophisticated they  find different ways of developing  and maintaining hierarchies such as inherited land and status, but violence  still plays a part as the countless  violent struggles for political power throughout history show.  In addition, the larger the  size of  a society  the greater the potential  threat it poses to its neighbours . That alone will make war likely. But the more sophisticated a society is the greater its ability to intellectualise threats from those outside the tribe, clan or nation and to create reasons which justify war and exalt the position of the warrior.  This also makes war more likely because it not only plays on fears but creates a social structure, as happened for example  in mediaeval Europe, whereby the  primary  purpose of the warrior class (in Europe’s case the knights) was to  wage war.

Even where there is no explicit warrior class in the sense of the knightly class, the martial values still endure.  As  Europe gradually moved into what we call modernity,  armed conflict between  societies  did not diminish. Bravery in arms was still much admired. Moreover, masculinity generally was  admired.  When the First World War broke out Britons were at first very gung-ho about joining the fight and as the reality of modern war became apparent and enthusiasm for enlisting waned,  British men who did not volunteer were called cowards, not least by women.   The idea that it was natural for men to fight in defence of the tribe was still strong.

If this is, broadly speaking,  a true description of human society throughout time it is scarcely surprising that something of the warrior spirit remains even in those societies which are supposedly most removed from the primitive. Natural selection has worked to produce fighters and hunters, selected  males to protect their women and children,  to defend their territory and preserve their tribe.   To be a man is to feel  that it is natural to want to protect with force that which he cares about and to know that is what women and his fellow men expect him to feel. Dr Johnson’s remark “Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea” has a great deal of sense in it.

Even in today’s  western world where the idea of violence is officially treated as a primitive aberration,  few men find it  comfortable to be thought a  physical coward, even though physical bravery is often far easier  to summon than moral courage. Nor is there a disgust at the idea of violence as such,  especially amongst men.  A  large part of the staple fare of the mass media has always been  violence, whether of war or gangsters in fiction or ever increasing reporting of  real violence.  Sports, especially contact sports, also cater to the interest, they being surrogates for war.  (If anyone doubts the potency of sports to substitute, on the emotional level, for war they should go to an evening’s  professional boxing and observe the behaviour of the crowd, both male and female. The atmosphere is  raw, with the men on the verge of violence themselves and the women palpably sexually excited.

Even in a country such as Britain which is tightly constrained by political correctness  physical courage is still applauded, not only by the public at large, but by the liberal elite when it suits them.  The likes of Cameron and Blair have been  ready enough to fight wars  to further their political objectives; more than happy to use the police to silence dissent and every willing to employ personal bodyguards. In their heart of hearts they have no doubt about the value of men with a talent for violence.

As for the population at large, they still genuinely celebrate personal bravery because as  Johnson saw  “the profession of soldiers and sailors has the dignity of danger. Mankind reverence those who have got over fear, which is so general a weakness.”

Treason is an concept which liberals  have largely extinguished as a conscious  idea in Britain.  But it still lurks in natural emotional baggage of  the overwhelming majority of people, perhaps even everyone. No one is really comfortable, no, not even liberals, when they see, for example,  Britain unable to defend her own trade and industry or control her borders because of  sovereignty given away.  White, mainly middleclass flight, from areas of high immigration tells its own story of the true feelings of white liberals.  The idea of treason is simply the intellectualisation of natural human instincts.

When it comes to treason, the position of Coriolanus is unusual. He has been exiled from Rome despite his great service  to her as a soldier.  It could be argued that he is not committing treason at all because his countrymen have cast him out. And yet and yet… patriotism is not a simply matter of individual rights and wrongs, something which is taken up or put down by on rational or petty grounds. It is visceral. For all his harshness and desire for personal retribution, his egotism and individualism,   Coriolanus is swayed to spare Rome the worst.

That leaves us with revenge. The idea of revenge  is portrayed as a primitive emotion by latterday liberals, yet what is recourse to the criminal law but revenge? If a person did not wish to revenge themselves why report a crime? In the vast majority of cases a criminal conviction will bring the victim no material compensation from  the criminal. All it will result in is the punishment of the criminal. We may try to justify our reporting of crime by the such ploys as saying “We did it to protect others”, but that does not really work because most people who are convicted of a crime either do not go to prison or  receive only a short sentence. Moreover, a criminal conviction may well make the criminal more likely to offend because a criminal record shuts of job opportunities and if he or she goes to prison they may become more enmeshed in the criminal fraternity.  The reality is we want revenge. The purpose of a justice system is to substitute law for personal revenge.

What of the film? There are problem with it . The main  plus point is that  the major characters are well cast. Fiennes is exactly right in the role of Coriolanus, his sharp features accented by a closely shaven head  being as flint-like as his  character’s disdain; Brian Cox brings his natural authority to the placatory and honest patrician Menenius and Vanessa Redgrave as Coriolanus’ mother Volumnia shows remarkable moral and physical energy for a woman well into her seventies.  Of the rest Gerrard Butler as the Volscian leader  Tullus Aufidius  projects the necessary  toughness and  the Tribunes, James Nesbitt as Sicinius and Paul Jesson as Brutus,  both display the moral shabbiness of the populist politician – Jesson in particular is satisfyingly slimey.

There is also the compensation of  the language. Even in his lesser  plays  Shakespeare manages to produce a stream of  wonderful encapsulations : “Many-headed multitude”, “Nature teaches beasts to know their friends”;  “These eyes are not the same I wore in Rome”.

But there are significant problems with the film. The director has decided (sigh) to set the action in the Balkans during the 1990s and panders further to the cult of “relevance” by using a well known British TV face, the newsreader Jon Snow, to pass comments and conduct interviews. Would that a modern director  would do something really radical and produce Shakespeare in settings appropriate to  each play.

The film also suffers from what might be called “Troy discordance”, after Brad Pitt’s heroic refusal in the role of Achilles in the 2004 film Troy   to abandon his American accent while the rest of the cast, whether English or otherwise, spoke  with various English accents. There is the same problem here. Most of the major parts are taken by actors speaking forms of received pronunciation  but  the others and all the minor characters offer a mishmash of  Scottish, Northern Irish, American and  Mittel European voices.  I have nothing against any of these accents as such, but it is their mixture which creates a disobliging cacophony.  Give me an all-American, all Slav  or all Scottish cast in the film and I would have no problem. It would  also have been reasonable to had one side in the conflict speaking in one accent and the other side speaking in another.

This discordance is added to by the inability of the minor actors generally  and Jessica Chastain , especially, to master the syntactical complexities of  Shakespeare’s words.

There was one utterly gratuitous piece of political correctness, the casting of the black actor John Kani as General Cominius, a man who seems to believe that speaking in a monotone heavy timbre rumbling equates to fine Shakespearean diction.

But the pluses outweigh the minuses and  the importance  and relevance of the play to our own time make it worth  viewing,  not least because the vast majority of people will not have an opportunity to see a good stage version.

Libertarianism, immigration, race, cultural roots and collective identity

There are many rooms in the libertarian  ideological house.  That fact often derails rational discussion of libertarian issues, but it need not be a problem in this instance because the question being asked is most  efficiently  examined   by testing  it against  the flintiest wing of libertarian thought. If  that pristine, uncompromising  form of libertarianism is incompatible with  the maintenance of cultural roots and collective identity, then  all other shades of libertarianism will be incompatible  to some degree.

The pristine libertarian has no truck with  any form of government, believing that  personal relations  between individuals  will adequately order society no matter how  large or complex the society,  and that  such ordering will arise naturally if  only the artificially constraints on human behaviour such as governments  and laws are removed.   Such a society  would supposedly  work along these lines.    If  the society is threatened by an invader,  individuals will join together to defend it  out of a sense of self-preservation.  To   those who cannot work for reasons of sickness,  injury, age or innate infirmity,  compassion and a sense of duty will ensure  that private charity is  extended  to relieve the need. If  public works such as roads and railways are required,  self-interest and reason will drive individuals to join to together to build  them.   Matters such as education may be  safely  left to parents and such  charitable provision as arises.   Above all the individual is king and personal choice is only circumscribed if a choice involves the imposition of one  individual’s will on another.   You get  the idea. The consequence is a vision of  a society not  a million miles away from  Rightist  forms of anarchism.

This concentration on the individual makes for a fissile  society. If each person  is to follow his  or her  own way  without any requirement to believe anything  other than to respect the conditions necessary to realise libertarian ends , that  in itself  would definitely weaken  collective identity and probably affect  cultural unity.  Nonetheless in a truly  homogeneous society, especially if it was small, the probability is that  cultural weakening would not be great and the absence of a conscious collective  identity would not present a difficulty provided the society was not subject to  a serious threat from outside.

Serious problems  for  the pristine libertarian  arise where the  society is heterogeneous,  because  then there is a loss of collective unity. If  the heterogeneity comes from class,  the  cultural roots may  be largely untouched  or at least develop in a way  which  ensures that there is still much cultural  uniformity  and that uniformity is  clearly an extension of  past cultural  traits. It is also true that in a racially and ethnically homogeneous society,  a sense of collective unity will be easily rekindled if the society comes under  external threat.

The most difficult society for libertarians to deal with is  one which is ethnically divided, especially if the ethnic divide includes  racial difference. There a society becomes not so much a society but a series  of competing racial and ethnic enclaves.  In such a situation,  it is inevitable that both  cultural unity and collective identity is  undermined because there is no  shared general cultural experience and this plus racial difference makes a collective  identity not merely impossible but absurd even in concept.

The brings us to the most obvious threat presented by pristine  libertarians to the maintenance  of cultural roots and collective identity. That  is the idea that national boundaries  should be irrelevant with people travelling  and settling wherever they choose.  This  presumes human beings are essentially interchangeable and in this respect it  echoes  multiculturalism.  The consequence of such a belief is to  greatly increase the heterogeneity of a society through the mass immigration of  those who are radically different from the native population.  We do not need to guess what the result of  such immigration is because it  has  happened throughout the western world in our own time. More specifically, it  has happened in those  countries whose populations which are most naturally sympathetic  to libertarian ideas: those which may broadly  be described as Anglo-Saxon; countries such as Britain, the USA and what used  to be known as  the old white  dominions.

The influx of millions of people who  see themselves as separate from the native  populations of the countries to which they had migrated has resulted in the  Anglo-Saxon states gradually destroying their tradition of freedom. Driven by a  mixture of liberal internationalist ideology and fear, their  elites have severely restricted by laws and  their control of the media  and public  institutions  what may be said publicly  about immigration and its consequences.  In Britain it is now possible to be brought to court simply for saying  to someone from an ethnic minority “go home”, while any allegation of racist behaviour  – which may be no more than failing to invite  someone from an ethnic minority  to an  office party – against a public servant will result at best in a long inquiry  and at worst with dismissal.  Nor, in  practice, is application of the law or the  witch-hunts  directed equally  against everyone for it is overwhelmingly native Britons who are targeted. At the same time as native Britons are being silenced and  intimidated, an incessant tide of pro-immigrant and multiculturalist  propaganda is pumped out by government, the public  organisations they control such as the civil service and state schools and the  mass media , which is overwhelmingly signed up to the liberal internationalist
way of thinking.  The teaching of history  has been made a non-compulsory subject in British schools after the age of 14  and such history as  is taught  is next to worthless in promoting a sense of  collective unity,  both because it fails  to give any chronological context to what is put before the pupils  because it concentrates on “themes”  rather than periods and because the amount of  British history that is contained within  the syllabus is tiny, often consisting of the Tudors and little  else.  The consequence is that the young  of the native British population are left with both a sense that their own  culture is in some strange way to be valued less than that of the various  immigrant groups and the lack of any knowledge about their country’s past.

The most  and sinister consequence of  post-war immigration and the British elite’s  response to it  is the development within  Britain of  a substantial number of Muslims  who not only do not have any sense of belonging to the broader society in which  they live, but who are actively hostile to  Britain and its values.  But if  this is the most dramatic example of the fracturing  of British society, it is merely symptomatic  of the separatist attitude of  ethnic  minorities in Britain generally, especially those from radically alien cultures  allied to racial difference.

All of these developments are antithetical to pristine  libertarian ideals,  both because they  undermine  shared values and because they  result in actions to control friction between competing racial and ethnic groups which in themselves undermine the conditions  in which libertarian ideals  flourish.  That libertarians so often subscribe to the  ideal of open borders despite the overwhelming evidence of  its counter-productive effects for  libertarian ends is indicative of the blinkered nature of much libertarian  thinking.

The fundamental weakness of pristine  libertarianism is its complete  failure to take  account of  human psychology  and the way  humans behave as groups.  This is  unsurprising  because of the central  position given to the individual.  But by  doing this pristine  libertarians  ignore the central fact of being human: we are  a social animal. Being  a social animal  entails two defining behaviours: all social animals  produce hierarchies  and   all  social animals place limits to the group.  Homo sapiens is no exception.

Because hierarchies in the human context arise not only from  the personal efforts, qualities and talents of each individual, as is the case  with animals,  but from the  position  each individual occupies through the accident of birth, this raises two  difficulties for libertarians.  The first  is there is not a level playing field and without that the pristine  libertarian ideal of society organising  itself through freely  entered into  relationships is severely distorted because it is clearly absurd to say that a man born poor is freely entering into a master-servant relationship with a man  born rich when the poor man needs money simply to feed himself.  The second difficulty is that the very  existence of an hierarchy,  whether or  not it is based on merit, undermines the notion of free choice because once it  is established different power relationships exist.

The question of hierarchy becomes more complex as the  heterogeneity of a society grows whether that be ever deeper division into  classes or increasing ethnic and racial diversity . All social animals have to  have boundaries  to  know where the group begins and ends.  This is  because a social animal must operate  within a hierarchy and a hierarchy can only exist where  there are  boundaries.   No boundaries,  no hierarchy, because  no  individual could  ever  know what the dominance/submission  situation  was  within their species or at least within those
members of the species with whom they interact.

The need to define the group is particularly important for  libertarians.   Above all libertarianism requires  trust. In the pristine libertarian society  this means each individual believing that other people will keep their word and  generally behave honestly. But as we all know only too well  people cannot  be trusted to observe societal norms and a society which is fractured by class, race or  ethnicity  is the least likely of all to have a shared  sense of what is right.  Therefore,  libertarians need to recognise that however  much they would like to believe that each human being is an individual who may  go where he or she pleases and do what he or she pleases, the sociological  reality precludes  this and that the only  sane ideological course for a libertarian is to advocate closed borders and the  preservation of the homogeneity of  those  societies which are most favourable to libertarian ideals not because the  society  consciously espouses them,  but because the  society has evolved in a way which includes  libertarian traits.

There will be libertarians who find it immensely difficult going on impossible to accept that the individual must in some respects be  subordinated to the group.  They will  imagine, as liberal internationalists do, that human nature can be changed,  although in the case of libertarians the change will come not from re-education  but the creation of circumstances propitious for libertarian behaviour to  emerge.  Let me explain why this is  impossible because of the innate differences between  human beings and the effects of cultural  imprinting.

Because Man is differentiated profoundly by culture, the widely accepted definition  of a species – a population of freely  interbreeding organisms sharing a common gene pool –   is unsatisfactory,  for  clearly Man is  more than  a brute   animal  responding   to   simple  biological   triggers.  When  behavioural differences  are  perceived as belonging to a particular group by  that group  as differentiating  members of the group from other  men,  they perform the same role as  organic differences for  they  divide Man  into cultural species.

A strong  analogy with computers can be made. As hardware,  a particular model of  computer is  practically identical to every other computer which  is classified as  the same model.  But the  software available to every computer of the same model is not  identical.   They may run  different operating systems, either completely different or different versions of the same program. The  software  which runs under the operating system is different  with different versions of the same program being used.  The data which is input to the computer varies and this in turn affects the capabilities of the computer.

It  clearly makes no  sense to say every computer of the same  model  is the same even if the  computer is loaded with the same software.  But of  course  not  all  computers  are  of  the  same  model.  They  vary tremendously  in  their  power.  The same software  will  run  at  very different  rates  because of this. Storage and  memory size  also  vary tremendously. Some computers cannot run  programmes because the programmes  are  too large.  We  may call all computers computers,  but that is to say little more  than that  all  animals are animals,  for
computers  range  from  the immensely  powerful super  computers – the homo sapiens  of  the computer  world  as it were – to the amoeba  of the  simple  chip  which controls  lights  being put on or off in a room  depending  on whether someone is in it.

Are the circumstances of computers  not akin to those of  Man?  Do  not the racially based  differences in IQ correspond to the  differences  in power  of  older  and  newer computers?  Do not different  languages  represent different operating systems? For example, think how different  must be the mentality of  a native  Chinese speaker (using  a language  which  is entirely  monosyllabic)  to that of a native English speaker  (using  a polysyllabic language)  simply because of the profound difference in the structure  of the language. A language will not merely
impose limits on what  may  be  expressed it will affect the  entire  mentality  of  the  individual,  from aesthetic appreciation  to  social expression. Is not the experiential input analogous to the holding of different data?

But the most potent of human behavioural triggers are racial  differences,  for they exercise the  strongest control over the group in a territory where different racial groups  exist. Race trumps ethnicity where the ethnic clash is one of people of the  same race but different ethnicities.  Place a significant population of a different race into a territory  where ethnicity rather than race is the cause of unrest and the ethnic factions  of the same race will tend to unite against those of a different race.

To argue that racial difference is  not important to the choice of a mate is as  absurd as arguing  that the  attractiveness of a person is irrelevant to the choice of a  mate.

In  Freakonomics  Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner  cite a study made of a  US dating site (the full story is on pp 80-84).  The site is one  of the  largest  in  the US and the data examined  covered 30,000  people equally  divided  between San Diego and Boston.  Most were  white  but there was a substantial minority of  non-white subjects.

The  questionnaire the  would-be  daters had to fill  in  included a question  choice on race as “same as mine”  and “doesn’t matter”.   The study  compared  the responses by white would-be  daters  (those from non-white were not analysed) to these  questions with the race of  the emails actually  sent soliciting a date.   The result  in Levitt  and Dubner’s words  was: “Roughly  half of the white women on the site  and  80  percent  of  the white men declared that  race  didn’t  matter to them. But the  response data tell a different story  The  white men who said that race didn’t  matter sent  90  percent of  their e-mail  queries  to  white women. The  white women who  said race  didn’t  matter sent about 97 percent of their e-mail  queries to white men.

“Is  it  possible that race really didn’t  matter  for  these  white women and men and that they simply  never  happened  to browse a non-white  date  that  interested them?” Or,  more likely, did  they say that race didn’t matter  because  they wanted to come across  especially  to potential mates of  their own race as open-minded?”

In short, around 99% of all the women and 94%  of all men in the sample were  not  willing  to  seek a  date of a  different  race. How  much stronger  will  be  the tendency to refuse to breed with a  mate  of  a  different race?

If sexual desire will not commonly override the natural  disinclination to remain racially separate nothing will.

Because the tendency to mate with those of a similar race is  so strong  and universal,  both in place and time, it is reasonable to  conclude  that the  behaviour  is innate and that cultures necessarily include  the  requirement for a member of the society to be of a certain racial type.  The  consequence of this is that someone  of a different racial type  is  effectively precluded from full integration because one of the criteria for  belonging has not been met.  That is not to say,  of course,  that many  of the habits of mind  of an alien culture may not be  adopted  by someone  of  a  different race.  What is withheld  is the  instinctive acceptance  of the alien and his or her descendants  as members of  the society. Just as no human being can decide for themselves that they are a member of this or that group, no individual can decide that they belong  to this or that nation because it is a two-way process: the other members of  the group they wish to join have to accept them as a true member of the group. (Stephen Frears the English  film  director once wryly remarked that he had known the actor Daniel Day-Lewis “before he was Irish”).

Where does this leave us? In its present form libertarianism is a most efficient  dissolver of cultural  roots and collective identity. It is this because it ignores the realities  of  Man’s social nature.  This results in the  creation of the very circumstances which are  least conducive to the realisation of libertarian ends.  If libertarians are to realise those ends, they  must recognise that the society  most  favourable to their beliefs  is one which  is homogeneous in which the shared values create the platform of trust which  must underlie libertarian behaviour.   Of course, that does not guarantee a society favourable to libertarians because  the  shared values may be antithetical to them, but it is a necessary if not  sufficient condition for libertarian ideals to flourish. To that libertarians  must add a recognition that there are profound differences between ethnic and  racial groups and identify those societies which are most worth protecting because they have the largest element of libertarian traits within them.

Out of Africa? – Races are more different than previously thought

This is the cover story on the February edition of American Renaissance vol 22.2

Some interesting new research appeared too late to be included in the article. This is my summary of them: 

“There is also recent research which suggests that the Out-of-Africa 200,000 years ago version of the evolution of modern man may be mistaken. Prof Avi Gopher and Dr Ran Barkai of the Institute of Archaeology Archaeologists at Tel Aviv University have found teeth in Israel thought to be 400,000 years old which from their type seem to belong to modern man. The research – “Middle pleistocene dental remains from Qesem Cave (Israel)” – is published in American Journal of Physical Anthropology http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ajpa.21446/abstract   The finds are still the subject of debate,  but if they are substantiated they will overturn the prevailing human evolution orthodoxy and greatly strengthen the regional  development theory. “

Out of Africa?

Races are more different than previously thought.

by Robert Henderson

Researchers led by Prof. Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig have placed a very large question mark over the currently fashionable “out-of-Africa” theory of the origins of modern man. They have done this by producing a partial genome from three fossil bones belonging to female Neanderthals from Vindija Cave in Croatia, and comparing it with the genomes of modern humans.

.
Neanderthal Man: our ancestor after all.

Their initial results show that Neanderthals interbred with anatomically modern humans, mainly with the ancestors of peoples now found in Europe and Asia. This discovery both underlines the genetic differences between African and non-African populations and contradicts the pure, “out-of-Africa” version of human evolution, according to which all non-Africans living today are descended exclusively from migrants that left Africa less than 100,000 years ago. These migrants are said to have out-competed and eventually driven to extinction all other forms of homo and to have done so without interbreeding.

The authors of the Max Planck study note that Neanderthals, who lived in Europe and western Asia, were the closest evolutionary relatives of current humans, but went extinct about 30,000 years ago. They go on to note:

“Comparisons of the Neanderthal genome to the genomes of five present-day humans from different parts of the world identify a number of genomic regions that may have been affected by positive selection in ancestral modern humans, including genes involved in metabolism and in cognitive and skeletal development. We show that Neanderthals shared more genetic variants with present-day humans in Eurasia than with present-day humans in sub-Saharan Africa, suggesting that gene flow from Neanderthals into the ancestors of non-Africans occurred before the divergence of Eurasian groups from each other.” (Richard E. Green, Johannes Krause, et. al., A Draft Sequence of the Neanderthal Genome, Science, May 7, 2010).

http://www.amren.com/ar/2011/02/index.html

 

 

The bigger the genome, the less efficient?

Researchers at Kew Gardens’ Jodrell Laboratory*  have identified the largest genome so far discovered. It belongs to the Paris japonica, a slow-growing herb native to the mountains of  the Japanese island of Honshu and  to the chagrin of many a frustrated gardener trying to cultivate in gardens , a very difficult plant to grow.  The difficulty in reproduction is probably related to the size of the genome,  for the larger the genome , the greater the difficulty in reproducing because every time a cell divides it has to reproduce the DNA. The more DNA, the longer that process takes and the more resources it requires. 

Homo sapiens has a measly three billion base pairs in its genome. (Two nucleotides on opposite complementary DNA or RNA strands that are connected via hydrogen bonds are called a base pair.  Adenine (A) forms a base pair with thymine (T) and guanine (G) with cytosine (C). In RNA, thymine is replaced by uracil (U)). Paris japonica has  150 billion base pairs.  Paris japonica replaces the previous record holder for the largest genome ,  the marbled catfish (Protopterus aethiopicus), which had 130 billion base pairs. At the other end of the genome size scale there is a bacterium called Carsonella ruddii, which has fewer than 160,000 base pairs.

This  immense disparity in genome size raises an interesting question. Why should genomes in general vary so widely and why does homo sapiens, indubitably the organism which has the most varied behaviour by far of any animal (arguably the best benchmark to judge the sophistication and capacities of an organism)(  should have a genome so much smaller than a plant or a fish? Efficiency is a plausible reason.

Efficiency improves with fewer components. Take the analogy of  written languages. Ideographic languages such as Chinese have  thousands of characters to do the same job that the alphabet does with 26 letters. If you set a dullard and a genius the task of devising a form of writing the dullard would produce Chinese characters and the genius the alphabet.  Another analogy. The more exotic versions of the Swiss Army knife have  several dozen implements, most of which are never used. The Swiss Army knife would be a much more efficient item if it had far fewer implements which were designed to be dual purpose, for example, a double edged blade with different types of edge on the two edges or a blade  with a file on its non-cutting surfaces.

Those two analogies  could explain why homo sapiens has such a small genome. Our genome may be comparatively small because it has reduced the number of components in the cause of efficiency.  The question then arises why would natural selection work to make some genomes more efficient than others.  Three likely candidates put themselves forward. The first is the innate capacities of the ancestral organism, the second, the environment in which an organism evolves. The third, the existential imperative to pass on the organism’s genes.

It is noticeable that the largest genomes are attached to organisms which are relatively low on the evolutionary scale.  It could be that they simply do not have the capacity to refine their genomes to become more efficient while  those higher up the evolutionary scale have the capacity in varying degrees. (I would bet that mammals have smaller genomes on average  than reptiles and amphibians).  This would mean that instead of refining their genomes towards efficiency every time a favourable or at least non-harmful mutation occurs this gets added to the genome which gets ever larger.   

As for environment, it is noticeable that the organisms which have the very large genomes tend to be in environments which have probably  been stable.  Paris japonica comes from a very restricted  mountain landscape which was on an island ; catfish wallow around in murky water.  Natural selection would not be directed towards improving genetic efficiency because the organisms were doing very nicely thank you.  Conversely, homo sapiens and his evolutionary forebears had immense selection pressure on them to survive because they were widespread enough to experience a  considerable range of environments both geographical and over time.  It may also be that living on land is a more demanding environment than water.  To that can be added the high intelligence, self-awareness  and language  of  homo sapiens which produces unique  selective choices because the mental environment is rich and varied in a way that it cannot be for any other animal.  Such environmental pressures were  probably the prime or sole  driver  for greater efficiency, although of course the flexibility of the genome could be dependent on mutations which were independent of environment.    If so, then the efficiency of our genomes is simply a lucky chance.  

If the prime directive of existence is to pass on genes, there would be a strong selective pressure to reduce the size of the genome to increase  reproductive capacity.  For such a large animal  (we are in the top 5% of land animals by size) homo sapiens has become a most fantastically successful breeder, no other animal of comparable size comes close to our breeding success.  A very large genome would have greatly  restricted such reproduction both in terms of time taken to reproduce and the increased likelihood of genetic defects (more genes, more potential  defects).  

* The team’s findings are already available online and will be printed in an upcoming issue of the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. The paper can be downloaded from

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1095-8339.2010.01072.x/abstract

IQ and the position of ethnic minorities

Ethnic minorities have a built-in insoluble problem – the majority population will invariably resent their presence if the ethnic population is of a size which allows them to effectively colonise a territory – and that territory may be as small as a few streets – and to be visible as a distinct group.

Where this occurs the majority population will normally not feel any ethnic solidarity with the minority, while the ethnic minority will keep itself to itself. This will severely limit any assistance at the purely social level the majority gives to the ethnic minority populations. Where the minority is of a lower average IQ than the majority population they will not benefit from the help of the higher IQ majority in the same way that the lower IQ members of the high IQ majority are helped by higher IQ members of their own group.

The larger the minority group the more extreme its position will become, because the larger it is the easier it is for a member of the minority to live without having social inter-action with the majority population. This will make the majority population even less inclined to offer aid to members of the minority. As mentioned previously (see Welfare, Ethnicity and Altruism), there is also solid evidence that the more racial and ethnically divided a society is, the less willing are its members, and particularly those of the majority group, to provide for social goods such as welfare or healthcare.

Because the low IQ minority has inadequate access to aid from those with higher IQs, as a group they will display a disproportionately high level of antisocial behaviour because they are less able to cope with the practical and psychological demands of a high IQ society. Being a low performing minority in a high IQ society also feeds the paranoia and victimhood of the minority, who tend to attribute their failure to succeed in the society to oppression and discrimination by the majority. They will make this attribution even when other higher IQ minorities in the society do succeed.

A higher IQ minority amidst a lower IQ majority is a much rarer phenomenon. The examples involving black majority populations are mostly restricted to colonial situations, whether past or extant, the most notable example being South Africa which is kept afloat as the most advanced state in black Africa by the white created infrastructure and continuing large-scale white involvement in the country.

Minorities of Ashkenazi Jews and Asians in Western countries have higher average IQs than the societies in which they live, but there are two important differences between their position and the position of whites in SA and their majority black population. The first is the fact that the difference between Ashkenazi Jews and Asians and that of the white majority population is nothing like as great as that between  blacks and whites. The second difference is that the white average IQ of 100 is adequate to create and sustain an advanced modern society.

Low and high IQ behaviour

 Low IQ individuals are not monsters. Rather, they are simply people with a more limited range of behaviour than the common run of homo sapiens, just as children display a more limited range of behaviour than a normal adult. In particular low IQ individuals have difficulty with abstractions. This has implications both for problem solving and the empathic understanding of other people.

A low IQ means that its possessor will find it difficult to deal with the demands of an advanced society because such a society will require a good deal of abstract thought, knowledge acquisition which is not related to the natural world, constant learning as information becomes outdated or additional information has to be learnt.

Of course the problems associated with a low IQ are not restricted only to the racial groups which possess an inferior IQ distribution In a country with an average IQ of 100 approximately a quarter of the population will have an IQ of 89 or less. Approximately ten per cent of such a population will have an IQ of 80 or less. But there are two important differences between such a society and a low IQ community. First, in a high IQ society the number with IQs which make them unfitted to live independent lives is comparatively small. Second, those with low IQs can rely on the help of the much larger group who form the higher IQ majority, the exact reverse of a low IQ society.

Because of the way human beings generally behave, favouring those most like themselves, it is probable that that the more ethnically/racially homogenous a society is the more likely it is for the low IQ individual to receive help from higher IQ individuals because of the enhanced sense of group solidarity. (Welfare, Ethnicity and Altruism edited by Frank Salter provides substantial statistical evidence that as the diversity of a society increases support from the majority population for social provision falls).

High IQ behaviour

High IQ behaviour is more complex than low IQ behaviour for the beautifully simple reason that the high IQ individual has a wider range of intellectual competence than the low IQ individual.

A high IQ will, other things being equal, give its possessor an advantage in any occupation which relies significantly on IQ related skills. This does not have to be a high status occupation. For example, someone with an IQ of 160 will tend to be a more expert machinist than someone with a low IQ.

The higher the IQ the more people will tend to earn and the higher status job they will tend to occupy. However, when it comes to making a fortune (as opposed to inheriting it or gaining it through good fortune such as a win on the lottery), IQ is probably not the prime determinant. At best it might be a necessary but not sufficient condition but even that is dubious. Think of all the highly intelligent academics whose material circumstances are modest and the many people of little education and no obvious unusual intelligence who end up as multi-millionaires. The making a fortune would seem to be more a question of personality – having a risk-taking personality – persistence and circumstances. It is noteworthy that most successful entrepreneurs have quite a few attempts before succeeding. This suggests that a large part of their success is simply the willingness to keep trying and a disregard for the social harm they cause while failing. It may also be that because a high IQ is more likely to lead to higher intellectual activity, those with a high IQ are simply more interested in that activity rather than making money or building a company (entrepreneurship is not only about money). More prosaically, much will depend on a person’s social circumstances. Many entrepreneurs have some financial help from inheritance or family assistance, whether that be financial or simply growing up in a business environment.

The increasing IQ demands of modern society

 Take a simple everyday example of how everyday life has rapidly become more complex in our own society. Fifty years ago if you looked in the pockets of the ordinary working man you would find a wallet which probably contained money and the odd photo or a scrap of paper on which notes had been made: the pockets of a middle class man would contain what the working man’s contained plus probably a cheque book and possibly a driving licence. Today the pockets of most people will contain cash, a wallet a wide variety of credit, bank and store cards, a driving licence and a mobile phone.

All the person, whether working class or middle class, had to worry about fifty years ago was not losing any of the things they carried. If they did lose them, the most that they were likely to have to do was cancel their cheque book and get a new licence. Now most people have to not only worry about what the person fifty years ago had to worry about, they also have to deal with a great deal more. They must remember passwords to use their cards and, should they lose any of them, they not only have to cancel the cards and get new ones but have the added worry of identity theft.

That is just a one example of what the modern industrial society demands of its members. It does much more. Vast numbers of laws are passed which no person however conscientious can be expected to master (that includes lawyers) and the state imposes hideously bureaucratic procedures for everything from applying for a passport to gaining welfare benefits. The modern state even in in its most benign forms also increasing interferes actively through attempts to micro-manage the lives of those who come under its sway, whether that be congestion charging, the sorting of rubbish for environmental or the imposition of highly intrusive surveillance practices such as high-tech ID cards. More generally, it imposes ideologies such as political correctness on its population through the use of political propagandising and the passing of laws to make dissent difficult or simply illegal. That is what the benign form of the modern state does: its more malign incarnations do the same things but in a more extreme manner. All of this is mentally demanding and exhausting for any person to take on board and of course most people do not even try let alone succeed in knowing and observing every new law or de facto official custom.

But it is not only the state which makes increasing demands on the emotional and mental resources of its people. Partly because of technology and partly because of the demands of ever widening competition as national trade barriers are lowered, large private companies have joined the complexity party. Customers are expected to increasingly serve themselves, whether that is through the use of websites, automated telephone systems, onsite computer such as ATMs and checkout machines in supermarkets. It is increasingly difficult in many of the ordinary spheres of life to engage directly with another human being. (I examine the implications of computers in more detail in  Appendix B)

A nasty question arises from this increasing complexity: are the demands made on humanity by the advanced modern state such as to distract them from learning things which previous generations learned. Do people today know much more about processes but have far less general knowledge than they once had? My feeling is that this is precisely what has happened. Does this make people on average less intelligent because the intelligence of erudition is reduced? If so, does this imply that populations as a whole are becoming less intellectually competent or merely intellectually competent in a different way? I suspect it is the former because the intelligence of erudition is the main source of human competence.

There is also the worrying prospect that technological advance may be proceeding so rapidly that the demands it makes on people in general may eventually outstrip the society’s general IQ capacity. At the least, the additional demands are leaving millions of people in an increasing precarious position – an IQ of 80 is the point at which most psychologists would say that a person begins to struggle to live an independent life in a modern advanced society such as Britain. Approximately ten per cent of the population of Britain have IQs of 80 or below. That is six million people.

Race – the most potent of human behavioural triggers

The most potent of human behavioural triggers are racial differences for they exercise the strongest control over the group in a territory where different racial groups exist. Race trumps ethnicity where the ethnic clash is one of people of the same race but different ethnicities. Place a significant population of a different race into a territory where previously ethnicity rather than race was the cause of unrest and the ethnic factions of the same race will tend to unite against those of a different race.

Nothing demonstrates the natural tendency of human beings to remain racially distinct than the remarkably low rate of inter-racial breeding even in circumstances where there is every opportunity for it, most particularly in the great cities of Western Europe and North America, where the populations are increasingly varied and the prevailing elite ideology positively encouraging of such liaisons.

Even  societies which have had very racially mixed populations for a long time display a remarkable ability to maintain retain racial distinctions over very long periods of time – Brazil is an excellent example of this, with social class being very much graded by skin colour. To argue that racial difference is not important to the choice of a mate is as absurd as arguing that the attractiveness of a person is irrelevant to the choice of a mate.

In Freakonomics Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner cite a study made of a US dating site (the full story is on pp 80-84). The site is one of the largest in the US and the data examined covered 30,000 people equally divided between San Diego and Boston. Most were white but there was a substantial minority of non-white subjects.

The questionnaire the would-be daters had to fill in included a question choice on race as “same as mine” and “doesn’t matter”. The study compared the responses by white would-be daters (those from non-white were not analysed) to these questions with the race of the emails actually sent soliciting a date. The result in Levitt and Dubner’s words was:

“Roughly half of the white women on the site and 80 percent of the white men declared that race didn’t matter to them. But the response data tell a different story The white men who said that race didn’t matter sent 90 percent of their e-mail queries to white women. The white women who said race didn’t matter sent about 97 percent of their e-mail queries to white men.

“Is it possible that race really didn’t matter for these white women and men and that they simply never happened to browse a non-white date that interested them?”

Or, more likely, did they say that race didn’t matter because they wanted to come across especially to potential mates of their own race as open-minded?” In short, around 99% of all the women and 94% of all men in the sample were not willing to seek a date of a different race. How much stronger will be the tendency to refuse to breed with a mate of a different race?

Another way of testing the desire to remain racially separate is to look at social class and inter-racial breeding. The higher up the social scale a person is the less likely they are to have a partner of a different race – if you doubt this try to find examples of the rich and powerful who have a partner of a different race. Those who have the most choice overwhelmingly choose members of their own racial type, despite the fact that they have the protection of their wealth and position to shield their spouses and children from the effects of racial discrimination.

The experience of imperial Rome nicely demonstrates racial exclusiveness as a historical phenomenon. Despite the racially mixed population, all the evidence we have suggests that Romans of higher social status (the only Romans we have any substantial knowledge of as individuals) rarely took non-white mates (the same applies today: in white-majority countries the higher the status of whites, the less likely they are to have a non-white partner.) Even the Bible has the story of Moses choosing a black wife and meeting with resistance on the part of his people. (Numbers chapter 12)

If sexual desire will not commonly override the natural disinclination to remain racially separate nothing will.

The fact that humans have external racial differences which are sufficiently distinct to allow people throughout the world to broadly categorise an individual into categories such as white and black is in itself indicative of the innate human tendency to breed with those who are racially similar, even though for several thousands of years large human populations of different racial types have existed in close proximity. If human beings did not have an innate preference for those who racially resemble themselves, humanity would have bred itself into something approaching a uniform racial type, at least in those parts of the world which were not very isolated – different races have had regular and numerous contact with each other for at least three thousand years. The alternative explanation to an innate tendency is the truly fantastic one that Man everywhere spontaneously developed cultural barriers to breeding which had nothing to do with any innate tendency. If anything is a social construct it is not race but the liberal idea that Man is a single species.

Race is much stronger as a mediator of who to mate with than ethnic (cultural) difference – think of the very high proportion of those in Britain who have Irish/Welsh?/Scottish/English mixed ancestry. Nonetheless, ethnic differences are culturally potent amongst racially similar populations. For example, on either side of the England/Scotland border, the inhabitants born and raised close to the border retain Scots and English accents even though they may have lived their entire lives only a few miles apart.

Because the tendency to mate with those of a similar race is so strong and universal, both in place and time, it is reasonable to conclude that the behaviour is innate and that cultures necessarily include the requirement for a member of the society to be of a certain racial type. The consequence of this is that someone of a different racial type is effectively precluded from full integration because one of the criteria for belonging has not been met. That is not to say, of course, that many of the habits of mind of an alien culture may not be adopted by someone of a different race. What is withheld is the instinctive acceptance of the alien and his or her descendants as members of the society. Just as no human being can decide for themselves that they are a member of this or that group, no individual can decide that they belong to this or that nation because it is a two-way process: the other members of the group they wish to join have to accept them as a true member of the group. (Stephen Frears the English film director once wryly remarked that he had known the actor Daniel Day-Lewis “before he was Irish”).

There are also other plausible reasons why inter-racial breeding is rare. There is a widespread biological behaviour known as assortative mating. Members of sexually reproducing animals select mates by certain criteria. In that much loved laboratory animal, the fruit fly drosophila, this may be the number of sternopleural bristles; in Man it includes many criteria including racial type. Other human prime assortative criteria are size, intelligence, education and class. Some of these criteria such as education and class are more clearly linked to nurture than Nature, but even they can be direct or indirect expressions of  qualities which are at least largely innate such as intelligence. I say direct or indirect because the beneficial qualities may not be in the individual, for those with superior education and high social class may lack the innate qualities of their parents or earlier ancestors and their privileged position may simply be a residue of the superior innate abilities of their parents or other ancestors.

For the purposes of inter-racial mating, size, intelligence, education and class all come into play. There are clear average differences of size between the three major races: blacks largest, whites in the middle and Asians smallest. This would mean that on average members of one racial group would be less likely to choose another member of another racial group. The differences in IQ would have the same effect, with blacks being far less likely to mate with the other two races because their IQ is further removed from them than they are from each other. Differences in IQ will also be reflected, directly or indirectly in educational achievement and social class and hence in mating, for example, if a minority population of blacks amidst a majority white population have proportionately more people of low education and low social class than the white majority, something which should happen other things being equal because of their inferior IQ distribution, they are less likely to mate with members of the white majority simply on the grounds of education and class.

What about genetic diversity the reader may be asking themselves, should not the great benefits of that drive people of different races to mate whenever they can? This widespread view is unsurprising because as far as the layman is concerned one of the great “truths” of modern biology is that diversity is good because genetic diversity within a species reputably protects the species from the effects of harmful recessive genes by reducing the chance of both partners in a successful mating having a particular recessive gene, while general organic diversity in an environment is supposed to ensure the stability and endurance of the environment.

One does not need to have any deep grasp of genetics to see there is a logical problem with the idea that genetic diversity within a species is a sine qua non of evolutionary success. The genetic relatedness of breeding pairs in many species must of necessity be close because the opportunities to breed are limited. In the case of Homo sapiens this has been true of most human beings throughout history. Man in his primitive state lived in small nomadic bands which were sparsely spread across the landscape Tribal peoples commonly exchange members (normally women) between tribes, but again that is a local exchange. Even in more advanced societies most people have lived in small settled communities and have mated with people who come from the same locality. Very closely related human beings are substantially more prone to genetic disaster if they mate, but the level of genetic diversity required to reduce the number of genetic disasters to a level in which they are not seriously harmful to the group is clearly not vast.

A small gene pool may even have advantages. Ashkenazi Jews come from what was originally a small population group (some estimates put it as low as 500) which married almost entirely within the group and continued to do so down the generations. They have an abnormally high average IQ – six times as many Ashkenazim as Europeans have IQs of 140+. In June 2005 the Journal of Biosocial Science carried a paper by a team at the University of Utah which put forward the theory that their exceptionally high average IQ exists because of natural selection. They argued that Ashkenazi Jews had had been selected them for high IQ because historically Jews in Europe were denied many opportunities for employment and they were driven into high IQ occupations such as banking. Rushton Revisted http://www.canada.com/ottawa/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=6c9fe76b-f1

That racial type should be a requirement for inclusion within a “tribe” is unsurprising. All social animals have to have boundaries to know where the group begins and ends. This is because a social animal must operate within a hierarchy and a hierarchy can only exist where there are boundaries. No boundaries, no hierarchy, because no individual could ever know what the dominance/submission situation was within their species or at least within those members of the species with whom they interact.

Where does “must operate within a hierarchy” come from? First the observed facts: all social animals do produce hierarchies – although these vary considerably in form – and human beings always produce hierarchies, whether they are hunter-gatherers or people populating a great modern city.

Why do social animals always form hierarchies? For animals other than Man the answer is I think simple enough: only by forming hierarchies can social groups cohere. This is most probably because animals vary considerably in their physical and mental qualities. Observe any animal, even the simplest single cell organism, and differences between individuals within the species will become apparent. Some are more vigorous than others, some larger, some, more adventurous and so on. Individuals will also vary by age and, in sexually reproducing species, sex.

In a solitary animal the practical consequences of differences between individuals will be decided by direct competition, most commonly by the formation of territories and the attempted monopoly of mates and food within the territory, with the best endowed animals on average being more successful.

When an animal is social, differences in individual quality have to be resolved by something other than the methods used by solitary animals such as scent marking of territory boundaries and serious fighting because the animals have to live in close proximity. Competition for desirable goods still occurs, most notably competition for mates, but normally within behaviours which are not fatal to other members of the group or behaviours which are so disruptive as to threaten the survival of the group. The upshot of this social accommodation is the formation of different social niches into which individuals fit.

Group behaviour is a compromise between the immediate advantage of the individual and the diffuse advantages derived from group activity. The compromise is given structure by hierarchies, whether that be a fixed biological distinction by sex or caste (for example, social bees) or a transient one due to the age of an animal. Hierarchies are built on the differences between individuals and the more rigid the hierarchical structure the greater will be the selective pressures to produce individuals in the right proportions to fill the various social niches within the group.

Consider what would happen if hierarchies did not exist. There would be constant conflict within the group because no individual would have cause to defer to another except from fear of physical harm and such fear is a blunt and very limited instrument of social control, whether it be of humans or animals. It is a strategy more suited to the solitary animal than the social one.

Hierarchies also make sense in terms of the development of social animals. Social animals are ultimately descended from asocial animals. The movement from asocial to social animal is presumably akin to the evolutionary process whereby a parasite is converted to a symbiotic partner. It is a process of gradual behavioural accommodation.

Social animals on the bottom rung of the social animal ladder may do little more than associate together at certain times. The next rung up and the animal frequently associates with others of its kind. One more step and the animal forms more or less permanent groupings. And so on until we reach the ultimate social animal: Man.

The gradual evolution of social behaviour of itself points to the need for hierarchy, because at each stage of the evolution the natural overtly selfish behaviour of the original solitary animal has to be modified. That modification will only come through natural selection working on behavioural traits which favour more complete socialisation.

What about human beings? Are they not capable of breaking the biological bounds which capture animals? Does not their immense intelligence and possession of language place them in another category of being? Could Man not simply decide not to behave in a non-hierarchical manner? The fact that human beings have never done so is of itself sufficient evidence for all but the most ideologically committed nurturist to decide that human beings cannot do it and to conclude that the forming of hierarchies is part of the human template. However, to that fact can be added another, the dominance/submission behaviour which every person witnesses daily not merely in positions of formal dominance and subordination such as the workplace, but in every aspect of social life.

Speciation by culture

If the argument for Man’s special place in Nature is moved to the ground of culture, Man’s position as an organism with unique qualities which differentiate him from all other organisms undoubtedly becomes stronger, but at the cost of threatening his position as a species as traditionally defined.

Objections have been raised to the conclusions of Everett and Gordon, primarily in terms of their interpretation of their observations, but assuming there is a fair degree of objective truth about their data, it is reasonable to ask are the Pirana teetering on the edge of what counts as fully human if behaviour is the defining criterion? It is the wrong question to ask. The right question to ask is can Homo sapiens be meaningfully designated a species as a species is defined for every other organism?

Because Man is differentiated profoundly by culture, the widely accepted definition of a species – a population of freely interbreeding organisms sharing a common gene pool – is unsatisfactory, for clearly Man is more than an animal responding to simple biological triggers. When behavioural differences are perceived as belonging to a particular group by that group as differentiating members of the group from other men, they perform the same role as organic differences for they divide Man into cultural species.

It is worth adding that the traditional concept of a species is far from secure. It is a man-made classification which is often found wanting. For example, the North American Ruddy Duck and the European White-Headed Duck are classified as separate species. The introduction of the Ruddy Duck to Europe has resulted in widespread interbreeding between the supposedly separate species to the extent that conservationists now fear for the survival of the White Headed Duck. It is also true that a growing amount of traditional taxonomic classification is being overturned by DNA analysis.

Another interesting trait is that members of a species will have different breeding propensities across its distribution, that is, members of the supposedly single species will breed differentially with different parts of the total species population. For example, take an animal which is common to Europe and bring individuals from different geographical parts of the continent together and it may be that those found in the East of the distribution will be less likely or refuse altogether to mate with the those in the West. These barriers to breeding are clearly not purely due to major differences in physical biology. Probably there is an element of behavioural difference which reduces the propensity to breed.

Animals use various triggers to breed: aural, chemical, condition of feathers and so on. These are seemingly automatic processes whereby one individual responds to another without conscious thought. Even behavioural triggers such as mating rituals can be viewed in the same light. Man, although not divorced entirely from such triggers, adds conscious thought to the process of mate selection. Does that not put Man in an entirely separate category to all other organisms, namely, the one organism who can potentially breed freely across the entire species population? Potentially yes, but in practice no for Man’s capacity for conscious thought and decision making does not mean his breeding is not constrained by the triggers which control other organisms, especially behavioural. For example, most people choose mates who are of the same race as themselves even when they have ample opportunity to do otherwise.

Even at the level of biology I wonder if Man is quite as discrete as he imagines. To the best of my knowledge no one has tried to create a cross between a human and a chimpanzee or a bonobo – I sincerely hope no one ever does. But putting aside any natural revulsion, would it be so surprising if such a cross was possible? Would it be any more of a intra-species leap than say the production of a mule or a liger (lion/tiger) through the mating of different species? I would not wish to bet against it. REsearch into intra species breeding has been moving on apace, viz:

 “The experiment: Cross-breed a human with a chimpanzee.

“The premise: The biologist Stephen Jay Gould called it “the  most potentially interesting and ethically unacceptable experiment I can imagine”. The idea? Mating a human with a chimp. His interest grew out of his  work with snails, where related species can display wide variation in shell architecture. Gould attributed this diversity to a few master genes which turn on and off the shared genes responsible for constructing the shells. Perhaps, he  speculated, the differences between humans and apes were also a factor of developmental timing: after all, adult humans have physical traits, such as  larger craniums and wide-set eyes, that resemble infant chimpanzees. This  phenomenon is known as neoteny – the retention of juvenile traits in adults of  later generations. Gould theorised that over the course of evolution, a tendency  toward neoteny might have given rise to human beings. By watching the development of a half-human, half-chimp, researchers could explore this theory  in detail.

“How it works: It would be frighteningly easy: the same  techniques used for in vitro fertilisation would likely yield a viable hybrid human-chimp embryo. Researchers have already spanned a comparable genetic gap  between a baboon and a rhesus monkey, and even though chimps have 24 pairs of chromosomes, and we have 23, this is not an insuperable barrier (although the  hybrid would likely have an odd number of chromosomes, and be unable to reproduce). As for the gestation and birth, it could be done the natural way.
Chimpanzees are born slightly smaller than humans, so it would make sense to grow the embryo in a human uterus.

“The payoff: Gould’s idea about neoteny remains controversial, to say the least. This experiment would help to resolve the debate – and, more broadly, illuminate how two species with such similar genomes could be so different. Its outcome would give biologists insights into the origin of our own species. Let’s hope they can find a less disturbing route to
get there. Jerry Adler “(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8702999/Unethical-scientific-experiments-going-to-extremes.html)

As for the future, genetic engineering may break down distinctions between species, for example, by genes from one species being implanted into another. Lastly, genetics and/or cybernetics may lead to modifications of human beings so substantial to create what are to all intents and purposes unambiguously separate species of Man with vastly differing abilities. There may come a point where the concept of a species becomes redundant.

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