The signal character of Salter’s thesis is that it is ethical as well as empirical. As such, it challenges philosophy’s liberal perceptions of race and ethnicity from a novel angle. Furthermore, since reproductive interests exist as described and constitute the ultimate interest in organic life (ie, continuity), they should have some place in ontology. After all, is not every ethical question also an ontological question? To maintain any system of ethics at all, and avoid the slide into utility, arbitraryness, relativism, and nihilism, must not there be some testable and solid basis to ethic?
Frank Salter’s book On Genetic Interests (2003, 2007) proposes that humans have a “vital” or “ultimate” interest in the reproduction of their genes, and that ethnic nationalism is an important strategy for realising these interests. “Genetic interests” refers to the allegedly vital human interest in passing on genes in general; “ethnic genetic interests” refers specifically to these interests as embodied in differential relatedness of various ethnic groups to a given human. Salter provides, via Henry Harpending, tables relating “replacement migration” to “child-equivalent” reproductive losses—e.g. a negro immigrating to Ireland supposedly reduces each Irishman’s genetic representation in humanity as much as if he lost a child.
“Salterism” refers to the ideology that holds pursuit of genetic interests, and ethnic genetic interests in particular, to be of overriding importance. “Salterians”, adherents to this creed, are most numerous at majorityrights.com.
Setting aside data, let’s skip to the important question: why should every human regard genetic proliferation as his “ultimate interest”? Salter devotes a chapter of On Genetic Interests to dealing with objections. Unfortunately for Salterians, his replies are full of holes.
In this chapter I try to anticipate objections to the notions that genetic fitness is an interest and that it is the only ultimate one. Some of these objections are plausible, at least initially, while others can be readily dispensed with [...]
(4a) Objection from lack of human motivation: Who cares?
Perhaps genes are not interests, if interests are defined as conscious wants. [...] If he [R.D. Alexander] is right, if humans are not evolved consciously to pursue genetic interests even after reflecting on their genetic history, then the concept of genetic interest might be hollow. Perhaps if this interest cannot motivate protective action it must remain a descriptive idea unless and until humanity evolves to the extent that people can get excited about it.
Surely Alexander is mistaken. In our modern world many interests are not intrinsically motivating, only being valued when we understand their significance. Would keys to a castle be more than a curio to hunter-gatherers unaware of the wealth and prestige they can unlock? [...] Recognising something as an interest requires background knowledge, sometimes quite sophisticated, of the contexts in which it becomes valuable. [...]
It might be countered that objects and codes are not interests in themselves. They only attain value because they allow access to things we all intuitively value, that we have feelings about, such as status and resources. In this account keys are not intrinsic interests. It is objects, states of being and other individuals that we consider valuable—that are intrinsic interests. Nothing is an interest that does not unlock such valuables. This is a plausible view, but hardly a criticism of the notion of genetic interests. Genes produce myriad effects in the real world, including health and kinship, that are intrinsically valuable. Thus genes have always been valuable, even before they and their actions were discovered.
Salter equivocates on terminal goals and instrumental goals. His analogy: to possess keys to a castle is of potential value to most humans, even if this value only becomes apparent via additional knowledge. This implies that a lack of knowledge may prevent people from realising the value of genetic proliferation.
A castle key is, however, of merely instrumental value: it allows someone to bring about states of reality that he values for their own sake. Wealth obtained from the castle may be a further instrumental goal, which facilitates the terminal goal of e.g. hedonic egoism. To possess a key-shaped lump of metal is unlikely to be a terminal goal, and if it were the hunter-gatherer should realise this without additional knowledge (since the castle would be extraneous to the key’s inherent value).
Genes do have important effects, but likewise this only implies that genes are of instrumental value. Salter’s grand claim is that genetic reproduction is a terminal value for everyone, to which notion genes’ instrumental value is orthogonal.
On the whole, serving genetic interests upholds human proximate interests. Many of the values we hold most dear are preserved down the generations because individuals strive to preserve their genetic interests, even when those interests are vaguely apprehended or not apprehended at all.
This too is irrelevant to the question of whether genetic proliferation is a terminal value. If reproduction is instrumentally valuable, a rational agent attempts to reproduce; he need not consider gene-spreading inherently valuable.
The point should be emphasised that genes only become interests when part of the reproductive chain of life; when they contribute to the creation of humans and influence their development; or when such function is in prospect. If it were possible to manufacture billions of copies of one’s genome in the form of powdered protein, and disperse them in the world or in outer space, that would hardly be in one’s genetic interests. But it does serve genetic interests to have part of one’s genome help form a new human.
The point should also be emphasised that “genetic interests” remain underspecified.
Genes in powdered protein aren’t valuable; genes in humans are. What about plants and animals? They are also part of the reproductive chain of life. If I replace onions in my garden with leeks, might this not be a tragic loss of genetic interests—millions of child-equivalents, even—if onions happen to share more genes with humans than do leeks?
We may rule out plants—it’s silly. But what about apes, or Neanderthals? What definite criterion distinguishes organisms that embody genetic interests from organisms whose genes are ignored? This is important, because humanity may change by genetic drift, evolution or self-modification in future, and if it changes too much it might no longer be a vessel for existing humans’ genetic interests. Then, to forestall this change would be far more important than combating immigration.
Genetic interest could motivate as a token of success. It is conceivable that individuals aware of life’s evolutionary dimension can treat genetic fitness as a safety indicator. The assumption would be that if they or their groups are not sustaining their genetic line, for example by monopolizing a territory, something is wrong and should be put right.
Genetic proliferation could motivate. An AI could indeed be programmed: “maximise the number of these genetic code snippets within living human beings”, although the behaviour of such an AI would probably horrify the naïve Salterian. So what? If my aunt had balls, she’d be my uncle.
An effective counter to the view that humans cannot be motivated by genetic interests, even indirectly, is that they are and always have been. The cooperative defensiveness shown by band and tribal peoples is bound to have boosted inclusive fitness, because it is universal and ancient, thus likely to have been an evolutionarily stable strategy. Other forms of group spirit, including patriotism and nationalism and religious solidarity, have been powerful motivators of group continuity. Even in present day Western societies where ethnic sentiment is often considered passé by the ruling elites and where whole populations are being displaced by mass immigration, indirect concern over genetic interests lives on in one place or another. Many people feel a strong affinity for their ethnic identities, and many more are prone to do so.
Salter once again fails to defend the overarching thesis of On Genetic Interests. Some humans may well feel an abstract desire to maximise genetic representation—Frank Salter presumably does—but no-one else need share this interest.
Salter’s claim that humans “always have been” motivated by genetic interests is also interesting. If one cares about “genetic interests”, one deliberately sets out to maximise one’s genetic proliferation within humanity. Since ancestral humans knew nothing of genes, Salter’s claim can only be true if we accept the idea of “indirect” motivation to increase genetic proliferation.
Ancestral humans who cared about “blood ties”, for example, were indirectly concerned with genetic proliferation, because “blood” is a vague label standing in for the concept of biological relatedness that genes now fill. Perhaps ancestral humans even viewed themselves as having blood ties on arbitrarily extended levels of kinship. Such thoughts might have encouraged cooperative defensiveness of tribes; or, an inclination to join a mutually defensive, homogeneous group of any kind could produce this phenomenon. Who knows?
Salter’s problem, in either case, is that many living humans do not exhibit an abstract concern, direct or indirect, for genetic proliferation. Even if they have seen Salter’s “child-equivalent” tables, most people don’t care very much about EGI, ethnic bloodlines or any such thing.
At this point, Salterians exchange the sensible idea of “indirect” interests for absurdity. Humans exhibit an indirect effort to realise a goal if they characterise their efforts using vague stand-in terms. Salterians like to argue that, in addition, since human goals are explained by the fact that our brains are coded for by genes, we have an indirect or “ultimate” interest in genetic reproduction whatever we might claim. This is untrue, simply because an object is not identical to its cause.
If one asks for café au lait in a restaurant, one will be displeased should the waiter bring an espresso machine, coffee beans and a jug of milk. “But Sir, this is your ultimate coffee; just the same as regular coffee.”
An example that radically separates phenotypes and genes is helpful because it shows how important an explicit comprehension of genetic interests might be. [...]
Brooks believes that should robots be constructed with humanlike intelligence and consciousness it will be unethical to treat them as slaves. ‘You get into the moral question—would it be okay to breed a race of subhumans? And certainly we feel now it’s okay. We don’t feel any empathy for the machines but that may be a consideration ultimately…’. This position combines vivid psychological insight with poor biology. Brooks thinks it would be wrong to have any entity be our slave that could elicit our empathy, arguing from the lack of empathy slaveholders once felt for their human slaves. If the slaveholders were wrong in casting their slaves as subhuman, he implies, then robot owners would similarly be wrong to cast their robots as subhuman. The syllogism makes sense only if divorced from the most basic understanding of biology, and from a concept of genetic interests, implicit or explicit. Human slaves of any race were as human as their masters. It was false belief that designated them as subhuman, but a similar belief about robots would not be false.
Salter thinks that ability to experience pleasure or pain is no basis for empathy. Instead, what matters is that humans contain genes. Any brain not coded into existence by genes is undeserving of concern, says the ethical Dr. Salter.
The Church–Turing–Deutsch principle implies that any physical process in a brain can be simulated by a computer. Therefore, Dr. Salter himself could be running in a simulation, or be a silicon brain in a vat.
I doubt that he is; but claims should apply to all of physics, including improbable circumstances. If Dr. Salter is a simulation, does he think the experimenter should torture him, if this happens to further the experimenter’s genetic interests (e.g. because it impresses his girlfriend)?
If we care more about phenotypes than genotypes, then ‘who cares?!’ will often be an effective repost to any evangelising call to preserve genetic interests. One either feels protectively about genetic interests or not.
Dr. Salter thus admits defeat. But his series of half-baked failed rebuttals is enough to satisfy the lazy and credulous.
(4b) Objection from the teleological nature of genetic interests
I have encountered criticisms of the idea of genetic interests based on rejection of teleological explanation.
a. Objection: Human behaviour is often directed towards goals, such as acquiring food or mates, but it is fallacious to portray humans as deliberately striving to maximize their reproductive fitness. Fitness might or might not be an outcome of our behaviour, but with rare exceptions it is not a conscious goal.
Reply: The present essay is not primarily a theory of human behaviour, but of interests. Rather than being a work of explanation, this is mainly an exercise in political theory dealing with what people are able to do if they want to behave adaptively.
This is a lie. Earlier we saw him claim, “genetic fitness is an interest [...] the only ultimate one”, and here is a similar quote from the blurb (with my boldface):
From an evolutionary perspective, individuals have a vital interest in the reproduction of their genes. Yet this interest is overlooked by social and political theory at a time when we need to steer an adaptive course through the unnatural modern world of uneven population growth and decline, global mobility, and loss of family and communal ties.
Salter’s sensible part knows that this is untrue; therefore, he provides disclaimers. But the blurb is a fair summary. The idea that On Genetic Interests just offers strategies for those who wish to behave adaptively is contradicted by the book’s actual content.
Hitler, ducking accusations of anti-Semitism, might have included a note in Mein Kampf: “This book is mainly an exercise in political theory dealing with what people are able to do if they think Jews are evil. At no point do I impeach the Jews. Would I lie to you?”
(4c) Objection from levels of analysis: Do only genes have genetic interests?
Assuming as valid the notion of objective interests, independent of motivations or even awareness, it could be argued that neo-Darwinian theory emphasizes the genes’ phenotypic interests, not phenotypes’ genetic interests. From the replicator’s vantage point phenotypes exist for the convenience of genes. This line of thinking might conclude that if phenotypes have any interests they must bear on their own phenotypic needs. A rough guide to these needs is striving behaviour but includes the objective need of the organism to survive and flourish. Put differently, phenotypes might have only proximate interests, not ultimate ones. The latter type of interests might adhere to replicators, not vehicles.
This argument fails to account for what Alexander calls ‘the direction of striving of the phenotype’, quoted earlier. Predictably from the evolutionary perspective, phenotypic needs and motivations usually point to the reproductive interests of their genes. Phenotypes are, after all, genes’ survival vehicles, to use Dawkins’s term. Genes are our ultimate interests because they are the basic units of selection, partially defined by Dawkins as ‘active replicators’, those that positively influence their probability of being copied. [...] Active germ-line replicators, such as functional genes, are units of selection and hence ultimate interests. The general mutuality between genetic and phenotypic ‘striving’ in the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness indicates that even if we count only phenotypic needs and motives as interests, these are strongly identified in that environment with genetic interests as the genes’ interests. [...]
Surely the primacy of phenotypic (or vehicular) interests cannot be maintained when so many phenotypes in so many species give highest priority to their genetic interests; when selfishness and altruism are shown convincingly to be strategies for ensuring genetic continuity.
When a human forms the idea “I want to bring about X”, this is the outcome of a computation instantiated in his brain. X may be an instrumental goal: for convenience, the brain pins down an objective like “I want to earn money”, but this is predicated on the fact that possession of money allows the brain to satisfy other goals. At the bottom of any chain of instrumental goals is a terminal goal: a state of reality the brain attempts to achieve for its own sake—that’s just how the brain is programmed.
The human brain isn’t a coherent expected utility maximiser; it is a bunch of competing terminal goals that natural selection has glued together. Competing terminal goals, e.g. hedonic egoism vs. hedonic utilitarianism, increasingly conflict as humans gain knowledge, and the further we depart from the ancestral environment.
It may be useful to view the brain’s terminal goals as the objectives of various coherent sub-agents, rather than a singular “person”. Either way, these terminal goals need make no reference to genes and genetic proliferation. Some of them may, but most do not.
Humans often enjoy sexual intercourse for its own sake. The concept “sexual intercourse” forms, and the brain reliably attempts to bring about the configuration of reality, “I engage in sexual intercourse”. This is the bottom of the chain: a terminal goal (although “experience pleasure” could be the terminal goal in other cases). This is wholly distinct from, “I wish to engage in sexual intercourse, in order to pass on my genes”. That would be direct concern of genetic interests. It is also different to, “I wish to engage in sexual intercourse, in order to continue my bloodline”. That would be indirect concern for genetic interests.
These are different mathematical statements. A computer programmer wouldn’t treat them as the same statement; they are distinct claims about reality.
Perhaps the concept of instrumental goals confuses people. The word “because” is used to descend chains of instrumental goals: “I want a better job because I want more money because I want a bigger house because I want to make my children happy”. One of this person’s terminal goals is, “I want to make my children as happy as possible”. It may not be his most powerful mental sub-agent, but it controls a major part of his behaviour. Once he hits rock bottom—a terminal goal—he is simply stating what he values. His brain happens to be programmed to realise the state of reality in which his children are happy.
The word because can also be used to explain the existence of this terminal goal. “I want a better job because I want more money because I want a bigger house because I want to make my children happy; I want my children to be happy because natural selection favoured genes coding for the terminal goal of making one’s children happy. Here is a completely different statement: “I want my children to be happy because I want to spread my genes”. In that case, genetic proliferation would be the person’s terminal goal.
Instrumental goals are way to keep track of the actions necessary to fulfil a terminal goal. Tabooing the confusing word “because”, one might instead say, “I want a better job, in order to obtain more money, in order to obtain a bigger house, in order to make my children happy. ‘Make your children happy’ is the utility function of a powerful sub-agent in my brain. Natural selection favoured genes that code for a brain with this strong mental sub-agent.”
In the statement “I want my children to be happy”, the “I” is the entity that represents this goal. Genes do not represent that goal; the brain does. Genes code the brain into existence, but they are not the cluster-in-thingspace that actually has the goal.
Salter’s claim, “so many phenotypes in so many species give highest priority to their genetic interests” is therefore false. Goals embodied in a brain coded for by genes needn’t make any reference to genes, or a concept standing in for genes, and they do so rarely. Goals are not identical to the thing that caused them to exist. To think so—to conflate an object with its putative cause—is the logic of “ultimate coffee”.
In addition, genes are only a convenient abstraction. They aren’t the entire “cause” of a brain, any more than an espresso machine, coffee beans and a jug of milk are the “cause” of a cup of coffee. Consider identical twins. In the womb, before a mature brain has developed, environmental factors (e.g. one twin’s advantageous connection to the placenta) cause differences in the twins’ phenotypes. On a smaller scale, radiation, copying errors and even quantum tunnelling have some influence on the structure of each twin’s brain. As the twins mature, enculturation and their different experiences create massive differences. One can’t even be sure that only genes in the twins’ bodies are coding for their brain structure, rather than those of a parasite organism.
One could describe the genetic code as the brain’s “ultimate” cause, and every other influence as “contingent”, but tabooing these words such a distinction is arbitrary. “Gene”, like most words, is also a fuzzy concept. To quote Dawkins in The Extended Phenotype:
I shall make no attempt to specify exactly how long a portion of chromosome can be permitted to be before it ceases to be usefully regarded as a replicator. There is no hard and fast rule, and we don’t need one. It depends on the strength of the selection pressure of interest. We are not seeking an absolutely rigid definition, but ‘a kind of fading-out definition, like the definition of “big” or “old”‘. [...] The possibility of strong linkage disequilibrium (Clegg 1978) does not weaken the case. It simply increases the size of the chunk of genome that we can usefully treat as a replicator. [...] It was in this spirit that I playfully contemplated titling an earlier work The slightly selfish big bit of chromosome and the even more selfish little bit of chromosome (Dawkins 1976a, p.35).
When discussing natural selection, genes are but a suitable actor to play the leading role in our metaphors of purpose. Physics does not run on “genes”. A highly specific description of the processes that caused the brain to exist would refer to quantum amplitudes, and although fuzzy clusters-in-thingspace called “genes” would be implicit in this description, things would be more complex.
Genes are implicit in the explanation. So are the nucleotides that developed into the first RNA self-replicator. So are the laws of physics that enable DNA to exist, brains to develop and mutations to occur. Depending on the time-scale and zoom lens one prefers, using Salter’s logic even electromagnetism or the Big Bang could be considered humanity’s “ultimate interest”.
Now let’s skip to another interesting section of On Genetic Interests: Chapter 9, “On the Ethics of Defending Genetic Interests”.
I formulate an ethic of ‘adaptive utilitarianism’ according to which a good act is one that increases or protects the fitness of the greatest number. I apply this ethic in an attempt to answer three fundamental questions raised by the concept of genetic interest, especially the ethnic component (followed by short answers): (9a) Under which conditions if any does defending genetic interests justify frustrating other interests? Since genetic interests are shared according to degree of kinship, individuals have duties to family, ethny, and humanity ahead of strictly private needs. (9b) Should the ultimate interest of genetic fitness be accorded absolute priority over other interests? In principle ‘yes’, but in practice ‘not always’, since the effect of a behaviour on fitness is often unknown. (9c) What is the proper action when ultimate interests conflict? When ethnies conflict, adaptive utilitarianism is best satisfied by universal nationalism, since this ideology teaches respect for everyone’s ethnic interests. Genetic continuity is compatible with peace between ethnies, with equality of opportunities within ethnies, but not with equality of fitness outcomes within ethnies, since a system that ensured equality would be evolutionarily unstable. The ultimate form of liberty is the freedom to defend one’s genetic interests. [...]
In this chapter I raise and attempt to answer some basic questions of morality concerning the defence of genetic interests, especially in the domain of ethnic rivalry. I do so in the spirit of consilience, or unity of all knowledge, urged by E. O. Wilson. The Enlightenment will finally reach maturity, Wilson argues, when mankind deploys the knowledge gained from science to forge wiser, more humane policies.
Humanity’s “ultimate interest” of
the Schrödinger equation genetic proliferation should, in principle, be given absolute priority.
What if Frank Salter’s Grandma were sick and needed his help? The effect of his leaving her to die may be difficult to compute in the genetic calculus. But he might decide that clearly, this lonely, poor, sterile old lady is worthless to a fitness-maximiser. In that case, his ultimate interest is to leave her to rot. How ethical.
This may be slightly unfair. Hedonic utilitarianism also forces some almost unconscionable decisions. Torture vs. dust specks discomforts me, and to choose “torture” is a bitter bullet to bite. But at least this choice is grounded in humane reasoning. Leaving Grandma to die because she won’t help you to pass on your genes is just psychopathic. It may be rational behaviour for some minds, but they are not “humane”.
I try not to lose sight of the implications of Wilson’s view that the moral instincts can change due to differential reproduction. From an evolutionary standpoint an ethical system that weeds out the genes or culture of those who practise it is a failure.
Of course, if the expected value of (hedons – dolors) in the timeless Universe is maximised by e.g. immigration control, this is what a rational hedonic utilitarian advocates. This remains an instrumental goal, not a terminal one.
Failure to maximise utility is failure—this needs no embellishment.
[A] weakness of utilitarianism is its happiness criterion. Happiness is an emotion, and thus a proximate rather than an ultimate interest. As an indicator of ultimate interests it is better than nothing, but fallible. Individuals suffering from mania appear happy and claim to be so, but are prone to maladaptive behaviour. Drug addicts experience periods of intense happiness, and this can be maintained for a time if the supply of drugs is kept up. Yet drug addiction tends to be maladaptive. Humans strive for resources and status, that is clear, but achieving this goal does not increase happiness in any simple or predictable way. By contrast reproductive fitness is an objective measurable by number of offspring and continuity of one’s familial and ethnic lineage.
The weakness of the happiness criterion is not fatal to the utilitarian enterprise because, as noted earlier, other criteria of non-moral goodness can be substituted for it. [...]
Adaptiveness as utility
In this section I argue that the structure of the utilitarian ethic can be retained while replacing criteria such as happiness or beauty with adaptiveness. From the perspective of modern biology the most important consequence of any act is how it affects genetic interests, how it affects adaptiveness. The consequence of ultimate import is not happiness of the greatest number but adaptiveness of the greatest number. This notion underpins a survival ethic—which I shall refer to as ‘adaptive utilitarianism’—which has important advantages over happiness and other proximate criteria.
This ethic cannot be reduced to the social Darwinist doctrine of ‘survival of the fittest’. Like the social Darwinists I shall argue that the freedom to compete within limits is a vital adaptive right, but the criterion of ‘the greatest number’ also leads to an emphasis on the need for cooperation and adoption of procedures for peacefully resolving conflicts. [...]
Adaptiveness has the advantage of corresponding to knowledge of the human condition, especially to observable states. We can observe individuals’ (or groups’) resources, the amount of control they have over their environment, their state of health, their fertility and life span, ability to defend themselves, and so on. Adaptive utilitarianism does not have a transient emotional state as its criterion of goodness, while retaining much of the intuitive appeal of classic utilitarianism.
Genetic proliferation is the “ultimate interest”, but Dr. Salter can’t stomach this idea’s psychopathic consequences. Therefore, he introduces “adaptive utilitarianism”, which involves genetic proliferation but doesn’t accord it priority. So, which is it? Is spreading genes the ultimate interest, or is adaptive utilitarianism more important? One of these must be the victor.
Salter boasts that adaptiveness is easy to measure—this seems to be adaptive utilitarianism’s great merit. But the same is true of e.g. hirsute utilitarianism: hairiness of the greatest number. This is easy to quantify, unlike happiness and misery. But I’m not tempted to become a hirsute utilitarian.
Worse, adaptiveness of the greatest number doesn’t imply ethnic nationalism. Imagine there are only two very distinct ethnic groups, and group A outnumbers B. Then, replacement of B humans by A humans always increases adaptiveness of the greatest number, because it increases the fitness of many A humans and reduces the fitness (to an equal extent per capita) of only the few B humans.
In reality, racial distinctions are fuzzy. But adaptive utilitarianism probably implies (as a first step) replacing all other humans with the largest relatively discrete ethnic-genetic group, i.e. Han Chinese. Genocide: very ethical.
[A]daptive utilitarianism should be more sustainable in the long run because it is better for us. An adaptive utilitarian would condemn any practice that reduced fitness below replacement level, no matter how pleasurable. Drug-taking comes to mind, but also the sort of middle class culture common in developed societies that values consumption, comfort, and status over children.
If drug-use and dysgenics reduce the expected value of (hedons – dolors) over all timescales, rational hedonic utilitarians oppose drug-use and dysgenics.
Irrational people calling themselves utilitarians may cause more misery than pleasure; irrational people who care about EGI may not be effective in spreading their genes. The solution isn’t to change one’s goals, but to be more rational.
Another weakness of utilitarianism that a survival ethic corrects is the arbitrariness of the clause prescribing that happiness be maximized. Whether the criterion is happiness, pleasure or economic profit, Mill and the economists who adopted his approach thought that it was impossible to get too much of a good thing. This is an improbable view if proximate interests are not goals in themselves but means to adaptiveness. Even too much wealth or too many mates is bad if the monopoly diminishes the society bearing one’s genetic interests. Too much happiness can diminish prudence and thus harm other interests, such as status or wealth, reducing fitness. Like other proximate interests, happiness necessarily exists in balance with other states, and is thus best optimized rather than maximized. Adaptiveness, in the sense of ability to survive and reproduce, is different. One cannot be too well adapted.
Terminal goals are “goals in themselves”. One can call this “arbitrary”, but it is a fact of life. The goal, “maximise the number of my genes in human beings” is represented in some human brains. It isn’t particularly strong, but it can’t be refuted. Goals are not claims about reality; they just exist.
This sub-agent’s weakness is demonstrated, however, by the soi-disant Salterians’ lack of sincere commitment to the goal of genetic proliferation. Consider individual genetic interests: do we really believe that Guessedworker et al spend every free hour in spasms of sperm-donation?
Salter can’t stomach the vile consequences of strict gene maximisation, so he has invented the incompatible ethic of “adaptive utilitarianism”. And for some reason, only genes in human beings are counted. But even within the human species, Salterians are suspiciously Euro-centric. Tamil immigration to Bahrain harms an Englishman’s EGI roughly as much as the same amount of Turkish immigration to England. Do Salterians care about Tamils replacing Bahrainis as much as they care about Turks in England, or as much as they would care about losing an actual child under a bus? The evidence suggests not.
9(b) Should an individual’s ultimate (genetic) interests be accorded absolute priority over others’ proximate interests?
The message of modern biology is that genetic fitness is the ultimate interest, meaning precisely that it is of absolute importance.
Unless you practise “adaptive utilitarianism”. Or when you claim, “this is mainly an exercise in political theory dealing with what people are able to do if they want to behave adaptively.”
This is surely the starting position of any ethical discussion of the choice between genetic and other interests.
And the end point, n’est pas? Unless Frank Salter eschews the accepted meaning of “absolute importance”.
Fortunately for those who hold proximate values dear, whether one gives greater emphasis to genetic interests or to other values will rarely be an either/or choice. Most humans are evolved to value adaptive proximate interests such as bonds of kith and kin, status, wealth and health because they are adaptive. More accurately, striving for the things we hold dear is adaptive or was adaptive for much of our evolutionary past. So our lives are unlikely to be turned upside down if we act to increase or secure our genetic interests. This will amount to nothing more than shuffling existing priorities.
Indeed: shuffling down the priority of caring for Grandma, and shuffling up the priority of round-the-clock sperm-donation and genocide.
This essay has ranged across several fields of knowledge, including genetics, evolutionary theory, ethology, ecology, various policy areas, the political theory of the state, and ethics. Since mastery of any of these fields is the work of a lifetime, the unavoidable conclusion is that I am not competent to write this essay. Readers should thus approach the arguments presented in this book with a critical attitude. I recommend that you look on it as a stimulus to debate, rather than a statement of final wisdom. I have done my best to get the analysis right, but errors probably remain.
This is the most sensible paragraph of On Genetic Interests.
Having dismantled enough Salter for all but his most blinkered disciple to admit defeat, I shall now discuss the systematic errors that underlie Salterism.
Who is Frank Salter? Argumentum ad hominem is unnecessary; but having slain Salterism, prudence demands a bullet through its brain. We wouldn’t want it to rise from the dead.
First stop, Wikipedia:
Frank Salter matriculated (undergraduate) at the University of Sydney (1979–1982) where he majored in government and public administration, specializing in organization theory under the mentorship of Ross Curnow.
At the same time, one Frank K. Salter was active in Sydney’s underground nationalist scene. Dr. Jim Saleam, an amateur historian of Australian nationalism, tells us that:
Azzopardi seems to have been a decisive product of the underground. He moved freely within it in the years 1974–76, seeking out allies and otherwise learning lessons. For the latter reason he said, he had even searched out Cass Young in 1975. He had wanted to know what made neo-nazis tick. [...] In 1976, he met Frank Salter, formerly of Duntroon Military College and then an engineering student at the University of New South Wales, and through Salter moved into wider circles of the Sydney “Right.” [...]
The “refugee invasion” had begun and Azzopardi and Salter were certain the old-Right groups would miss the chance. A sheet Advance appeared and in November 1977, it became a broadsheet newspaper. The White Australia question took pride of place. [...]
Frank Salter, secretary of Australian National Alliance, was clubbed down at the University of New South Wales in February 1979.
Perhaps the author of On Genetic Interests bumped into his namesake at the varsity hockey match. An encounter with the young firebrand might have spurred our Frank to wonder whether ethnic nationalism is a vital interest. More probably, they are the same person.
Eliezer Yudkowsky describes a common rationality failure mode:
There are two sealed boxes up for auction, box A and box B. One and only one of these boxes contains a valuable diamond. There are all manner of signs and portents indicating whether a box contains a diamond; but I have no sign which I know to be perfectly reliable. There is a blue stamp on one box, for example, and I know that boxes which contain diamonds are more likely than empty boxes to show a blue stamp. Or one box has a shiny surface, and I have a suspicion—I am not sure—that no diamond-containing box is ever shiny.
Now suppose there is a clever arguer, holding a sheet of paper, and he says to the owners of box A and box B: “Bid for my services, and whoever wins my services, I shall argue that their box contains the diamond, so that the box will receive a higher price.” So the box-owners bid, and box B’s owner bids higher, winning the services of the clever arguer.
The clever arguer begins to organize his thoughts. First, he writes, “And therefore, box B contains the diamond!” at the bottom of his sheet of paper. Then, at the top of the paper, he writes, “Box B shows a blue stamp,” and beneath it, “Box A is shiny”, and then, “Box B is lighter than box A”, and so on through many signs and portents; yet the clever arguer neglects all those signs which might argue in favor of box A. And then the clever arguer comes to me and recites from his sheet of paper: “Box B shows a blue stamp, and box A is shiny,” and so on, until he reaches: “And therefore, box B contains the diamond.”
But consider: At the moment when the clever arguer wrote down his conclusion, at the moment he put ink on his sheet of paper, the evidential entanglement of that physical ink with the physical boxes became fixed. [...]
Now suppose another person present is genuinely curious, and she first writes down all the distinguishing signs of both boxes on a sheet of paper, and then applies her knowledge and the laws of probability and writes down at the bottom: “Therefore, I estimate an 85% probability that box B contains the diamond.” Of what is this handwriting evidence? Examining the chain of cause and effect leading to this physical ink on physical paper, I find that the chain of causality wends its way through all the signs and portents of the boxes, and is dependent on these signs; for in worlds with different portents, a different probability is written at the bottom.
So the handwriting of the curious inquirer is entangled with the signs and portents and the contents of the boxes, whereas the handwriting of the clever arguer is evidence only of which owner paid the higher bid. There is a great difference in the indications of ink, though one who foolishly read aloud the ink-shapes might think the English words sounded similar.
Your effectiveness as a rationalist is determined by whichever algorithm actually writes the bottom line of your thoughts.
It’s clear what algorithm wrote Frank Salter’s bottom line.
It should have been:
I have investigated human goals with an open mind. The evidence suggests that the only human goal is genetic proliferation. I shall present my findings in a book.
It was actually:
I don’t want non-white immigrants in Australia. Mass non-white immigration is bad. Therefore, I shall write a book whose conclusion is, stop immigration! I wonder what arguments I can use…
This reasoning isn’t conscious; Salter is earnest. But his subconscious wrote this bottom line, hence an intelligent man spouts nonsense.
Salter’s intelligence is part of the problem. He has found a nugget of scientific truth. Richard Lewontin famously argued that since only 15% of genetic variation is between populations, racial classification is invalid. This is fallacious. In addition to Edwards’s refutation, Salter (via Harpending) has demonstrated that Fst values, like Lewontin’s 15%, are equivalent to statistical “kinship” between family members. The kinship of parents and children, for example, is 25%. This shows that 15% is actually a large value—another means of refuting Lewontin.
Salter’s insane thesis derives credibility because in this one respect, his beliefs are more accurate than the mainstream.
Another life-support system for Salterism (since GNXP mercilessly stabbed it years ago) is toleration of imprecise language. Guessedworker has tried to leaven the stodgy genetic-interest dough with a sprinkling of Heidegger—observe:
But here’s the rub. Being belongs to all organic life … to every living thing, from the strangest bacteria in some hydrothermal vent or sub-glacial lake to the future genius born somewhere among Europeans today. All living things make being and have being. It is not the other way round somehow. It does not become the other way around just in Man’s case because he has evolved an intellectual faculty and higher emotions. We are in Nature with all of Nature, and we are not an exception to Nature. All is multiplicity.
In this way, being is Nature’s cumulative constant. I hold the view that animals are, within their own bounds, constantly true to their being. But we men are not constantly true to our being, except in the special moment I have described. We are fallen in the significant respects – the subject of part 3 of this essay. Therefore, we alone experience that inner divorce, and this, of course, is the tragedy of the human condition. Nonetheless, while we have life, that is our moment of potential for the realisation of being, and there is no other. Each holds being, therefore, in relation to the self, and it is the unconcealment of this being, and not just the glory of her raiment, which is Nature’s sublimest part. Our inner Helios rising is our witness of that sublimity.
To refute this argument with faith … to say being is from a god … is good only if the saying of it advances the wholly materialist making of adaptive life choices (the material being distinctive genes, of course). And likewise, therefore, to objectivise it as the universal, indivisible, prior, and endowing substrate – that, too, is good only if it enhances fitness. Faith is there in our emotional faculties because genes for it have enhanced fitness and been selected accordingly. The pre-frontal cortex, where all those higher emotions occur, is a product of natural selection like anything else. The pre-frontal cortex is also not on holiday during the being-episode, the moment of presence. It is functioning as always, as it must, and the faith nexus sings as sweetly in the ear of the risen man as ever it did in his predecessor’s (and soon to be successor’s, for presence turns constantly towards absence unless it is attended to actively).
That is how the being-as-singular, how immateriality, enters metaphysical thinking, and not from any bona fide witness of an ontotheological reality. There has never been such witness outside of religious thought. But if Western metaphysics is to avoid appeals to an immaterial authority it must find for multiplicity. And to be consistent it must, in turn, acknowledge that objective reality cannot be known or experienced – not even in the moment of ecstatic revelation and annihilation of the self that I mentioned at the beginning. Everything is perception. Of what is, we can know and experience only the reality of our own being in the world, and that reality is informed and coloured by, and situated within, the reality of Man’s being and of the being of kinds of men – Heidegger’s Mitwelt, as far as it goes.
So this is my principal argument for multiplicity. There are certainly others. One is very familiar to readers of this blog.
Those who’ve read David Stove’s What is Wrong with Our Thoughts? will recognise mumbo-jumbo, passing itself off as profundity.
What is Guessedworker’s bottom line—why Heidegger and “being”? Simple: he thinks white people are too concerned with what they do, rather than what they be. They think more about the minutiae of their family lives, work and hedonism, and not enough about their ancestry and their race. Stated clearly, this meets with the “So what?” objection, so Guessedworker must clothe his idea in pseudo-philosophy.
The cure is to ask precisely he means by “Nature’s cumulative constant” and the “unconcealment of being”, or to suggest he recap his essay with the word “being” tabooed. No-one can reduce everything he says to the level of quantum amplitudes, but if someone can’t disassemble a few high-level statements then he is probably spewing egesta.
On the majorityrights.com sidebar, nestled below “The Ontology Project”, is another interesting link: “Thread Wars”. This is a collection of Guessedworker’s effortless skewering of luminaries such as “simon21″ and “90Lew90″—inadvertent debating partners from Guardian and Daily Telegraph (never the Sun or Mirror) comment threads.
If I had a little-known, Earth-shaking new idea about humanity’s ultimate interests, I would want to have it critiqued by important people. I would contact the brilliant philosopher Neven Sesardic, whom I can trust to be free of PC myths. Robin Hanson is always good for a debate. And famous neuroscientist Jeff Hawkins must know a lot about human goals. But if part of me knew that my idea was actually retarded, I might stick to 90Lew90.
Salterians carefully avoid clear, precise language when speaking about “EGI”. Another excerpt from The ontology of the material:
reproductive interests exist as described and constitute the ultimate interest in organic life
The ultimate interest in organic life? Why not “of”? And why not unfurl the full thesis?
The predominant or “absolute” goal that every human being ought to pursue is to make sure that the genetic code of as many other human beings as possible contains small sections that are identical to small sections of his own chromosomes.
Not quite so impressive, eh? Muddy expressions like “ethnic genetic interests” and “reproductive interests” disguise Salterism’s absurdity. “EGI” evokes connotations, in the mind of the Salterian, like “fewer immigrants”. It does not evoke, “I sacrifice everything else, in order to proliferate snippets of genetic code”. When confronted by rational argument, Salterians draw strength from these pleasant emotions, and dwell not upon the real meaning of EGI.
What about this:
To maintain any system of ethics at all, and avoid the slide into utility, arbitraryness, relativism, and nihilism, must not there be some testable and solid basis to ethic?
Utility is the mathematical measure of goal-satisfaction, so “avoiding the slide into utility” means “trying not to achieve one’s goals”.
III: Advice for Salterians
Just look at your gerrymandering.
Should the ultimate interest of genetic fitness be accorded absolute priority over other interests? In principle ‘yes’
Because we need to keep Australia white!
The point should be emphasised that genes only become interests when part of the reproductive chain of life; when they contribute to the creation of humans and influence their development; or when such function is in prospect.
Because we don’t really care about genes, but we do care about race.
But classical Salterian theory is limited. Of course, there is a real Salterian “fallacy”—but one that underestimates, not overestimates, the genetic loss via intermarriage and that undercuts the critique analyzed here. Thus, patterns of gene frequencies is a piece of information destroyed by intermarriage independent of the number of specific alleles in the general population.
Interbreeding doesn’t harm genetic proliferation. Therefore, genetic interests must now incorporate patterns of gene frequencies. Yes, this means that passing on germ-line replicators is no longer the ultimate interest. But miscegenation is bad.
Gray’s linkage of Salter and rape, which is even more grotesque than David B’s linkage to Huntington’s, is stupidity bordering on mendacity. Did Gray finish Salter’s book? Did he read the last one-third, the part on ethics?
Salter favors a “mixed ethic”, in which concern about one’s genetic interests is not only balanced by reciprocity concerning the interests of others, but also by concern for individual rights. Salterism is defensive, a balance of relative interests and rights, and in practice in boils down to majority rights and ethno-states. Salterism does not “clearly” imply a promotion of rape, and Gray should be ashamed of himself to even obliquely suggest otherwise. However, given the paragraph about his “beautiful” mulatto grandnieces, I assume that a sense of shame is not one of Gray’s strong suits.
Rape could easily further a Salterian’s ultimate interests. Therefore, we are adaptive utilitarians, not gene-maximisers. In practice, this means majority rights and ethno-states. Racialists who know nothing of adaptive utilitarianism also share this goal—what a coincidence.
Mention ontology to even an educated fellow nationalist, and certainly to an activist, and he will very likely gaze unawares at the ground beneath his feet. After a few seconds the void of understanding will fill with something very like scorn. He will level his eyes at you and deliver himself of the opinion that that sort of thing has nothing to do with the world of struggle in Nature and politics that he knows and sees everywhere – the struggle which European Man is so demonstrably losing. Too detached from reality, too self-absorbing, he will say. Too many dancing angels.
And then, to set you right, and quite without irony, he will remind you of the great existential plaint, the crisis of the crisis. While you are engaged in all this intellectual vanity, he will say, we Europeans are growing older and weaker by the day, our lands more lost to us, our family lines more negroidalised, the political class more traitorous (if that is possible), the bankers and corporate scum more rapacious, the Jews more audacious.
You will see how the collective angst, unspoken by his people, unacknowledged amid the culture of greed and celebrity and political hype, is torrenting through him, defining him politically, driving him. What do we do? Now! Today! That is the question, de-Barded and anti-intellectual though it is. That is what he will want you, somehow, to answer.
You will nod, and search for a way to explain that revolutions without founding ideas cannot sustain.
Salter’s ideas aren’t very persuasive. Let’s mix in some Heidegger, and see if that protects our family lines from negroidalisation.
What next, a mixed ethic of stay-in-your-own-country utilitarianism?
If there is anything sensible in Salterism, it says:
You there—mental sub-agent that cares about bloodlines. Why not generalise yourself to the ethnic level of kinship?
This has little effect. The sub-agent cares little about genetic kinship beyond the extended family, and that’s difficult to change. Salterians are similar, except their interest drops off at the limit of humanity (or more probably, Europe). Gene-maximisation also conflicts with more powerful sub-agents, like empathy and the moral sense. An average person might have lots of children, instead of spending all his time being charitable; but empathy discourages him from rape or genocide, and his dignity discourages him from spreading his genes via sperm donation.
Even Guessedworker et al wouldn’t really give the Salterian sub-agent free reign. It is genocidal, and a nasty piece of work even in domestic matters. EGI, whether vital interest or mere subjective appeal, is hopeless.
I advise racialists to give up these far-fetched ideas. Instead, they should campaign for a more libertarian government. This would not allow them to outlaw miscegenation, but it would permit them to discriminate more in their private lives—which, although they may not realise it, is enough to sate their ethnocentric impulses.