Dawkins And Diversity

With the migrant crisis in Europe at full boil, immigration is a hot topic. I’ve just had another round with our multiculturalist gadfly in the previous post’s comment thread, but of course we’ve been over all of this before. I invite readers to review, in particular, the long and patient discussion we had here, which ultimately foundered on familiar shoals: a naive and counterfactual faith in human universalism, and the idea that the United States is nothing more than what is called a “proposition nation”.

The error of these beliefs is that they overlook both the origin and importance of culture. To be harmoniously embedded and contextualized in one’s own culture is, as everyone everywhere seems to have understood until the latter half of the last century, the foundation and bedrock of normal human experience, and is generally a precondition for individual happiness and flourishing. Furthermore, the variety of human cultures is not a superficial fact, nor is it a matter of contingent historical accident; cultures do not simply fall from the sky and land, haphazardly, upon whichever human population happens to be passing below. I believe they are best understood, instead, as what Richard Dawkins has called “extended phenotypes“.

The idea is a simple one: a biological organism has both a genotype, which is the sum of its genetic information, and a phenotype, which is the physical result of the expression of the genotype — the term “phenotype” usually being understood to refer to the organism’s body. Dawkins’s fertile insight was that the phenotype extends beyond the body, into the wider world.

For example: a beaver has a beaver genome. This expresses itself in the usual beavery way: big front teeth, webby feet, and a broad, flat tail. But the “extended” phenotype is much more than that: it consists of felled trees, a dam, a lodge, and a pond. In this view, that pond is as much a part of the beaver’s gene-expression as its teeth. Bird’s nests, spiderwebs, and honeycombs — things in the world that themselves contain no genetic information — are as much a manifestation of genomes as wings and stingers.

In H. sapiens, the social animal par excellence, the extended phenotype quite naturally includes culture. And just as we see variation among subspecies for, say, bowerbird nests, we should expect to see that long-isolated human populations, whose genomes have been subject to widely varying selection pressures throughout their history, will create different, often very different, cultures — cultures as distinct as their physical appearance. And so we do.

In an earlier post, Culture and Metaculture, I quoted Lezek Kolakowski on the impossibility of genuine multicultural synthesis, which creates a problem that worsens in proportion both to the number of cultures to be blended, and their dissimilarity. An extended-phenotype model — which understands culture not as something contingently and exogenously grafted onto individuals and populations, but rather as an endogenous, organic, and wholly natural expression of the innate characteristics of a distinct subpopulation — should make even clearer why high levels of “diversity” lead so reliably to faction and strife.

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17 Comments

  1. Kevin Kim says

    Re: “the impossibility of multicultural synthesis”

    This is taken out of context, but might be apropos here:

    “We shall best understand the probable course of natural selection by taking the case of a country undergoing some slight physical change, for instance, of climate. The proportional numbers of its inhabitants will almost immediately undergo a change, and some species will probably become extinct. We may conclude, from what we have seen of the intimate and complex manner in which the inhabitants of each country are bound together, that any change in the numerical proportions of the inhabitants, independently of the change of climate itself, would seriously affect the others. If the country were open on its borders, new forms would certainly immigrate, and this would likewise seriously disturb the relations of some of the former inhabitants. Let it be remembered how powerful the influence of a single introduced tree or mammal has been shown to be.”
    —Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species

    The old coot was talking about climate change and immigration in the 1800s. A danged prophet, he was.

    Posted September 8, 2015 at 3:24 am | Permalink
  2. Whitewall says

    “Multiculturalism” is a sure fire way to national suicide. Its results will be walls, partitions, sectors of “go- no go” zones and in extreme cases, armed citizens enforcing the boundaries. Proponents of this suicide are wishful thinkers who are willfully ignorant of human nature and history. In the end, these people are the very ones who will cry the loudest for protection.

    Posted September 8, 2015 at 6:59 am | Permalink
  3. American immigration is a story of groups setting up little ethnic enclaves. Due to economic needs and things like public education, usually second generation assimilation became widespread and over several generation, all but the most reclusive and a few non-Western ethnic groups blended in.

    With the decline of American culture and the rise of pop culture, the argument about assimilation scares even me. I tried to teach my kids not to embrace the prevailing pop culture. The push to treat all cultures as of equal merit, along with the collapse of our education system all sped our decline. An influx of foreigners with a completely alien culture, especially Islamic culture will try to shield their children from assimilation and understandably so. The permissiveness alone is enough to shock them.

    What exactly is the prevailing American culture we expect immigrants to embrace? Since even Americans, by and large, have no clue what the Constitution is or can even answer the most simple American history questions, the demise we fear seems to me from within more than some groups of immigrants supplanting their culture here.

    Yes, I understand the theory offered. It’s like when you have house guests. Initially, they follow all your house rules, but if they stay for an extended period of time, they begin to put the toilet paper on the roll the opposite way you do, start moving furniture around and begin doing things their way. You quickly feel as if they’re taking over your home – because they are.

    Posted September 8, 2015 at 7:39 am | Permalink
  4. Pangur says

    Re racism, the seeming bar to a multiculti paradise::

    Racism isn’t taught, as liberals would have us believe, but is innate to all human populations. Liberal suppression of racism is undone by a couple of things : 1) reality (exposure to other races); and 2) rebellion against the conformity of political correctness. If one is exposed to minorities and has a few brain cells to rub together, one will naturally acquire beliefs that the left characterizes as “racist.”

    Libs are left believing a long list of insane things including but not limited to:

    -race not existing
    -race being a social construct
    -blacks being the only group in history who have been enslaved
    -whites being the only group with racist views
    -selection pressures ceasing to exist around 10,000 years ago

    ad nauseam

    The evidence libs ignore is:

    -the greater disposition of blacks to violence anywhere they go in the world
    -the degeneration of post-colonial African nations
    -that diversity is socially destabilizing
    -the extremely consistent relationship between low IQ and poor performance in a complex society
    -the persistence of correlations between IQ and behavior

    When the left gets going on this topic, it seems to forget about the “black list”:

    -affirmative action
    -preferences in government hiring
    -university quotas
    -social welfare disbursements
    -media propaganda
    -its own efforts to punish people for being racist (the left wishes they could be thrown in prison for crimethought)

    The bar to a multicultural paradise is that the diverse society the left has created is going to get a hell of alot more racist, in part because its theories about institutional racism cause them to ignore the quite prevalent racism outside the European majority. This means racists (such as myself) will be far better-equipped to deal with a multicultural society than helpless, hapless, and sheltered liberals.

    Posted September 8, 2015 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  5. JK says

    You left another off there Pangur

    The evidence libs ignore is:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4-vOQLtFgo

    If this was Jeopardy:

    Where and why was the first war the US fought?

    Posted September 8, 2015 at 1:54 pm | Permalink
  6. Troy says

    It is not a migration, it is a violent invasion.
    http://theconservativetreehouse.com/2015/09/06/raging-horror-confirmed-at-austria-italy-border-mid-east-muslims-refugees-go-on-rampage/

    Posted September 8, 2015 at 6:13 pm | Permalink
  7. Troy says

    39% of the invaders are from the Balkans. Trying to get that good Western European welfare.

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/598924f0-555d-11e5-9846-de406ccb37f2.html#axzz3lBxUoFLP

    Posted September 8, 2015 at 6:23 pm | Permalink
  8. Gienthen Daal says

    Another thing about culture. How can you raise your kids to believe and follow it in a multicultural society? I would suggest that is impossible, and what the elites want to push on us.

    Posted September 8, 2015 at 10:53 pm | Permalink
  9. Malcolm says

    Of course it’s impossible. We acculturate our children according to our own cultural norms and traditions, even if we think we are being relentlessly neutral and ‘inclusive’. Multiculturalism as a ‘culture’ of its own is an obvious absurdity. It is, and can only be, subtractive, a paring away of everything outside the intersection in the Venn diagram representing the hodge-podge of cultures we are trying to accommodate. This intersection rapidly becomes vanishingly small as more and more cultures, and more and more dissimilar cultures, are added to the stew.

    The more we try to integrate all cultures, the more we are left with an eroded, mutilated, remnant ‘culture’ consisting only of the basest human commonalities.

    Posted September 9, 2015 at 1:00 pm | Permalink
  10. Malcolm says

    And of course, once we have completed this awful task, we have severed all of the complex horizontal ligatures that are the basis of the civil society, and of the organic, bottom-up social order. The society is atomized, broken down to dust. Then, into that social vacuum, steps an external and tutelary power that imposes order from above.

    Multiculturalism, particularly in an age of high technology, is the fast-track to totalitarianism. It’s happening all around us.

    Posted September 9, 2015 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  11. Troy says

    What exactly is the prevailing American culture we expect immigrants to embrace? Since even Americans, by and large, have no clue what the Constitution is or can even answer the most simple American history questions,

    This is a good question. America today is very much atomized. What common cultural references do we have any more?

    Posted September 9, 2015 at 1:14 pm | Permalink
  12. Pangur says

    “Multiculturalism, particularly in an age of high technology, is the fast-track to totalitarianism. It’s happening all around us.”

    Indeed, which is why it’s vital to understand that the conflict with the left is zero sum. It’s them or us. Certain sectors of the population have grasped this recently, which is one reason Trump is getting traction.

    Posted September 9, 2015 at 1:57 pm | Permalink
  13. Malcolm says

    libertybelle,

    What exactly is the prevailing American culture we expect immigrants to embrace? Since even Americans, by and large, have no clue what the Constitution is or can even answer the most simple American history questions, the demise we fear seems to me from within more than some groups of immigrants supplanting their culture here.

    It’s both, of course. The prevailing orthodoxy being one of atonement for our civilization’s sinful past, we have consciously severed all ties of affection or stewardship for our ancestral heritage.

    If I may quote myself:

    What remains of the high culture of the West in our new, barbarian metaculture is shrunken, withered, pecked by crows. As for the metaculture itself: what are its pillars? Where are its heroes, its mythos, its religion, its language, its great literature? Where are the commonalities that bind its people together? Gone, gone, gone.

    Worse: where is its history? Not only gone, but despised. Our new “culture” has lost its sense of extension in time. Under modernity’s ascendant doctrine, the long history of the West is only a litany of sins, deserving not propagation, but repudiation. We have no legacy, no heritage, to cherish for posterity; we have pulled up our own roots. If our new American “culture” has any history worth remembering at all, it is no more than a few decades old, and consists almost entirely of the destruction of the past.

    In our “brave new world”, then, we are cut off from both past and future, imprisoned in the present as no generation of people has ever been before. We have lost — jettisoned — both our rudder and our compass, and are unmoored and adrift. And as for “American cultural hegemony”: it is only this tottering, gibbering thing, this fly-blown, stitched-together corpse of a “culture”, that is “in no danger of vanishing”.

    We stand in this echoing void and fling open the gates. And why not? What, after all, have we left to defend?

    Posted September 9, 2015 at 4:02 pm | Permalink
  14. the one eyed man says

    Conservatives, rejoice! Your days of dyspepsia, anhedonia, and floccinaucinihilipilification are over! Take that frown and turn it upside down!

    http://awealthofcommonsense.com/future-better-think/

    Posted September 10, 2015 at 10:25 am | Permalink
  15. JK says

    It’s both, of course. The prevailing orthodoxy being one of atonement for our civilization’s sinful past, we have consciously severed all ties of affection or stewardship for our ancestral heritage.

    https://ricochet.com/killing-history/

    Posted September 10, 2015 at 12:24 pm | Permalink
  16. Pangur says

    Peter,

    I am pleased that you admit that a society with low social trust, atomization and weakened family bonds — all made possible by the miracle of the latest tech — is your ideal. I mean, if Bill Gates and the UN say so, it must be true, right? What, no Tim Cook quote? Very cisnormative of you, I expect better.

    Posted September 10, 2015 at 12:47 pm | Permalink
  17. “In our “brave new world”, then, we are cut off from both past and future, imprisoned in the present as no generation of people has ever been before. We have lost — jettisoned — both our rudder and our compass, and are unmoored and adrift.”

    Malcolm, I want to post a rather long passage from Theodore Dalrymple’s, “Our Culture, What’s Left of It”:

    “If the czar is all-powerful, he is of course responsible for everything: therefore nothing untoward can happen in the country without the imputation of the czar’s ill will. But in that case, how is the imputation of omnipotence to be reconciled with that of perfect benevolence? If something terrible happens to innocent people, either the czar must not be omnipotent or must not be benevolent. The only way to square the circle is to lie oneself and be deceived when others lie in similar fashion: to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil, even when evil abounds.

    For example, shortly after his arrival in Russia, Custine went to the annual festival at the palace of Peterhof, a festival of such magnificence that it took 1,800 servants to light 250,000 lamps for it. Visitors reached the palace by boat from Saint Petersburg, and one boat had sunk in a storm on the way to the festival with the loss of all its passengers and crew. But because ‘any mishap [in Russia] is treated as an affair of State’ in Russia, and because ‘to lie is to protect the social order, to speak the truth is to destroy the State,’ there followed ‘a silence more terrifying than the disaster itself.’ In Russia, people of the highest social class— as were the boat’s passengers— could disappear not only without a trace but without comment. Who in such a country could ever feel safe?

    The silence encompassed not only current events, but extended back into history. A Russian nobleman, Prince Peter Koslovsky, had warned Custine before his arrival in Russia that in his country ‘despotism not only counts ideas and sentiments for nothing, but remakes facts. It wages war on evidence and triumphs in the battle. . . . [The Emperor’s] power is more far-reaching than God’s, for God makes only the future, while the Czar remakes the past.’ Custine’s experience repeatedly proved this insight true.”

    Dalrymple, Theodore (2010-11-03). Our Culture, What’s Left Of It (Kindle Locations 822-836). Monday Books. Kindle Edition.

    Dalrymple is writing about Marquis de Custine, whose work, “La Russie en 1839”, might be the totalitarian French aristocratic counterpoint to DeTocqueville’s Democracy In American. I located de Custine’s work online and have just started reading it: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/umn.31951002362012n

    Sadly, I believe others have been in this “brave new world” many times before……. and it always ends badly.

    Posted September 10, 2015 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

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