Philosophical Reflections on On Genetic Interest

I will leave a sum in my last will for my body to be carried to Brazil and to these forests… and this great Coprophanaeus beetle will bury me. They will enter, will bury, will live on my flesh; and in the shape of their children and mine, I will escape death. — Hamilton, 1991

Opening reflections

Through reproduction, living beings obtain immortality. This was the view of the ancients. All beings seek the divine, which is the eternal. For mortals, unending life can only be had through generation. While the individual particularity is doomed, through reproduction the general form can be perpetuated and a type of eternity can yet be grasped. In De Anima, Aristotle expresses the view thusly:

For any living thing … the most natural act is the production of another like itself, an animal producing an animal, a plant a plant, in order that, as far as it nature allows, it may partake in the eternal and divine. That is the goal towards which all things strive, that for the sake of which they do whatsoever their nature renders possible… Since then no living thing is able to partake in what is eternal and divine by uninterrupted continuance for nothing perishable can for ever remain one and the same, it tries to achieve that end in the only way possible to it[.]

In Plato’s Symposium, Diotima accounts for filial love likewise:

For among animals the principle is the same as with us, and mortal nature seeks so far as possible to live forever and be immortal. And this is possible in one way only: by reproduction… And in that way everything mortal is preserved, not, like the divine, by always being the same in every way, but because what is departing and aging leaves behind something new, something such as it had been… So don’t be surprised if everything naturally values its own offspring, because it is for the sake of immortality that everything shows zeal, which is Love.

Genetic Interest

A decade ago, Frank Salter published On Genetic Interests: Family, Ethnicity, and Humanity in an Age of Mass Migration (OGI). The book’s stated purpose was not to account for human behavior, “but rather to offer social and political theory about what individuals should do.” The book attempts to answer a theoretical question: “How would an individual behave in order to be adaptive in the modem world?” — where “adaptive” means maximizing the survival chances of the totality of one’s unique gene frequencies. In line with the book’s title, Salter concerns himself with individual, family, ethnic and species genetic stake. He concludes that a portfolio with a balanced investment in all of these is preferable. He asks, “Which [gene conserving] strategies are best?” And then replies that focusing exclusively on any one level of genetic interest is suboptimal. He concerns himself largely with “ethnic genetic interest” (EGI) for two reasons. First, reigning ideologies neglect it. They end up, as he notes, advancing species genetic interest (e.g., radical Christianity and humanism) and, when not, individual and family interest. And second, mass immigration presently threatens the existence, as coherent biocultural groups, of many ethnic groups.

Salter, both an ethnologist and political scientist in training, notes that he was motivated to write OGI after having discovered, with the help of anthropologist Henry Harpending, that the aggregate kinship shared by members of a typical ethnic or racial group, relative to random members of the species, “was typically 1000 times greater than” he originally anticipated. Prior to writing the book, he had been using van den Berghe’s theory of ethnic nepotism as a heuristic to understand ethnological findings. He wrote the book in light of his findings and the ongoing replacement-level immigration to the West. He felt that the biological impact of that process needed to be analyzed and discussed.
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The Genealogy of Differences in the Americas

The first two of our admixture in the Americas papers have been published at Mankind Quarterly. To note, as I am skeptical of a behavioral genetic model, we advanced a genealogical one with an unspecified mode of inter-generational transmission. Similar models have been adopted in the economic literature (for example: Putterman and Weil, 2010; Spolaore & Wacziarg, 2015). For open access, we uploaded our papers to Research Gate. For the sake of transparency, the 18 supplementary files, the R syntax and the other data files have been made publicly available at Open Science Frame. The six commentaries are locked behind a paywall, but we covered most of the criticisms in our reply paper. If you can get a hold of them, though, they are well worth the reading. The conclusion of the reply paper sums up our general position:

We were pleased with the caliber of the comments. While incisive, none of them have inclined us to alter our conclusion concerning the R~CA-S hypothesis. But what now? First, more data. Specifically, indices of national cognitive ability need to be refined and more regional data needs to be located. In searching for this, it would be helpful to collaborate with researchers who are more familiar with Latin American datasets. Second, it would be worthwhile to further investigate a discriminatory model of individual differences using kinship designs and also to further investigate geographic models of regional differences, for example, using individual-level longitudinal data (to see if relocation to higher absolute latitude or colder regions has a positive effect on individual-level outcomes). Our models, in aggregate, are consistent with the view that contemporaneous cold weather and/or latitude is causally associated with positive outcomes, but an accurate assessment of the magnitude of these effects necessitates taking into account intergenerational factors. More generally, proponents of genealogical, discriminatory and geographic models have a mutual interest in building and making accessible databases that allow for the testing of these competing and probably co-occurring models.

As part of the reply we wrote another paper which focuses on the U.S. and will be published in the summer edition. Three related projects are also in the works.


Fuerst, J., & Kirkegaard, E. O. W. (2016). Admixture in the Americas: Regional and national differences. Mankind Quarterly.

Ibarra, L. (2016). Statistics vs Scientific Explanation. Mankind Quarterly.

Flores-Mendoza, C., & Da Silva, J. A. (2016). Great effort, interesting results, but not everything is what it seems. Caution is required. Mankind Quarterly.

de Baca, T., Figueredo, A. J., & Garcia, R. A. (2016). Commentary on Fuerst and Kirkegaard: Some groups have all the luck, some groups have all the pain, some groups get all the breaks. Mankind Quarterly.

Christainsen, G. (2016). Admixture in the Americas: Social Differences as a Reflection of Human Biodiversity. Mankind Quarterly.

León, F. R. (2016). Race vis-à-vis Latitude: Their Influence on Intelligence, Infectious Diseases, and Income. Mankind Quarterly.

Pesta, B. (2016). Does IQ Cause Race Differences in Well-being? Mankind Quarterly.

Fuerst, J., & Kirkegaard, E. O. W. (2016). The Genealogy of Differences in the Americas. Mankind Quarterly.