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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Heritability of Racial and Ethnic Pride, Preference, and Prejudice

A while back, in “People in the Future Will Not Look Like Brazilians”, Razib suggested that the great amalgamation will stall because those who are inclined to out mix will do so, taking with them their xenophilic dispositions. The suggestion prompted a commenter to question whether there was any evidence that preferences for (racial) endogamy had, as seemingly presumed by Razib’s argument, a non-trivial genetic component. Apparently, there has been very little genetically informed research on this or closely related topics. Nonetheless, I was able to locate eight studies based on five independent samples which provided heritability estimates for some measures of national, ethnic, or racial pride, preference, or prejudice. The study results are summarized in the table below.

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