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Thread: Genetic Nationalism: 'On Genetic Interests' (Frank Salter)

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    Genetic Nationalism: 'On Genetic Interests' (Frank Salter)

    The genetic basis of nationalism is discussed and explored in a review of Frank Salter's new book On Genetic Interests: Family, Ethny, and Humanity in an Age of Mass Migration:

    According to Darwinian theory, the goal towards which all living things strive is to make more copies of their distinctive genes. This is seen most clearly in the devotion of parents to children; as Dr. Salter writes, "The importance of genetic continuity is an end in itself, for humans as well as for other species." From an evolutionary points of view, "propagating one’s genes is life’s raison d’être." This is the ultimate goal of living things, and every other goal is subordinate to it.

    One important conceptual breakthrough in On Genetic Interests is to recognize that loyalty to one’s ethny—Dr. Salter prefers this term to race, nation, or ethnic group—is just as valid biologically as loyalty to one's children. This is because each ethny is a storehouse of its members' distinctive genes, just as children are carriers of their parents' genes. A person’s children are very concentrated stores of his genes, but his ethny is a vastly larger, though more dilute, pool of the same genes. Given the size of most ethnies, they are repositories of far more copies of each of its member’s distinctive genes than even a person’s children, and therefore have a theoretical genetic claim to loyalty even greater than that of children.

    An ethny is an extended family. The larger one’s ethny, the larger a store it becomes of distinctive genes, so its members have an interest in seeing their numbers rise or at least remain constant. A shrinking ethny is like a family whose members are dying off—either condition represents a loss of genetic interests.

    According to the universalist, everyone's-equal model of human relations that is supposed to govern how we think about race, there is no good reason any of us should care more about our children than we do about the children of strangers. We do, of course, and not because they are objectively superior to all other children but because they are ours, that is to say, they carry our distinctive genes. From a genetic point of view, our ethnies deserve similar loyalties for the same reason.

    Dr. Salter points out that different ethnies can be so genetically distant that random members of the same ethny are close kin in comparison to members of the other ethny. Ethnic loyalty can thus be a continuation of family loyalty. Australian Aborigines and Mbuti pygmies, for example, are about as genetically distant as two ethnies can be. Two random members of either group are—in comparison to members of the other group—so genetically similar to each other they are almost the equivalent of identical twins. Compared to Australian Aborigines, all Mbuti pygmies are, in fact, so similar to each other that actual identical Mbuti twins are, relatively speaking, not much more closely related to each other than any two random Mbuti.

    Full review by Jared Taylor


    Frank Salter's new book On Genetic Interests: Family, Ethny, and Humanity in an Age of Mass Migration

    Reviewer: Prof. J. P. Rushton (London, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
    The need to identify with others like oneself, and to be with one's own kind, is a major component of human nature and so ethnic identity is a powerful force in human affairs. Group members have "ties of blood" that make them "special" and different from outsiders. This is why patriotism is almost always seen as a virtue and an extension of family loyalty. It also explains why ethnic remarks so easily become "fighting words." Culture builds on genetic similarity and is bound together by it. Patriotism is preached in kinship terms. Nations are the "motherland" or the "fatherland" and unions and churches refer to their members as "brothers" and "sisters."
    Salter draws out the implications, however politically incorrect, for immigration policies, citizenship law, affirmative action, multiculturalism, and other ways of allocating resources within and between states. There are constraints on how much diversity can be appreciated.

    On Genetic Interests extends evolutionary theorizing, including my own Genetic Similarity Theory, to the new ground of interpersonal and ethnic relations such as within-group cohesion and between-group conflict. It discusses studies on likeness in social partners such as spouses and best friends. Most importantly, it applies genetic calculations and finds that the average coefficient of kinship within most ethnic groups is about as high as between half-siblings, aunt and nephew, or grandparent and grandchild. Thus, ethnic nepotism is no mere poor relation of family nepotism-it is virtually a proxy for it. Because we have many more co-ethnics than relatives, the aggregate mass of genes shared with the former dwarfs that shared with the latter.

    Frank Salter, a political scientists and ethologist at the Max Planck Institute in Munich, argues persuasively in this book that shared genes are the glue of sociality.On Genetic Interests goes so far as to refer to the mind as having an "innate descent-group module" (p. 102). It uses this concept to explain the universality of ethnic nepotism. This is heartening because many social scientists and sociobiologists alike have been reluctant to even consider applying gene-based similarity to ethnic and national preferences. Following World War II, few political scientists and historians have considered inter-group conflict from a Darwinian viewpoint. Partly in an effort to insure that they are perceived as in no way condoning racism, many evolutionists have minimized the theoretical possibility of a biological underpinning to ethnic, national, and racial favoritism. As the late, great, evolutionary biologist William Hamilton himself remarked in 1987, while noting why kin discrimination even among animals is not more readily expected, "in civilized cultures, nepotism has become an embarrassment."

    Social scientists and historians have been quick to condemn the extent to which political leaders or would-be leaders have been able to manipulate ethnic identity. But the questions they never ask, let alone attempt to answer is, "Why is it always so easy?" and "Why can a relatively uneducated political outsider set off a race riot simply by uttering a few well delivered ethnic epithets?" On Genetic Interests provides an illuminating answer.

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