Of all the mental shortcuts embedded in human languages which impede understanding of mindless processes (such as natural selection), few are more obnoxious than “because.” From this comes a tendency to anthropomorphise, and read all outcomes in nature as if they were ordained by something approximating an “intention.” Religion has to be an adaptation, because the religious (currently) outbreed the irreligious.” The second clause in that sentence is (currently) correct, but the “because” makes it sound as though the current religious selection advantage represents some “design feature” with the desired (by what?) end of promoting reproductive fitness (adaptation). And fitness is where the matter rests. Contrast with the following sentence:
“Under current conditions in which the religious outbreed the irreligious, religion is adaptive.” This statement is of course tautologous, since to say that a trait or behaviour is adaptive means merely that under condition X it gives one a reproductive edge. The term “adaptation,” though, is often applied to traits or behaviours which are selectively neutral or even counter-adaptive in particular environments. Genes which contribute to an overzealous appetite may be fitness-neutral to a subsistence farmer but become obesogenic in the modern world of easily available food. The genes’ carrier still exercises this “adaptation,” but it is no longer adaptive, reproductively useful, except in an environment full of fat-fetishists.
Human society has changed so dramatically in the last two centuries that it would be hasty to say the least to assume that everything with a current selective disadvantage is an “illness” (due to pathogens, mutational load, or whatever). Just as equally, one cannot assume that something with a current advantage exists having evolved by resolving an adaptive problem. Religion was ubiquitous across cultures before the 20th century, yet now the religious fraction represent an ever tinier percentage of the population in many countries, and it remains to be seen just how tiny the “genetic hard core of religiosity” will get before the trend is reversed. If the presence of religion were explicable in terms of fitness benefit, why are the genes not already more widespread? This alone should be enough to tell you that genes (and thus, adaptation) per se had little to do with religion’s evolution.
But apparently this is not obvious to some. Many people are inclined to view adaptations as intricate mechanisms, which by dint of their intricacy are delicate and susceptible to dysfunction, rather like the springs and levers of a pocket-watch. All analogies are imperfect, but this is a useless one. Some traits, and indeed behaviours, are more prone to changing by exogenous insults than others. For instance, a particularly naive person might imagine that in a pandemic of severe endometriosis, whereby female beauty and youth cease to be predictive as indicators of fertility, males would be disincentivised from their sexual attraction to these traits because the attraction would no longer perform its original “functions.” Needless to say, this would not happen. Male callogamy (“attention to beauty”) has proven so reliably fitness-enhancing over the eons, since even before the human species, that it is extraordinarily resilient to any incentive change: selection will always favour a deterministic developmental pathway for such consistently valuable traits. General intelligence is yet another example: the current dysgenic trend is a product of the last few generations and on the order of ~1 point per generation despite ramping up of mutational load globally (we’ll see how long it can last), and almost no non-genetic factors seem capable of depressing its expression to any appreciable degree. Lead looked plausible at some point, but then you remember that Victorians liked to use mercury in their make-up, and yet the 19th century was the most intellectually productive in human history.
Viewed under this light, the “religion as adaptation” thesis looks all the more dubious. Evolutionary forces – selection, mutation, drift, etc – are just as capable of acting on general intelligence and other psychological traits as anything else, hence the well-documented evolved changes in the European peoples since around AD1000: declines in violence, and probably gains in intelligence, culminating ultimately in the zenith of the 19th century. Evolution can indeed happen fast, but not that fast. The bulk of these changes took place over a period of, at minimum, 20 generations, not 2-3, and our intelligence has more or less survived the last 2-3 generations intact. Religion has not. It has none of the hallmarks of an adaptation, but all the hallmarks of a complex socially learned behaviour, maintained by powerful norm-enforcers and epistemic authorities, which has lost currency in recent decades for a variety of reasons, the most commonsense explanation being that it no longer appeals to the educated because the answers it gives are inferior to those of other epistemic authorities, i.e. scientists.
The human capacity for cultural transmission through language makes a nonsense of the notion that anything which is not adaptive, even across all environments, should be impossible to sustain. The most obvious example in Christian cultures is the vow of celibacy, and there are numerous others such as taboos against eating highly nutrient-dense foods, which persist among the undernourished tribes of Papua New Guinea. So too with the European wars of religion, which resulted in millions of young men dying childless in their haste to protect a non-existent natural resource, i.e. God’s favour.
Group selection is another temptation when formulating theories about the origin of religion – the idea that even a behaviour which reduces fitness at the individual level can persist if it provides some advantage at the level of the social group. It is a neat idea, but clearly unworkable in practice. Suppose some cohort of one’s country likes spreading the word of God through warfare – call this behaviour X. They can seize new territory in God’s name and provide new land for others in their group who are not quite so zealous, and this may look like a “success” to the people who reap those rewards, but at the end of the day: the behaviour is still going to diminish because everyone who engages in it is at a massively elevated risk of dying before reproduction. Evolution does not care about states or dominions.
It is understandable why post hoc stories about religion as adaptation are popular, even among well-informed people. Intelligence is not a good predictor of having sensible views where political matters are concerned, since politics is about group loyalty more than anything else. This is why the number of US Democrats who thought immigration was an important social issue declined precipitously in the 2010s when it became the issue “of” the right; what mattered was showing solidarity against rival political coalitions (i.e. the right) rather than the truth. Adaptive stories about religion seem to appeal an awful lot to European traditionalist-nationalists who are hoping to use Christianity as the conduit for some kind of renewed ethnocentrism to uplift the European spirit. The Chinese do not seem to need it, oddly enough. Nor even the Czechs, much closer to home. It did not work for Rome, and it sure as fuck won’t for us.
There is much talk of incentivising fecundity. It did not work for Imperator Augustus, nor will it for us, for a simple reason: kids are a pain in the arse. And land grants for chavs are probably not the best idea; need I explain why? One must differentiate based on intelligence or education level (a proxy for the former) to avoid pouring money into the sewer, and since no earthly government has the balls for that, we can forget it.
Alternatively, technology promises that which the Romans could scarcely have dreamt of. The demographic “problem” is not low fertility. Only in light of mass migration, which need not be, is low average fertility bad, and selection pressure will deal with that regardless. The problem is that the cognitive elite are infertile. Conversely, would the African population explosion be worrisome if the children all had IQs upwards of 180?
Even if you adhere to an ethical system such as libertarianism and so place all emphasis on freedom from coercion, there is a lot to be said for a state-enforced rewriting of human genetics, perhaps even a global one – setting aside the practicalities thereof. If the rewrite is imposed on all, well, there goes the problem of an inherited continuity of stupid. I am sympathetic to a lot of anti-paternalist intuitions where paternalism is liable to exacerbate a problem or make no odds, but it does make odds when one contemplates a future of regression to the mental acuity of orangutans. There will be no liberty then, nor indeed anything worth speaking of (assuming people could still speak). The desire for paternalism often arises from the knowledge that most people have poor reasoning abilities, but that need not always be, thanks to forthcoming technological interventions, too numerous to list. True, this may not be coming soon. What was that about caring for the long-term?
As per, pessimism is sensible. In the zeroth approximation, bet on China. Beyond that, don’t bother. This is where we are at.
“That’s cool, but he has no chance,” was my initial reaction when a friend of mine sent me a link to a story about a candidate who was running for president on a platform of “universal basic income.” Admittedly, I had never heard of Andrew Yang until just a couple of weeks ago and had pretty much already made up my mind to support Tulsi Gabbard in 2020 (though with Bernie now entering the race, her chances have been greatly diminished.) I must say that I feel a tad guilty for dismissing Yang out of hand, since even a brief glimpse of his campaign reveals Yang to be the smartest, most impressive and dare I say, the most serious candidate in this race.
While the other candidates spout vague, meaningless buzzword driven platitudes about “hate,” “privilege” “Russia” and engage in unproductive political theatrics, Yang offers up detailed policy proposals which actually address the most pressing issues of our time. Andrew Yang’s optimistic and solutions oriented approach provides a stark contrast with the rest of the candidates, whose political identities have largely been reduced to perpetual outrage at everything Trump says and does (even in the cases where Trump has embraced traditionally democratic positions, such as peace with North Korea, fair trade etc.)
Yang wisely has chosen to bypass the culture wars almost entirely and instead is focused on crafting complex solutions to actual problems. Rather than pandering to various “marginalized” identity groups, he looks at the bigger picture and remains committed to ideas which can improve the lives of everyone. The other candidates pay only superficial lip service to the issues we face, to the extent they have even thought about them at all. Yang has delved into the nitty-gritty of policy. I’m not even just talking about his “Universal Basic Income” proposal. Just take a gander at the treasure trove of policies presented on his website. This guy has thought of everything. He actually has a real plan. If even 1/3 of Yang’s ideas were implemented, the USA would be a vastly improved country. No other candidate has given any serious thought to the everyday issues that matter to Americans. Just the fact that Yang is promising to ban robocalls would be reason enough to vote for him. Yang’s American Mall Act would help to revitalize, repurpose and preserve many of these culturally important structures.
I like Yang because he combines social liberalism with forward-thinking, transhumanist friendly ideas and bold economic policies, all without succumbing to seemingly obligatory, anti-white racial grievance politics. While the rest of the candidates fall over each other to signal their open hostility toward white people (or some similarly maligned bogeyman) Yang emerges as a genuinely positive force, armed with concrete proposals and determined to make life better for everyone.
Conventional wisdom states that relatively unknown candidates run for office with the aim of getting publicity for their ideas, to draw attention to certain issues and get people talking about them. We live in unconventional times though, when obscure candidates can be memed into political juggernauts overnight. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Beto O’Rourke and even David Hogg were complete “nobodies” a year or two ago and now find their influence inflated beyond that of household name politicians who’ve been in office for decades. It may seem like a long shot, but Yang can win. His upbeat, affable persona and substantive campaign have the potential to transcend traditional ideological divides and win over vast swaths of the American public. If even the most disillusioned among us can manage to muster up sufficient enthusiasm for Yang’s candidacy, then imagine what people who actually do things could do for him. Andrew Yang for president, for the win.
So, as the enlightened / disillusioned ones transition to a “post-political” era, I’ve created a new site, Jostle, for people willing to ascend into abstract madness. “Jostle” is in the literary vein of a 1990’s underground zine but is stylistically modeled after pop publications like Seventeen and Sassy Magazine. The tagline of Jostle is “creating elbow room,” meaning that it intends to open up space in the ether for people to think about whatever, as there is no room for coherent thought and the transmission of concrete political ideas in the world of everyday people. As I’ve stated before, electoral politics strikes me as a pointless endeavor. If one is going to vote, they’d be better off voting for the candidate that has the cooler looking campaign logo. The vast majority of people who vote have at best a kindergarten level of understanding when it comes to the issues. They might recognize a couple of slogans and be swayed by a few generalized statements. There are very little actual differences between candidates anyway, most of whom merely spout vapid platitudes. I don’t see any mechanism for this to change any time soon. In terms of what could be termed political or ideological interests I’m mostly only focused on transhumanism now. The AltRight has nothing interesting left to offer, nor does the post-AltRight, which is mostly just young people attempting to repackage the early 1990s religious right as something new (because they grew up too late to realize that was the sort of thing people were trying to get away from.) The left has nothing to offer either, but I will probably vote democrat anyway, if the candidate is cute, quirky, funny and supports universal basic income for aging mall creeps and notoriously terrible roommates like me. Identity politics is here to stay, but as traditional identities disappear, new ones will emerge to take their place: vampire, fembot, catgirl, pigman, mystery meat, neo-juggalo, legacy human, floating brain in a jar…etc. It’s an exciting time to be alive and in chronic pain!
Jostle frequently will delve into the realms of “mindless” pop culture and obscure oddities, partially because those are where my fascinations ultimately lie but also to act as a repellent to “Johnny One-Note” political pests. The subject matter of Jostle acts a neuro-tribalist filter. So if your first instinct when reading it is to mutter “What is this bullshit?” to yourself, you’re probably not on my wavelength. So you can either get on my wavelength or go home. It’s cool.
[Of course I will continue to update AltLeft.com if and when a political epiphany pops into my head or I feel like going on some drunken Mel Gibson rant (both of which are virtually guaranteed to happen)]
When I saw that JF Gariepy was releasing a book related to genetics, I assumed it would be another boring race/IQ/HBD volume that I would have little interest in (given the redundancy of the topic.) However, it would turn out that JF instead devotes his book, The Revolutionary Phenotype to the subject of gene editing. In it, he argues against messing around with the technology of gene editing, making the case that such modifications will lead to the end of our species. He claims essentially that the new and improved lifeforms resulting from this process will eventually replace humanity. For reasons not entire clear to me, JF just seems to take for granted that such a development would be a bad thing. In fact, the entire point of the book becomes moot however, if the reader disagrees with the JF’s premise. JF’s arguments for why gene editing may inevitably spell the end for humans may be astonishingly persuasive, air tight and what have you, but if one doesn’t think that the prospect of humans being replaced by a related, “superior” organism would be a negative outcome, then it’s merely an academic question. The merit of the arguments put forth doesn’t matter one way or the other. The type of people whom will be most receptive to JF’s premise are those already vehemently opposed to gene editing and transhumanism on religious and moralistic grounds (“humans shouldn’t be ‘playing God'”…etc.) They don’t give a rats ass in a room full of cats about the scientific arguments for it being bad other than to the extent such arguments could be used to reinforce their pre-existing religious beliefs (if JF had written a scientifically persuasive book in favor of gene editing, these same people would dismiss it irrespective of the veracity of the arguments.)
I have to admit that I find JF’s ambivalence toward gene editing to be disappointing. Ironically, it actually strikes me as similar to Jordan Peterson warning people of the dangers of identity politics. As Ryan Faulk has pointed out, Jordan Peterson’s audience is primarily white, and the likely effect of his crusade against identity politics will be to make white people (the least overtly ethnocentric group) less likely to engage in it, while other groups continue to use it to their advantage. Identity politics may change in form as new identities emerge, but it isn’t going away. Since non-white groups are unlikely to take Peterson’s advice and abandon group identity, Peterson ultimately serves to convince whites to further handicap themselves and become less ethnocentric than they already are.
What JF does here is strikingly similar. Gene editing is absolutely going to happen. The “genie” (so to speak) is out of the bottle. Even if nations don’t officially sanction it at the public level, there will be scientists which continue with this research privately, and as a practical matter it will be unstoppable. JF’s own thesis backs up this assertion, since he argues that these newly concocted, revolutionary beings will replace us if they are created. Since scientists in Asia or who knows where will continue to move forward with gene editing, these beings will come to be sooner or later. Since JF’s audience is primarily AltRight and “pro-white” types and not rogue Asian scientists, the effect of this book will be to convince the AltRight to simply cede this bio-technological frontier to someone else, even though as humans we won’t be shielded from the effects of others embracing it anyway. Babies are going to be genetically modified. So we can either decide to be at the forefront and help direct this process toward something in our image, or sit passively as others enthusiastically explore this technology and render us irrelevant. The West has typically been at the forefront of technological progress, which is why it was so easily able to dominate large parts of the world, where natives (whom could easily outbreed Europeans) held vastly superior numbers. Even with the most aggressive pro-natalist policies, Europeans are not going to outhump the third world. Why then would Europeans want to deprive themselves of one of the few tools which could offer them some kind of advantage?
Also, the idea that beings which result from experiments in gene-editing will lead to “our” extinction strikes me as a matter of interpretation. Sure, maybe technically such organisms would not be our direct progeny, but just because a baby didn’t pop out of some lady’s vagina, does not mean it isn’t our descendant for all intents and purposes. If the result of gene editing is that something ends up being created which improves upon and replaces humanity, I don’t see what the problem is, since these supposedly “superior” beings would ultimately still be a product of our creation. If not literally, they would figuratively be our children…(and sometimes children do grow up to rebel and take our place.) This seems undoubtedly to me to be a more remarkable achievement though than simply two overweight, reality tv watching, human beasts taking a trip to bonetown and making some disgusting babies. Any idiot with functioning reproductive organs can do that.
This is of course to say nothing of the misanthropic objections to JF’s premise. Anyone who has ever worked retail on Black Friday probably wouldn’t clutch their pearls at the idea of humanity becoming extinct and replaced by something better. A few hours overhearing people’s conversations on public transit or an afternoon reading the hundreds of thousands of replies to a typical Ariana Grande tweet, and I might volunteer to push the button myself.
One thing which JF’s book has managed to do is act as a proverbial “nail in the coffin” in terms of my own relationship with AltRight ideas. JF’s faction was probably one of the few remaining which I could still relate to on any level. His laid back persona, high-profile guest lineup, cogent debate style, and pink pantheresque delivery make for what for what in my mind is probably the only substantive and watchable AltRight program. There are no compelling factions or attractive political movements to be enthusiastic about. People like me are withdrawing and moving toward an abstract, post-political future. I, for one, am ready for whatever comes next.