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Human Biodiversity for Normies

vitruvian [1]

Leonardo Da Vinci, Vitruvian Man

5,572 words

This essay begins my introduction to one of the single most treacherous topics in modern political life.

That topic is essentially a scientific one, rather than a political one—although in order to see this we may have to put some very prevalent philosophical and political misconceptions aside. As such, this series is going to be somewhat more dry in tone than some of my other writing—certainly much more than many of the other essays collected at Counter-Currents. 

While it would be terribly easy to preach to the choir on this topic, my goal is to produce a series that could work to introduce liberals and “normies” (that’s what those of us in the Alt Right call those of you who don’t really devote much thought to social or political topics—so if you’ve never heard the word “normie,” that’s probably because in our terms, you are one) to the case for human biodiversity, from the ground up. Step by step, piece by piece, starting with the most basic layer of foundation possible before laying the next. Carefully, until we can stand back and turn around at the end and finally realize we’ve built a full solid, standing structure. In fact, I’m going to do this so carefully from the bottom up that I’m not even going to provide a definition for “human biodiversity” just yet. We’ll get there—after I’ve built up all of the other prerequisite concepts first.

The advantage of my approach is that, having seen countless people become angry, offended, and hostile (or just struggle against cognitive dissonance internally) once exposed to this topic, I know a little something about the process that most people will go through when they try to prevent themselves from thinking these unacceptable thoughts and reasoning their way to these unacceptable conclusions. On some level, even the most sincerely open-minded inquisitor who weighs the evidence honestly will be afraid of becoming convinced of the truth of this point of view, if only because he doesn’t want to find that he’s transformed into one of “those people”: people who are, right or wrong, cast out of polite society and alienated—for what? He knows that even if he did become convinced of this argument, there is still no way he could show the evidence that convinced him to his friends or colleagues and hope for any measure of respect, or even enough of a listening ear to prove to them that he really isn’t a bigot motivated by hatred because it really was hard evidence and logic that persuaded him that the claim made by human biodiversity is true. So why even listen? The tangible gains beyond knowing the truth for its own sake seem almost nonexistent, and the possible harms range from minor irritants to the permanent loss of significant relationships and careers.

He might think: “Even if this article has an overwhelmingly compelling argument that completely convinces me, that would only make me want to refuse reading it even more, because that would just represent even more of a guarantee that I would lose all of my friends after reading it.” Indeed, the disdain with which advocates of the thesis of human biodiversity are viewed by mainstream liberal society itself often derives in large part from the question lingering in peoples’ minds: “What could possibly make someone risk all of that just to hold on to a hypothesis? What other than raw hatred could possibly motivate someone to declare belief in something when declaring that belief can do almost nothing good for them or anyone else, but could cause countless harms to come to them just because of society’s prohibition against discussion of it alone?”

The answer to that question is, first, that those of us who belong to the alternative right have decided we simply no longer want “friendships” that are conditional upon our refusal to think freely in pursuit of the truth, whatever it is. So now we’re practicing what all those New Leftists [2] were calling for when they talked about “building the structure of the new society within the shell of the old,” and we’re creating places where people are really free to think for themselves without shackles. In fact, in the loose umbrella of the Alternative Right you’ll find gay Satanists and traditionalist Catholics literally writing side-by-side [3].

Unlike the modern Left, we don’t want to impose our way on people who haven’t consented to it or who don’t actively want to be a part of it. When we’re angry, it is just because we want a place of our own where we’re safe to exist without assault or censorship. Not because we actually want to do damage to anyone else’s “place.” The Left already has its own “place” and more, and yet still sees it as its manifest destiny to go out of its way to attack us until we’re destroyed. But once we have the right to separate peacefully into our own communities where we’re free to be ourselves, we’re perfectly content to agree to disagree with anyone, politely and with mutual respect.

In any case, the list of fallacies people tend to rely on in the attempt to resist the truth is finite, and more predictable than you would imagine. As such, my approach will be to comprehensively illustrate these fallacies first, before stating any of my conclusions. Then, when the predictable knee-jerk reaction sets in, I can say: “Ah! Remember? You just explicitly agreed with me five minutes ago. You already admitted that you yourself understand why that argument is fallacious. So I don’t even have to hold any argument here anymore. I just need to ask you to be consistent with yourself!” Picture this project like laying down a long line of dominoes. It’s going to be slow, somewhat laborious work for a while—but then once everything is in place, all of the pieces are going to line up, connect, and fall in rapid and glorious order.

This article begins with addressing just one type of fallacy. But instead of telling you what that fallacy is, I’m going to demonstrate it. And I’m going to demonstrate it with an example that seems completely and totally unrelated to any of the topics we’re going to be building our way up to. Why? Because I think it will be much easier for the normies and liberals in the audience to intuitively get why the fallacy is a fallacy if I can demonstrate it and make them relate to it first in something that doesn’t press any of their emotional knee-jerk reaction buttons. We need to get all of the dominoes lined up before we’re ready to begin pressing those buttons. Here we go:

In general, the serotonin theory of depression has always rested on shaky ground. As psychiatrists Pedro Delgado and Francisco Moreno write in “Role of Norepinephrine in Depression [4]” in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry , “Some have argued that depression may be due to a deficiency of NE [norepinephrine] or 5–HT [serotonin] because the enhancement of noradrenergic or serotonergic neurotransmission improves the symptoms of depression. However, this is akin to saying that because a rash on one’s arm improves with the use of a steroid cream, the rash must be due to a steroid deficiency.” But as Irving Kirsch showed in the landmark work The Emperor’s New Drugs [5], the benefit from administering serotonin-based antidepressants has always been mostly, if not entirely, a placebo response in the first place. Thus, the inference was really never even that strong.

Yet, amongst those patients who “have proved frustratingly unresponsive to current medications”—that is, whose depression is least likely to benefit from the placebo effect, and is thus most likely to represent something biologically “real”—a significant amount of evidence suggests that opiates nonetheless still continue to work to ease depression [6]. And whereas reducing serotonin has never been known to induce depression (and in fact, one antidepressant that has done a lot to help me known as tianeptine coincidentally happens to reduce measurable levels of serotonin [7]), dynorphins that have the opposite effect as opiates actually do directly induce depression and dysphoria [8] (and for another related coincidence, tianeptine also works in part by activating an opioid receptor [9]).

So why aren’t researchers exploring the connection between the opioid system and depression further? The biggest hurdle seems to be the psychological block caused by realizing what our options would start to look like if we accepted that the link is real. We basically have no idea how to create an opioid that won’t produce tolerance over time [10]. It may even be impossible in principle to produce an opioid that won’t kill the user in overdose [11], since it appears to be overactivation of the same receptor that benefits from stimulation that produces death. So we simply don’t want to consider the fact that we might be quite far from producing a real solution.

But it’s obvious that this is irrational. By refusing to explore links like these further, we’re creating a massive toll in human suffering. We’re refusing to even start on the path towards resolving those problems, precisely because we don’t want to accept that the path might be even longer and harder than we thought. And if, in fact, it is, pretending it isn’t does no one any good. So our primary treatment for depression as a society continues to be a class of drugs based on a provably false theory of depression [12], known to have little to possibly no efficacy [5] over placebos, and which may even make users more prone to depression for the rest of their lives by “modify[ing] the hardwiring of neuronal synapses [13] [to] induce a [long–term] resident, refractory depressive state.” All in large part because it’s just easier to believe that the tools we’re using are already doing an okay job, because the relevant players today just don’t want to admit that our current situation might be screwed to all Hell—and admitting that would absolutely be a necessary prerequisite to becoming prepared to do damn well anything to make it better.

Now imagine a world where a researcher discovers and publishes facts like these in order to contribute to the search down the long road for solutions to depression, and instead of simply being ignored because everyone is uninterested, the response he faces from masses of pissed off activists is: “How dare you! You don’t give a fuck about depression—if you did, you wouldn’t publish this crap! How dare you tell people to stop taking the medicine that keeps them healthy!?”

This would be emotionally charged nonsense, precisely because what is at stake in this debate is whether or not this is “medicine” that actually works to “keep them healthy” or not to begin with. The reasoning starts at “I believe that SSRIs are medicine,” and then instead of recognizing that the researcher has an empirically well-supported argument that this premise is wrong and then considering that argument on its objective merits, it simply skips ahead to “This researcher wants people to stop taking SSRIs” (who cares why). This instantly becomes translated into “This researcher wants people to stop taking the medicine that keeps them healthy,” which finally translates into “This researcher is obviously a bad, mean, sick, twisted, evil human being.”

But our emotionally invested activist would be acting as if our researcher doesn’t even disagree with the premise that SSRIs are medicine that keeps people healthy; he would be acting as if our researcher intentionally wants to convince them to stop taking the medicine that keeps them healthy on purpose anyway. And the entire dialectic is being determined by fallacies driven by irrational emotion.

You are now picturing exactly the situation that human biodiversity (or HBD—not to be confused with the acronym for “happy birthday”) researchers are in.

The fact is that, with only a handful of basically marginal exceptions, egalitarian projects premised on the assumption that we are shaped primarily by our environments, and mostly programmed by our “culture,” simply do not work. And the same irrational bias that causes researchers to ignore the problems with the theory that depression is caused by serotonin imbalances and fail to give proper due to alternatives like the opioid dysfunction theory of depression is what fuels egalitarians’ refusal to consider the possibility that the reason for those consistent failures is because nature plays a much larger role in shaping human personality and behavior (including where these differ on average between racial groups), and nurture a much smaller one, than they had hoped.

The issue is not that there are any major flaws in the hereditarian argument [14]. It’s not that the environmental determinists actually have a compelling counter-argument. What they have is cognitive dissonance causing refusal to admit the possibility that it may be harder to achieve what they want to achieve than they had hoped, and emotionally driven vitriol directed against the messenger(s) as a result.

Interestingly enough, while social psychology—a discipline which is overwhelmingly skewed in favor of liberals [15]—has a term for “the tendency for people to over-emphasize personality-based explanations for behaviors observed in others while under-emphasizing the role and power of situational influences” (it’s called the “fundamental attribution error [16]”), they haven’t even established a term with which to recognize the possibility of someone possessing a bias in the opposite direction. Perhaps the existence of that very dichotomy in whose biases we recognize by name is also a consequence of yet more bias on the part of social psychologists. While conservatives may be more prone than liberals to committing “fundamental attribution errors,” liberals are certainly more prone than conservatives to committing the same error in reverse. Who ever notices his own biases as well as he does those of his enemies?

Now, the liberal has what he presumes to be an empirical premise: that people are “nurtured” into being who they are more than they are set that way by “nature.” To this, he adds a moral premise: that because the unintelligent, impulsive, violent, and so forth are not responsible for the environments which made them that way, we ought to see them as victims of their circumstances, and therefore ought to consider it fair to redistribute to them from those who—also by no act or virtue of their own—lucked into better environments which in turn shaped them into more capable actors.

Attempts to discuss the subject of human biodiversity invariably fall into two closely related traps, both of which involve conflating empirical premises (or facts) with moral premises (or values).

The first of these is the naturalistic fallacy, which attempts to derive an “ought” from an “is.” For instance, suppose someone says: “the birds and beasts engage in adultery, infanticide, and cannibalism, so therefore all of these things must be morally acceptable.” The fallacy here is not in the observation that birds and beasts engage in adultery, infanticide, and cannibalism. It isn’t even in the assertion by the speaker that he feels adultery, infanticide, and cannibalism are morally acceptable. The fallacy, quite simply, lies in the “so therefore”—in the insinuation that the truth of the moral premise follows from the truth of the empirical premise. Whether either of these claims is true or not, the second claim simply does not follow from the first one.

The second is the moralistic fallacy, which commits the identical error precisely in the opposite direction. Suppose a staunch social conservative, or a social justice warrior, were to overhear the speaker in the last paragraph. And suppose that because he wants to deny the fact that all of these things are morally acceptable, his response is not to argue this point directly, or to point out the use of the naturalistic fallacy in the first speaker’s reasoning to that conclusion, but to deny that birds and beasts engage in adultery, infanticide, and cannibalism instead. This would be an example of the moralistic fallacy—that is, of a person denying the truth of an asserted fact because he implicitly accepts that if this fact were true, then the truth of a moral premise he finds distasteful would logically follow.

To get straight to the point, liberals commit the moralistic fallacy whenever they refuse to consider the possibility that “nature” may play a larger role—and “nurture” a smaller one—than they had assumed, on the grounds that this would entail that their egalitarian ethics must be invalid.

That this assumption is invalid can easily be illustrated with very simple examples. For the first example, there is nothing at all incoherent in someone saying:

Sure, people are shaped more by nurture than nature. But who cares? It would still be more efficient to let the human refuse die off, while investing our resources into those who will gain more from the investment faster because they already have a step ahead. The unintelligent, impulsive, violent, and so forth are not responsible for their fates, but improving them still just isn’t worth the effort, as that energy can be much better spent elsewhere.

It is well beyond obvious that this individual would not be endorsing the moral premises he supports because of the empirical premises he perceives to be true—he is not endorsing a moral attitude that is cruel in the stereotypically social Darwinist fashion because he thinks it is true that nature plays a less important role than nurture, and few would commit the mistake of thinking otherwise in an example like this one, where habit has less influence over our perceptions thanks to how unusual the statement is. He is instead reaching the moral conclusions he does because of who he is: someone who does not value equality, compassion, and so on as much as he values efficiency in resource allocation. But his “facts,” so to speak, do not determine his values.

Now, if a liberal perceives a person with values like these to be bad—even evil—because his values are antithetical to his own, this obviously does not imply that the facts which he perceives to be true about the relative importance of nature versus to nurture must be false. Obviously, the liberal will recognize that he accepts the same set of facts as true—he just applies a different set of values to them. Well, just as it is coherent for the liberal to assert this moral premise:

Because the individual is not responsible for creating the environment which nurtured him into being who he is, we therefore ought to support redistribution from those born to more fortunate environments to those born to less fortunate ones.

So it is every bit as coherent for him to assert this one:

Since the individual is no more responsible for choosing his genes than he is for choosing his environment, we therefore ought to support redistribution from those born with more fortunate genes to those born with less fortunate ones, just as much as we ought to have supported redistribution from those born to more fortunate environments to those born to less fortunate ones had it been true that nurture played the predominant role in shaping the human personality, rather than nature.

Which fact is true is a question that can be settled objectively. But what values should be prioritized as we decide what we ought to do about it is not the kind of question that can be settled objectively. What values a person holds will depend quite simply on what kind of person he is; not on what set of factual claims he happens to think are true. Values are something we express in the context of empirical claims about what is true; but they aren’t something that can be settled by empirical claims about what is true.

And, furthermore, those values will be expressed regardless of what factual claims a person happens to ascribe to. Was Josef Stalin a moral monster because he believed that changing man’s environment could drastically reshape the fundamentals of human nature, or was he a moral monster simply because he was willing to employ horrific means to achieve the ends he desired—with his beliefs about the roles of nature and nurture simply what caused his monstrosity to express itself in the particular form that it did?

What is more likely: that a Stalin who became convinced that nature played a larger role than nurture would have abandoned his maniacal egoism, settled down and become a peaceful conservative homebody, or that he simply would have committed different atrocities based on this different premise and would have become remembered much as Hitler is today?

Even if thinkers who lean to the right were as wrong as liberals typically think they are, if they were also as evil as liberals typically think they are, there would be no point in acting as if the debate taking place actually mattered—because people who really are basically evil will still be evil no matter what set of facts they happen to believe are true.

However, it is also true that even if someone is, in fact, evil, that still doesn’t mean that the facts he believes in are wrong—and in fact, there is even scientifically valid reason to think that downright assholes just might be capable of getting the facts right more often than nicer, more compassionate people on principle. A study titled “Empathy represses analytic thought, and vice versa: Brain physiology limits simultaneous use of both networks” [17] published in 2012 explains that “When the brain’s analytic network is engaged, our ability to appreciate the human cost of our action is repressed, researchers have found. The study shows for the first time that we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time.”

So the fact that people tend to prioritize either empathizing or analyzing isn’t just coincidence—it’s true because of the fundamental way that the human brain is wired. It’s not that people don’t empathize and analyze at the same time; it really is that they literally can’t. It just may very well be the case, then, that while assholes should be condemned for being assholes, we should also appreciate the fact that their analytical capacities will often in fact be superior, because they are assholessince for them, empathizing won’t get in the way of their full use of their analytical abilities.

Now I think it’s important to note that both of our two earlier claims—that people are not responsible for their behavior or qualities because of nature, or because of nurture—share an underlying premise: determinism. While the two left-liberals above disagree over whether nature or nurture is more determinative of human behavior, they both agree that, one way or another, human behavior is determined.

Unlike the vast majority of (if not all) advocates of human biodiversity, I actually subscribe to a position on consciousness that others would describe as “dualist [18]”—though I myself find little value, and much cause of confusion, in the term—and I also take a “libertarian [19]” stance on free will. Not to be confused with the political philosophy, the libertarian stance on free will is that, to quote Galen Strawson, “we are self-moving beings that are causally undetermined by antecedent events.” How can this be squared with thinking that either genes or environment have influence on human behavior? If we truly do possess a meaningful sort of free will in which it would be possible (in the sense of metaphysical possibility [20], specifically) to rewind the tape of our lives and place us back in a situation we had been in before with the same previous causes and still see us choose differently, then where do genes or environment come into the picture at all?

As I explain in an essay where I discuss claims that science per se has refuted the possibility of free will (drawing from Benjamin Libet, Sam Harris, and others) titled “Freedom is a State of Mind [19]”:

The picture [I subscribe to] is one where the conscious mind is highly analogous to the “driver” of a vehicle, yes—but the vehicle is more like a boat than a car, and the fact that someone is holding the wheel doesn’t mean he possesses the power to drive the boat absolutely anywhere, at any time, without external constraints. On the contrary, whether the driver or the waves of the ocean are more influential in determining where the boat will go at any given point in time depends on various weather conditions and other circumstances which, themselves, are outside of the driver’s absolute control.

But barring more severe kinds of circumstances, someone who drives the boat well could thereby navigate to a part of the ocean where the waves will exert relatively less influence, and his driving skills therefore relatively more influence, over where he goes next.

And it has been increasingly validated by empirical science that belief in free will can help us to drive better—to the point that implicitly prompting someone to disbelieve in free will is even known to lower their reaction time [21]. On the assumption that determinism is true, how is the determinist supposed to explain this? The proponent of free will can explain it easily: reminding someone that they have free will can prompt them to use it more, in just the same way that someone who has given up trying to drive a boat can benefit from a motivational speech reminding them that they can still steer their way out of a storm if they grab the wheel and focus their attention—because there is in fact a “driver” who can either exercise that capacity or not.

Thus, in my view, the net output represented by peoples’ outward behavior can be caused by their simply freely choosing to do differently—but it can also be caused by the fact that we’re all driving different boats, that operate differently when on autopilot and having varying levels of durability against varying environmental situations—and there is simply no a priori way to know which is the case in advance.

I think that a position like this one represents the only way to account for our intuition that at some times, some people are more responsible for their actions than other people at other times. Consider, for example, the fact that most of us want to accept the legitimacy of something like the insanity defense [22], at least in some circumstances. As far as I can tell, this notion only makes sense if we are at least sometimes in control of our minds in a significant way, and yet this control can be overridden in some cases by the right kinds of causes.

On the other hand, if determinism is true, then whether we’re talking about someone who has a psychotic episode and “loses control of his mind” and assaults someone, or someone who simply experiences a burst of anger and then “chooses” to assault someone, both of them were causally determined to act as they did by causes inside of their brains. If choice itself is just another physically determined brain state, then there is no longer any meaningful difference between “choosing” and “losing control of your mind”—both are just slightly different kinds of brain events which none of us ever have any sort of control over at all in the first place. If that is the case, it would seem that either both of them qualify for the “insanity defense,” or else neither of them do. And either way, the very concept of an insanity defense is obviously rendered completely invalid.

I expect that my positions on the nature of consciousness and the existence of free will are going to face criticism—especially from atheists and fellow advocates of the human biodiversity thesis (ironic, considering that both metaphysical libertarians and advocates of human biodiversity fall into minority camps which are often considered fringe). That’s fine—and I don’t want to raise a debate over the existence of free will here, either. For the purposes of this essay, all I want to point out is that a position like mine is the only one in which one actually can accept that people are in fact sometimes entirely responsible for their traits or decisions, and sometimes (whether as a result of environment or genes) less so.

The only other option is to deny that environment or genes have any influence on human behavior at all (which is unequivocal nonsense), or else to deny that we ever make free choices that fail to be fully determined by prior causes. But if one chooses the latter path, then there truly is no difference between supposing that genes or environment play the greater role in determining human behavior anyway—since in that case no one is ever deeply “responsible” for his actions anymore, regardless of which side you take on the nature/nurture divide. And if that is the case, then it becomes really absurd to think that the “naturist” must hate people whom he considers to be inferior while the “nurturist” doesn’t; both of them end up in agreement that people have no choice to be anything other than what they are anyway.

If I truly hate pedophiles, do I care whether pedophilia is caused more by genes or by things like childhood exposure to sexuality? Does one point of view really compel me to have empathy and understanding for the pedophile more than the other? If his behavior is ultimately determined by some cause, it would seem not, because in that case he can no longer truly be seen as anything other than the victim of his circumstances either way. Thus, even if you think the position I take is false, hereditarianism (where both genes and environment determine our behavior) and environmental determinism (where only environment does) are your only options. And those two positions on the nature of human freedom differ only in the details of how they think we are made to act as we are by outside forces we can’t control.

Now, to summarize this very wordy introduction in plain language: If you are an egalitarian, you are a person who wants to achieve as much equality as possible. You are someone who values policies that push us in a direction towards greater amounts of equality. And if you are not an egalitarian, you are not a person who wants to achieve equality, or who values it particularly highly. Whichever kind of person you may be, no amount of facts can or will stop you from being that kind of person. People are the kinds of people they are, and they value the things that they consider it important to value, no matter what you tell them is true.

So, if I tell you that a given approach is incapable of getting us very far towards equality, that can be seen as an attack against that specific method, yes. But in and of itself, it is not an attack against the egalitarian value system per se. Facts and values are two separate kinds of things, and while they always work in a relationship with one or another, they don’t determine one another. And this is why we shouldn’t allow our value systems to cause us to fear discovering the truth: because while one value system can be better or worse than another one, that question is one that can only be answered by moral philosophy. Once we’ve settled on a moral philosophy, the facts can only tell us what the best way is to achieve whatever it is we have decided to value.

And that is why obtaining a clear understanding of human nature—of its causes, of its limits, and of its degree of plasticity—is equally important for everyone. And that is why a thorough discussion for introducing human biodiversity without political overtones or emotion is so necessary. To say a word to my “choir” about this kind of approach, I think most of you will agree that even if we never achieved anything else at all, an otherwise liberal world that at least admitted that human biodiversity is true and stopped premising policies on its denial would at least be better—would at least cause less harm—than the one we live in today.

To speak to the liberals and normies again: it is possible that, if you were to continue down this rabbit hole, you would eventually decide to abandon your previous system of values altogether. But the facts you are going to discover in this series will not compel you to do that. Whether or not you eventually decide to do that will be up to you. If you still, at the end, decide not to, then the only thing refining your understanding of the truth about human nature can do is refine your understand of what the most and least efficient methods of achieving whatever goals you want to achieve would be. And even if that is the case, you of all people should be the most interested in learning those lessons and moving forwards; because whatever else may be true, it is abundantly clear that the methods you’ve tried so far just haven’t worked. This series is going to explain in detail why that is—but it’s up to you to decide what you want to do about it.