Social Darwinism: Why It's Politically Incorrect, Even Though It's True
Only one thing seemed to me calamitously bad. That was the bigotry and Byzantine scholasticism which had grown up around the sacred scriptures of Marxism. Hegel, Marx, Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin—these men’s books contained for the Bolsheviks the last word of human knowledge. They were not science, they were revelation. Nothing remained for living thinkers to do but to apply them, gloss them, dispute about them, expatiate on them, find in them the germs of every new thought or thing that came into the world. Instead of liberating the mind of man, the Bolshevik Revolution locked it into a state’s prison tighter than ever before. No flight of thought was conceivable, no poetic promenade even, no sneak through the doors or peep out of a window in this pre-Darwinian dungeon called Dialectic Materialism. No one in the western world has any idea of the degree to which Soviet minds are closed and sealed tight against any idea but the premises and conclusions of this antique system of wishful thinking. So far as concerns the advance of human understanding, the Soviet Union is a gigantic roadblock, armed, fortified, and defended by indoctrinated automatons made out of flesh, blood, and brains in the robot-factories they call schools. —Max Eastman, ex-Communist
Great is the power of steady misrepresentation—but the history of science shows how, fortunately, this power does not endure long. —Charles Darwin
I had been intending to write a post in defense of social Darwinism and sociobiology for well over a year, and finally I got around to writing something along those lines, and published it in the previous post. But still I haven’t fully addressed the issue of social Darwinism, or the application of Darwinian natural selection to modern humans and human societies, as being politically incorrect heresy, nor have I attempted fully to answer the question of why this is the case. So, that is what I will attempt to do this time. What finally motivated me to write this, and the previous post also, is the fact that I’ve been slowly grinding my way through Kevin MacDonald’s ruthlessly informative book The Culture of Critique; and in it the author dedicates an entire chapter to left-wing, primarily Jewish, attempts to undermine and discredit social Darwinism and to replace it with a form of anthropology that is more in harmony with a Marxist and Jewish agenda. Consequently, this installment of the politically incorrect blog relies heavily on MacDonald’s book, especially with regard to Franz Boas and the Boasian School of anthropology that he created.
For anyone with the intelligence, honesty, and integrity to face empirical facts, it is very difficult to deny that, from a scientific perspective at least, human beings are a species of animal that evolved through some form of Darwinian natural selection, that we humans have continued to evolve as various ethnicities have adapted to various environments, and that most if not all of the elements of human cultures—languages, technologies, myths, art forms, etc.—have also evolved through a similar, competitive survival of the fittest. Yet despite the straightforward common sense of this, backed up by evidence aplenty, by the second half of the 20th century a Darwinian approach to describing modern humanity had become almost universally rejected, and practically taboo—not because it was objectively wrong, but essentially because it was politically incorrect. (Yes, PC has been around that long. In fact it’s always been around in some form or another. The forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was in fact the fruit of the knowledge of political correctness.)
Although an empirical, Darwinian, “adaptationist” approach to understanding modern human beings does make very good sense, and has a steadily increasing mass of evidence supporting it, it has been eclipsed by a rather different sort of anthropology, generally referred to as Boasian anthropology. This got its name from its founder, Franz Boas (1848-1952), a German-born American Jewish anthropologist who worked and taught at Columbia University, and who is sometimes referred to as “the Father of American Anthropology.”
Boas was an early pioneer in cultural relativism, and hence the idea that no civilization, especially western civilization, is any better than any other. He strove to eliminate completely any notion that race or Darwinian evolution of different human groups was a factor in explaining differences between cultures. Due to Boas’s influence Darwinism applied to modern humans came to be condemned as racist and reprehensible; and all this served as a foundation for the postmodern progressive attitude of encouraging westerners to be positively ashamed of being westerners, equating western civilization with cruelty, colonialism, ruthless exploitation of other societies, and genocide. As Wikipedia asserts,
Boas was especially concerned with racial inequality, which his research had indicated is not biological in origin, but rather social. Boas is credited as the first scientist to publish the idea that all people—including white and African-Americans—are equal. He often emphasized his abhorrence of racism, and used his work to show that there was no scientific basis for such a bias.
Wikipedia also states, “In his 1963 book, Race: the History of an Idea in America, Thomas Gossett wrote that ‘It is possible that Boas did more to combat race prejudice than any other person in history.’” The trouble is, that much of this was not based on sound empirical objectivity, but on a vehemently and passionately held political and social agenda.
According to Kevin MacDonald, Boas fought racism with his new theories primarily as a means of combating antisemitism, plus endorsing a leftist political agenda. The ideological basis of his antagonism to Darwinian “adaptationism” may be described in the following quotation from The Culture of Critique, here with regard to Richard Lerner, an influential Jewish developmental psychologist who took Boasian principles to heart:
The central message of Lerner’s book [Final Solutions: Biology, Prejudice, and Genocide] is that there is a possible causal chain linking Darwinism to an ideology of genetic determinism, to the legitimization of the status quo as a biological imperative, to negatively evaluating individuals with “inferior” genotypes, to eugenics, and finally to destruction of those with inferior genes. This story line is said to have been played out in several historical instances, including the massacres of Native Americans and the Ottoman genocide of Armenians, and most particularly in the Holocaust….Lerner’s agenda is to discredit evolutionary thinking because of its associations with Nazism. The logic is as follows (Lerner 1992, 17-19): Although Lerner acknowledges that genetic determinists need not be “racists” and that they may even have “enlightened” political views, he states that genetic determinism is an ideology that can be used to give scientific credence to their viewpoint: “The doctrine of biological determinism exists ready for co-optation by proponents of such a political movement” (p. 17). Sociobiology, as the most recent incarnation of the scientific justification of genetic determinism, must be intellectually discredited: “Contemporary sociobiologists are certainly not neo-Nazis. They do not in any way advocate genocide and may not even espouse conservative political views. Nevertheless, the correspondence between their ideas (especially regarding women) and those of the Nazi theorists is more than striking” (p. 20).
MacDonald claims that this book of Lerner’s “is perhaps the most egregious example of a scientist motivated to discredit evolutionary-biological thinking because of putative links with anti-Semitism.”
Richard Lerner is nowhere near to being the only example of a follower of Boas’s theories undermining Darwinian sociobiology for the sake of a non-objective desire to further a political agenda. Boas’s disciples came to dominate anthropology and other social sciences by the middle of the 20th century. Margaret Mead, for example, was one of his students; and her classic Coming of Age in Samoa is now seen as a rather unscientific piece of anti-western utopian literature. Says MacDonald:
By 1915 the Boasians controlled the American Anthropological Association and held a two-thirds majority on its Executive Board. In 1919 Boas could state that “most of the anthropological work done at the present time in the United States” was done by his students at Columbia. By 1926 every major department of anthropology was headed by Boas’s students, the majority of whom were Jewish.
Boasian anthropology became cult-like in the unquestioning devotion of its advocates to a non-scientific cause, and also in the authoritarian control and intolerance of dissent from its charismatic leader, Boas himself. Most later disciples have presumably been unaware of the political agenda behind the system’s formulation; anyhow it is still endorsed in Anthropology departments throughout the west, and remains the established mainstream doctrine in liberal academia. The doctrine asserts, or at least strongly implies, that human evolution stopped, or else continued uniformly across all populations, as soon as we reached the specific stage of Homo sapiens. This was argued by denying inherited psychological differences between ethnicities, along with the denial that western technological, liberal civilization is essentially more advanced than any other culture, even the most primitive or archaic. It is true that science does not work with generic terms like “superior” and “inferior”; although even basic Biology allows that, although all species are the end products of the same billions of years of evolution, nevertheless some species are more “derived,” and others more “archaic.” This was rejected wholesale by the Boasians for, as has already been pointed out, largely political and social, not empirical, reasons.
Boas’s advocates insist that he was not opposed to Darwinian evolution of humanity in theory, but rather that he combated misinterpretations of it, for example the idea that cultures inevitably follow a specific series of stages. Even granting this, his extreme skeptical rigor with regard to evolutionary theories, in contrast to his lack of same with regard to his own favored theories of cultural relativism, as well as those of his disciples, indicates that he really did have a politically influenced methodology, as did many of his students and followers. This occasionally has reached the level of downright obscurantism, involving claims that the real mechanisms conditioning cultural evolution are too complex to be known with certainty, or that we know too little at present to do more than make superficial observations. MacDonald states,
An important technique of the Boasian school was to cast doubt on general theories of human evolution, such as those implying developmental sequences, by emphasizing the vast diversity and chaotic minutiae of human behavior, as well as the relativism of standards of cultural evaluation. The Boasians argued that general theories of cultural evolution must await a detailed cataloguing of cultural diversity, but in fact no general theories emerged from this body of research in the ensuing half century of its dominance of the profession. Because of its rejection of fundamental scientific activities such as generalization and classification, Boasian anthropology may thus be characterized more as an anti-theory than a theory of human culture. Boas also opposed research on human genetics—what Derek Freeman terms his “obscurantist antipathy to genetics.”
There is some validity to the claim that Boas was opposed to faulty interpretations of Darwinism, although he very probably would have been similarly opposed to valid ones. Even his champions agree, even celebrate, that he was passionate and vehement in his attacks on any sort of what nowadays would be called “race realism” or “scientific racism”—and he did not consider such passionate vehemence in favor of a social cause to be at odds with objective science. At any rate, his followers took the Boasian ball and ran with it, to the point that almost any differences between races are to this day denied, or else ignored for the sake of progressivism and politically correct Boasian orthodoxy.
One of the most well-known recent champions of Boasian anthropology and cultural relativism is Stephen Jay Gould (both Jewish and Marxist) whose primary claims to fame are his popularization of the punctuated equilibrium model of evolution, his promotion of the theory that dinosaurs were not reptiles and that birds are a kind of dinosaur, as well as his mainstream articles and books popularizing the idea of evolution in general. Gould is such a vehement opponent of race realism that he has allegedly committed deliberate fraud in combating it, misrepresenting his opponents and doctoring data that didn’t suit his purposes. In his popular book The Mismeasure of Man Gould attacked early 20th-century scientists who measured differences in the cranial capacities of different races, accusing them of faking their data, when it now turns out that the differences are even greater than the results Gould falsely claims the earlier scientists faked. He had a new edition of Mismeasure published at about the same time as Murray and Herrnstein’s controversial The Bell Curve came out, mainly, MacDonald claims, to counteract any non-Boasian influence of the latter. Gould has been strongly opposed to any notion, even any scientific evidence, that there are racial differences in psychological traits such as IQ. Stephen Jay Gould, although esteemed as an authority by the masses, has a much lower reputation among his peers, and is undoubtedly as much a propagandist as a scientist. Again in the words of Kevin MacDonald,
The point here is that Gould’s career of intellectual dishonesty has not existed in a vacuum but has been part and parcel of a wide-ranging movement that has dominated the most prestigious intellectual arenas in the United States and the West—a movement that is here conceptualized as a facet of Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy.
In other words, Boasian anthropology has from the very beginning served the primary purpose not of furthering scientific knowledge of humanity, but of furthering socialist, globalist, and predominantly Jewish interests, partly by eliminating any support for antisemitism by eliminating support for racism in general. (Meanwhile, however, Jews have tended to remain strongly tribalistic with regard to their own race, the “tribe of Israel.”)
My purpose here is not to pick on anyone in particular, although I will give one more semi-well-known example of an influential recent Boasian: R. C. Lewontin (who also happens to be Jewish and Marxist). Lewontin’s claim to fame is probably what is called Lewontin’s argument—also known as Lewontin’s fallacy—the politically correct idea that human races don’t really exist (even though they obviously do) because there is greater genetic variation within populations than between them. Lewontin and Gould worked together at times in their crusade against any sort of human genetic determinism. Lewontin also has been accused repeatedly of perverting objective science for the cause of a more or less cultural Marxist, and Jewish, and anti-racist agenda.
The fact that Boas, Gould, Lewontin, and most of Boas’s disciples were and are Jews (as well as socialists) is not necessarily significant. Richard Herrnstein, co-author of the race-realist, extremely politically incorrect The Bell Curve, was also Jewish. Even so, any sort of Darwinism applied to human societies is prone to attack from Jewish social scientists on the grounds of its associations with Nazism and antisemitism. To put it bluntly, anthropology and the other social sciences in the west have been hijacked in the service of a predominantly socialist, globalist, and Jewish political agenda.
Thus “social Darwinism” has become mainly a pejorative term, associated with a Nazi Ubermensch ideology, associated with eugenics and even genocide. Nevertheless, a Darwinian, evolutionary approach to understanding humanity is still pretty obviously correct—empirically if not politically. Charles Darwin, though denied by atheistic Marxists, remains God-Emperor. Evidence, especially genetic evidence, is steadily accumulating in support of human biodiversity in particular, and eroding the politically correct Boasian and postmodern idea that “it’s all just a cultural construct.” The progress of our knowledge concerning genetic influence on psychological traits, and the differences between ethnicities and between the (two) biological sexes, is slowly but steadily killing the utopian, multicultural dreams of leftist cultural anthropologists, sociologists, and nutty psychologists (and let’s not kid ourselves: all psychologists are nutty).
I may write about MacDonald’s The Culture of Critique again before long, as the next chapter, just started, is on the connection between Judaism and the radical left. And a later chapter is on the Frankfurt School. But I’m reading it very slowly, so it may take awhile.