Biological Reality

The Z Man writes

What comes next is going to be a moral philosophy rooted in biological reality.

It’s interesting to think about what that would look like, because it sounds like a contradiction in terms to me.  What do y’all think?

Here’s my case: The “moral sentiments,” or whatever 19th century phrase you choose to use, have been a thorn in Darwinism’s side from the beginning.  It’s easy to get lost in the weeds of “sociobiology” and the like (and some Internet neckbeard will always accuse you of not understanding Teh Science(TM)), but the fact remains that if we humans are animals like any other — bound by the same evolutionary laws, subject to the same evolutionary pressure — then LOTS of human behavior doesn’t make sense.

Any educated person can easily think of a hundred characteristics, commonly occurring in our species, which are not only ‘in the least degree’ injurious to their possessors, but seriously or even extremely injurious to them, which have not been ‘rigidly destroyed’, and concerning which there is not the smallest evidence that they are in the process of being destroyed.

Here are ten such characteristics, without even going past the first letter of the alphabet. Abortion; adoption; fondness for alcohol; altruism; anal intercourse; respect for ancestors; susceptibility to aneurism; the love of animals; the importance attached to art; asceticism, whether sexual, dietary, or whatever.

Each of these characteristics tends, more or less strongly, to shorten our lives, or to lessen the number of children we have, or both. All of them are of extreme antiquity. Some of them are probably older than our species itself.

Adoption, for example is practised by some species of chimpanzees: another adult female taking over the care of a baby whose mother has died. Why has not this ancient and gross ‘biological error’ been rigidly destroyed?

Even if we grant Darwinists their convoluted explanations for this kind of thing — the “kind gay uncle” hypothesis and whatnot — it doesn’t address the central question:

Isn’t the very idea of evolutionary adaptation itself an evolutionary adaptation?

We evolve traits that help us survive.  Science itself is obviously the #1 item in Humanity’s survival toolkit.  Therefore, science itself is an evolutionary adaptation, and the whole thing is a question-beg.  (If you’re tempted to write this off as the rambling of a lone Internet weirdo, it’s not my argument — it’s Ernst Mach’s.  Maybe I don’t understand Teh Science, but Ernst Mach sure the hell did).  Because if that’s true for science, then it’s most certainly true for every other field of human intellectual endeavor, including moral philosophy.  (Again, not my argument; it’s Arthur Balfour’s).

So it seems were left with two options, moral philosophy-wise.  One is pure, shit-flinging nihilism, Nietzsche’s Will to Power writ large: Might makes right (Balfour may have gotten this from Nietzsche, who wrote a big bombastic book about it).  The other is that humans are simply different — we solve Darwinism’s many paradoxes when it comes to human behavior by simply writing humans out of the equation.  Humans are an act of special creation, a union of body and soul.  Our bodies are subject to the same evolutionary forces as everything else, but our souls are eternal… and eternally apart.

I hold the second view, obviously, but as I said over at Z Man’s, that’s an awful tough sell in a secular age like ours.  But since we’ve brought the Manly Mustache Man into it, let’s end with him.  The subtitle to Beyond Good and Evil is “Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future.”  Nietzsche admitted he didn’t know what comes next; that he couldn’t know, in fact, being a man of his time like everyone is.  Just because I can’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  I’m a Historian; I always look backward.  Maybe the Z Man is, like the Manly Mustache Man, just a prophet.

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8 thoughts on “Biological Reality

  1. WOPR

    In this instance I believe ZMan is conflating two things. The first is our understanding of biology. The second is the reality of biology. Sometimes they overlap and often they don’t. You cannot root a society in biological reality because our understanding of that reality is imperfect and constantly shifting.

    For example, back when Darwin had gotten the ole’ evolution ball rolling, Huxley was debating some pastor on one of the theory’s points. The point is irrelevant because fast forward to the 80’s and if you had presented the same debate to some scientist, without them know the names of the participants, they would have said the pastor was correct.

    Actually, we have an example of rooting a society in biological reality. It was call the late 19th through the mid-20th century. Christianity was tossed aside for social Darwinism and the obvious racial differences due to evolution that made races different and superior. Hitler and the Nazis simply had better follow through than the rest of the leadership in the West. We’re living in the aftermath of that experiment. The trauma of that experiment is why we now have a society unable to admit to any differences.

    So, no, he’s not correct about this. We need a society based on recognizing group differences and incompatibilities without trying to assign some scientific hoakum to it. Because at the end of the day it would be scientific hoakum. Science is a tool and not an organizing principle.

  2. WOPR

    Oh, and yes, Darwinian evolution and it’s offshoots end up requiring the advocate to admit that everything done by biology is the result of evolution. Your car is the result of evolution. You computer is as well. Evolution is literally The Matrix.

  3. MBlanc46

    I read (quickly, because we have had a very busy day) Zman as meaning that HBD will infuse the ethics of the future. I certainly hope that’s true, but I’m concerned that it won’t be, at least as long as Westerners are still the dominant civilizational group. (I’d bet that if the Chinese displace us, HBD will be manifest in their policies.) I’m not sure that I follow you completely (it’s been a long day), but you seem to be suggesting the problem of ethical naturalism. Nature is about what is and morality is about what ought to be. David Hume challenged us to show how the latter can be logically derived from the former, and, to the best of my knowledge, no one has answered that challenge. My only suggestion is that we realize that moral codes are the results of human choices, but not choices made, as Marx puts it in a different context, as they please, under self-selected circumstances.

    1. Severian Post author

      Exactly. “Ethical naturalism” is a contradiction in terms, at least for modern people. (The Greeks were fine with it, but they thought Nature itself was Good; “to live according to nature” — the Stoic ideal — meant “to be virtuous.” Our modern Nature is red in tooth and claw, and though lots of people live according to it, we think that’s bad.). Darwinists have always tripped over altruism, which simply shouldn’t exist if Darwinism is correct. Theories of “group fitness” and the like sound plausible until you take them into the real world, where they fail immediately, as any brief glance at history shows.

      I can certainly see HBD informing the ethics of the future, but that too has a track record — the mission civilisatrice. Nobody who has a theory on the proper management of wogs ever considers that he himself might end up being one of the wogs. I’ve met a lot of big-league academics, including lots who really were off-the-charts IQ types. They might’ve been aces at theoretical physics, but if you put them in charge of the Sahara, in two weeks it’d be out of sand. I don’t trust anyone with a “civilizing mission,” because I’ve been in lots of rooms where I was the wog. Like Buckley said, I’d rather be ruled by the first 2000 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard… and he said that back when the faculty of Harvard had real merit.

      At some point, you get down to the question of hard limits. “To maintain a society that looks like this, it’s essential that you do that.” Our hardest limit appears to be technology. How’s South Africa doing these days? I wrote about that the other day. What policies are necessary to maintain 21st century infrastructure? Who has the will to carry those policies out? Those are serious political questions, requiring serious answers from the HBD folks… but they’re not moral questions, because morality fails in survival situations.

  4. MBlanc46

    I pretty much agree with just about every word of that. The only rejoinder that I have is that I believe that you expect too much of morality. Unfortunately, so does almost everyone else. Regarding dealing with wogs (and the line about becoming the wogs was scary because so possible), I’ve always thought that British colonials administrators before the Great War had about as good a handle on it as there can be (definitely not the French; the idea that you could turn a Moroccan or central African into a Frenchman is so ridiculous that you have to be a bit mad to even entertain it).

    1. Severian Post author

      I actually have a post on that somewhere around here. One of the reasons the Left is so hot to deny basic history, especially colonial history, is that pretty much every single decolonized country went some flavor of Marxist… and countries that were well-run, orderly, and prosperous were suddenly kleptocratic shitholes, even though they were run by the exact same people who ran things under the colonizers. It took India more than half a century to get back to the standard of living they had under the Raj. I bet most Zimbabweans would love to have Ian Smith back. Nigeria was decolonized in 1960 — lots of people still around who remember how things were under Whitey. Why don’t we ask them about it?

      To ask is to answer, of course.

  5. MBlanc46

    I read so where recently, regarding Ghana or some other African hellhole. The African says that the worse thing that ever happened to his country was the Europeans coming. The second worse thing was the Europeans leaving.

    1. Severian Post author

      I’m not saying European colonizers didn’t screw up a lot. The whole “decolonization” process. for instance, seemed to involve little more than slapping some lines on a map, then handing the keys to Government House to the nearest native who could tie a Windsor knot. But if leaving the wogs to their own devices isn’t an option — and it’s not, for public health reasons if no other — then Britain’s “absence of mind” colonialism isn’t the worst way to do it.

      Personally, I just hope to live long enough to see the “Postcolonial Studies” crowd living life under Chinese occupation. The Han don’t fuck around with “Yellow Man’s Burden;” they read King Leopold’s Ghost as a how-to manual.

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