The politics of hereditarianism

Posted by Spandrell on

“So what do you stand for?” I've been asked... surprisingly few times. There used to be a tradition of intellectual debate; adversarial, but polite. With clear rules so people didn't abuse their time to shill their own stuff instead of contributing to the actual debate. But we don't do debates in these parts; we never have. Which is unfortunate. Understandable, though, to the extent public debates are still a thing they've become an incredibly stale, cringe, Reddit-ish spectacle (I wish we had a better word for that but 'Reddit' really is a perfect way of conveying the concept of midwittery). Debating skills are orthogonal to having good ideas in general; Ben Shapiro is obviously a very talented, and trained, debater, but he's full of shit. Brimming. The real key to a good debate is the moderator; he should be as smart as the participants, and good at keeping them in line, preventing good thinkers with from going off rails on a tangent or just being malicious and stirring the conversation to promote their grift. That really is a dying breed. Even podcast interviews are garbage 90% of the time. Most interviewers just let guests talk uninterrupted so they can shill their stuff instead of poking them a bit to extract actual information. The only good interviewer out there is Tyler Cowen; who's smarter than the people he interviews and has enough clout to be aggressive, but polite about it.

So what do I stand for? I stand for the truth, and for nice things. The key moment in my intellectual life was my figuring out why the truth and nice things are often incompatible. I always suspected that was the case. It's not an obvious case; most people will tell you the facile idea that Truth Beauty and Good are one and the same thing, and that they will prevail if we work for it. But no, it's not that simple. Nice things require Collective Action, Collective Action require Schelling Points, and Truth is a terrible Schelling Point. It just doesn't work. Hence lies. “Pretty lies” , if you want. The results are often ugly, though.

Sure, pretty lies can make you a cohesive coalition to keep social peace; but that comes at a cost. See, the pursuit of truth is not just some aesthetic hangup. To make nice things you need technology. To make technology you need science. To do science you need truth. So there's a conflict there between the pretty lies we need to make politics easy, and the truth necessary to keep the lights on.

The best solution there is to pay lip service to the pretty lies so that we get nice politics; but we keep them isolated and not let them affect other parts of society, e.g. the economy, academia etc. But it doesn't work like that. It never works like that. It can for a while; especially at the beginning: the ruling class comes up with some pretty lie, but they know it's fake, and they know how to dance around it to get things done. But the next generation wasn't there when that negotiation happened, so they don't get the joke. They take the platitudes literally and use political power to enforce them, and they fuck things up. This happened again, and again, and again. It really is the history of leftist creep in Western political history. Womens rights, racial equality, environmentalism, we've all seen it happen. So fuck the pretty lies; that's not working. We're going to hell. Let's try the truth now. How much worse can it be.

So says Nathan Cofnas in a recent essay. A guide for the hereditarian revolution . I'm obviously down for a Hereditarian Revolution. Again, I'm for the truth, and hereditarianism is the most important truth out there. That all biological traits are heritable, and that inheritance determines the bulk of most traits (80%-ish) is obviously, painfully true. It's empirically true and deductively true. It's just so painfully obvious that its mainstream denial is personally the biggest friend/foe tell there is. I probably wouldn't get along with Nathan Cofnas in normal circumstances; the guy doesn't lift, he's Jewish but doesn't gtfo to Israel, etc. But he gets the most important point of them all, so he's in my team. And he says it in public, with his real name, so mad respect for that. I can't be arsed myself. He still has to go back but he's a cool guy. I'll buy him a beer.

That said... I expected more from this essay. The guy is a philosopher of science. He has one job. And given his interest in hereditarianism and it's mainstream denial, well his one job should be to understand why the elites are woke, as he puts it. Herediarianism is true, obviously so. Why aren't elites hereditarian? He doesn't say clearly, and his talk of “brainwashing” is really facile. For all his complaints about right wing idiocracy of late, which are well deserved, he seems to view the triumph of anti-hereditarianism as some contingent fact of history, something we can fix with enough effort.

Cofnas is erring in two axes here. One is the conflict-theory vs mistake-theory axis, one of the best points of Scott Alexander which I commented on on this old post . The other is the contingent vs necessary analysis of history. Cofnas is taking the blue pill on both axes. He should know better.

To elaborate on the latter, there are two basic approaches to human history. Things can be contingent or necessary. Either things happen for some random combination of facts, and could have been totally different; or there are wider forces at play that forced circumstances in one direction and there's basically nothing that you could do to change them. Now, history is never 100% contingent or necessary. The way biological traits are not 100% heritable. There is some randomness at play. But not a lot. My intuition is that the contingent factor in human affairs is about the same as the non-heritable part in biological traits, so about 20%. Sure, if Baby Hitler had died in a traffic accident we wouldn't have had a Third Reich. But we probably would have still got WW2 in some form. Without Jesus of Nazareth Europeans probably wouldn't carry crosses as jewelry. But some other organized religion would have taken become popular in Europe after late antiquity.

My whole intellectual output was trying to find the wider patterns that move history as a matter of necessity. Seeing human politics as an evolutionary process. Sure, there's plenty of contingent stuff in the emergence of socialism in the 19th century, a lot of quirky personalities involved. But that's not important; what's important is the wider patterns that provided the soil for it to grow. Humans are jealous. Politics were open. In such an environment a political movement which promises status to those unable to gain it elsewhere is going to become popular. By necessity. Given enough time someone will figure it out and he will win. By necessity. That's how evolutionary processes work. Some details might be contingent, but the logic is not.

I feel very strongly that intellectuals (as opposed to scientists) really only have one job: to describe, as accurately as possible, human nature, and from those facts analyze the past and predict the future. Why else do people spend time and money reading our shit?

Well Cofnas is doing a terrible job of understanding human nature. He doesn't understand why wokism won. He thinks wokism can be defeated by spreading accurate information boldly. Which is just deluded. Again his heart is in the heart place, and I commend him for his courage, but he's getting the facts wrong. He cites, as pretty much his only supporting evidence, the triumph of Darwin's theory of evolution over creationism in the 19th century. He seems to think that was just because Darwin was right and the intellectual classes were converted magically to the truth, abandoning their outdated religious ideas for Darwinism.

Bullshit. Man, if it were so easy we'd have been terraforming Mars by the Roman Empire. Darwinism is true, of course, and perhaps the most important insight in the history of human thought. But it didn't win because of its truth. It won because it undermined the Christian narrative in Europe, and the intellectual classes of Europe had been fighting Christianity for centuries . Ever heard of the Freemasons? Darwinism spread like wildfire among European intellectuals because finally there was a solid theory that they could rub against those darn hated stuck-up Christian intellectuals they hated so much. Even Communists loved Darwin. The best predictor of support of evolution is anticlericalism. I derive no pleasure from this realization but it's a historical fact. The triumph of evolutionary theory was 90% politics. Like it always is.

Why did Hereditarianism, which is again a painfully obvious derivation from Darwinism, not gain the same level of adoption? Because the politics are terrible! Not just the race stuff, to which Cofnas bizarrely dedicates half his essay. Forget about race, who cares? That's a very specific American hangup, because American parochial internal rivalries (e.g. North vs South) and the presence of millions of Bantus there. The American interest in the improvement of the black race started pretty much as a Northern obsession to spite the hated Southerners.

Until 20 years ago Europe didn't have a race problem, nor anywhere in Asia; yet hereditarianism has never ever been popular in the history of human thought. Most people understand at a gut level that tall people have taller kids and smart people have smarter kids. But they don't like to think about it; especially if they're not tall or smart themselves. Besides Calvinists nobody likes determinism, nobody likes stuff to be written and unchangeable. Everything is set up at birth? How depressing is that? Everybody wants to think they have a change to make it big if they only stop drinking or whatever.

You know what sells? Education. Oh that sells. How many of you have heard from normies that Africa is poor because they have bad education? What do East Asians, who share none of our cultural history or our ideological baggage believe? That everyone can get far in life if they study hard enough. China used to have a feudal aristocratic culture where rank was set at birth and commoners were seen as cattle to administrate. Then Confucius comes and says that all men are equal, and the 君子, the superior gentlemen, is not born, but made, through “cultivation” . You become one by, conveniently, reading Confucius' books. Anyone, no matter how low born, can become a gentleman if they buy Confucius' supplements and subscribe to his podcast. Cringe, you might think. But who won?

This is obviously bonkers, and East Asian countries (South Korea in particular) are wasting a good third of their GDP in abusing their kids with cram school homework in the false belief that they'll grow more intelligent. A random Chinese will tell you very happily, especially if he has experience abroad, that Africans are congenitally dumber than Chinese are. But he will protest vehemently if you suggest that his kid isn't gonna grow any brighter by doing 5 hours of homework every day.

What is Christianity if not an egalitarian revolt against the Pagan cult of the strong? Classical civilization never wrote down the laws of inheritance but it did assume that good breeding was a thing and better people had better children. Christianity makes a point of assuming the rich and strong are evil and sinful and the poor and downtrodden are morally superior. Who won?

When Darwinism became common knowledge among the intellectuals in Europe, you would expect hereditarianism to become the common obsession of all civilized men, and all countries to start massive eugenics projects. Francis Galton certainly thought so! And he got some traction from the few good-hearted autists of the time. But he didn't get very far. Some countries enacted the very minimum eugenic legislation (e.g. sterilizing retards and the congenitally sick) but that's about it. Where are the national breeding projects to improve the national genepool? To create the Kwisatz Haderach?

Never happened. Why? Because people hate hereditarianism. Again, for good reason. It's not that they don't know. Come on, it's not rocket science. Steve Sailer has been doing God's work and spreading proper biological science to the public for decades. Has he ever converted someone who didn't already agree?

Even during the heyday of Western intellectual culture, when people could write books about phrenology or Negro intelligence and whatnot, hereditarianism wasn't popular politically. Cofnas mentions himself that Nazis didn't like Darwinism or IQ tests. It just makes for terrible politics. The game theory of hereditarianism is very simple. Say you have an election. There are two parties. One party, the Spandrell party, says, with overwhelming evidence, that intelligence is set at birth, education thus should be given according to measured IQ, in tightly segregated levels, with the dumbest just drilled to read, write and do basic arithmetic, and the smartest given public support to learn anything they want. Welfare is abolished and the general goal of all state policy is the improvement of the genepool, through generous subsidies to the healthy and intelligent. The other party says that everyone's a special snowflake, evolution stops at the neck, and we can all be what we want if the government spends enough money in edukashun.

Who's gonna win? Think not only of who is going to attract more voters from the pure messaging; think of what kind of party apparatus will both parties have. Which party will have the more motivated activists? Which party will get the most funding? Which party will be able to promise more sinecures to its supporters? Which party is more willing to do foul play to win?

To understand the world you have to understand power at the ground level. Ideas themselves don't matter. The second and third order level consequences of ideas matter. All the nitty-gritty ground level stuff is what actually carries the day.

Intellectuals understand this too! Why are intellectuals today woke? Because they understand power at a gut level. They know where the power is, where the money is. Do they believe in wokeness? No! What does the word belief mean, really? Have all intellectuals put effort into understanding the factual basic of hereditarianism? Fuck no. Do they actually behave in their personal lives in ways fully consistent with their professed woke beliefs? Hell no. So how can we say that they believe in wokeness? Belief is a mental state, and mental states can't be proven. Wittgenstein famously said that you can never know for sure if someone else is in pain. All you can see is external signs, which can be fake. There's just no way to know for sure. Belief is the same. People will say things. They might even do things. But belief is not something you can measure. It's what I call a bad word, a very misleading concept. I try not to use it besides its original, most basic meaning ( “honey why are you so late” , “oh I had to stay longer at work” , “I don't believe you, you were at the brothel again” ).

So how do we make the intellectuals become hereditarian? Cofnas says:

When people discover that the taboo at the heart of our culture was constructed to protect a lie, their moral intuitions will change, and they will become receptive to new moral authorities. It’s difficult to change people’s values just by presenting moral arguments. But if you show people that they’ve been lied to about such a fundamental issue as race, you will trigger their emotions in a way that will bring down the value system that was associated with the lie. All we have to do is make people aware of a simple scientific fact. The cultural revolution will take care of itself.

This is delusion of the worst sort. I facepalmed so hard my fingers are still marked red on my temple. I don't know where he gets his whitepills but they're better than my molly.

No, man, that's not gonna work. It's not so easy. Would be really fucking funny if we were here right now, on the verge of the physical extinction of western civilization and of the white race as a thing, and all it took was to “make people aware of a simple scientific fact” that we have known for more than a century. No, of course not. I mean Cofnas talks of doing an “information campaign” , speaking boldly about it, to spread the message. A speech tour, say. He's kinda right but for the wrong reason. A speech tour doesn't spread information; hell we have the internet. A speech tour is a strong power statement, however. It signals that I can say these things and, if people don't stop you, that I have the power to say them. If Cofnas can pull off a speech tour across American and European universities saying that in a pure meritocracy Harvard would have zero Bantu professors, that would actually convert a lot of intellectuals, because they know that those ideas are incompatible with the current orthodoxy, so if the current orthodoxy doesn't shut them down with violence, that means the orthodoxy is going to change. And they want to stay in the good side of it.

I do encourage Cofnas and Emil Kirkegaard and all the good hereditarian chads out there to try. I expect it won't work, but don't let me discourage you. If Cofnas can pull it off I'll stop saying he should go back to Israel.

But again, I don't think the politics work, because politics is a messy business and the incentives of egalitarianism are orders of magnitude better at mobilizing people. That's just the way it is. Nayib Bukele in El Salvador is, by all accounts, a literal Twitter frog, reading Moldbug, quoting BAP, buying Bitcoin. Probably reads my blog or has at some point. He has improved the government of El Salvador more than any statesman since LKY. In relative terms probably more than anyone ever, given the low level where he started. For all we know Bukele is probably a hereditarian and understands all the science. Does he dare mention it to his 88 IQ Mayan populace? Hell no. What he does is build massive public libraries. Because that's gonna make all those Mayan become machine learning engineers and rocket scientists.

Cofnas complains at length at how the bulk of race realists are not good-natured autists who understand the truth; they're nazis with an axe to grind. Well again, why do you think that is? Why? You have one job, figure that out. The reason why there's so many dumb nazis among race realists is because the politics of race realism only work out in that context. If you have a bunch of disagreeable racist people who hate niggers, kikes, yankees and basically have the Arab “me and my brother against my cousin” sort of personality, then race realism is a useful Schelling Point to make friends and build community. But it's not for the sort of smart, pleasant people that Cofnas wants to associate with.

The logical corollary of Hereditarianism is not just “let's stop wasting money in Bantu education and welfare for bums” . No, we have huge governments, with millions of staff; people who want to do things . If you tell them the national ideology is egalitarianism, well they'll make up plans to Educate Bantus and give welfare to bums. If you tell them the national ideology is Hereditarianism they will, they must, start writing plans about breeding the Kwisatz Haderach. That's just how it works.

Unless you fire them all; which I'm fine with. But do you understand how that also makes for bad politics? How are you gonna build a coalition arguing for destroying 99% of the government?

There's political problems, there's coup-complete problems, and there's jihad-complete problems. Beating anti-hereditarianism is the very definition of a jihad-complete problem. And we don't have the means to start a jihad. To do that we need, first, a new religion, and for all my effortpoasting we don't have one yet. Maybe Cofnas wants to help. Maybe after he does his “information campaign” .

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  • Excellent post full of good advice. You go a step too far in teaching the dumbest to read, though. I think a shopkeeper needs to read enough words to distinguish 'bleach' from 'white wine' and that's about it.

    • We see this on the Twitter Right all the time. Though hereditarianism is nominally accepted, every week or so they try to spit up the pill that higher classes are, on average, more intelligent and more diligent than lower ones, if not necessarily more moral. The two fault lines are signaling/countersignaling in the proles and trades vs college and middle class professions, and then, to a lesser extent, the middle class vs the aristocracy. The recent Bennett post and its replies and discourse is a good example of this. It's so uncomfortable that acknowledging it too much would cause open class warfare, and even at a low simmer, it's a constant source of grievance. The Anti-Nazi Aristocrat becomes a new symbol of modern conflicts, or is attempted to be appropriated as fashy anyways (some claimed that Fascism was not a middle class movement, and while you can use the data to argue it was a project of unironic class unity, the amount of aristocrats in it was not particularly high). The politically uncomfortable truth is that the most aristocratic movement of the 20th century was unironically Communism, and Communism itself was a sort of cynical power play using the “Oppressed Worker” as a Schelling Point. Pretty little lies.

      The Schelling point that really keeps “heredity” alive among dissidents is “Juck Figgers”, where heredity is a more scientific, rational explanation for why Figgers ought to be excluded. The real impulse is that they look different, act different, and smash up the place, but you have to use their relative underperformance in meritocratic competition as a palatable excuse. But once you leave that politically convenient use, it's not a good banner to rally around. Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in 3 generations is an enduring maxim and even apparently exists in other cultures, but Professor Gregory Clark has shown, empirically, that's not true.

      • I'm not married to this one, but I think that sincerity is related to high trust. “Sincerity” of “belief” is a measure of how much your actions can diverge from your stated beliefs. Anglos are prone to Leftist decay because they seem like very sincere people. This is distinct from honesty, where I think yellows (and Russians, but what's the difference?) tend to be more honest, low bullshit people on average, and the brown races of the Earth highly dishonest (Whites are in the middle).

        The more sincere a population, the more theocratic, the more it decays Left because of inability to doublethink the joke.

        • I'm not married to this one, but I think that sincerity is related to high trust. “Sincerity” of “belief” is a measure of how much your actions can diverge from your stated beliefs. Anglos are prone to Leftist decay because they seem like very sincere people. This is distinct from honesty, where I think yellows (and Russians, but what's the difference?) tend to be more honest, low bullshit people on average, and the brown races of the Earth highly dishonest (Whites are in the middle).

          The more sincere a population, the more theocratic, the more it decays Left because of inability to doublethink the joke.

          • Sincerity is a strategy to gain status by mogging your superiors with their own pretty lies. Pretty lies are not a weakness because of physical reality but poltical reality.

            Pretty lies of those at the top necessarily paste over points of political weakness or they wouldn't maintain them. The pretty lies of those at the top were most likely established when they were revolutionaries rather than rulers. They probably adopted them for strategic reasons of building and unifying a base and so on. I'd guess they couldn't let them go because they became the basis for their legitimacy as rulers.

            So sincerity in a way to challenge regime legitimacy by drawing attention to their weakness.

            • The way for those at the top to win the challenge is either to just throw out the pretty lies in question like they're nothing or mog the challenger right back with obscene hypocrisy.

              You can see that historically the regime has done the latter to RWers cos RWers are weak but they've been much more cautious with the left cos they've perceived the left as a real threat. This is probably why they've allowed “wokeness” to take root.

              • Thinking about it a bit more, the exact reason why the pretty lies are a political weakness to rulers is because they were the lies used by the rulers to take power when they were revolutionaries. They're inherently revolutionary ideas, so they're inherently a detriment to a ruler and a weapon for would-be ursurpers. Being revolutionary in nature, they must point out the illegitimacy of a ruler.

                • You could possibly view the whole of American history as rulers struggling with the fact they're saddled with legitimacy narratives that blatantly expound their own illegitimacy, and desperately trying to rid themselves of them.

                  • Wait a minute was Trotsky right all along? Is boxing it in with perpetual revolution the only way to stabilise a political order that arose through revolution?

                    • Wait a minute does that mean Yarvin was actually right with his clearpill shit and the only way to end a political system rooted in revolution is to stop resisting entirely? Is Yarvin actually just a Trotskyist with the opposite goal?

      • I think you don't give enough credit to early XX century hereditarians. Their efforts have been thoroughly memory-holed after WWII, but they ran literal family fitness and better babies contests nationwide in US. Passing those racial eugenics/hygiene laws was no mean feat either.

        • Leaving aside low-IQ and midwits, the strongest and smartest can't guarantee their own children will be strong and smart either. Elite wealth and power is safer in a system with enough obfuscation to insure against the odd failson generation. There's no hope for top-down, society-wide, genetic-merit-based resource allocation even in an oligarchic state if it means that even the greatest families are only ever one unfortunate zygote away from ruin. I don't think even hereditarians would enjoy living in a bureaucratic genetic hygiene regime where some high-IQ G-1B Visa immigrant gHR officer disqualifies your job application for testing 353/389 gene factors instead of the required 354.

          People reject genetics because they can't control it. Give them control, and the incentives change. Hereditarians should give up on culture, and instead focus on gaming out the economics and logistics of genetic engineering. Millennial women have already normalized egg freezing, IVF, preimplantation genetic testing for abnormalities. Just don't make it illegal to test for other things, and people will do the rest. There's some price point at which embryo testing/selection becomes accessible to the masses, and if/when that happens, the cost/benefit shifts away from denial to embracing (at least privately) because otherwise your kids get left behind. No grand shift in public consciousness necessary, just bottom-up private choice. At scale and over time, this would effect genetics, and culture is downstream from genetics.

        • Although it's a minor theme in the post, it's worth commenting more on the related historical and religious questions. I've been wanting to find time to formulate this properly, but rather than delaying indefinitely, I'll just post what I have.

          As hinted in the post and in the comments, the people most keen to institute eugenics legislation were also the those who used scientific Darwinism as a cover for the pseudo-scientific religion of Progress. It's not a coincidence that G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis opposed eugenics, not I think because they were opposed to good breeding (most people aren't), but because they were skeptical of the competence and the good intentions of the liberals advocating eugenics and also educative or reformative so-called justice, as opposed to punitive justice. Lewis in particular consider punitive justice more humane than trying to remake criminals into liberal bugmen.

          “Christianity makes a point of assuming the rich and strong are evil and sinful and the poor and downtrodden are morally superior.”

          While most of Christianity is now decidedly fake and gay (the current anti-pope being an extreme example), it's curious how this critique of Christianity is the inverse of the standard leftist critique. Also, historically it's facile. Until very recently everyone everywhere understood the importance of good breeding, with the question being which traits were being selected for in a given society, and whether reproductive success was to be seized or to be considered a sign of God's approval.

          Monogamy for him, not just for her, was an innovation with profound consequences for selection, which are only beginning to be precisely understood.