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In Western states, sovereignty is obviously distributed and thus diluted in any individual instance. We are not a monarchy. Commands are not issued from a single person or even a single seat of power. This is elementary, as James Goulding writes:
Once we fracture sovereignty, the people with a “shard of sovereignty” take decisions that depend very heavily on other minds, many of which also have a bit of sovereignty. This means that each micro-ruler takes decisions quite differently to a sovereign; not only is the scope of his influence or probability of making an impact much smaller, but when he does have an impact his decision algorithm is best explained by a complex chain of causality that weaves through millions of other minds. Unlike Hitler.
So far, so good. In fact, Goulding’s point about micro-sovereign decisions depending on other, micro-sovereign minds is a significant one. It even prompts an analysis of power from the perspective of network theory: how does fractured “sovereignty” circulate? what makes one node more central than the others? how far removed are the nodes involved in any single decision, and can they be clustered in any meaningful way? So on and so forth.
However, Goulding’s next move is, in my opinion, too overstated:
It is unnecessary to specify exactly how this chain of causality works in each case, although that is a central problematic of political science and law. Clearly, “shards of sovereignty” are not at all similar to “sovereignty” and require a completely different kind of analysis.
A completely different kind of analysis? A more nuanced analysis, yes. Shards of sovereignty: each dependent on the motives and actions of other shards: each existing within an as-yet-undefined network of power. Yes, different from the singular seat of power, different from the divinely mandated king whose mind and motives are the fons et origo of all social and political decisions. But different in degree and operation, not in kind.
Looking at political sovereignty from the other end, does it make much of a difference whether we’re talking about shards of it or a monarch? Does it matter to the small business owner, who must pay a minimum wage and provide healthcare to his employees, whether the force of these laws emanated from a single source or from the concerted effort of a hundred nodes distributed throughout a network?
Command and control is diluted across “shards of sovereignty” so no one shard can do all that much without taking the others into consideration, but in the end, decisions are made, and they are binding, and they do control the populace either directly or indirectly.
In attempting to match our words, concepts and analyses to the reality we are trying to comprehend—in all its complexness multiplicity—we should also strive to avoid the postmodern mistake of missing (or, rather, refusing to recognize) the obvious forest for the sake of charting the intricacies of each and every rhytidome.
Adventures in Exiting
I know this is lame to say out loud, but I honestly don’t watch television, so this may be old news to some of you . . .
1. Populist Glenn Beck’s Independence, USA (not to be confused with Independence, CA, which is itself a possible canvas for a libertarian dream world on the edge of the Eastern Sierras)
2. The Citadel
3. Seasteading and Peter Thiel (I knew about this, but I’m linking because it fits)
Article on all 3. C.f., Orania, South Africa.
All of this would make the ethno-nationalists happy, and I’d be happy for them. However, for us neoreactionaries with a techno-capitalist bent, I’m not sold on these plans, unless we can guarantee that they will be staffed with high-IQ Germans and many terabytes of computer space.
Sovereignty and Loyalty
Peter A. Taylor writes:
I want to frame this sovereignty question in terms of loyalty. To whom is the army loyal? If the king gives an order, can he count on it being obeyed? If he can’t, it doesn’t follow that there is someone else who can count on the soldiers’ loyalty. Loyalty is not conserved.
To which Nick Land replies:
“Loyalty is not conserved” — that’s probably correct, but it’s a conclusion of great significance (as we’ve seen) and therefore not to be lightly assumed. Given the soundness of the sovereignty / loyalty substitution — which does indeed work well — should we not expect a ‘Moldbuggian’ rejoinder, in the form of a conservation theory of loyalty? For instance, an argument that, whilst loyalty can be displaced, it is not actually extinguished?
Does the sovereignty/loyalty substitution work well? I’ll tentatively answer “no,” suggesting instead that a test of sovereignty is its ability to maintain itself without full loyalty from the governed.
Are Western governments, media, and academia sovereign? Yes. They face no serious challengers. Worse, their constitutions (or, in academia, the unwritten rule of “academic freedom”) are moot. The entire point of a constitution is to control not sovereignty per se but the struggle for sovereignty on the part of competing political actors. Today, within each sphere—government, media, academia—competition is nonexistent. No one disagrees on anything of substance, and anyone who tries to disagree quickly finds himself agreeing, is neutralized, or sells out.
We conclude that no one seriously challenges the status quo because no one seriously wants to challenge the status quo. We know that not everyone is loyal to the President, not everyone is loyal to all members of Congress, not everyone is loyal to the State Department, not everyone is loyal to Harvard or the media. Well, you can’t please everyone, right? What matters is that most people are loyal, yes?
1. There is loyalty, in various measures.
2. There is disloyalty, in various measures.
3. There is lack of loyalty but no active disloyalty.
What matters is not (1) but (3). It doesn’t matter that most people are loyal, it just matters that most people aren’t actively disloyal.
Sovereignty does not rely on loyalty. It relies on a contented populace, that is, a populace that may not be overtly loyal but is not so disloyal that a critical mass of individuals defects to Russia or marches on Downing Street with semi-automatic weapons. The same goes for a standing military. The sovereign entities don’t need red-blooded loyalty from the privates or even the generals. They simply need to avoid active, willing, dangerous disloyalty. And there’s a lot of wiggle room between the two.
I have two very close friends who did tours of duty, one in Iraq with the Army, the other in Afghanistan with the Marines. Both joined before America had officially invaded Iraq. One is a hippy dippy Leftist, the other a Right-wing gun enthusiast. The former joined in order to get money for college (he had a Hendrix mentality about the military: “I hate war, but I respect a fighting man”); the latter joined because he wanted to blow things up and kill ragheads. The former is now working in the healthcare professions and has a heart for social justice; the latter is now a police officer and has a heart for racial profiling.
Both friends, for very different reasons, severely disliked things about the government while they were actively fighting on its behalf. The Leftist was principally anti-war, had nothing nice to say about Bush, and is now active in anti-drone protests. The Right-winger was pro-war, but came to realize that the war in Afghanistan was being waged very stupidly; he also hated Bush’s stance on immigration.
In short, neither had a fierce loyalty to USG or even liked the high-ranking officers in their units. But they fought anyway. They had their personal reasons for fighting, just as both had their personal reasons for disliking the Cathedral (too Leftist in one’s opinion, not Leftist enough in the other’s), but ultimately, the only reason that mattered to the Cathedral was this one: nether was disloyal enough not to fight; more importantly, neither was disloyal enough to fight for the other side.
That’s sovereignty secured.
On a similar note, students bitch about academia all the time. “Why do we have to take these general education courses?” is a familiar refrain. If the general education requirements were annulled, the Cathedral would suffer a serious blow because most of the progressive brainwashing takes place in these courses. Nobody likes them at the time; students take them anyway. Why? Not out of loyalty to academia or the progressive intelligentsia. Most students aren’t even loyal to the virtues of knowledge and inquiry, as framed by either the Right or the Left. However, they aren’t so actively disloyal that they level a challenge at the academic wing of the Cathedral. They make do. They grin and bear it.
Again, that’s sovereignty. Not the ability to command widespread loyalty. Not even the ability to permanently disable or exile challengers, because a state with many challengers is, from the sovereign’s point-of-view, an unstable state. Rather, sovereignty is the ability to make sure the governed just don’t care that much. “Happily contented peasants,” as Chesterton said.
I’ll refine that: sovereignty is the ability to make sure that would-be political challengers just don’t care that much, that they are content enough not to follow through on their challenges. It doesn’t matter whether they’re loyal; it simply matters that their disloyalty is neutralized, atrophied, ultimately non-existent.
Here’s Fred Reed with an apropos word:
How does one tell whether one is living in a dictatorship, or almost? The signs need not be so obvious as having a squat little man raving from balconies. Methinks the following indicators serve. In a dictatorship:
(1) Sweeping laws are made without reference to the will of the people. A few examples follow. Whether you think these laws desirable is not the point. Some will, others won’t. The point is that they were simply imposed from above. Many of them would never have survived a national vote.
Start with Roe vs. Wade, making abortion legal, and subsequent decisions allowing late-term abortion. Griggs versus Duke Power, forbidding employers from using tests of intelligence, since certain groups scored poorly. Brown versus the School Board and its offspring requiring forced integration, forced busing, racial quotas, and so on. The decision that Creationism cannot be mentioned in the schools. Decisions forbidding the public expression of Christianity. The decision that citizens can be stopped and searched without probable cause. The opening of the borders to mass immigration.
These are major, major laws grossly altering the social, legal, and constitutional fabric of the country. All were simply imposed, mostly by unelected judges against whom there is no recourse.
Note that there is no practical distinction between a decision by the Supreme Court, a regulation made by an executive bureaucracy, and a practice quietly adopted by the intelligence agencies and federal police. None of these requires public approval.
None of these requires public approval, and they may not get approval for a time, but just wait a generation. The challengers won’t really challenge anything, and their kids will accept it outright.
Sovereign law, in other words, does not need loyalty. It simply needs the loyalists to be loud, obnoxious, and willing to shame anyone who shows signs of disloyalty. Time takes care of the rest. The seeds of active disloyalty never grow. They wither. They turn into resignation.
ADDED: Case in point.
Struggles for Sovereignty
“Sovereignty is conserved,” says Moldbug. “You can spread it around, though, but don’t expect to enjoy the result.” He says this in the context of the early Arab Spring, and in light of more recent history, one can see why “spreading around” sovereignty is to be avoided. However, I’m not sure that “to spread around” is the correct verb for our direct object in this context. It seems to me that the various Arab Springs, from Egypt to Syria, have unleashed a struggle for sovereignty. To what extent can we say that any one side of the struggle, in either country, possesses a stable sovereignty over the other sides? To no extent at all. Otherwise, there would be no real struggle. What we see in the Middle East is what happens when sovereignty (e.g., Mubarak’s and Assad’s governments) is shattered, leaving a power vacuum in its wrecked wake. The vacuum is filled with forces coming from all sides, and whoever fills it ultimately exchanges the force with which they filled it for a more lasting power. Sovereignty over the others.
I’ll revise this in two seconds, but for now, the “struggle for” sovereignty in a power vacuum is not the same as “spreading around” sovereignty that already exists, which, in my mind, is synonymous with an attempt to bind sovereignty by not allowing it to come formally to rest in any one unconstrained person or oligarchy. Nick Land’s description of the American constitution:
. . . the founders envisaged the grounding principle of republican constitutionalism as a division of powers, whereby the component units of a disintegrated sovereignty bound each other. The animating system of incentives was not to rest upon a naive expectation of altruism or voluntary restraint, but upon a systematically integrated network of suspicion, formally installing the anti-monarchical impulse as an enduring, distributed function. If the republic was to work, it would be because the fear of power in other hands permanently over-rode the greed for power in one’s own.
The ongoing debate, recently rekindled, is over whether or not real political sovereignty can, in fact, bind itself. What does the binding? If the answer is “constitutional rules,” then there is a chance that power can indeed be bound, albeit with difficulty. If the answer is, “Don’t you mean who does the binding,” then clearly, as Moldbug argues, sovereignty is always conserved—whoever does the binding on the sovereign is himself (or are themselves) the sovereign.
Now, to spread around sovereignty is to bind sovereignty . . . but no, that’s not right at all, or, anyway, it’s only half-right. Is not the Cathedral’s power “spread around”? In the Cathedral itself, is there not a tripartite division of power, three component units of disintegrated sovereignty, formalized as the Media, the USG, and Academia, each of which, within itself, contains further divisions of power? But these divisions are not there to constrain the Cathedral’s power over the West.
There are two ways to understand the concept of rules that bind sovereignty.
1. Rules that bind the sovereign.
2. Rules that constrain the struggle for sovereignty so that no would-be sovereigns can ever rule permanently or wholly, or take over violently.
I think the original intent of the U.S. constitution had (2) in mind, not (1). Of course, (2) assumes that different actors on opposing teams are always trying to attain power. What happens when all the actors are, as it were, on the same team?
Look again at Nick Land’s quote above. I think the crux of the paragraph comes at the end, not at the beginning. “A division of powers” or “component units” are necessary but insufficient elements of a disintegrated sovereignty in which each unit or division is bound by the other. The sufficient elements are “networks of suspicion” and “fear of [the others’] power.”
Per (2) above, constitutional rules only bind power in the USG when there is a real struggle for power, when those playing the game honestly want to see different outcomes—I win, the rest of you lose. Perhaps we can read The Federalist Papers (more generously than I have in the past) as the rules that peacefully constrain the struggle for sovereignty. More, they lay down rules that not only constrain the struggle for sovereignty but also ensure that no single victor can ever emerge wholly or permanently. Absent such rules, the struggle for sovereignty looks like Syria. With such rules, the struggles for state control are always constrained—everyone wants to win, but no one really can, at least not for good—so absolute sovereignty is constrained de facto. If a particularly bad administration comes to power, the country just needs to ride it out for a few years while the gathering forces against it do their work via the proper, procedural, and, most importantly, peaceful channels.
But as I said, this game of constraint, this division of power, only works if you actually have different teams competing in the game. Our constitutional rules are constraining the current players . . . but all the players are on the same team.
Sovereignty binds itself through constitutional rules = There are rules in place to constrain the struggles for sovereignty within a state
When the competing political actors all more or less resemble one another, all the rules do is to procedurally maintain housekeeping and settle minor tactical disputes.
Once the struggling political actors are struggling for more or less the same thing—once all the would-be sovereigns share the same vision of sovereignty—then it doesn’t matter a whit that power is formally divided. The “networks of suspicion” and “fear of others power” no longer exist in any meaningful way (if they ever did?).
It doesn’t matter that the system was set up to ensure the game never ended because now the game doesn’t need to end. The victories of one side are either indistinguishable from those of the other side, or they move the country in the same direction, albeit at different speeds. The opposing teams are not enemies struggling for power but, say, departments in a corporation competing for an annual sales prize on more or less friendly terms.
Corporate divisions of power work because (pardon the Jesse Jackson-ism here) the divisions share a same vision. Rarely will you find a corporation in which one department is full of people trying to completely change or overhaul the company. So too with the Cathedral. The divisions of power are not checks on power because no one is competing to overthrow the Cathedral; the divisions exist to “spread around” or perhaps “spread out” the Cathedral’s power in all the directions that matter, for the benefit of the Cathedral in general. Power plays within it are not power plays against it. So, in the game of American and, more generally, Western politics, the continuing play on the field is now for the benefit of the spectators, who think a game is still being played in earnest by sides who really are different from the other sides, who really are competing against one another. By and large, they aren’t.
Can sovereignty bind itself without the existence of another, greater sovereign to do the binding? I’ve ignored this question for now. Instead, I’ve tried to explore the idea of bound sovereignty by shifting what we usually mean by that term—binding sovereignty can also mean constitutional rules designed to peacefully constrain struggles for sovereignty. It seems to me that the American founding fathers were concerned with controlling these potential struggles, so that armed and violent revolutions didn’t happen every decade or two, and so whoever did attain a degree of sovereignty could be kept in check by others who had attained degrees of it elsewhere in the divided government. Networks of suspicion and fear.
The fathers failed to assume, however, that, at some point in the future, a meaningful struggle would cease to exist, that all powerful actors in the public and political spheres would not differ too widely in ideology or direction, that there would be a sovereign who exists without meaningful competition. The other, Moldbuggian question of bound sovereignty is so difficult because it’s so new, so unprecedented.
Can the Cathedral be bound at all by what remains of the West’s constitutions? If so—if it can be meaningfully challenged—then that’s a good sign for the constitutionalists among us. The upcoming decade will be interesting. For the first time since 1945 in Europe (since 1865 in America), something like real political challengers have arisen. How will they fare? The Tea Party gained a modicum of power via proper, peaceful, constitutional channels, as did Golden Dawn. If Golden Dawn goes the way of the Tea Party, however, I think we can give up all hope of sovereignty’s ability to constrain itself through constitutional rules.
ADDED: One of Nick Land’s comments at Outside In is pertinent. At certain points, perhaps I’m too hastily conflating Power and Sovereignty:
It’s tempting to equate ‘sovereignty’ and ‘power’, but it leads to confusion. Power is quantitative and hierarchical — the existence of a superior authority does not negate power. Power is not diminished by being exceeded. (It is like wealth in this respect.) Sovereignty is different — it is by its essential nature ultimate. Sovereignty belongs exclusively to the final authority in a chain of command (whilst power is distributed unevenly throughout it).
‘Power is conserved’ means that there is always final authority.
Lion, Ox, cont’d
My original comments at Goulding’s highlight my skepticism about Xeer’s applicability to contemporary nation states and global, technologically-driven economies. In my last post, I attempted to mitigate my skepticism with a dose of generosity toward the concept, speaking in highly general terms about its embodied ideal, which, to me, is its emphasis on local consensus rather than on legislation obdurately codified by standing bodies far removed from the geographical locations which fall under those bodies’ jurisdiction.
However, as J.G. points out in the comments, “codification and permanent judicial institutions seem essential to developed economies,” so it appears I was mistaken to frame Xeer as the P2P system par excellence. It is, rather, an empirical case study of such a system, and in this case, history has show that it works better than the centralized system put in place by Western colonial powers.
I think Nick Steves recognizes the spirit of the last post. I find value in polycentric law as a corrective to centralized federal law, which always grows its power and never contracts. Steves writes:
Centralized law, and the power to enforce it, must exist at least sufficiently to keep separate subsidiarities from tearing each other apart . . . The trouble is that it is (apparently) impossible in the long run to keep centralized law from developing an increasingly large footprint . . . in which inevitably one subsidiarity manages to seize control and rip the others apart.
As described by Goulding, the Xeer system in Somalia does not have an “increasingly large footprint,” and, more importantly, it does not lend itself to special-interests spoils or power-grabs for resources because it’s there to solve conflicts as they arise locally, not to divy out spoils or resources en masse. For that reason, I find value in the system, which is not the same as saying that we should import it.
Xeer is just one case study. Before building up any kind of political theory based on P2P law, the studies need to be multiplied so we can discover what are the “best practices” for such a system. I’m not saying I’m convinced about all of this. And I’m still not convinced that neocameralism isn’t workable. But neoreactionaries need to stop being purely against things and start being for things; to that end, building alternative political and/or economic theories is a worthwhile pursuit, and P2P seems a particularly generative idea to explore.
One Law for the Lion and Ox
James Goulding’s descriptions of Xeer—Somalia’s polycentric ancestral law—leads me to several highly general conclusions.
1. The jurisdiction of law should be local, and law itself should be contingent to local circumstances.
2. Law should be administered or enforced by individuals who possess the consensual respect of the local community, not by individuals who have politicked the best or promised Obamaphones to the masses.
3. Law can be guided by precedent but should not be permanently codified for all future cases.
4. Law-dispensing or law-enforcing bodies should be impermanent rather than standing. They come together when necessary but otherwise their members are involved in other pursuits.
“Why is one law given to the lion and the patient ox?” asked William Blake. “One law for the lion and ox is oppression.” Though partially decontextualized, Blake’s aphorism strikes at the heart of federalism and statist policy. Law that is proper, effective, and just in one case or locale may be none of those things in another case or locale. A centralized regime that enforces the same law in all cases and locales is an oppressive regime. (To provide a practical example: a centralized regime that passes an open-borders law from a capitol that lies a thousand miles from the border is oppressive. One law for Fairfax, Virgina and Phoenix, Arizona.)
If we grant this idea validity, we can conclude that, while geographically diminutive or ethnically homogenous states might function well with centralized legal power, the vast majority of centralized states are by definition oppressive because their entire reasons-for-being are to legislate one law for all cases and locales—for the lion and the ox. The great value of polycentric, P2P law is that it resists centralization and thus resists centralized power’s oppressive tendency to dictate law applicable in one case or locale for all cases and locales. Polycentric law places primacy on ever more local concerns and circumstances. It places power into the hands of individuals who are locally known and trusted rather than individuals democratically elected by an amorphous, massive majority. It also obviates the need to balance competing local concerns for the sake of an artificial, centralized assembly.
And yet . . . when you give up that centralized assembly, you resist that tendency toward statist oppression, but you also give up other things. The history of the West, at its best, is the history of productive alliances between the state and private, local actors. Without the centralized state, would we have interstate highways, space programs, nuclear energy, national parks? I don’t know. Without the centralized state, would we have safe architecture, safe air travel, safe roads? Again, I don’t know. I loathe the central state, so my natural response is to say that whatever accomplishments the state can claim would have been accomplished equally well or more efficiently and triumphantly by private actors left to their own, local devices (c.f., the development of standards and practices in various open-source communities). Even so, we cannot deny that centralized power has, in the past, aided technological and economic advancement. The question is, can these advancements continue without a central state? Can Xeer and technological civilization co-exist?
To put the question another way, are the general ideals listed above only possible in isolated communities not connected to the world via mass media and global trade? In my opinion, yes: those legal values are only applicable in special environments segregated from the complex, high-tech world of interstate, international nodes and networks. Xeer and civilization don’t mix well. You have to sacrifice one to maintain the other. And unlike Mr. Goulding, I am unwilling to sacrifice high-tech civilization for a more stable and virtuous legal system.
But maybe I’m erecting a false dichotomy. Perhaps the general virtues of polycentric law are compatible with high-tech civilization. Figuring out how they are compatible is a project well worth pursuing.
New section in the library
Inspired by James Donald’s historically literate comments on slavery, I decided to add a new section to my growing Library of the Dark Enlightenment. This new section, On Slavery, includes links to books, articles, and photographs documenting global slavery, which, as most people don’t know, has existed and continues to exist outside of the antebellum American South. (My Irish friends are still waiting for their reparations from the Berbers . . .)
Darwin’s Dangerous Clan? A Response to the Critics
At Foseti’s, commenter JohnK rejects my labeling of Pinker et al. as reactionary, writing that it is a “preposterous” appellation, while Nick B. Steves thinks I’m “not quite right” about equating reaction with the Dangerous Clan’s acceptance of HBD. He writes that “while belief in HBD is (for all practical purposes) a necessary component of reaction, it is quite far from being sufficient.”
The relationship between HBD and neoreaction is an open area of inquiry, so I won’t make any final pronouncements here. Essentially, the relationship is one of movement between “levels of commitment” or “orders of knowledge.” We begin with brute facts and general theories about the facts, then, if we’re inclined, we can draw, from the facts and theories, higher-order conclusions about humanity or policy or ethics—“theories about the theories,” as Richard Weaver says.
I work in an academic milieu, as far Left as you can get, so perhaps I’m more inclined than others to grant reactionary status to people like Pinker and Chagnon, who challenge the Cathedral’s blank slate orthodoxy at a purely theoretical level. I can appreciate, however, that others might not find value in the academic case for HBD if its proponents are, in every other respect, devout progressives whose higher-order conclusions about humanity are not at all informed by HBD.
But the men in the picture, whose academic beliefs are certainly reactionary: are their larger worldviews informed at all by HBD? Do they inch toward reaction, or at least stop themselves from moving ever-leftward with the historical current?
Here’s Dawkins, charting a distinction between the social and the biological uses of “race,” in which he uses this distinction, surprisingly, to draw a profoundly conservative conclusion about affirmative action (or “positive discrimination” as they call it in Britain):
We can all happily agree that human racial classification is of no social value and is positively destructive of social and human relations. That is one reason why I object to ticking boxes in forms and why I object to positive discrimination in job selection. But that doesn’t mean that race is of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance . . . . However small the racial partition of the total variation may be, if such racial characteristics as there are are highly correlated with other racial characteristics, they are by definition informative, and therefore of taxonomic significance. (pp. 338)
In a single paragraph from The Ancestor’s Tale, Dawkins affirms HBD at an academic level, denies its usefulness at a social level, and yet draws a policy conclusion that could have come from the mouth of Thomas Sowell or Clarence Thomas.
And here’s Dawkins again, supporting John McWhorter’s famous essay about affirmative action and the black middle class:
I salute John McWhorter, and hope that his essay on Affirmative Action will receive the widest possible dissemination. If I can be of any assistance in getting it published in England, please let me know.
In addition, Dawkins gives nods to eugenics and isn’t afraid to call bullshit on feminist victim-mongering.
And Daniel Dennett, responding to the same McWhorter essay on affirmative action just mentioned:
If it is true that Affirmative Action (in college admissions) now primarily impacts middle-class (at least not hugely disadvantaged) minority students, then McWhorter is certainly right that some of the standard justifications for it have simply lapsed, however ringingly they might have justified the policy thirty years ago.
Just how widespread and influential in contemporary African-American culture is the “distrust of the nerd'” that he identifies so vividly? If “victimology” and the conviction that it is “inauthentic” for an African-American to be a good student plays the dominant role he claims it does, then he is surely right that Affirmative Action, by reinforcing these attitudes, is going to become ever more self-defeating.
David Haig sounds like some secular neoreactionaries I know:
A true psychology has got to be an evolutionary psychology. Whether every theory that goes under the name of evolutionary psychology is evolutionarily justified is a different question, but in terms of the question whether Darwin is relevant to understanding the mind and human behavior, evolutionary psychologists have got it right. We are evolved beings and therefore our psychology will have to be understood in terms of natural selection, among other factors.
Haig also provides an insightful analysis of Marxist biologists who still cling to the hope of Lamarckism:
My neo-Darwinian preferences should, by now, be clear to readers of this review, and I will not attempt a self-analysis that undoubtedly would be self-serving. Rather I will give my subjective impressions of the reasons why many people I have talked with, both in the general public and the scientific community, have a visceral attraction to Lamarckism and a visceral dislike of Darwinism. These reactions relate to the two aspects of natural selection: random variation and ‘survival of the fittest.’ A neo-Darwinian view, with its emphasis on chance and randomness in the origin of variation, is perceived as positing a world without meaning that is less attractive than a Lamarckian view in which organisms have agency in shaping their evolutionary destiny. Natural selection, with its reliance on differential survival and reproductive competition, is also perceived as bleak and harsh. The beauties of the human form are ascribed to the elimination of the slightly less perfect in lives that were nasty, brutish, and short. A consistent application of this view has led some prominent evolutionary thinkers to espouse eugenics (Haig 2003). But it is a view from which many recoil. Phenotypic plasticity and the inheritance of acquired characters seem to hold hope that we all can improve without processes of selection.
A neo-Darwinist would undoubtedly argue that ascribing the origin of purposeful agents in the world to a process without inherent purpose is intellectually satisfying. But this is a view that leaves many cold. It is not how they emotionally react to ‘works of nature.’
Like Dawkins, Haig isn’t afraid to talk eugenics (scroll down on the link). Commenting on arch-eugenicist W.D. Hamilton, Haig says,
I think that many of Hamilton’s ideas on eugenics are naïve and misguided, but I support his plea that this should be a question on which one could have a reasoned, nonacrimonious exchange of views. The extent to which the human genome is deteriorating is an important question that should be squarely faced, rather than side-stepped.
Alas, Richard Wrangham is, unfortunately, unable to connect his HBD theories to anything else. Scratch him from the list . . .
Out of the entire group, Steven Pinker is most likely to hold (in secret) a worldview that tends far rightward of Cathedral norms. Continuing with the affirmative action test piece, we find that Pinker has publicly called AA what it is: reverse discrimination.
The number of countries that have laws on the books that discriminate against ethnic, religious, or racial minorities has been in steady decline. In fact, the number of countries that have tried to tilt the scale in the other direction with affirmative action and remedial discrimination policies has increased. So now more countries in the world discriminate in favor of disadvantaged minorities than discriminate against them.
Pinker famously defended Larry Summers’ comment about IQ and the reality of gender, even debating the point in an open forum. As far as the policy implications he drew from his work on this debate, Pinker envisions what might be construed as a libertarian ideal of “maximizing individual abilities”:
I share Nora Newcombe’s desire to move away from a concern with gender differences in mathematical ability to a focus on individuals and how we can maximize their abilities, at least in the spheres of education and public policy. But she does not play out the radical implications of this move. Other than in the context of evolutionary psychology (which elegantly predicts a number of interesting gender differences), a focus on gender differences arises because people ask why the genders are disparately represented in certain walks of life. Almost invariably, disparities in numbers are interpreted as proof of discrimination and discouragement. This, of course, is a fallacy, since the disparities could arise from differences in average temperaments and talents instead or as well. And it’s a fallacy with consequences: if the discrepancies attributed to bias really come from sex differences, then the costly measures designed to counter them (aggressive affirmative action, presumptions of ubiquitous prejudice, re-education programs, diversity bureaucracies, etc.) are misbegotten. If people didn’t obsess over disparities in gender representation in the first place, they would not create the need for researchers to determine whether the disparities may be caused in part by gender differences in ability or interests. So if people want to minimize the importance of the science of gender differences, they should speak out against gender bean-counting in university science departments.
But in the essay “Dangerous Ideas” we find Pinker at his most wonderfully dangerous . . .
The taboo on questioning sacred values make sense in the context of personal relationships. It makes far less sense in the context of discovering how the world works or running a country.
Perhaps not neoreactionary, but certainly chinks in the Cathedral’s edifice. Maybe we can call them the “socially acceptable diplomats” of neoreactionary thought, men standing against the strong current that heads toward Left Singularity, even if they are not actively moving in the opposite direction.
Darwin’s Dangerous Clan
These are the some of the most wonderfully dangerous men in academia, reactionaries all, even if they don’t know it. (Although I suspect Daniel Dennett does; he was a member of the HBD discussion group.) The only person missing from this picture is Satoshi Kanazawa . . .
The accompanying dialogue is worth reading, in full, multiple times: “Blood is Their Argument.” (I can’t help thinking about the look on the face of the average feminist, Marxist, or post-colonial theorist who reads that headline.) Comment to come . . .
A Sermon, ex Cathedra
Our New Testament reading today comes from the tenth chapter of Romans, verses nine through thirteen:
9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
My sermon today comes from the twelfth verse. For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.
(This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.)
You may be seated.
David P. Goldman tells us that ethno-nationalism is the “snake” in the garden of Christianity. Jew and Gentile are, in their sinfulness, alike in God’s eyes, but from each He demands something different. The gospel of Christ proclaims that although God has already chosen a People, He has invited the rest of the world to be grafted on to the Tree of Life so long as they serve Christ first and foremost, lowering their earthly masters and loyalties to secondary status. The Church—understood as that invisible and glorious entity unfurled across time and space—is the one true nation to which all Christians belong. “King first, God after” or “Ethnicity first, God after” is to be completely inverted. Goldman quotes Orthodox theologian Michael Wyschogrod to help us understand this inversion:
As understood by Christianity, a model of dual loyalty develops. The individual belongs both to a nation and to a religion. He is a Frenchman and a Christian or a German and a Christian. As Frenchman or German, he is a member of a national community with territorial and linguistic boundaries. But he is also a member of the supra-national church which has no national boundaries. … The church is a spiritual fellowship into which men bring their national identities because they possess these identities but not because such identities play a role in the church. The church thus understands itself as having universalized the national election of Israel by opening it to all men who, in entering the church, enter a spiritualized, universalized new Israel.
Jews, the called and elected People of God in the Flesh, are the only people who possess a Divine Right to serve both religion and nation, religion and ethnicity equally. To everyone else, the salvation of God is offered through Christ, but only on condition of ethnic, cultural, and national abnegation. Perhaps not abnegation; rather, subjugation. Ethnic, cultural, or national identity that exists prior to or apart from the convert’s Christian identity is to be rendered less important. A Christian’s true master is Christ. It is heresy to serve Christ and _______.
Give unto Caesar what is Ceasar’s. But you cannot serve both God and national currency. A choice must be made. Leo Tolstoy provides the quintessentially neopuritan exegesis of Matthew 22:21:
Not only the complete misunderstanding of Christ’s teaching, but also a complete unwillingness to understand it could have admitted that striking misinterpretation, according to which the words, “To Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s,” signify the necessity of obeying Cæsar. In the first place, there is no mention there of obedience; in the second place, if Christ recognized the obligatoriness of paying tribute, and so of obedience, He would have said directly, “Yes, it should be paid;” but He says, “Give to Cæsar what is his, that is, the money, and give your life to God,” and with these latter words He not only does not encourage any obedience to power, but, on the contrary, points out that in everything which belongs to God it is not right to obey Cæsar.
To be Christian is to cease being pagan—that is, to be Christian means no longer identifying as Roman or Greek or any other ethno-nationality, at least as regards “everything which belongs to God,” that is, as regards everything. Gender included. Galations 3:28:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The New Testament creates a hierarchy of loyalties for Christians, with Christ at the top, family second, and everything else (such as nationality) a very, very distant third. Goldman writes that the greatest sins of the Christian world have been committed by people attempting to serve both Christ and ethnicity or nation equally, a fleshly privilege granted only to the Jews. In other words, there can be no question of a Christian nationalism or a Christian nation because such a political structure is implicitly forbidden in the New Testament. The Church is the only Christian nation, and she is wonderfully universal, gloriously supra-national, blessedly diverse.
It is our commission as Christians to preach the Good News of Christ, to make Christians of all nations, that is, to get rid of nations in exchange for the Church, united under Christ . . .
Or, if we decide, as most of us do today, that Christ was in fact a mortal man, and that God is nothing more than a state of mind or an ecstatic oneness with creation, we nevertheless must continue to fulfill the Great Commission. We must strive to make people serve, above all else, if not Christ, then a de-Christianized Christian morality, subjugating their national or ethnic interests to the worship of this morality. And because we know that Christ was a mortal man and the New Testament a culturally situated document, we can freely tweak our de-Christianized Christian morality as we spread its good news, amplifying certain elements and removing others altogether. It all depends on what tactics will make people give up their national or tribal identities (even if those tactics might backfire).
Switching out of True Believer mode, I can point out the obvious flaw in this Spengler-inspired exegesis: the idealistic exhortation to “put on Christ” at the expense of all racial, ethnic, or gendered interests was simply that: an idealistic exhortation. From the very beginning, Christian converts did not cease being _______ in order to become Christians. They remained Greek Christians, Roman Christians, Berber Christians, Ottoman Christians, Russian Christians . . . . so on and so forth. The history of Christianity is the history of peoples refusing to cease being peoples for the sake of becoming the Church. Medieval Europe under Rome was as close as this world ever came to a political structure that regularly subjugated ethnic or national concerns (nominally) to a greater Christian loyalty.
We shall never see such a structure again. We shall not see it because people no longer believe in Christ. More distressingly, we shall not see it because the only things to which people are willing to subjugate their ethnic or national loyalties are not Christ but various incarnations of the Son of Morning.
The World Is That From Which There Is No Escape
Among many other things, Nick Land’s “Lure of the Void” series is a poetic, though only partially metaphoric exploration of Exit and the forces that keep it closed. In the series, space is figured as the unending frontier into which people could literally free themselves from terrestrial controls and concerns, that is, the concerns of the neopuritan Left (how can you bring Heaven to earth when you’ve already left for the heavens?). The Cathedral has thus de-emphasized the political theatrics of the Space Age, made space exploration a part of history, not a part of the future. Land writes:
Disillusionment is simply awakening from childish things, the druids tell us. This is a point Murphy is keen to endorse: “space fantasies can prevent us from tackling mundane problems.” Intriguingly, his initial step towards acceptance involves a rectification of false memory, through a (sane) analog of ‘Moon Hoax’ denial. Surveying his students on their understanding of recent space history (“since 1980 or so”), he discovered that no less than 52% thought humans had departed the earth as far as the moon in that time (385,000 km distant). Only 11% correctly understood that no manned expedition had escaped Low Earth Orbit (LEO) since the end of the Apollo program (600 km out). Recent human space activity, at least in the way it was imagined, had not taken place. It was predominantly a collective hallucination.
Murphy’s highly-developed style of numerate druidism represents the null hypothesis in the space settlement debate: perhaps we’re not out there because there’s no convincing reason to expect anything else. Extraterrestrial space isn’t a frontier, even a tough one, but rather an implacably hostile desolation that promises nothing except grief and waste. There’s some scientific data to be gleaned, and also (although Murphy doesn’t emphasize this) opportunities for political theatrics. Other than that, however, there’s nothing beyond LEO worth reaching for.
This week, NASA put what may be the first nail in the coffin of long-term manned space flight funded by non-private sources. The headline reads: Trip to Mars would likely exceed radiation limits for astronauts. But the limit is, naturally, a Cathedral-enforced one:
NASA limits astronauts’ increased cancer risk to 3 percent, which translates to a cumulative radiation dose of between about 800 millisieverts and 1,200 millisieverts, depending on a person’s age, gender and other factors.
“Even for the shortest of (Mars) missions, we are perilously close to the radiation career and health limits that we’ve established for our astronauts,” NASA’s chief medical officer Richard Williams told a National Academy of Sciences’ medical committee on Thursday.
I don’t doubt for a second that most astronauts would gladly sign on for long-term space flights even if such adventures increased risk of cancer in later life. Nor do I doubt that these astronauts will gladly work for yet-to-be-founded private companies that, like governments of yesteryear, refuse to give up advancing knowledge and profit simply because the pursuit might be a little dangerous. But this latest NASA announcement proves the general validity of Land’s thesis: the Cathedral, quite literally, does not want the humans to escape.
ADDED: Land points me to aerospace engineer Rand Simberg, who writes:
The history of exploration of new lands, science and technologies has always entailed risk to the health and lives of the explorers. Similarly, the history of settlement of new territory is a bloody one, with great risk to the settlers. Had they not taken those risks, we might still be in the trees in Africa, and unable to write books like this on computers. Yet, when it comes to exploring and developing the high frontier of space, the harshest frontier ever, the highest value is apparently not the accomplishment of those goals, but of minimizing, if not eliminating, the possibility of injury or death of the humans carrying them out.