Are people interchangeable?


A few days ago I had a chat with a very nice young English teacher. He said that he could never really see himself settling down, marrying and having children. His mum was a bit disappointed but hey, he has to live his life, not hers. He thought he just wasn’t the type to get married and settle down to have 2.4 children.

I should have pointed out to him that he would only have to have about 1.4 children to come up to the present average of most native Europeans, whose numbers are virtually halving with every new generation. A population needs to have about 2.1 children for every woman to maintain its numbers. Just two is not enough since some of those children will either not be able to have children, will choose not to have them or will die before they reach adulthood. Of course, we don’t notice this decline in native European numbers because immigrants are making up the shortfall.

The very thought of having children made this teacher panic. He much preferred a foot-loose kind of existence, being able to travel and do pretty much whatever he liked. He pointed out that he felt no duty to do his bit to add to humanity since there is no shortage of children in the world. Humans are not an endangered species and when seen from a worldwide perspective, it was actually more environmentally-friendly for him not to add to an already over-crowded planet. He felt that for someone like himself, doing good in the world and helping children in the Third World was a better way of spending his time and energy than settling down and raising his own children.

This is not an unusual view among young western university-educated liberals and I have heard it many times before. However, it is unusual when viewed from a non-progressive liberal perspective. Such a view seems to me almost inhuman in its even-handedness, to care more about the children of strangers than about your own potential offspring. I can’t decide whether it demonstrates human kindness on a grand scale or the existential confusion of a being that has completely lost its moorings, a creature so disorientated by 16 years of progressive education that it no longer knows quite what to think or feel.

First of all, it is historically unusual not to feel beholden to anyone but yourself. In this case it is the young teacher’s mother, father and smallish community in the middle of England that doesn’t need to be taken into consideration. Most young westerners feel no duty towards their family or the community they grew up in. They talk a lot about community for others, but they themselves generally don’t feel they need to be part of one. They see themselves as free-floating spirits and the traditional idea of belonging to a community, which by definition excludes others, no longer strikes a chord with them. The whole world is their community so no one and nothing is excluded.

From my own vantage point, which is that of a childless single 54-year-old man who has always done pretty much whatever he liked, it seems that without these bonds of inter-relatedness and duty you are almost nothing. You are an atomised, isolated individual who can do some good in the world but who belongs nowhere, to nothing and to no one. You have never learned to drop your guard so completely as you do when living cheek-by-jowl with your family. I don’t believe that this teacher’s idea of community, which is a kind of political solidarity with the world’s poor and with Facebook friends, a community you can leave at any time, is a proper substitute for a settled community of flesh and blood children, parents, grandparents and neighbours. With this latter community the person you argue with will still be there tomorrow so you both have to learn to deal with it. You can’t simply ‘unfriend’ them or move on to some other volunteer project. The teacher’s community is a virtual one, something suitable for the internet age.

I understand that there are people in the world who don’t much like children and who want to keep as far away from them as possible but this teacher isn’t one of them. He was a nursery school teacher for a year in South Korea and loved it. He wants to help poor children wherever they may be. He is more than happy not to have children of his own so as to be able to help other people’s children. An African or Korean child means as much to him as his own hypothetical child, and since this planet will soon be home to 8 billion people, one more Charlotte or George won’t be missed.

The idea behind all this is that people the world over are interchangeable, both in the personal sense that it doesn’t matter to him whether he or the next man has children, and in the wider sense that one race can easily substitute another without any loss.

Yet the fact that the world is very slowly emptying of Charlottes, Georges, Kyokos and Shinjis and quickly filling up with Mohammeds, Aishas and whatever African children are called might actually matter. People of European and Japanese extraction have contributed an enormous amount to world civilisation but they now constitute a rapidly dwindling percentage of the world population. Only if people were completely interchangeable, like clones, would this be unimportant to anyone other than the grandparents of George and Kyoko.

Yet in my opinion races are not interchangeable. A world filled with Arabs and Africans will look very different to a world filled with Europeans and Japanese. It’s unfashionable to say so but all data points to the fact that it is not only culture that matters but biology too. The reason Detroit is now bankrupt and no business or family in their right mind would want to move there has a lot to do with the DNA of its inhabitants.

I believe the reason that say, Japan and Haiti are the countries they are, is that Japan is full of Japanese while Haiti is full of Haitians. Yes, culture plays a role in the fortunes of both nations but culture does not appear out of thin air. Japanese culture, including the shinkansen and the morning rush hour of salarymen, is the Japanese genome made visible. The structured nature of Japanese society is not a chance occurrence that could equally well have settled on Haiti. Likewise, the lawlessness and dysfunction of many black countries and communities is to a large extent a consequence of the DNA of the people who live there. To pretend that biology counts for nothing, or that biology and culture are unrelated, is a fantasy.

Evolution has spent a lot of time and trouble sculpting humans and it could well be the case that people who evolved in cold climates, as did the northern Europeans and the Japanese, had harsher survival pressures forced upon them than those living in warmer climates. Only the children of the cleverest and most caring parents in cold climates survived while pretty much everyone, including the children of the unintelligent and the uncaring, survived in warmer climates.

There appear to be two different evolutionary survival strategies at work. The Japanese have very few children and put all their resources into ensuring that these few children survive. Africans on the other hand have many children, some of which survive and some don’t. These children are often passed over to siblings to look after while their single mum goes looking for a new temporary husband. This is not a new phenomenon of New York and London but is ancestral to the way things are done in Africa.

Both strategies have their advantages for the survival rates of offspring and may be suited to the environments where they evolved and both seem to be accompanied by different kinds of evolved behaviour. However, the two sets of behaviour are not equally well suited to life in a modern First World city and many Africans struggle to adapt. The blame for their struggle is usually attributed to the legacy of slavery and colonialism and the continuing maliciousness of whites. Racism and white privilege are allegedly what are holding blacks back. If whites are so racist, why do some many white and brown people want to come and live with them? If white malice is all that is holding blacks back, why isn’t Africa thriving? Why is it precisely those cities in America where the majority of people are black and blacks are in local government and heads of the police that have fallen apart? Why has South Africa gone from being an economic powerhouse under white rule to becoming a basket case under black rule in just 20 years?

The progressive liberal view that our personal genetic inheritance and that of our tribe and race should be a matter of supreme indifference to us is a bizarre cultural trend that only looks reasonable, and even praiseworthy, when you have grown up in a western liberal bubble. From all other perspectives in time and space it just looks weird. From the standpoint of Europe two millennia ago, Alexander the Great wouldn’t have known what to make of it. To him it would look like evolutionary suicide and he would wonder what strange set of events had occurred to make Europeans think this way. Genghis Kahn would have been left scratching his head. Even in the present day, from the perspective of members of most others tribes, say that of a Bantu warrior looking out over the plains of Africa, the pleasant young teacher’s ideas would be a total puzzle to him. Sacrifice my future children so that I can look after the children of men from other tribes? Are you out of your mind?

I think the young teacher’s response to all this would be to largely agree but to add that things are as they are. He can’t conjure up a desire for his own children out of thin air. I think this is partly true but ignores the fact that how he feels is not unconnected with the education, both formal and informal, he has received. Just as it was necessary for Germans to be shown film footage of rats superimposed on footage of Jews for the message that Jews were vermin to sink into good Germans’ heads, so educated westerners first needed to be indoctrinated into the pieties of progressive liberalism before their own genetic inheritance could become a matter of indifference to them.

Charles Darwin once wrote to his colleague Asa Gray that, ‘The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!’ The reason it sickened him was that the peacock’s elaborate feathers appeared to convey no adaptive advantage. If anything it was an apparent disadvantage and thus contradicted Darwin’s theory of natural selection. I sometimes wonder what Darwin would have made of celibate Catholic priests – or my young teaching colleague.


3 comments on “Are people interchangeable?

  1. Jaja says:

    Maybe the world isn’t as simplistic as you think it is (e.g. The reason Detroit is now bankrupt and no business or family in their right mind would want to move there has a lot to do with the DNA of its inhabitants.).

    I think Neil Degrasse Tyson gives a pretty good rebuttal of your way of thinking here:

    But also, perhaps you should look into scientific/statistical studies and see if there are any that reaffirm your thinking (which isn’t even a scientific way to go about it, but I’m so confident that you won’t find any studies that support your thought process, that I’m going to ENCOURAGE this extremely biased way of looking at data). Also, the publications need to be modern (preferably 2000 or later, just to be up-to-date), and not that eugenics shit from the 1950’s (which wasn’t really science). I think you’ll find a LOT of evidence to the contrary.

    While not perfect, the book Guns, Germs, and Steel provides some interesting theories about why certain “races” have dominated the world and it’s not because “they’re just special snowflakes and smarter than everyone else”, but I’m sure that makes you feel better about your whiteness.

    I’m not sure if you “believe in science”, but since you’re using the internet on a computer, have access to modern healthcare, and presumably live in a house with electricity, I suggest dipping your toes in the water. Correlation does not equal causation (i.e. Lots of blacks in Detroit does not mean they caused the bankruptcy of Detroit).

    • Hi Jaja, I will reply to your comment later when I have some time. Just one thing before I get ready for work. Please don’t assume that anyone who disagrees with you must therefore be unscientific. Oh, and I have read Guns, Germs and Steel and I liked it when I read it a decade ago. It’s just that I have since changed my mind.

    • Hi Jaja,

      It’s difficult to know where to begin with your comment. Firstly, though it is possible for ideas to be simplistic, the world can’t be simplistic. You either meant the world was not as ‘simple’ as I portray it or that my ideas are simplistic. Actually I think what you meant was that I was simply wrong, not that my views were too simplistic. After all, in what way is your view – blacks fail because of racism – more complex than my view – blacks fail because they are on average less intelligent than other races? While my view explains why blacks the world over fail relative to other races, your view can only explain why blacks fail in the presence of whites, not why they also fail when left to their own devices. For example, how does racism explain why some African countries that were never colonised fail as badly, and often worse, than countries that were colonised by Europeans? Also black Americans are the richest, best fed, most healthy and wealthy blacks on earth so the white racism they claim to suffer from doesn’t appear to be doing them much harm.

      As I told you, I have read a couple of books by Jared Diamond and where you are now is where I also was a decade ago. I also assumed that anyone who had a different opinion to mine simply hadn’t read enough books or had read the wrong ones. I assumed that anyone who held opinions that showed differences between the races, especially where these differences were not flattering to black people, must be a racist. I used to think, ‘Doesn’t this ignoramus know that all races are equal and that any differences in outcome are due to differences in opportunity and made worse by institutionalised oppression and racism?’ That is where you are now but I have moved on because of what I have read. You own view is precisely that of Neil deGrasse Tyson in the clip you linked to. I’m not sure why you linked to it. Did you think his ‘deep’ thoughts had never occurred to me or that I had never encountered such ideas in all my 57 years on Earth? If so then you were mistaken. I have heard such views since I was High School and they were the only views allowed when I was at university and still are in polite company.

      Anyway, to cut a long story short the people I read on biodiversity are all writing now and thus are a lot more up-to-date than Jared Diamond. They are Nicholas Wade, Richard Lynn, Razib Kahn, JayMan, Steve Sailer, James Thompson, Greg Corcoran, Helmuth Nyborg and the late J.P. Rushton. These people are experts in their field. It may have escaped your notice but Neil deGrasse Tyson, apart from being a shameless self-promoter and bore, is an astro-physicist who knows little about how genes affect behaviour. Someone much better placed to judge such things is James Watson, the co-discoverer of the double-helix of DNA and Nobel Prize winner. He said pretty much what I said about Africans in my post and for that he lost his job as Head of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. That was in 2007, not the 1950’s. Most of Watson’s colleagues know that he was right and was just (foolishly) stating an inconvenient truth that one is not supposed to say out loud, at least if you want to keep your job. Anyway, I suspect Watson knows more about such things than does deGrasse Tyson. By the way, did you hear the latter on Sam Harris’s podcast a week or two ago? It’s the first time I have had to switch one of Sam’s podcasts off. I just find deGrasse Tyson unbearable. He has such a wonderful opinion of himself while all the time claiming modesty for himself. He gets asked to host science radio programs and TV shows, the kind of thing that most scientists would die for, yet he never stops moaning about how hard he’s had it in life because he’s black. I suspect the only reason he gets asked to do such programs is precisely because he’s black, just as that was the only reason Obama was made President. Obama and his wife also bang on about how hard they have had to fight against prejudice. Yet Michelle only got into her Ivy League university because of Affirmative Action. She said, ‘They said my grades weren’t good enough but I went anyway!’ Yes, that’s right and in doing so some Asian or white with much better SAT scores was denied a place. And she still moans about it, just as deGrasse Tyson does!

      Incidentally, you accuse me of being proud of being white but in my view it is no great shakes. Ashkenazi Jews easily beat my ethnic group when it comes to intelligence, as do east Asians like the Japanese, the Chinese and the Koreans and there are well over a billion of them! We whites scrape into third place so why would I be proud of that? Apart from that there is more to life than intelligence. If there weren’t, we’d all pick our friends according to their IQ scores.

      Anyway, I don’t think you are going to have to wait very long before you are forced to change your views on this. Evidence that intelligence is at least 50% hereditary and that races differ greatly in their average IQs has been building up for decades and it seems that dam that has been holding back what most people working in the field already know will burst quite soon. Charles Murray, co-author of the Bell Curve, suggested it would be within the next couple of years. Then you too will have to concede that you were perhaps a little arrogant in assuming that simply because someone disagreed with you it must be because he knows no science.

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