Culture wars seem to be everywhere across the West these days. American politics has notoriously been plagued for decades by divisive conflicts over guns, abortion, and gay marriage (now replaced by the exotic trans phenomenon). Europe is also no stranger to such conflicts, whether within or between countries, though in the postwar era these appeared somewhat subdued.
In France, in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood will attract the ire of conservative groups, considering such measures unnatural or threatening to the family. There is also growing conflict between French liberal-secular culture and the practices of Muslim immigrants, whether over headscarves, burqas, public religious practice, or sexual segregation.
Between the countries of the European Union, there is an increasingly sharp clash between those Central Europeans who still believe in traditional marriage and the ethnic basis of the nation, and Western Europeans who want to impose a new vision of society under the banner of newly-conceived human rights.
What is the meaning of such conflicts? In no case can the discussion be rational. Cold reason can never move the masses or even be the main driver of any really dedicated movement.
What is the source of such conflicts? Different populations within a society become emotionally attached to various symbols and fight to impose these in the public space. The populations in question can be geographical (urban vs. rural), generational (old vs. young), ethnic (especially for immigrants hailing from very different cultures than the natives), or even cognitive (across our societies political polarization is often predicted by different levels of education).
These populations create subcultures that resonate with themselves through their interaction, lifestyle, and cultural institutions (schools, academia, media). The latter may explain the severity of culture wars in the United States: America has long been big enough to sustain different television stations catering to liberal and conservative sensibilities; this media pluralism thus heightening the polarization of the population. In Europe, national television has tended to be officially non-partisan and thus better able to sustain a kind of social consensus.
In recent years, polarization between educated elites and the popular masses has tended to increase and social media has contributed to an outright fragmentation of the population into innumerable subcultures (from alt-right nationalism to furry fandom).
Democratic politicians, being motivated to win elections, everywhere capitalize on culture wars so as to mobilize voters.
Conservative culture wars are essentially defensive in nature. People grow up with certain things being a given – say, marriage between a man and women, White England, or no Islam in schools – and are shocked when these symbols of wholesome normality are violated. This is the politics of nostalgia and, however healthy such reactions might be, they are essentially negative – defined by what they are against, not what they are for – and tend to lose in the end.
By contrast, progressive culture wars are not rooted in how things were in the past but in new lifestyles and new cultural movements. The new cultural imperatives are typically promoted in a top-down manner by certain left-wing or ethnic elites; but it is also natural enough that young people with a completely different way of life should chafe at the norms and constraints of the past. Traditional cultures emerge in a context of high infant mortality, low life expectancy, lifelong hard labor, and severe economic and other insecurity. The values emerging from and suitable for eighteenth-century French peasants will not necessarily be appropriate for or resonate with functionarized office workers.
Many culture war issues are inherently biopolitical and have profound effects on humanity’s evolutionary future, above all through demographic and reproductive patterns.
Today’s liberal and conservative culture warriors rarely think in evolutionary terms. Liberal dogmas are essentially predicated on the protection of perceived victims (women, ethnic and sexual minorities) and their various rights (both in terms of autonomy and entitlements). Christian conservatives have their own imperatives essentially deriving from the traditional doctrines of their religion (against abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage, etc) justified not by reason but the perceived will of God.
Some conservatives are somewhat consciously biopolitical, insofar as they are opposing immigration to maintain their ethny’s predominance in their territory or promoting fertility to sustain national power.
In the cases of liberals and religious conservatives, acts are judged as moral or immoral in themselves. Rarely is a culture war issue judged by the outcomes of this or that policy.
In the ancient republican tradition, best articulated by Aristotle, biopolitics is a fundamental duty of the State according to the following imperatives: that the people perpetuate itself through begetting children, that these children be bred and educated to the highest standards possible, that the society have the right-sized population (neither underpopulated nor overpopulated), and that the society have the common identity necessary to solidarity. The ancient Aristotelian biopolitical tradition harmonizes wonderfully with the modern Darwinian one.
By these criteria, policies and customs should also be judged according to their biological effects. On immigration for instance, Aristotle considered that immigrants should be received insofar as they harmoniously assimilate into the society. Plato went further, prescribing that subversive and divisive elements of the population should be purged through mass expulsion.
Evolutionary nationalists tend to be sympathetic to conservative political movements.
It is obvious that conservative politics almost everywhere is implicitly ethnic, that is, tends to appeal to the historic majority population. Conservative French presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy for instance campaigned on issues of French identity – banning headscarves in schools, fighting (Afro-Islamic) crime, and so on – because they knew these would appeal to native French voters. Right-wing voters’ culturally conservative and ethnic instincts favoring their own people and culture are evidently grounded in psychological mechanisms that emerged throughout our evolutionary history characterized by frequent tribal warfare. Tribes that favored their own people and culture, those for whom this emotionally resonated, tended to outcompete those that did not.
Certain conservative policies are explicitly demographic, such as opposition to immigration and support for higher fertility. But that is just about where the evolutionary relevance of conservative politics ends. The ethnic instinct will not necessarily actually adaptive ends, especially in a modern context very different from that in which we evolved. Right-wing voters’ conservative-ethnic instincts may have evolved to help defend and sustain their tribe, but these sentiments often become focalized on symbolic historic attachments or are outright deviated by media-political elites towards inane causes.
Would be interesting to have specific data on IQ/abortion correlation. In the U.S., lower IQ ethnies are much more likely to resort to abortion. pic.twitter.com/w9OFjCOfeV
— Guillaume Durocher (@GuiDurocher) February 11, 2021
Similarly, while liberals generally support the diversification of the West, they sometimes support policies, for other reasons, that support white majorities.
This is most evident in the case of abortion. Blacks in the United States make up 14% of the population but 42% of abortions, making them three times as likely to abort pregnancies than Americans in general. In 2010, 37% of black pregnancies were terminated through abortion. Hispanics were twice as likely as Whites to have an abortion.
The conclusion is inescapable: the great liberal cause of abortion has been perhaps the single greatest force slowing the decline of the white majority in America. Mostly white conservative Christians have fought over abortion as an important symbol of their culture: ironically, had they total victory in that battle, their subculture would be demographically dispossessed even faster than is currently the case.
Similarly, the Trump Administration’s cutting of foreign aid to NGOs providing abortions and contraceptives in Africa will have, to some degree, heightened the Black Continent’s demographic explosion (the United Nations projects 4 billion Africans before the end of the century). By contrast, liberal policies promoting reproductive rights and women’s empowerment (more years in education, more abortions, more contraceptives) will tend to reduce African fertility. Thus here, conservative policies increase the demographic pressure to Africanize Europe – one of the two or three very great questions of our time – while liberal policies actually help preserve Europe.
As a biopolitical and evolutionary thinker, one can then only be struck by the contradictions and sterility of so many political and cultural-war controversies of today.
The participants seem extraordinarily inconsequential in their thinking. Liberals shriek hysterically at the slightest mention of eugenics. All the same, it is now common practice for Western women to be able to abort their fetus if it is found to have a severe congenital disability (such as Down’s syndrome). So-called human-rights groups vilify eugenics while holding up women’s choice to exterminate a Down’s-syndrome embryo because it has Down’s syndrome as a Sacred Right.
In Poland by contrast, the national-conservative government is spending political capital on a general ban on abortion and in particular of congenitally disabled fetuses. One doubts whether such politics may last or will rather enjoy short-lived hegemony before melting away (witness the collapse of conservative Christian politics in Ireland and of opposition to gay marriage in the United States).
The conscious biostatesman is then quite lonely in this climate. Neither the governing right or left anywhere seems to be much good.
Right-wing governments in America or Brazil might gut science spending or ban research using stem cells. Left-wing movements loudly proclaim their adherence to “science,” while rejecting biological science insofar as this applies to human beings.
It is true that certain right-wingers seem, by their relative insensitivity to egalitarian political correctness, more likely to be aware of certain biological truths.
Boris Johnson's scientific view on IQ scores – it's like a box of cornflakes, the less 'worthy' will fall to the bottom.
Also, he doesn't think economic equality is possible – or even desirable.
Hope that clarifies what the so-called Prime Minister really thinks of us peasants… pic.twitter.com/YnRV4K8Due
— The Prole Star (@TheProleStar) February 17, 2020
The British Conservatives are generally a useless lot biopolitically. Nonetheless, there are pangs of consciousness there that are impossible on the left. In 2013, Boris Johnson (now Prime Minister) spoke of the links between genetics, intelligence, and economic inequality in the famous “cornflakes speech.” Matthew Ridley, a science journalist and member of the House of Lords, has given a muscular defense of Brexit as an opportunity to escape the EU’s sometimes draconian anti-biotech regulations (particularly regarding crops). Brexit arch-campaigner and former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummins recently suggested that Britain’s new Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) should be headed by Stephen Hsu, a leading geneticist (this led to predictable wailing among the Woke Genetics crowd).
One may be uninterested in biopolitics, but sooner or later biopolitics will take an interest in you. A nation may demographically decline into senile irrelevance, cognitively decline through infertility and brain drain, or indeed may collapse completely into ethno-religious civil war. These are the bitter fruits of unsound biopolitics, often sprouting from evil seeds sown generations earlier. History is also a melancholy graveyard of nations.
Discussion of these matters is typically schizophrenic. Any mention of human enhancement is denounced as eugenics, which itself has become in many circles a self-evident term of abuse, often meaning nothing more than acknowledgment of genetic influence on humans in general. At the same time, there has been a veritable explosion of discussion, books, and media discussing the radical possibilities, including for human enhancement, of CRISPR gene editing technology. This technology, and many more around the corner, will increasingly be making waves and presenting nations with difficult trade-offs.
The people who come to master these technologies and use them rightly will likely represent the next stage of evolution of the human race, acquiring capacities that will themselves spur further scientific breakthroughs and socio-political changes. Who will win this prize? The Chinese? The Indians? The Israelis and their Diaspora? Some high-fertility sect (the Mormons have a great interest in ancestry)? Depending on how harsh the regulatory environment is, it may come down to Elon Musk giving elderly whizz-kids Craig Venter and George Church a few tens of billions of dollars on some tropical island.
In any event, there is no point being backward-looking and nostalgic. This is the path of sterility. One must be archeofuturist: lucidly aware of the basic foundations of human nature – which, exceptionally, may themselves begin to change somewhat in the coming years – of the insights of timeless wisdom, and of the astonishing ability of new technologies to grant us ever-greater levels of power, self-knowledge, and self-mastery. Most will not like to think about biopolitics at all, but the question will inevitably be posed: who will survive and thrive?