Thomas Jackson, American Renaissance, February 1991
Raymond B. Cattell, A New Morality from Science: Beyondism, Pergamon Press, New York, 1972, 482 pp.
Although Professor Cattell’s book, A New Morality from Science, is now nearly 20 years old, it is one of the most astonishing, thought-provoking essays on human destiny to appear in decades. Destiny is not too dramatic a word. Prof. Cattell is deeply concerned about progress in every aspect of human life, not just for the next few years, but for the next million years.
As Prof. Cattell points out, the most important and most difficult question that men can ask themselves is “What ought we to do?” This is the central moral question, and how it is answered is crucial to the future of man. Distinguishing right from wrong has been the passion of philosophers and theologians, but the jumble of beliefs they have produced has never satisfied all men, nor do they satisfy Prof. Cattell.
He does not, however wish to throw out the work of the sages. Theirs are probably the best conclusions that humans could reach, but their methods have been bad: exalted, intuitive, untestable, in short, unscientific. As Prof. Cattell puts it: “One may guess that the great religions have reached appreciably valid conclusions, but they have undoubtedly done so by processes with which no self-respecting scientist would want his work to be associated.” Faith and supreme conviction are powerful emotions, but they are not the best ones to take into the laboratory.
Furthermore, the advance of science has whittled down the majesty of religion so that it no longer has the unquestioned grip on men’s minds that it once did. Although a large majority of Americans still profess to believe in God, it is rarely a personal, demanding God of the sort that ruled the lives of Abraham, Martin Luther, or even President Jimmy Carter. And though rationalism shot great holes in the more implausible dogmas, reason alone has not offered anything with which to replace the certainties of religion.
The result is a great moral void in the Western world. Men still try, in a fumbling way, to do what is right, but their choices are not built on bedrock. If anything, men who claim to found their choices on truth and certainty are treated either as cranks or bigots. A snide uncertainty has so pervaded the thinking of the West that tolerance — tolerance with as few limits as possible — has become the new dogma. Nevertheless, as more and more people have come to realize, radical tolerance is a dead end. To tolerate everything is to stand for nothing. Radical tolerance wears away all grounds for choice, for morality.
Prof. Cattell is a scientist. He believes that if a sound ethics can be established at all, it will be through the rigor of science. Science has now told us far more about our bodies and the physical world than religion ever did. “Science has answered far more fully than have other institutions the questions “What am I?’ and “Where am I?’” writes Prof. Cattell; “It is reasonable, therefore, to hope that it has an inherently greater chance of more clearly answering the final question “What ought I to do?’”
According to the French proverb, there are truths of the heart that the head cannot recognize. Such are the truths of religion. According to Prof. Cattell, science may have reached the point at which it can begin to elucidate even the truths of the heart. After all, he asks, how much sense does it make to reject the religious view of creation, of biology, and of the cosmos, but to retain the religious view of morality? If it was wrong to say that the earth was created in six days it may also be wrong to tell a man to love his neighbor as himself.
Prof. Cattell does not claim that he has discovered a scientific ethics. However, he is confident of the right path to that discovery. Only as the human mind expands and leaves its animal nature further behind will it be able to grasp its own ultimate purpose. For this, men must hasten the work of evolution that nature has begun. The ascent from brutishness, which has taken millions of years, is now a process that is reasonably well understood. Humans now have the scientific knowledge to direct the development of their own natures; what has heretofore been left to accident can be consciously directed.
Prof. Cattell is, therefore, an unabashed eugenicist. He acknowledges the reactionary, hysterical opposition to conscious improvement of the species, and finds it astonishing that decades after the death of Adolf Hitler, people still evoke his name as if to do so were to refute the science of genetics. Man is no more exempt from the laws of biology than are carrots or race horses. The techniques that produce sweeter vegetables and faster thoroughbreds can produce better people. To pretend otherwise is an illusion and all illusions, in the end, are costly.
The advantage of taking charge of man’s evolution has been clear ever since evolution was understood. Before the Second World War, there were a great many eugenics societies in the United States, and many states passed eugenics laws. Nor was eugenics thought to be in conflict with religion. Just as the fundamentalist Christianity of Isaac Newton did not keep him from outstanding scientific achievement, the devout catholicism of the French anthropologist, Teilhard de Chardin did not keep him from writing this:
So far we have certainly allowed our race to develop at random, and we have given too little thought to the question of what medical and moral factors must replace the crude forces of natural selection should we suppress them. In the course of the coming centuries it is indispensable that a nobly human form of eugenics, on a standard worthy of our personalities, should be discovered and developed.
Science, therefore, can be expected to discover a sound, human morality only when the scientists themselves are better people. They can become better, along with everyone else, through the conscious direction of human evolution. In the mean time, a makeshift morality consists in practices that improve the species, while immorality debases it.
This morality has enormous consequences. Now that men have, as Teilhard de Chardin predicted, suppressed the forces of natural selection, they can make of themselves greater, nobler creatures or they can destroy themselves. As is so often the case, not to choose is also to choose. For Prof. Cattell, an evolutionary morality has consequences not only for how a society should be governed, but how it should govern its relations with other societies. These will be the subjects of the second part of this review, to appear in the following issue.
The Folly of the Welfare State
Ethics based on evolution have profound implications, both for the ways in which societies govern themselves and the ways in which they conduct external affairs. In fact, whether deliberately or unconsciously, Western societies now violate the principles of evolutionary ethics at every turn, and intractable problems flow from these violations. Ultimately, a society that flouts the laws of evolution will destroy itself.
Professor Cattell proposes a substantial body of thought on which a society might base its larger moral choices. He has given it the awkward name of Beyondism, and though he insists that it should be a subject of constant study and improvement, he has sketched its general contours.
Beyondist morality is sharply different from the Christian ideal, which he describes thus:
We are asked to give all our consideration to “the publicans and sinners,’ the lost sheep, the prodigal sons and reprobates which Christianity so debatably cherishes. What would a rational sociology and psychology say of these? Today’s newspaper tells us with piously approved optimism that “poor and rich, patriotic and alienated, criminals and good citizens; we all need one another.’ To which a society with any sense of direction whatever must reasonably add the amendment “Some [are needed] more than others!’
The political expression of a preoccupation with lost sheep and prodigal sons is the welfare state. It does not merely accept the notion that reprobates are just as valuable as virtuous, hard-working citizens; it treats them as more valuable, since it taxes the virtuous in order to support them.
Such a society must set aside healthy notions of blame and responsibility. It must assume that every person, no matter how degenerate, has natural rights that a society must meet. Rights to food, housing, “dignity,” and all the other “rights” on which a welfare state is based can only be met by assuming that the unproductive are somehow entitled to live off benefits that are forcibly exacted from the productive.
According to Professor Cattell, the attempt to give precedence to “moral” or “transcendental” rights over contractual rights can be traced back to the religious preoccupation with lost sheep. Nevertheless, as he reminds us, even so progressive and influential a thinker as Jeremy Bentham once wrote, “Natural rights is simple nonsense; natural and imprescriptible rights . . . nonsense upon stilts.”
The modern form of nonsense upon stilts is the refusal to view failure as anything more than the consequence of “oppression” or “victimization.” Since the welfare state has abolished laziness and stupidity along with blame, individual failure is to be understood only as societal failure.
From a Beyondist point of view, it is not merely illogical and unfair to make the good pay for the failures of the bad; it is an evolutionary catastrophe, for along with blame, the welfare state has abolished genetics. Of all the bogus rights promoted by the welfare state, the most dangerous is the “right” of those who are unable to look after themselves to bring into the world yet more mouths that the productive members of society must feed. It is no accident that the children of the incompetent and irresponsible tend, themselves, to be incompetent and irresponsible. In the nearly 20 years since Professor Cattell published his book, research has only confirmed the extent to which intelligence and even personality traits are inherited.
Nevertheless, the welfare state willfully turns its back on the laws of heredity. The preoccupation with lost sheep means, for example, that society devotes ever-greater efforts to the impossible task of trying to prepare welfare-bred low achievers for life in a complex, industrial society. A much more productive and sensible approach would be to improve succeeding generations through attention to the laws of heredity.
Welfare payments permit the irresponsible and incompetent to rear, at public expense, as many children as they want. These are the very children who fill classes in remedial learning, and who are likely to quit school and become criminals. The competent and responsible, who are taxed to pay for welfare, remedial education, and prisons cannot afford to have many children of their own. Richard Herrnstein of Harvard concludes that as a result of these differential birth rates, every new generation brings a decline in the average American IQ.
One of the primary goals of a society is the transmission of its culture to succeeding generations. Professor Cattell describes this transmission as the forcible molding of an essentially animal nature into patterns of higher behavior. He recognizes that this is painful: “That the educational acquisition process in complex, modern culture stretches the genetic endowment in frustration tolerance of present day man close to its limits is shown by the temper tantrums and tears of childhood; the disorders and mental anguish of adolescence . . .”
The welfare state refuses to acknowledge that different individuals and different groups are unequally prepared, genetically, to acquire culture. Throughout the history of our species, progress has taken the form of ever-greater cultural demands made on a slowly improving genetic substrate. Degeneration is the reverse process, the reduction of cultural demands to meet the limited capacities of a declining genetic substrate. The genetic substrate of a nation can decline not just through differential birth rates but through migrations.
It is clear that in the United States, the direction of cultural movement has gone sharply into reverse. Proof of this is everywhere, but a few homely examples will serve to show what Professor Cattell may have had in mind. When the New York City subway was built, stations had public rest rooms, which patrons used for their intended purposes. As the city’s population changed, subway rest rooms became havens for muggers and rapists. They became a menace rather than a convenience, and the transit authority now keeps them locked. To the general inconvenience has been added the stink of urine in the hallways.
Another example of the reversal of culture in the face of genetic decline is the sinking standards of American education. School integration has not improved public education for non-whites. On the contrary, it has lowered standards for everyone. It is now not uncommon for high school “graduates” to be unable to read their own diplomas.
In Detroit, the major American city most clearly and completely governed by blacks, violent lawlessness is so common that shop keepers work behind bullet-proof glass, wear armored vests, and keep weapons behind the counter. The culture of Detroit is declining to meet the genetic substrate.
Burgeoning crime rates, growing illiteracy, failing international competition — these are all well-documented aspects of the current American decline, yet the welfare state resolutely refuses to recognize their biological component. And indeed, there is also a failure of the will even among the genetically gifted, some of whose children likewise sink into the mire of cultural decay. But even if the moral and cultural rigor of a nation does not go slack, a decline in the human raw material can only drag a society downward.
Because it denies both responsibility and heredity, the welfare state is both a societal and an evolutionary dead end. As Professor Cattell points out, if the cost of producing and educating the average citizen — as the average sinks lower and lower — ever becomes greater than his life-time contribution to society, the national order will collapse. At the same time, in an evolutionary environment in which welfare payments have removed any connection between genetic fitness and survival, each generation will be less fit than the last.
What can be done to reverse these trends? Professor Cattell is mainly concerned with the theoretical underpinnings of an evolutionary ethic and has little to say about how it would be practiced. He believes, for example, that in a healthy society, in which the parasitic and dysgenic character of irresponsible reproduction were widely understood, unfit citizens would voluntarily refrain from having children. This might eventually be true in a society that had completely thrown off the illusions that foster the welfare state, but any attempt to halt evolutionary decline in America will have to start with something more than exhortation. As Professor Cattell concedes, “any realistic ethical system must regard a man who begets eight children on public welfare as someone as socially dangerous as any criminal.”
For now, there is not even a hint of exhortation. Anyone who suggested publicly that welfare recipients merely be urged not to have children would be quickly silenced. In the United States, as in other white countries, the essentially religious view — that the superior must be sacrificed for the benefit of the inferior — prevails. Rather than establishing a genuinely scientific morality, Western societies prefer to ignore the science of genetics. Ignorance, especially willful ignorance, always has a price.
One of the attractions of redemptive religion is that it offers rewards after death. Beyondism strikes no such deals. In the proliferation of the incompetent at the expense of the competent it sees only injustice and folly. Professor Cattell warns of what may come: “Probably never in history has there been a period in which dysgenic trends could take effect so rapidly as in the welfare state . . . Two or three generations of disregard for genetic quality might lead to such a breakdown of the economic and cultural level of society as would be well nigh irremediable.”
Is this not the direction in which America is headed? What are the chances that the rest rooms in the New York City subway will ever again be opened to the public? When will thoughtful parents regain confidence in public schools? When will it become possible again to run a shop in Detroit without weapons and bullet-proof glass? It is far more likely that localized horrors will spread rather than that civility will return to the wastelands.
The welfare state has no means of reversing the declines it sponsors. It rewards failure with handouts and punishes success with taxes. “Compassion” requires that more and more effort go into succoring those at the bottom of society, while at the overburdened top, the march of culture grinds to a halt. Professor Cattell warns of “the cost of making the whole of society a hospital, or a producer of dependent adults . . . converting substantial fractions of society into stall-fed, domesticated animals.”
He reminds us that “‘love,’ as pity, can err like any other emotion, and even create what it needs to feed upon.” The welfare industry, by making problems worse through misdirected largesse, only creates more clients for its “services” and more compelling reasons for its own existence. Beyondism would call for a genuine compassion that would solve the problems, not a perverted compassion that ensures their continuation.
Heretofore, evolution has worked by differential death rates. Nature cut down the unfit. Now that heredity is better understood, the species could be rapidly improved through differential birth rates. The great tragedy is that in an era in which this process has become understood, the social order promotes differential birth rates that are dysgenic rather than eugenic.
Professor Cattell is under no illusion that current social thinking will soon change. Nevertheless, he has followed the implications of an evolutionary ethics into the realm of intergroup relations — which will be the subject of the third, and concluding, part of this review.
The Importance of Group Evolution
At present, the foreign affairs of Western nations are an inconsistent jumble of might-makes-right along with the sentimental principles of the welfare state. The United States, for example, invades Panama and launches war on Iraq, but at the same time makes a great show of helping backward countries through foreign aid. If nations operated according to Beyondist principles of “cooperative competition,” their mutual relations would be entirely different.
Cooperative competition is based on the evolution of groups. Men do not evolve as individuals but as members of groups. Nor do they all evolve together as part of an undifferentiated human mass, but in distinct populations. The races of men have been evolving separately for at least a quarter of a million years, and the species has thrown up astounding diversity. This is as it should be. Nature is always experimenting.
For these myriad different experiments to have any meaning, they must be left alone and given time to succeed or fail. It is only through separate paths of human development that the concept of diversity has any real meaning in nature. The separately evolved races of man are a first step towards the divergence into separate species. Just as members of the same species must be genetically different in order not to fall prey, all at once, to the same diseases, Professor Cattell makes the radical suggestion that the ultimate survival of human beings would be better assured if they branched into different species with different capabilities.
To this extraordinary notion, Professor Cattell would add the importance of letting social systems evolve undisturbed, together with biology. No society has a monopoly on either political or biological fitness, and in both realms evolutionary good health requires diversity. If many different societies around the world were conducting their internal affairs according to an evolutionary ethic of continued human improvement, there might be no end to the variety and beauty of those improvements.
Our planet should be habitable for another 5 billion years, and evolution has plenty of time, if it is not thwarted, to produce a remarkable flowering of human talent and ability that we cannot now foresee. It is precisely because we cannot foresee it that the human species must be allowed to develop in many different directions.
Current popular thinking is the very reverse of what is necessary for this flowering. Though “diversity” is much on the lips of the well-intentioned, they are working towards the destruction of diversity through forced amalgamation of different peoples, and the world-wide application of a single form of “social-democratic” government.
Professor Cattell issues a warning:
Just as the scientist aiming to discover some new and effective product tries out his various mixtures in a carefully segregated and labeled array of test tubes upon his shelf, so must evolution keep some self-contained, inward-developing apartness in its treasures. For evolution has no alternative but to proceed by diversification and selection, culturally and biologically. In the usual goal of homogenistic universalism we are actually being asked to applaud the crowning disaster of all the test tubes crushed in one confused mess in the sink.
The one-worlders and amalgamators — who are the same people who promote the dysgenic welfare state — are foreclosing the most promising biological options open to man. Without so much as acknowledging it, they are halting in its tracks the painful progress that nature has made over millions of years. It is curious that people who will go to great lengths, in the name of biological diversity, to save such species as the snail darter or the spotted owl, are happy to see the diversity of their own species collapse into an undifferentiated, hybrid mush.
Evolution, therefore, is best served when groups seek their own, independent paths. This does not require isolation. Trade, cultural exchange, the imitation of good practices and the avoidance of bad are natural parts of Professor Cattell’s “cooperative competition.” The proper attitude between evolving groups is “wish you well,” with some care taken to ensure that the contents of the different test tubes do no slop carelessly into each other.
There is, to be sure, a brotherhood of man and a common endeavor in which all groups are engaged. Nevertheless, to deny racial and cultural differences is folly. Professor Cattell describes as “ignoracists” those who insist, against all evidence, that the races of men are equivalent or equal. Races, like cultures, should maintain their separateness and seek their own paths towards progress.
What are most to be avoided in inter-group relations are war and charity. War has the obvious evolutionary drawback of destroying diversity. It artificially ends experiments before their time. Even for the victorious side, war is dysgenic because it rewards cowardice and passivity while it punishes bravery; it is the brave and public-spirited who are most likely to die.
Inter-group charity, the foreign aid of which Western countries are so proud, also reverses the course of group evolution. Just as welfare payments reward incompetence, foreign aid may artificially keep alive an evolutionary mistake. Professor Cattell describes the process thus:
Defective internal morality, failure to control birth rate, unwillingness to sacrifice luxuries to education, adherence to superstitions, and many other deficiencies may cause a group to fail either in the struggle with another group or in the economic tussle with nature. At that point external “charitable” support from other groups, or even their failure to expand as the defective group retracts, are immoral acts militating against evolution. They are to be avoided in the interests of the highest inter-group morality. For, by the basic laws of learning, such rewards merely reinforce the strength of the faulty community habit systems. Or, if the defect is genetic, they postpone the reduction of genetic defect.
Thus, when one group helps maintain another despite its unfitness, it is not the equivalent of mutual assistance between individuals, which may be worthy and noble. Instead, says Professor Cattell, it is “a pernicious and evil interruption of group evolution.” True inter-group morality calls for “goodwill and fair play among groups in a plan of adventurous, separate group development.”
Needless to say, Professor Cattell’s proscriptions for human progress are not likely to be embraced soon by Western societies. In an era of slack thinking and lax morals, rigorous analysis is an anathema. In an era of agreeable fantasies, an unsentimental portrayal of the prospects for our species lacks “compassion.” In an era in which short-sighted American legislators blithely impoverish future generations by piling up huge debts that their descendants must repay, a mind that fits national policy into evolutionary time is hopelessly out of step.
The social implications of genetics and evolution are scarcely permitted within the bounds of respectable discourse. They stand outside it, unacknowledged but also unrefuted. Professor Cattell does not anticipate the imminent replacement of older religions by his vision of scientific morality. An understanding of the direction of human progress or retrogression must be its own reward:
One can predict no triumphal tide of Beyondist sentiment . . . Its satisfaction . . . [is] mainly aesthetic, in participating in the magnificence of our unfolding view of the universe. Here it joins with and needs the aesthetic experiences of music and art, as older religions have done in the organ music and the architectural grace of a great cathedral.