William D. Hamilton on differential birth rates and ethnic conflict

A commenter at The Cold Equations brought to my attention this part of a review of Narrow Roads of Gene Land, Volume 2:
Hamilton is an unabashed, no-fig-leaf naturist. He believes that genetics, not nurture, accounts for a large and important range of human behaviour — from racism and xenophobia to differences in intellectual abilities between men and women — and that only by admitting and understanding this, only by casting aside hypocrisy on the matter, can fundamental human problems be tackled. As an example, he argues that a basic cause (emphatically not a justification) of racism — and, particularly, of ethnically motivated genocide — is a differential birth rate between groups. And, yes, he does extend this to the Nazi extermination of Jews.
A footnote from Narrow Roads of Gene Land, Volume 2, p. 280:
Increase of Ashkenazi Jews in eastern Europe in the span of the nineteenth century is said to have been almost fourfold (S. Jones, In the Blood: God, Genes and Destiny (HarperCollins, London, 1996)). This implies a doubling about every generation. Very surprisingly this fact seems almost never to be discussed as part causative background to the holocaust, an omission that continues even when claims of group competition are the focus (K. MacDonald, Separation and its Discontents (Praeger, Wesport, CT, 1998)).
The page that references this footnote seems to be unavailable in Amazon's preview, but some other relevant passages are available (continue reading).

From the introduction:
I suggested it might be useful for us to discuss the psychology of population situations and to give special attention to those where closely placed or intermixed distinct groups had strikingly different rates of increase. In particular, it might be useful to consider what this might do to competitive birth rates and aggressive instincts connected with population perceptions--in fact, also with the inception of wars. There was silence as I stopped. I'd wanted to explain my thought as far as I could in words that didn't bring in my pet and as yet little accepted views about the importance of genetical kinship for human altruism and aggression. It had seemed to me that my case for the interest of this topic could be made for present purposes without that and based on known historical instances by themselves.

The silence that came surprised and unsettled me, so I added something about every one having pride in his or her family and, perhaps not wanting to see descendants lost in a sea of strangers; while, in anything like a democracy, people would be not liking to imagine their own preferences and way of life being over-ridden by decisions deriving from ways of life either--for example, not caring about the countryside, urbanizing as far as possible, and so on [. . .]

In an effort to be more explicit and to be taken more seriously, I then exposed some corner of my actual work, saying something about how we were all expected, as a result of population genetical processes--natural selection in fact--to have psychological biases that wouldn't necessarily be easily visible on the surface but whose reality would come to the fore in situations where these rapid changes in a population's composition were imminent. There was a matter of within- and between-group variances involved here, this applying to the very genes that made us. It wasn't necessary to such ideas, I added, that shortages of land or whatever would be apparent right when divisive psychology took effect; it would be in this nature of the group psychology to anticipate what might be about to happen. [. . .] If we really wanted to understand why population is a difficult issue to discuss and to do anything about it in the world, I continued [. . .], it is very essential that we understand the evolutionary forces that have moulded reproductive and territorial psychology in humans--the features must be old, of course, started doubtless mainly in our Old Stone Age past. If we wanted to recommend policies to affect population trends in any direction today, we perhaps needed to discuss first the underlying motivations that all people had to possess--that must be there from the very fact that they themselves came form successful parentage and successful families of the past . . .
From pp. 274-275:
it seems to me one of the most paradoxical of all the many impacts Judaism has had on the present world that it is the cousins (at least in a broad ethnic sense) of the very people who claim, on the authority of ancient writings, a right to deprive other Middle Easterners of their land and freedom, who generate from among their intellectuals the arguments that convince the rest of us that panhumanism is a worthy ideal and that the course that follows from it is Homo's best hope for the future. A long list of examples could easily be given: I could start, for example, with Karl Popper and his book The Open Society and Its Enemies and I could end with books of Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould. It seems to be particularly these men of Jewish origin (not, however, orthodox followers of the faith as a rule) who seek to persuade us that race differences are non-existent and everyone can mate with everyone in confidence of equally capable children. If Zionism is to escape the thought 'They mean panhumanism only for some', then these writers must include sever criticism of Israel on the same grounds that they applied criticism to South African apartheid and to racial and class separations in the USA. Demographic competition and overt racism of which religionism is just one kind have to end in Israel and the country has to become a true democracy, shaking off the present theocratic restrictions in its constitution. If this doesn't happen, genuine panhumanists and genuinely democratic states are justified to treat Zionism and Israel with the same reserve, sanctions, and suspicion as we treat all the similar inward-turned '-isms' and personality cults of other antidemocratic states. Meanwhile, in the works of those who pretend to a belief in panhumanism while financially or otherwise supporting Israel on its present course, we are justified to say that we detect the taint of hypocrisy.


David Blue said...

Wow. I'm glad I followed your link here from The Cold Equations.

Anonymous said...

Economic models and ethnic conflicts:



Have you heard of these?