Kevin Macdonald’s ‘Culture of Critique’: A Fundamentally Flawed Theory of Twentieth Century Jewish Intellectual and Political Activism

Kevin Macdonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Involvement of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth Century Intellectual and Political Movements (1st Books Library 2002). 

In A People That Shall Dwell Alone (which I have reviewed here), psychologist Kevin Macdonald conceptualized Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy that functioned to promote the survival and prospering of the Jewish people and religion in diaspora. 

In ‘Culture of Critique’, its more famous (and controversial) sequel, Macdonald purports to extend this theory to the behaviour of secular twentieth-century intellectuals of Jewish ancestry. 

Here, however, he encounters an immediate and, in my view, ultimately fatal problem. 

For, in A People That Shall Dwell Alone (PTSA) (reviewed here), Macdonald was emphatic that his theory of Judaism was a theory of cultural, not biological, group selection

In other words, it is a strategy that is encoded, not in Jewish genes, but in the rather teachings of Judaism, the religion. 

It is therefore a theory, not of genetics, but rather memetics, in accordance with the idea of memes’ as units of cultural selection analogous to genes, as first proposed by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (which I have reviewed here).[1]

Yet Macdonald envisages even secular Jews as continuing to pursue this so-called group evolutionary strategy, even though they have long previously abandoned the religion in whose precepts this cultural group strategy is ostensibly contained, or, in some cases, raised in secular homes, never even exposed to it in the first place.[2]

Presumably Macdonald is not arguing that these intellectuals, many of them militant atheists (e.g. Marx and Freud), are actually secret practitioners of Judaism, engaging in what Macdonald somewhat conspiratorially terms crypsis

How then is this possible? 

Group Commitment 

Macdonald never really directly addresses, or even directly acknowledges, this fundamental problem with his theory. 

The closest he comes to addressing it is by arguing that, since Jewish collectivism and ethnocentrism are, at least according to Macdonald, partly innate, secular Jews continued to pursue ethnocentric ends even after abandoning the religion of their forebears. 

Moreover, just as Jewish ethnocentrism is innate, so, Macdonald argues, is Jewish intelligence and other aspects of the typical Jewish personality profile. Thus, Macdonald claims that the ethnic Jews drawn to movements such as psychoanalysis and Marxism

Retained their high IQ, their ambitiousness, their persistence, their work ethic, and their ability to organize and participate in cohesive highly committed groups” (p4). 

These traits, he argues, gave them a key advantage in competition with other intellectual currents. 

The success of these intellectual movements (i.e. Freudianism, Boasian anthropology, Marxism, the Frankfurt School) reflected, then, not their (decidedly modest) explanatory power, but rather the intense commitment and dedication of their adherents to the movement and ideology. 

Thus, just as Macdonald attributes the economic success of Jews to their collectivism and hence their tendency to operate  price-fixing trade cartels and favour their co-ethnics in commercial operations, so, he argues, the success of Jewish intellectual movements reflects the commitment and solidarity of their members: 

Cohesive groups outcompete individualist strategies. The fundamental truth of this axiom has been central to the success of Judaism throughout its history whether in business alliances and trading monopolies or in the intellectual and political movements discussed here” (p5-6; see also p209-10). 

Thus, Macdonald emphasizes the cult-like qualities of psychoanalysis, Marxism and Boasian anthropology, whose members evince a fanatical quasi-religious devotion to the movement, its ideology and leaders. 

He argues that these movements recreated the structure of traditional Jewish religious groups, being grouped around a charismatic leader (a rebbe) who is the object of reverence and veneration, and against whom no dissent was tolerated on pain of excommunication from the group (p225-6).  

Thus, according to Macdonald, ideologies such as Marxism, psychoanalysis and the ‘standard social science model’ (SSM) in psychology, sociology and anthropology take on many features of traditional religion, including the tendency to persecute heresy

This does indeed seem to represent an accurate model of how the psychoanalytic movement operated under the dictatorial leadership of Freud. It is also an accurate model of how the Soviet Union operated under communism, with deviationism relentlessly persecuted and suppressed in successive purges

Similarly, among social scientists, biological approaches to understanding human behaviour, such as sociobiology, evolutionary psychology and behavioural genetics, and especially theories of sex and race differences (and social class differences), for example in intelligence, have aroused an opposition among sociologists and anthropologists that often borders on persecution and witch-hunts

However, such quasi-religious political cults are hardly exclusive to Jews. 

On the contrary, National Socialism in Germany evinced a very similar structure, being organized around a charismatic leader (Hitler), who elicited reverence and whose word was law (the so-called führerprinzip). 

But Nazism was, of course, a movement very much composed of and led by white European Gentiles. 

To this, Macdonald would, I suspect, respond by quoting from the previous installment in the Culture of Critique series, where he argued: 

Powerful group strategies tend to beget opposing group strategies that in many ways provide a mirror image of the group which they combat” (Separation and Its Discontents: pxxxvii). 

Thus, in Separation and its Discontents, Macdonald provocatively contends: 

National Socialist ideology was a mirror image of traditional Jewish ideology… [Both shared] a strong emphasis on racial purity and on the primacy of group ethnic interests rather than individual interests… [and] were greatly concerned with eugenics” (Separation and Its Discontents: p194). 

On this view, Judaism provided, if not the conscious model for Nazism, then at least its ultimate catalyst. Nazism was, on this view, ultimately a defensive, or at least reactive, strategy.[3]

In other words, Macdonald suggests cult-like movements in Europe are mostly either manifestations of Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy, or reactions against Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy. 

This strikes me as doubtful, and as according the Jews an importance in determining the course of European history which, for all their gargantuan and vastly dispropotionate contributions to European culture, science and civilization, they do not wholly warrant. 

Instead, I believe there is a pan-human tendency to form such fanatical cult-like groups led by charismatic leaders. 

Indeed, in Separation and Its Discontents, Macdonald himself acknowledges that there is a pan-human proclivity to form such groups but insists that “Jews are higher on average in this system” than are other Europeans (Separation and Its Discontents: p31). 

At any rate, Macdonald’s claim at least has the advantage that it leads to testable predictions, namely that: 

(1) That few such cult-like movements existed in Europe before the settling of Jews, or in regions where Jews were largely absent; and

(2) That all (or most) such movements were either:

(a) Jewish movements, led and dominated by Jews; or
(b) Anti-Semitic movements opposed to Jews.

As noted above, I doubt these predictions can be borne out. However, interestingly, in Separation and Its Discontents, Macdonald does cite two studies that supposedly found that Jews were indeed “overrepresented among [members of] non-Jewish religious cults” (Separation and Its Discontents: p24).[4]

At any rate, a final problem with Macdonald’s theory is that, even if the Jewish tendency towards ethnocentrism and collectivism is indeed partly innate, this surely involves a disposition towards, not a specifically Jewish ethnocentrism, but rather an ethnocentrism in respect of whatever group the person in question comes to identify as. 

Thus, since many Jews are raised in secular households, often not even especially aware of their Jewish ancestry, we would hence expect Jewish ethnocentrism to manifest itself in disproportionate numbers of Jews joining the white nationalist movement![5]

Debunking Marx, Boas and Freud 

Undoubtedly the strongest part of Macdonald’s book is his debunking of the scientific merits of such intellectual paradigms as Boasian anthropology, the the standard social science model and Freudian psychoanalysis

Macdonald fails to convince me that these ideologies and belief-systems function as part of a Jewish ‘group evolutionary strategy’ (read: Jewish conspiracy) to subvert Western culture. He does, however, amply demonstrate that they are indeed pseudo-scientific nonsense. 

Yet, for Macdonald, the very scientific weakness of such paradigms as Marxism, Freudian psychoanalysis and the Standard Social Science Model is positive evidence that they serve a group evolutionary function, as otherwise their success in attracting adherents is difficult to explain. 

Thus, he writes: 

The scientific weakness of these movements is evidence of their group-strategic function” (pvi). 

Here, however, Macdonald goes too far. 

The scientific weakness of the theories and movements in question does indeed suggest that the reason for their popularity and success in attracting adherents must reflect something other than their explanatory power. However, he is wrong in presupposing this something is necessarily their supposed “group strategic function” in ethnic competition.[6]

Therefore, Macdonald’s critique of the theoretical and scientific merits of the intellectual movements discussed is not only the best part of his book, but also, in principle, entirely separable from his theory of the role of these movements in promoting an ostensible Jewish group evolutionary strategy. 

Take, for example, his critiques of Boasian anthropology and Freudian psychoanalysis, which are, of those discussed by Macdonald, the two intellectual movements with which I am most familiar and hence with respect to which I am most qualified to assess the merits of his critique.[7]

In assessing the scientific merits of Boasian cultural anthropology, Macdonald concludes that Boasian psychoanalysis was not so much a science, nor even a pseudo-science, as an outright rejection of science: 

An important technique of the Boasian school was to cast doubt on general theories of human evolution, such as those implying developmental sequences, by emphasizing the vast diversity and chaotic minutiae of human behavior, as well as by emphasizing the relativism of standards of cultural evaluation. The Boasians argued that general theories of cultural evolution must await a detailed cataloguing of cultural diversity, but in fact no general theories emerged from this body of research in the ensuing half-century of its dominance of the profession… Because of its rejection of fundamental scientific activities such as generalization and classification, Boasian anthropology may thus be characterized more as an anti-theory than as a theory” (p24). 

In other words, the Boasian paradigm involves, and seeks to make a perverse virtue out of, throwing one’s arms up in despair and declaring that human behaviour is simply too complex, and too culturally variable, to permit the formulation of any sort of general theory. 

This reminds me of David Buss’s critique of the notion that ‘culture’ is itself an adequate explanation for cultural differences, another idea very much derived from post-Boasian American anthropology. Buss writes: 

Patterns of local within-group similarity and between-group differences are best regarded as phenomena that require explanation. Transforming these differences into an autonomous causal entity called ‘culture’ confuses the phenomena that require explanation with a proper explanation of the phenomena. Attributing such phenomena to culture provides no more explanatory power than attributing them to God, consciousness, learning, socialization, or even evolution, unless the causal processes subsumed by these labels are properly described. Labels for phenomena are not proper causal explanations for them” (Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind: p404). 

Accepting that no society is more advanced than another, that there is no general direction to cultural change and that all differences between societies and cultures are purely random is essentially to accept the null hypothesis as true and abandoning, or ruling out a priori, any attempt to generate a causal framework for explaining cultural differences. 

It is not science, but a form of obscurantism in direct opposition to science. 

Jews and the Left 

Another interesting element of Macdonald’s work is his summary of just how predominantly Jewish-dominated these ostensibly Jewish intellectual movements indeed really were. 

This is something of a revelation precisely because this is a topic politely passed over in most mainstream histories of, say, revolutionary communism in Eastern Europe and America, or the psychoanalytic movement, both those sympathetic, and those hostile, to the movements under discussion. 

Among radical leftists, the Jewish overrepresentation is especially striking in the USA, probably because of both the relatively high numbers of Jews resident in the USA and the only very low levels of support for socialism among non-Jewish Americans throughout most of the twentieth century.  

Thus, Macdonald reports that: 

From 1921 to 1961, Jews constituted 33.5 percent of the Central Committee members [of the Communist Party USA] and the representation of Jews was often above 40 percent (Klehr 1978, 46). Jews were the only native-born ethnic group from which the party was able to recruit. Glazer (1969, 129) states that at least half of the CPUSA membership of around 50,000 were Jews into the 1950s” (p72). 

Similarly, Macdonald reports: 

In the 1930s Jews ‘constituted a substantial majority of known members of the Soviet underground in the United States’ and almost half the individuals prosecuted under the Smith Act of 1947 (Rothman & Lichter 1982)” (p74).

Likewise, with respect to the so-called new left and 1960s student radicalism, Macdonald reports: 

Flacks (1967: 64) found that 45% of students involved in a protest at the University of Chicago were Jewish… Jews constituted 80% of the students signing a petition to end the ROTC at Harvard and 30-50% of the Students for a Democratic Society – the central organization for radical students. Adelson (1972) found that 90 percent of his sample of radical students at the University of Michigan were Jewish… Braungart (1979) found that 43% of the SDS had at least one Jewish parent and an additional 20 percent had no religious affiliation. The latter are most likely to be predominantly Jewish: Rothman and Lichter (1982: 82) found that the ‘overwhelming majority of radical students who claimed that their parents were atheists had Jewish backgrounds” (p76-7).  

In short, it appears not unreasonable to claim that the radical left in twentieth century America, which never gained significant electoral support but nevertheless had a substantial social, cultural, academic and indirect political influence on American society, would scarcely have existed were it not for the presence of Jewish radicals.

However, in this respect, the USA was quite exceptional, due to both the relatively large numbers of Jews resident in the country, and the almost complete lack of support of radical leftism among non-Jewish Americans until very recently.[8]

Jewish Dominated Sciences – and Pseudo-Sciences

Just as Jews numberically dominated the American radical left, so, Macdonald reveals, they dominated the psychoanalytic movement. Thus, we learn from Macdonald’s account that, not only were the leaders of the psychoanalytic movement, and individual psychoanalysts, disproportionately Jewish, so were their clients: 

Jews have been vastly overrepresented as patients seeking psychoanalytic treatments, accounting for 60 percent of the applicants to psychoanalytic clinics in the 1960s” (p133). 

Indeed, Macdonald reports that there was: 

A Jewish subculture in New York in mid-twentieth-century America in which psychoanalysis was a central cultural institution that filled some of the same functions as traditional religious affiliation” (p133). 

This was that odd, and now fast disappearing, New York subculture, familiar to most of us only through watching Woody Allen movies, where visiting a psychoanalyst was a regular weekly ritual analogous to attending a church or synogogue. 

Yet, as noted above, the overrepresentation of Jews in the psychoanalytic movement is an aspect of Freudianism that is usually downplayed in most discussions or histories of the psychoanalytic movement, including those hostile to psychoanalysis. 

For example, Hans Eysenck, in his Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire, mentions the allegation that psychoanalysis was a ‘Jewish science’, only to dismiss it as irrelevant to question of the substantive merits of psychoanalysis as a theoretical paradigm or method of treatment (Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire: p12).  

Yet, here, Eysenck is right. Whether an intellectual movement is Jewish-dominated, or even part of a ‘Jewish group evolutionary strategy’, is ultimately irrelevant to whether its claims are true and represent a useful and empirically-productive way of viewing the world.[9]

For example, many German National Socialsts dismissed theoretical physics as a ‘Jewish science, and, given the overrepresentation of Jews among leading theoretical physicists in Germany and elsewhere, it was indeed a disproportionately Jewish-dominated field. 

However, whereas psychoanalysis was indeed a pseudoscience, theoretical physics certainly was not. 

Indeed, the fact that so many leading theoretical physicists were forced to flee Germany and German-occupied territories in the mid-twentieth century on account of their Jewishness, together with the National Socialist regime’s a priori dismissal of theoretical physics as a discredited Jewish science, has even been implicated as a key factor in the Nazis ultimate defeat, as it arguably led to their failure to develop an atom bomb

Cofnas’s Default Hypothesis 

In a recent critique of Macdonald’s work, Nathan Cofnas (2018) argues that Jews are in fact overrepresented, not only in the political and intellectual movements discussed by Macdonald, but indeed in all intellectual and political movements that are not overtly antisemitic. 

Here, Cofnas is surely right. Whatever your politics (short of Nazism), you are likely to count Jews among your intellectual heroes. 

For example, Karl Popper was ethnically Jewish, yet was also a leading critic of both psychoanalysis and Marxism, dismissing both as quintessential unfalsifiable pseudo-sciences. Likewise, Robert Trivers and David Barash were pioneering early-sociobiologists, but also of Jewish ethnicity. 

Indeed, Macdonald, to his credit, himself helpfully lists several prominent Jewish sociobiologists and behavior geneticists, acknowledging: 

Several Jews have been prominent contributors to evolutionary thinking as it applies to humans as well as human behavioral genetics, including Daniel G Freedman, Richard Herrnstein, Seymour Itzkoff, Irwin Silverman, Nancy Sigel, Lionel Tiger and Glenn Weisfeld” (p39) (p39). 

Indeed, ethnic Jews are even seemingly overrepresented among race theorists

These include Richard Herrnstein, co-author of The Bell Curve (which I have reviewed here); Stanley Garn, the author of Human Races and co-author, with Carleton Coon, of Races: A Study of the Problems of Race Formation in Man; Nathaniel Weyl, the author of, among other racialist works, The Geography of Intellect; Daniel Freedman, the author of some controversial and, among racialists, seminal, studies on race differences in behaviour among newborn babies; and Michael Levin, author of Why Race Matters.[10]

Likewise, the most prominent champions of hereditarianism with regard to race differences in intelligence in the mid- to late twentieth, namely Hans Eysenck and Arthur Jensen, were half-Jewish and a quarter-Jewish respectively.[11]

Meanwhile the most prominent contemporary populariser and champion of hereditarianism, including with respect to race differences, is Steven Pinker, who is also ethnically Jewish.[12]

Indeed, Nathan Cofnas is himself Jewish and likewise a staunch hereditarian

Also, although not a racial theorist as such, it is perhaps also worth noting that the infamous nineteenth-century ‘positivist criminologist’, Cesare Lombroso, a bête noire of radical environmental determinists, who infamously argued that criminals were an atavistic throwback to an earlier stage in human evolution, was also of Jewish background, albeit Sephardic rather than Ashkenazi. 

On the other hand, however, the first five opponents of sociobiology I could name offhand when writing this review (namely, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Lewontin, Leon Kamin, Steven Rose and Marshall Sahlins) were all ethnic Jews to a man.[13]

In short, if ethnic Jews are vastly overrepresented among malignly influential purveyors of obscurantist pseudoscience, they are also vastly overrepresented among important contributors to real science, including in controversial areas such as the study of sex differences and race differences in intelligence and behaviour

Indeed, if there is a national or ethnic group disproportionately responsible obscurantist, faddish, anti-scientific and just plain bad (but nevertheless highly influential) ideas in philosophy, social science, and the humanities, then I would say that it is not Jewish intellectuals, but rather French intellectuals.[14]

Are we then to posit that these intellectuals were somehow secretly advancing a ‘Group Evolutionary Strategy’ to advance the interests of the France? 

Why Are Jews Overrepresented Among Leading Intellectuals? 

Cofnas (2018), for his part, attributes the overrepresentation of Jews among leading intellectuals to: 

1) The higher average IQ of Jews; and
2) The disproportionate concentration of Jews in urban areas.

In explaining the overrepresentation of Jews by reference to just two factors, Cofnas’s theory is certainly simpler and more parsimonious than Macdonald’s theory of partly unconscious group strategizing, which comes close to being a conspiracy theory. 

Indeed, if one were to go through passages of Macdonald’s work replacing the words “Jewish Group Evolutionary Strategy” with “Jewish conspiracy”, it would read much a traditional antisemitic conspiracy theory. 

However, I suspect Macdonald is right that a further factor is the tendency of Jews to promote the work of their co-ethnics. Thus, he cites one interesting study which used surname analysis to suggest that academic researchers with stereotypical Jewish surnames were more likely to both collaborate with, and cite the work of, other academic researchers with stereotypically Jewish surnames, as compared to those with non-Jewish surnames (p210; Greenwald & Schuh 1994). 

This, of course, reflects an ethnocentric preference. However, to admit as much is not necessarily to agree with Macdonald that Jews are any more ethnocentric than Gentile Europeans, but rather to recognize that ethnocentrism is a pan-human psychological trait and Jews are no more exempt from this tendency than are other groups (see The Ethnic Phenomenon: which I have reviewed here). 

Leftism and Iconoclasm 

But there is one thing that Cofas’s default hypothesis cannot explain—namely why, if Jews are overrepresented in leadership positions among all political and intellectual movements, they are nevertheless especially overrepresented on the Left (see here for data confirming this pattern). 

This overrepresentation on the left is paradoxical, since Jews are disproportionately wealthy, and leftism is hence against their economic interests. 

Moreover, Macdonald himself argues in A People That Shall Dwell Alone that Jews traditionally acted as agents and accessories of governmental oppression (e.g. as tax farmers), resented by the poor, but typically protected by their elite patrons.[15]

Why, then, were Jews, throughout most of the twentieth century, especially overrepresented on the left?

Cofnas (2018) suggests that Jews will be overrepresented among any political or intellectual movements that are not overtly antisemitic. 

However, this cannot explain the especial overrepresentation of Jews on the Left, since, since at least by the middle of the twentieth century, overt antisemitism has been as anathema among mainstream conservatives as it is among leftists.[16]

Yet all the movements discussed by Macdonald are broadly leftist. 

Perhaps the only exception is Freudian psychoanalysis.  

Indeed, although Macdonald emphasizes its co-option by the Left, especially by the Frankfurt School, some leftists dismiss Freudianism as inherently reactionary, as when student radicalism is dismissed as a form of adolescent rebellion against a father-figure, or feminism as a form of penis envy.[17]

Nevertheless, though not intrinsically leftist, Freudianism is certainly iconoclastic. 

Thus, one almost universal feature of Jewish intellectuals has been iconoclasm

Thus, Jews seem as overrepresented among leading libertarians as among leftists. For example, Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick and Murray Rothbard were all of Jewish ancestry. 

Yet libertarianism is usually classed as an extreme right-wing ideology, at least in accordance with the simplistic one-dimensional left-right axis by which most people attempt to conceptualize the political spectrum and plot people’s politics. 

However, in reality, far from being in any sense ‘conservative’, libertarian ideas, if and when put into practice, are just as destructive of traditional societal mores as is Marxism, possibly more so. It is therefore anything but ‘conservative’ in the true sense. 

In contrast, while prominent among neoliberals and, of course, so-called neoconservatives, relatively few Jews seem to be socially conservative (e.g. in relation to issues like abortion, gay rights and feminism, not to mention immigration).  

Orthodox and Conservative Jews are perhaps an exception here. However, the latter are highly insular, living very much in a closed world, like religious Jews in the pre-emancipation era.  

Therefore, although they may indeed vote predominantly for conservative candidates, beyond voting, they rarely involve themselves in politics outside their own communities, either as candidates or activists. 

Macdonald himself seeks to explain Jewish iconoclasm in terms of social identity theory

On this view, Jews, by virtue of their alien origins, enforced separation and minority status, not to mention the discrimination and resentment often directed towards them by host populations, felt estranged and alienated from mainstream culture and hence developed a hostility towards it. 

Here, Macdonald echoes Thorstein Veblen’s theory of Jewish intellectual preeminence (Veblen 1919). 

Veblen argued that Jewish intellectual achievements reflected their only partial assimilation into western societies, which meant that they were less committed to the prevailing dogmas of those societies, which produced both a degree of scholarly detachment and objectivity, and a highly skeptical, and enquiring, state of mind, which ideally suited them to careers in scholarship and science. 

At first, Macdonald reports: 

Negative views of gentile institutions were… confined to internal consumption within the Jewish community” (p7). 

However, with emancipation and secularization, Jewish critiques of the West increasingly went mainstream and began to gain a following even among Gentiles. 

Jewish Radical Critique… of Judaism Itself? 

However, the problem with seeing Jewish iconoclasm as an attack on Gentile culture is that the ideologies espoused necessarily entail a rejection of traditional Jewish culture too. 

Thus, if Christianity was indeed delusional, repressive and patriarchal, then this critique applied equally to the religion whence Christianity derived – namely Judaism

Indeed, far from Judaism being a religion that, unlike Christianity and Islam, is not sexually repressive (a view Macdonald attributes to Freud), the most sexually repressive, illiberal and, from a contemporary left-liberal perspective, problematic elements of Christian doctrine almost all derive directly from Judaism and the Old Testament

Thus, explicit condemnation of homosexuality occurs, not in the teaching of Jesus, but rather in the Old Testament (Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13). Similarly, it is principally from a passage in the Old Testament, that the Christian opposition to masturbation and coitus interruptus derives (Genesis 38:8-10). 

The Old Testament also, of course, contains the most racist and genocidal biblical passages (e.g. Deuteronomy 20:16-17; Joshua 10:40) as well as the only biblical commandments seemingly advocating mass rape and sexual enslavement (e.g. Deuteronomy 20: 13-14; Numbers 31: 17-18) – see discussion here

Only in respect of the question of divorce and remarriage is the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament arguably less liberal than that in the Old Testament.[18]

Likewise, if the nuclear family was pathological, patriarchal and the root cause of all neurosis, then this applied also to the traditional Jewish family. 

In short, radical critique is necessarily destructive of all traditional values and institutions, Jewish values and traditions very much included. 

Neither is this radical critique of Jewish culture always merely implicit. 

True, many Jewish iconoclasts concentrated their fire on Christian and Gentile cultural traditions. However, this might be excused by reference to the fact that it was Christian and gentile cultural traditions that represented the dominant cultural traditions within the societies in which they found themselves. 

However, secular Jewish intellectuals had, not least by virtue of their secularism, rejected Jewish culture and traditions too. 

Indeed, far from arbitrarily exempting Jews from their radical critique of traditional society and religion, many Jewish intellectuals were positively anti-Semitic in the degree of their criticism of Jews and of Judaism.  

A case in point is the granddaddy of Jewish Leftism, Karl Marx, who receives comparatively scant attention from Macdonald, probably for precisely this reason.[19]

Yet Marx’s writings, especially but not exclusively, in his infamous essay On the Jewish Question, are so anti-Jewish that, were it not for Marx’s own Jewish background and impeccable leftist credentials, modern readers would surely dismiss him as a raving anti-Semite, if not insist upon his cancellation for crimes against political correctness (see Whisker 1984).[20]

Although I dislike the term self-hating Jew on account of its pejorative and Freudian connotations of psychopathology, the tradition of Jewish self-criticism continues – from the anti-Zionism of radical leftists like Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, to broadly ‘alt right’ Jews like Ron Unz and David Cole.[21]

Macdonald claims that Jewish leftists envisaged an ethnically inclusive society in which Jews would continue to exist as a distinct group. 

Actually, however, in my understanding, most radical leftists envisaged all forms of religious or ethnic identity as withering away in the coming communist utopia, such that both Judaism as a religion and the Jews as a people would ultimately cease to exist in a post-revolutionary society. 

Indeed, it is difficult to see how Jewishness could survive in the long-term without religion. 

Admittedly, Macdonald does amply demonstrate that even secular Jews, in both the West and Soviet Russia, continued to socialize, and intermarry, overwhelmingly among themselves. However, it is difficult to see how this pattern could continue indefinitely in the absence of a shared religion, as, over subsequent generations, the basis for their shared kinship becomes increasingly remote. 

It is true that some Marranos in Iberia and elsewhere managed to retain a Jewish identity over multiple generations by secretly continuing to practise Judaism, practising what Macdonald calls crypsis.  

However, this could hardly apply to Jewish leftists, since even Macdonald does not go as far as to claim that such militant secularists and anti-religionists as Marx and Freud were actually secret practitioners of Judaism.[22]

Macdonald also argues that, since the Jewish tendency towards higher IQs, high conscientiousness and highinvestment parenting is (supposedly) partly innate, Jews were relatively immunized against the destructive effects of the sexual revolution on rates of divorce, illegitimacy and single-parenthood (p147-9).[23]

Likewise, if the Jewish tendency towards ethnocentrism is also innate, Jews would be presumably less vulnerable to the impact of universalist and antiracist ideologies on group cohesion.

However, even assuming that this is true, does Macdonald actually envisage that the Jewish psychoanalysts and other Jewish thinkers who (supposedly) promoted hedonism and universalism actually consciously foresaw and intended that their social, intellectual and political activism would have a greater effect on gentile family and culture than on that of Jews for this reason?

This is surely implausible and would amount to a preposterous conspiracy theory. 

Moreover, it might instead be argued that, since Jews were at the forefront of, and overrepresented within, these intellectial movements, Jewish culture was actually especially vulnerable to the effect of such ideologies. 

Thus, perhaps Orthodox Jews were indeed relatively insulated from the effects of the 1960s counterculture. But, then, so were the Amish and Christian fundamentalists. 

On the other hand, however, many Jewish student radicals very much practised what they preached (e.g. hedonism, promiscuity, drug abuse, and terrorism). 

Immigration 

Macdonald’s penultimate chapter discusses the role of Jews in reforming immigration law in the USA.[24]

Macdonald shows that Jewish individuals, networks and organizations played a central role in advocating for the opening up of America’s borders, and the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, which exposed white America to replacement levels of non-white immigration, resulting in an ongoing, and now surely irreversible, demographic displacement.[25]

The basis of Macdonald’s thesis is that Jews perceive themselves as safer in multi-ethnic societies where they, as Jews, don’t stand out so much. This essence of this cynical logic was perhaps best distilled by Jewish comedienne, Sarah Silverman, who, during one of her stand-up routines, claimed: 

The Holocaust would never have happened if black people lived in Germany in the 1930s and 40s… well, it wouldn’t have happened to Jews.”[26]

There is indeed some truth to this idea. If I walk around London and see Sikhs in turbans, Muslims in burqas and hijabs and people of all different racial phenotypes, then even the elaborate apparel of Hasidic Jews might not jump out at me as overly strange. 

As for those Jews the only evidence of whose ethnicity is, say, a skullcap or an especially large nose, I am likely to see them as just another white person, no more exotic than, say, an Italian-American. 

Thus, today, most people see Jews as white and hence fail to notice their overrepresentation in media, politics, government and big business, and, when leftist campaigners protest that the Oscars are so white, the average man in the street is perhaps to be forgiven for not enquiring too far into the precise ethnic background of all these white Hollywood executives and movie producers.

However, I’m not entirely convinced that mass immigration is indeed ‘good for the Jews’. 

For one thing, many such immigrants, especially in Europe, tend to be Muslim, and Muslims have their own ‘beef’ with the Jews regarding the conquest, expulsion and subsequent persecution of their coreligionists in Palestine.[27]

Thus, while stories periodically trend in the media regarding an increase in anti-Semitic hate-crimes in Europe, what is almost invariably missed out of these news stories is that those responsible for these anti-Semitic hate crimes in Europe are almost invariably Muslim youths (see The Retreat of Reason, reviewed here: p107-11).[28]

In addition, some blacks, like Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, also stand accused of anti-Semitism. 

In fact, however, Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism is, in one sense, overblown. His religion holds that all white people, Jew and Gentile alike, are a race of white devils invented by an evil black scientist called Yakub (the most preposterous part of which theory is arguably the idea of a black scientist inventing something that useful).  

His comments about Jews are thus no more disparaging than his beliefs about whites in general. The particular outrage that his anti-Jewish comments have garnered reflect only the greater ‘victim-status’ accorded Jews in the contemporary West as compared to other whites, despite their hugely disproportionate wealth and political power

In contrast, anti-white rhetoric is all but ubiquitous on the political left, and indeed throughout American society as a whole, and hardly unique to Farrakhan. It therefore passes almost entirely without comment. 

Yet this points to another problem for American Jews as a direct result of both increasing ethnic diversity and increasing anti-white animosity – namely that, if increasing ethnic diversity does indeed mean that Jews come to be seen as no different from other whites, then the animosity of many non-whites towards whites, an animosity often nurtured by leftist Jewish intellectuals, is, unlike the destroying angel of Exodus, unlikely to distinguish Jew from Gentile. 

Yet, given their history, Jews, more than other whites, should be all too aware of the dangers in becoming a wealthy but resented minority, as whites in America are poised to become by the middle of the current century⁠, thanks to the immigration policy that Jews were, in Macdonald’s own telling, instrumental in moulding. 

In short, if I began this section of my review with a quote from a Jewish comedienne regarding blacks, it behoves to conclude with a quote from a black comedian, concerning Jews. Chris Rock, discussing the alleged anti-Semitism of Farrakhan in one of his stand-up routines, explains: 

Black people don’t hate Jews. Black people hate white people. We don’t got time to dice white people into little groups.” 

Endnotes

[1] Macdonald, however, never mentions the meme concept in PTSDA, perhaps on account of an antipathy to Richard Dawkins, whom he blames for prejudicing evolutionists against the idea groups have any important role to play in evolution (A People That Shall Dwell Alone: pviii). He does, however, mention the meme concept on one occasion in ‘Culture of Critique’, where he acknowledges:

The Jewish intellectual and cultural movements reviewed here may be viewed as memes designed designed to facilitate the continued existence of Judaism as an group evolutionary strategy” (p237).

However, Macdonald cautions:

Their adaptedness for gentiles who adopt them is highly questionable, however, and indeed, it is unlikely that any gentile who believes that, for example, anti-Semitism is necessarily a sign of a pathological personality is behaving adaptively” (p237).

[2] Curiously, Macdonald even refers to these secular thinkers and political activists as still continuing to practise what he calls “Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy”, a phrase he uses repeatedly throughout this book, even though the vast majority of the thinkers he discusses are secular in orientation. This suggests that, for Macdonald, the word “Judaism” has a rather different, and broader, meaning than it does for most other people, referring not merely to a religion, but rather to a group evolutionary strategy that is, as he purports to show in PTSDA, encapsulated in this religion, but also somehow broader than the religion itself, and capable of being practised by, say, secular psychoanalysts, Marxists and anthropologists just as much as by, say, devout orthodox Jews. This is a rather odd idea, and certainly a very odd definition of ‘Judaism’, that Macdonald never gets around to explaining.

[3] Indeed, Macdonald goes even further, provocatively arguing that the ultimate progenitor of Nazi race theory is not to be found among such infamously anti-Semitic proto-Nazi notables as Wagner, Chamberlain or Gobineau, let alone Eckart, Rosenberg or Hitler himself, but rather the celebrated, and ethnically Jewish, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Despite being, at least nominally, a Christian convert and marrying a Gentile, Disraeli, according to Macdonald, not only considered the Jews a superior race vis a vis white Gentiles, but also attributed this superiority to their alleged “racial purity” (Separation and Its Discontents: p181).
Thus, he quotes Disraeli as observing:

The other degraded races wear out and disappear; the Jew remains, as determined, as expert, as persevering, as full of resource and resolution as ever… All of which proves that it is in vain for man to attempt to battle the inexorable law of nature, which has decreed that a superior race shall never be destroyed or absorbed by an inferior” (Lord George Bentinck: A Political Biography: quoted in Separation and Its Discontents: p181).

Indeed, Macdonald reports, Disraeli considered Jews as being responsible for “virtually all the advances of civilization”, and, evincing black Israelite levels of delusion, apparently even considered Mozart to be Jewish. Thus, Macdonald quotes LJ Rather as concluding:

Disraeli rather than Gobineau—still less Chamberlain—is entitled to be called the father of nineteenth-century racist ideology” (Reading Wagner: quoted in Separation and Its Discontents: p180).

[4] The studies cited by Macdonald for this claim are: Marciano 1981; Schwartz 1978

[5] Of course, in making this claim, I am being at least semi-facetious. Jews are not be overrepresented among most white nationalist groups because most such groups are also highly anti-Semitic and hence Jews would not be welcome there. On the other hand, Jews would be welcome among more mainstream civic nationalist and anti-immigration groups, not least because they would lend such groups a defence against the charge of being anti-Semitic or ‘Nazis’. However, they do not appear to be especially well represented among these groups, or, at the very least, not as overrepresented among these groups as they are on the political left

[6] On the contrary, other plausible explanations as for why Jew and Gentile alike were drawn to the intellectual movements discussed readily present themselves. For example, wishful thinking may have motivated the Marxist belief in the coming of a communist utopia. Simply a sense of belonging, and of intellectual superiority, may also be a motivating factor in joining such movements as psychoanalysis and Marxism. Indeed, many disparate cults and religions have posited all kinds of odd religious beliefs (arguably odder even than those of Freud), such as reincarnation, miracles etc., without their being any discernible strategic advantage for the overwhelming majority of adherents, indeed sometimes at considerable cost to themselves (e.g. religiously imposed celibacy). 

[7] These are also the movements with which I suspect Macdonald himself is most familiar. As an evolutionary psychologist, he is naturally familiar with Boasian anthropology and the the standard social science model, to which evolutionary psychology stands largely in opposition. Also, he has a longstanding interest in Freudian psychoanalysis, having earlier written a critique of psychoanalysis as a cult in Skeptic magazine (Macdonald 1996), and also, ten years earlier, a not entirely unsympathetic assessment of Freud’s theories in the light of sociobiological theory (Macdonald 1986), both of which articles critique Freudianism without recourse to anti-Semitism or any talk of ‘Jewish group evolutionary strategies’. Also, the title of his previous book on ‘the Jewish question’, namely ‘Separation and Its Discontents’, is obviously drawn from the title of one of Freud’s own books, namely ‘Civilization and its Discontents’

[8] In contrast, in Britain, for example, there was an independent, indigenous socialist tradition, which developed quite independent of any external Jewish influence. In Britian, while Jews would certainly have been overrepresented among leftist radicals during the twentieth century, I suspect that it would not have been to anything like the same degree, not necessarily because of any lesser per capita involvement of Jews, but rather because of:

  1. The relatively lower numbers of Jews resident in the UK as a proportion of the overall population during this time frame; and
  2. The greater per capita involvement of Gentiles in leftist and radical socialist movements.

Meanwhile, in Scandinavian countries, so-called Nordic social democracy surely developed without any significant Jewish influence, or at least any direct influence, if only because so few Jews were resident in these countries. In short, socialism and radical leftism cannot be credited to (or blamed on) Jews alone.
Ethnic Jews were also vastly overrepresented in the USSR, at least during the first few decades of Soviet rule. Thus, one Jewish Israeli publication reports that, despite only ever representing a tiny proportion of the overall Soviet Russian population:

In 1934, according to published statistics, 38.5 percent of those holding the most senior posts in the Soviet security apparatuses were of Jewish origin” (Plocker 2006).

Regarding Macdonald’s own take on the involvement of Jews in the Soviet regime, and especially in Soviet repression in Eastern Europe, during the twentieth century, see Macdonald 2005.

[9] Analogously, leftist critics of neoliberal economics, sociobiological theory and evolutionary psychology sometimes claim that these theories were devised within a liberal-capitalist milieu, ultimately in order to justify the capitalist system. However, even assuming this were true, it is not directly relevant to the question of whether the theories in question are true, or at least provide a productive model of how the real world operates. Thus, biologist John Maynard Smith wrote of how:

There is a recent fashion in the history of science to throw away the baby and keep the bathwater to ignore the science, but to describe in sordid detail the political tactics of the scientists” (The Ant and the Peacock: Altruism and Sexual Selection from Darwin to Today: px).

[10] I am aware that all these writers and researchers are Jewish either because they have mentioned their ethnicity in their own writings, or it has been mentioned by other authors whom I regard as reliable. I have not, for example, merely relied on their having Jewish-sounding names. This is actually a very inaccurate way of determining ancestry, because, not only have many Jewish people anglicized their names, but also most surnames that Americans and British people think of as characteristically Jewish are actually German in origin, and only relatively more or less common among Jews than among German gentiles. Only a few surnames (e.g. Levin, Cohen) are exclusively Jewish in origin, and even these indicate, of course, only male-line ancestry.

[11] For whatever reason, Eysenck spent most of his life denying and concealing his own Jewish ancestry, practising what Macdonald calls crypsis. Another prominent Jewish champion of hereditarian theories of racial difference was the leading libertarian economist Murray Rothbard

[12] On his blog, Macdonald has repeatedly disparaged Pinker as occupying “the Stephen Jay Gould Chair for Politically Correct Popularization of Evolutionary Biology at Harvard”. This may be a witty (and perhaps anti-Semitic) putdown. It is also, however, grossly unfair. Pinker has not only championed IQ testing, behavioural genetics and sociobiology, but even the idea of innate differences between races in psychological traits such as intelligence (see What is Your Dangerous Idea: p13-5; Pinker 2006). 

[13] Admittedly, the first four of these very much form a clique, very much associated with one another, having jointly authored books and articles together and frequently citing one another’s work. This may be why they were the first five names to occur to me. It might also explain their common ethnicity, as it seems that, according to a study cited by Macdonald, Jewish scholars are more likely to collaborate with and cite fellow Jews (Greenwald & Schuh 1994). On the other hand, anthropologist Marshall Sahlins is not associated with this group, and prior to looking up his biographical details for the purpose of writing this paragraph, I was not aware he was of Jewish ancestry. Perhaps the next best-known critic of sociobiology (or at least the next one I could name offhand) is philosopher Phillip Kitcher, who, despite his German-sounding surname, is not, to my knowledge, of Jewish ancestry.

[14] Admittedly, a fair few of the worst offenders among them have been both French and Jewish (e.g. Claude Lévi-Strauss and Jacques Derrida). 

[15] This explains why, despite its supposed association with the so-called ‘far-right, anti-Semitism and leftism typically go together. Thus, on the one hand, Marxists believe that society is controlled by a conspiracy of wealthy capitalists who control the mass media and exploit and oppress everyone else. On the other hand, anti-Semites believe that society is controlled by a conspiracy of wealthy Jewish capitalists who control the mass media and exploit and oppress everyone else.
Thus, as a famous aphorism has it: Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools.
Thus, since the contemporary left in America is endlessly obsessed with the supposed ‘overrepresentation’ of white males in positions of power and influence, it ought presumably also to be concerned about the even greater per capita overrepresentation of Jews in those exact same positions of power and influence, as were the Nazis.
In short, National Socialism is indeed a form of socialism – the clue’s is in the name. 

[16] Indeed, today, anti-Semitism is arguably more common on the left, as the left has increasingly made common cause with Palestinians and indeed with Muslims more generally. Yet, in America, Jews still vote overwhelmingly for the leftist Democratic Party, even though Republicans now tend to be even more vociferously pro-Israel than the Democratics. In the UK, on the other hand, Jews are now more likely to vote for Conservative candidates than for Labour. However, I recall reading that, even in the UK, after controlling for socioeconomic status and income, Jews are still more likely to vote for leftist parties than are non-Jews of equivalent socioeconomic status and income-level.

[17] In contrast, as emphasized by Macdonald, other theorists sought to reclaim Freudianism on behalf of the left, notably the infamous (and influential) Frankfurt School, to whom Macdonald devotes a chapter in ‘Culture of Critique’. Thus, the chief innovation of the Frankfurt School was to combine Freudian psychoanalysis with Marxist social and economic theory, which, as I recall, Rod Liddle memorably described as the most brilliant theoretical synthesis since someone decided to combine the theory that the sun revolved around the earth with the theory that the earth is flat

[18] Thus, whereas various passages in the Old Testament envisage and provide for divorce and remarriage, in contrast Jesus’s teaching on this matter, as reported in the New Testament Gospels, is very strict in forbidding both divorce and remarriage (Matthew 19:3-9; Matthew 5:32). Moreover, precisely because these teachings go against what was common practice amongst Jews at the time of Jesus’s ministry, they are regarded as satisfying the criterion of dissimilarity and hence as historically reliable teachings of the historical Jesus

[19] Thus, despite including in-depth discussion of the supposed ethnic motivations of many ethnically Jewish Marxist thinkers in his chapter on ‘Jews and the Left’, Macdonald passes over Marx himself in less than a page at the very beginning of this chapter, where he concedes: 

Marxism, at least as envisaged by Marx himself, is the very antithesis of Judaism… [and] Marx himself, though born of two ethnically Jewish parents, has been viewed by many as an anti-Semite” (p50). 

While also conceding that “Marx viewed Judaism as an abstract principal of human greed that would end in the communist society of the future”, he also claims, citing a secondary source, that: 

He envisaged that Judaism, freed from the principal of greed, would continue to exist in the transformed society of the future (Katz 1986, 113)” (p50). 

On his Occidental Observer website, Macdonald has also published a piece by the surely pseudonymousFerdinand Bardamu’ arguing that, despite appearances to the contrary, Marx was indeed pursuing a ‘Jewish group evolutionary strategy’ in his political activism (Bardamu 2020). The attempt is, in my view, singularly unpersuasive. 

[20] Marx was also highly racist by modern standards. Indeed, Marx even delightfully combined his racism with anti-Semitism in a letter to his patron and collaborator Friedrich Engels, where he describes fellow Jewish socialist (and friend), Ferdinand Lassalle, as “the Jewish nigger” and theorizes: 

It is now quite plain to me—as the shape of his head and the way his hair grows also testify—that he is descended from the negroes who accompanied Moses’ flight from Egypt (unless his mother or paternal grandmother interbred with a nigger)… The fellow’s importunity is also niggerlike.

[21] A complete list of prominent Jews who have iconoclastically challenged cherished and venerated Jewish institutions, beliefs and traditions is beyond the scope of this review. However, such a list would surely include, among others, such figures as Gilad Atzmon, Shlomo Sand and Otto Weininger. Israel Shahak is another Jewish intellectual frequently accused by his detractors of anti-Semitism, and certainly his book Jewish History, Jewish Religion is critical of aspects of Judaism and Talmudic teachings. Likewise, in Israel, the so-called New Historians, themselves overwhelmingly Jewish in ethnicity, were responsible for challenging many of the founding myths of Israel. Also perhaps meriting honourable (or, for some, dishonourable) mention in this context are Murray Rothbard, also Jewish, who extolled the work of Harry Elmer Barnes, himself widely considered an anti-Semite and early pioneer of ‘holocaust denial’; and Paul Gottfreid, the paleoconservative Jewish intellectual credited with coining the term ‘alt right’.

[22] In fact, even many Marranos seem to have ultimately lost their Jewish identity, especially those who migrated to the New World, who retained, at most, faint remnants of their former faith in certain cultural traditions the significance of which was gradually lost even to themselves. 

[23] Thus, Macdonald writes:

Given the very large differences between Jews and gentiles in intelligence and tendencies towards intelligence and highinvestment parenting… Jews suffer to a lesser extent than gentiles from the erosion of cultural supports for high-investment parenting. Given that differences between Jews and gentiles are genitically mediated, Jews would not be as dependent on the preservation of cultural supports for high-investment parenting parenting as would be the case among gentiles… Facilitation of the pursuit of sexual gratification, low investment parenting, and elimination of social controls on sexual behavior may therefore be expected to affect Jews and gentiles differently with the result that the competitive difference between Jews and gentiles… would be exacerbated” (p148-9). 

[24] Whereas his former chapters focussed on intellectual movements, which, though they almost invariably had a large political dimension, were nevertheless at least one remove away from the determination of actual government policy, this chapter focuses on political activism directly concerned with reforming government policy.

[25] Macdonald also charges Jewish activists with hypocrisy for opposing ethnically-based restrictions on immigration to the USA, while also supporting the overtly racialist immigration policy of Israel, which provides a so-called right of return for ethnic Jews who have never previously set foot in Israel, while denying a literal right of return to Palestinian refugees driven from their homeland in the mid-twentieth century.
In response, Cofnas (2018) notes that Macdonald has not cited that any Jews who actually take both these positions. He has only shown that American Jews favour mass non-white immigration to America, whereas Israeli Jews, a separate population, are opposed to non-Jewish immigration in Israel.
However, this only raises the question as to why it is that those Jews resident in America support mass immigration, whereas those resident in Israel support border control and maintaining a Jewish majority. Self-selection may explain part of the difference, as more ethnocentric Jews may prefer to be resident in Israel. However, given the scale of the disparity, and the extent of intermigration and even dual citizenship, it is highly doubtful that this can explain all of it.
As an example, Cofnas (2018) argues that American liberals such as Alan Dershowitz actually support the campaign for Israel to admit the (non-white) Beta Israel of Ethiopia into Israel.
However, the Beta Israel in total only number around 150,000. Therefore, even if all were permitted to emigrate to Israel (which is still yet to occur), they would represent less than 2% of Israel’s total population. Clearly, allowing a few thousand token ‘black Jews’ to immigrate to Israel is hardly comparable to advocating that people of all ethnicities (and all religions) be permitted to immigrate to Western jurisdictions.
Moreover, the Beta Israel, and even the Falash Mula, are still Jewish in a religious, if not a racial sense. Yet, attempts by white western countries other than Israel to restrict immigration on either racial or religious lines are universally condemned, including by Dershowitz, who condemned Trump’s call for a moratorium on Muslim immigration as incompatible with “the best values of what America should be like. Dershowitz is therefore indeed guilty of hypocrisy and double-standards when it comes the immigration issue.
Similarly, American TV presenter and political commentator Tucker Carlson recently revealed the hypocrisy of perhaps the most powerful Jewish advocacy group in the USA, the ADL, who had condemned Carlson for crimes against political correctness for opposing replacement-level immigration in the USA, while at the same time, and on the same website, themselves arguing, in a post since blocked from public access, that:

It is unrealistic and unacceptable to expect the State of Israel to voluntarily subvert its own sovereign existence and nationalist identity and become a vulnerable minority within what was once its own territory. 

Yet this is precisely what the ADL is insisting white Americans do by insisting that any opposition to replacement level immigration to America is evidence of ‘white supremacism’.
Macdonald may then, as Cofnas complains, not have actually named any Jewish individuals who are hypocritical with respect to immigration policy in America and Israel; however, Carlson has identified a major Jewish organization that is indeed hypocritical with respect to this issue.
I might add here that, unlike Macdonald, I do not think this type of hypocrisy is either unique to, or indeed especially prevalent or magnified among, Jewish people. On the contrary, hypocrisy is I suspect, like ethnocentrism, a universal human phenomenon.
In short, people are much better at being tolerant, moderate and conciliatory in respect of what they perceive as other people’s quarrels. Yet, when they perceive themselves, or their people, as having a direct ethnic or genetic stake in an issue at hand, they tend to be altogether less tolerant and conciliatory.

[26] Macdonald himself puts it this way: 

Ethnic and religious pluralism also serves external Jewish interests because Jews become just one of many ethnic groups. This results in the diffusion of political and cultural influence among the various ethnic and religious groups, and it becomes difficult or impossible to develop unified, cohesive groups of gentiles united in their opposition to Judaism. Historically, major anti-Semitic movements have tended to erupt in societies that have been, apart from the Jews, religiously or ethnically homogeneous (see SAID). Conversely, one reason for the relative lack of anti-Semitism in the United States compared to Europe was that ‘Jews did not stand out as a solitary group of [religious] non-conformists’” (p242). 

In addition, Macdonald contends that a further advantage of increased levels of ethnic diversity within the host society is that: 

Pluralism serves both internal (within-group) and external (between-group) Jewish interests. Pluralism serves internal Jewish interests because it legitimates the internal Jewish interest in rationalizing and openly advocating an interest in overt rather than semi-cryptic Jewish group commitment and nonassimilation” (p241).

In other words, multi-culturalism allows Jews to both abandon the (supposed) pretence of assimilation and overtly advocate for their own ethnic interests, because, in a multi-ethnic society, other groups will inevitably be doing likewise.
However, Jews may also have had other reasons for supporting open borders. After all, Jews are a sojourning diaspora people, who have often migrated from one host society to another, not least to escape periodic pogroms and persecutions. Thus, they had an obvious motive for supporting open borders, namely so that their own coreligionists would be able to migrate to America should the need arise.
One might also argue that, as a people who often had to migrate to escape persecution, they were naturally sympathetic to refugees of other ethnicities, or indeed other immigrants travelling to new pastures in search of a better life, as their own ancestors have so often done in the past, though Macdonald would no doubt dismiss this interpretation as naïve. 

[27] In my view, a better explanation for why so many western countries have opened up their borders to replacement levels of racially, culturally and religiously alien and unassmilable minorities, is the economic one. Indeed, here, a Marxist perspective may be of value, since the economically-dominant capitalist class benefits from the cheap labour that Third World migrants provide, as do wealthy consumers who can afford to purchase a disproportionate share the cheap products and services that such cheap labour provides and produces. In contrast, it is the indigenous poor and working-class, of all ethnicities, who bear a disproportionate share of the costs associated with such migration, including both depressed wages and ethnically-divided, crime-ridden and distrustful communities (see Liddle 2006).

[28] Ironically then, given the substantial numbers of Arab Muslims resident in France, for example, many of the people responsible for so-called ‘anti-Semitic hate crimes’ are themselves ‘Semitic’, and indeed have a rather stronger case for being ‘Semitic’ in a racial sense than do most of their Jewish victims. 

References 

Bardamu (2020) Karl Marx: Founding Father of the Jewish Left? Occidental Quarterly, 4 January.
Cofnas (2018) Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy. Human Nature, 29:134–156. 
Greenwald & Schuh (1994) An Ethnic Bias in Scientific Citations. European Journal of Social Psychology, 24(6), 623–639.
Liddle (2006) The Politics of Pleasantville, Spectator, 21 January
Macdonald (1986) Civilization and Its Discontents Revisited: Freud as an Evolutionary Biologist. Journal of Social and Biological Structures, 9, 213-220. 
Macdonald (1996) Freud’s Follies: Psychoanalysis as religion, cult, and political movement. Skeptic, 4(3), 94-99.
Macdonald (2005) Stalin’s Willing Executioners The Impact of Orthography Jews As a Hostile Elite in the USSR. Occidental Observer, 5(3): 65-100.
Marciano (1981) Families and CultsMarriage and Family Review, 4(3-4): 101-117. 
Pinker (2006) Groups and Genes. New Republic, 26 June. 
Plocker (2006) Stalin’s Jews, Yedioth Ahronoth (ynetnews.com), 21 December.
Whisker (1984) Karl Marx: Anti-Semite. Journal of Historical Review, 5(1): 69-76.
Schwartz (1978) Cults and the vulnerability of Jewish YouthJewish Education, 46(2): 23-42.
Veblen (1919) The Intellectual Pre-Eminence of Jews in Modern Europe. Political Science Quarterly 34(1). 

Peter Singer’s ‘A Darwinian Left’

Peter Singer, ‘A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution and Cooperation’, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1999.

Social Darwinism is dead. 

The idea that charity, welfare and medical treatment ought to be withheld from the poor, the destitute and the seriously ill so that they perish in accordance with the process of natural selection and hence facilitate further evolutionary progress survives only as a straw man sometimes attributed to conservatives by leftists in order to discredit them, and a form of guilt by association sometimes invoked by creationists in order to discredit the theory of evolution.[1]

However, despite the attachment of many American conservatives to creationism, there remains a perception that evolutionary psychology is somehow right-wing

Thus, if humans are fundamentally selfish, as Richard Dawkins is taken, not entirely accurately, to have argued, then this surely confirms the underlying assumptions of classical economics. 

Of course, as Dawkins also emphasizes, we have evolved through kin selection to be altruistic towards our close biological relatives. However, this arguably only reinforces conservatives’ faith in the family, and their concerns regarding the effects of family breakdown and substitute parents

Finally, research on sex differences surely suggests that at least some traditional gender roles – e.g. women’s role in caring for young children, and men’s role in fighting wars – do indeed have a biological basis, and also that patriarchy and the gender pay gap may be an inevitable result of innate psychological differences between the sexes

Political scientist Larry Arnhart thus champions what he calls a new ‘Darwinian Conservatism’, which harnesses the findings of evolutionary psychology in support of family values and the free market. 

Against this, however, moral philosopher and famed animal liberation activist Peter Singer, in ‘A Darwinian Left’, seeks to reclaim Darwin, and evolutionary psychology, for the Left. His attempt is not entirely successful. 

The Naturalistic Fallacy 

At least since David Hume, it has an article of faith among most philosophers that one cannot derive values from facts. To do otherwise is to commit what some philosophers refer to as the naturalistic fallacy

Edward O Wilson, in Sociobiology: The New Synthesis was widely accused of committing the naturalistic fallacy, by attempting to derive moral values form facts. However, those evolutionary psychologists who followed in his stead have generally taken a very different line. 

Indeed, recognition that the naturalistic fallacy is indeed a fallacy has proven very useful to evolutionary psychologists, since it has enabled them investigate the possible evolutionary functions of such morally questionable (or indeed downright morally reprehensible) behaviours as infidelityrape, warfare and child abuse while at the same time denying that they are somehow thereby providing a justification for the behaviours in question.[2] 

Singer, like most evolutionary psychologists, also reiterates the sacrosanct inviolability of the fact-value dichotomy

Thus, in attempting to construct his ‘Darwinian Left’, Singer does not attempt to use Darwinism in order to provide a justification or ultimate rationale for leftist egalitarianism. Rather, he simply takes it for granted that equality is a good thing and worth striving for, and indeed implicitly assumes that his readers will agree. 

His aim, then, is not to argue that socialism is demanded by a Darwinian worldview, but rather simply that it is compatible with such a worldview and not contradicted by it. 

Thus, he takes leftist ideals as his starting-point, and attempts to argue only that accepting the Darwinian worldview should not cause one to abandon these ideals as either undesirable or unachievable. 

But if we accept that the naturalistic fallacy is indeed a fallacy then this only raises the question: If it is indeed true that moral values cannot be derived from scientific facts, whence can moral values be derived?  

Can they only be derived from other moral values? If so, how are our ultimate moral values, from which all other moral values are derived, themselves derived? 

Singer does not address this. However, precisely by failing to address it, he seems to implicitly assume that our ultimate moral values must simply be taken on faith. 

However, Singer also emphasizes that rejecting the naturalistic fallacy does not mean that the facts of human nature are irrelevant to politics. 

On the contrary, while Darwinism may not prescribe any particular political goals as desirable, it may nevertheless help us determine how to achieve those political goals that we have already decided upon. Thus, Singer writes: 

An understanding of human nature in the light of evolutionary theory can help us to identify the means by which we may achieve some of our social and political goals… as well as assessing the possible costs and benefits of doing so” (p15). 

Thus, in a memorable metaphor, Singer observes: 

Wood carvers presented with a piece of timber and a request to make wooden bowls from it do not simply begin carving according to a design drawn up before they have seen the wood. Instead they will examine the material with which they are to work and modify their design in order to suit its grain…Those seeking to reshape human society must understand the tendencies inherent within human beings, and modify their abstract ideals in order to suit them” (p40). 

Abandoning Utopia? 

In addition to suggesting how our ultimate political objectives might best be achieved, an evolutionary perspective also suggests that some political goals might simply be unattainable, at least in the absence of a wholesale eugenic reengineering of human nature itself. 

In watering down the utopian aspirations of previous generations of leftists, Singer seems to implicitly concede as much. 

Contrary to the crudest misunderstanding of selfish gene theory, humans are not entirely selfish. However, we have evolved to put our own interests, and those of our kin, above those of other humans. 

For this reason, communism is unobtainable because: 

  1. People strive to promote themselves and their kin above others; 
  2. Only coercive state apparatus can prevent them so doing; 
  3. The individuals in control of this coercive apparatus themselves seek to promote the interests of themselves and their kin and corruptly use this coercive apparatus to do so. 

Thus, Singer laments: 

What egalitarian revolution has not been betrayed by its leaders?” (p39). 

Or, alternatively, as HL Mencken put it:

“[The] one undoubted effect [of political revolutions] is simply to throw out one gang of thieves and put in another.” 

In addition, human selfishness suggests, if complete egalitarianism were ever successfully achieved and enforced, it would likely be economically inefficient – because it would remove the incentive of self-advancement that lies behind the production of goods and services, not to mention of works of art and scientific advances. 

Thus, as Adam Smith famously observed: 

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” 

And, again, the only other means of ensuring goods and services are produced besides economic self-interest is state coercion, which, given human nature, will always be exercised both corruptly and inefficiently. 

What’s Left? 

Singer’s pamphlet has been the subject of much controversy, with most of the criticism coming, not from conservatives, whom one might imagine to be Singer’s natural adversaries, but rather from other self-described leftists. 

These leftist critics have included both writers opposed to evolutionary psychology (e.g. David Stack in The First Darwinian Left), but also some other writers claiming to be broadly receptive to the new paradigm but who are clearly uncomfortable with some of its implications (e.g.  Marek Kohn in As We Know It: Coming to Terms with an Evolved Mind). 

In apparently rejecting the utopian transformation of society envisioned by Marx and other radical socialists, Singer has been accused by other leftists for conceding rather too much to the critics of leftism. In so doing, Singer has, they claim, in effect abandoned leftism in all but name and become, in their view, an apologist for and sell-out to capitalism. 

Whether Singer can indeed be said to have abandoned the Left depends, of course, on precisely how we define ‘the Left’, a rather more problematic matter than it is usually regarded as being.[3]

For his part, Singer certainly defines the Left in unusually broad terms.

For Singer, leftism need not necessarily entail taking the means of production into common ownership, nor even the redistribution of wealth. Rather, at its core, being a leftist is simply about being: 

On the side of the weak, not the powerful; of the oppressed, not the oppressor; of the ridden, not the rider” (p8). 

However, this definition is obviously problematic. After all, few conservatives would admit to being on the side of the oppressor. 

On the contrary, conservatives and libertarians usually reject the dichotomous subdivision of society into oppressed’ and ‘oppressor groups. They argue that the real world is more complex than this simplistic division of the world into black and white, good and evil, suggests. 

Moreover, they argue that mutually beneficial exchange and cooperation, rather than exploitation, is the essence of capitalism. 

They also usually claim that their policies benefit society as a whole, including both the poor and rich, rather than favouring one class over another.[4]

Indeed, conservatives claim that socialist reforms often actually inadvertently hurt precisely those whom they attempt to help. Thus, for example, welfare benefits are said to encourage welfare dependency, while introducing, or raising the level of, a minimum wage is said to lead to increases in unemployment. 

Singer declares that a Darwinian left would “promote structures that foster cooperation rather than competition” (p61).

Yet many conservatives would share Singer’s aspiration to create a more altruistic culture. 

Indeed, this aspiration seems more compatible with the libertarian notion of voluntary charitable donations replacing taxation than with the coercively-extracted taxes invariably favoured by the Left. 

Nepotism and Equality of Opportunity 

Yet selfish gene theory suggests humans are not entirely self-interested. Rather, kin selection makes us care also about our biological relatives.

But this is no boon for egalitarians. 

Rather, the fact that our selfishness is tempered by a healthy dose of nepotism likely makes equality of opportunity as unattainable as equality of outcome – because individuals will inevitably seek to aid the social, educational and economic advancement of their kin, and those individuals better placed to do so will enjoy greater success in so doing. 

For example, parents with greater resources will be able to send their offspring to exclusive fee-paying schools or obtain private tuition for them; parents with better connections may be able to help their offspring obtain better jobs; while parents with greater intellectual ability may be able to better help their offspring with their homework. 

However, since many conservatives and libertarians are as committed to equality of opportunity as socialists are to equality of outcome, this conclusion may be as unwelcome on the right as on the left. 

Indeed, the theory of kin selection has even been invoked to suggest that ethnocentrism is innate and ethnic conflict is inevitable in multi-ethnic societies, a conclusion unwelcome across the mainstream political spectrum in the West today, where political parties of all persuasions are seemingly equally committed to building multi-ethnic societies. 

Unfortunately, Singer does not address any of these issues. 

Animal Liberation After Darwin 

Singer is most famous for his advocacy on behalf of what he calls animal liberation

In ‘A Darwinian Left’, he argues that the Darwinian worldview reinforces the case for animal liberation by confirming the evolutionary continuity between humans other animals. 

This suggests that there are unlikely to be fundamental differences in kind as between humans and other animals (e.g. in the capacity to feel pain) sufficient to justify the differences in treatment currently accorded humans and animals. 

It sharply contrasts account of creation in the Bible and the traditional Christian notion of humans as superior to other animals and as occupying an intermediate position between beasts and angels. 

Thus, Singer concludes: 

By knocking out the idea that we are a separate creation from the animals, Darwinian thinking provided the basis for a revolution in our attitudes to non-human animals” (p17). 

This makes our consumption of animals as food, our killing of them for sport, our enslavement of them as draft animals, or even pets, and our imprisonment of them in zoos and laboratories all ethically suspect, since these are not things generally permitted in respect of humans. 

Yet Singer fails to recognise that human-animal continuity cuts two ways. 

Thus, anti-vivisectionists argue that animal testing is not only immoral, but also ineffective, because drugs and other treatments often have very different effects on humans than they do on the animals used in drug testing. 

Our evolutionary continuity with non-human species makes this argument less plausible. 

Moreover, if humans are subject to the same principles of natural selection as other species, this suggests, not the elevation of animals to the status of humans, but rather the relegation of humans to just another species of animal. 

In short, we do not occupy a position midway between beasts and angels; we are beasts through and through, and any attempt to believe otherwise is mere delusion. 

This is, of course, the theme of John Gray’s powerful polemic Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (which I have reviewed hereherehere and here). 

Finally, acceptance of the existence of human nature surely entails recognition of carnivory as a part of that nature. 

Of course, we must remember not to commit the naturalistic or appeal to nature fallacy.  

Thus, just because meat-eating may be natural for humans, in the sense that meat was a part of our ancestors diet in the EEA, this does not necessarily mean that it is morally right or even morally justifiable. 

However, the fact that meat is indeed a natural part of the human diet does suggest that, in health terms, vegetarianism is likely to be nutritionally sub-optimal. 

Thus, the naturalistic fallacy or appeal to nature fallacy is not always entirely fallacious, at least when it comes to human health. What is natural for humans is indeed what we are biologically adapted to and what our body is therefore best designed to deal with.[5]

Therefore, vegetarianism is almost certainly to some degree sub-optimal in nutritional terms. 

Moreover, given that Singer is an opponent of the view that there is a valid moral distinction between acts and omissions, then we must ask ourselves: If he believes it is wrong for us to eat animals, does he also believe we should take positive measures to prevent lions from eating gazelles? 

Economics 

Bemoaning the emphasis of neoliberals on purely economic outcomes, Singer protests:

From an evolutionary perspective, we cannot identify wealth with self-interest… Properly understood self-interest is broader than economic self-interest” (p42). 

Singer is right. The ultimate currency of natural selection is not wealth, but rather reproductive success – and, in evolutionarily novel environments, wealth may not even correlate with reproductive success (Vining 1986). 

Thus, as discussed by Laura Betzig in Despotism and Differential Reproduction, a key difference between Marxism and sociobiology is the relative emphasis on production versus reproduction

Whereas Marxists see societal conflict and exploitation as reflecting competition over control of the means of production, for Darwinians, all societal conflict ultimately concerns control over, not the means of production, but rather what we might term the means of reproduction – in other words, women, their wombs and vaginas

Thus, sociologist-turned-sociobiologist Pierre van den Berghe observed: 

“The ultimate measure of human success is not production but reproduction. Economic productivity and profit are means to reproductive ends, not ends in themselves” (The Ethnic Phenomenon: p165). 

Production is ultimately, in Darwinian terms, merely by which to gain the necessary resources to permit successful reproduction. The latter is the ultimate purpose of life

Thus, for all his ostensible radicalism, Karl Marx, in his emphasis on economics (‘production’) at the expense of sex (‘reproduction’), was just another Victorian sexual prude

Competition or Cooperation: A False Dichotomy? 

In Chapter  Four, entitled “Competition or Cooperation?”, Singer argues that modern western societies, and many modern economists and evolutionary theorists, put too great an emphasis on competition at the expense of cooperation

Singer accepts that both competition and cooperation are natural and innate facets of human nature, and that all societies involve a balance of both. However, different societies differ in their relative emphasis on competition or cooperation, and that it is therefore possible to create a society that places a greater emphasis on the latter at the expense of the former. 

Thus, Singer declares that a Darwinian left would: 

Promote structures that foster cooperation rather than competition” (p61) 

However, Singer is short on practical suggestions as to how a culture of altruism is to be fostered.[6]

Changing the values of a culture is not easy. This is especially so for a liberal democratic (as opposed to a despotic, totalitarian) government, let alone for a solitary Australian moral philosopher – and Singer’s condemnation of “the nightmares of Stalinist Russia” suggests that he would not countenance the sort of totalitarian interference with human freedom to which the Left has so often resorted in the past, and continues to resort to in the present (even in the West), with little ultimate success, in the past. 

But, more fundamentally, Singer is wrong to see competition as necessarily in conflict with cooperation

On the contrary, perhaps the most remarkable acts of cooperation, altruism and self-sacrifice are those often witnessed in wartime (e.g. kamikaze pilotssuicide bombers and soldiers who throw themselves on grenades). Yet war represents perhaps the most extreme form of competition known to man. 

In short, soldiers risk and sacrifice their lives, not only to save the lives of others, but also to take the lives of other others. 

Likewise, trade is a form of cooperation, but are as fundamental to capitalism as is competition. Indeed, I suspect most economists would argue that exchange is even more fundamental to capitalism than is competition

Thus, far from disparaging cooperation, neoliberal economists see voluntary exchange as central to prosperity. 

Ironically, then, popular science writer Matt Ridley also, like Singer, focuses on humans’ innate capacity for cooperation to justify political conclusions in his book, The Origins of Virtue

But, for Ridley, our capacity for cooperation provides a rationale, not for socialism, but rather for free markets – because humans, as natural traders, produce efficient systems of exchange which government intervention almost always only distorts. 

However, whereas economic trade is motivated by self-interested calculation, Singer seems to envisage a form of reciprocity mediated by emotions such as compassiongratitude and guilt
 
However, sociobiologist Robert Trivers argues in his paper that introduced the concept of reciprocal altruism to evolutionary biology that these emotions themselves evolved through the rational calculation of natural selection (Trivers 1971). 

Therefore, while open to manipulation, especially in evolutionarily novel environments, they are necessarily limited in scope. 

Group Differences 

Singer’s envisaged ‘Darwinian Left’ would, he declares, unlike the contemporary left, abandon: 

“[The assumption] that all inequalities are due to discrimination, prejudice, oppression or social conditioning. Some will be, but this cannot be assumed in every case” (p61). 

Instead, Singer admits that at least some disparities in achievement may reflect innate differences between individuals and groups in abilities, temperament and preferences. 

This is probably Singer’s most controversial suggestion, at least for modern leftists, since it contravenes the contemporary dogma of political correctness

Singer is, however, undoubtedly right.  

Moreover, his recognition that some differences in achievement as between groups reflect, not discrimination, oppression or even the lingering effect of past discrimination or oppression, but rather innate differences between groups in psychological traits, including intelligence, is by no means incompatible with socialism, or leftism, as socialism and leftism were originally conceived. 

Thus, it is worth pointing out that, while contemporary so-called cultural Marxists may decry the notion of innate differences in ability and temperament as between different racessexesindividuals and social classes as anathema, the same was not true of Marx himself

On the contrary, in famously advocating from each according to his ability, to each according to his need, Marx implicitly recognized that people differed in ability – differences which, given the equalization of social conditions envisaged under communism, he presumably conceived of as innate in origin.[7]

As Hans Eysenck observes:

“Stalin banned mental testing in 1935 on the grounds that it was ‘bourgeois’—at the same time as Hitler banned it as ‘Jewish’. But Stalin’s anti-genetic stance, and his support for the environmentalist charlatan Lysenko, did not derive from any Marxist or Leninist doctrine… One need only recall The Communist Manifesto: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his need’. This clearly expresses the belief that different people will have different abilities, even in the communist heaven where all cultural, educational and other inequalities have been eradicated” (Intelligence: The Battle for the Mind: p85).

Thus, Steven Pinker, in The Blank Slate, points to the theoretical possibility of what he calls a “Hereditarian Left”, arguing for a Rawlsian redistribution of resources to the, if you like, innately ‘cognitively disadvantaged’.[8] 

With regard to group differences, Singer avoids discussing the incendiary topic of race differences in intelligence, a question too contentious for Singer to touch. 

Instead, he illustrates the possibility that not “all inequalities are due to discrimination, prejudice, oppression or social conditioning” with the marginally less incendiary case of sex differences.  

Here, it is sex differences, not in intelligence, but rather in temperament, preferences and personality that are probably more important, and likely explain occupational segregation and the so-called gender pay gap

Thus, Singer writes: 

If achieving high status increases access to women, then we can expect men to have a stronger drive for status than women” (p18). 

This alone, he implies, may explain both the universalilty of male rule and the so-called gender pay gap

However, Singer neglects to mention another biological factor that is also probably important in explaining the gender pay gap – namely, women’s attachment to infant offspring. This factor, also innate and biological in origin, also likely impedes career advancement among women. 

Thus, it bears emphasizing that never-married women with no children actually earn more, on average, than do unmarried men without children of the same age in both Britain and America.[9]

For a more detailed treatment of the biological factors underlying the gender pay gap, see Biology at Work: Rethinking Sexual Equality by professor of law, Kingsley Browne, which I have reviewed here and here.[10] See also my review of Warren Farrell’s Why Men Earn More, which can be found here, here and here.

Dysgenic Fertility Patterns? 

It is sometimes claimed by opponents of welfare benefts that the welfare system only encourages the unemployed to have more children so as to receive more benefits and thereby promotes dysgenic fertility patterns. In response, Singer retorts:

Even if there were a genetic component to something as nebulous as unemployment, to say that these genes are ‘deleterious’ would involve value judgements that go way beyond what the science alone can tell us” (p15).

Singer is, of course, right that an extra-scientific value judgement is required in order to label certain character traits, and the genes that contribute to them, as deleterious or undesirable. 

Indeed, if single mothers on welfare do indeed raise more surviving children than do those who are not reliant on state benefits, then this indicates that they have higher reproductive success, and hence, in the strict biological sense, greater fitness than their more financially independent, but less fecund, reproductive competitors. 

Therefore, far from being deleterious’ in the biological sense, genes contributing to such behaviour are actually under positive selection, at least under current environmental conditions.  

However, even if such genes are not ‘deleterious’ in the strict biological sense, this does not necessarily mean that they are desirable in the moral sense, or in the sense of contributing to successful civilizations and societal advancement. To suggest otherwise would, of course, involve a version of the very appeal to nature fallacy or naturalistic fallacy that Singer is elsewhere emphatic in rejecting. 

Thus, although regarding certain character traits, and the genes that contribute to them, as undesirable does indeed involve an extra-scientific “value judgement”, this is not to say that the “value judgement” in question is necessarily mistaken or unwarranted. On the contrary, it means only that such a value judgement is, by its nature, a matter of morality, not of science. 

Thus, although science may be silent on the issue, virtually everyone would agree that some traits (e.g. generosity, health, happiness, conscientiousness) are more desirable than others (e.g. selfishness, laziness, depression, illness). Likewise, it is self-evident that the long-term unemployed are a net burden on society, and that a successful society cannot be formed of people unable or unwilling to work. 

As we have seen, Singer also questions whether there can be “a genetic component to something as nebulous as unemployment”. 

However, in the strict biological sense, unemployment probably is indeed partly heritable. So, incidentally, are road traffic accidents and our political opinions – because each reflect personality traits that are themselves heritable (e.g. risk-takers and people with poor physical coordination and slow reactions probably have more traffic accidents; and perhaps more compassionate people are more likely to favour leftist politics). 

Thus, while it may be unhelpful and misleading to talk of unemployment as itself heritable, nevertheless traits of the sort that likely contribute to unemployment (e.g. intelligenceconscientiousnessmental and physical illness) are indeed heritable

Actually, however, the question of heritability, in the strict biological sense, is irrelevant. 

Thus, even if the reason that children from deprived backgrounds have worse life outcomes is entirely mediated by environmental factors (e.g. economic or cultural deprivation, or the bad parenting practices of low-SES parents), the case for restricting the reproductive rights of those people who are statistically prone to raise dysfunctional offspring remains intact. 

After all, children usually get both their genes and their parenting from the same set of parents – and this could be changed only by a massive, costly, and decidedly illiberal, policy of forcibly removing offspring from their parents.[11]

Therefore, so long as an association between parentage and social outcomes is established, the question of whether this association is biologically or environmentally mediated is simply beside the point, and the case for restricting the reproductive rights of certain groups remains intact.  

Of course, it is doubtful that welfare-dependent women do indeed financially benefit from giving birth to additional offspring. 

It is true that they may receive more money in state benefits if they have more dependent offspring to support and provide for. However, this may well be more than offset by the additional cost of supporting and providing for the dependent offspring in question, leaving the mother with less to spend on herself. 

However, even if the additional monies paid to mothers with dependent children are not sufficient as to provide a positive financial incentive to bearing additional children, they at least reduce the financial disincentives otherwise associated with rearing additional offspring.  

Therefore, given that, from an evolutionary perspective, women probably have an innate desire to bear additional offspring, it follows that a rational fitness-maximizer would respond to the changed incentives represented by the welfare system by increasing their reproductive rate.[12]

A New Socialist Eugenics?

If we accept Singer’s contention that an understanding of human nature can help show us how achieve, but not choose, our ultimate political objectives, then eugenics could be used to help us achieve the goal of producing the better people and hence, ultimately, better societies. 

Indeed, given that Singer seemingly concedes that human nature is presently incompatible with communist utopia, perhaps then the only way to revive the socialist dream of equality is to eugenically re-engineer human nature itself so as to make it more compatible. 

Thus, it is perhaps no accident that, before World War Two, eugenics was a cause typically associated, not with conservatives, nor even, as today, with fascism, but rather with the political left

Thus, early twentieth century socialist-eugenicists like H.G. Wells, Sidney Webb, Margaret Sanger and George Bernard Shaw may then have tentatively grasped what eludes contemporary leftists, Singer very much included – namely that re-engineering society necessarily requires as a prerequisite re-engineering Man himself.[13]

_________________________

Endnotes

[1] Indeed, the view that the poor and ill ought to be left to perish so as to further the evolutionary process seems to have been a marginal one even in its ostensible late nineteenth century heyday (see Bannister, Social Darwinism Science and Myth in Anglo-American Social Thought). The idea always seems, therefore, to have been largely, if not wholly, a straw man.

[2] In this, the evolutionary psychologists are surely right. Thus, no one accuses biomedical researchers of somehow ‘justifying disease’ when they investigate how infectious diseases, in an effort maximize their own reproductive success, spread form host to host. Likewise, nobody suggests that dying of a treatable illness is desirable, even though this may have been the ‘natural’ outcome before such ‘unnatural’ interventions as vaccination and antibiotics were introduced.

[3] The convenional notion that we can usefully conceptualize the political spectrum on a single dimensional left-right axis is obviously preposterous. For one thing, there is, at the very least, a quite separate liberal-authoritarian dimension. However, even restricting our definition of the left-right axis to purely economic matters, it remains multi-factorial. For example, Hayek, in The Road to Serfdom classifies fascism as a left-wing ideology, because it involved big government and a planned economy. However, most leftists would reject this definition, since the planned economy in question was designed, not to reduce economic inequalities, but rather, in the case of Nazi Germany at least, to fund and sustain an expanded military force, a war economy, external military conquest and grandiose vanity public works architectural projects. The term ’right-wing‘ is even more problematic, including everyone from fascists, to libertarians to religious fundamentalists. Yet a Christian fundamentalist who wants to outlaw pornography and abortion has little in common with either a libertarian who wants to decriminalize prostitution and child pornography, nor with a eugenicist who wants to make abortions, for certain classes of person, compulsory. Yet all three are classed together as ’right-wing’ even though they share no more in common with one another than any does with a raving unreconstructed Marxist.

[4] Thus, the British Conservatives Party traditionally styled themselves one-nation conservatives, who looked to the interests of the nation as a whole, rather than what they criticized as the divisive ‘sectionalism’ of the trade union and labour movements, which favoured certain economic classes, and workers in certain industries, over others, just as contemporary leftists privilege the interests of certain ethnic, religious and culturally-defined groups (e.g. blacks, Muslims, feminists) over others (i.e. white males).

[5] Of course, some ‘unnatural’ interventions have positive health benefits. Obvious examples are modern medical treatments such as penicillin, chemotherapy and vaccination. However, these are the exceptions. They have been carefully selected and developed by scientists to have this positive effect, have gone through rigorous testing to ensure that their effects are indeed beneficial, and are generally beneficial only to people with certain diagnosed conditions. In contrast, recreational drug use almost invariably has a negative effect on health.
It might also be noted that, although their use by humans may be ‘unnatural’, the role of antibiotics in fighting bacterial infection is not itself ‘unnatural’, since antibiotics such as penicillin themselves evolved as a natural means by which one microorganism, namely mould, a form of fungi, fights another form of microorganism, namely bacteria.

[6] It is certainly possible for more altruistic cultures to exist. For example, the famous (and hugely wasteful) potlatch feasts of some Native American cultures exemplify a form of competitive altruism, analogous to conspicuous consumption, and may be explicable as a form of status display in accordance with Zahavi’s handicap principle. However, recognizing that such cultures exist does not easily translate into working out how to create or foster such cultures, let alone transform existing cultures in this direction.

[7]  Indeed, by modern politically-correct standards, Marx was a rampant racist, not to mention an anti-Semite

[8] The term Rawlsian is a reference to political theorist John Rawles version of social contract theory, whereby he poses the hypothetical question as to what arrangement of political, social and economic affairs humans would favour if placed in what he called the original position, where they would be unaware of, not only their own race, sex and position in to the socio-economic hierarchy, but also, most important for our purposes, their own level of innate ability. This Rawles referred to as ’veil of ignorance’. 

[9] As Warren Farrell documents in his excellent Why Men Earn More (which I have reviewed here, here and here), in the USA, women who have never married and have no children actually earn more than men who have never married and have no children and have done since at least the 1950s (Why Men Earn More: pxxi). More precisely, according to Farrell, never-married men without children on average earn only about 85% of their childless never-married female counterparts (Ibid: pxxiii). The situation is similar in the UK. Thus, economist JR Shackleton reports:

“Women in the middle age groups who remain single earn more than middle-aged single males” (Should We Mind the Gap? p30).

The reasons unmarried, childless women earn more than unmarried childless men are multifarious and include:

  1. Married women can afford to work less because they appropriate a portion of their husband’s income in addition to their own
  2. Married men and men with children are thus obliged to earn even more so as to financially support, not only themselves, but also their wife, plus any offspring;
  3. Women prefer to marry richer men and hence poorer men are more likely to remain single;
  4. Childcare duties undertaken by women interfere with their earning capacity.

[10]  Incidentally, Browne has also published a more succinct summary of the biological factors underlying the pay-gap that was first published in the same ‘Darwinism Today’ series as Singer’s ‘A Darwinian Left’, namely Divided Labors: An Evolutionary View of Women at Work. However, much though I admire Browne’s work, this represents a rather superficial popularization of his research on the topic, and I would recommend instead Browne’s longer Biology at Work: Rethinking Sexual Equality (reviewed here) for a more comprehenseive treatment of the same, and related, topics. 

[11] A precedent for just such a programme, enacted in the name of socialism, albeit imposed consensually, was the communal rearing practices in Israeli Kibbutzim, since largely abandoned. Another suggestion along rather different lines comes from Adolf Hitler, who, believing that nature trumped nurture, is quoted in Mein Kampf as proposing: 

The State must also teach that it is the manifestation of a really noble nature and that it is a humanitarian act worthy of all admiration if an innocent sufferer from hereditary disease refrains from having a child of his own but bestows his love and affection on some unknown child whose state of health is a guarantee that it will become a robust member of a powerful community” (quoted in: Parfrey 1987: p162). 

[12] Actually, it is not entirely clear that women do have a natural desire to bear offspring. Other species probably do not have any such natural desire. Since they are almost certainly are not aware of the connection between sex and child birth, such a desire would serve no adaptive purpose and hence would never evolve. All an organism requires is a desire for sex, combined perhaps with a tendency to care for offspring after they are born. (Indeed, in principle, a female does not even require a desire for sex, only a willingness to submit to the desire of a male for sex.) As Tooby and Cosmides emphasize: 

Individual organisms are best thought of as adaptation-executers rather than as fitness-maximizers.” 

There is no requirement for a desire for offspring as such. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence of so-called broodiness, and the fact that most women do indeed desire children, despite the costs associated with raising children, suggests that, in human females, there is indeed some innate desire for offspring. Curiously, however, the topic of broodiness is not one that has attracted much attention among evolutionists.

[13] However, there is a problem with any such case for a ‘Brave New Socialist Eugenics’. Before the eugenic programme is complete, the individuals controlling eugenic programmes (be they governments or corporations) would still possess a more traditional human nature, and may therefore have less than altruistic motivations themselves. This seems to suggest then that, as philosopher John Gray concludes in Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (which I have reviewed here):  

“[If] human nature [is] scientifically remodelled… it will be done haphazardly, as an upshot of the struggles in the murky world where big business, organized crime and the hidden parts of government vie for control” (Straw Dogs: p6).

References  

Parfrey (1987) Eugenics: The Orphaned Science. In Parfrey (Ed.) Apocalypse Culture (New York: Amoc Press). 

Trivers 1971 The evolution of reciprocal altruism Quarterly Review of Biology 46(1):35-57 

Vining 1986 Social versus reproductive success: The central theoretical problem of human sociobiologyBehavioral and Brain Sciences 9(1), 167-187.