Previous Evolution

The question of where to draw the line between closely related species and subspecies can be resolved differently by different observers. In the case of modern human populations, where scientists tend to pursue conflicting socialpolitical agendas, demarcation lines are hotly contested.

The system of binomial nomenclature established in the eighteenth century by the Swedish botanist Karl von Linné (Carolus Linnaeus) for mapping the relationships among all living things (at least on our planet) lumps together the totality of modern human populations as Homo sapiens. All humans alive today, whether bushmen, Australian aborigines, Japanese, Eskimos, or caucasoids, are thus included in a single species, and any discussion of subspecies is regarded with suspicion and hostility. Issued in response to a statement by the rightist French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen on racial inequality, a 1997 statement signed by a group of prominent biologists denied the very existence of race in human populations. Actually, the denial of race had first been made by the eugenicist Julian Huxley in 1935. Again, the assertion had been triggered by political events – in this case the promulgation of Hitler’s anti-Jewish pronouncements.2 Accordingly we now have a single “modern man,” and he comes in different colors. It is true that modern genetic studies have shown remarkable similarity among all humans, but for that humans and chimpanzees share something like 99% of their nonduplicative DNA

Scientists now generally agree that modern human populations have their origins in Africa, but there is considerable disagreement as to whether current intergroup differences are explained by evolution dating back a million years to Homo erectus (“multiregionalism”) or whether Homo sapiens showed up as a relatively late arrival, roughly 100,000- 200,000 years ago, and then proceeded to wipe out competing hominid emigres wherever he came into contact with them (“replacement” theory). The degree to which earlier hominid species interbred remains in the area of speculation, in which the multiregionalists have been accused of making a case for fundamental biological differences that amounts to racism.3 In the words of the scholar Seymour Itzkoff, we are dealing here with a “will to believe [which] is reminiscent of the seduction of intellectuals with abstract ideological models in politics and social thought.

The family trees of the cheetah and the horse provide useful contrasting models. Genetic studies have demonstrated that today’s cheetahs display so little diversity that their ancestors must at one time have come through such a narrow bottleneck that only a few individuals were able to perpetuate the species by inbreeding. Horses, by contrast, display tremendous variance as a result of independent taming and breeding in different parts of the world.

Ultimately, genetics is more like a game of chess, where the development of a position is of strictly historical interest and plays no role in determining the game’s outcome, than it is like bridge, where success is determined largely by the player’s ability to remember which cards were played earlier. The variability so obvious in human populations, even on an intragroup basis, opens the possibility of intervening in human evolution to guide it and even to search for new horizons, regardless of how present variability came about. Where we came from is a fascinating question, but where we are heading is quite another.

Even the replacement school of thought concedes that the human species developed for at least some five to eight thousand generations outside of Africa under radically differing conditions of selection. Such a sequence is sufficient to produce significant differences in the various subpopulations.

In addition, still greater diversity would have to be postulated on the basis of the biological diversity that must have been in evidence at the time the various populations left Africa. Since human populations have had a far longer time to evolve in Africa than outside the mother continent, African populations display far greater genetic diversity than do other races, and the tiny populations who wandered out of Africa may well have reflected at least part of this diversity. Moreover, the émigrés may have interbred with other hominid species both in Africa and with those that had arrived still earlier. Animal breeders, by comparison, can achieve significant changes in just a few generations. These factors, combined with the professional specialization of modern society and selective mating, represent the chief sources of intra-species variance.

If Homo sapiens has been around for perhaps 150,000 years, our future existence may be considerably more ephemeral. Humanity is thus a colony with a beginning and evidently an end and is viewed here, not just as all people alive at any given moment, but as the totality of future people over the entire lifespan of this community. Eugenicists reason that our moral obligations are to all of them, that we are not only part of the planet’s ecology, its custodians as well. As the mythologist Joseph Campbell put it, we are no less than its consciousness.

The renowned geneticist James V. Neel studied the society and genetic makeup of the Yanomama of southern Venezuela and northern Brazil and persuasively argued that the structure of their society was typical of human populations during the period when people still lived exclusively in bands, that is, for all but the last 10,000 years. These were small, isolated populations which practiced polygamy and incest, permitting nature to select among a rich variety of genotypes in widely differing environments. Such conditions were conducive to rapid evolution. Panmixia may still be a long way off, and indeed may never be total, but the ever-increasing outbreeding of human populations is reducing human diversity while at the same time creating large populations that are, perhaps, less prone to sudden, major genetic fluctuations.

History clearly demonstrates that social harmony is especially difficult to achieve in the face of diversity, whether religious, linguistic, or ethnic. The great historical crimes have all been instances of group-on-group violence. And when two or more ethnoses are clearly distinguishable from one another, the situation is fraught with even greater stress. The United States, which renounced the monstrous crime of slavery only to retain blatant discrimination for a century, is now attempting to achieve racial equity, but the fear of racial conflict is and will undoubtedly remain both large and, unfortunately, well founded. At the same time the issue has been blurred, racism being defined as a) group discrimination and hatred and b) discussion of intergroup differences. The two topics are really quite different, albeit not unrelated. Society’s elites have decided that studies of intergroup differences are too volatile to permit them to be widely discussed and have falsely presented such studies as claiming total separation of group qualities rather than relative statistical frequency of specific characteristics.

We should all be able to agree that intergroup differences are a scientific, not a moral question. As far as the eugenics argument is concerned, they are irrelevant in the most fundamental fashion. Even if the desired breeding resource proves to be distributed differently in some populations than in others, each group contains a vast pool of talented individuals to draw upon in parenting future generations. Regardless of the magnitude of such intergroup differences, the reality is that even on an intragroup basis we ought to be less than pleased with ourselves.




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