A Review of "A New Morality from Science: Beyondism"

Richard Lynn,

"Review: A New Morality from Science: Beyondism." by R.B. Cattell. Pergamon Press, New York, 1972. Pages xvii and 482. Irish Journal of Psychology 2 #3 (Winter 1974).

A new book by Professor Cattell is always an exciting occasion, for his is certainly one of the most brilliant of contemporary psychologists. Before he was thirty he had devised the culture-free intelligence test and worked out a statistical technique for measuring the decline of the British national intelligence. Later he formulated the double g theory of fluid and crystallised intelligence and designed the world famous 16PF. And now we have his latest work: Beyondism.

Beyondism! Whatever is it? It is a new system of ethics designed to bring about the improvement of the human species. We need a new system of ethics, Cattell begins by telling us, because the old ethics based on religion is so clearly breaking down throughout the world. The new ethics of Beyondism is based not on religion but on science. Its objective is the improvement of the human beings and society: a better world. The means of brining about this lie in the application of Darwin's law of evolution.

People who considered the problem of how the world can be improved fall into one or other of two camps. On the one hand, there are those who believe it is possible to draw up a blueprint of the ideal society. Everything is to be planned. This is the vision of socialism. The alternative approach is that of conservatism. To the conservative, we are not able to tell what an improved society of the future would be like, any more than our primate ancestors could imagine human society, or mediaeval man the advances societies of today. In the fact of our limited powers of foresight and understanding, and the unknown discoveries which will be made in the fullness of time, the best course is to let a better society evolve gradually of its own accord.

Of these two approaches, Cattell places himself squarely in the conservative camp. The problem, posed from the viewpoint of the conservation tradition, is not to sit down and plan a specification for Utopia, but to set up the conditions under which further evolutionary progress will occur. For this we need to go back to Darwin, for he gave us the master theory of the principles of evolution, applicable not only to the development of different species in the past but also to the future progress of mankind.

Now evolution takes place where there is a variety of different types who compete against one another, and in this competition the fittest survive and the unfit become extinct. This, therefore, should be the first principle in the design of human society. The requirement of diverse competing types applies both to societies and to individuals. Among societies the unit should be the nation and there should be the widest variety of different cultures. Some will be capitalist, some socialist, and some mixed economies. Some will be democracies, others oligarchies, and yet other dictatorships. They will have different religions, or none; and they will have different kinds and distributions of intelligence and personality qualities. The nations will compete, and in the competitive struggle the fittest will survive.

If the evolutionary process is to bring its benefits, it has to be allowed to operate effectively. This means that incompetent societies have to be allowed to go to the wall. This is something we in advanced societies do not at present face up to and the reason for this, according to Cattell, is that we have become too soft-hearted. For instance, the foreign aid which we give to the under-developed world is a mistake, akin to keeping going incompetent species like the dinosaurs which are not fit for the competitive struggle for existence. What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the populations of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of "phasing out" of such peoples. If the world is to evolve more better humans, then obviously someone has to make way for them otherwise we shall all be overcrowded. After all, ninety-eight per cent of the of the species known to zoologists are extinct. Evolutionary progress means the extinction of the less competent. To think otherwise is mere sentimentality.

As a general rule it would be best for national cultures to keep themselves to themselves and not to admit immigrants. There are several reasons for this. Isolation would give rise to societies with greater diversity and individuality, both culturally and genetically. Indeed, it would be desirable if the human race could evolve several different non-interbreeding species, since this would increase the options for evolution to work on. Another reason for discouraging migration is that migrants are often people of low genetic quality who reduce the efficiency of the population they join.

The first principle for evolutionary progress is therefore competition between diverse cultures, but we have to think also of the principles conducive to the efficiency of individual nations especially that of our own if we wish to be among the survivors.

It is of course necessary to improve the society by better education, health and so forth. Everyone agrees with that. But it is equally important to improve the genetic quality of society. Cattell maintains that in order to do this we need to encourage the intelligent people to have more children and the unintelligent to have fewer. And here, as in international relationships, the altruistic impulses have become unhealthily strong in advanced western societies. For just as in certain people the aggressive impulses, or the sexual impulses, can get out of hand, the same thing can occur with the altruistic impulses and has in fact occurred in advanced western societies. For example, we are too altruistic towards the poor. People are poor largely because they are incompetent and unintelligent. Such people should not be encouraged to breed. Conversely, we are too harsh to the rich. Progressive taxation, for example, is hard to justify. Why should the rich have to contribute more than anyone else through taxation to the maintenance of state services, since they do not benefit more from them? Morally, this cannot be justified. Eugenically, it is equally undesirable. For the rich are rich, broadly speaking, because they are intelligent and competent and we should encourage them to have more children. Let them keep their money and they may be persuaded to do so. We should allow the effects of competition full reign within societies as well as between societies. For it is through competition that evolutionary progress will take place.

Tough speaking, you may say. No doubt, but then Cattell is saying that this is a tough world. It is the law of evolution which is tough, and you cannot fight against the laws of nature. You have instead to work with them, working with the grain and not against it. Ignoring the laws of nature brings its own nemesis. Thus a society which has grown too soft towards its incompetents, encouraging them to multiply unduly, and places too great handicaps on its more efficient and enterprising, will itself become an incompetent society and will in time fall victim to a more vigorous nation. Moral defects within societies are thereby corrected in the competitive struggle between societies. The law of evolution cannot be fought or circumvented. We can ignore it, at our peril, or we can recognize it and work with it. But if all this -- nature red in tooth and claw -- seems harsh, we have to remember that this is the mechanism through which evolutionary progress takes place, through which man himself has evolved from more primitive forms of life, and through which future progress will occur.

And so for Cattell the basic principles for a scientific ethics are these: diverse societies and types; competition between societies and between individuals; survival of the fittest, extinction of the unfit. This is the way to a better world. How different from most prescriptions for Utopia, with their socialistic world states in which competition is extinguished and all men work together in a spirit of co-operation, brotherly love and, no doubt, boredom. And how different is Raymond Cattell today from the young Raymond Cattell who in the nineteen thirties, in his Fight for the National Intelligence, described himself as a Socialist. Over the last forty years Cattell has evidently travelled (sic!) the long road from radical Socialist to high Tory. He is not the first to have done so. Those who share this latter viewpoint will welcome a recruit of such undoubted brilliance as Raymond Cattell.

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