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Ethics and the Social Sciences - The Beyondist Solution


Several years ago (1948) I was moved to write in the American Psychologist an article challenging the naive and dangerous manner in which many social scientists indiscriminately mixed their personal political and religious values with their more scientific conclusions. Andreski (1972) has illuminated the same problem.

Criticism of such skullduggery is not enough. There must be a constructive solution if social sciences are to be applied, and so with progressive clarification (1938, 1944, 1950, 1972) I have sought to develop what might claim to be a system of ethics of the same metal as science itself. Naturally this ethic asserts that the new wine of science in human thought cannot safely be kept in the old bottles of "revealed" religion, and that the duality of knowledge of fact and values, beloved of many philosophers from Kant to Russell, must be abandoned.

That the ethical basis of morality should have been linked with religions throughout history is a natural consequence of the fact that religions had the function of answering the basic questions "Where am I?," "What am I?," and "What therefore ought I to do?" World views and moral values logically belong together. So if science in the last few hundred years has given clearer answers to "Where and what am I?," it is time it also gave answers in the field of human values.

Need for an Evolutionary Ethic

The search in the domain of science for a foundation leads one to the largest writing on the wall: that recognizing the pervasive principle of inorganic and organic evolution. For an ethics derived from evolution one might be tempted to use a label such as Progressivism or Human Betterment or Advance; but I adhered to Beyondism for reasons that will become clear. They have to do with the difficulty of objectively defining progress, and the possibilities of diverse directions of progress, so that what remains essential is a spirit to adventure beyond existing horizons.

Three indispensable, central concepts have to be defined and used in accepting evolution: 1) that there must be genetic and cultural variation; 2) that it must be followed by natural selection for adaptation. (Genocide by man is questionable; but with the actions of genocide by nature we must be in harmony); and 3) that both have their meaning with regard to a given or potential environment. Among secondary principles we have to recognize that natural selection acts both upon individuals and groups. The operation of natural selection upon groups may in lower animal species be little more than a summation of selection on individuals. But in complex human societies it is responsive to emergents beyond the individual in the pattern and organic life of the group. Thus, while it still acts on individuals as such, one must recognize also the truth that individuals, regardless of their own characters, live or perish with the culture-genetic group to which they belong.

In asserting that much selection operates on groups Beyondism is apt to get spattered with the torrent of ink that flows over a "philosophical" debate on "the relative importance of the individual and the group" which has centered particularly on Hegel's apotheosis of the group versus the Christian belief in the importance of the individual. In an evolutionary setting this issue becomes as pointless as seeking the relative importance of the hen and the egg. One must at least accept Hobbes' dictum about the poverty of development of the "isolated savage," and recognize that the most brilliant Nobel Prize winning chemist would be inglorious, if not mute, living without his apparatus in a mud hut. Natural selection must act primarily upon groups as such, because the type of individual is needed whose development requires a group and who contributes to a successful group.

Natural Selection Works on Societies Also

So long as men live in societies, by reason of such organizations being biologically more viable than amorphous collections of anarchic men, natural selection will eventually come to act largely on societies. Those societies will have higher survival rates whose members follow ethical rules akin to the ten commandments, calculated to keep the group in being, and whose level of individual altruism reaches a sufficient level of suprapersonal dedication to the life of the group. The rules which best meet this need have hitherto been intuited by religious geniuses, but with the modern advance of the social sciences, with measurement and mathematical models, it should be possible, proceeding through empirically based laws, to infer those behaviors in individuals that best assure group survival. Ethics would then no longer be the perquisite of dogmatic religion, nor the plaything of modem moral relativism, but would take its place as a firm branch of science, though open to debate and fresh experiment as all science is. Parenthetically that could do much for our present ills - rising crime, drug addiction, violence and -pointlessness, which are no longer, in a prosperous age, to be smugly ascribed to evils of poverty and lack of education, "but surely arise from the demolition of the authority of revealed religion in the last century.

The conception of a rationally based ethics is, of course, far from new. The Priestley-Comte- Bentham-Mill-Spencer line of development, in most of which "the greatest happiness of the greatest number" was the accepted social target for inferring the courses of individual behavior, had its successes in legislation and in liberal thought. However, it is generally recognized today that this rationalist ethic failed to establish itself with either the common man or the philosophers. It probably failed with the former because it did not reach into his life, the social "sciences" then being unable to demonstrate what ethical rules would reach the given goal, in the way that an electrician can tell us what will make a TV set work. It failed with the philosopher because the goal had no precision, "units of pleasure" or happiness being hard to define. From a Beyondist standpoint it failed in a still more crucial sense: that it chose the goal subjectively, as appealing to the simple mind of the reformer, rather than discovering the goal by scientific research into the system of nature to which man belongs. The goal of the Utilitarians witnesses mainly to the kind hearts of nineteenth century liberals and their continuation of the vain thinking of the French Enlightenment pure reason without science. Indeed, the whole pattern of pre-biological, pre-Darwinian political thought is evident still in the obsolete, staunchly conservative thinking of the "liberal" intelligentsia today.

The contribution of Bentham and Mill was that at least they broke the crust of inhibition, imposed by established custom and religion, thus leading to a consideration of ethical values derived from other sources than revealed, inspirational, dogmatic religion. However, no tour de force such as some have proposed, e.g. including the happiness of future generations in the assessment of "the greatest happiness of the greatest number," can reconcile the comfortable, man-encapsulated philosophy of Utilitarianism with the penetration of a stark outer space which is the essence of Beyondism.

From the basic proposition above, that variation and natural selection act upon societies, we must now move on to examine the next proposition: that natural selection has to act upon a combination of genetic and cultural characters. In so doing we also recognize that success or failure of a group does not weigh its morality alone, but responds to the primary efficiency and intelligence of the cultural habits and the adaptiveness of the genetic mutations which it has accumulated by acts of nature. However, as eugenists have long argued, man is not helpless in the latter area: he can to some extent control mutation rates and he can be alert to fostering mutations which reduce the culturo-genetic lag i.e. the disparity between what a successful culture demands and what an otherwise haphazard supply of births provides.

In arguing that the advance of cultures proceeds by essentially the same laws of variation and selection as genetic advance we are omitting reference to lesser modifying principles and to complexities which the study of social evolution has not yet mastered. Cultural reformers may have sufficient insight to hit a success rate better than 50-50, but their insight is far poorer than their confidence warrants, and cultural changes come essentially under the same laws of trial and error learning as do gene mutations. However, the survival or non-survival of a group culture is not the all or nothing fate of a biological organism, since cultural elements from it are often imitated and cannibalized by other cultures, with possibilities of wise or unwise choice. And though the extinction of a race commonly brings extinction also of its culture, the extinction of a culture may at most produce only a dwindling of the associated race.

Cooperation of Man With Nature

Obviously the adoption of an evolutionary, Beyondist ethic calls for a cooperation of man with nature in facilitating more intelligently the perceived goals. This calls, for example, for universal cooperation for the protection and encouragement of racial and cultural variation, and an international research organization to promote better measurement, recording, and analysis of the cultural and genetic experiments proceeding, in order to arrive at understanding in scientific laws. Among those laws would be the ethical laws best suited to cultures in general, with the modifications appropriate and best fitted for each geno-cultural experiment. On the value of such a major comparative central research organization in monitoring the socio-genetic health of communities, and of detecting what is moribund before a society collapses, a little more will be said below.

Morality involves ethical laws both in behavior among individuals and among groups, and since analogous analyses would lead us to expect that these would not be the same, the Beyondist will demand careful study before subscribing to popular views that ideally they should be the same. For example, there may be arguments for reducing competition among individuals in a group, but not for eliminating competition among groups. This and other further analysis of inferences and lesser principles from the basic evolutionary principles can perhaps be most interestingly pursued in handling criticisms that have arisen from the impact of Beyondism on conservative and entrenched political and social opinion today.

In the first place no biologist, and few widely educated psychologists, can fail to have perceived that many sociologists and cultural anthropologists completely ignore genetic factors in culture. They borrow from psychology only a Pavlovian Skinnerian learning theory, not the newer, comprehensive structured learning theory. (Cattell 1979) The assumption is explicit in some, and unexamined in others, that any culture can be grafted with equal ease upon any racial stock. While modem quantitative investigation of this is too rare (Jensen, Loehlin, Lindsey and Spuhler, Lynn) to be invoked, it surely takes a minimum of imagination to recognize that a modern industrial-cybernatic culture could never be taught to and sustained by pre-Neanderthal man - at least by the genetic makeup of the Australopithecoid man with a brain capacity about one half of modern races. And any teacher will recognize that our present subculture of perhaps a thousand physicists practicing advanced nuclear research would vanish if the spread of I.Q. above 110 were cut off. There may well be elastic but real boundaries also in what inherited temperament does to the forms of culture can be stabilized.(l) The sociologist seeking to preserve his pure environmentalist beliefs is apt point out that cultures and genetic or racial groups are so "inextricably" mixed, that no one can argue for any importance in the genes of a population. Actually the fact that races and cultures are not correlationally independent is a powerful argument for some causal dependence. The Beyondist view that both genetics and learning are involved in the formation of a culture is certainly well supported at presently attainable levels of method and analysis by the scholarly writings of Huxley, Keith, Chomsky, Darlington, Lynn, Eysenck, Jensen, Waddington, and others.

Competition Between Groups

The second derivative principle of Beyondism that has met rather similar heated criticism, especially by would-be idealists among the young (bound to the "progressive" slogans of the last generation) is that which requires free competition among groups (and therefore, in certain ways, within groups). A liberal should have no difficulty in digesting these inferences for it is central in the original liberal economic doctrine of "laissez faire" and free trade. But competition and natural selection raise the spectre of war, and evolution certainly requires that there shall be expansion and retraction of cultures, else there can be no outcome in relative survival. The concept of competition here, however, has two special developments in it, first in what is defined as cooperative competition, and secondly in its avoidance of what may be called explicit, emulative and imitative competition. As to the first, if all groups perceive that they are aiming at a common purpose of human progress, which, because of our blindness, can be achieved only by agreeing to vary- and await the verdict of nature, they have the emotional unity of a cooperative competition. As to the effect of a too-explicit competition we recognize on the one hand that the lilies of the field toil not nor spin, yet evolve, whereas man and some higher animals get involved in warfare, developing burdens analogous to the massive antlers of the stags, or, even worse, beginning to run races along set courses with their minds closed to more creative directions of variation.

After two world wars virtually within a generation objections to competition on the grounds that it engenders war are understandable. Actually, war is no more a desirable or necessary part of competition than fisticuffs and temper tantrums in a football game. If writers in panic argue against competition because of war they need to be reminded that the advance of science or the rise in standard of living should also be halted; for the former makes war more destructive and the latter makes it more prolonged. To reject the indispensable principle of competition because of the risk of degeneration into war is a perfect example of throwing out the baby with the bath water.

What is a necessity for Beyondism - and one difficult for the comfort-loving liberal intellectual to understand - is some mechanism for expansion of successful cultures and retraction of moribund societies. Imitation of successes will not alone guarantee this. Incidentally, the lack of a wisely-evaluating and lawful process for expansion offers a constant threat of war, as surely as screwing the saucepan lid down promises some ultimate explosion. The emotionality which has developed journalistically around such terms as "imperialism" and "colonialism blinds the public to the fact of life. The fashion of making "imperialism" an obscenity should not blind us to the logical necessity in natural selection of ensuring greater population and resources to societies which make a better adjustment to the natural world.

The inherent problem in any attempt at peaceful adjustment in expansion and retraction is the likelihood of hasty and erroneous judgment. We have said that a central world research organization should be supervising what technically might be viewed as an analysis of variance experimental design, with cultural and racial "effects," and if this were sensitively conducted the cautions now inherent in scientific judgments would preclude the hasty enthusiasms of the world for particular cultures. Insistence on the difficulties of such judgments, however, is often a cloak for failure to accept the basic change of values required by Beyondism, namely that cultures and races, like individuals, are born to die. Biologists, counting the records in the rocks, tell us that no less than about 95% of all once-existing species and races are now extinct, and an historian might reach a similar count for cultures. journalists may scream against "genocide," but if they include genocide by nature rather than by man, as they apparently do, they are being ridiculous. Nature is concerned with evolving life, not with preserving a living museum of all species, and genocide, like individual death, is the only way of clearing space.

Since one of the main misunderstandings of and attacks upon Beyondism has arisen from its giving equal importance to racial (or genetic) variation and cultural variation alike one must unfortunately take an appreciable digression to disperse this fog of misrepresentation. In the first place an evolutionary experiment today would not be much concerned with the concept of the traditional major geographical races, which are largely the products of geographical isolation and climatic adjustment. It would be concerned instead with specific Mendelian populations or micro-races, with actual breeding populations and the gene pools which they represent. As the study of human genetics advances it will be concerned still more with genetic experiment selective reproduction and the cultivation of mutations - always to be put to the test of health and survival potential.

An aspect of Beyondism which is more seriously in need of consideration than this misfiring, puerile issue of alleged racism concerns the definition and recognition of group success and vitality as contrasted with the sickness of a culture. Although in the last resort there exists a firm operational definition of failure, in the inability of a group to survive as a group, such as happened in Sodom and Gomorrah, in the Roman Empire, in the extinct culture of Angkor Vat and countless other examples from history. Beyondism can at present only provide a definition of disease too crude and too late to offer a cure. In this matter, any ethic derived from science calls for the inauguration of a kind and a volume of research in the social sciences such as is nowhere conceived at the present time. If the deliberate planning of genetic and cultural variation is to follow an enlightened, optimal design, and the recording and analysis of observations is to throw light on the causes and consequences of corruption and ill health in societies, a supernational research organization of cooperating scientists will be needed. One must leave to the future (2) the evidence that it will be possible to distinguish a moribund from a healthy society (before the moribund society actually expires) by certain diagnostic measurements, just as a doctor does with the human organism. As in biological organisms these signs may be somewhat different in different species but a common core will exist. Consequently, despite the somewhat different directions in which particular socio-genetic experiments will be heading, the objectivity of the goal by which moral behavior and other desirables in a society receive sanction remains beyond cavil; for in the last resort it is still survival or non-survival.

The conception of an organized world research center brings us to a subtle but important difference between the Beyondist conception and that which has been urged by the majority of advocates of "one world." The latter is a very old aspiration of both idealists and conquerors. It appeared in the dreams of Alexander, in the concrete citizenship of the Roman Empire, in the Medieval Christian church, in the megalomania of Ghenghis Khan; in countless writers (practical and impractical) of which Montesquieu and H.G. Wells are good representatives, and in the slogan "One World" of a U.S. presidential candidate (Wendell Wilkie). If this concept means one uniform world, culturally and racially, as many enthusiasts interpret it, then, to a Beyondist, it is the worst catastrophe that could occur to mankind. Under what I have discussed elsewhere as "the hedonic pact" (Cattell 1972) it could put a stop to evolution, as accumulating entropy brings a faulty organism or machine to stasis. Whether such an homogeneity would be stable indefinitely is a nice question, not for pursuit here, because we have argued that it must be avoided. The "one world" of a Beyondist, by contrast, is a world organized richly with nerves conveying information to a research center acting in an advisory capacity to a highly differentiated array of national experiments.

Distinct Species of Mankind?

The possibility has to be considered that mankind should not be encouraged to remain a single biological species. Biologists tell us that when a genus comes to be represented by only one or two species this is often the prelude to its extinction. Whether this is simply from the risk of having put all its eggs in one basket, or because a low proliferation is itself in some way a sign of reduced vitality is not clear.

Since an appreciable upheaval of commonly accepted ideas follows on the recognition of a Beyondist position one is moved, in conclusion, to come back to the original problem of assent to its basic postulate and ask how compelling the argument is for embracing the evolutionary process. There are two answers to this in increasing depth. First, if our intellects are not sufficient for us to see by insight that this or any other course is correct - and admittedly we know little more of what is going on than an ant in a computer room - it is logical to aspire to an evolution of larger brain power. Rousseau and the inspirers of the French Revolution, with its rational, unempirical idealism, believed - as Johnny Small today is taught to believe - that human perfection is only just around the comer and that a perfect education will bring it about. By contrast the Beyondist sees a succession n of horizons, approached hand in hand by genetic and educational advances. Perhaps the first indication of genetic brain inadequacy will come when the march of science slows, as the industrious collection and collation of data demands solutions and perceptions of relations too complex for existing man to grasp.

Secondly, though we may have freewill, we actually have only the option, as individuals, of either joining the stream of evolution or committing suicide, literally, or by refusing to reproduce when one has a positive genetic contribution to make. Dissidence is here self-annihilating, and, since we are in the field of values it is meaningful to apply such religious expressions as "blasphemous" or "diabolical" to contempt of the evolutionary principle.

The current problem in developing a wider recognition of evolutionary principles, that would guide legislation, broaden education and inaugurate research, is an emotional one. Beyondism comes as a doctrine as stem, impersonal and abstract as that of the evolution of the stars. It accepts the reality of success and the tragedy of failure, in which individuals and races may have to recognize that they have been anvil and not hammer in the shaping of the future. What new emotional synthesis of values will make adjustment to this vaster view not only possible, but a sustenance for the good life of everyday behavior, remains to be discovered. Mankind recovered from the blow of Copernicus's demonstration that the earth is not the centre of the universe. Man's growing imagination may yet cause him to smile at the comfortable myth that he is the apple of God's eye. It can arm him to look with steely courage and sober hope at the task of bringing a species now little above an ape into greater command and knowledge of the Universe.

Science and Religion

This article began with the problem of the intrusion of religious values into science. It ends by recognizing that science must be the source of religious values. However, society faces an enormous task of emotional education before this can be fulfilled. Art, music and poetry have over the centuries helped teach the emotional expressions and adjustments that tie most of mankind to the great revealed religions. The presently needed transition, which demands a quantum leap emotionally, to a Beyondist adjustment, will need interpreters of no lesser literary and artistic genius if it is to succeed.

Unfortunately, our journalists and mass media controllers today are blindly and unquestioningly locked into the values (or the simple antitheses thereof of the literary worlds in which they were educated and most are interested in change only in a superficial kaleidoscope of spinning fashion. The meaning of science appears to them, in most cases, only as the indulgent provider of the "good life," as the tell-tale phrase has it. One suspects that the human source from which the new values of Beyondism will eventually flow will be the socially reticent minority of dedicated scientists who have learnt in their own lives both the imagination and the realism necessary to embrace these new ethical values.

The casually thinking majorities, and the mass media, if one may judge by the character of the recent attacks on Sir Cyril Burt's emphasis on inheritance in intelligence and on Dr. Wilson's sociobiology (not to mention those on the present writer's Beyondism book) are going to respond with a naive and false "moral indignation" to appeals which transcend their comfortable "humanistic" position in the light of evolutionary realities. Psychologically they manifest the same mixture of vanity and self-indulgence as blocked for a century Copernicus's attempt to shift the earth from the centre of the universe and harried Darwin when he proposed to remove man from a privileged position outside the biological world. The Beyondist who recognizes the passing away of races and cultures in nature's continual genocide is not an "inhumanist." His compassion for these events and for individual death, which is part of the same plan, is no less than of the humanist. And his acceptance of the evolutionary goal enables him in fact to find more human ways of achieving it, as when he substitutes for harshness of a differential death rate the eugenic method of a differential birth rate.

If a man begins with the false values of many revealed religions then, as he encounters the expanding world of scientific knowledge he will conclude like Keats that "but to think is to be full of sorrows and leaden-eyed despairs." But if he recognizes that the divisions of mankind are engaged on their several pilgrimages to different goals, but with a common evolutionary purpose, he has both peace of mind and a practical ethical system for human affairs.

(1) Both psychiatric experience with the psychopathic temperament, and behavior genetic findings of appreciable inheritance of the super ego factor G (Cattell, Blewett and Beloff 1955) suggest that a society of such genetically selected individuals would not be viable. The measurement of the performance of groups, in which pre-measured individuals are put together in small groups, shows considerable dependence of group syntality performance on personality traits known to have significant genetic determination. (Cattell & Stice, Haythorne, Lawton, Wispe)

(2) Let us make no mistake, about the superb scientific training and natural genius that will be demanded to make progress in this area. The sublets of concept and the mathematical complexities of systems theory needed may well surpass those encountered in modern physics. Only in the last decade or two have we had even a crude beginning (Alker (1966), Cattell, Breul & Hartman (1952), Cattell, Graham & Woliver (1978), Rummell (1972), Sawyer (1967)) of attempts to discover the dimensions of functioning of national groups by which development or decline might be analytically measured and evaluated. From description to interpretation and prediction is a long step that the science of culturo- genetic organisms still has to take.


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