Finally, the last commentary on Joseph Henrich’s book, The WEIRDest People in the World. This has been the most talked about academic book in the past year. Its key argument is that after the Catholic Church “demolished” kinship-tribal identities in the Middle Ages, Europeans developed a unique psychological disposition for:
- trust, fairness, honesty, and cooperation with anonymous others
- patience and self control
- time drift and hard work
- reduced in-group nepotism
- free will and independent decision making
- analytical over holistic thinking
- impartial principles and objectivity
Don’t let Henrich’s globalist mind and politically correct language distract you from this very important book. His key emphasis on the unique psychology of Whites is indispensable to our understanding of both the immense successes of this race and the current plight it faces in believing it can coexist with millions of “immigrant strangers” who are inherently nepotistic and incapable of objectivity and fairness.
Kevin MacDonald has written a very insightful long review acknowledging its value, notwithstanding his objections. MacDonald has his own very important book explaining the origins of some of these WEIRD psychological traits. Unlike Henrich, he analyses these traits in order to explain the lack of ethnocentric identity among Whites and their inability to see through the truly existential threat that diversity poses for White culture and the ways in which Jews have manipulated and radicalized these traits as a group evolutionary strategy to brown out the whiteness of the West.
At the same time, MacDonald reveals how these traits led Whites to create “moral communities” that are collectively based on ideological mandates rather than on instinctive ethnic attachments and traditions. He explains how these moral communities used to be controlled by nationalistic Whites until they were taken over by cultural Marxists in recent decades. A basic implied message I enthusiastically took from his book is that we White “individualists” who care about the West can create our own moral-ideological communities. We can create our own ideological tribes with a clear set of principles outlining why our psychological traits can only flourish in nations with minimal racial diversity.
This last commentary is about the last chapter of Henrich’s book entitled “The Dark Matter of History”. It is obvious this is a metaphor from the world of physics. Physicists believe that dark matter accounts for approximately 85% of the matter in the universe although they can’t see this matter directly. They can only study it indirectly and describe its nature as if they were making educated guesses about what’s casting the shadows they detect without observing the source. In using this term, Henrich is implying that the WEIRD psychology of Westerners is the “dark matter” that has lay beneath their unique historical trajectory. This WEIRD psychology was undetected, or never uniquely attributed to Westerners as such, because social scientists were trained to believe that the psychological dispositions of the people’s of the world were the same.
But Henrich has now revealed for us the WEIRDness of Westerners, and how they came to acquire this psychology. But if he has brought so much light upon the perennial subject of Western uniqueness, and if this psychology entails free will, intentionality, and reason-based institutional arrangements, why identify this psychology as the “dark matter that flows behind the scenes throughout history”? His implied answer is that Westerners have been unaware of their culturally-evolved WEIRD history until his book came out. In the same way that scientists have explained for us the underlying laws of motion of the physical world, Henrich is suggesting he has revealed the hidden factor shaping the course of modern Western history. We are supposed to believe that the same Westerners who came to attribute intentionality and free will to humans were no more conscious in the making of their history than nonwhites.
This “dark matter” analogy betrays a lack of appreciation for the higher consciousness and dynamics thereof of the unique psychology of Whites. Many forces have driven history — Malthusian demographic cycles, inherited genetic traits, cumulative cultural achievements of prior generations, along with all sorts of unintended consequences — in ways beyond the comprehension and awareness of Europeans. This is obvious. But this should not detract from Europe’s unique disposition to grasp many aspects about the course of history, the chronology of the past, the identification of major historical epochs, including the periodization of the history of nonwhites, and the amazing estimation of cosmological and geological time scales. This is demonstrative of the increasing historical awareness of Europeans and their higher capacity to make history in a more conscious manner.
A key component of the WEIRDness of Europeans, as argued in prior commentaries, has been their higher level of awareness, their discovery of the mind and the self, and their attempts to understand the nature of things. Henrich’s book is a product of that awareness. The history of Europeans has been the most formidable light upon the earth. Europeans were responsible for the origination of all the fields of knowledge, the best books about history, geology, biology, geography, chemistry, archeology, paleontology, anthropology, sociology, economics. This mental achievement stands higher than the industrial revolution, which most academics today, including Henrich, erroneously identify as the one development that made Europe different.
Europeans Are The True Cultural Species
Henrich often says the abolition of kinship groups and the imposition of a monogamous family program by the Catholic Church was “unintentional”. In this last short chapter he states two times that the “Catholic Church stumbled onto a collection of marriage and family policies that demolished Europe’s intensive kin-based institutions”. He says the Church’s peculiar “obsession” with controlling “people’s sex lives” led it to oppose polygynous marriage. He ignores Greek/Roman monogamy and the revolution in sexual morality brought on by Christians later on, their opposition to sex with minors, concubinage, sexual exploitation of women, and perverted sex in general.
Yet, at the same time, Henrich’s central thesis that “humans are an intensively cultural species” and that much of what has driven history has been a product of cumulative cultural learning, rather genetically ingrained dispositions, is heavily predicated on his observations about the intense learning Westerners have uniquely exhibited in their history. It would have been very hard to come up with this idea from the study of African history. That he occasionally refers to the cultural learning of non-Western civilizations should not detract us from his key argument: while the kin-based institutions of non-Western societies have always been deeply anchored in “our species’ evolved psychology,” the voluntary and reason-based institutions of the modern West are “culturally” created insomuch as they were created on the basis of norms freed from our evolved genetic predisposition to form networks on the basis of blood ties and extended families; and in opposition to our genetic inclination to trust only ingroup tribal members.
He clearly states that the “scaling up” of non-Western societies (from bands to chiefdoms to civilizations) “remained heavily entwined with kinship”. It is his view, as I explained in an earlier commentary, that the “underlying processes” in the scaling up of societies, before the WEIRD cultural trajectory of the West, have been “essentially the same”: building up new forms of cooperation through the development of more complex and intensive kin-based institutions (on the principles of kinship by blood and affinity). As societies grew up in size with agriculture, additional non-kin-based institutions were developed; however, these institutions were “built atop a deep foundation of kin-based institutions”. The Western world is WEIRD precisely because it imposed cultural norms freed from biologically based groupings and institutions. This is why Europeans have been the biggest learners in history, and it is also why Henrich was able to come up with the theses that “humans are an intensively cultural species”. Non-Europeans are not an intensively cultural species.
Don’t get distracted by Henrich’s use of the words “culturally-mandated” when he writes about cousin marriage, corporate ownership, patrilocal residence, and ancestor worship in kin-based societies. These practices, to be sure, were culturally mandated and transmitted through learning from generation to generation insomuch as humans don’t act according to instincts alone. There is a world of difference, however, between kinship-based norms and the culturally-mandated norms of Western societies freed from kinship ties. The Western norm of monogamy, for example, which stood in opposition to the genetic-biological predisposition of high status males for polygynous marriages, was unnatural and strictly cultural; and so were the principles of moral universalism, trust and fairness towards non-tribal outsiders.
Henrich can thus be confusing when he writes about the “cultural learning” of the “human species” as such, in abeyance of his own thesis about the cultural WEIRDness of Whites. The influence of culture comes in different degrees, and its power and autonomy over genetic determinations increases in the degree to which it goes against the natural inclination of humans for kinship networks in the name of impartial principles, free will and choice, and modes of analytical reasoning based on objective criteria rather than cultural context.
Henrich’s contradictory approach to the respective roles of culture and biology is actually more grievous than this. He is caught up in a pincer movement of his own making. On the one hand, in order to avoid accusations that he may be too Western-centric in portraying the West as a more dynamic and autonomous culture, he is inclined to downplay this culture’s achievements, and write instead about how Westerners “stumbled” upon a different historical trajectory, about the “immense cultural inheritance” the Islamic world “bequeathed” to the modern West (ignoring totally the far superior legacy of ancient Greece), and insisting as well that the “much-heralded ideals of Western civilization…aren’t monuments to pure reason or logic, as so many assume”.
On the other hand, in order to avoid accusations that he may be drawing genetic distinctions between the peoples of the world, he prefers to say that “culture has been winning over genes”. He rejects Gregory Clark’s argument that the industrial revolution in Britain was due to the reproductive success of the more literate and intelligent members of British society who “left twice as many children as the poorest”. He tells us that the urban centers of Europe were “genetic death traps” and that only a constant inflow of rural migrants sustained their populations, and that it was really the WEIRD culture of the cities that promoted the collective learning of Europeans, not the reproductive success of higher IQ Europeans. But a few pages later, he observes that “the cultural and economic developments” that spread throughout Europe as their kinship networks were abolished and they started to become WEIRD did “create selection pressures on genes favoring” Europeans who were weirder. While he tries to frame this argument in terms of the role of culture in the selection of genes, rather than the other way around, the implication of this line of reasoning is that the developing WEIRD culture of Europeans was indeed shaping their genetic evolution as well, and that Europeans were becoming genetically different.
Not that there is something inherently wrong about emphasizing both culture and genes. This is what the “culture-gene coevolutionary” approach Henrich claims to endorse should entail. But Henrich uses this approach to elevate culture above the role of genes, and emphasize how our cultural activities “have driven our genetic evolution, shaping not only our digestive systems, teeth, feet, and shoulders but also our brains and psychology”. Why not emphasize as well how Europe’s WEIRD culture drove the genetic evolution of Europeans? And beyond this, how Europeans may have been selected with a higher ability to create their history in a more culturally conscious way, in a less less genetically unconscious way, guided by their recognition of intentionality and free will in the actions of individuals?
Instead of concluding his book with the claim that “the cultural evolution of psychology is the dark matter that flows behind the scenes throughout history,” he should have portrayed the cultural evolution of Europeans as the light that flows throughout history. Europeans wrote the histories of all the peoples of the world, ascertained the chronology of their world historical epochs, personalities, and events, using proper historical methodologies. Henrich should have been more appreciative of the added light he brought to the rise of the West as a member of a very highly conscious historical people, demonstrating that Europeans have been indeed a very different cultural species. But he could not do this because he inhabits a cultural Marxist environment that prohibits Whites from showing self-conscious pride in their history. He would much rather endorse the pathological globalist mandate that bringing millions of nonwhites from kinship cultures “enriches” the trust and impartiality of the Western world and fulfills its moral obligation to avoid looking at anonymous strangers as outsiders.
We don’t need to accept this irrational conclusion. We can use Henrich’s findings to inform Whites how they are destroying their uniqueness by accepting the globalist plan to ethnocide the White race through race mixing immigration and promotion of BLM low IQ habits.