The Genetic Revolution: From Marx to Darwin to Galton

A speech by Steve Sailer to the Hudson Institute, 2/11/1999

Steve Sailer ( is President of the Human Biodiversity Institute, which promotes inquiry into differences in race, sex, and sexual behavior.

America’s role in the twenty-first century may depend on acknowledging and understanding human genetic diversity.

       Triplets are always intriguing, and none more so than a set of three nine-month-old babies pictured in the National Post of Canada on November 29, 1999. What is special about them? Well, the story starts with their big sister, the little blond girl who is shown helping Mom feed the babies. This toddler inherited cystic fibrosis and has a life expectancy of thirty-one years. Her parents did not want to risk having another child likely to die young, so they had eight of her mother’s eggs fertilized in a test tube. Then each embryo was screened for the bad gene. Three embryos passed the test and were implanted in their mother’s womb.
       Domestic scenes like this will ultimately revolutionize the human race more than the Internet, the atomic bomb, and the wheel all rolled into one. Through genetic selection and modification, we will be able to transform human nature, for better…or worse. Clearly, we must start to comprehend how biotechnology will alter the human landscape of the future. But how? The only way is to study honestly the naturally occurring human genetic diversity we see all around us, and learn how it already affects society.
       Three Victorian thinkers illustrate the radical change in worldview we are undergoing. The first is representative of the perspective of the past, the second symbolizes much of what is new about our era, and the third foresaw the opportunities, if not always the dangers, of the reproductive techniques of the future.
       In 1900, most people, whether they worshiped Karl Marx or hated him, would have agreed that his focus on social class was justified. Ninety-four million corpses later, however, Marxism is in some disrepute. Yet, Marx’s underlying assumption—that human beings are merely blank slates to be written upon by mighty social forces—endures in the conventional wisdom of the intelligentsia. In the last thirty-five years, however, the blank-slate theory has been systematically challenged by scientists influenced by another Victorian thinker, Charles Darwin. Darwin’s great discovery was not evolution, but the engine of evolution: the natural selection of hereditary differences. Darwin’s influence will soon be augmented, however, by another Victorian thinker. The man whose thinking will best characterize the year 2100 will not be Marx or Darwin (or Freud for that matter), but Sir Francis Galton.
       Galton was Darwin’s smarter cousin, a scientific polymath and inventor who has as much claim as anybody to be the father of statistics, differential psychology, fingerprinting, and the weather map. Galton’s greatest theme, however, was artificial selection. He advocated consciously manipulating the hereditary traits that Darwinian natural selection acts upon so slowly and blindly. Galton’s synthesis of the classic “nature vs. nurture” debate between Marx and Darwin was that we could nurture a new nature for ourselves. And whereas Marx and Darwin disagreed over whether the pace of human change was revolutionary or evolutionary, Galton suggested that evolutionary change could eventually accelerate to a revolutionary pace. An alluring and alarming prospect, indeed.

From Revolution to Evolution

       In the year 1900, the class struggle was a dominant social issue. And indeed, the dictatorship of the proletariat would eventually rule Eurasia from Berlin to Saigon. Even in America, class was a major topic. As equality of opportunity has increased, however, we seem to have lost interest in this once-central category. We have moved from an age obsessed, like Marx, with accidents of birth, to an era obsessed, like Darwin, with accidents of conception. In this present Age of Darwin, the fundamental elements of Darwinism, sex, and race, are now the mainstays of the news. Instead of the War between the Classes, we have the War between the Sexes. (Of course, as Henry Kissinger remarked, there is not likely to be a final victor because of too much fraternizing with the enemy.) Wars between races, however, are far bloodier. The liberated peoples of ex-Yugoslavia and parts of the ex-Soviet Union used their new freedom to forget class rivalries and instead team up with their genetic relatives to make war against those neighbors with whom they shared fewer genes.
       As useful as it may be in understanding the causes of the latest catastrophe shown on CNN, however, Darwinism remains widely unpopular. Ironically, while the religious Right noisily attacks Darwin’s theory of what animals evolved from, the Left and Center are quietly clamping down on Darwin’s theory of what humans evolved into: perhaps the most physically diverse single species, other than certain domesticated creatures such as dogs. Recognizing the ideological threat posed by Darwinism, Stalin shipped his geneticists to the Gulag. In the West, outspoken Darwinian scientists such as Edward O. Wilson, Arthur Jensen, Hans J. Eysenck, J. P. Rushton, and Chris Brand have been the victims of assaults, threats, riots, firings, censorship, character assassination, and constant harassment.

Against Diversity

       Why is mainstream thinking still so “biophobic”? The essential problem is the raw, hulking fact of human biodiversity, those biological differences in sex, race, and—to some debatable extent—sexual orientation. I take seriously the multiculturalist slogan “Celebrate Diversity.” Unfortunately, multiculturalists do not. In practice, the diversicrats are on a mission to cover up human biodiversity. Consider the French-inspired, postmodern rebellion against science, knowledge, nature, and objective reality. Why has it swept so across the softer-headed side of most American campuses? It all stems from this fear and loathing of admitting our differences. Prominent philosopher Richard Rorty proclaimed recently, in the Atlantic Monthly, that “ ‘the homosexual,’ ‘the Negro,’ and ‘the female’ are best seen not as inevitable classifications of human beings but rather as inventions that have done more harm than good.” According to Rorty, many thinkers today “go on to suggest that quarks and genes probably are [inventions] too.” It’s testament to the pervasive antirationalism engendered by the fear of acknowledging human biodiversity that The Atlantic tells us that “the female” is not an inevitable classification!
       What is behind this? After all, Christianity has always asserted the equal worth of all human souls, and this belief has inspired many of the great humanitarian achievements in Western history, such as the abolition of the slave trade. Science, of course, can neither prove nor disprove spiritual equality. That would be a defect in a scientific theory, but it is a blessing in a religious doctrine. Darwinism, however, made the whole of Christianity seem outdated. The new prestige of evolutionary biology encouraged egalitarians to discard that corny creed of spiritual equality and instead assert the shiny new scientific hypothesis that humans are physically and mentally uniform. But that, paradoxically, put progressive egalitarians on a collision course with Darwinian science…because Darwin’s theory of natural selection requires hereditary differences. That’s what natural selection selects: those genetic variations that happen to reproduce themselves more than their genetic rivals in a particular environment. To talk about hereditary differences, however, is to talk about the political hot potato of “race.” For there is no bright line between “family” and “race.” A race is merely an extremely extended family that inbreeds to some extent. Note the full title of Darwin’s big book: The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. It is hard to imagine two words that could get a scholar in worse trouble today than “Favoured Races.” That term, however, is not some insensitive Dead White European Maleism for which we can substitute a more enlightened phrase. Rather, “favoured races” is Darwin’s Big Idea.
       Note, however, that he wrote “favoured races” in the plural. There is no “Master Race” that is supreme throughout the globe. On the contrary, different genetic traits have varying effects in different environments. Sickle-cell genes, for example, are unmitigated bad news in the United States because they can cause sickle-cell anemia, but in recessive form they help West Africans survive malaria far better than Europeans can on average. The human race is strengthened by its diversity as long as individuals are allowed to specialize in what each does best and we can trade with people with different strong suits—Ricardian economics in action. (But when a government tries to make every organization homogeneous by requiring its staff to be as diverse as the overall population, it ironically prevents poorer groups from specializing in those economic skills where they possess a comparative advantage.)
       The Left fears Darwinian science because the reigning dogma of human genetic equality cannot survive the relentlessly accumulating evidence of our genetic variability. For instance, Marxist paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, who tirelessly markets himself as our new, improved Darwin, insists that “Human equality is a contingent fact of history.” Yet, as a famous sports nut, Gould cannot turn on ESPN without being barraged by massive evidence to the contrary, as thoroughly documented in Jon Entine’s fine new book Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We Are Afraid to Talk About It. For example, back in the ‘Chariots of Fire’ days, the British elite still dominated Olympic running because they had invented it. Then, as the knowledge and nutrition necessary to compete at the highest levels spread, running increasingly became integrated racially. During the last thirty years, however, this greater equality of opportunity has brought greater inequality of results. In the last four Olympics, all thirty-two finalists in the men’s 100-meter dash were of West African descent. In men’s distance running today, three-eighths of the medals are won by a single Kenyan tribe called the Kalenjin. European national track teams increasingly find that the best way to compete for Olympic gold is through inducing Kenyans to immigrate. In the 2000 Olympics, for example, 800-meter world-record holder Wilson Kipketer, a native Kenyan, will be the leading hope of…Denmark.

The Age of Galton

       Even though the educated world has yet to digest Darwinism, geneticists and fertility doctors are rushing headlong from the Age of Darwin the Scientist to the Age of Galton the Inventor. Galton’s big invention was the concept of the artificial selection of humans, or “eugenics.” Eugenics has a terrible reputation, of course, much of it well deserved. Until recently, eugenics mostly consisted of governments murdering people they didn’t like, as in National Socialist Germany, or sterilizing them, as in Democratic Socialist Sweden. Today’s eugenics, by contrast, consists of couples freely choosing to improve their own children. In fact, a booming business in sperm and, especially, eggs has broken out on the Internet. Beautiful and brainy Ivy League coeds are selling their eggs to infertile women for $5,000 apiece. But that’s low-tech compared to the preimplantation screening that brought forth those cystic fibrosis-free triplets. And soon, families will move beyond merely fixing problems to enhancing their children.
       Will voluntary eugenics bring about utopia or a Brave New Nightmare? The outcome will depend on the social impact of the changes in gene frequencies. Fortunately, we already have a huge storehouse of data available upon which to base predictions: namely, the vast amounts of existing human genetic diversity. Unfortunately, society now discourages and even persecutes scholars who try to study it.
       Currently, the forces of political correctness are aghast at what genetic technologies might bring. That opposition, however, might reverse itself. Just as eugenics was favored in the past by Leftist busybodies such as British fellow-travelers Beatrice and Sidney Webb, progressive pressure groups may eventually drop their hatred of eugenics and resume their stance of demanding mandatory reengineering of human nature. Pacificists and multiculturalists will want to eradicate our penchant for violence and ethnocentrism. Feminists will demand that the government redesign men to better appreciate women like themselves. Socialists will endeavor to engineer human nature to make it compatible with Marxism. And egalitarians will eventually realize that though human biodiversity can no longer be denied, it might be reduced. What could be more equal than a world of clones?
       Whether Western governments either ban or mandate eugenics, people will still try to make their own choices about their own kids. That is why God created the Cayman Islands. And it is likely that these black-market babies will outcompete their government-controlled rivals so badly that governments will have to strike back. As shown by President Clinton’s famous victory over that Sudanese aspirin factory, with enough cruise missiles NATO could Tomahawk the Cayman Islands genetics clinics into submission. There is at least one country, however, that would be much tougher to bully: China.
       Unencumbered by post-Christian ethics, the Chinese government recently passed a pre-1945-style eugenics law calling for the sterilization of “morons.” The ruthlessness of this law portends that if China implements genetic enhancements while the multiculturalist West either bans them or pursues a politically correct reengineering of human nature, the inevitable result within a few generations would be Chinese economic, and thus military, global hegemony. As the weapons scientist and evolutionary theorist Gregory Cochran pointed out, “We cannot opt out of this biological arms race any more than we could opt out of the nuclear arms race.” Therefore, those serious about either preventing or decreeing genetic engineering should start planning a preemptive nuclear strike on China, and soon.
       But, I’d rather end not with a bang, but not with a whimper either. The future of the human race is at stake. To make the right decisions about eugenics in the near future, we must start right now to study the impact of genetic diversity on human societies. We cannot continue to assume that genes don’t affect societies and that societies don’t affect genes. The time to get serious about Darwin is now—before the age of Galton fully arrives.