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Evolution and the Alt-Right

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If you follow conservative journalism at all, you know that a mostly online splinter called the “alternative right” or “alt-right” is currently a subject of bitter and voluminous indignation. At The Federalist today, Cathy Young has an interesting analysis (“You Can’t Whitewash the Alt-Right’s Bigotry“), taking issue with two other journalists at Breitbart who tried to explain the phenomenon in a sympathetic, even admiring manner.

There is great worry about the conservative brand image, and the alt-right figures prominently in that. Cathy Young’s piece, you’ll notice, has some intriguing references to evolution, “human biodiversity,” “race-related genetic cognitive and behavioral differences,” and related subjects. On that, she and other mainstream conservatives could have said much more. Though this has escaped focused attention, the alternative right draws heavily on themes of evolution-based racism. And that is significant.

Miss Young notes “retired California State University-Long Beach psychology professor Kevin MacDonald, who has some peculiar theories about Jews: namely, that Judaism is an ‘evolutionary strategy’ by which Jews seek dominance…It’s ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ dressed up as evolutionary psychology.”

Another writer cited by Young raises eugenic, or rather dysgenic, concerns:

“The Pro-Life Temptation” by Aylmer Fisher — presumably a pseudonym stolen from the innocent British geneticist — which cautions the alt-right against adopting an anti-abortion stance in knee-jerk opposition to liberals. The pro-life position is ‘dysgenic,’ since it encourages breeding by ‘the least intelligent and responsible’ women.

If you think you know where this is going, you’re right. Fisher argues that, firstly, the pro-life position is “dysgenic,” since it encourages breeding by “the least intelligent and responsible” women who are most likely to have abortions and who are “disproportionately Black, Hispanic, and poor.”

Taken from the Radix Journal (more on it in a moment), that’s ugly stuff and Miss Young does a service in pointing it out. In her article, our old nemesis John Derbyshire, scrubbed from National Review, makes an appearance, along with the alt-right “movement’s online hubs such as Richard Spencer’s AlternativeRight.com and Steve Sailer’s VDARE.” (Actually VDARE is edited by Peter Brimelow, not Steve Sailer, who has his own blog at another alt-right hotspot, The Unz Review. Once upon a time, I enjoyed editing them both as writers for National Review.)

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve reported here in the past on the evolutionary preoccupations of Derbyshire and another “race-realist” outlet, Jared Taylor’s American Renaissance. But not till reading Cathy Young’s post did I recognize that the mother lode of pseudo-conservative, pseudo-scientific racism is Richard Spencer’s AlternativeRight.com, which as she points out has been rebranded as Radix Journal, “dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of European people in the United States, and around the world.”

Here, the vein of evolutionary thinking is particularly rich. We read, “Darwinian Evolution Revolutionized the Natural Sciences. The Social Sciences Have Been Immune for Too Long.” In “What Is Identitarian Religion?,” writer “Alfred W. Clark” tells of a “long-standing ‘Trad Catholic’ I know [who] told me recently that he had left the Church. [H]is ‘conservative’ priest had become obsessed with [among other things]…denouncing evolution because it’s ‘racist‘.” More:

And what of identitarian atheists and agnostics? Can they co-exist with identitarian religion? Since identitarian religion is not at odds with nature, and thus not at odds with evolutionary science, it does not threaten secular knowledge but offers itself as an additional societal glue.

Another writer wonders why few women seem enthusiastic about “race-realism”:

The evolutionary basis for this doesn’t seem too hard to figure out. As a prehistoric man, you have to decide the best way to find food and kill the members of the other tribe….

There is sympathy for eugenics, and much fretting about the “dysgenic menace.” A writer notes an “antisocial Darwinism” where “Society favors the broken at the expense of the fixed. The result isn’t so much that the fixed are crushed, but that the broken proliferate and become permanent dependents of the state.”

Richard Spencer shares his “Foreword to a new annotated edition of [racial eugenicist] Madison Grant’s Conquest of a Continent [1933],” explaining that “Darwinism offers a compelling and rational justification for Whites to act on behalf of their ancestors and progeny and feel a shared since of destiny with their extended kin group.”

Again, Alfred W. Clark asks, “What Is the #Altright?” He explains:

Michael Brendan Dougherty recently called the alt-right “race obsessed”. A better phrase might be: race realists. Most alt-righters actually take Darwinism seriously. (If you are at a loss of what “taking Darwinism seriously” means, you might want to read this book.) Young alt-righters are comfortable with modern science which shows that human biodiversity is a facet of life. The fact that so many today in Conservatism Inc. want either to ignore or deny human biodiversity, shows how untethered from reality modern conservatism has become.

And much more along these lines.

The Right has periodically sought to purge itself of tendencies like this, and it’s engaged in such a purge right now. I prefer understanding to demonizing. Darwinian “conservatives” operate with a particular picture in mind of what a human being is — a very different picture from the one posited by the Judeo-Christian tradition on which conservatism has drawn in the past. It’s either man the animal or man in the image of an intelligent designer. Those are the choices.

From such a stark dichotomy, everything else is downstream. Recognizing as much would be a first step to restoring the health of a fractured and troubled movement.

Image credit: Caspar David Friedrich [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.