This is the first chapter from my present work-in-progress, working title The Origin of Social Order. This doesn’t represent the final product, but the first chapter as is provides a lot of coverage to the fundamental approach of the book to understanding society. The book is overall intended to ground the neoreactionary approach to society and civilization in definite and testable hypotheses, with further hypotheses about specific contemporary and historical social phenomena based on the essential thesis developed in the earlier parts of the book. I’m very excited about this work.
Chapter 1: Evolution and Design
“For this reason, and for no other, viz. that, when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive (what we could not discover in the stone) that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e. g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that, if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, of a different size from what they are, or placed after any other manner, or in any other order, than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it.”
-William Paley, Natural Theology
There is nothing so mesmerizing as a starling flock. Constituted of hundreds or even thousands of individual starlings at a time, a single murmuration of starlings can give the appearance of a single, cohesive whole. Yet the appearance of this singular entity, to our eyes an apparently choreographed and planned arrangement of birds in motion, is no such thing. It arises through the activity of each individual starling acting by itself at once. Each starling reacts spontaneously to the environment and the actions of the other starlings immediately nearby, and every starling following the same set of rules and knowing all the other starlings are following this same set of rules produces this incredible image.
This image of the murmuration should be kept in mind when examining society. Note that there is no single plan according to which the starlings act. They act only according to some simple rules that dictate how they react to the changing conditions immediately around them. It is only an accumulation of individual wills, yet the product is reducible not only to these individual wills but how they relate to each other according to these regularities in behavior. To analyze the murmuration, we must speak not only of individual starlings and their individual capacities, but the rules which were themselves not planned to produce such an image. It is not for the image that would be produced that any individual starling acts, nor is it for the image that evolution dictated the selection of those starlings that would act in this way. Yet it represents an equilibrium, a composite form which maintains its integrity.
Man has come around slowly to the notion of evolutionary selection as a fundamental feature of forms. Darwin first postulated the selecting-out of unfit creatures as compared to the survival and reproduction of relatively more fit creatures to explain the various biological phenomena that present themselves to the observer, such as the diversity of species but also the distribution of this diversity. Moreover, man has been even slower in applying evolution to himself even if, in a superficial sense, atheists of this age gladly accept it in order to eliminate supernatural explanations of the existence of man. However, man is poor at truly imbibing the lessons of nature for himself, and sees in himself what he would like to see.
This mechanism of selection, in the most general terms, works itself out not only within the realm of biology, but throughout the entire world. What is relatively disordered does not persist as long as those forms which are relatively ordered, so continuously the relatively more ordered forms propagate themselves in abundance. Some among these forms will be even more relatively ordered than those which came before, and so this evolutionary selection continues to act without end.
The fundamental thesis of this book is that the form of society is best understood as an order which is the result of evolutionary selection. Those forms of society that were less able to propagate themselves through time were eliminated by or assimilated into those forms of society that were more able to propagate themselves through time. This is not according to any individual human’s design, and indeed our examination of which forms have managed to propagate themselves must entirely discount human volition and intelligence.
The inclusion of human volition in the explanation of social forms commits the fallacy of composition. It is to suppose that because each individual’s impetus of action occurs as the result of individual will, the form of society occurs as the concatenation of these wills. However, this gets the analysis backwards. Consider an arrow which falls to the ground; that it falls to the ground is not due to any man’s will, and would take place despite any attempt by man to make it not fall to the ground. How it falls to the ground, on the other hand, can be somewhat explained with reference to the will of man, but even then his control over the falling of the arrow does not involve contravening, but acting in accord with the regularity of nature we call gravity.
In this same way, that a society succeeds has nothing to do with the will of any man, not even in the aggregate. It is according to no man what forms of society shall be possible, and it is moreover according to no man what kinds of social ventures will meet with success and which will not. There is, like the archer, some element of skill, but this skill manifests itself not as the result of mere will, but will that acts in accord with nature. Each individual man can only react on the basis of his immediate surroundings according to some rules, and any influence on the actual accomplishment of the intended form depends on how accurate his assessment of the regularities of nature are. Society is a natural, organic being. Its form cannot be explained with reference to the will of man, though man is the matter; it is the regularities of relation between men, their following a limited set of rules in response to each other and the wider world around them that produces the appearance of this order.
To consider society as an evolutionary evolved system is to start asking “What adaptive advantage did this social norm confer on society?” It looks beyond the judgment which we might otherwise impose, saying that some social institution or practice is “oppressive” or “ignorant,” setting these aside only to inquire what was it about the way this social norm organized society that permitted it to pass itself on?
Analogies to the development of certain physical adaptations observed in biological species across geographic and temporal boundaries are just beneath the surface. When we examine the evolution of flight, we do not ask whether it conforms to certain values of ours. As a biologist, we only seek out how flight serves an advantage in survival and reproduction. Apart from this, no particular features would be selected for by natural selection. As an adaptation, flight evolved several times, which evidences some regularity of nature which flight takes advantage of. Likewise, if we find a social norm practiced in separate cultures for which we have no evidence of intercultural influence, this suggests some particular problem of organization endemic to human society which is, as it were, “solved” by the development and propagation of this social norm. Contrariwise, we might also compare the outcomes of cultures by distinguishing between how these social norms balance power between separate groups.
What might an example of this evolutionary explanation for a social norm look like? In the ancient world, and among more traditional societies, there was perpetuated a practice in which men would negotiate a price with the father or family of a woman he wished to marry, which is called a dowry. Overlooking whatever else we might wish to say about the ethical feasibility of such a practice, we are forced to consider that it must confer some advantage in the organization of society. In a society where dowries are a norm, fathers have more incentive to instruct and protect their daughters, instilling in them traits which potential suitors find desirable. This also gives the incentive to fathers to attempt to fetch the best price, which frequently means marrying his daughter to a successful man capable of providing for both his wife and children. Such a practice increases fertility among the upper classes of society, which should tend to increase economic equality (more children in effect implies smaller shares of an inheritance) and have a eugenic effect; lower class men are less likely to marry or reproduce under such a system. No matter that some may chafe at this description, the possibility of this norm perpetuating itself, especially the civilizing effect it has on a society compared to societies void of such a norm, is clear when described in these terms.
In order for an evolutionary explanation to be possible, it must be the case that, in theory, social norms impose different forms of organization on society which may be relatively ordered or disordered. To be “ordered” in this sense means to be more capable of surviving and reproducing itself over time; thus to be relatively disordered is to be less capable of self-propagation in comparison to another society. There is no “absolute standard” of fitness, and indeed the “fitness landscape” is rapidly changed by the event of a society adapting to it, imputing a red queen dynamic to the evolutionary ordering of societies.
It is easy to see the initial utility of this perspective when considering cults that prohibit sexual relations. These cults are not absent from history, but they always remain obscure. Why? Quite simply, apart from the initial converts, there don’t tend to be future generations. Social norms can be passed on either horizontally, between two otherwise unrelated individuals, or else vertically, from parents to children. Most norms in most humans are learned from parents, so there is a tendency for people to express and abide by social norms which increase fertility. The outright prohibition on sexual relations is obviously contrary to higher rates of fertility and the resultant vertical transmission of social norms doesn’t take place, whereas the relatively fertility-advantaging norms of the wider culture are perpetuated and displace the virginity cult.
However, advantages to fertility do not need to occur in such a direct way, but might only subtly structure gender norms in such a way that women are more likely to have children. Consider a tribal society that participates in a female virgin sacrifice ritual. On the first order, it would appear that such a ritual only subtracts an otherwise perfectly fertile female, lowering the total fertility of the population. However, the effects occur at the second order; there is an incentive to young women to copulate and reproduce as soon as possible, in order to avoid the possibility that they will be sacrificed. Thus, while the cost is concentrated—the death of one female virgin and the loss of her potential offspring—there are distributed gains in the form of increased fertility.
From a normative perspective, such a ritual might be described as barbaric, but its crude means of achieving higher fertility in the tribe is undeniable.
This is not to say, on the level of positive analysis, that all pro-fertility norms are created equal, nor that fertility is the only collective action problem that social norms organize society towards overcoming. There is, for instance, the question not only of how many children are being born, but also to whom. Likewise, changing technologies and other social trends can influence the effectiveness of a social norm.
As we are studying society from a postulate of evolution, it is impossible to overlook the role of human evolution. Ever since humans embraced culture (or better, were embraced by it), individuals have been filtered to different roles, positions, and status, which has significant influence over whether they will ultimately survive and reproduce. Culture is a human constructed environment, a set of regularities in the world that are contingent on humans and on which humans are contingent. Whatever adapts to and grows within a system, just due to the means by which that population extracts resources and distributes waste, changes the environment, and by extension changes the selection pressures exerted on that population.
One of the first salient examples of this phenomenon, in which the growth of a population had a later influence on the selection pressures facing a descendant population (progeny, removed by how ever many generations) would be when primordial, carbon dioxide breathing bacteria excreted oxygen into the atmosphere and thus poisoned their own environment. The success and adaptation of the bacteria population to a particular environment changed that environment, and in changing the environment changed the selection pressures exerted by the environment on the subsequent bacteria population. Genes and environment are perpetually influencing each other, for every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Some have discussed a phenomenon exclusive to humans, called gene-culture coevolution. This undoubtedly describes something, but it would be more appropriate to suggest a more general model of gene-environment coevolution, of which culture is a specific form and element of the environment. As a population increases in adaptedness to an environment, the more influence it will have over the environment as it begins to be a more significant part of the environment itself. The better a species can adapt to a changing environment, i.e. the more rapidly and intelligently it responds to present and future environmental selection pressures, the faster that species will evolve and, in turn, influence the environment. Genes and environment are in a feedback loop with each other, and in humans, because the bulk of selection pressures facing humans have their origin in human culture which is more immediately influenced by human genes, this feedback loop is much tighter than in virtually any other species. This gene-environment interaction will play a significant role in later chapters.
We can produce some initial conclusions of the idea of gene-environment coevolution. The adaptation of a form to an environment precipitates the growing population of those forms which goes on to have more influence over the environment and eventually displaces the initial selection pressures that saw that form evolve. A stable environment that cannot be influenced by the population within it (e.g. bacteria in a petri dish maintained at a certain temperature by humans) will reach some final equilibrium, but this is limited to local arrangements and, sans a laboratory setting, inevitably either complete extinction of the population comes about or else it continues to grow and change the environment.
Humans are natural beings, the product of natural forces. It only makes sense to study man as another phenomena in the world. For all the ways he is like other things in the world, we should study him like those things. Our point of departure should always be to understand him as but a specific example of some more general phenomenon observed in the world. As much as possible, we will observe man from the perspective of biology and ecology, from which sociology and psychology emerge as phenomena to be studied.
 Cochran, Gregory and Harpending, Henry. The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution. Also see Wade, Nicholas. A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History.
 This might look like a second-order equilibrium, cf. the equilibrium observed in a Lotka-Volterra predator-prey equilibrium.