Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Imperative of the Biological Imperative

Of all the problems facing western society, there is one question that I suspect will come to determine the answer to many of the rest. Will the West find a way to continue to have children, or will it not?

There is no escaping this question, because it is the one that evolution has ordained for us. Creatures that successfully reproduce replace those that do not. Traits that encourage reproductive success get selected for, regardless of what you personally think of them. 

Most people do not really comprehend this at a deep level, because they have odd and distorted ideas about what evolution is. 

In the popular conception, evolution is something that serves to make creatures awesome. It is effectively nature's version of the Apple R&D department.

Evolution made creatures crawl out of the primordial soup and survive on land. It made them grow wings and fly through the air. It made our brains grow until we became smarter than apes, and then we flew rockets to the moon. What's not to love? Everything gets better over time, because natural selection decreed it so.

Except that there's a hitch. These things only got selected for because the creatures with those traits had more children than those who didn't. Those children in turn survived to adulthood to reproduce, and the traits thus spread through the populace.

In an environment with scarce calories and plentiful disease and predators, being awesome was indeed a good way to outcompete other creatures. Being awesome may confer a survival advantage, but that is only a means to the real end of a reproduction advantage. Sever that link, and awesomeness is no longer selected for.

These days, humans only get predated by other humans, disease tends to mostly strike us down long after we are able to reproduce, and calories are so plentiful that the poor are fat.

So what gets selected for in that environment?

Well, the issue of surviving to be able to reproduce is mostly taken off the table. All that is left is the number of offspring.

If you want to find out what traits and ideas are being selected for right now, just look at what kinds of people are having more children. That's your answer.

As near as I can tell, in purely descriptive terms, what is being selected for is being from the third world, having low impulse control, and being religious. 

What is being selected against is being rich, being western, planning one's life choices carefully, and preferences that emphasize high investment in each child.

Of course, this trend can't last forever. The conditions that have produced the very environment of permanent calorie surplus seem unlikely to survive when the population becomes poor, third world and with low impulse control. But you probably don't want to be around to see what that looks like - it's kleptocratic third world famine, if there were no western countries to provide food aid. Things will get much, much worse before nature causes them to automatically get better again, when civilizational traits once again become eugenic.

If you, like me, value the ideas and culture of the West, then the decline of western populations has to be reversed. Without it, the traits that define the west simply become smaller and smaller among the population. It is possible that those western traits that are purely cultural in nature may still be passed on socially to the remaining population, even if they come from different demographic backgrounds. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. The strategy is on brilliant display in the efforts by Republicans to convince Hispanics to vote for them. I leave you to judge its success for yourself.

In addition, the lack of native birth rates is a significant driver of the push for open borders. While there are some groups that push the idea for ideological reasons, part of the economic rationale frequently trotted out comes from the perils of a declining population. Economists care greatly that there will be fewer people to fund social security, work in low paid jobs, and be consumers in the economy. Economists are also, on the whole, oblivious to differences in human nature, and do not seem to much notice or care which people might be brought in for the job. But this can be turned into a strength, as long as you solve the birthrate problem - once native births are sufficient to meet all these economic objectives, business seems less likely to care if the borders get closed.

So if you want to preserve western society, you've got to figure out how to preserve western people.

In recent history, this has been considered a very difficult task. Even the great Lee Kuan Yew (who found this to be the biggest threat to his country) couldn't figure out how to do it, and came to the conclusion that the problem couldn't be solved with monetary incentives.

But is that really the only tool at our disposal? How about just plain old marketing? If marketing executives with sophisticated ad campaigns can sell us all sorts of junk from bottled water to beanie babies, surely they could sell us something worthwhile?

As it turns out, perhaps they can. This story from Denmark is among the most heartening things I've read in ages:
A racy ad campaign, started only nine months ago, has really hit the spot for Denmark's campaign for more baby-making. ...
It all started with cute appeals by Spies Travel to “give the world more babies” and “Do it for mom!” – which gave quite good data on how people tend to get groovier during a seaside vacation, as opposed to an alpine hike. 
Danes will have an average 14 percent more in offspring this summer than last, according to Cphpost, and according to Danmarks Statistic – the official national statistics bureau – 1,000 more babies were born in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2015.

 The problem may actually be amenable to successful policy interventions. And all they had to do was appeal to such timeless ideas as 'it's fun to have sex' and 'do it for your mum'.

I suspect most reactionaries find marketing to be a dreary and grubby business, unworthy of serious thinkers. Certainly in this regard, I think this is a mistake. Persuasion is necessary, whether you do it indirectly by changing cultures or directly by changing birth rates.

The alternative answers, like Spandrell's tongue-partly-in-cheek suggestion to convert to Islam, seem much worse. This is a problem that is not going away. 

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