The Biology of Hate

I’ve shared a few posts from Robert Haston here before. This one is right up my alley:

The Biology of Hate

News about white supremacists like Clive Bundy makes me think about how such claims of supremacy bubble up from our pre-human genetic drives. This casting fellow Homo sapiens as less fit and therefore less deserving could be labeled as “Neanderthought”. It is important for us to understand how racism itself is far more than skin deep and more ancient than the dinosaurs. Therein lies the light of its undoing.

Sometimes the best way to understand people is to study animals. It certainly scrapes away all the complicated obfuscating bullshit we generate to cover our animal motives. When it comes to how groups struggle for power (aka politics) we could better avail ourselves of the wealth of behavioral knowledge we so freely apply elsewhere. Sadly, our confused fear of appearing racist prevents us from exposing the deepest darkest nature of racism.

What is hate? We may say we hate spinach; but we admit this is an insincere idiom. Real hate isn’t a what but a whom question. Real hate is reserved for one’s own species. A lion doesn’t hate the water buffalo he kills any more than a fisherman hates fish, but he sincerely hates competing lions. The struggle between herds of wildebeest and zebras is nothing compared to the violence within a herd. When a new alpha male takes over a herd, tribe, or troop; he often kills the offspring of the earlier alpha.

The origins of the drive to kill or otherwise disadvantage members of your own species is well known. Those who oppress the other expand their own “selfish genes” at the expense of more distant relatives. It is a simple matter of genetic math. Those who don’t play a rough game will send fewer offspring on to the next round.

Animals don’t keep birth records or have paternity tests; so they rely on external phenotypes of appearance and behavior. Scientists have long witnessed aggression against dissimilar members. Birds of a feather flock together and attack others among their own species. Simply marking animals for study marks them as targets for aggression(1). Put simply, animals are flaming, unrepentant, violent, often murderous racists.

Now consider human racism. The real irony is that when a racist claims the right to supremacy of those who share his pigmentation, he is expressing billion year old instincts born in bacteria.

He also denounces the single behavior that separates man from beast. The fossil record shows that around 100,000 years ago, we turned away from the genocidal genes that divide us and towards the human culture (like art and trade) that unites us. After millions of years of genetic evolution, a few thousand really smart hominids came up with advanced social software and conquered the planet in the last 1% of their history.

We did this by beginning to reject genetic birthright, hierarchy, and conformity; we turned to embrace culture, equality, and diversity. Survival of the fittest gene has been replaced by survival of the fittest cultural meme (say for example gunpowder, steel, or germ theory). It is obvious by now which sort of cultures will thrive in the future, and which will struggle.

As one would expect, racism is most exhibited by the lowest ranking members of a race. In other words, if all you have going for you is the color of your skin, you are more likely to make a big deal about it.

Clive Bundy’s material success has come from a different play in this same game. If you declare the larger culture (the federal government in this case) as illegitimate, then stealing grazing rights isn’t a crime, it is an act of patriotism. The Boston Tea Party members would have called this the false patriotism of scoundrels, because they didn’t steal an ounce of tea and even cleaned up the decks afterward.

This gets to the heart of another facet of this schism; namely the difference between “focus on the family” conservatism and “it takes a village” or nowadays “we are the world” liberalism.

These personality traits written eons ago for troops around a campfire are now acted out on TV in front of millions. Getting the man out of the cave has proven far easier than getting the cave out of the man. The language used on the opposing news channels differs just like the songs of birds. At its simplest, the liberal sees the government as us, the conservative sees the government as them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson observed this decades before Darwin. Here is the introduction to “The Conservative”; a lecture delivered December 9, 1841:

“The two parties which divide the state, the party of Conservatism and that of Innovation, are very old, and have disputed the possession of the world ever since it was made. This quarrel is the subject of civil history. The conservative party established the reverend hierarchies and monarchies of the most ancient world. The battle of patrician and plebeian, of parent state and colony, of old usage and accommodation to new facts, of the rich and the poor, reappears in all countries and times. The war rages not only in battle-fields, in national councils, and ecclesiastical synods, but agitates every man’s bosom with opposing advantages every hour. On rolls the old world meantime, and now one, now the other gets the day, and still the fight renews itself as if for the first time, under new names and hot personalities.

Such an irreconcilable antagonism, of course, must have a correspondent depth of seat in the human constitution. It is the opposition of Past and Future, of Memory and Hope, of the Understanding and the Reason. It is the primal antagonism, the appearance in trifles of the two poles of nature.”

While modern science has yet to find “the gay gene” or “the God gene”, the first genes found related to behavior were linked to the “genopolitcs” of political interest and political orientation.

So when Bundy opens his mouth to say “Let me tell you something I know about the Negro” his words belie the actions of things scientists have long known about amoebas, slime molds, and other self-declared genetic heroes of their narrow subspecies.


(1) Appearance matters: artificial marking alters aggression and stress.



6 thoughts on “The Biology of Hate

  1. If you haven’t heard about it or read it, yet; I thought this was a great books.

    Less than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others by David Smith

    “Dehumanized people are never thought of as charming animals like butterflies and kittens. That’s because dehumanizers always identify their victims with animals that motivate violence. The thinking goes something like this: Rats are vermin, and should be exterminated. So, if Jews are rats, then they should be exterminated, too. Jews are rats. Exterminating rats isn’t cruel, because rats have no moral standing – so, exterminating Jews isn’t cruel. In fact, it’s morally good to exterminate rats because they harm human beings by spreading filth and disease – so, it’s morally good to exterminate Jews.”

  2. For obvious reason, I’m partial to the part where he points out David Hume was an early recognizer of out-group bias:

    “When our own nation is at war with any other, we detest them under the character of cruel, perfidious, unjust and violent: but always esteem ourselves and allies equitable, moderate and merciful. If the general of our enemies be successful, ’tis with difficulty we allow him the figure and character of a man. He is a sorcerer: he has a communication with daemons … he is bloody-minded and takes pleasure in death and destruction. But if the success be on our side, our commander has all the opposite good qualities, and is a pattern of virtue, as well as of courage and conduct. His treachery we call policy: his cruelty is an evil inseperable from war. In short, every one of his faults we either endeavor to extenuate, or dignify it with the name of virtue, which approaches it. ‘Tis evident that the same method of thinking runs thro’ common life.” – David Hume

  3. Arthur,

    Cliven Bundy’s words about black people were the absolutely opposite of “hate.” Step out of your urban perspective for a moment, and see things in terms of people who actually produce food from the earth.

    A great dystopian nightmare that you should fear is a planet where we are not allowed to produce our own food, and the only food available is genetically modified, herbicide soaked corn/wheat/soybeans that makes people obese and gives them diabetes and cancer.

    A somewhat less extreme example is a world where people who used to own a piece of their own land and raise a garden and have chickens, now live in extreme dependence on the government because it’s easier to take advantage of the automated society than to raise chickens and vegetables. Not just black people, but the whole country. Only a small percentage of stubborn and paranoid people (like myself) grows his or her own food any more. And my family is not fat! Amazing how that works.

    Poor people eat junk food and get obese and diabetic — even the children. Want to see real genocide? It might not be quite the same as lining people up at a ditch and machine gunning them, but having millions of children of all races growing up obese and diabetic means they are less likely to reproduce, or reproduce and raise successful children, and have a much shorter lifespan.

    I’m not fat shaming either. I don’t think obesity wholly a matter of will power, though it is about making better food choices. There’s a book called “The Science of Skinny” by Dee McCaffrey, a biochemist, that obesity is caused by chemical additives in food. In other words, we are being poisoned by packaged food. There are chemicals in American food that are not allowed in food in Europe. What’s that tell ya?

    The black children in the USA (and children of all races) are being purposefully poisoned by the Factory Farm, Industrial Agricutlure monoculture system. Cliven Bundy opposes that – -what a evil racist supremacist monster!

    I think we need a new term for purposeful lifespan reduction. Not genocide, but it deserves a term, don’t you think?

    Cliven Bundy is saying that black people are better off having the property, ability, opportunity, and motivation to produce their own healthy food, rather than becoming obese and diabetic junk food junkies.

    In Cliven Bundy’s world, black people would have much lower incidence of obesity and diabetes at the very least. If Michelle Obama had any sense, she’d have defended his remarks.

  4. Cliven Bundy as a scourge of diabetes. Wow. Speaking strictly as a person with diabetes, I have to say that words fail me.

    1. Words fail you because I’m right, Arthur. I’ve noticed that left wing types are very narrow minded these days. Everything is just bad conservatives and/or racists messing up the world. Nobody can do anything to improve their lot while some racist farmer walks the earth, eh?

      If you are really advocates for black people, it seems like you spend all your time attacking whites and conservatives, but no time or energy solving problems that could be solved despite the existence of racists.

      Imagine all racists disappeared tomorrow. What would you do? How are racists stopping you from doing anything?

      Racists don’t stop black people form eating healthy, or from growing a community garden. I installed a community garden in an area with a lot of people of color, but only whites had any interest whatsoever. That’s not the fault of the racists or “hate.”

      There’s a lot of problems in the world, but 99.999% of them have nothing to do with “hate.” Of course solving them requires work. I guess it’s easier to fantasize about “rewiring the hate circuit in the brain” which would also rewire the love circuit. You seem to want to have a world like the movie Equilibrium:

  5. “If you declare the larger culture (the federal government in this case)”….? Since when does anyone other than a “liberal big government controls all” syccophant say something like that?

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