A brief materialist look at “spiritual race” mechanisms.
Readers of this blog are probably aware that I – a scientific materialist and empiricist – am critical of “spiritual race” theories, including ideas about a “racial soul” or “race soul,” whether these are derived from Spengler, Yockey, Evola, or German Nazism.
However, is there perhaps an area of overlap between biological and spiritual race theory, one in which ideas of a “racial soul” and “spiritual race” – an innate sense of self, instinctive behaviors and preferences, and metaphysical beliefs and aspirations connected to particular ethnies – have some sort of discoverable, knowable, physical basis, a materialist foundation? In other words, spiritual race exists but is not something independent of matter and of the physical body but is a derivation of it; the race soul being an emergent property of biological racial characteristics, influenced by culture and a people’s history, their “genetic memory” as a ethnocultural-historical entity.
One could speculate that characteristics of a “racial soul” are influenced by:
1. Genetics; complex epistasis of many gene variants and their expression that influence behavior in a manner beyond the current level of understanding of definitive “genes that affect behavior.”
2. Epigenetic influences that are stable over time because they are constantly reinforced by cultural/historical/environmental factors, some of which are themselves influenced by epigenetics (self-reinforcing) or underlying genetic differences (gene-culture effects and canalisation).
While I believe that epigenetic influences are grossly overestimated by ideologues of both the Left and Right, who have political reasons for de-emphasizing genetic determinism, it is wrong to lurch in the opposite direction and completely disregard potential epigenetic mechanisms.
3. Learned behaviors, passed down through the generations, which appear instinctive and unlearned because they are long-term, subtle and complex, and hence invisible to casual and immediate observation.
4. The combination of 1,2, and 3 so as to produce reproducible ethnic and racial traits that are seemingly unconnected to strict biological race, and seemingly so because the level of analysis is superficial and only looking at direct and immediate relationships between “one gene and one phenotype.”
Please note that if complex “cross-talk” exists between culture/environment on the one hand, and genetics/epigenetics on the other, manifested as a “racial soul” – or “spiritual race” – then by altering a group’s culture and environment, one can change the underlying physical basis of their racial soul. Is one reason for the degeneration of Whites in recent history – their complete spiritual and moral collapse – due to the poisoning of their culture and the decay of their environment due to Leftist/Jewish influences?
Also note that given variability within a race as regards genes and epigenetics, and different life experiences of individuals, outliers of the racial soul can exist (as noted, e.g., by Yockey and Evola) – a member of one “biological race” belongs to a different “spiritual race” – mechanistically explained by unusual combinations of influences 1-4 listed above. But for an entire group, and most of its members, the racial soul should be consistent (and also, unfortunately, consistently susceptible to degeneration).
At this point, it is imperative to further consider “cross-talk” between genes and culture, and between epigenetic influences, genes, and culture, and the process of “canalisation.”
Canalisation is a measure of the ability of a population to produce the same phenotype regardless of variability of its environment or genotype. It is a form of evolutionary robustness. The term was coined in 1942 by C. H. Waddington to capture the fact that "developmental reactions, as they occur in organisms submitted to natural selection...are adjusted so as to bring about one definite end-result regardless of minor variations in conditions during the course of the reaction". He used this word rather than robustness to take into account that biological systems are not robust in quite the same way as, for example, engineered systems.
Biological robustness or canalisation comes about when developmental pathways are shaped by evolution. Waddington introduced the concept of the epigenetic landscape, in which the state of an organism rolls "downhill" during development. In this metaphor, a canalised trait is illustrated as a valley (which he called a creode) enclosed by high ridges, safely guiding the phenotype to its "fate". Waddington claimed that canals form in the epigenetic landscape during evolution, and that this heuristic is useful for understanding the unique qualities of biological robustness.
Thus, it is part of the racial soul to reproduce the same phenotype regardless of variation in the environment, or even regardless of fluctuating variation (e.g., from genetic drift, bottlenecks, etc.) in the genotype – as long as certain core components of the genotype remain intact.
Also consider the related hypothesis of “evolutionary capacitance.”
Evolutionary capacitance is the storage and release of variation, just as electric capacitors store and release charge. Living systems are robust to mutations. This means that living systems accumulate genetic variation without the variation having a phenotypic effect. But when the system is disturbed (perhaps by stress), robustness breaks down, and the variation has phenotypic effects and is subject to the full force of natural selection. An evolutionary capacitor is a molecular switch mechanism that can "toggle" genetic variation between hidden and revealed states. If some subset of newly revealed variation is adaptive, it becomes fixed by genetic assimilation. After that, the rest of variation, most of which is presumably deleterious, can be switched off, leaving the population with a newly evolved advantageous trait, but no long-term handicap. For evolutionary capacitance to increase evolvability in this way, the switching rate should not be faster than the timescale of genetic assimilation.
This mechanism would allow for rapid adaptation to new environmental conditions. Switching rates may be a function of stress, making genetic variation more likely to affect the phenotype at times when it is most likely to be useful for adaptation.
Different ethnies contain different types of, and levels, of such genetic variation; hence, human groups differ, qualitatively and quantitatively, in their evolutionary capacitance. What this means in terms of a “racial soul” is that different groups may not reflect a type of phenotypic difference in one environment, but once exposed to a different, stressful environment, robustness breaks down and the inherent genetic variation is expressed in phenotypes previously masked. This expression of masked phenotypes is one manifestation of the "racial soul."
Note that canalization and evolutionary capacitance reflect the concept of a racial soul in opposite manners. The former describes the robustness, the consistent replication, of racial behavior and racial expression in various environments (with perturbations within limits) – thus, different ethnies will consistently reproduce aspects of their racial souls even when transplanted to new living spaces, such as groups migrating to the same common territory (e.g., America). The latter concept describes situations in which differential expression of a racial soul is masked, hidden, because canalization stabilizes phenotypic expression within a particular environment, but this expression of the racial soul is unleashed upon transition to a more radically different environment. Thus, different groups, which appear similar in behavior on the surface, will reveal radically different behaviors – seemingly instinctive behaviors – for example in times of war, upheaval, or even radical changes in cultural paradigms.
Both poles of racial expression – the robustness of canalisation in which the revealed states are stable within a certain degree of environmental variation and the unleashing of hidden states of racial expression built up through evolutionary capacitance – should have materialist, physical explanations. Canalisation is due to gene-culture co-evolution (with perhaps epigenetics playing a role), while evolutionary capacitance is due to inherent genetic (and possibly epigenetic) variation of ethnies that creates the potential for behaviors that, hidden at one time, become revealed and expressed at another time.
Both of these poles of expression – the uncanny consistency of group expression and the hidden abilities of groups that become revealed in times of stress – can be considered aspects of race typically labeled as “spiritual race” and the “racial soul.”
On related notes, see “genetic memory” (mentioned above) – also discussed here – as well as Jung’s “collective unconscious.” If we are to seriously consider these ideas from the standpoint of materialist biological science, then the same mechanisms discussed above likely apply.
With sufficient understanding and technical advances, it may be possible at some point in the future to evaluate these ideas, and determine whether there is an underlying material basis – actual physical mechanisms - for these postulated phenomena, and, more fundamentally, determine the validity of the actual existence of these phenomena for the human condition. In other words, does a "racial soul" really exist and, if so, what is its physical, mechanistic basis?