The Collective Brain Of Whites Generated All Modern Innovations
by Ricardo Duchesne (with permission)
French President Emmanuel Macron was accused recently of “hating France” as he called for the “deconstruction of our history” to fit with the reality of millions of nonwhite citizens and the need to overcome the colonial “racism of the past”. This is not an incidental, off the cuff remark. The erasure of the histories of all the nations created by whites is an intrinsic part of white replacement immigration. The globalists don’t want whites to know their history, and they certainly don’t want whites to gain any pride in the unparalleled achievements of their ancestors, otherwise they may start wondering why they should hand over their heritage to alien and hostile immigrants.
This erasure has long been in preparation in academia. The teaching of Western civilization was a widespread requirement across American and Canadian colleges not long ago. Today, celebrating the “colorful” histories of nonwhites is a standard affair in the multicultural world history surveys that now dominate the curriculum. However, among academic specialists “the rise of the West” is still viewed as the mother of all world historical questions. The reality of Western supremacy in the modern era can’t be ignored and reduced to a kumbaya of multicultural history.
Nevertheless, in the last decades, this debate has been turned into the much narrower question of when Europe industrialized first, away from an assessment of the many historical novelties witnessed in the long history of this civilization. For Max Weber the uniqueness of the West was a far deeper reality than the industrial revolution; it was about a totally different rational mentality, which he detected originally in ancient Greece. William McNeill’s The Rise of the West (1963) was a grand account of the history of the “human community” since prehistorical times, with the idea in mind that the West was long a special community.
But these grand accounts of the glorious history of the West have ceased, replaced by the “guns, germs, and steel” of Europeans, and their “lucky” ascendancy. It is not that earlier historical epochs are ignored altogether. It is that the uniqueness of the West is seen to occur only in reference to the industrial revolution, with prior centuries accorded attention only in the degree to which they contributed to this revolution.
This is why the “rise of the West” has been retitled “the Great Divergence,” a narrow dispute about when Europe started “a trajectory of higher growth”. A man by the name Kenneth Pomeranz played a key role in this conceptual shift with his argument that China and Europe were “surprisingly similar” as late as 1750, and that only the “accidental discovery” of the Americas and the exploitation of its wealth, combined with England’s “lucky” access to abundant sources of coal, allowed this civilization to industrialized first. The view that Europeans were different because they industrialized first amounts in the end to the claim that the rise of the industrial West was a “momentary phenomenon” soon to be relegated to the past as Asia “regains” the economic dominance it enjoyed many centuries before.
Nietzsche once said that “a race, like any other organic formation, can only grow or perish; the stationary state does not exist”. Europeans must affirm their heritage without equivocation and humility. There is no in-between. The eradication of Europeans will continue unbated unless they take on a supremacist attitude towards their history, and draw thereof a will to fight off the mounting attempt by other races to feed off white self-abnegation and impose their own culture.
The academic men of the past, Madison Grant in The Passing of the Great Race (1916), and Lothrop Stoddard in The Rising Tide of Color: The Threat Against White World-Supremacy (1920), warned us that China would borrow white technology to impose its racial power over the world. Cultural “equity” means BLM, Hunter Biden, the great replacement, and the domination of China. The elites of non-white immigrants flourishing in the West are now eagerly condemning everything about the high culture of the West, “Classical music,” Shakespeare, Western mathematics, the greatest philosophers, European architecture, even the study in England of Old English literature and culture.
Does Henrich Go Far Enough?
Joseph Henrich’s The WEIRDest People is the first mainstream academic book to argue that the roots of the industrial revolution must be traced back in history to the cultural evolution of a unique psychological being in Europe. This book’s rejection of the taken-for-granted notion that the psychologies of the peoples of the world are the same is very welcoming. It goes deep into the emergence of a unique psychology among Europeans in the Middle Ages to explain the rise of the West, a claim it backs with multiple experimental surveys, figures, graphs, and tables, based on game theory.
These experimental games, I should say here, were designed to measure psychological differences between populations across the world, to counter the “massively biased samples” from the past which were derived almost entirely from Western students. These new cross-cultural surveys have made it clear that the psychological patterns found in Western students did not hold in other non-Western cultures. These experimental games, conducted by Henrich’s “research team” and many other independent researchers, included The Dictator Game, The Random Allocation Game, The Public Good’s Game, The Impersonal Honesty Game, The Ultimatum Game, and The Sharing Game. It was on the basis of these experimental psychological research that Henrich concluded there were two fundamental psychological profiles in the world: the WEIRD profile of people in the West and the non-WEIRD profile of kinship based peoples.
Yet, for all this, Henrich basically accepts the prevailing idea that the rise of the West is essentially a debate about the origins of the industrial revolution. This is clear right from the opening page of the Preface where it is stated that the key question at hand is “why the Industrial Revolution occurred in Europe but not elsewhere”. It is also apparent in what the acronym “W.E.I.R.D.” stands for: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic”. Most of the sources Henrich cites that relate directly to the rise of the West are from economic historians. So, while the book does go back to the Church’s family program, and the spread of voluntary institutions and impersonal markets during the Middle Ages and after, the issue remains the origins of the industrial revolution.
I believe there is more to the psychology of Europeans than reaching a state of mass affluence, which is now spreading everywhere. There is a very different type of human with a radically different mind, a different way of relating to the world, a more exploratory Faustian spirit, and a keener creativity in all the fields of human endeavor. Why should Europeans underestimate the Twelfth Century Renaissance, or the incredible sequence of styles in European painting, in architecture, sculpture, music — as contrasted to the repetitive styles everywhere else? Henrich does not tell us that perspective in painting is uniquely European, that Europeans quantified musical sounds and silence, developed a system of notation that made possible composition and production of classical music, and originated polyphonic music. He does not tell us that only Europeans learned how to write with punctuation, sentences, and paragraphs; and invented the codex which revolutionized reading by introducing pages to manuscripts. He does not tell that Europeans were responsible for a cartographic revolution leading to the mapping of the entire earth; and that almost all the ideas in the sciences, in mathematics, in philosophy, the very invention of the novel, were accomplishments of Europeans, including almost all the literary devices in both prose and poetry. He repeats the mandated academic claim that all cultures are equal and prefers to say that European culture was just WEIRD rather than more original and accomplished.
This lack of appreciation for Western high culture accounts in part for his dismissive attitude toward the Church’s “new morality” in bringing about the demolition of kinship groups, his neglect of how Christianity became the only true theology in history, and his total neglect of ancient Greece, the birth place of monogamy, geometry, logic, democratic citizenship, and much more. Like every other participant in this debate, he never asks why all the fields of human knowledge taught in our universities were invented by Europeans: Geography, Geology, Archeology, Botany, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Paleontology, Genetics, Astrophysics, History, Sociology, Anthropology, and Philosophy.
Henrich Over Gregory Clark and Edward Dutton
It would be petty minded, however, to underestimate the achievement of Henrich’s work. Chapter 13, “Escape Velocity,” is focused on the incredible “innovation-driven economic and military expansion…of Europe after 1500”. Those who prioritize gene and IQ believe that rising intelligence in England during the modern era was the driving factor behind the innovations leading to the industrial revolution. Possibly the best book proposing this argument is Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms (2007). It argues that in the years 1250-1800 “economic success translated powerfully into reproductive success, with the richest individuals having more than twice the number of surviving children at death as the poorest”. The result in the long run was that the more literate and intelligent members of British society “left twice as many children as the poorest.” While in the past the ruling aristocratic class was “barely reproducing itself” because the death rates from its professional pursuit of warfare were too high, the rise of an urbane, mercantile, and professionally minded elite, with many surviving children, brought a new situation in which the kind of people who survived and succeeded the most were those with the “smarter” genes and the middle class values of hard work, patience, literacy and thriftiness.
Clark’s argument makes sense as far as it goes. But so does Henrich’s argument that we should not assume that inventions by lone geniuses automatically translate into the “successful diffusion and implementation” of technologies and widespread innovations in the economy. We should not assume either that lone geniuses were behind the major inventions and behind the application of these inventions into industry and subsequent improvements (innovations) on these inventions. Henrich emphasizes instead the “growth of Europe’s collective brain” nourished by the spread of voluntary associations, charter cities and universities, knowledge societies and widespread publications, monasteries and apprenticeships. He provides very solid evidence showing that “the larger the population of engaged minds, the faster the rate of cumulative cultural evolution.” The “larger the network of people learning or doing something, the more opportunities” there were for inventions and innovations/improvements in technology.
While this argument, it seems to me, does not necessarily preclude Clark’s emphasis on rising average intelligence in modern Britain, it does challenge more directly Edward Dutton’s and Bruce Charlton’s thesis in The Genius Famine (2016) that geniuses have been behind the development of civilization itself and the industrial revolution in Europe. We will see in our examination of the last chapter of Henrich’s book what he has to say about genes and rising levels of intelligence. Here he goes over a number of key innovations — the printing press, steam engine, spinning mule, vulcanized rubber, and incandescent light bulb — to show that multiple people interconnected with each other were developing the ideas associated with these innovations. He does not identify them as “inventions” because these innovations were “just novel recombinations of existing ideas, techniques…a tool taken from one domain and applied in another”.
The argument that stands out in Henrich is how the collective brain of Europeans was expanded at an accelerating rate as individuals from all walks of life came together in voluntary associations “unconstrained by the bonds of kinship” with opportunities to become part of “sprawling networks of experts” in a wide variety of subjects and apprenticeships. Some of the salient points he makes are: The promotion of neolocal residence meant that newly married couples became head of their households at a young age, when people are “less-risk averse and less tied to tradition”. Monasteries, which diffused throughout Christendom independently of kinship groups, “carried with them the latest crops, agricultural techniques, production methods, and industries”. “The Cistercian Order, in particular, built a sprawling network of monastery factories that deployed the latest techniques for grinding wheat, casting iron, tanning hides, fulling cloth, and cultivating grapes”.
The “growing urban centers of the Middle Ages” were open to “residential-mobile artisans and craftsmen”. Cities expanded the collective brain of Europeans by bringing people with “different skills and areas of expertise to work on ideas and technologies together.” Data shows that “four out of five apprentices were not sons of their master” in medieval guilds from the Netherlands. In 17th century London, “the percentage of artisans trained by nonrelatives ranged from 72 to 93 percent”, whereas in India and China “almost all skilled artisans” were trained by a close family member. “More than three-quarters of the 4,000 masters” in Vienna in 1742 “had been born elsewhere”. The number of people living in cities of over 10,000 increased 20 times in Europe from 800 to 1800 whereas the urban population in China remained the same. Evidence shows that “for each 10-fold increase in population size (from 10,000 to 100,000) there’s 13 times more innovation”, and it also shows that the collective brain of European nations expanded substantially from 1200 to 1900 as measured by the size of the urban areas and the interconnectedness of people.
The number of knowledge societies grew substantially after 1600, with analytically minded individuals networking through much of Europe via letters, books, pamphlets, technical manuals, and eventually scholarly journals and public libraries. The evidence shows a strong relationship between the number of knowledge societies in a region and the number of innovations.
The driving force behind these innovations were new set of institutions built by increasingly WEIRD Europeans able to interconnect with many other individuals who were likewise unattached to kinship groups and norms. These interconnections transcended national boundaries within Europe not only through the “Republic of Letters” that networked across much of Europe or through the urban areas joined by individuals from many backgrounds, but also through the movement of many innovators and skilled workers from one nation to another in response to political events and levels of persecution. The nation-states of Europe were continually in a state of “intergroup” competition; so when talent was suppressed in one nation, say the energetic and educated Protestant Huguenots in France, another nation open to Protestantism would welcome them to join their voluntary associations.
Henrich does not deny that other factors were at play in furthering these developments, such as Europe’s long indented coastlines, multiple navigable rivers, and proximity to many seas, a geography that is associated with increased interaction with strangers and promotion of impersonal trust. Moreover, in his model, intergroup competition is always a background factor activating humans to compete and form wider networks of cooperation. But, as we saw in an earlier commentary, this competition was “domesticated” by a WEIRD population that sought to increase its power and wealth through market competition and by climbing the ladder within voluntary associations. WEIRD Europeans learned that market competition can be a positive sum affair rather than a zero sum conflict. He takes it as a given that humans do compete with each other and that they continued to do so as members of nation-states in a domesticated or less militaristic way. After WWII the nation states of the West sought to minimize as much as possible military confrontations among themselves and concentrate on peaceful commercial intergroup competition.
Behind these developments, and the main factor that led to the industrial revolution, was the unique psychological temperament and intellect of Europeans. His claim is that:
Westerners Were Both Analytical and Contextual Thinkers
Very good. But by framing Western psychology in terms of how it brought the industrial revolution, Henrich limits our understanding of the full complexity of this psychology. We can start conveying this by questioning the stark contrast he draws between the analytical mind of Europeans and the contextual or holistic mind of non-WEIRD people. It is true that Westerners were the first to think analytically, to abstract things from their contextual background, to break up things into their constituent parts and properties, to propose rules independent of context, and to strive for objectivity by blocking personal biases and thinking impersonally. This mode of thinking, with roots in ancient Greece, was crucial to the rise of the industrial revolution. But Westerners were also the first to argue for the validity of contextual thinking.
They were the first to develop self-conscious philosophies and methodologies for the investigation of how thinking is mediated by historical time and social context. Pragmatism, hermeneutics, symbolic interactionism, structuralism, postmodernism, phenomenology are some of the alternatives Europeans singularly developed in criticism of the ability of the scientific method to comprehend human culture. The non-WEIRD world did not develop a single methodology or self-conscious philosophy explaining what their contextual thinking was about. They were unconsciously contextual. The peak of intellectual development in the most advanced civilizations of the East was reached in the Axial Age, with Islamic civilization making a few contributions thereafter by drawing heavily from the Persian and the Greek Aristotelian traditions. However much the experts have tried to make us believe that China was as intellectually sophisticated as the West, they have acknowledged in the end that Chinese thought remained trapped inside the Confucian and Daoist world view originated in ancient times, with novelties consisting in new recombinations of these traditions with some added sprinkles from Buddhism later.
German Karl Jaspers came up with “Axial Age” to create a common humanity after WWII
The Axial Age of the West, the ancient world of Greek thought, was the beginning of continuous intellectual and artistic novelties. The question is why almost all the greatest accomplishments in the endeavors of human life were Western. We can start with the Greek commandment, Know thyself — by which we should not understand knowledge of the particular personality, capacities, and foibles of the single self. We should understand knowledge of the mind as the only reality in the universe that can make itself its own object of thinking, and thus come to know itself as the arbiter of its own knowing, capable of deciding what to believe rather than relying on external mandates, unknowable spirits and demons, or alien natural forces. This is a Hegelian view.
Some have argued that the Axial Age breakthrough of ancient Greece was all about the “emergence of second-order thinking.” Yehuda Elkana makes this argument, and it goes like this. People in all cultures think. This is “first order thinking”. Thinking in a logical way, building things, going about one’s survival in a rational way is also first order thinking. The novelty of Classical Greece was to introduce second order thinking, which is “thinking about thinking”. Elkana sees geometrical proofs as a “second-order idea par excellence” because this way of thinking seeks systematic justification for its claims, “a way to [rationally] convince the student rather than to supply the truth”. Although the pre-Socratics used logical reasoning and spoke about “increasingly transcendental entities,” such as the entity of a higher mind, nous, as an intelligence ordering the universe, they did so, according to Elkana, in a dogmatic fashion, as rigid statements about the ultimate nature of reality without thinking reflexively about alternatives to their claims. Second order thinking presupposes more than the negation of mythical authority and the proposal of cosmologies about the intelligibility of things. It presupposes acceptance of alternative ways of thinking about the world. The creation of the polis, Elkana says, was “one of the greatest cultural inventions of the Greeks” in putting speech and “free debate” as a “political power,” replacing “brute force”. With the polis, political ideas were subjected to debate and public criticism; politics was no longer a matter of ritualistic words or formulaic statements. The polis, in other words, encouraged second order thinking. The Sophists introduced second-order thinking with their argumentative skills and their rhetorical ability to engage “opposing arguments.” Herodotus’ awareness that each culture possesses its own norms and modes of behavior was an example of second order thinking in anthropology.
Clearly, Elkana offers a mixed bag of impressions, from the rigorous proofs of geometry to the anthropological view that each culture has its own normative standards. I prefer the Hegelian idea that the discovery of the mind (which can be equated with the emergence of thinking about thinking) was the key to the Greek Axial breakthrough. Discovering the mind as faculty in its own right, as the seat of reasoning, as the only entity in the universe that can self-examine itself and establish its claims through itself, freed from all external determinations, is quintessentially what consciousness of consciousness means. The pre-Socratics started this train of thinking about thinking. They started relying on reason to determine what was true rather than on external spirits, demons, myths, and accepted traditions. Relying on reason means standing above the ways of thinking of a particular culture. When the historian Herodotus recognized that each culture has its own norms and behaviors conforming to its own habitat he was standing above the accepted claims of his own culture, and thus taking a universal stand, even though he suggested there were no universal standards. It was for Socrates and then Plato to search for absolute standards. Plato sought these standards in the mind’s apprehension of an eternal cosmic order. Although the Greeks discovered the mind, they saw this mind as a particular, imperfect expression of a cosmic mind, for they did not achieve full self-consciousness, and could not realize that only the thinking self in a state of dialogue with others could be the highest authority in charge of conceptualizing the nature of things.
As original members of aristocratic cultures with Indo-European roots, the Greeks had a strong sense of personal agency, characterized initially by heroic willfulness, but gradually cultivated into intellectual pursuits, which eventually led them to identify the thinking self as an agent in its own right separate from the not-self, and become aware of the distinction between private thoughts and public norms, thinking and believing, the inner states of the mind from the outer states of the natural world. There were slight inklings of a “transcendental breakthrough” in the other Axial civilizations of China, India, Israel, and Persia. But these cultures never discovered the mind, never became conscious of their consciousness, and that’s why their cultures barely developed after the Axial Age.
Evolutionary theory states that consciousness evolved by natural selection, and that thinking is a universal feature of human nature, even though the levels of intelligence vary among groups. Julian Jaynes’s argument that one should not confuse consciousness with “consciousness of consciousness,” and that humans became conscious of their consciousness at a historical point in time, makes more sense to me. This is not to say that different habitats in the world did not exert different evolutionary pressures with different possibilities for the emergence of consciousness of consciousness. The European continent is the most ecologically rich in the world, with the most seas, rivers, mountains, climates, topography, and different ecological niches close to each other. This explains why “Europeans are a big exception” to other races in having more than one hair and eye color: black hair “but also brown, flaxen, golden, or red”, and brown eyes “but also blue, gray, hazel, or green.” But once consciousness of consciousness emerges, evolutionary theory can only teach us about the ordinary behavior of individuals; it has very little to teach us about the intellectual history of Europeans. One can’t explain the history of painting, architecture, philosophy…in terms of natural selection. Cultural learning is uniquely human, and continuous cultural creativity is uniquely European.
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