Caring for Posterity

Alan McGregor

Institute for the Study of Man


Raymond B. Cattell Praeger, New York

Author Raymond B. Cattell, a member of the editorial advisory board of this journal, has sometimes been called "Mr. I.Q. Test" because of his role in developing IQ and Personality tests. His Sixteen Personality Factor test is a standard tool in educational circles to this day. His contribution to scholarly knowledge is impressive when measured by volume alone, totalling as it does over forty books and more than 450 scholarly papers published to date. More recently his concern has turned to the problem of survival facing mankind, dependent as mankind is on the preservation of an appropriate heredity.

Cattell's long history of psychological research has enabled him to demonstrate that mankind is not in any way different from other biological organisms so far as the significance of heredity is concerned. Science is rooted in causality, and the limits of the behavioral potentiality of every individual are largely set by heredity at the time of conception. Environmental life-history will influence the subsequent behavior of the living organism, and some scientists have attempted to evaluate the relative importance of environment and heredity in terms of statistical figures. Such figures relate only to specific concepts, specific situations and specific groups, such as the ability of diverse individuals and groups to perform effectively in response to a battery of intelligence or personality tests. This can cause less rigorous thinkers to assume that heredity and environment are two forces which are in opposition to each other. This is not the case. Heredity determines the way the human machine is constructed, and environment operates upon the machine and influences what it will do, or even how long it will survive. One might use the simile of a computer. What can be done with a computer depends upon the way it is constructed. But what you can get out of it will depend upon what data is fed into it.

In consequence of his profound consciousness of the role of heredity in determining the human potential, Cattell has for many years been concerned that the quality of the genes that are handed on to future generations of mankind should be high. Such a statement often leads to immediate criticism on the grounds that "high quality" implies an objective scale of values against which we may measure human ability. It brings us into the realm of ethics and, of course, religion.

Conscious of the fact that any argument favoring eugenic concepts or stressing the importance of what is colloquially called "good inheritance" involves an excursion into the realm of ethics, Cattell attempts in this impressive work to penetrate the field of ethical philosophy and as a good scientist he asks: what can science tell us about ethics? How can we derive an ethic of human behavior, a scale of values which might direct human enterprise, from scientific knowledge? Clearly, science has given us the power to understand many things, and to modify our environment even ourselves - in ways hitherto unimaginable. But in what way should this knowledge be used? How can science help us to create a sound ethical system which will enable us to act for the benefit of all those generations yet to come, to shape the future world "beyond" the span of our own lifetime? Cattell's initially rather surprising title for this book, Beyondism, is derived from that one important, over-riding ideal - if we are truly concerned with the good of the greatest number, he argues, let us remember that we should be asking how our actions will influence the future of all those generations yet to be born. We should think beyond the horizons of our own life-span, and constantly bear in mind the welfare of posterity. Our prime concern is that we should leave to future generations a healthy genetic heritage, including a high level of intelligence combined with a set of ancillary inherited qualities, not excluding personality, which will best enable the unborn generations of future men and women to tackle the problems that will inevitably confront them, many of which we cannot even envisage at this present time. Thus "the greatest good for the greatest number" means the greatest good for the future of humanity, for mankind 'beyond' the limits of our own short selfish life-spans.

Cattell defines "Beyondism" as a system "for discovering and clarifying ethical goals from a basis of scientific knowledge and investigation by the objective research procedures of scientific method."

On what objective "realities" can science seek to base morality? Cattell answers as follows:

"However, it is in the realm of interpretation that Beyondism demands an act of faith by which it may seem to stand or fall. The Berkeley-Descartes issue we are content to answer with "The universe exists." What Beyondism requires in addition is the interpretation that "Evolution exists as a paramount fact within this universe." Thus, if we wish to be as tightly logical as a Euclidean proposition - which we need if we claim our position to be logically sound - we have to recognize these two assumptions or presuppositions."

Since we assume the reality of the universe, and the findings of science, we must conclude from our understanding of evolution that species and subspecies, although changing through time, are more real in the sense of being durable, of persisting, than are individuals. In fact, individuals are little more than links in the ongoing, intergenerational chain that is life. Individuals are important in that they hold in trust the genes of the subspecies, and they are also important in that the future potential for the subspecies depends upon which individuals live and reproduce successfully, and which die without offspring. The reproductive fate of individuals shapes the future of the group!

"The selection has finally to operate, literally, on individuals, but often the results are well summarized and understood by considering the effect on groups either as (1) a species, interbreeding and having common characteristics, or (2) an organized group. with roles, rules, and social structure - say a nation."

For life to survive, and for our own kind of life form in particular to survive, it must maintain and develop further the ability to cope with changing environmental conditions. In the case of mankind, the key to survival is increased intelligence, involving selection at both the individual and the group level.

"In organized groups, as, for example, in primate and human societies, the possible relations and results are somewhat more complex. Thus, although all survival ultimately takes place as survival of individuals, it is overconcrete and unsubtle thinking to overlook that it is nevertheless the ultimate interactive properties of the species or group as suchthat greatly determine evolution. The concrete view would say that the death of an individual, for example, is nothing more than the death of a lot of cells, yet obviously something more important than the cell dies. The individual cell contains the plan of the whole body, but when the body dies all cells must die. In the analogue of the whole social body this is only approximately true, but close enough to find a considerable reduction in the population type when a culture dies.

Natural selection is going on simultaneously between groups and individuals within groups. As we shall see, within-group selection has to conform to the demands of between-group selection. This was not understood when Darwin and Wallace first put forward the theory of evolution by natural selection, for people thought it rested principally on conflict among individuals Some philosophers and even some scientists have argued that humankind has now evolved to a point in history at which group selection is no longer relevant, and that only individual selection will henceforth be operative. But Cattell disagrees:

"With the second objection - that we know what progress is and can accordingly abolish group natural selection - Beyondism is in fundamental disagreement. We can peer ahead a little way, with the help of historical perspective and reasoning - and even penetrate the fog a little farther when a truly potent social science is built up - but the wisest never could, and probably never will, be able to foresee the ultimate effect of inventions and social legislations. Evolution is no more a straight line than the course of a ship sounding its way through uncharted channels. History books could be and have been, filled with the untoward and ludicrous results of labors of well-intentioned but unimaginative social reformers, who "know what's best."

Thus Cattell places importance on internal group collaboration to ensure the survival of the group in its prevailing environment. He also perceives that that "environment" includes competing populations and subspecies:

"What we have to make clear here is the relation of natural selection among individuals to that among groups. The contribution between group and individual is a two-way affair. In an obvious sense, a group cannot exist without individuals, and it has been argued that an individual who is to come to fullest use in progress cannot exist without a group. It is thus true that we have a causal chain in what systems theorists call a "feedback" action, in which individuals help shape the group and the group helps shape the individual. (One says "helps" because both individual and group get part of the shaping from the physical environment). This statement of course applies to both cultural and genetic shaping, recognizing that different genetic predispositions will respond differently to schooling. It follows from the above that we do not have a complete symmetry where natural selection comes in. It the genetic and cultural shaping of individuals must yield a viable group, then that shaping has to be something that fits the survival of the group in its interactions with other groups and the environment. The conditions of survival of the group must determine the conditions for survival of the individual - not vice versa.

The environment of any group, such as a nation or a business corporation or a religious sect, is partly (a) the collection of other groups and (b) the physical universe. Putting aside variance due to size, natural resources, etc., we shall accept here and elsewhere, from the evidence of correlations in modern nations and of history, that nations, tribes, and other groups tend to rank in the same order in (1) competing with other groups and (2) in their mastery of their environment. This is not merely because mastery of the environment gives better economic and military weapons, but because the general intelligence that begets one tends to beget the other."

At earlier levels of evolution, when the hominid population was less numerous, group competition was between tribes and even smaller groups, known as bands. In he modern world, although Cattell does not ignore the any lesser subdivisions that divide nations into smaller breeding groups, he sees the major competing groups still as nations - possibly because nations share a common language and a common territory or breeding ground:

"Those organized groups tend to be nations. As Sir Arthur Keith summarizes, "Most of my colleagues regard a nation as a political unit, with which anthropologists have no concern, whereas I regard a nation as an 'evolutionary unit' with which anthropologists ought to be greatly concerned. The only live races in Europe today are its nations." The great size of the nation, relative to the small familial tribes along which the evolution of group qualities formerly took place, slows up the natural selective process, but that is necessary to produce the "large group" characters we now need."

Technology and culture have always played a prominent role in determining success in a conflict between hominid groups. But while both tend to be linked to genetics, in the long term it is the genetic heritage which is the most precious, as culture depends on its genetic base, and once the genetic base decays so must the culture:

"....but though Man is extreme in the proportions of behavior influenced by culture, it is a colossal mistake to ignore the genetic forces in his culture. And as Havelock Ellis long ago reminded us, 'there is nothing so fragile as civilization, and no high civilization has long withstood the manifold risks it is exposed to.' The genetic survives."

Not only does civilization depend upon a sound genetic basis for its survival, but continued technological achievement of the calibre that may be required for the survival needs of future generations may necessitate further genetic evolution. The problem facing the West today is that the prevailing ethical system is blind to science, and pays no regard to evolutionary reality. A culture can destroy a people if it loses touch with reality, and Western ethical teaching has in general lost touch with evolutionary reality. The ancient civilizations of early Republican Rome and early Greece, even of the pre-Christian Germanic peoples, did reveal some comprehension of the causal reality that governs living organisms. It was no accident that science flourished in pre-Christian pagan Greece, when men like Archimedes, Pythagoras, Aristotle and Plato had inquiring minds, or that all early Greeks believed implicitly in inequality and in the superiority of genetics - of the "blood line." But all this changed with the coming of Christianity, which preached not only the equality of all God's children but also the moral superiority of blind unquestioning obedience to the "revealed truths" of the prophets as preserved by the church leaders. It was the Byzantine Christian emperors who finally closed Plato's ancient academy, because to them even to question Church doctrine was heresy. Cattell himself does not say all this, but he warns against "revealed" religions and it is clear that he believes the prevailing morality of the West is not merely scientifically irrelevant but positively harmful. That is why he believes that the most important objective remaining after his many distinguished accomplishments is to awaken the West, and indeed, all humankind, to the need for ethical values to be brought into line with the frontiers of scientific thought.

Thus, Cattell complains, contemporary Western ethical theory condemns "inequality," and yet biological inequality is the very stuff from which evolution is made. Clearly, the prevailing prejudice against any and all forms of inequality (as distinct from solely legal inequality) is a threat to the future of the West, and individually to all humankind:

"The most common rhetorical reaction to inequality is that it is "unjust." Indeed, in much of the popular media one could easily conclude that the terms inequality and injustice are synonymous! Here we run again on to the confusion over "rights" discussed elsewhere. Our society today declares that all have a right to equal opportunity, while our religions, including Beyondism, declare that all have equal spiritual worth and rights, i.e., the rights to the dignity of an unknown potential. Rights have to be contracts, and so far as an individual signs himself into a state or church, his rights are to the equalities just indicated. But biologically he has no contract to equality, and, if we suppose some supreme being to have designed the universe, it would seem that such rights were never intended. One has then only the right to variation and adventure on the course of evolutionary advance.

As for the relation of inequality to injustice, some common-sense citizens have, as we have seen, added the viewpoint that "injustice is the equal treatment of unequals." It is clear that if we take off from the premise that the group has, if possible, to survive, then equal treatment of unequals is unethical. One would not spend large resources of physical education funds to train a man of diminutive physique for the Olympic shot-put competition, or endow university scholarships for individuals of, say, I.Q. 80 or less.

Confusion over the meanings of equality, justice, and freedom have caused much bloodshed, and threaten all real social progress."

So what positive values does Cattell attribute to those who are concerned with the future of mankind "beyond" the limits of their own life-span? Essentially these are summed up in what he calls a Beyondist catechism - a very lengthy but highly persuasive list of principles and arguments. This may be briefly summarized as follows: Evolution is the prime process visible in the universe, and to survive mankind must develop a strategy, a culture or an "ethic," if you will, which is in harmony with this basic set of conditions.

Evolution proceeds by selection between individuals and between groups. A genetic panmixia for humanity would not only be dangerous - being contrary to evolutionary principles - it is questionable, in fact, whether it ever could be achieved.

Groups are genetic realities and are in competition for genetic survival and proliferation. Groups which adopt an evolutionary-positive ethic have a far better chance than those which select an evolutionary-negative ethic - who have no long term chance of surviving by definition. In addition, groups which adopt a positive evolutionary ethic, and reinforce this by a strong sense of group identity and a high level of in-group Cooperation and loyalty, have a better chance of surviving than those which adopt the universalist ethic characteristic of "revealed" religions.

Finally, even successful groups must still accept the idea that they must continue to evolve, and that inequality between individuals within the group is a biological and evolutionary reality of positive significance. Such groups must be prepared to orient their lives according to social systems which will reinforce the ethical priority of providing future generations with the best possible genetic armory with which to face the unimaginable variety of challenges which lie hidden from contemporary vision by the veils which obscure the future.

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