Inspired by an excellent recent post by Anatoly Karlin, I’d like to add my two cents on the controversial topic of race in the ancient world. This is a sorely under-covered issue which deserves entire PhD theses dedicated to it. For now, a few Internet articles will have to do.
I would argue that HBD is a lot less obviously linked with development outcomes in the premodern world than in the modern world, at least among Eurasians. All the major Eurasian races/regions (Europeans, Middle-Easterners, Indians, Chinese) have been cultural or technological leaders at least in some fields during some periods. The same cannot be said for Sub-Saharan Africans (despite contact with Europe, the Middle East, and even India), Australian Aborigines, or Amerindians (although to be fair to Amerindians, they had far less time, a smaller population base, and were isolated, and still created basic civilizations).
Genetically-influenced intellectual ability and temperament are a major factor in civilizational development (chimps do not build pyramids, you may have noticed), but there are obviously many other ones too. The most obvious would be climate, population density, and communications. Hence, it is natural that civilizations would first emerge in fertile river basins which could support large populations and around seas (like the Mediterranean) where sharing ideas and technologies between populations was easy. It seems that “European Miracle” of modernization occurred from the late Middle Ages onwards thanks to a critical mass of intellegent interconnected populations being reached, then allowing for an exponential growth in communications, literacy, urbanization, and technology.
People assume that, because Middle-Easterners or Indians were more advanced than Europeans 5000 years ago, this means there can be no genetic influence on civilizational development, there are no in-born propensities for the intelligence and abstract thinking necessary for civilization. In the same way, northern Europeans’ barbarism and backwardness relative to Greece and Rome in ancient times is taken as evidence that northern Europeans’ superior performance in modern times cannot have a (partly) genetic basis.
Without getting into the controversial question of the alleged Nordic stock of ancient civilization-builders (which I am not invested in either way), I would argue that the discrepancy between ancient and modern Middle-Easterner achievement is easy to explain. The fact is that ancient civilizations generally did not require a very high degree of social trust or intelligence to achieve: peasants need to be minimally diligent enough to work the land, a small military group must be united enough to enforce the God-King’s rule over the peasants, and you need some scribes and bureaucrats to record your accomplishments and build some monuments. That’s about it. Iraqis evidently were intelligent and trusting enough to do this 5000 years ago.
Under Saddam Hussein, Iraqis were still able to sustain a reasonably-functional dictatorial regime capable of (brutally if necessary) maintaining civil peace and building great works. However, in modern times the differences in social outcomes and well-being between, say, Sweden and Iraq have been absolutely enormous. HBDers are not surprised at this, given that the differences in human differences between Sweden) (average IQ circa 100, until-recently homogeneous Nordic country) and Iraq (average IQ circa 87, divided into three mutually hostile ethno-religious groups and various clans). It takes a lot less social trust and intelligence to maintain an impoverished dictatorship than it does a wealthy social democracy. The same can be said concerning the trust and intelligence necessary to maintain an authoritarian agricultural society as opposed to creating a technologically modern republican society.
(I in no way deny, by the way, that Iraq’s performance has been catastrophically worsened below its potential due to the Americans’ and their allies’ criminal military interventions in Iraq. However, even without this war, it seems exceedingly unlikely that Iraq’s performance would have come anywhere near Sweden’s. What’s more, the point is also that Iraq’s poor human capital and ethno-religious divisions meant the country was particularly susceptible to the dictatorship of some clan and to ethno-religious civil war, whether fomented by hostile outsiders or not.)
It’s possible that the ancients (whether Greek or Middle-Eastern) were more gifted than are the modern inhabitants of these regions (Darwin certainly took this view concerning the ancient Greeks). Dysgenics is a very real possibility. Genetic evidence has shown that Egypt has grown less genetically Caucasian and blacker over the millennia, while the systematization of cousin marriage under Islam has done massive damage all the way from Morocco to Pakistan. Happily, Muslims themselves (as in Morocco, 15% cousin marriage rate) are increasingly aware of congenital diseases they are inflicting upon their children through inbreeding.
Amerindians, like Middle-Easterners, evidently also had the ability to build an ancient civilization. Sub-Saharan Africans, despite contact with others and being around the longest, have virtually never done so. Northern Europeans had the ability but many lived in an extremely hostile (cold) environment with a corresponding low population density and poor communications (land routes) with southern Europe. This hypothesis – of harsh climate impeding development and maintaining barbarism – is the typical argument one finds ancient Mediterranean authors (Herodotus, Aristotle . . .) explaining northern Europe’s underdevelopment and barbarism.
Northern Europe’s case also fits quite well with some HBD models: a people operating in an environment so harsh that it most selects for certain traits (trust and adherence-to-values especially, but also intelligence), while also retarding civilizational development. No contradiction there.
While Europe only achieved a decisive lead in material civilization in the late Middle Ages, Ricardo Duchesne has argued that Europeans’ (Greeks, Romans, Modern Europeans) political, scientific, and philosophical achievements were peerless long before that. While acknowledging the undeniable and often impressive achievements of India, China, or the early Islamic World, there seem to be little-to-no equivalents to the Western practice of civic politics (the Greek polis, the Roman Republic, requiring a rare adherence to abstract legal principles, reciprocity, and civic virtue) and the rationalist Western philosophy (especially that of the Greeks). In modern times of course, Western science and philosophy have undeniably been peerless in their advances and sophistication.
I do not say, necessarily, that the modern West has been better in terms of its values, but merely more sophisticated and certainly unique. Furthermore, I would argue non-Western civilizations have made many unique contributions which are intrinsically valuable. The world is legitimately enriched by the existence of different civilizations and peoples, inhabiting different spaces, and the cross-pollenization between them. This is another reason to oppose the globalists’ mad attempt to create a single global civilization, characterized by a gruel-like homogeneous culture and ethno-racial division.
As technological progress reduces the climate and natural environment’s salience as a factor in human development and as (tele)communications and literacy are universalized, nations then converge to the natural level predicted by their level of social trust and intelligence.
By way of conclusion, we should be wary of equating all forms of civilization with “progress.” Sedentary agricultural civilizations enable the population density for undeniable cultural and technological achievements. But they also have drawbacks: an often catastrophic decline in food quality (overreliance on grains) and a lifestyle/social stratification favoring vicious autocratic rulers and slavish subjects. From this standard, the old Indo-European lifestyle – while materially backward – was one which enabled a virile and martial way of life of aristocratic freedom. It is not for nothing that the ancient Greeks and Romans were obsessed with the problem of decadence and that for most of history technologically primitive but, I would argue, socio-culturally superior barbarians have invaded and conquered “advanced” civilizations again and again. Today, more “primitive” peoples, still adhering to God and traditional family values, are simply outbreeding and physically replacing sterile Westerners who have embraced the postmodern liberal anti-ethos of individual entitlement, comfort, and pleasure. Who, exactly, are the “superiors” here?