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Biological Explanation of Racial and Ethnic Conflicts

by A.M. Goto

March 18, 2000

Racial and ethnic animosities and conflicts throughout the world, past and present, have a common underlying biological cause. My explanation does not try to define race or ethnicity in biological terms since race and ethnicity are both cultural definitions. My argument proposes that racial and ethnic conflicts are a result of a Darwinian struggle; the natural animosity that exists between neighboring populations. By population, I mean as defined in population genetics. Following are a few definition of terms used in my argument:

1) A population is a group of interbreeding, or potentially interbreeding, organisms of the same species occupying a particular space at the same time. This reproductive population shares, through interbreeding, its genetic resources; it shares a common gene pool. Populations are also the smallest unit of competition in which natural selection takes place (populations evolve, individuals do not); it is therefore also the smallest unit of evolution.

2) Gene pool: All the alleles (pool of eggs and sperms) in a population at a particular time; the collection of genes in an interbreeding population.

3) Intraspecific competition: competition among individuals within a species.

4) Evolution: change in the gene pool of a population in response to various stimuli exhibited by a species over time.

There are species of mammals that live in societies that defend territory as a social group. These societies are referred to as biological nations. Robert Ardrey, in his book Territorial Imperative, defines the biological nation as "a social group containing at least two mature males which holds as an exclusive possession a continuous area of space, which isolates itself from others of its kind through outward antagonism, and which through joint defense of its social territory achieves leadership, co-operation, and a capacity for concerted action".

Biological nations in nature always consist of a single population, thus enabling nations to not only compete as a unit, but evolve as a unit. As Ardrey notes: "It is a law of nature that territorial animals - whether individual or social - live in eternal hostility with their territorial neighbours." It should be self-evident why there is eternal hostility between neighboring units of evolution (populations) which are competing with each other for survival (intraspecific competition). Nations in nature do not consist of more than one population, since if it did, it would evolve down multiple evolutionary paths, making it highly unusual for a biological entity.

Below (Fig. 1) is a drawing of biological nations as they occur in nature regardless of the species. Since members of a population share a common gene pool, they are always homogeneous, thus the common lettering to represent homogeneous populations. Each population is a unit of evolution, sharing a common pool of genes and evolving down a separate and independent path by competing with neighboring populations (units of evolution). Although Ardrey has stated that these social groups live in eternal hostility with their territorial neighbors, since nations always consist of single populations, it would be just as accurate to say that populations live in eternal hostility with their neighboring populations. In nature, a nation can compete as a unit and evolve as a unit only because it consists of a single population which can compete as a unit and evolve as a unit. Multiple populations cannot evolve as a single biological entity; not in nature and not in man.

Figure 1

Biological Nations as they exist in nature

If a nation of man consists of multiple populations, each population, consisting of its own gene pool will evolve down separate paths (evolution is a change in the gene pool of a population). Nations in nature which consist of only one population evolve down a single evolutionary path by competing with any neighboring population (outward antagonism). It seems that man is still following this rule, but the neighboring populations are often within the same territory, resulting in what is commonly referred to as racial and ethnic animosities and conflicts. Therefore, racial and ethnic conflicts are really conflicts between populations that happen to be different racially or ethnically. Conflicts between populations, such as in Northern Ireland, can be "explained" in cultural terms; i.e. prejudice, discrimination, etc; but the root cause of the animosity is biological.

The drawing below (Fig. 2) shows a multiethnic nation (center). Since the members of each population of this multiethnic nation share different gene pools, the nation can no longer evolve down a single evolutionary path as it would in nature, but rather will evolve down three completely separate paths even if this involves competition between neighboring populations within the same territory. A nation, as a biological entity, should never evolve down multiple evolutionary paths especially while competing with itself for survival (and territory). Even to a layman this is obviously wrong.

A population is defined as a group of interbreeding organisms of the same species occupying a particular space at the same time. Should multiple populations of the same species occupy (share) the same space at the same time given the adversarial relationship between neighboring populations? Can the defended territory of a biological nation represent multiple spaces for multiple populations or does it represent a single space for a single population? The fact that biological nations in nature contain only one population per territory implies that it represents only a single space for a single population. This means that the territory of a biological nation should contain only one evolutionary unit and not multiple evolutionary units. In the distant past, when man lived in tribal societies, man also followed the rule of one population per territory. Conflicts between populations within a society came into existence only after nations consisting of multiple populations came into existence. There can be no conflict between populations within any society that consist of only one population.

Figure 2

Biological Nation of man consisting of three populations (Center)

Nations of man were never intended to consist of more than one population or one gene pool. In nature, the members of a population share a common gene pool, therefore the members of a biological nation must also share a common gene pool, thus restricting membership (citizenship) to a nation to a single population. Governments can enact laws granting citizenship to a nation to individuals from various populations, but since these individuals do not all share a common gene pool, they cannot all be members of the same nation biologically, however, the biological nation consisting of a single population is still a characteristic of man including minorities. Biologically, the status of minorities is undefined since minority populations do not exist in nature. There is a fundamental difference between those individuals who are members of a nation biologically and those who are not. Those who are members of a nation biologically are living an existence according to the rules of our species (first-class citizens/dominant population) and those who are not members biologically are not (second-class citizens/subordinate population(s)). Since neighboring populations in nature are always adversaries, isolating themselves through outward antagonism (from definition of biological nation) and living in eternal hostility with its neighbors (Ardrey states as a natural law), how can individuals from different populations, one dominant and the rest subordinate, sharing different gene pools and evolving down different evolutionary paths, ever be treated as equals?

This rule implies that any two populations within any nation that do not intermarry will be biologically incompatible as a result of the natural and permanent animosity that exists between neighboring populations that compete with each other for survival. The least that can be said is that any nation that consists of more than one sizable population must be biologically unstable. It implies that conflicts between different races as in the United States, different religious groups as in Northern Ireland, different religious sects like Shiite and Sunni Muslims in Iraq, different linguistic groups as in Canada and Belgium, different subcultures like the American Confederacy, different classes as in France prior to the French Revolution, clans as in Somalia and castes as in India all have the same underlying biological factor causing "interethnic" tensions and hostilities within a nation's border. That cause is multiple populations within a nation which by natural law should only have one. There should be an instinctive response by any sizable minority population within its own section of the country such as a province to secede and become a biological nation of one population allowing it to evolve in its own separate and independent evolutionary path as it would in nature, thus enabling individuals from the population to become members of a nation biologically; first-class citizens in cultural terminology as opposed to second-class citizens, biologically undefined. This must be true if the rules that are observed among biological nations in nature are applied to man. Since the biological nation is a characteristic of man, this is a good assumption. The biological nation consisting of a single population is the natural social environment under which man evolved, therefore, a nation consisting of multiple populations represents an unnatural social environment for the species. Members of multiethnic nations are often told that they must learn to live together, but why should members of a social species have to learn to live together?

It is known that interethnic tensions and hostilities within nations did not always exist and that it is a worldwide phenomenon that dates back from thousands of years ago, up to the present time. When man followed this rule, societies were always homogenous, consisting of only one ethnic group and having no minorities. These nations could never experience prejudice, discrimination, hatred, xenophobia, etc. toward another population within its society since only one population existed. The first "minorities" were clans and classes. The creation of nations based on multiple populations is therefore, without a doubt, the primary cause of conflicts that occur between ethnic groups within society. The rule of one population per nation predicts such behavior. When man follows the rule, there are no problems and when man doesn't, the problem exists. The cause and effect is so clear, it is like turning on and off a light switch and observing the effect. When the nation of Cyprus, for example, consisting of two populations, one Greek and one Turk, was not partitioned, conflict between the two populations existed; after Cyprus was partitioned, the conflicts ceased. By using the rules observed in biological nations in nature, the root cause of the problems in Cyprus can be seen with absolute clarity.

Since the nation is a biological entity, it is not a thing, but rather a process. By its nature, it is dynamic. Populations can and do change over time. There is always some interbreeding between populations, thus altering the gene pools. For example, some Germans will marry French and some French will marry Germans, but a distinct population of both German and French still exists even though the gene pool of each nation is constantly changing. Within a nation like the United States, there is intermarriage between Blacks and Whites, for example, with a distinct population of each still existing even after hundreds of years. However, the greater the interbreeding, the less the animosity should be. For example, the White Americans are primarily a mixture of many people from different European nations (populations). Many of these groups did not intermarry when they first arrived from Europe. Good examples of these would be the Irish, Italians, Poles, Slavs and Jews. When these groups did not intermarry into the greater American society of mostly Western European people, there was a greater amount of animosity, tension, fear, suspicion, conflict, discrimination, prejudice, etc., among the various populations of Whites than there is today, because over time, perhaps as a result of the assimilation policies of the dominant society, these minorities did not establish autonomous social groups, but instead accepted the social values of the greater society, making intermarriage much easier than it would have been otherwise. These groups all have intermarried into the greater American society and will eventually no longer be separate populations. Once this "process" is complete, it will become impossible for any animosity, discrimination or prejudice to exist against these "minorities" if these minority populations no longer exist. However, if minority populations persist "permanently", the situation becomes biologically unacceptable.

If viewed and analyzed purely at the cultural level, using human concepts and terminology, the problem appears very complex and difficult to understand, however if viewed and analyzed at the biological level, where the problem really lies, the problem becomes very simple and readily apparent. It is comparable to analyzing and explaining cancer while ignoring its biological causes; it becomes much more understandable when all relevant biological factors are taken into account.

There are many examples in the world today that are in the news where "permanent" minority populations are incompatible with the dominant population. Such examples are Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Northern Ireland, Chechnya, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Mindanao, Tibet, Aceh, the Kurds, Basque, Uygurs, Sikhs, etc. This is not intended to be a complete list, but only to jog your memory if you have difficulty in relating my explanation to the real world. Usually, there is no way for minorities to correct their unnatural situation using legal means and therefore they are often referred to as terrorist and criminals for doing nothing more than trying to fulfill a biological need.

If you were to assume that a characteristic common to biological nations in nature is also a characteristic of biological nations of man, all racial and ethnic problems can be explained; afterall this rule exists for a very good biological reason and it is known that man followed this rule in the past. When man followed the rule of one population per nation (natural), animosity and conflicts did not exist because they couldn't. When nations consisting of multiple populations (unnatural) came into existence, animosity and conflicts should have existed and did. This rule can and does adequately account for all racial and ethnic conflicts observable in the world today and in the past; a common biological problem resulting in common and predictable symptoms species-wide; e.g. segregation, discrimination, racism, separatism, insurgencies, civil wars, genocide, etc. This is beyond any doubt the root cause of all conflicts between populations within nations. I don't think that people fully appreciate the significance of this fact. I hope that the argument that I present will result in further investigation into this matter.

The links below are to related web sites. They are both reviews for the book Ethnic Conflicts Explained by Ethnic Nepotism by Tatu Vanhanen. Both summarize Vanhanen's belief that since ethnic conflicts are so universal, they can only be explained if they were biologically based. Ethnic conflict, he believes, is a result of a predisposition to ethnic nepotism; the tendency to favor those who are more closely related genetically which leads to racial and ethnic favoritism. Ethnic nepotism is based on the theory of inclusive fitness, or kin selection; kin will be favored over nonkin. Vanhanen's views are similar to my own and we have come to similar conclusions.

Related links:

Understanding Multi-Ethnic Politics - Reviewed by Louis Andrews

The Anatomy of Ethnic Conflict - Reviewed by Thomas Jackson

The following are links to a few ethnic/linguistic maps of multi-ethnic nations. This list is only a small sample of the worldwide problem. Is there any need to wonder why some of these "countries" degenerate into failed states? After viewing these maps, it should be clear that the best way to solve most of these problems is through partition. Since most of these problems were created by Western nations imposing unnatural borders on people they conquered, they should bear much of the responsibility for correcting it. In the case of the United States, the problem has been self inflicted.

Ethnic / Linguistic maps:

The following web sites list separatist movements worldwide.

Separatist, Independence, and Decentralization Movements
Movements for National, Ethnic Liberation or Regional Autonomy

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