The effects of genetic pollution on political structures and human history

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(by Popko P. van der Molen, 2010)

The importance of ignorance and superstition

✰✰ <level 2>   Understanding the general situation of humanity, the working of its fate, its history and its future, is strongly coloured by where human thinking can go and where it may not. The difference between what we understand and what remains a mystery to us is not so much determined by the technical knowledge that we already have and that we could make use of, but primarily by where our thoughts are allowed to proceed and where our thoughts are being blocked by taboos. Much of the technical knowledge that we already have for a long time, can only be applied in certain specific areas and may not be applied in other areas, no matter how important these applications are or should be to us. The effect of this situation is that how we think about ourselves and about each other, is strongly coloured by selective blindness, by tradition and by superstition.

When people talk about superstition, they generally refer to medieval situations when people used to believe in witches, fairy tales, gnomes, a heaven full of gods, etc. In short, superstition is supposed to be something of past eras.

However, this is not how the situation really is. The difference with the past is not that we used to rely on superstition and now not any more, the difference is that we now simply are ruled by other sets of superstition than in previous times. But it is still superstitions that rule our lives, not much less than ever before.

It is a peculiar human characteristic that we only can recognize superstitions from the past that have been overcome and have been replaced by “new” insights, but that we stay fully unaware of the superstitions that rule our lives today. The world as we “see” it, the way we look at ourselves and the way we look at other, foreign people, is in fact very much determined by intricate systems of fantasy, superstitious beliefs and unproven “certainties” that we, together, are supposed to believe in. In each culture we find different sets of “belief systems”, that are ruling society and the “knowledge” it harbours.

In fact, from an evolutionary and human ethological point of view, these belief systems have, since primordial times, been the way human tribes have acquired a special cognitive “smell”, distinguishing them from members of other tribes. Human beings are the thinking animals par excellence and since that thinking capacity evolved in early times, nest smell could be created by differential, specific belief systems, ruling the way its members looked at and perceived their world, but also, as a consequence, how they talked about the world, how they communicated. In human beings, the “nest smell”, or the smell of the tribe, has a very strong cognitive component. From an evolutionary perspective, such cognitive colouring of tribe smells is a novel and uniquely human achievement.

Logically speaking however, the implication is that what is characteristic for certain tribes or peoples in terms of how they see the world and themselves, is always superstition and no more than that. For it cannot be that reality is different for different tribes and peoples. Reality, or how the world really ticks, is always the same.

So, for us, intelligent human beings, our nest smell is made up of superstition(s), not less now than in medieval and earlier times.

We can also turn around these considerations. If it were not for superstitious beliefs, we would lose our specific nest smells and our tribal colours of recognition. We would all smell the same and cognitively look similar all over the world. The only differences would be in incidental local habitual cultural differences, but the way the world would be perceived would be roughly the same everywhere.

There can be found several reasons, of which the above mentioned evolutionary need for differing tribal smells is just one, why superstition, ignorance and taboos are so paramount and are so important for human functioning.

As an example we will discuss in this paper one specific and important human blindness. It is not about the nowadays much debated differences in religious beliefs and their disquieting extremist dangers, Muslim, Christian or Otherwise, contemporary or historical. Rather, we will discuss here one strong contemporary superstition that still manages to stay out of sight, at least in our own nowadays culture. This example is our specific blindness for the effects of genetic pollution on our own societies and our own lives.

What is genetic pollution ?

✰✰ <level 2>   Evolution of species is based on the gradual but continuous introduction of changes in genetic materials and the continuous testing out in practice what works best in the circumstances given. This fact has, among other things, two important consequences for our present issue. One consequence is that lineages gradually pick up alterations of their genome, that parents do not just hand down one randomly selected half of their genome to their offspring, but that each parent hands down a slightly modified half of his/her genome to each member of the next generation.

No matter how strongly we wish to belief in some godly power guiding and directing such evolutionary changes, these slight modifications in the genome being reproduced are basically random. This means that not all the changes introduced are beneficial. In fact, what we know about the workings of genomes, DNA and the way this information translates into living beings, indicates that most of the changes in the genomes being reproduced are disadvantageous, rather than advantageous. Mutations occur rather randomly and only a subsequent selection process can secure a net advantageous effect in terms of increased survival value under certain circumstances, or, at least, a stabilization of the survival value.

In short, it is the combination of mutations and selection pressure that makes evolution proceed. It is a process that is the very basis of evolution and in fact of the very existence of living matter itself and it always continues. It never stops and it cannot be stopped. This fact is important to keep in mind when considering the consequences for our own existence.

What is called genetic pollution is the accumulation of not advantageous or harmful genes in the genome, before a selection process has been able to make these specific genetic changes disappear again from the gene pool. Of course, there is always a certain amount of genetic pollution in any gene pool, no matter how strongly subjected to selection processes. Moreover, what might be labelled as genetic pollution in one environment, could perhaps sometimes be regarded as a genetically useful adaptation in another environment. Generally, the label “genetic pollution” is only utilized in cases where the accumulation of deleterious genes has proceeded thus far in a gene pool, that the average general quality of functioning of its members is on the decrease. Until that happens, the term genetic pollution is not of very much use.

The next question is how strong the effects of genetic pollution are and how strong a selection pressure is needed to balance the randomly occurring mutations sufficiently to maintain a certain level of well functioning, in health, general vigour, or otherwise. In population genetic text books one can find how to measure and calculate genetic pollution or genetic load in a gene pool or population. The first step in such procedures is of course defining how to measure certain characteristics and to figure out to what extent such characteristics are disadvantageous and to what extent they are genetically determined.

Here we shall not dive into numbers, but limit ourselves to giving some examples from daily practise, showing the power and speed of genetic pollution. That will suffice for the points we wish to make.

Examples of genetic pollution

✰✰ <level 2>   What follows here is rather much common knowledge with stock breeders since over many thousands of years. Nevertheless, this – rather common – knowledge shall be seen to be subject to culturally determined cognitive blocks. Breeders of sheep, goats, pigs, cows, dogs, horses, camels, etc. have found out in very early stages that in order to keep their stock healthy and productive, they needed to exert a rather strong selection pressure in the desired direction. Whenever such selection procedures are suspended or relaxed, the “quality” of the live stock diminishes, not only returning to the more original “wild type”, but also decreasing in quality in more general terms. Stock breeders always are, and always have been, on the lookout for “superior blood” to be included in their live stocks gene pool. Nothing new one would say.

What happens in case the purposeful selection pressure is released for some reason or other, can be seen in the cases where some dog or cat race suddenly has become very popular in quickly widening circles of lovers of such a “race”. Two examples out of many are the Scottish Border Colly (Lassy dog) and the German Shepherd Dog. These dog races became very quickly very popular with so many people, that every pup would fetch a much higher price than previously. The immediate effect is a relaxation of selection pressure and the effects on the population as a whole can easily be detected soon. In fact, once the popularity of a certain dog or cat race has increased greatly, the average quality of the animals in question starts to sink and within a limited number of generations it is becoming harder and harder to find any specimen that matches the level of quality that made the race in question popular in the first place. The race in question, having become popular because of certain superior characteristics, soon exists of no more than useless genetic rubble.

What is important for us to note here, is that it apparently only takes a limited number of generations to bring about such a deleterious effect throughout the population. And that gives us a practical insight in the strength of the selection pressures that are continuously needed to just maintain a certain level of genetic quality in a population (without considering yet any form of evolutionary progress at all). That required selection pressure is apparently a rather strong pressure indeed. What we can see here is a very basic phenomenon that is so general, that we should take into account that these mechanisms also work in other species, including ourselves.

The F1 trick in cattle breeding

✰✰✰ <level 3>   Another example of how stock breeders tackle and utilize the principles of genetic pollution is how for instance chicken breeders produce and sell at large so called F1 generation specimens as super-productive egg laying chickens/machines. What they do is to set up different and separate selection lines of chickens that are selected on their egg production. They do this under standard breeding conditions and in order to allow for the maximum speed in selection results, they do not exert much selection pressure on other, more general chicken characteristics, that are not of direct use for egg production. The selection pressure exerted is therefore rather one-sided. By implication the selection pressure on a wide range of other characteristics is being relaxed, were it only for these characteristics hardly coming to expression in the highly artificial breeding conditions that are suitable for maximizing egg production. Whereas in such a way very strong effects can be generated relatively quickly in terms of egg production, the amount of genetic pollution incurred in the process is high.

The trick of the chicken breeders now is to utilize the effect of “hybrid vigour” for creating a rather healthy egg laying machine, that however only lasts for one generation, which is considered enough. To that end they combine the results of two such high productive egg laying selecting lines that have been set up independently from one another. Both lines suffer from the same disadvantages of genetic pollution. But, since mutations occur rather randomly, the mutations in the one selection line are rather different from the mutations in the other selection line. In both lines the genomes have become more homozygotic than normal because of an unavoidable measure of inbreeding. That is a consequence of the high selection speed and specific selection pressure sought after. That means that more genes have become homozygotic, coming to full expression. This means that within each selection line, the most deleterious genes have been cancelled out already, having rendered chickens that could not survive in these breeding conditions.

The chicken breeders now cross these two selection lines, creating a F1, the first generation offspring from such a cross, that is heterozygous for all those genes that contribute to the genetic pollution. The result is that the two, differently selected for egg laying characteristics, are adding up to a super egg laying capacity, but that at the same time the different concomitant genetic pollution genes are suddenly not homozygous any more, but heterozygous, in many – recessive – cases not coming to expression any more. So, these F1 egg laying machines do not only produce more eggs than either of their parent egg laying selection lines, they also enjoy a higher general health and vigour than either of the two parent lines. That is why selling F1 generation crosses between selection lines is such a good business. It shall be clear that these advantages will for a large part get lost again in successive generations, the F2, F3, etc., because then many genes will recombine again into homozygotic combinations, bringing more and more deleterious characteristics into expression again. Therefore it is common practise to not breed any further with such super-productive (F1) egg laying chickens.

Similar procedures are used for producing chickens that take the least time to convert food into chicken flesh. Such selection lines of chickens are in fact so full of deleterious genes, that the poor critters collapse and fall down, once taken out of their specific breeding conditions or once allowed to surpass the – very short – life time limit imposed by industrial requirements. The derogatory term for such chickens is in Dutch "plof-kip" or in English "broiler chicken", indicating that they sort of "explode" after not having been "harvested early enough, respectively that they are only good for ending up in the kitchen at a very early stage. The effects of genetic pollution as a complicating factor in these branches of bio-industry are clear enough, and also how they are overcome for purposes of increased production. The lesson that we can derive from these practical examples is the speed of these processes of genetic pollution and the strength of the selection processes that are needed to counterbalance its negative effects, let alone for making room for evolutionary improvements.

Effects in human society

✰✰ <level 2>   The effects of genetic pollution and the biological prerequisites for keeping a population healthy and viable, have consequences that are very important indeed for how human societies tick. (A recent overview of what is scientifically known about the effects of genetic load on human society may for instance be found with Michael Lynch (2016)(***).)

The more a human social organization, a human society, is set up and organized in a "fair" and "just" way, the more all resources are distributed evenly. That implies that also the opportunities for procreation are distributed more evenly. And that implies that selection pressures are being relaxed.

So, by necessity, the more just, fair and social a society is run, the more quickly the gene pool in question will suffer from genetic pollution and the more the general condition and resourcefulness of the individuals in that population will decrease. In fact, this mechanism poses a time bomb under any fair and just society and implies an always limited life span. This notion is in line with what one can see in history. Civilizations emerge and disappear, no matter how advanced their levels of technical and organizational know how are as compared to surrounding peoples. At some stage, all these advanced acquirements are not sufficient any more to compensate for the gradually decreasing levels of health and vigour of their population.

Population genetic theory predicts that only in case a human society manages to install within its social system an alternative for the suspended forces of natural selection, that society may expect to survive more than just a limited number of generations. Since such possibilities for applying genetic quality management until now never have been available on a technically sufficiently advanced level, history is full of examples where technically and socially highly advanced societies ossify and collapse, being overrun by minorities of more primitive, but more healthy and vigorous neighbouring peoples.
In fact, this has always been the usual pattern in the rise and fall of civilizations.

This is not to say that the effects of genetic pollution are the only reason for such limited life spans of civilizations, but it is no doubt a major contributing factor.
Another factor limiting the life span of a culture or civilization is for instance the selection pressure in favour of sociability and against creative individuality, which is automatic and continuous in any social structure, be it of humans or of any other socially living mammal species (see here(**) for more information on this mechanism).
In this paper however, we will limit ourselves to the influence of genetic pollution.

One prediction from population genetic theory is that whenever a large group of people has formed into a society with advanced technical and organizational methods and skills, as compared to the way peoples around it are living, there will gradually be a growing gap between the general genetic quality of the average persons within that advanced society and the average persons living among the tribes and - smaller – groups in the periphery, outside of that society. And the more fair, just and social such a society has been organized, the more quickly that gap in population genetic quality will grow and widen.

The end of a civilization

✰✰ <level 2>   At some stage, there will be a balance in power and influence between on the one hand the population of the civilized society, having at their fingertips all sorts of technical gadgets and tools, unknown to the barbarians around, while gradually suffering more and more from genetic disadvantages, and on the other hand the peoples in the periphery around, who have kept being subjected to stronger selection mechanisms and who do not enjoy the myriads advantages of the technical and organizational achievements, but who do not suffer so much from a decreasing level of general health and vigour. As soon as these differing influences are reaching some sort of equilibrium, the central civilization will start having problems in keeping its own wealth for itself and in keeping the barbarians out. Moreover, in such circumstances the technical achievements and to a lesser extent also the organizational technology will gradually be absorbed also by the barbarian people around, gradually diluting their status of primitive barbarians. Once the advantages and disadvantages on one side are reaching an equilibrium with the advantages and disadvantages on the other side, the civilization in question is nearing the final stages of its existence as a distinct civilization. Typically, at some stage the total organizational structure of the “old” civilization will collapse and yield to the pressure from the outside barbarians, who, by that time, will have picked up an important part of the advanced technical characteristics of that civilization in question, adding to their by that time superior genetic make up.

Another prediction from population genetic theory is that those civilizations will survive longer, that manage to maintain within their boundaries a comparatively strong level of competition and genetic selection. That means that within its territory the civilization allows for a certain level of unfairness and injustice, making it difficult for the less endowed to participate in the procreational processes. However, such internal selection forces always bring with them a certain measure of internal social stress and unfairness that people naturally will try to mend. So, paradoxically, the better a civilization succeeds in realizing its social ideals of civilization, the sooner the survival of that civilization will come to an end, caused by an unstoppable decrease of genetic quality, differing strongly from that of the “barbarians” around.

Population genetic waves and war

✰✰ <level 2>   What we should keep in mind when considering these socio-political changes in populations, is that two mechanisms always work out in the form of war and massive organized violence. The first is that the emerging and growing civilization establishes itself by converting its technical and genetical advantages over neighbouring peoples in acquiring control over ever larger stretches of land, with or denuded from its original population. That implies war and other forms of organized violence, generally at an ever increasing scale. The second is that by the time, after many generations, an equilibrium is reached between the advantages and disadvantages within, as opposed to without, the civilization, a final collapse of the civilizations structure is to be expected, typically bringing with it a sudden increase in war and genocidal events throughout the territory of the civilization.

These are highly unpleasant circumstances to live in, whether the situation in the border regions of the growing civilization, or the situation throughout the realm of the civilization itself, at the time of its collapse. Until now mankind has been able to survive these conflictuous conditions. What is more, genetically speaking, mankind always needed these periodically emerging periods of chaos and disaster to restore genetic selection pressures and to restore a passable level of genetic quality. Also, such circumstances generally resulted in an increased mixing of different gene pools, with all the population genetic advantages and hybrid vigour coming with it.

However, humanity has by now reached levels of technical skill and know how that make war literally a world endangering adventure. If mankind wants to survive, it has to come to grips shortly with the underlying pressures usually leading to war, or face massive annihilation at an unprecedented level.

Awareness versus taboos

✰✰ <level 2>   Whereas the above discussed notions are not at the core of our present day cultural heritage, they used to be more common concerns just a couple of generations ago. Among other things by the misdemeanour of the Nazis these notions have been put away in taboo sections of our culture. The above considerations lead however to the conclusion that, in spite of the Nazi-inspired taboo on population genetic thinking on humans, we should effectively address our genetic make up and start to prevent genetic pollution to undermine any attempts to establish lasting fair and civilized societies.

We wish to point out here that in that respect we do not need to foster any fears as installed in us by what happened in the Third Reich. By now we do have all technological tools at our fingertips to help people avoid unwanted genetic defects in their offspring. And since the average human being can easily be brought to the point of paying attention to these genetic issues and act accordingly, there is basically no need whatsoever to exert strong pressures from above to enforce a genetic police system. Where it appears possible to seduce people for instance to buy the useless foods that they daily purchase in great quantities, it should be no problem at all to seduce them to follow a healthy management of their own offspring. The level of advertisement needed to achieve that is probably less intensive than the advertisement needed to make them continuously buy unwholesome quantities of junk food. All that is needed is a better level of awareness at all levels of society, breaking this specific veil of ignorance and superstition.

Time to wake up

✰✰ <level 2>   To put it bluntly, humankind can only survive if it addresses effectively not only the unhampered growth of numbers, that is causing the destruction of the world’s ecological heritage, but also the effects of genetic pollution and deterioration, that will unavoidably cause the collapse of any serious attempt to establish a really civilized human community. All the necessary know how is now available. We just need to change focus, breaking taboos and ignorance and embracing awareness. Our civilization is getting global. Let’s take the war producing population genetic sting out, before it destroys us all. We cannot afford to have complete morons sit at the red buttons, which is what unavoidably happens more and more when ever increasing “genetic loads” are smothering any further possibility for adequate and intelligent action.

The stark truth is that most of us do behave as, and have been trained to behave as complete morons, adapted with force, under penalty of being ostracized, to systems of collective superstition, blindness and ignorance that block any tendency to come to our senses and take adequate decisions.

It is time to wake up. Further delay will become more and more “homo-cidal” to us all.

(For a humorous artist's (exaggerated) impression of what such relaxed selection pressure on intelligence and the concomitant genetic pollution might bring about in future generations, if unchecked, see the movie picture "Idiocracy" by Mike Judge, 2006) (See also this trailer)

After Point Omega ....................

✰✰ <level 2>   Let us consider shortly what we may expect on the level of human population genetics after we have "woken up". What will happen after Point Omega ?

Increased awareness of our genetic endowment, an increased general level of sober thinking and a strongly improved set of medical tools to assist us in family planning will result in an ever larger percentage of the population procreating consciously and voluntarily. That will increase the frequency couples are utilising genetic counseling for optimal procreational results. In the USA we have seen already a steady increase during the last decades of the use of genetic counseling. And these tendencies are spreading towards Europe and other wealthy regions as well.

Governments can easily induce more use of medical techniques for enhancing the quality of the offspring. Therefore it is not needed at all to use much government pressure and force. Nazi-like measures are not needed at all. Modern advertisement techniques are effective enough to help trigger such rational procreational methods to spread among the population on a large scale.

The modern techniques of birth control enable parents to choose the proper time for procreation. These techniques are spreading rapidly all over the world. This has two very important consequences. One is that conscious procreation will stop the growth of overpopulation. If all unwanted children would not get born, the world population would stop to grow and the present overpopulation would come to a halt. The second consequence is that the genetic counseling going with a more conscious procreation would decrease levels of genetic load and pollution.

These effects will come automatically and unavoidably, simply because they have become possible and people like their effects. We may expect that contemporary taboos that are still blocking such developments, will gradually lose their power over us.

There will be more different effects on the population genetic level that we may expect to emerge after Point Omega. But the above examples will suffice to indicate the trend to be expected.