Since Dec 17, 2010
I am the primary author of the book The Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics: How Conservatism and Liberalism Evolved Within Humans.
This new book offers a detailed scientific examination focusing solely upon how our two political ideologies evolved, and all of the science supporting this mechanism. Later volumes will delve into the psychological manipulation of ideologues (Conservatives and Liberals are vastly different in this regard, due to their differing brain structures and perceptual frameworks), public policy as related to this theory, and an examination of historical events combined with predictions of the future, in the context of this theory.
The theory behind this book is that our political psychologies evolved from the more primitive r and K-type psychologies that have been well described in Population Biology for over half a century.
The significance of this is that, if true, Conservatism likely evolved as a competitive, aggressive psychology, designed to compete for limited resources within our first home territory as it became overpopulated.
Liberalism, by contrast, likely evolved as a competing Darwinian strategy designed to flee from these violent competitions for resources, in search of freely available resources, in new uninhabited, untapped, territories. It was this bifurcation in Darwinian strategies which produced our species' ability to migrate to new environments and multiply with the aggression of an r-selected, invasive species, while still exhibiting the high levels of evolutionary advancement and adaptiveness of a less fecund, K-selected species. However, this bifurcation in Darwinian strategies also produced the immense ideological and psychological gulf between our ideologues, which remains with us to this day.
The science behind r/K Selection theory was hashed out decades ago. It emerged as biologists pondered why some species reproduced slowly using monogamy and high-investment parenting, while other species reproduced explosively, using promiscuity and single parenting. At the time this science was developed, the researchers were wholly unaware of its relevance to our modern ideological battles in the world of politics.
In Population Biology, two environments present themselves to individuals, and populations of individuals will evolve a specific psychology in response to each. In one environment, a population exists at the carrying capacity of its environment. Since there is not enough food to go around, and someone must die from starvation, this will evolve a specific psychology within such a species.
Termed a K-type psychology, or K-type reproductive strategy, this psychology will embrace competitions between individuals and accept disparities in competitive outcomes as an innate part of the world, that is not to be challenged. Since individuals who do not fight for some portion of the limited resources will starve, this will favor an innately competitive, conflict prone psychology. Such a psychology will also tend to embrace monogamy, embrace chastity until monogamous adulthood, and favor high-investment, two-parent parenting, with an emphasis upon rearing as successful an offspring as possible. This sexual selectiveness, mate monopolization, and high-investment rearing is performed to produce offspring who will be fitter than their peers, and thus as likely to acquire resources themselves, and reproduce. Although total numbers of offspring will be diminished, their success in competition is what is most important. Here, wasting time producing numerous offspring that are not as fit as possible will doom one to Darwinian failure. As time goes on, and K-selection continues, forming into compeititve groups will often emerge as a strategy to acquire resources. This will add add loyalty to in-group to the suite of K-type psychological characteristics. This is why when we look at K-selected species in nature, we see packs of wolves, herds of elephants, prides of lions, and pods of dolphins, and each individual is loyal to their group and its competitive success.
Clearly, this mirrors the Conservative's embrace of competitions, such as war, capitalism, and even the bearing of arms in self-defense against criminals. It also mirrors the Conservatives tendency to favor family values, such as abstinence until monogamy and two-parent parenting. It even explains why Conservatives feel driven to see their nation succeed as greatly as possible, regardless of the effects this has upon other nations.
The other environment an organism can face is the presence of unlimited resources per individual. This most often occurs when a predator keeps a population consistently lower than the carrying capacity of its environment. Just as rabbits rarely strip grassy fields bare due to predation, the r-type organism will consistently have enough food so that it will not need to compete with peers.
This too will evolve a specific psychology. Here, those individuals who waste time fighting for food will be out-reproduced by pacifists, who simply focus upon eating, and reproducing. Fighting also entails risks of injury or death - risks which are pointless given the free availability of resources everywhere. Hence this environment will favor a tendency towards conflict avoidance, and tend to cull the aggressive and competitive. It will also evolve tendencies towards mating as early as possible, as often as possible, with as many mates as possible, while investing as little effort as possible rearing offspring. Here, there are unlimited resources just waiting to be utilized, and even the most unfit can acquire them. As a result, it is more advantageous to produce as many offspring as possible, as quickly as possible, regardless of fitness, so as to out-reproduce those who either waste time producing quality offspring or waste time competing with each other. Since group competition will not arise in the r-selected environment, r-type organisms will not exhibit loyalty to fellow members of their species. Indeed, the very notion of in-group will be foreign, and the concept of personal sacrifice for others will be wholly alien. This is why rabbits, mice, antelope, and other r-selected species will tend to not exhibit an individual psychology prone to disregard out-group interests, on behalf of any in-group. When resources are freely avalable, group competition is a risk one need not engage in to acquire resources.
Here, we see the origins of the Liberal's tendencies towards conflict avoidance, from oppositions to free-market capitalism, to pacifism, to demands that all citizens disarm so as to avoid any chance of conflict and competition. Even the newer tendencies to support the ''everyone gets a trophy'' movement are outgrowths of this competition-averse urge. Similarly, Liberals are supportive of promiscuity, supportive of efforts to expose children to ever earlier sexual education, and, as the debate over Murphy Brown showed, Liberals are supportive of low-investment, single parenting. Finally, as John Jost has shown, Liberals show diminished loyalty to in-group, similar to how r-selected organisms behave with respect to each other in nature.
This psychological dichotomy is even often synopsized in biology with a statement that the r-selected psychology is about producing offspring in quantity rather than quality, while the K-selected psychology is about producing offspring of quality rather than in quantity.
To my eye, it is inherently clear that this r/K divergence is the origin of our political divide. Indeed, while policy proposals from Conservatives are predicated upon the premise that resources are inherently limited, and individuals should have to work and demonstrate merit to acquire them, Liberals advocate on behalf of policy proposals which seem to be predicated upon an assumption that there are always more than sufficient resources to let everyone live lives of equal leisure. To a Liberal, any scarcity must clearly arise due to some individual's personal greed and evil altering a natural state of perpetual plenty.
Here, we see how these two deeply imbued psychologies generate grossly different perceptual frameworks within those who are imbued with them. Just as a Liberal will never grasp why a Conservative will look down upon frequent promiscuity and single parenting, the Conservative will never grasp why the Liberal will be so firmly opposed to free market Capitalism, or the right to self defense when threatened. Each sees an inherently different world, and is programmed to desire an inherently different environment.
r/K Theory is not the whole story however, it is merely the beginning. In the book, after explaining the mechanisms behind r/K Selection, we will examine just how these psychologies were further molded. We will begin by examining how the r/K divergence has evolved into a more complex Competitive/Anticompetitive psychological divergence in other species. We will then examine how these two psychologies, thrown into the group Competitive environment will further evolve to exploit this environment for gain. We will then examine studies of the genetics of politics. There, we will shed light on just how each behavioral trait is likely encoded within the genome, and how these two strategies are actually attempts by genetic alleles to dominate the population by subduing their genetic competition.
The book is meticulously footnoted. In it, we cite studies showing that a gene associated with the adoption of a political ideology is also associated with every facet of the r and K-type behaviors, from promiscuity/infidelity, to competitiveness, to parental investments. In a 2010 study, one researcher even describes an allele of this "political gene" in humans as producing an r-type reproductive strategy through its effects on behavior.
We cite studies showing that a brain structure which varies in development among ideologues, also governs every facet of r and K-type behavior, again, from competitiveness/aggression to promiscuity, to parental investment. It is even associated with such Liberal traits (as identified by Jost) as rule breaking and trust of threats, absent any awareness of danger.
We cite studies in the social sciences which link an established human r-type reproductive strategy with traits associated with Liberalism, such as rule breaking, promiscuity, and lower parental investments.
We provide a detailed analysis of the group selection debate, and show how every aspect of the debate has wholly ignored the role of r/K selection on the outcomes of group competitions. We then show how under conditions of K-selection, group competition can offer individual competitive advantage to those individuals who successfully join with other like minded, loyal, K-selected individuals to compete for resources. We cite studies showing that this has been a fundamental aspect of our evolution, in the form of group warfare. We even cite studies which show that in such a group competitive scheme, a deceptive, disloyal, traitorous strategy will inevitably develop, seeking to exploit betrayal and the potential failure of their own group for selfish personal advantage.
We examine historical events in the context of r and K-selection. There we show that when historical conditions favored a competitive, fitter specimen of human, group functionality increased, societies bloomed, and productivity flourished. As production increased and resources became freely available, conditions became more r-selective, the fit would begin to find themselves punished for their success, political Leftism would thrive, productivity would sink, and eventually, the entire society would collapse.
Some will ask, why would we have evolved both of these psychologies, within our species, instead of trending totally r or K. This can occur for a number of reasons. Obviously an organism which inhabits an environment where resources surge in availability, and then become scarce can see its r-types surge in number during times of plenty, only to die back once resources become scarce. As times go on, the r-types may evolve strategies designed to see a few members persist during times of scarcity, so they may explode again once resources become plentiful.
But in humans, the mechanism was a little more complex. When we first evolved, a critical adaptation was our loss of hair. It allowed us to move about in the heat of an African day, when all other furred prey needed to bed down. To acquire meat, all we needed to do was roust a bedded down antelope, make it run a short distance, and it would rapidly collapse of heat stroke, so we could then acquire its meat. There are tribes in Africa who still hunt using this method.
This allowed us to explode in numbers, but as in all ecosystems, we eventually found there were not enough resources to support the population. It was at this time that our population divided.
At this point, the competition was fierce. One group adopted the K-selected psychology, stayed put, and slugged it out for resources, in free, merit based competition. They formed into groups, battled for territory and resources, and adopted a K-selected reproductive strategy. They became the K-type cohort of our population, embracing freedom and self-determination, free competition, monogamy, strong family values, loyalty to in-group, and sexual chastity in the youth.
As the battles began to rage, another cohort, cowardly and weak, fled. Those who fled the fastest and the farthest, found themselves in a new, untapped territory, with free resource availability yet again. Those among them who did the best from Darwin's perspective, were those who adopted the most r-type strategy or free promiscuity, single parenting, and early age at first intercourse. They had no need for loyalty to in-group, and indeed, would have adopted a more selfish and cowardly psychology, to better disperse their genes, and serve their own self interests. They became our population's r-type cohort, and even today, the gene which is associated with Liberalism is found in large numbers in migratory populations, even as social psychologists note that Liberals score highly in novelty seeking, such as preferring new and novel environments.
As time went on, Homo sapiens spread across the globe in this manner. r-types fled as the territory behind them became K-selective and competitive. As time went on, this constant selective pressure favoring fleeing gradually made the r-type more prone to flee competitions and adhere to an r-type mating strategy, and less able to even comprehend why K-types would ever seek monogamy or aggression when threatened.
In between where the r-types fled to, and where the K-types were battling it out, there was likely a sort of geographical spectrum. At one end were the extreme r-types, and at the other were the extreme K-types. But in the middle, were areas where some r-types were mingling with some K-types. It is likely that there, these two strategies were evolving psychological traits which would allow them to persist in a mixed population. K-types tried to purge the disloyalty, selfishness, and promiscuity of the r-types, while r-types tried to use deception, as well as the rule-breaking and lack of loyalty identified by Jost (himself a Liberal), as an advantage.
It is also interesting to note, even today, as r-types gain hold in a civilization, they seek to provide the unproductive and uncompetitive with the free resource availability of the r-selected environment. As in nature, as this goes on, the r-type cohort grows in the population, until the entire financial ecosystem collapses, the government dissolves, and the civilization becomes ruthlessly competitive.
There is an enormous amount of science in support of this work. For a more in-depth idea of the science it addresses, check the table of contents (here).
Table of Contents
To be clear, individuals are complex. Just as it is difficult to characterize a single individual organism's exact reproductive strategy in nature, it is difficult to characterize a single human's political strategy. However, just as the quantum mechanical world yields the chaos of its uncertainty to the order and formality of Newtonian physics when viewed from a distance, as we zoom out from our society we will find two primary ideologies within it. Just as in nature, these two ideologies match exactly the two psychologies of the r and K-type psychology.
This theory will not go down well with Liberals, of course. In the biological sciences, r-type organisms are openly accepted as inherently inferior to their K-type counterparts. This is because the r-type organism's rejection of competitive selection limits the rate of their genetic advancement. Idiots breeding idiots, simply because they require no intellect to acquire food does not advance a species evolutionarily. As a result, r-type organisms are uniformly less intelligent, less physically capable, less courageous, and less impressive as a species.
Additionally, the r-type organism's values are inherently distasteful to the K-type mores which are inherent to our species. We support monogamy, high-investment parenting, the protection of our young, and courage and determination because we are a competitive, K-type species. These values are inherent to our K-type nature. As a result, most humans are, overall, programmed to view the rampant promiscuity, child abandonment, early sexualization of children, and cowardice which are inherent to the r-type psychology as inherently inferior from a moral perspective.
Of course that most r-type organisms in nature are weak and pathetic prey species, their evolutionary advancement helplessly held hostage by a more impressive predator species, (whose members actually derive pleasure from eating the r-type organisms on a regular basis), does not help the r-type species shed its mark of inferiority.
But if all of this is correct, why is this important, beyond merely denigrating Liberals as r-type organisms? There are several reasons why this work is important to the study of political science. If this theory comes to be widely understood within the populace, it will demonstrate quite clearly that r-type Liberalism is designed for conditions of unlimited resource availability which our species will never see. That means Liberalism is clearly maladapted to our modern circumstances. Furthermore, r-type Liberalism is based upon an innate psychology denigrating freedom, denigrating the right to earned resources, and degrading social/sexual morality, all while punishing any success that is honestly obtained through effort, determination, and ability.
This sort of Anticompetitive, oppressive, pathetic, r-type psychology will tend to be anathema to the majority of our K-selected population, especially if they clearly grasp its nature and purpose. Even worse, r-type Liberalism will clearly devolve our species' greatness into a shadow of what it once was through the punishment of success and reward of failure. Finally, we will show that in nature the undeniable purpose of an r-type psychology is to rapidly boost population numbers to the point of causing overpopulation, resource depletion, and the inevitability of mortal competition. Similarly, r-type Liberalism will boost the numbers of indigent, incompetent, unproductive r-type individuals within a population. This r-type, Liberal ideology will thus invariably collapse any civilization that is foolish enough to follow it. If this work is correct, to follow the Liberal is to embrace inevitable chaos, anarchy, and resource shortages, while devolving the very greatness of the population which might have rescued it from such a fate.
Most importantly, this work offers the first real insight into the political mind's motives and purposes. In offering this insight, it will demonstrate clearly to Conservatives and moderates that Liberals are aberrant by comparison to our species' K-type mores and virtues. They are not loyal to in-group, they are not supportive of individual freedom, they are culturally degraded, and if given free reign, they will destroy any culture they invade. This theory offers the possibility to awaken the Conservative behemoth within our populations, and make Liberals the enemies of our nations, our values, and our K-selected species.
This is the most powerful argument against r-type Liberalism today, and it is firmly rooted in well established concepts which have been hashed out in both Evolutionary and Population Biology for decades now.
This website is designed to promote this theory as well as the book, so it contains a tremendous amount of our substantiating research. We have even assembled a more technical, non-partisan paper (here) for the more technically minded specialist. It will explain what environmental and biological mechanisms are behind the adoption of ideology, lay out much of the peer reviewed research supporting this theory, and it will deal with the erroneous concerns some will have with our assertion of group selection. It will even explain how historical events have impacted our species producing waves of Competitiveness and Anticompetitiveness. To see the paper, simply click the link below.
Modern Political Thought in the Context of Evolutionary Psychology
Alternately, non-specialists should begin with our page on r/K selection theory (here). A firm understanding of that simple theory, combined with an ability to explain it simply and clearly, can eliminate any debate with Liberals in the future.
r/K Selection Theory and Political Thought.
This work holds the promise of fundamentally altering our political debate. Please take a moment, and consider helping to spread it around to friends and associates by referring them to this site. If a discussion turns to politics, explain the work to your friends. And have no hesitation in pointing a Liberal here, to help them better understand the purpose of their ideology. If widely disbursed, this work will have a profound effect upon our political dialog.
For more, including a full summary of the theory, a short scientific paper summarizing much of the supporting research, as well as sample chapters from the new book, stop by my site and take a look. The address is :