May 4, 2010

Country Boy Scientists & Conservative Conservation

From my new column in Taki's Magazine:
Edward O. Wilson’s new book, Anthill: A Novel, is, in many ways, a traditional first novel: it’s primarily a quasi-autobiographical fictional retelling of the author’s childhood and young manhood. Anthill is the tale of Wilson’s alter ego, a bug-loving Eagle Scout with the venerable Southern name of Raphael Semmes Cody, who grows up exploring nature in an old growth wilderness outside Mobile, Alabama.

On the other hand, most first-time novelists aren’t octogenarians. Nor are they, typically, the world’s top expert on ants. They haven’t been famous / notorious since the 1975 publication of their scientific masterwork, Sociobiology, either. Nor are they the chief inventor of the influential cause of preserving biodiversity.

And, generally speaking, autobiographical novels don’t include a 73-page centerpiece narrating the genocidal wars between ant colonies that young Raff tracks for his Insect Study merit badge. Or at least they don’t recount them from the ants’ point of view, with dialogue exchanged via chemical secretions: “The signals now proclaimed, Food, food. I have found food, follow my trail!” (While “ant fiction” sounds odd, to say the least, Wilson, a two-time Pulitzer winner, is a crackerjack storyteller. His ant chapters are as dramatic as the finest nature documentaries.)

And while many novelists are nostalgists, few are as thoroughly pro-conservative as E. O. Wilson. When it comes to sympathetic portrayals of white Republican Southerners, Wilson’s Anthill makes the recent Sandra Bullock hit movie The Blind Side seem like a Paul Krugman op-ed.

Particularly moving is the depiction in the first third of the book of the often-tense marriage between Raff’s redneck father, who works to instill in his son the best aspects of the good ole boy code of honor, and his old money mother, who names him after the Confederate admiral in her genteel family tree.

Read the whole thing there and comment upon it here.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

In terms of "g", it is interesting that persons of Wilson's stature come on an intellectual basis to appreciating what the stratum of skilled workers, engineers, successful small businessmen (includes farmers, folks ) more reflexively and intuitively incorporate within themselves from competition (within the rules of the games ) and various folk virtues. It is "in between" these two strata that campus USA intrudes with its perversion of "g" potentials into a defilement of the accumulated wisdom of tradition. The great campus mission is to see but not to perceive; to have "know how" but not "know why" (appreciation); to be effective and expedient but not wise and principled. A world cut asunder.

Anonymous said...

Low-iq white people are annoying.

Bob Roddis said...

How much sprawl would there have been without the government building freeways via eminent domain? Who would have needed to escape the city if there were not thuggish public schools to which you were forced to send your children? Who would have needed to purchase house upon house to maintain a store of value in the face of diluted government fiat money? Who created the incentives for paving over paradise?

Anonymous said...

...the often-tense marriage between Raff's redneck father, who works to instill in his son the best aspects of the good ole boy code of honor, and his old money mother, who names him after the Confederate admiral in her genteel family tree...

What good does it do to have all that fine old English & Scots-Irish blood in you, if it only ends in this:

...an ordinary American family follows the patterns he outlined in Sociobiology... he insists on explaining the evolutionary basis for his human characters' actions...

I sense the very same nihilistic despair when I watch the late interviews of Shelby Foote on C-SPAN, and even when I've seen Tom Wolfe himself opine on these matters.

In the long run, all that magnificent Calvinist-Darwinian pre-destinational genetic heritage is simply no match for the curse of freedom of the will.

Thrasymachus said...

There should be a spoiler alert in there somewhere. Maybe I'll read it anyway.

The last bit explains the hostility that populist conservatives have to environmentalism- it turns nature into a retreat for SWPLs. You can't just go hunting in England- all the land is private and the game is reserved for the owner. In most of the US private land is open to hunting, with the exception of Texas. Most of the California desert is now not just to off-road vehicles, but to any camping or hiking.

robert61 said...

The conservative blogs are taking up nature conservation ever more enthusiastically. Who knows how it will play out, but I am enjoying this teabaggy post-Bush period of libertarian/paleo reappraisal. This is my Granddad's conservatism.

The great campus mission is to see but not to perceive; to have "know how" but not "know why" (appreciation)...
Good comment, anon.

Nicholas Heller said...

"In Anthill, though, he has moved his protagonist’s birth up to the Jimmy Carter era. This both makes the story more relevant and lets Wilson avoid the usual ritual groveling over Jim Crow."

Lines like that - not merely cutting through the B.S., but just stepping right over it - are why I keep reading.

Incidentally, Steve, have you seen this new piece by David Frum? (I'd be rather amazed if you hadn't):

http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/05/03/frum.immigration.education/index.html?hpt=C2

At AltRight, they're saying that he's channeling you:

http://www.alternativeright.com/main/blogs/hbd-human-biodiversity/sailer-hits-the-mainstream/

teacher.paris said...

http://www.adnkronos.com/AKI/English/Security/?id=3.1.313676767

The horror!

Anonymous said...

"Avoid the ritual groveling over Jim Crow." And not waste time creating a noble black fellow that his father,against the wishes of all the other townsfolk,befriends and helps. When the noble fellow is accused of the rape of a white girl--only his father defends him and..and so on and so on. His comment that the Republicans/right have ceeded the high ground to the left on the environment is surely true,which is why its so wacky. I just saw a portion of Avatar,thats all I could stomach,---the climax where Avatar's GF is beaten by the white guy,but she is not dead,just trapped under her machine;Avatar fights the guy,but shockingly, he is beaten too! Just as the guy is about to admin the coup de grace guess what? The Girl squeezes free and shoots an arrow,killing the white guy!Feminism!! Man and Woman are partners! I did NOT see that coming!!--but he supports the myth that the POC(people of color) are the true conservators of the earth.That Mexican with the beer bottles in his backyard,hes the REAL conservationist!!

Juan said...

Steve,

Off topic: Eugene Volokh and even David Lat of ATL have written about the recent Harvard 3L email situation. Openness to HBD is making important progress.

Eugene Volokh, on his site, defends being open to the possibility of genetic differences between races and cites Pinker and Haidt and others. It should be noted that Volokh is a former Kozinksi clerk (Koz is the clerk the HLS 3L will be clerking for).

David Lat of Above the Law wrote:

Note the wording of Steph’s email: “I absolutely do not rule out the possibility….” This suggests that, at dinner, Steph actually argued against racial disparities in intelligence. Upon further consideration, she decided to go agnostic on that question, sending out the clarifying email. For a layperson without expertise in the relevant scientific disciplines, agnosticism on this subject seems reasonable — and does not make someone a “racist”

Juan said...

Oh and check out Leiter's nonsensical ramblings over at his blog. He appears to be arguing intelligence has no genetic basis (or we don't know if it does). PC makes smart people VERY stupid.

OneSTDV said...

When it comes to sympathetic portrayals of white Republican Southerners, Wilson’s Anthill makes the recent Sandra Bullock hit movie The Blind Side seem like a Paul Krugman op-ed.

Classic.

Stopped Clock said...

The Animorphs series of young-adult books has talking ants, sort of.

adfasdfasdff said...

This kills me!!!

http://www.alternativeright.com/main/the-magazine/elsewhere/sailer-ism/

It's like a squire writing for his knight master.

"I can thus claim a better than average acquaintance with Steve and with Sailerism—including citizenism—so that although I am not going to review his book—that would be wrong—I am well placed to review the author and his ideas. Perhaps I should add that my acquaintance with Steve has not been totally virtual. He even on one occasion stayed overnight chez Derb, sleeping on the dusty floor of my then-unfinished attic. Shamed at the thought of the indignity I had inflicted on a fellow guerrilla, I’ve since made the attic very pleasant; but innumerable hints about this have failed to lure Steve back. Perhaps I’ll content myself with putting up a plaque like those you see on the walls of old houses in England: STEVE SAILER SLEPT HERE, 2004."

SAILER SLEP HERE! A riot!

Anonymous said...

Steve,
OT but I thought you would like this latest article by Joel Kotkin:

http://www.newgeography.com/content/001550-arizonas-short-sighted-immigration-bill#comments

He claims that one of America's biggest challenges is creating enough high paying jobs for our growing population (due to immigration) but he then says that we need more unskilled immigrants. It's sad because I've read Joel for a long time and he has certainly made some great points and rightly criticizes America's liberal elite. However, his immigration arguments are just absurd.

Anonymous said...

The right has given the left the moral authority on conservation, because the left are fanatical about it. Leftist anti-capitalist hijacked environmentalism years ago.

steve sailer ate lunch here said...

OT but I thought you would like this latest article by Joel Kotkin:

http://www.newgeography.com/content/001550-arizonas-short-sighted-immigration-bill#comments

He claims that one of America's biggest challenges is creating enough high paying jobs for our growing population (due to immigration) but he then says that we need more unskilled immigrants. It's sad because I've read Joel for a long time and he has certainly made some great points and rightly criticizes America's liberal elite. However, his immigration arguments are just absurd.


It doesn't matter how smart he is. He's Jewish, thus suffers from Ellisitis.

stari_momak said...

From Time's biography of Wilson

"As an assistant professor at Harvard in the late 1950s, he proposed the radical notion that ant societies are bound together by an elaborate system of chemical signals. He went on to prove the existence of what are now called pheromones with an elegant experiment. Pied Piper-like, he lured a stream of worker ants along a chemical trail laid down with pheromones extracted from a gland in the abdomen of a fire ant.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1000596,00.html#ixzz0n1qjOKlG

Now, as I understand it, pheromones are used in all sorts of anti-pest applications. Surely this discovery is worthy of a nobel. Does he lack the chutzpah for a self-promotion campaign?

OneSTDV said...

He claims that one of America's biggest challenges is creating enough high paying jobs for our growing population (due to immigration) but he then says that we need more unskilled immigrants.

It never occurs to him that maybe halting the "growing" would do much to solve this "problem".

John Seiler said...

Wilson is a great scientist. But his determinism comes from his Puritan background; same as Darwin. I'd like to hear him explain how Muslim Bosnians, Orthodox Serbs, and Catholic Croats can be so different with very similar genetics. Genes are important, but choice of belief more so. You don't see many Shakers around.

hmmmmm said...

your thoughts please

http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=7421853

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

.....It is "in between" these two strata that campus USA intrudes with its perversion of "g" potentials into a defilement of the accumulated wisdom of tradition. The great campus mission is to see but not to perceive; to have "know how" but not "know why" (appreciation); to be effective and expedient but not wise and principled. A world cut asunder."

Good comment, but I think you make one mistake. Academia does not even promote "know how", much less "know why". More nearly, it promotes "know nothing". Students coming out of college, and out of high-school after being taught by college educated teachers, are often nothing more than credentialed idiots - believing all manner of nonsense spanning the gamut from simply not proved to demonstrably false.

Mr. Anon said...

Wilson is not the first to pen an ants-eye view of the world.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Werber

rob said...

stari,

Which prize, physio/med? He might well deserve it. The sort of people who give a President waging two wars a Peace Prize because he's a mulatto will never award one to Wilson.

The left likes to front that they always thought biology was real, when they aren't still arguing that it's pretend. Deep down, they still remember how they threatened and harrassed Wilson. They still hate him for Sociobiology.

JohnK said...

Did someone mention pheromones?

Oh. ANT pheromones.

Never mind.

But observe how often Mr. MacRannell notes that Androstenone-laced products have particularly pronounced effects on Black and/or Hispanic women.

Edward O. Wilson's Nobel can wait. I want a Human Biodiversity pheromone guy to get cracking and win it.

Signaling, indeed.

Tanstaafl said...

white Republican Southerners

The convention to deliberately not capitalize White, especially in this context, is odd. How is its purpose and use different than Republican or Southerner?

Tanstaafl said...

Low-iq white people are annoying.

THE FOLLOWING IS A TEST OF ISTEVE'S MODERATION STANDARDS

Low-iq jews are annoying.

THIS HAS BEEN A TEST OF ISTEVE'S MODERATION STANDARDS

Anonymous said...

E.O. Wilson is a zoologist, not very likely to win a Nobel, because the three main science prizes are: Physics, Chemistry, and Physiology/Medicine. Nothing wrong with that, people who work in Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science, and Geology are not very likely to win Nobels either, but it doesn't mean they can't have a big impact on the world, just like Wilson has.

stari_momak said...

Good question, rob. Is there none for straight biology? How about chemistry, with his collaborators(if they are still with us), then?

Tinderboot said...

Low-iq white people are annoying.

So speaketh the Leftist Mind ... when threatened.

Why not keep talking, Leftist Mind, and say what you really mean: Low IQ NON-white people are NOT annoying because, like Castro on his island after the white flight to Miami, there is no domestic threat.

blah said...

Steve, good piece on the Wilson book, but you don't mention one of the weirder plot turns -- the bit in the latter third of the story involving vicious Christian fundamentalists opposed to environmentalism because they think the end times are at hand. What in the hell was that about other than to give the novel its obligatory action sequence? and how does that square with Wilson's sympathy for conservatism?

Anonymous said...

THIS HAS BEEN A TEST OF ISTEVE'S MODERATION STANDARDS

LOL'ed.

BamaGirl said...

"Steve, good piece on the Wilson book, but you don't mention one of the weirder plot turns -- the bit in the latter third of the story involving vicious Christian fundamentalists opposed to environmentalism because they think the end times are at hand. What in the hell was that about other than to give the novel its obligatory action sequence? and how does that square with Wilson's sympathy for conservatism?"

Believe it or not, "Blah" it's quite possible to have sympathy for conservatives without expressing toleration of fundamentalist wackos. I don't really see that plot point as being an issue.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

his old money mother, who names him after the Confederate admiral in her genteel family tree.

Incidentally, there were not admirals in the US Navy prior to the Civil War. Partially because there weren't enough fleet operations to require them but mostly because it was considered a European thing and a title of nobility. Several were finally promoted to the rank during the Civil War - notably Farragut, his brother-in-law(?) Porter, and a member of the Du Pont family. The Confederate Navy simply referred to their top navy officers as "Flag Officers."

What good does it do to have all that fine old English & Scots-Irish blood in you, if it only ends in this...

Given the results of Thursday's UK elections, especially in Scotland, and the general Southern support for Huckabilly in the last election, I'm not much praising that English & Scots-Irish blood in me or anyone else. We've gone as insane as the rest of the Western world -maybe more so. I say all that as someone who is fully >90% British by ancestry.

The conservative blogs are taking up nature conservation ever more enthusiastically.

My concern is not just the protection of nature, per se - which I am for, and which is a great argument against mass immigration - but for the protection of nature accessible to children. Most of the interesting, small, accessible outdoor spots in my childhood hometown have been bought up and built on or paved over. Kids these days have less access to the outdoors, except for lame parks.

Incidentally, Steve, have you seen this new piece by David Frum?

Frum has actually been anti-immigration (or at least anti-illegal immigration) for quite some time. People here are sometimes unfair in characterizing his beliefs.

[Kotkin] claims that one of America's biggest challenges is creating enough high paying jobs for our growing population (due to immigration) but he then says that we need more unskilled immigrants.

Well this is the common fallacy of the left and the open-borders "right" - somehow we need more educated workers AND more unskilled workers. How can it be both? It can't be that we have too few people - there are plenty of small, rich countries, like Switzerland and Norway; and plenty of big, poor countries, like China and India.

If we're short of unskilled workers perhaps that means we can now spend less on education?

But of course not. The "problem" with a free, democratic society is that a servant class is not allowed, because that class will always vote itself more money from the taxpayers. Servant style jobs are what teenagers are for.

Anonymous said...

When Watson took over as chair of Harvard's Biology department, was there a clash of Titans between Wilson and Watson?

On the Harvard web site I can't find Wilson amongst the multiple possible departments?

Kent

Steve Sailer said...

Triangular struggle between Wilson, Watson, and Gould. See Wilson's "Naturalist" for the very high level academic politics.