Friday, May 27, 2016

Metagenetics, Part 5

And here we come to the final installment of my week-long series of articles on metagenetics. We've seen how metagenetics as a concept has evolved between its initial 1985 debut, through expansions and clarifications in 1999 and 2006, and how another luminary of the Asatru movement in the United States viewed the concept and put his own spin on it. Now I'm going to summarize what has gone before and tell you how I think metagenetics fits into modern Heathenry.

First of all, metagenetics relies on a vast array of subjects and disciplines for its underpinnings. From modern science to ancient Germanic lore, psychology to reincarnation, the evidence for metagenetics is broad enough that it cannot simply be discounted except on the most blatant ideological grounds.

That said, that very depth and broadness of evidence can be a little intimidating. As Jeffrey Kaplan puts it in Radical Religion in America (pp. 80-81):
Before examining the specifics of metagenetic theory, however, we may consider briefly why so few have been drawn to it. ... metagenetics falls into the same middle-ground chasm that has bedeviled the old Asatru Free Assembly, the Asatru Alliance, and to a lesser extent the Ring of Troth. On the one hand, the notion of culture as hereditary violates much of the fundamental liberal dogma of our age... Thus, the theory is simply anathema to the antiracialists of the Ring of Troth and to much of independent Asatru. On the other hand, ... Metagenetics is no simple racist dogma; rather, it depends heavily on psychological theories of cultural transmission (most notably, Jungian archetypes), central Norse beliefs such as reincarnation within family lines, a grab bag of esoteric doctrines drawn from a variety of traditional cultures, and a selective but varied corpus of references from the contemporary social sciences. Put bluntly, these are rather deep intellectual waters. Thus, metagnetics sinks like a stone between the warring Asatru and Odinist camps.
That said, the emerging science of epigenetics, which I've mentioned before in this series, provides some fascinating links between genes and shared ancestral memory. A 2013 study published by Nature magazine in mice showed that "these transgenerational effects are inherited via parental gametes. Our findings provide a framework for addressing how environmental information may be inherited transgenerationally at behavioral, neuroanatomical and epigenetic levels." That study showed that the changes were made at the genetic level, and controls were in place to rule out socialization (what in people would be called culture) as a possible means of transmission. It also goes beyond the traditional 3-generation impact of most epigenetic studies (the mother, the fetus, and the ova/sperm of the fetus): "It is important to note that the F2 mice that we tested are a full and complete generation removed from the environmental perturbation of their parent; as such, our observations suggest a transgenerational phenomenon. Our IVF data complement this point further."

This is incredibly significant, and provides a real scientific basis for the development of race memory. The experiences of our ancestors really do impact us, and science now backs that up. More study is obviously needed to determine specifics, but the broad strokes are there. Science has finally caught up to McNallen's intuition from 1985.

It is also worth pointing out that Jim Penman's theory of biohistory, as spelled out in his two books Biohistory: Decline and Fall of the West and the larger and more complete Biohistory, also provides a biological mechanism for the transmission of specific cultural elements. In a nutshell, Penman postulates that different cultural practices, such as child-rearing practices, restrictions on adultery, diet (in the form of caloric restriction), and so forth produce different stress hormones at different points in the child's developmental years (among other mechanisms for influencing cultural behaviors). The effect of these hormones at different points will, on a scale as large as a national or ethnic population, produce demonstrable cultural traits. It's a sort of expansion (with enormous amounts of documentation) of the r/K selection theory, applied more specifically to human culture.

Thus, culture influences biology through the production of hormones at specific times, and biology in turn influences culture through predictable behavioral patterns. It's really a fascinating theory, and provides yet another arrow in the quiver of those who see a link between biology and culture. That is precisely the sort of mutual feedback loop one would expect to see if one were looking for a link between biology and culture.

Metagenetics is often misrepresented to imply a cultural specificity that it cannot, and does not, require. No one is saying that someone of Scottish ancestry, for instance, can automatically speak Scots Gaelic. It does, however, say that the broad patterns of culture (all aspects of culture, as Thorsson has it, including genetic, ethical, material, and linguistic) are deeply ingrained in us, and those broad patterns are heritable.

That all four elements are necessary is borne out by recent history, with the ending of European colonialism in sub-Saharan Africa, and the ending of white cultural and political hegemony in the United States. With the boot of European culture, enforced by superior European technology, off the necks of those of African ancestry, and (in Africa) the sudden removal of European (ethical) systems of governance, the native African culture is able to reassert itself, and civil violence, corruption, war, and poverty have been the result.

Most on the political Left, especially those of a Marxist bent, will blame such woes on the damage done by the Colonial powers during their tenure. That explanation falls down on examination, however, when the same pattern is not repeated in other post-Colonial regions that have blossomed economically, politically, and socially, such as India. If Colonialism itself were the culprit, then all post-Colonial societies would be in the same sorry state as sub-Saharan Africa, or the black inner cities of America. But they are not.

Metagenetics provides an explanation of course, since it is a theory that applies equally to all cultural and ethnic groups. It is simply the native culture (which of course includes ethnic culture, per Thorsson) reasserting itself. With the good must, unfortunately, also come the bad.

One of the great strengths of metagenetic theory, as stated above, is the vast array of sources upon which it draws. Indeed, it is entirely possible to discard several of those sources and still leave the core fundamentals of metagenetics intact. For example, I am dubious about Dr. Rhine's ESP studies, and find a lot of Carl Jung's work to be somewhat suspect. But even so, there is plenty of additional evidence, such as pre-Christian Germanic beliefs surrounding the nature of the soul and reincarnation within the clan line, or recent advances in epigenetic studies, which show a biological mechanism by which environmental factors can influence multiple generations, and even be selected for over time.

But perhaps the strongest argument to blunt critics' arguments is a philosophical one.

Because metagenetics is applicable not only to Asatruar, but to people of all ethnicities, and many of those non-European cultures and religions include metagenetic ideas, to attack metagenetics for Europeans is to attack it for them as well. When people on the Left say that Germanic culture can't possibly be inherent to people of Germanic descent, they are also saying that Yoruba culture can't possibly be inherent to people of Yoruba descent. Or that Shinto can't possibly be inherent to people of Japanese descent. Or Cherokee culture can't possibly be inherent to Cherokee people, and so on.

Indeed, to do so is the worst sort of condescending whitesplaining; "you're obviously so ignorant and superstitious that you don't know your religion is full of crap, but we'll help you figure it out for your own good."

For me, metagenetics works on a number of levels. As a reconstructionist, I like it because it provides a consistent and coherent framework that explains a lot of pre-Christian Germanic concepts regarding the soul, reincarnation, and clan and tribal identity. As someone living in a modern, scientific world, I like it because it's supported by psychological and epigenetic theory. As a folkish Asatruar, I like it because it gives a reason for me to be drawn to, and defend, my spiritual heritage, other than simple atavism or ethnic chauvinism.

But mostly I like it because I am a descendant of Odin and Freyr, and when I make offerings to the Gods I am also making offerings to my ancestors, and that is a connection that only someone who shares my heritage can, by definition, feel. I do not practice Asatru. I am Asatru.


Read other installments in this series:

Metagenetics, Part 1
Metagenetics, Part 2
Metagenetics, Part 3
Metagenetics, Part 4

1 comment:

  1. You're really holding up India as an *ethical* model for post-Colonial governance? Where crime against women and those of lower castes are still rampant and under- or un-reported? Where political corruption is so common it's simply an accepted way of life?
    Then there's the fact that India has a huge advantage over Africa in that despite it's different ethnic groups and caste systems, it remained a whole nation after the departure of Colonial powers, most of which simply exchanged the jackboot of governance for a wad of cash surreptitiously exchanged (i.e. National Imperialism replaced with Market Imperialism). India had a religious overculture to share and support itself as a nation, Africa had no such overculture, with the numerous and scattered tribal groups.
    Couple that with the lack of internal infrastructural development that India received during occupation and the vivisection of traditional tribal territories and the voracious evangelizing of the Monotheists in Africa where they achieved very little headway in India, well...
    You're comparing a large apple to a bushel of small oranges, boyo.