Monday, April 14, 2014

The Legacy of Robert Ardrey

When I think about it, I realize that Robert Ardrey's books were a tremendous early influence on my thinking. I first read him back when I was in high school, and that was my first encounter with the idea that human nature had been formed by evolution, an idea that was later developed into sociobiology, which is now usually called evolutionary psychology. As a popularizer and explainer of scientific principles, his only peer from that era was Asimov. But he dealt with areas Asimov never entered.

In those days, the Zeitgeist proclaimed that humanity had evolved from apelike ancestors which were very much like modern chimps and gorillas, in that they were peaceful, unaggressive herbivores, and that when they reached the level of Homo Sapiens, they had evolved away all their animal instincts in exchange for a "blank slate" brain on which anything could be written. That attitude fit right in with the Marxism and watered-down Marxism called "liberalism" of the times, because it implied that mankind was infinitely malleable, having no intrinsic nature, and that you could turn the human race into anything you wanted with the proper environment, to include education, regulation, and the whole ball of wax that we call "social engineering." It was believed that human aggression, tribalism, sexism, racism, etc. were learned and that the proper education would produce the perfect "progressive" human being. Most actual scientists, not wanting to capsize their careers, just kept their heads down and ignored or tolerated such nonsense. The worst of them went along with all of that, Lysenko-like, and became willing whores for the MAG (Media, Academia, Government).

Ardrey, along with a few others, like Lorenz, blew all that out of the water, and he was despised and denounced for disturbing the sand in the liberal sandbox. But the "blank slate" nonsense, though it's been discredited by Ardrey and many others since, such as Steven Pinker, is still the bedrock of every social and political philosophy that dominates public discourse.

Blankslatism gives rise to the crackpot notion that all of humanity has the same potential, on the individual and group population level. Disparities in behavior and intelligence are attributed entirely to environmental factors, and any dissent from that is rigorously stamped out. Now we're treated to notions as bizarre as that the sexes are identical in potential, and again, differences between men and woman are entirely caused by environment.

But the nice thing about the truth is that it keeps popping up again, no matter how vigorously it's suppressed. And now there's a paper, which I found out about during one of my frequent visits to HBD Chick. The complete column is at Helian Unbound.

“Grounds of War” – A New Paper on Territoriality with Remarkable “Similarities” to the Work of Robert Ardrey

Robert Ardrey was a brilliant man. After a successful career as a playwright, he became an anthropologist, and wrote a series of four books in the 60′s and 70′s refuting the absurd orthodoxy of the Blank Slate that prevailed at the time. In other words, to the tune of vociferous abuse from the “men of science” in psychology, sociology, anthropology, and the rest of the behavioral sciences, he insisted that there actually is such a thing as human nature. The abuse was an honor Ardrey well deserved, because he proved to be a very potent antidote to the Blank Slate nonsense, perhaps the most remarkable perversion of science of all time. Indeed, he was the most influential and effective opponent of the Blank Slate in its heyday. That fact was nicely documented by the Blank Slaters themselves in an invaluable little collection of essays entitled Man and Aggression. The book, which appeared in 1968, was edited by arch-Blank Slater Ashley Montagu, and was aimed mainly at Ardrey, with a few barbs reserved for Nobel laureate Konrad Lorenz, and with novelist William Golding thrown in for comic effect. As I write this, used copies are still available at Amazon for just a penny. In case you happen to be hard up for cash, here’s a quote from the book taken from an essay by psychologist Geoffrey Gorer:

Almost without question, Robert Ardrey is today the most influential writer in English dealing with the innate or instinctive attributes of human nature, and the most skilled populariser of the findings of paleo-anthropologists, ethologists, and biological experimenters… He is a skilled writer, with a lively command of English prose, a pretty turn of wit, and a dramatist’s skill in exposition; he is also a good reporter, with the reporter’s eye for the significant detail, the striking visual impression. He has taken a look at nearly all the current work in Africa of paleo-anthropologists and ethologists; time and again, a couple of his paragraphs can make vivid a site, such as the Olduvai Gorge, which has been merely a name in a hundred articles.

…he does not distort his authorities beyond what is inevitable in any selection and condensation… even those familiar with most of the literature are likely to find descriptions of research they had hitherto ignored, particularly in The Territorial Imperative, with its bibliography of 245 items.

Of course, we now live in more enlightened times, and the Blank Slate collapsed under the weight of its own absurdity years ago. In a word, the life work of Robert Ardrey has been heroically vindicated, no?
(Read the rest HERE.)
Quibcag: The illustration was found over at Eruditeknight, and was originally drawn by Miisu.


  1. "Ashley Montague" wasn't his real name. It was Israel Ehrenberg.

  2. We are predators. Our highest moral imperative is to refrain from cannibalism. The second is to cover each others' backs. everything else derives from these.

    Believe it or not I like things this way.