On Genetic Interests

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On Genetic Interests: Family, Ethnicity, and Humanity in an Age of Mass Migration is a 2003 book by Frank Salter. "Genetic interests" is a non-technical term designating an organism's inclusive fitness or copies of its genes. Salter's book is the first attempt to map the distribution of human genetic interests.[1] Salter adopts the second meaning: copies of an individual's gene patterns. The need to have this gap in knowledge filled is evidenced by the enthusiasm with which the book was received.

Criticism and response[edit]

The book carried endorsements from several high-profile ethnologists and psychologists:[2]

Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University: "[This] is a fresh and deep contribution to the sociobiology of humans, combining genetics with social science in original ways."

Pierre van den Berghe, University of Washington, Seattle: "The book greatly expands Hamiltonian 'kin selection' by making ethnies in control of territory the central arena of ‘selfish genery’ in a modern world of mass migration."

Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Max Planck Society: "Salter argues that all humans have a vital interest in genetic continuity that is threatened by mass migration. Salter advocates non-aggressive ‘universal nationalism’ as part of a balanced ‘fitness portfolio’ that includes investments in three levels of genetic interests—family, ethny, and the species as a whole. The synthesis is persuasive; the policy formulations provocative."

Michael T. McGuire, UCLA: "[Salter] has provided us with a deep and compelling explanation of what most people know and what guides much of their behavior, but fear to acknowledge publicly."

Robin Fox, Rutgers University: "We are indeed all part of each other, as John Donne insisted even before the help of evolutionary genetics. But we are more part of some than others, and the nature of these boundaries of ethnic kinship has been ignored, avoided or denied. After Salter’s virtuoso synthesis we can no longer duck these issues which become more important daily."

Professor Kevin B. MacDonald also wrote that Frank Salter has written a very important – and a brilliant – book that deserves the close attention not only of evolutionists and social scientists, but of policy-makers as well.[3]

Criticism came from Kenan Malik, an Indian-British public intellectual specializing in ethnic affairs. Malik rejected the reality of ethnic kinship because it is based on gene frequencies. He also criticized the theory of ethnic nepotism, and argued that the field studies of favoritism shown to beggars of the benefactor's ethnic group are best explained by cultural factors.[4]

In his introduction to the Transaction edition (2007, p. 13)[5] Salter agreed with one criticism made in Gene Expression but considers the remainder to be already answered in the book. He responded to one criticism at length, the assertion that On Genetic Interests commits the naturalistic fallacy, i.e. attempts to deduce values from facts. Salter's defense drew on a longer unpublished reply[6] to a negative review by Peter Gray, an evolutionary psychologist from Boston College.[7][8]


  1. ^ On Genetic Interests
  2. ^ On Genetic Interests
  3. ^ MacDonald, K. B.: Genetic Interests of Ethnic Groups. National Observer. No. 62 - Spring 2004
  4. ^ Malik website
  5. ^ On Genetic Interests
  6. ^ Reply to Peter Gray
  7. ^ Gray, P. (2005). "Misuse of evolutionary theory to advocate for racial discrimination and segregation: A critique of Salter's On genetic interests." Human Ethology Bulletin 20(2): 10-13.
  8. ^ Available at http://media.anthro.univie.ac.at/ishe/index.php/bulletin/bulletin-contents/doc_view/44-bulletin-2005-volume-20-issue-2