30 October 2023

Genes, leadership and monarchy

The idea that ability is partly inherited continues to be controversial, for reasons that seem to have more to do with ideology than scientific evidence.

If ability does in general have a heritable component, this would go some way towards explaining the existence of social classes.

Hereditary monarchy was for many centuries the most common form of political system, and the heritability of talents may help to explain this.

In 2013, researchers at University College London published evidence that leadership ability does have a genetic basis. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve at the UCL School of Public Policy commented as follows on the paper* by him and his colleagues which appeared in The Leadership Quarterly:
We have identified a genotype called rs4950, which appears to be associated with the passing of leadership ability down through generations [...] The conventional wisdom — that leadership is a skill — remains largely true, but we show it is also, in part, a genetic trait.

* Here is a link to the full paper:

13 October 2023

Two brief essays on education

Good parents
In order to be a socially approved parent it is necessary not to ‘push’ your child. There is a social myth to the effect that great harm (of a quite unspecified kind) can be done by ‘pushing’ children.
   There is no corresponding myth about any harm that can be done by frustrating children; in fact, of course, ‘frustrating’ a child is not a possible concept. Even if it were ever admitted that a child had not been given opportunities for developing its abilities, this cannot possibly have done them any harm. This follows from the general principle that no social action towards an individual has any harmful consequences.

Once upon a time a headmistress said of me, ‘It will be good for her not to be treated as an exception.’ I found it very difficult to understand how she could even imagine that she honestly meant something by this, let alone something benevolent, since the sentence seemed to me to have the status of ‘It will be good for this horse to be treated as a dog’. The use of the word ‘good’ in particular eluded me, until I reflected that there was in existence an expression ‘The only good Injun is a dead Injun’, and no doubt she meant something like that.

Taken from: The Corpse and the Kingdom.

06 September 2023

The cult of creativity

One weakness of the pursuit of creativity is that it focuses attention on what seems to you to be significant (which admittedly is the only way you have of evaluating what might be significant), so that the tension between the subject or observer and external (unknown) reality is relatively weakened.

This is clearly why creativity is so popular as an educational catchword. If everyone tries to do some multiplication exercises, there is an objective standard of what constitutes doing it right. People will succeed differentially, and get some feeling of their limitations vis-a-vis objective reality.

But if everyone is told to paint or write creatively, and express themselves, no comparison with an external standard arises in any obvious way. It is a popular educational position nowadays to ‘encourage’ children to write what they feel, and worry about the niceties of grammar and punctuation when they have become good enough at self-expression. Of course, they never do get round to the grammar or punctuation.

Another drawback of the pursuit of creativity, or ‘interest’, is that there is little scope in life for this sort of ‘interest’, and a population of people who have been persuaded that they should despise everything that isn’t ‘interesting’ is very much at the mercy of society. To get anything purposeful done seldom requires a great deal of inspirational activity, but does require a lot of activity of a kind which is by no means ‘interesting’ in itself. This is the way reality is.

02 August 2023

Out-of-the-Body Experiences

My colleague Charles McCreery has recently published his book on out-of-the-body experiences. This is available from Amazon.

Here are links to the Amazon UK page:
and the Amazon USA page:

The book should appeal to anyone interested in any of the following topics:
• out-of-the-body experiences
• hallucinations and apparitions
• lucid dreaming

08 July 2023

The common good?

Here is another extract from Ayn Rand’s book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Rand expresses scepticism about the ‘common good’, a concept popular with collectivists.
“The common good” is a meaningless concept, unless taken literally, in which case its only possible meaning is: the sum of the good of all the individual men involved. But in that case, the concept is meaningless as a moral criterion: it leaves open the question of what is the good of individual men and how does one determine it?

It is not, however, in its literal meaning that that concept is generally used. It is accepted precisely for its elastic, undefinable, mystical character which serves, not as a moral guide, but as an escape from morality. Since the good is not applicable to the disembodied, it becomes a moral blank check for those who attempt to embody it.

When “the common good” of a society is regarded as something apart from and superior to the individual good of its members, it means that the good of some men takes precedence over the good of others, with those others consigned to the status of sacrificial animals. It is tacitly assumed, in such cases, that “the common good” means “the good of the majority” as against the minority or the individual. Observe the significant fact that that assumption is tacit: even the most collectivized mentalities seem to sense the impossibility of justifying it morally. But “the good of the majority,” too, is only a pretense and a delusion: since, in fact, the violation of an individual’s rights means the abrogation of all rights, it delivers the helpless majority into the power of any gang that proclaims itself to be “the voice of society” and proceeds to rule by means of physical force, until deposed by another gang employing the same means.

26 April 2023

Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand was the pen name of Alice O’Connor (born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum), a Russian-American writer and philosopher. Her most notable works were the novels The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957).

Rand condemned the initiation of force as immoral, and opposed statism and collectivism, but was also against anarchism. She was in favour of laissez-faire capitalism, and was one of the strongest supporters of liberty in her time.

The following quote is from her 1966 book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.
In a capitalist society, all human relationships are voluntary. Men are free to cooperate or not, to deal with one another or not, as their own individual judgments, convictions, and interests dictate. They can deal with one another only in terms of and by means of reason, i.e., by means of discussion, persuasion, and contractual agreement, by voluntary choice to mutual benefit. The right to agree with others is not a problem in any society; it is the right to disagree that is crucial. It is the institution of private property that protects and implements the right to disagree and thus keeps the road open to man’s most valuable attribute (valuable personally, socially, and objectively): the creative mind.

13 March 2023

New book: The Corpse and the Kingdom

My new book, The Corpse and the Kingdom, is now available from Amazon.

Below is an extract.


What you are perceiving seems to be a physical universe and it seems to be possible to infer certain things about the past history of this universe. It is possible to suppose that your consciousness is a by-product of physical and chemical events in your organism, and that other people are conscious in a similar way to yourself as a result of similar events in their organisms.

The human race, of which you are a part, seems to have been on the planet on which you are living for a very small part of the inferable history of the physical universe. The lifetime of the human race, and the space it occupies, is infinitesimal even in relation to the time and space that the human race is able to infer in the physical universe that surrounds it. It is inferred that there may be millions of other stars as well able to possess life-bearing planets as our sun. It is inferred that previous life forms on this planet, such as the dinosaurs, occupied it for tens of millions of years.

The human race has a strong tendency to believe that what the human race regards as good and valuable is of great importance. What is important to a human being (and in what other sense could the word important have meaning) is to be determined by reference to the local consensus of belief about what is important in the social environment which surrounds that human being.

Amazon UK
Amazon USA
Amazon Canada
Amazon Australia

13 January 2023

Are schools bad for people?

Extract from chapter ‘Dozing in the staff room’, in:

It’s your time you’re wasting: A teacher’s tales of classroom hell, by Frank Chalk (pseudonym):
The group [of teachers] on the next table are discussing one of the ‘Please make me famous, I’m desperate’-type programmes that seem to be on the telly every night these days. When I first started teaching, and we’re not talking in the Dark Ages, most teachers were reasonably serious-minded people who wouldn’t have given a moment’s thought to this tripe. Now the staff room is littered with dog-eared copies of Heat, OK and Garbage (OK, I made the last one up). The group [of teachers] chatting about the show seem quite fascinated by it; at least, they show a working knowledge of the various characters and their moronic machinations.

I must admit I really cannot understand this mad desire to be famous, although I know it inhabits almost every single one of my pupils. I can understand people wanting to be rich, because it increases the options available to you and should, in theory, take away financial worries (although no doubt it brings its own problems). But the desire to be known by everyone strikes me as plain weird.*

* Frank Chalk, It’s your time you’re wasting, Monday Books, 2006, p.66.

01 November 2022

Children and Mill’s principle of liberty

J.S.Mill (1806-1873)
As quite a young child, I was under the impression that it was a basic principle of accepted morality and legislation that an individual’s freedom of action should not be restricted except in so far as his actions might impinge upon the freedom of others. A century ago this principle was to a large extent respected. Provided you kept the law you could make your own decisions, subject to the resources and opportunities you had, and could try to enlarge your resources and opportunities. The law, it is true, violated the principle by including some moral elements, such as a prohibition of homosexuality, which could scarcely be justified as restraining the infringement of the liberty of others, as between consenting adults. A law of this kind was evidently based on psychological grounds, that people doing things of this kind might generate disapproval in others, and persons should be protected from having to feel such things.

Although the modern world has repealed the penalties for homosexuality between consenting adults, this is scarcely likely to have been out of concern for individual liberty; more likely the repeal was made because sex is the modern opium of the people, it being supposed that if they are encouraged to fill their lives with such harmless distractions they will not notice more serious oppressions.

Nowadays legislation is frequently justified on statistical grounds: that we must bring about a state of affairs in which society as a whole is the way we (that is, the legislators) would like it to be. I first noticed this when a law was brought in prohibiting the taking of what are now called GCSEs before a person’s sixteenth birthday. Even at the time, and before I realised how serious the effects of this would be on my own educational prospects, I thought this to be surprisingly immoral legislation. Surely a person was not doing anyone else any harm by taking an exam younger than the average? The only harm you could be said to be doing was psychological: it might make other people jealous. But then the acquisition of any benefit in life might make other people jealous. If you started to take psychological considerations such as this into account you could plainly justify practically any restriction of individual freedom of action. What other people would like best would be to see you living a dull, unambitious life, enlivened only by such diversions as they permitted themselves, such as the aforementioned opium of the people.

30 September 2022

The basic moral principle — II

Part 1 of ‘The basic moral principle’ is here.

Having stated the basic moral principle, it can be seen that it is freely violated in modern society.

What destroyed my education, and has made it impossible for me to recover from the effects of that destruction ever since, was not au fond the hostility and oppressiveness of any particular individuals, but the intrinsic immorality of the modern ideology. My parents were operating in an environment in which there was no shortage of people to prescribe to them how they should regard me.

The legislation which prevented the taking of the School Certificate and other exams before a certain age was a clear violation of the basic moral principle. It was denying to the individual who might be taking exams, or to his parents who were supposed to be considering his interests, the right to evaluate for himself how serious were the advantages or disadvantages, in an existential perspective, and in view of his individual characteristics and outlook, of taking an exam of a certain kind at a particular age.

People’s lack of sensitivity to this basic principle of morality, even so soon after the Second World War when the Welfare State had been in force for only a few years, was shown by the fact that even supposedly conservative newspapers found no fault with the legislation. Protests were made on behalf of a few children who were clearly going to be prevented from taking exams that they were well able to take, but newspaper articles which discussed such individuals were only too willing to impose solutions of their own, on the lines of ‘If he/she is so clever, he/she can easily pass the time reading books/playing chess/doing good works.’

This shows that the willingness to impose solutions and interpretations on other people’s lives was already well developed. No doubt it always has been, and that is why there is little hope of the basic moral principle being upheld, except in a free-market society in which an individual can defend himself against other people’s ideas of what he ought to want by paying with money for what he does want.

Of course, the young person is necessarily at a disadvantage so long as he has to depend on decisions being made on his behalf by a parent, and even more so if he is dependent on decisions being made by someone who has not even some sense of genetic bonding with him. One of the things which would have saved my education from complete disaster, so that its inverse could be said to be the cause of its ruin, would have been an age of legal majority which was related to mental rather than chronological age. On the most conservative estimates of my IQ, I would certainly have been, on that basis, of age and free to make decisions for myself well before the School Certificate situation arose.

Clearly those most likely to be disadvantaged by the age-limit legislation were the most precocious (in those days it was not yet explicitly stated that there was no such thing as precocity). So this legislation conveyed to all and sundry that there was no need to take into account any special individual requirements that might arise from special ability. This was treated as implying also that the possibility of any special needs arising from unusually extreme individual characteristics should not on any account be entertained. The latter is pretty much the principle that has been applied to me throughout my life. Could it be that people realise that ignoring the particular requirements which arise from outstanding ability is a good way of providing it with the handicaps which are desirable to cancel the likelihood of its possessor being able to make use of it? Of course by now it has become acceptable to assert that there is no such thing as precocity or outstanding ability anyway. At that time people liked to refer gloatingly to cases of child prodigies who had ‘fizzled out’. The implication of this was not that they had not retained their ability, but that some strange innate deficiencies had rendered them unfunctional in later life. From time to time throughout my life, including quite recently, I have read newspaper articles quoting educational ‘experts’ as remarking on the number of early high achievers who finish up without an academic career. This is supposed to constitute a proof that this is a perfectly natural outcome, but it might just as well be taken as a demonstration of the hostility towards them, and their consequent inappropriate treatment by the educational system.

Some twenty years ago, in connection with the then fashionable proposals for the further deterioration of the university system, Professor Andrew Oswald of Warwick University was quoted* as saying, ‘Why exactly should Britain’s plumbers and secretaries and telephone operators have to pay for you to come to Warwick? You will earn far more than them. You will have much more interesting jobs.’ This shows how hopeless it is to expect the state to provide for the differing needs of individuals. In reality, there are many factors, of which measurable IQ is only one, which affect the circumstances and types of activity which an individual needs for his well-being. It is impossible to quantify the weighting of these factors in an individual case, and it is a violation of the basic moral principle to impose conditions on him which take into account only very few factors.

And, supposing (as I do) that IQ and other innate characteristics strongly influence the individual’s aptitudes and temperament, let us remember how heavily outnumbered by the majority of the population at large is the minority (about 3%) even with IQs above 130, at which level a child is (or used to be) referred to as ‘gifted’. Really outstanding IQs, at a level which used to be described as ‘near genius’ or ‘potential genius’, constitute a tiny minority of the ‘gifted’ population. So how can it possibly be expected that a democratic society will provide adequately for the needs of, say, the top 1% of the population, of whom the remaining 99% are jealous, and whose success and well-being they resent?

* The Times, 31 May 2000.