Nietzscheanism FAQ

From here you can go up to the main page about Nietzscheanism.

What is the connection between Nietzsche and Nietzscheanism?

This stemmed from Nietzsche's conception of "ubermenschen" - supermen.

Humanity, to Nietzsche, was a transition phase between animal and superman - much like homo-erectus was a transition phase between an ape and a human.

Nietzsche's idea of "downgoing" - which refers to the process of "becoming the superman".

Nietzsche considered the aim desirable - and wanted to get the process over with as rapidly as possible.

While Nietzsche rejected many of Darwin's ideas his ideas were a close enough fit for the creators of Andromeda to make the connection - and the species of The Nietzscheans was born.

A distinguishing characteristic of the Nietzscheans is their devotion to the propagation of their own genes - and it seems to be one of the few attempts to present the idea in art - thus the naming here.

Do the Nietzscheans in Andromeda make a good example?

No! Nietzscheanism is named after Nietzscheans - but they make pretty dubious role models. The fictional Nietzscheans provide some free parables for Nietzscheanism - but many of them are to do with how behaving poorly leads to mistrust and disadvantage.

Is Nietzscheanism a religion?

Nietzscheanism offers directives about how to live.

Other religions also do that - Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Christianity, Sufism, etc.

So - there is definitely some overlap.

To continue the comparison, Nietzscheanism suggests life is potentially immortal - but also that it can die.

It suggests that there is reincarnation - and that it takes place whenever offspring are born.

It claims that ancestral wisdom is available to individuals - via their genes - and suggests that some traditional religious practices are intended to facilitate access to that information.

Like Buddhism it suggests that lower creatures can turn into higher ones. As with Buddhism, the process involves an iterated series of reincarnations. The Nietzscheans would refer to it as evolution.

Again - like Buddhism - it rejects the possibility that the human personality survives death. What can survive is an "essence" of self. This is also the part of you that has survived from previous existences. The Buddhists called it "Atman". The Nietzscheans refer to it as your genetic heritage.

As with Buddhism - it suggests that it is possible to "escape from the wheel of death and rebirth" - for example by spending your life in meditation, staring at a wall.

However it differs from Buddism over whether this is a desirable thing to do.

Nietzscheanism thus has a number of similarities with conventional religions.

One of its advantages is that it mostly recommends that organisms carry on doing what they were unconsciously doing already.

Like most other religions, it offers the carrot of everlasting life to practitioners my way of motivation.

On the other hand, Nietzscheanism makes no claim to be a path to happiness. It may be that the environment is similar enough to the one nature was expecting for the things that lead to reproduction to also lead to happiness. If so great. However if the path to reproduction definitely involves misery and suffering, then it suggests you follow it anyway. This is bound to deter some of those with little faith.

Can consciousness really help individuals propagate their genes?

Almost certainly yes.

In particular, a well-developed brain with a sophisticated model of the world could help organisms that find themselves in unusual environments avoid identify areas where their genetic program has been structured on the basis of out-of-date information - and deliberately correct for this problem.

Won't Nietzscheanism spell the end of love and happiness?

Part of nature's strategy for propagating genes in the past has been to wire sexual activity into the brain's reward centres - to encourage reproductive behaviour with a sort of Pavlovian conditioning.

Parental care is promoted by maternal love - powerful strong feelings between a mother and her offspring that encourage parental investment of time and resources.

This sort of low-level behavioural programming is all very well - but can come unstuck in artificial environments.

For example for most men today, the simples way to have sex with lots of women is to hire them. This might well have been a strategy with a big reproductive pay off in the past - but modern contraceptive techniques mean that this is likely to be a very poor strategy for propagating ones genes in modern times.

It's because of this sort of problem that the genes are likely to build the brain in such a way that it cooperates fully with its architects, and accept their goals as their own.

As to whether this will mean the end of love, happiness and sexual ecstacy - I suggest probably not. Those things will probably have their uses to nature for some time to come - and if anything I expect she will expand on their themes - with even more powerful, intense and rich feelings.

Does Nietzscheanism involve becoming a sperm donor?

Sperm banks represent a new niche - and one that many individuals who are following the traditional instructions in their genes may overlook.

As such it may represent an area where competition with other males may be less intense than usual.

However, most children are not born using donated sperm - so the niche is of limited size - and it probably won't take many Nietzscheans to saturate it.

Note that many countries impose limits to the number of births that can result from donated sperm - e.g. in my country:

"Although you can specify fewer, the number of babies from each donor is limited by the HFEA to ten live births, and siblings for those ten children. So donation for assisted conception has a limit."

In practice, it may be possible to circumvent such limits via strategies such as globetrotting.

In general, the details of the strategy you follow are too complex for this FAQ to address - so whether you decide to donate sperm is a decision which is up to you.

My genes seem to have conflicting interests - which ones do I listen to?

Again, that's for you to decide.

Why should I care about the fate of my genes?

Nietzscheanism is not normally very evangelical.

If your genes happen to have made your brain in such a way that has not figured out its purpose in life - or has decided to reject it and pursue other ends - that's absoultely fine.

What about creating new successful replicators?

One way replicators can spread is by forming new successful replicators - and then hitching a ride with them, through an association of some sort.

To the extent that it helps the original genes, this sort of activity might be favoured - assuming it can be performed inexpensively.

In general, though genes can be expected to be more concerned about their own replication, than that of other replicators.

Shouldn't humans aspire to become meme propagators?

We should expect humans to propagate whatever replicator was responsible for their construction. Most humans have been primarily built by genes - not memes.

The genes of humans that devote their resources to propagating memes (at the expense of their genes) will not be favoured by natural selection - and will tend to die out - in much the same way that individuals afflicted by viruses are also selected against.

If this happens a lot, then nature seems likely to respond with better defenses against hostile memetic infections.

Of course - at the same time, the memes are evolving to better take advantage of their human hosts.

What about helping your species reproduce?

Genes that favour species reproduction are likely to be favoured in the same way that they are in the rest of biology - i.e. very slowly - and without much in the way of obvious detectable effect on the phenotype.

Species level selection probably plays some role in biology - but the extent of its significance is not yet clear.

Nietzscheans who promote their species at the expense of themselves are probably not acting in their genes' best interests - according to most modern biologists.

Are there any Nietzscheans around today?

Yes! Daniel Dennett has conducted some informal surveys - to assess the proportion of Nietzscheans in his audience who were prepared to stand up in public and be recognised.

Details are in the references. To summarise, Dennett successfully identified one Nietzschean in his audience.

Won't Nietzscheanism lead to overpopulation starvation and population crashes?

That doesn't seem very likely in the short term.

As to the best way to deal with the tendency of individuals to dramatically outpace their food supply under some circumstances (thus causing boom and bust phenomena) - that's a resource management problem - and is best dealt with by the government - rather than by expecting individual restraint - since expecting individual restraint is usually unrealistic and ineffective.

Why are not most self-conscious creatures already Nietzscheans?

Some of them already are.

However self-consciousness is still in an embryonic stage. Humanity has only just lifted its head out of its biological puddle and started to look around - so to speak.

As such it would be unrealistic to expect nature to have got everything just right the first time.

Also, in the past, the environment expected by the genes has been - broadly speaking - the same as the environment the organism finds itself in.

The large brain was needed to deal with unpredictable environmental stimuli - not radical changes in the nature of the environment.

However, now the mismatch between genes an environment seems likely to be substantial for some period - so there will be more intense selection for a brain that can detect these mismatches - and correct for them.

This is an era of consciousness expansion.

Expanding the consciousness of organisms to more fully include their biological drives seems likely to lead directly to organisms consciously propagating their genes - since that's exactly what they were doing before unconsciously.

Wasn't Nietzsche the author of "Der Antichrist" - who inspired Hitler?

Both Nietzsche and Darwin are both credited by their opponents as influencing Hitler's thinking.

There seems to be some truth to this - but that's no more reason for rejecting Nietzscheanism than is is for rejecting Darwinism.

What is the relationship between Nietzscheanism and Transhumanism?

The Nietzscheans in Andromeda were transhumanists - and it seems difficult to avoid considering techonological means of propagating your genes - a path that leads in the direction of transhumanism.

Not all transhumanists are necessarily Nietzscheans, though.

However, they often seem to share their interests in technologies such as self-improvement, genetic engineering and nanotechnology.

Can I become a Nietzschean?

Sure. Nietzscheanism is an intentional stance - so you can become one today.

However becoming effective as a Nietzschean typically takes a lot of hard work.


  • Daniel Dennett - The Domestication of the Wild Memes of Religion - 19:30 - found one!
  • Daniel Dennett - Breaking the Spell - Religion as a Natural Phenomenon - 23:00
  • Daniel Dennett - Breaking the Spell 4/9 - 6:00
  • Daniel Dennett - From Animal to Person: the role of culture in human evolution - 50:00
  • Daniel Dennett - Daniel Dennett - Breaking the Spell - 24:20

  • Tim Tyler | Contact |