Archives for the month of: April, 2013

joshua keating wrote on his foreign policy blog last week:

Questions you never thought to ask: Is inbreeding bad for democracy?

heh. (~_^)

well, some of us HAVE thought to ask that very question, a couple of people waaaay before i did — going back to 2002 in fact:

- Consanguinity prevents Middle Eastern political development from parapundit.
- Cousin Marriage Conundrum – from steve sailer. steve’s essay was also included in a volume co-edited by steven pinker, The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004.

keating is referring to the woodley and bell paper, Consanguinity as a Major Predictor of Levels of Democracy: A Study of 70 Nations, which was published last year and which i blogged about here (and here and here and here) — and steve sailer also blogged about at the time.

just to refresh everyone’s memory, woodley and bell found a negative correlation (r = –0.632, p < 0.001) between the frequency of consanguineous marriages in the 70 nations at which they looked and the level of democracy in those countries. in other words, the greater the amount of consanguineous marriages in a country, the less democracy it probably has.

keating is not convinced:

“As a counterpoint, Iceland — a country so isolated and sparsely populated that people need an Android app to keep them from hooking up with a close relative — has had a representative parliament since the 10th century and a culture of individualism so strong they write Nobel Prize-winning novels about it. So there.”

two things.

first of all, it should be remembered that woodley and bell specifically looked for success at liberal democracy (fwiw, ymmv). from the paper:

“As conceived here, democracy refers to a system in which there is opportunity for competitive elections and deliberative referendums, with broad public participation encouraged for both (Vanhanen, 2003). Democracy in this instance refers exclusively to the liberal variety where the emphasis is on competitive politics, rather than the classical type in which the focus is on consensus building and statesmanship (Werlin, 2002). Two key characteristics of liberal democratic systems include the presence of institutions that permit citizens to express preferences for alternative policies and leaders, and the existence of institutionalized constraints that prevent the misuse of power by an executive elite (Inglehart, 2003; Lipset, 1959; Marshall & Jaggers, 2010).”

secondly, tenth century icelandic democracy was not an example of liberal democracy — and wasn’t right through to 1262 when the norwegian crown took over the governance of iceland. rather, the icelandic commonwealth was a system based on consensus which i posted about previously here.

early medieval icelanders were represented at their alþingi by regional chieftans known as goðar. nobody elected these goðar — they were the local strongmen from various areas of iceland, and they typically inherited their position, although these chieftainships were sometimes sold. you could, in theory, pick your own goði to whom you swore allegiance, but apparently in practice this rarely ever happened — because a lot of medieval icelanders were kin to their goðar [pdf], and it’s almost always bloody awkward to break it off with family — especially when you can’t easily move to the other side of the island or something.

so these early medieval icelandic “representatives” bore little resemblance to the representatives we have in modern, parliamentary systems (h*ck – maybe that was a good thing!). if you were an early medieval icelander, your alþingi representative was likely your kin, and you were probably stuck with him for life — until his son took over. this was not liberal democracy.

did the early medieval icelanders marry their cousins? i’m not sure. it’s very likely that their immediate ancestors from norway did (like the early medieval swedes probably did), and the medieval icelanders ignored many other of the church’s teachings and regulations on marriage at the time [pdf], so i wouldn’t be surprised if they did. the fact that medieval icelandic society seems to have devolved from one in which kinship was comparatively unimportant to a state where large clans controlled the place also suggests to me that they married their cousins — or at least mated awfully closely (they may not have had to marry very close cousins since they were such a small population to start off with).

having said all that, when trying to work out why the medieval icelanders — or any other group for that matter — didn’t/don’t have liberal democracy, it’s not really important whether or not they were marrying their cousins at the time in question. well, it is … and it isn’t. (don’t pull your hair out just yet.)

what is important (i think) is whether or not the medieval icelanders — or any group-X — had been marrying their cousins over the long-term. i don’t think that there’s an instantaneous connection between cousin marriage (or other close mating) and failing to manage a functional liberally democratic system. what i think that there is are longer term evolutionary processes connected to inbreeding/outbreeding patterns and the selection for individualism vs. familism or clannism. and if you have clannism, liberal democracy will just not work.

woodley and bell acquired their consanguinity data from here’s a map of those data:

consang net

what stands out right away is that consanguinity rates are very high in the arab world, the middle east, north africa, and places like pakistan and afghanistan, while rates are really low in the u.s. and scandinavia. that seems to fit the cousin-marriage-doesn’t-promote-democracy theory. but the cousin marriage rates in china are very low — same range as england and western europe. why don’t the chinese manage to have a liberal democracy then?

what you have to understand is that this map is a snapshot. it is a moment in time (mostly the twentieth century). it doesn’t tell us much about the history of cousin marriage in any of these societies — whether any of it’s been short-term or long-term — and without knowing that, we can’t even start to guess at any effects the mating patterns (and related family types) might’ve had on the evolution of behaviors in these populations, including those related to clannishness.

once you know, for instance, that up until very recently, the chinese actually preferred cousin marriage, then you can — i think — begin to understand why they’re clannish (or, at least, extended family-ish). and why, therefore, liberal democracy doesn’t work there — or didn’t arise there in the first place either.

rinse and repeat for all the other locales on the map.

see also Cousin Marriage and Democracy @marginal revolution.

previously: liberal democracy vs. consensus building and democracy and endogamous mating practices and “hard-won democracy”

(note: comments do not require an email. driving in iceland.)

Questions you never thought to ask: Is inbreeding bad for democracy? – i thought to ask. so did a few other people (way before me!): steve sailer, stanley kurtz, parapundit. see also Cousin Marriage and Democracy. and, of course, see also woodley and bell. and see Question of the Day @breviosity. previously: consanguinity and democracy.

A Dose of Clannishness and What’s So Bad About Clanocracy? – @breviosity!

Where do those tensions come from?“When the Milgram experiment was done with Jordanian assistants, they were just as willing as Americans to inflict pain under orders (62.5%). But they were more willing than Americans [1.4%] to inflict pain when no orders were given, with 12.5% of them delivering shocks right up to the top end of the scale (Shanab & Yahya, 1978).” – great post from peter frost!

Modern Europe’s Genetic History Starts in Stone Age“Scientists create the first detailed genetic history of modern Europe.” – original research article. see also mtDNA haplogroup H and the origin of Europeans (Brotherton et al. 2013) from dienekes.

As women live longer and have fewer children, they are becoming taller and slimmer, study finds“‘This is a reminder that declines in mortality rates do not necessarily mean that evolution stops, but that it changes.’”

Birth Defects, FBD Marriages – from anatoly.

HBD Fundamentals – from jayman!

Why the Tropics are an evolutionary hotbed“Ant family tree shows tropical New World hosts fast speciation while also keeping older lineages alive.”

Study: People Who Believe in God Are More Responsive to Treatment of Depression“It may be that ‘the tendency to have faith in conventional social constructs’ can be generalized both to religion and the medical establishment.”

Beauty isn’t skin deep – @mangan’s.

Social psychology fraud: Just tell professors what they want to hear – from steve sailer.

Book Review: Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (2012) by Susan Cain – from staffan. and a classic: Caring for Your Introvert. (just shush already! (~_^) )

Ethnic origins of Forbes world billionaires (2013) – @race/history/evolution notes.

Computer scientists suggest new spin on origins of evolvability“‘[E]volvable species accumulate over time even without selective pressure.’” – in their computer simulations.

Culture — Not Just a Human Thing – vervet monkeys got culture. also Parrots Barter With Nuts.

Humans Evolved Flexible, Lopsided Brains – some of us more lopsided than others. (~_^)

When Do Babies Become Conscious?“New research shows that babies display glimmers of consciousness and memory as early as 5 months old.”

Fish win fights on strength of personality“When predicting the outcome of a fight, the big guy doesn’t always win suggests new research on fish.”

Feeding our gut bacteria meat may enhance heart disease risks“Antibiotics or vegetarian diets block production of a risk-associated chemical.”

On Hold: Genes That Pause Pregnancy Discovered

Giza Secret Revealed: How 10,000 Pyramid Builders Got Fed“This meat-rich diet, along with the availability of medical care (the skeletons of some workers show healed bones), would have been an additional lure for ancient Egyptians to work on the pyramids…. ‘They probably got a much better diet than they got in their village….’”

Earliest Mayan monuments unearthed in Guatemala. see also Ancient Maya discovery sheds new light on the origins of civilization.

bonus: Levels of Commitment to the Dark Enlightenment – @habitable worlds. also What are characteristics of the Dark Enlightenment? @occam’s razor.

bonus bonus: How Cuban Villagers Learned They Descended From Sierra Leone Slaves“The amazing story of the traditional songs and dances, passed down over hundreds of years, that have tied a small Caribbean ethnic group to a remote African tribe.” – cool story!

bonus bonus bonus: Revealed: The Indian village with just 6,000 inhabitants … but more than 100 pairs of twins – another town of twins!

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Can Animals Be Mentally Ill?

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: not a news story, but here’s the definition of stubborn – Last Two Speakers of Dying Language Refuse to Talk to Each Other

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Thanks to rare alpine bacteria, researchers identify one of alcohol’s key gateways to the brain“Discovery is a step on the road to eventually developing drugs that could disrupt the interaction between alcohol and the brain.” – cool! wait. they want to disrupt the effect of alcohol on the brain?! hey!

(note: comments do not require an email. vervet monkeys!)

everyone who isn't us is an enemy

for serving up those black russians…


previously: petman

if you want to be un-altruistic toward some un-kin of yours, it might be useful if you could spot who they are.

here’s some neat research [pdf] suggesting that perhaps we can do just that (further research is required, of course). this is one of those manipulated photographs studies — you know — where they take photos and alter them to look more or less like the subjects. note that the study was done on w.e.i.r.d. students — and way more females (n=112) than males (n=32):

“Kin recognition: evidence that humans can perceive both positive and negative relatedness” (2012)

“… The evolution of spite would have been greatly facilitated by the ability to recognize negative relatives (West & Gardner, 2010). The current study is the first to find such an ability among humans, one of only a handful of species (Keller & Ross, 1998; Giron & Strand, 2004) for which there is evidence of negative relatedness recognition, by introducing a novel cue to negative relatedness (negative self-resemblance). Specifically, we found opposing effects of positive and negative self-resemblance – cues to positive and negative relatedness, respectively – on trusting and attractiveness attributions, as predicted. This result provides a foothold for the possibility of the evolution of spiteful behaviour among humans. Future research should examine this possibility.

“Although the effects of positive and negative self resemblance in our study were generally small, our study was an experimental one. Thus, we controlled the strength of the manipulation. It was our intention to make the stimuli subtle, to ensure that the participants would not discover the nature of the manipulation. A subtle manipulation, however, will tend to lead to subtle effects. What we hoped to show was not that the positive and negative self-resemblance manipulations had large effects on preferences or behaviour in the context of a laboratory experiment, but that they had predictable effects at all, especially as these effects speak to theory (Prentice & Miller, 1992).

Relative to matched participants, focal participants generally had positive preferences for their own positive self-resembling faces but negative preferences for their own negative self-resembling faces across contexts….

here’s the relevant graphic:

negative relatives

Spite is hypothesized to evolve under relatively restrictive conditions (West & Gardner, 2010), and so it is expected to be rare. However, two conditions may, together, favour its evolution: (1) ‘viscous’ breeding systems and (2) the ability to recognize negative relatives. Population viscosity can make competition increasingly local among individuals (Taylor, 1992a,b), and local competition encourages the evolution of spite (Gardner & West, 2004). Furthermore, individuals immigrating into a viscous population may be strongly negatively related to members of the indigenous population, because immigrants are highly unlikely to bear the same (relevant) alleles as indigenous individuals (Krupp et al., 2011).”

for “viscous breeding systems” i think we can safely insert “inbreeding” or “cousin marriage” or “consanguineous matings.” they are all certainly viscous.

“Negative relatedness recognition can improve the targeting of a spiteful action to increase indirect fitness benefits (by delivering harm specifically to negative relatives whilst sparing positive ones), and our results provide evidence that humans have the mechanisms in place to do precisely this. Moreover, countless animal species use phenotype matching to determine relatedness, and other kin recognition systems exist that might also be employed to discriminate against negative relatives (reviewed in Krupp et al., 2011). Further discoveries that organisms have the capacity to recognize negative relatives will lay a foundation for the study of spiteful behaviour, arguably the last great unexplored problem of social evolution….”

what i’d like to see is some research done on actual inbred populations. maybe a comparison between a non-inbreeding population and an inbreeding one to see if either of the two groups is better at spotting their kin or un-kin.

for that matter, i wonder if kin in inbred populations actually look more like one another than kin in outbred populations (and, therefore, look more unlike non-kin). you would think they ought to since they share more of the same genes with one another. you’d think that’d affect appearance, too. remember the ghoul brothers from syria (click on picture for LARGER view)?:

ghoul brothers

redzengenoist said about them: “It really is striking how much they look like one another. Far more than I would expect the average family group to have similar appearance…. I’m thinking of selection for markedness of ingroup-ness. I can’t help but wonder if having a distinct ‘look’ helps to facilitate the evolutionary advantages of inbreeding….”

i noted: “and, like the big families i’ve known (from my slightly inbred area of the world), some of them look more like each other than they do to the others. the two (chubby guys, roundish faces) on the right and the guy all the way on the left look similar — those three look like mom? or dad? and the other five look more like each other — like the other parent (whichever one).”

maybe it’s easier to spot kin and non-kin in a “viscous” population. the more viscous the better, perhaps.

(note: comments do not require an email. play spot the relatives!)

john derbyshire has a new e-book out — a collection of some of his essays for vdare and takimag. i haven’t read the book (yet), but since i normally read — and take great pleasure in reading — all of john’s essays, i’m guessing that the book is great! get on amazon!:

From The Dissident Right

also, don’t forget about that dynamic duo cochran & harpending‘s collection of a year and a half’s worth of west hunter blog posts in an e-book! (black russians not included.):

West Hunter

and if you enter amazon via this link, vdare will get a commission when you buy any books (or anything at all, i suppose!). support vdare! (^_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. another great book!)

lego dna

dna day. (^_^)

*update below*

just a reminder that, while the boston bombers — the tsarnaev brothers — are chechen, they are also avars (on their mother’s side). not that that should make too much difference as far as the tsarnaevs being clannish, since the avars are clannish, too.

there are only ca. three million people in dagestan and yet there are several dozen ethnic groups there, one of which is the avars. and then the avars, in turn, are further subdivded in 15+ sub-ethnic groups (who knows which one mrs. tsarnaev comes from), which are further subdivided into tribes (tukkhums), clans (teips), extended families and so on. THIS is a clannish society.

from The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus (2008) [pg. 10 - links added by me]:

The Chechens are now considered exemplary of the mountaineers’ historic resistance to Russian rule, but that repuation is only partly deserved. People who lived much higher in the mountains — the Svans and Khevsurs of northern Georgia, for example — were generally the most antipathetic to outsiders; their religious practices, infused with animist beliefs, set them farthest apart from their Christian and Muslim neighbors. The real engine of the highlander uprisings of the nineteenth century lay farther to the east, in Dagestan. The very name of the region — literally ‘the mountainous land’ — is evidence of its central geographical feature: mountains and plateaus cut by fast-flowing rivers. A congeries of distinct languages and customs has long been characteristic of the area, with social ties formed along lines of clans, extended families, and village groupings. The major ethnic groups — the Avars, Dargins, Kumyks, and Lezgins, among others, with none accounting for more than 30 percent of the population — today represent the dominant factions in Dagestan’s precarious balance of regional, ethnic, and clan interests.”

we hear a similar message about the dagestanis (and also learn some more about the chechens) in The Insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus: From Gazavat to Jihad (2010) [pgs. 72-73 - links added by me]:

“Research on the *wirds* and *teips* (clans and families) of the Chechens is difficult to collect and the findings generally frustrate the Western desire for order and clarity. But what this research has demonstrated by its inability to draw straight lines is that *there aren’t straight lines* and the Chechen and Dagestani (or Ingush, Kabard, and Balkarian among others) cultures are not vertical structures, or ‘power verticals’ to use the current Russian vernacular. The Muslim faith is a relatively flat hierarchy to begin with, but by looking at the mountaineer culture and its imposition of yet another layer of clan hierarchy on top of the religious one, it is easy to understand why the Caucasians have so much success at insurgent warfare. North Caucasus social structures are perfect for conducting guerilla and terrorist activity because their societies are already a culture of ‘cells,’ and as we’ve seen, cellular organizations with a high degree of loyalty are paramount to insurgencies. Because familial loyalty sometimes trumps religious authority, and because those same clan are often competing among themselves for status and hegemony, those societal ‘fractures’ were — and still are — exploited by the Russians….

“This particular characteristic of Caucasus culture is what gives it strength as an insurgency and yet ultimately keeps it weak when it comes time to make the final move toward independence.[24]“

“[24] Although Chechnya has been the primary focus of this book thus far, the Dagestanis have been as much a part of this conflict as anyone else. As of this writing, there are more attacks taking place in Dagestan than in Chechnya. The internal dynamics of Dagestan are even more fractured than Chechnya. Aside from the religious and family aspects, Dagestan is made up of more than 13 different ethnic groups — of which the Avars, Dargins, and Lezgins still comprise less than 60 percent of the population. In addition, there are Laks, Tabasarans, Rutuls, Aguls, Tsakhurs, Kumyks, Nogais, Azeris, Chechens, and Russians, and another 40 or so tiny groups numbering only about 200 total — and they all speak their own language — making Chechnya and its Vainakh cousin Ingushetia look downright homogenous.

clannishness is a strength. and at the same time, clannishness is a weakness.

and that quote about north caucasus social structures being perfect for basing insurgencies upon merits repeating:

“North Caucasus social structures are perfect for conducting guerilla and terrorist activity because their societies are already a culture of ‘cells,’ and as we’ve seen, cellular organizations with a high degree of loyalty are paramount to insurgencies.”


dagestan is a mess, and the russians have had to invest heavily in security there. Russia’s Battle with Crime, Corruption and Terrorism (2008) [pgs. 163-165 - links added by me]:

“[T]he personnel strength of the law-enforcement and security task forces in Dagestan was amongst the highest nationwide. The Interior Ministry’s personnel in Dagestan totals 25,000, meaning there is one policeman for every 100 citizens — one of the highest concentrations of policemen in Russia. Dagestan is also the only Russian region that has a specialized department to fight religious extremism within the local branch of the Interior Ministry.

“Information about the number of security officers in the republic is not publically available, but judging by media reports about anti-terrorist and anti-extremist activities in Dagestan, one can presume that the local branch of the FSB is well equipped in terms of manpower and resources. Local agents are reinforced by investigative teams sent on missions from other regional branches of the FSB. The republic is also home to four military brigades and several untis of the Federal Border Guard Service, which are stationed at the borders with Azerbaijan and Georgia in the south and southwest of the republic….

“Dagestani law-enforcement officers are overwhelmingly recruited locally and are active participants in power struggles among local clans and ethnic groups. This circumstance may be a contributing factor in perpetuating the assassination campaign, as the strongest political players in Dagestan may not be interested in pursuing a consolidated campgaign against the attackers, but would prefer to exploit the assassinations for their own political benefit….”

this part might be relevant to the boston bombing:

“In September 1999, Dagestan became the first Russian region to enacts its own law designed to fight religious and other forms of extremism. The republic’s parliament passed the law, entitled ‘On Countering Wahhabism and Other Extremist Activity,’ shortly after Islamist militants led by Shamil Basayev invaded Dagestan from the territory of the then independent Chechnya….

“Dagestan’s anti-extremism law provided a pretext for massive crackdowns by the republic’s law-enforcement agencies on practicing Muslims, and these routinely ended with extortion and abuses. The law also allowed police to detain individuals on such charges as possession of ‘extremist’ literature. These and other actions by the authorities have obstructed freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly in Dagestan.

“As attacks against government targets rose, law-enforcement gradually widened the scop of its crackdown to target Muslims who preached individually. This move backfired, with dozens of abused young Muslim men joining anti-goverment insurgent groups or creating their own….”


“[T]he right of citizens to equal access to the civil service cannot be realized in Dagestan, since existing legislation and tacit agreements among the republic’s elite have put control of state jobs firmly in the hands of local clans and even failed to ensure rotation of the representatives of ethnic groups in these posts as had been required by the previous version of Dagestan’s Constitution.

“These legal provisions served to keep several clans — dominating all three branches of power — at the helm in Dagestan, and these groups have a deep vested interest in preserving the status quo.”

clannishness is a weakness.

dagestanis marry their cousins more regularly than chechens (chechens really do not, except perhaps for maternal third cousins). i’m not sure if this includes the avars or not. further research is required.

from Potentials of Disorder: Explaining Conflict and Stability in the Caucasus (2003) [pg. 120]:

“Evidence of the deep differences between Dagestanis and Chechens in the organisation of life is that among Dagestanis it is permissible and even encouraged for cousins to marry, whereas Chechens are still categorically opposed to marriages even with the same *teip*, i.e. between relatives through the father’s line, the unity of which can be traced deep into antiquity, over the distance of ten-fifteen generations; there cannot be marital relations as they are still considered ‘brother’ and ‘sister’.”

and from Cultures of the World: Dagestan [pgs. 70=71]:

“In most ethnic groups, people married inside their clan and, very often, they married their cousins….

“These traditions have gradually begun to change. More and more often, young people find partners of their own choosing, and marrying within one’s own ethnic group or clan has become less of a social or economic imperative. Although some people still prefer to subscribe to this once traditional pattern, inter-ethnic marriages are common in the republic’s cities. While Dagestani women usually marry men from other Dagestani ethnic groups, Dagestani men more and more often marry Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian women.”

update: stealin’ this from anatoly — a tweet from the younger tsarnaev brother (notice the hashtags):

jahar tweet

for more on the avars see One Europe, many nations: a historical dictionary of European national groups, pg. 67+.

see also: Parallel Evolution of Genes and Languages in the Caucasus Region

previously: those clannish chechens and random notes: 04/22/13

(note: comments do not require an email. avar guy.)


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