Archives for posts with tag: biology matters

human biodiversity (hbd) is very simply the diversity found among and between human populations that has a biological basis.*

each of us is biologically unique. our genomes, our phenomes, our patterns of gene expression, our epigenomes, our microbiomes — none of these are ever exactly the same in any two individuals, even identical twins. yes, you are a special snowflake! you’re not even the same person today biologically that you were when you were six — or sixteen (unless you’re still sixteen, of course). for one thing, your patterns of gene expression as an adult are quite different from what you experienced as a toddler. each individual human is biologically diverse when compared to all other humans and even across his or her own lifetime. (got that last idea from steve sailer, btw.) and while we’re at it, you’re biologically diverse within yourself, too — cell by cell.

additionally, groups of genetically related individuals can exhibit average differences in various biological aspects (see more on this here). for example, immediate family members are more similar to each other genetically — and, usually, phenotypically — than they are to strangers. moving outwards from that circle, extended family members are also more similar to each other genetically than they are to strangers, although less so than are immediate family members. and the circle can be extended even further to: clan and tribe members, traditional villages and regions, ethnic groups, and races, until we reach the human race where we start comparing our collective biological traits to those of other species: primates, mammals, vertebrates, life on earth…. biodiversity in humans also exists between the sexes. remember that the biodiversity found in all these populations — which don’t necessarily have well-defined boundaries — includes features like epigenomes and microbiomes in addition to genomes.

hbd research is conducted in numerous academic disciplines and their subfields such as biology, genetics, medicine, neurology, psychology, and anthropology. hbd research also draws on social, historic, and prehistoric data related to human populations. (there is no separate academic discipline known as “human biodiversity.”)

*i’ve stolen that very elegant definition from claire lehmann.

this is the first in a set of posts on What is Human Biodiversity? please, before you fire off a rant leave a comment here, check out the other posts, because your question or objection may have been dealt with in one of them. here they all are — you can read them in any order you choose! like to keep things interactive here on the hbd chick blog. (~_^) :

what human biodiversity (hbd) is not
examples of human biodiversity (hbd)
why human biodiversity (hbd) is true
hbd and racism
hbd and politics

(note: comments do not require an email. human biodiversity!)

all i remember from the seventh grade — apart from the time some of the boys rolled the science teacher’s giant globe down the stairs (heh) — was endlessly taking reading comprehension tests. that must’ve been in vogue in education circles back then — check for reading comprehension! sheesh. seemed like every other day we took a comp test.

what i could never figure out at the time was how anyone could get any of the questions wrong on the tests! the tests typically consisted of three or four paragraphs that covered really dull and boring topics and which were followed by five or six multiple choice questions. but we still had the text in front of us when filling in the little ovals, so if you weren’t sure of an answer — was it bob that drove the car to the store or was it dan who took the bus to the movies? — you could just refer back to the text! what could possibly be simpler?! i know now, of course, that people have different abilities and that in any group half will be below average — and i went to a very average school — but at the time i was mystified. (yeah, prolly some of my fellow classmates just screwed around, too, and didn’t even try to answer the questions correctly.)

i have to admit, though, that that old bewildered feeling comes back to me again whenever someone misunderstands what hbd is.

human biodiversity.

it’s just TWO words, for chrissake!! two pretty straightforward words at that! how can anyone possibly misunderstand the phrase?!

ok. deep breath. let’s break it down. there’s “human” and there’s “biodiversity.” biodiversity is, i guess, one of those whatchamacallits — portmanteau words. it’s a combination of biological + diversity. i hope i don’t have to define either of them. and human? well, h. sapiens, i suppose, but if you want to throw in neanderthals or denisovans, that’d be okay.

so, what’ve we got? human biodiversity = the biological diversity of humans (see here). period. full stop.

here is where i’d like to note that human biodiversity is, thus, a set of natural phenomena — like chemical bonds or electromagnetic radiation. hbd is not a group of people — it’s the total variation of biological characteristics that all humans exhibit.

to be more specific: hbd is not an ideology. it is not a political platform. it is not even a set of beliefs. hbd is not a movement. of any sort.

hbd is not conservative or progressive. it’s not republican or democratic or independent or connected in any way to the mickey mouse party. it’s not libertarian, nor does it back a monarchy. hbd isn’t neo-fascist or neo-communist. or neo-confucian, neoconservative, neo-colonial, and/or neo-freudian.

hbd does not have feelings. or ideas. or even principles. it cannot advocate or suggest or imply or argue for or against or promote or claim anything. hbd does not have agency. saying that hbd “supports” anything is as ridiculous as saying that gravity “prefers” fluffy little bunny rabbits or that the second law of thermodynamics “was never really a big fan of” guy lombardo.

human biodiversity is just something we find in nature. that’s all.

there are obviously people who think hbd is particularly interesting — myself, for example. i guess we could be called “hbders” (hbd-ers?) — and here online there is something of an hbd-o-sphere — but that’s about it, really. to refer to the broad range of individuals who are interested in human biodiversity as “hbd” is simply misunderstanding the acronym.

this is one of a set of posts on What is Human Biodiversity? please, before you fire off a rant leave a comment here, check out the other posts, because your question or objection may have been dealt with in one of them. here they all are!:

what is human biodiversity (hbd)?
examples of human biodiversity (hbd)
why human biodiversity (hbd) is true
hbd and racism
hbd and politics

(note: comments do not require an email. not hbd.)

here’s a small smattering of examples of human biodiversity. a REALLY small smattering! just a handful of examples that i’ve thought of off the top of my head. i’ll keep adding to this list. feel free to help me out by leaving more examples in the comments! thanks. (^_^)

• eye color. people have different colored eyes, especially people of european descent. many genes are involved in eye color — not all of them are known yet.

• hair color. people have different colored hair, again especially people of european descent. and, again, we still don’t know all of the genes involved. yet.

• skin color. lots of different colors, obviously. still working out the genetics there, too.

• EDAR. a gene connected to embryonic development. from wikipedia: “A point mutation in EDAR, 370A, found in most East Asians but not common in African or European populations, is thought to be responsible for a number of differences between these populations, including the thicker hair, more numerous sweat glands, smaller breasts, and dentition characteristic of East Asians. The difference in dentition was not visible in mice due to the radically different structure of mice from human teeth, but it is considered reasonable that that difference also is due to the mutation. The 370A mutation arose in humans approximately 30,000 years ago, and now is found in 93% of Han Chinese and in the majority of people in nearby Asian populations.”

• sickle-cell trait. an adaptation giving a survival advantage in malarial regions, found especially in subsaharan africa, but unfortunately resulting in sickle-cell disease in some individuals. see here re. the genetics.

• lactase persistence. means you can have a starbucks latte without having to order soy milk. (~_^) from wikipedia: “Joel Hirschhorn of Harvard Medical School discovered that lactase persistence was due to the presence of a haplotype composed of more than 1 million nucleotide base pairs, including the lactase gene. The presence of this gene is the cause of lactase persistence. Today, this haplotype can be found in 80% of Europeans and Americans of European ancestry. On the other hand, the percentage of the population who are lactase persistent in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia is very low. It is absent in the Bantu of South Africa and most Chinese populations. These geographical distributions strongly correlate with the spread of domesticated cattle. About 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, this haplotype came under very strong selective pressure. This period matches the rise of dairy farming. As dairy farming originated in Europe, Europeans were exposed to increased lactose nutrition provided by dairy products, resulting in positive natural selection. The additional nutrition provided by the dairy was very important for survival in the recent history of Europe; therefore the supply of fresh milk leads to the favoring of the lactase persistent trait. As dairy farming spread across the globe, after the separation of Europe-derived populations from Asian- and African-derived populations, and after the colonization of Europe, the strong positive selection occurred in a large region, leading to the global spread of lactase persistence.” — there’re also a couple of other populations with lactase persistence stemming from different mutations.

• high-altitude adapation. there are different adapations in different populations, notably among the tibetans, the andeans, and the ethiopian highlanders. the tibetan adaptations seem to work the best, prolly because some of what they’ve got is really old.

• cold adaptations. in certain alleles in siberians. (i wish i had these!)

• height in pgymies. different subsaharan african pygmy populations show different height adaptations.

• ASPM. a gene connected to brain development. from wikipedia: “A new allele (version) of ASPM appeared sometime between 14,100 and 500 years ago with a mean estimate of 5,800 years ago. The new allele has a frequency of about 50% in populations of the Middle East and Europe, it is less frequent in East Asia, and has low frequencies among Sub-Saharan African populations. It is also found with an unusually high percentage among the people of Papua New Guinea, with a 59.4% occurrence.”

• microcephalin (MCPH1). another gene connected to brain development. from wikipedia: “A derived form of MCPH1 called haplogroup D appeared about 37,000 years ago (any time between 14,000 and 60,000 years ago) and has spread to become the most common form of microcephalin throughout the world except Sub-Saharan Africa; this rapid spread suggests a selective sweep. However, scientists have not identified the evolutionary pressures that may have caused the spread of these mutations. This variant of the gene is thought to contribute to increased brain volume. Modern distributions of chromosomes bearing the ancestral forms of MCPH1 and ASPM are correlated with the incidence of tonal languages, but the nature of this relationship is far from clear. Haplogroup D may have originated from a lineage separated from modern humans approximately 1.1 million years ago and later introgressed into humans. This finding supports the possibility of admixture between modern humans and extinct Homo spp. While Neanderthals have been suggested as the possible source of this haplotype, the haplotype was not found in the individuals used to prepare the first draft of the Neanderthal genome.”

• microbiomes. our microbiomes appear to vary between ethnic groups/races.


this is one of a set of posts on What is Human Biodiversity? please, before you fire off a rant leave a comment here, check out the other posts, because your question or objection may have been dealt with in one of them. here they all are!:

what is human biodiversity (hbd)?
what human biodiversity (hbd) is not
why human biodiversity (hbd) is true
hbd and racism
hbd and politics

(note: comments do not require an email. great moments in evolution.)

we know that human biodiversity (hbd) is true because, for one thing, we have many, many examples of it (see here)!

additionally, both the workings of the natural world and specifically the theory of evolution predict that hbd must be the case.

nature likes to throw up variety (see here for example) — the variation between individual organisms is, after all, what natural selection acts upon — and there’s no reason for humans to be any exception. add to that the fact that humans reproduce sexually — with all the genetic shuffling and remixing that happens there — and it’s inevitable that individual humans will be biologically diverse.

various groups or populations of humans — ranging from small-sized families to races and even beyond (for example, think: east asians+native americans together compared to caucasians or subsaharan africans) — will also inevitably be biologically diverse from one another, to greater or lesser degrees, due to forces of evolution such as natural selection, gene flow, and/or genetic drift.

keep in mind that humans — including various discrete-ish human populations (biological borders are fuzzy, naturally) — have experienced recent evolution (i.e. within the last 40,000 years or so), that human evolution has probably sped up since the advent of agriculture, and that we are undoubtedly still evolving today.

ignoring or denying the existence of human biodiversity won’t make it go away. hbd — and its implications — will remain a reality in spite of all your hopes and dreams, however well-intentioned they may be.

this is one of a set of posts on What is Human Biodiversity? please, before you fire off a rant leave a comment here, check out the other posts, because your question or objection may have been dealt with in one of them. here they all are!:

what is human biodiversity (hbd)?
what human biodiversity (hbd) is not
examples of human biodiversity (hbd)
hbd and racism
hbd and politics

(note: comments do not require an email. another great moment in evolution.)

some people seem to be under the impression that being interested in human biodiversity is somehow racist. they couldn’t be more wrong.

first of all, what is racism? merriam-webster* tells us that racism is:

“A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

so there are TWO criteria there that have to be fulfilled to meet the definition of racism: you have to think that 1) race is the primary determinant of human traits, and 2) racial differences inevitably mean that one race is superior to the others.

with regard to the first one, i can’t think of any serious hbd blogger or commenter in the hbd-o-sphere that thinks that biological differences between the races are the primary determinant of “human traits and capacities.” far from it, in fact. i certainly don’t (see: the entirety of this blog). i’m sure, too, that steve sailer doesn’t think that. nor does john derbyshire. not greg cochran. not henry harpending. not razib either. i know that neither jayman nor super misdreavus think that. and on down the list, etc., etc.

why would any of us think that when it obviously doesn’t make ANY sense? the primary determinant of human traits and capacities *is* biological (largely genetic), of course, but it doesn’t exist at the racial level. race’s got nothing to do with it. the primary determinants exist at the level of individuals — or more precisely at the level of the genes themselves. racial differences are just one set of *average* differences between some groups. one set of many. race doesn’t determine anything.

the second part of the definition is that the biological differences between races therefore mean that one race is superior to all the others. again, i don’t think that. neither does steve sailer (ctrl+f “master race”). pretty sure not cochran or harpending. definitely sure not razib, jayman, or super misdreavus. same for all the rest, as far as i am aware. the only writer in the hbd-o-sphere that i know of that does think that there might something to this superiority business is john derbyshire (more on that another time), but since he doesn’t meet the first criterion, he’s still not a racist either.

having said all that, i’m not blind. i do see that out there there are some people who, for whatever reasons, have a bug against certain ethnic groups and/or races and use (typically only a selection of) hbd facts or ideas to support their claims/arguments/cause/whatever. while they are entitled to their opinion, i’ve already had a word with those people and told them that they cannot pick and choose which elements of hbd they like and ignore the rest (which, as i say, too many of them seem to have a tendency to do). (btw, i could’ve easily picked on some people on the political left in that post — the people who think that homosexuality is genetic but that next to nothing else is! — but i thought that since many of my readers are on the right politically, i’d admonish those who focus only on the racial stuff.)

as i said in “why human biodiversity is true”: “ignoring or denying the existence of human biodiversity won’t make it go away.” ignoring parts of hbd won’t make them go away either. plus, if any of you out there cherry-pick your hbd, i shall be very annoyed.

what i want to explain to you now, though, dear reader is that you should not confuse your average, everyday hbd-er with other people who seem to be actual racists and who selectively use hbd data or info for their own purposes. that would be committing one of those logical fallacies that we all learned about in phil 101. you remember those — syllogistic fallacies or something like that:

some people interested in hbd are racists.
all hbd-ers are interested in hbd.
therefore all hbd-ers are racists.

no. obviously not. got it? good.

so, to sum up: being interested in human biodiversity is not inherently racist. additionally, you should not — cannot — pick and choose which aspects of hbd you want to believe in and those which you do not. and while i’m at it, as i’ve said many times: there’s more to hbd than just racial differences (MUCH more!), and there’s more to hbd than just iq. and don’t forget to brush your teeth before you go to bed. and eat more vegetables!

*hey, if it’s good enough for andrew gelman, it’s good enough for me. however, if, like humpty dumpty might’ve, you’ve made up your own definition of racism — like that it involves *any* discussion of race at all — then, i’m sorry, but i can’t help you out. thanks for stopping by though!

this is one of a set of posts on What is Human Biodiversity? please, before you fire off a rant leave a comment here, check out the other posts, because your question or objection may have been dealt with in one of them. here they all are!:

what is human biodiversity (hbd)?
what human biodiversity (hbd) is not
examples of human biodiversity (hbd)
why human biodiversity (hbd) is true
hbd and politics

(note: comments do not require an email. the primary determinant of human traits and capacities.)

there is no logical, inevitable political stance that follows from having an awareness of human biodiversity.

let me repeat that.

there is NO logical, inevitable political stance that follows from having an awareness of human biodiversity.

i know it seems as though any person would naturally turn into a conservative on becoming aware of hbd, but that’s just not true. and i say that being something of a conservative myself. (maybe. i dunno. you tell me!) it just seems that way because, for some inexplicable reason, left-wing politics nowadays has become all wrapped up with political correctness, and, of course, if you’re pc, everybody is the same, yada, yada, yada.

this wasn’t always the case. for instance, super misdreavus has pointed out that some of the early population geneticists (and population genetics is aaaall about human biodiversity) were not just a little bit on the left politically, they were socialists and even communists. j.b.s. haldane, for one — pretty much came up with the modern evolutionary synthesis (that’s a big deal), proposed the coincidentally-named haldane principle, and theorized (some might say speculated) that sickle-cell anemia and thalassemia protect against malaria (human biodiversity right there!). and he was a d*mn commie! (*gasp*)

there is nothing — absolutely nothing — about hbd that precludes left-wingers from acknowledging its existence. you can know everything there is to know about human biodiversity and still be all for the proletarian revolution and redistribution of wealth or even just be a mainstream democrat. jayman and others are living proof!

what you can’t be if you understand hbd is be a progressive. not a progressive that believes that you can substantially alter people’s natures via intervention from the state or school system or insisting upon diverse staffs in every corporation in america. for that matter, you can’t be a conservative who thinks you can alter people’s natures via the family or the church if you really understand hbd. if you truly understand hbd, the only way you can be a progressive is to adopt some eugenic policies (not advocating them — just sayin’).

the only real connection between human biodiversity and politics is that political attitudes are highly heritable, so all that’s going on in all the debates about hbd is that we’re each bringing to the table our innate political preferences — and, unfortunately, some of us have pc baggage at the moment. we all need to take a deep breath and try not to let our innate attitudes color our judgements about hbd findings.

the science and human biodiversity should be one thing. politics?…we can discuss all that afterwards.

this is one of a set of posts on What is Human Biodiversity? please, before you fire off a rant leave a comment here, check out the other posts, because your question or objection may have been dealt with in one of them. here they all are!:

what is human biodiversity (hbd)?
what human biodiversity (hbd) is not
examples of human biodiversity (hbd)
why human biodiversity (hbd) is true
hbd and racism

(note: comments do not require an email. j.b.s. haldane & aldous huxley.)

jean-baptiste lamarck was (mostly) wrong when he suggested that evolution happened via a form of “soft inheritance”, i.e. that organisms passed on traits which they had acquired during their lifetimes to their offspring (see: lamarckism). as alfred russel wallace explanied in 1858, evolution happens instead via natural selection (and, of course, other evolutionary forces like genetic drift, etc.) [pg. 60]:

“Neither did the giraffe acquire its long neck by desiring to reach the foliage of the more lofty shrubs, and constantly stretching its neck for the purpose, but because any varieties which occurred among its antitypes with a longer neck than usual *at once secured a fresh range of pasture over the same ground as their shorter-necked companions, and on the first scarcity of food were thereby enabled to outlive them.*”

nowadays everyone giggles at lamarckism, but i always want to come to lamarck’s defense, though, when people talk disparagingly about him and his ideas because 1) no one knew how evolution worked in the eighteenth century, not just lamarck, and he was only trying to come up with a naturalistic explanation for all the variation we see in life on earth for goodness sake, and 2) i happen to know that some other scientists didn’t like his ideas and actively worked to have his ideas suppressed. or ignored, anyway. quite successfully, too, i’m sorry to report. here from “Lamarck, Evolution, and the Politics of Science” [pgs. 291-293, 296 - pdf - link added by me]:

“With the exception of a few brief and scattered comments Lamarck’s evolutionary ideas were publicly received in silence. Attention will be paid here to the posture toward Lamarck’s ideas adopted by the dominant figure of French natural science at the time: Georges Cuvier.

“Georges Cuvier’s magisterial and disapproving presence has long been recognized as a factor in the poor reception of Lamarck’s evolutionary theory by his contemporaries. Cuvier’s reasons for opposing the hypothesis of species mutability have been dealt with a length elsewhere and do not need to be repeated here. Primary concern here will be with the way in which he treated Lamarck’s views.

“It is not likely that Lamarck’s physico-chemical views were neglected for reasons of jealousy, as Lamarck had assumed, and the same can be said of the treatment of his evolutionary views. This does not mean, however, that these views were not *methodically* neglected. Consider the following statement written by Cuvier in 1806, setting forth his view of what scientific bodies had to do to assure for the science of geology the growth of which that science was capable:

“‘[Scientific bodies] must maintain in [geology's] regard the conduct that they have maintain since their establishment in regard to all the other sciences: To encourage with their eulogies those who report positive facts, and to retain an absolute silence over the systems which succeed to one another.’

“One may well presume that the ‘absolute silence’ recommended for ‘systems’ was the very antidote that had first been applied to Lamarck’s chemical theories and was later applied to his zoological theories. To Cuvier, evidently, Lamarck’s chemical and zoological theories *both* appeared as ‘vast edifices [constructed] on imaginery bases,’ and thus both deserved the same treatment. In his ‘Eloge’ of Lamarck Cuvier wrote:

“‘…whatever interest [Lamarck's zoological works] may have exicited by their positive parts, no one believed their systematic part dangerous enough to merit being attacked; it was left in the same peace as the chemical theory.’

“One may suppose that Cuvier’s use of the words ‘dangerous enough to merit being attacked’ instead of some equivalent of ‘reasonable enough to merit being considered’ is not without significance. One may also remark that, in the statement that Lamarck’s zoological speculations [!! -h.chick] were ‘left in the same peace as the chemical theory,’ the word ‘peace’ should probably be interpreted strictly as the *public* silence that Cuvier recommended for all ‘systems.’ Certainly the picture that Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire painted of the last years of Lamarck’s life was not one of peaceful neglect. In Geoffroy’s words, ‘attacked on all sides, insulted even by odious jests, submitted to the insult from them with a sorrowful patience….’

“In an unpublished manuscript one finds Cuvier writing about Lamarck: ‘In truth his explanations are sometimes very amusing despite the admiration that some naturalists pretend to show for them.’ In another work, published posthumously, Cuvier’s comment on authors who had favored the idea of species transformation was: ‘From the moment that these authors wished to enter into detail they fell into ridicule.’ Frederic Cuvier said of his brother Georges that he put ideas of species transformation

“‘…in the rank of those frivolous games of the imagination with which the truth has nothing in common; with which one may amuse oneself when they are skillfully and gracefully presented, but which lose all their charm when taken seriously….’

“It is difficult to estimate just how much the posture of Cuvier toward Lamarck’s evolutionary ideas may have influenced contemporaries who might otherwise have been disposed to give Lamarck’s ideas some serious attention. Presumably Cuvier’s influence in this regard was considerable. The combination of public neglect and private ridicule seems to have been devastating for Lamarck’s evolutionary theory.”

cuvier, for various reasons, simply did not like the idea of the “transmutation of species” and, rather than address lamarck’s ideas directly, he opted for ignoring them — and used his position as a leader in the sciences to encourage other scientists to do the same. bad form.

darwin, too, was concerned about how fellow scientists would treat him if and when he published his ideas on evolution. it took him twenty years to publish his theories, and you often hear about how he delayed publication because he didn’t want to offend his religious wife (or maybe it just took twenty years for him to do the research and writing up), but there was definitely a lot of opposition to the idea of the transmutation of species in the sciences in england during darwin’s day and natural theology still held sway. from Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory:

“Darwin conceived his theory in 1838, but he did not publish anything about it for twenty years. Recognizing the depth of opposition among scientists to the transmutation hypothesis, he spent much of this time endeavoring to anticipate and answer in advance objections to his theory. In the process, he perfected his thinking on the gradual divergence of varieties into distinct species through competition, marshaled evidence for evolution from comparative anatomy and embryology, fitted fossils into evolutionary series and distribution patterns, and tried to imagine intermediate stages in the development of the eye and other complex organs….

“The transmutation hypothesis was widely debated but little accepted among European naturalists during the early nineteenth century. It had a revolutionary taint.”

ah. politics. even scientists are only human.

more on the politics of the day in darwin’s time from Evolution: The History of an Idea [pg. 97, pgs. 126-27, pg. 134 - my emphasis]:

“Materialism was an integral aspect of a revolutionary ideology that wanted to sweep all traces of the old social hierarchy aside. Natural theology and idealism were invoked by conservatives who wanted to preserve their position in that hierarchy: the world was designed by a God who intended us all to accept our place in the preordained social scale. The situation was complicated, however, by a growing middle class making fortunes out of the new mechanized industries. They too wanted a social hierarchy that would include them in the ruling class. But they did not want a revolution that might sweep away the ownership of property. The middle class wanted reforms that would eliminate old restrictions on the individual’s right to trade freely and that would allow them access to political power. Many of the scientific theories developed in the nineteenth century can be related to the desires of those engaged in these broad social movements to legitimize their preferred model of society by claiming that it was ‘only natural.’

“Beginning in Britain, the industrial revolution was transforming the social and economic map of Europe. America too was beginning to flex its muscles as a world power. The idea of progress, first articulated by Condorcet and other Englightenment thinkers, now became the dominant model of social change. A parallel idea could also be applied to the natural world. Paleontologists uncovered a fossil sequence from simple to complex animals that even conservatives could not ignore. Liberals and radicals welcomed the idea because progress in the natural world seemd to hint that progress in the social world was inevitable….

“Evolutionism became part of the radical campaign to discredit the old worldview which propped up aristocratic privilege. The claim that God had designed a hierarchical universe in which everyone should keep to their allotted place was used to bolster the position of the upper classes. Both the radicals and the less strident middle-class activists saw a universe which changed through time as evidence that human conventions such as the class system could be changed….

“Darwin’s reluctance to publish his own theory must be understood in the context of the reputation acquired by transmutationism during the era of radical scientists such as R.E. Grant. Endorsement by radical scientists allowed the theory to be branded as dangerous materialism, subversive of the moral as well as the intellectual order.

hmmmm. sound familiar?

the political orthodoxy of today — especially in the sciences — as we all know is political correctness. now, for some strange reason that i have never been able to figure out, the perfectly reasonable idea (which i fully support) that everyone in our society ought to be treated equally has become confused with and all bound up in the completely crazy idea that everyone in our society is actually equal or the same. (i often wonder about the mentality of politically correct people — do they need to believe that all people are the same in order to be able to treat everyone equally? i don’t know, but that would certainly be interesting if it were the case.) so now, not only has it been made difficult if not impossible even to discuss known or possible biological differences between the sexes or ethnic groups or races, sexes and ethnic groups and races no longer exist! (almost.) and as henry harpending has pointed out, the parallel (resultant!) trend in population genetics has been “neutralism” — i.e. that natural selection has not led to any important differences between any human populations. so for nicholas wade to write a book like A Troublesome Inheritance — well, that was just a big no-no. as we all knew it would be.

i’m not a scientist. i don’t even play one on the internet. but i’ve had a lifelong interest in science, i’ve tried to keep up-to-date with the latest in scientific findings (as much as a layperson can do) — especially biology — for many years now, and i actually did take some science classes (including higher-level ones) in college, so i’m not entirely ignorant of how science works. and as far as i can see, speculation is a part of science. it must be. it’s the first step! speculation about the world is the brainstorming part of science — when hypotheses are built — it’s theory-building (theory with a small “t”). but, of course, speculating is just the start of scientific investigation — all the real investigative sciencey stuff has to follow it, of course. but there is definitely a place — a need! — in science for speculation — as darwin said.

and when some scientists try to squash the speculations of others…or even create an atmosphere in which people feel uncomfortable voicing their ideas…well, that’s just scientists behaving badly. not to mention unscientifically.

see also: Letters: ‘A Troublesome Inheritance’ and Geneticists Denounce Nicholas Wade’s “Speculative” Chapters as “Speculation” from steve sailer and At Least Erroneous in Faith from henry harpending and and Darwin on the Need for Speculation in Science from steve sailer

(note: comments do not require an email. lamarck.)

i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again: stanley kurtz is a really, really smart guy. he’s especially smart when it comes to mating patterns and family types in the middle east/arab world and how those affect the social and political workings of the nations in those regions. which is why i had a little #StanleyKurtzFest to myself on twitter the other day. (^_^) and i thought i’d repeat it here.

kurtz trained as a social anthropologist (at harvard) and did his fieldwork in india, so he knows anthropology. he wrote several articles about mating patterns and things like democracy in the arabized world, some of them back before we got involved in iraq in the early 2000s, so the guy is aware. but EVERYthing he wrote back then still very much applies to iraq today, not to mention to afghanistan, syria, libya, egypt — in other words, the whole arab autumn movement.

i’m going to cut-and-paste some excerpts from his articles here, but i highly recommend clicking through and reading them all! the only aspect kurtz misses is, of course, the biological underpinnings for the behavioral patterns we see in the arab world — which is unfortunate, since the biology is fundamental to it all, but hey — nobody’s perfect! for the biological explanation (which you should hold in your mind the entire time while you’re reading kurtz — which you’re going to do, right? promise?!), you should see steve sailer’s classic Cousin Marriage Conundrum — and any random post on this blog. (~_^)

oh. one other thing that stanley — along with many others — gets wrong is the idea that people let go of their extended families if and when they have some sort of just state in charge that will take care of the rights of the individual. that is, imho, exactly backwards. states that are (more or less) of, by, and for the people only come into existence — can only come into existence — after a population has moved away from the extended family as the basic unit of society. there is evidence that this was the order of events in medieval england, and i’m betting that it will hold for elsewhere as well. more on all that another time.

right. here we go…

“I and My Brother Against My Cousin”
“Is Islam the best way to understand the war on terror? Tribalism may offer a clearer view of our enemies’ motivations.”
Apr 14, 2008

“In the Islamic Near East, however, the term ‘tribe’ has a fairly specific meaning. Middle Eastern tribes think of themselves as giant lineages, traced through the male line, from some eponymous ancestor. Each giant lineage divides into tribal segments, which subdivide into clans, which in turn divide into sub-clans, and so on, down to families, in which cousins may be pitted against cousins or, ultimately, brother against brother. Traditionally existing outside the police powers of the state, Middle Eastern tribes keep order through a complex balance of power between these ever fusing and segmenting ancestral groups.

“The central institution of segmentary tribes is the feud. Security depends on the willingness of every adult male in a given tribal segment to take up arms in its defense. An attack on a lineage-mate must be avenged by the entire group. Likewise, any lineage member is liable to be attacked in revenge for an offense committed by one of his relatives. One result of this system of collective responsibility is that members of Middle Eastern kin groups have a strong interest in policing the behavior of their lineage-mates, since the actions of any one person directly affect the reputation and safety of the entire group.

“Universal male militarization, surprise attacks on apparent innocents based on a principle of collective guilt, and the careful group monitoring and control of personal behavior are just a few implications of a system that accounts for many aspects of Middle Eastern society without requiring any explanatory recourse to Islam. The religion itself is an overlay in partial tension with, and deeply stamped by, the dynamics of tribal life….

“Looking at a political map of the Middle East, we tend to assume government control of the territories lying within all those neatly drawn borders. It is a serious mistake. As Salzman puts it, traditional Middle Eastern states are more like magnets, exerting force on territory near the center, while losing power with distance. The Ottoman Empire (and the British) ruled the tribes loosely, demanding an annual tribute but generally leaving them to govern themselves. To a remarkable extent, this holds true today. While the precise degree of centralized power ebbs and flows, tribes living in what are often quite large territories on national peripheries exist largely free of state power.

“Far from viewing this as a disability, Middle Eastern tribesmen consider life beyond the state as the surest way to avoid dishonorable submission. Statelessness is an essential condition of dignity, equality, and freedom. The traditional relation of the state to the peasant, notes Salzman, ‘is that of the shepherd to his flock: the state fleeces the peasants, making a living off of them, and protects them from other predators, so that they may be fleeced again.’ Salzman asks us to think of traditional states as ‘cliques determined to impose their power for the pleasure of dominance and the profit of extortion.’

“Saddam Hussein comes to mind. Not only was his regime exploitative, it was built around a tribal coalition, at the center of which was Saddam’s Tikriti clan. In the traditional system, says Salzman, states were bereft of any wider sense of civic responsibility or benevolence. Secure in distant mountains or deserts, traditional Middle Eastern tribes (like the Yahi in the hills of California) engaged in predatory raiding against settled peasants. Once a particularly powerful tribe or tribal coalition actually captured a state, they simply routinized their predation under official guise. (Saddam and his Sunni tribal allies fit the bill.) From that perspective, avoiding a life of peasant humiliation and exploitation through membership in an independent tribe begins to look good — endemic violence notwithstanding….”

“Marriage and the Terror War, Part I”
“Better learn up on your anthropology if you want to understand the war.”
February 15, 2007

“In this first in a series of essays on Muslim cousin-marriage, I want to begin to make the case that Muslim kinship structure is an unexamined key to the war on terror. While the character of Islam itself is unquestionably one of the critical forces driving our global conflict, the nature of Islamic kinship and social structure is at least as important a factor — although this latter cluster of issues has received relatively little attention in public debate. Understanding the role of Middle Eastern kinship and social structure in driving the war not only throws light on the weaknesses of arguments like D’Souza’s, it may also help us devise a new long-term strategy for victory in the war on terror.

“Self-Sealing Society

Think of the culture of the Muslim Middle East as ‘self-sealing.’ Muslim society has a deep-lying bias toward in-group solidarity, the negative face of which manifests itself in a series of powerful mechanisms for preventing, coercing, or punishing those who would break with or undermine the in-group and its customs. This bias toward in-group solidarity serves to shelter Muslim society from interaction with the forces of modernity, and also explains why Muslim immigrants so often fail to assimilate. Of course, no society can function without some sort of ‘in-group solidarity.’ Yet the Muslim world is truly distinctive on this score. When it comes to the core principles of kinship, Muslim practices strengthen and protect the integrity and continuity of the in-group in a way that sets the Middle East apart from every other society in the world. To appreciate this fact, we’ve first got to understand some fundamental things about the nature of kinship.

“For the greater part of human history, nearly every society has been organized into units based on kin ties. Modern life greatly reduces the significance of these ties, since capitalism tends to allocate jobs based on ability (instead of who your father is), while democracies apply laws, and assign benefits, on the principle of equal citizenship (not birth). By contrast, in most traditional societies, a man’s security, health, prosperity, and religious standing all depend, first and foremost, on his relatives. So to understand the kinship structure of a traditional society is to make sense of a good deal of life there. Unfortunately, our contemporary thinned-out notion of kinship has made it tough to recognize just how profoundly societies are shaped by variations in marriage practices. That’s why we’re far more comfortable making sense of the war on terror through the lens of a familiar phenomenon like religion, than in the light of something alien, like cousin marriage….

“All right, let’s say we have a society made up of clans organized by descent through the father. (Imagine a grander version of your own father’s family line, or something like the Hatfields and McCoys.) In any given clan, the men all trace their descent from a common male ancestor. In such a society, a rule or preference for cross-cousin marriage would create a systematic form of exogamy. In other words, if every man in a patrilineal, clan-based society were to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter, every man would be marrying someone from a different clan. (For example, if you were to marry your own mother’s brother’s child, you would be marrying someone from outside of your father’s family line.) Since every man’s mother in our imaginary society is born into a different patriclan than his own, when a man marries the daughter of his mother’s brother (i.e., his cross cousin) he is renewing an alliance with another patriclan (i.e. his mother’s birth clan) by bringing a woman from his mother’s birth clan into his own clan as a wife, just as his father did before him.

“On the other hand, in a society made up of competing patriclans, a rule or preference for parallel-cousin marriage would have exactly the opposite effect. Parallel-cousin marriage would seal each and every clan off from all of the others. If, say, every man in a society made up of patrilineal clans was to marry his father’s brother’s daughter, every man would be married to a descendent of his own birth clan. (For example, if you were to marry your own father’s brother’s child, you would be marrying someone from within your father’s family line.) That would be a very strong form of endogamy, or “marrying in,” which, according to Tylor, would encourage social isolation, cultural stasis, rivalry, and high levels of conflict between clans….

And as we’ve already seen, parallel-cousin marriage [i.e. fbd marriage-h.chick] has an effect precisely the opposite of the alliance-building interchange encouraged by cross-cousin marriage — and praised by Tylor and Levi-Strauss. Instead of encouraging cultural exchange, forging alliances, and mitigating tensions among competing groups, parallel-cousin marriage tends to wall off groups from one another and to encourage conflict between and among them. However strong the urge among anthropologists to identify the cooperative advantages of exogamy as a core characteristic of human nature itself, the hard fact of the matter is that a significant minority of human societies have chosen to organize themselves according to principles quite the opposite of alliance-based exogamy. Care to hazard guess as to exactly where in the world those societies might be?

“While the vast majority of societies that practice cousin marriage favor the marriage of cross cousins, the relatively small number of societies that encourage parallel-cousin marriage can be found in the Islamic cultures of North Africa and west and central Asia. Russian anthropologist Andrey Korotayev has shown that, while the region that practices parallel-cousin marriage does not map perfectly onto the Islamic world as a whole, it does (with some exceptions) closely resemble the territory of the eighth-century Islamic Caliphate — the original Islamic empire. So there is one great exception to the claim that human society — and even human nature itself — are built around the principle of extra-familial marriage. Almost every known contemporary case of preferential parallel-cousin marriage is the result of diffusion from a single source: the original Islamic Caliphate. And while parallel-cousin marriage may not be Islamic in any strict or formal sense (in fact, the practice apparently predates Islam in the region), as Korotayev puts it, ‘there seems to be no serious doubt that there is some functional connection between Islam and FBD [father’s brother’s daughter -- i.e., parallel cousin] marriage.’ Sounds like we’d best find out what that ‘functional connection’ is….”

“Marriage and the Terror War, Part II”
“Protecting the honor of the family; protecting the honor of Islam.”
February 16, 2007

“[O]nce you understand how Muslims construct society as a collection of counterbalanced, sometimes allied, sometimes feuding, closed-off, and self-sufficient family cells, the problem of Muslim cultural persistence begins to make sense. Holy also allows us to appreciate that the Muslim seclusion of women (another critical barrier to modernization and assimilation) is part and parcel of a larger complex of practices, at the center of which is parallel-cousin marriage….

“With all the economic and social diversity in the Middle East, one factor remains constant. Wherever parallel-cousin marriage is practiced, the notion that the honor of the male family-line depends upon the sexual conduct of women is strong. For this reason, a woman’s father’s brother’s son (her parallel cousin) has the right-of-first-refusal in the matter of her marriage. To protect against the possibility of a woman’s shameful marriage (or other dangerous sexual conduct) damaging the honor of the men of her lineage, male relatives have the right to keep her safely within the family line by marrying her off to her parallel cousin.

“As I’ll show in a follow-up piece, all of these kinship mechanisms are much at work in Europe today. Muslim immigrants in Europe use cousin marriage to keep wealth within already tight family lines, and to prevent girls from entering ‘shameful’ marriages with cultural outsiders. All this serves to reinforce family ‘solidarity,’ thereby blocking the assimilation of Muslim immigrants into society at large. We’ve all heard about full-body veiling, the seclusion of women, forced marriage, honor killing, and the like. Europe is struggling with the question of how to handle these practices. What we’ve missed up to now is the sense in which cousin marriage tends to organize and orchestrate all of these controversial practices, thereby serving as the lynch-pin of a broader pattern of resistance to assimilation and modernization. In effect, parallel-cousin marriage in Europe acts as a social ‘sealing mechanism’ to block cultural interchange — just as, over a century ago, Sir Edward Tylor theorized it would….”

“With Eyes Wide Open”
“Who they are; what we’re getting into.”
February 20, 2002

“The split between the state and society-at-large has a long history in the Middle East. The governments of Mohammad and his immediate successors, the ‘rightly guided Caliphs,’ were successful theocracies. But as Islam’s empire grew, the Caliphs were forced to resort to strategies of authoritarian rule and hereditary recruitment that violated strict Islamic principles of equality and consultation. The result was that the state itself lost legitimacy. Righteous Muslims grew more interested in avoiding the state than in serving it. The image of Mohammad’s just theocracy lived on, and religion was still blended with everyday social practice through the regulations of Islamic law, but for much of Islamic history, the state itself was devalued and delegitimated.

“That was less of a problem before the modern era. The great Islamic empires ruled their subjects lightly taxing and offering military protection, but for the most part depending on tribal ties and kinship (along with Islamic law) to regulate the daily business of life. The rulers stayed out of the day-to-day affairs of the people, and the people liked it that way. The old system allowed Muslim governments to cobble together huge empires out of essentially self-governing populations. Yet under modern conditions, the traditional split between the self-contained world of tribe and kin, on the one hand, and the state on the other, sets up a debilitating struggle between tradition and modernity.

“The meltdown in the Middle East has been fueled by massive population growth and a flood of rural immigrants into cities like Cairo and Istanbul. Governments have been hard pressed to provide the new urban immigrants with municipal services, much less jobs. That’s where those kin networks come in. In European history, even in rural areas, extended kinship ties grew progressively less important, until the collapse of feudalism and the rise of cities created a society of truly modern individuals. The new European society was ruled by powerful centralized governments, and bureaucracies that applied the law equally to all. But unlike the urban masses of Europe, the rural migrants powering the Middle East’s urban population explosion have brought their traditional kinship networks with them. Those networks offer support to the common man where weak Middle Eastern governments cannot — while also making it impossible for a modern political and economic system to take root. Family connections get you food when neither government nor the economy can provide it. But the corruption fueled by the family ethos sabotages the government’s distribution plans, undercuts the government’s legitimacy, and blocks the path to societal liberalization….

In short, the entire kinship system and its associated economic apparatus constitutes almost a society within a society, the massive holdings of which aren’t even counted toward Egypt’s GNP. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that the modern Egyptian government and economy are virtual alien implants, floating lightly on the surface of a still remarkably traditional society, even in a big city like Cairo. Yet people still expect the government to deliver cheap foodstuffs and other staples. It’s the government food subsidies that enable parents to squirrel away money for their children’s marriages — alliances that cement social connections that bring the security, opportunity, and prosperity that the government cannot deliver. That’s why threats to the food subsidies bring riots….”

“Veil of Fears”
“Why they veil; why we should leave it alone.”
December 15, 2001

“The conflict between modernity and the traditional Muslim view of women is one of the most important causes of this war. The tiresome claim of the leftist academy that poverty causes terrorism misses the point. So far from being poor, Muslim fundamentalists tend to come from a relatively wealthy modernizing class. The terrorists and their supporters are generally newly urbanized, college-educated professionals from intact families with rural backgrounds. They are a rising but frustrated cohort, shut out of power by a more entrenched and Westernized elite. True, the new fundamentalists often find themselves stymied by the weak economies of Muslim countries, but as a class they are relatively well off. Like many revolutions, the Muslim fundamentalist movement has been spurred by increased income, education, and expectations. But it is the clash between traditional Middle Eastern family life and modernity that has decisively pushed so many toward fundamentalism. And women are at the center of the problem….

“The Taliban’s code of womanly behavior was intentionally directed toward the cities. The aim was to ‘purify’ those areas of Afghanistan that had been ‘corrupted’ by modernization. But the Taliban never bothered to enforce its rules in traditional areas. Actually, in most Afghan villages, women rarely wear the burka. That’s because villages in Afghanistan are organized into kin-oriented areas, and the veil needs wearing only when a woman is among men from outside of her kin group. A rural woman puts on a burka for travel, especially to cities. Yet just by exiting her home, a woman in a modern city inevitably mixes with men who are not her kin. That’s why the Taliban prohibited the modernized women of Kabul from so much as stepping onto the street without a male relative. So the real problem with the veil in Afghanistan was the Taliban’s attempt to impose the traditional system of veiling on a modernizing city. Yet, remarkable as it may seem, many modernizing urban women throughout the Middle East have freely accepted at least a portion of the Taliban’s reasoning. These educated women have actually taken up the veil — and along with it, Muslim fundamentalism. To see why, it is necessary to understand what makes traditional Muslim women veil in the first place.

Life in the Muslim Middle East has long revolved around family and tribe. In fact, that’s what a tribe is — your family in its most extended form. For much of Middle Eastern history, tribal networks of kin functioned as governments in miniature. In the absence of state power, it was the kin group that protected an individual from attack, secured his wealth, and performed a thousand other functions. No one could flourish whose kin group was not strong, respected, and unified.

“In the modern Middle East, networks of kin are still the foundation of wealth, security, and personal happiness. That, in a sense, is the problem. As we’ve seen in Afghanistan, loyalty to kin and tribe cuts against the authority of the state. And the corrupt dictatorships that rule much of the Muslim Middle East often function themselves more like self-interested kin groups than as rulers who take the interests of the nation as a whole as their own. That, in turn, gives the populace little reason to turn from the proven support of kin and tribe, and trust instead in the state.

“So from earliest youth, a Middle Eastern Muslim learns that his welfare and happiness are bound up in the strength and reputation of his family. If, for example, a child shows a special aptitude in school, his siblings might willingly sacrifice their personal chances for advancement simply to support his education. Yet once that child becomes a professional, his income will help to support his siblings, while his prestige will enhance their marriage prospects.

“The ‘family’ to which a Muslim Middle Easterner is loyal, however, is not like our family. It is a ‘patrilineage’ — a group of brothers and other male relatives, descended from a line of men that can ultimately be traced back to the founder of a particular tribe. Traditionally, lineage brothers will live near one another and will share the family’s property. This willingness of a ‘band of brothers’ to pool their labor and wealth is the key to the strength of the lineage.

“But the centrality of men to the Muslim kinship system sets up a problem. The women who marry into a lineage pose a serious threat to the unity of the band of brothers. If a husband’s tie to his wife should become more important than his solidarity with his brothers, the couple might take their share of the property and leave the larger group, thus weakening the strength of the lineage.

“There is a solution to this problem, however — a solution that marks out the kinship system of the Muslim Middle East as unique in the world. In the Middle East, the preferred form of marriage is between a man and his cousin (his father’s brother’s daughter). Cousin marriage solves the problem of lineage solidarity. If, instead of marrying a woman from a strange lineage, a man marries his cousin, then his wife will not be an alien, but a trusted member of his own kin group. Not only will this reduce a man’s likelihood of being pulled away from his brothers by his wife, a woman of the lineage is less likely to be divorced by her husband, and more likely to be protected by her own extended kin in case of a rupture in the marriage. Somewhere around a third of all marriages in the Muslim Middle East are between members of the same lineage, and in some places the figure can reach as high as 80 percent. It is this system of ‘patrilateral parallel cousin marriage’ [fbd marriage-h.chick] that explains the persistence of veiling, even in the face of modernity.

By veiling, women are shielded from the possibility of a dishonoring premarital affair. But above all, when Muslim women veil, they are saving themselves for marriage to the men of their own kin group. In an important sense, this need to protect family honor and preserve oneself for an advantageous marriage to a man of the lineage is a key to the rise of Islamic revivalism….”

“After the War”
Winter 2003

“[I]f we do decide to try to impose democracy on Iraq, it will be far harder than proponents of democratization recognize. It will entail long, unremitting U.S. effort….

“The democratizers’ model for transforming Iraq is America’s post–World War II occupation of Japan….

“Efforts to democratize a country require more than modern liberal ideas; they require a class of people who embrace those ideas and make them effective. Had a sophisticated modern bureaucratic class not been on hand to accept and implement democratic reforms, the American occupation of Japan would not have succeeded. To be sure, excessive bureaucracy can suffocate democratic liberty, but modern bureaucracies are generally democratizing forces. They embody intrinsically modern, democratic ideas — that the government office is distinct from the individual who holds it, for example, and that rules apply to all with equal force. They blow apart traditional social relations — relations that are often powerful barriers to democratic reform—by centralizing authority and power in a national government.

“Japan’s relatively modern bureaucratic class was in place even before the Meiji Restoration. Many former samurai, displaced by history from their traditional military role, had moved into administrative positions. No egalitarians, these men possessed a profound sense of superiority and entitlement, based on a conviction that they had transcended the petty selfishness of the ordinary man to devote themselves to a higher good. In the administrative realm, their elite spirit of nobility and sacrifice took the form of an ethic of detachment, incorruptibility, and public-spiritedness — ideal virtues for modern bureaucratic elites. Once Meiji Japan began to copy Western bureaucratic and meritocratic models, the samurai, with their background in government service, fit right in and helped make those models work in their new Japanese setting, especially since these men had come under the influence of the liberty and popular-rights movement, whose leaders were displaced samurai like themselves.

“The distinctive samurai ethic of public service put an enduring stamp on the Japanese democracy that emerged from the American occupation. To this day, many scholars describe Japan as a ‘bureaucratic polity,’ with government bureaucrats running the country, the political parties, and the industries too.

Nothing comparable to Japan’s liberal intellectual tradition and modern, public-spirited bureaucratic class exists in Iraq or in any Arab country. The influence of fundamentalist Islam in the Arab world reflects a culture deeply inhospitable to democratic and liberal principles. In a perceptive recent National Interest article, Adam Garfinkle explains that, whereas democracies take as bedrock assumptions that political authority lies with society, that the majority rules, and that citizens are equal before the law, Arab societies vest political authority in the Qur’an, rest decision-making on consensus, and understand law and authority as essentially hierarchical. They lack such essential cultural preconditions for democracy as the idea of a loyal opposition or the rule of law or the separation of church and state. No surprise, given their nonmodern political beliefs, that not one Arab Muslim country qualifies as ‘free’ in Freedom House’s annual survey, and that a disproportionate number of Arab regimes qualify in the ‘worst of the worst’ category — the least free and least democratic on earth.

Arab Muslim societies remain un-modern and un-democratic not just in their attitudes toward political authority and law but also in their social organization. For men and women living within a universe where tribal identity, the duties and benefits of extended kinship networks, and conceptions of collective honor organize the relations of everyday life, democratic principles will be incomprehensible.

“And therefore democracy would be impossible. How could a modern, democratic bureaucracy function, for example, if officials remain loyal primarily to tribe, faction, or family? The power of such ties preempts any ethic of disinterested public service. A government office becomes a means of benefiting your family and harming your enemies, not applying the rules fairly. Saddam’s Iraq largely functions like one big tribal patriarchy, with Saddam the patriarch. His kin, together with members of his tribe and allied tribes, rule….”

“Assimilation Studies, Part I”
“Muslim and non-Muslim immigrants to Britain originating from the same region.”
March 21, 2007

“It’s a commonplace that Muslim immigrants in Europe have been slow to assimilate. In a general way, the public attributes this relative isolation to Muslim religion and culture. But if you’re looking for a clear, powerful, and detailed account of exactly what it is that’s been blocking Muslim assimilation in Europe, there is no better place to begin than Ballard.

“Variation on a Theme

“Before turning to Ballard’s work, I need to note that the form of cousin marriage favored by the Pakistani Muslims who immigrate to Britain is a regional variant on the ‘parallel cousin’ marriage [fbd marriage-h.chick] favored by Muslims in the heart of the Arab World. (I discussed the nature and significance of ‘parallel cousin’ marriage in ‘Marriage and the Terror War’ Parts I and II.) While many Pakistani Muslims do in fact marry their first or second ‘patrilateral parallel cousins’ (their father’s brother’s child), many others marry first and second cousins of other types. In contrast to Muslims in North Africa and the Arab World, Muslims in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan prefer marriage with any closely related cousin — not merely ‘patrilateral parallel cousins….’

Part of what makes Ballard’s 1990 ‘Migration and kinship’ piece so powerful is that he has identified Punjabi migration to Britain as something like a natural controlled experiment, with cousin marriage as the key variable. Somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of all South Asians in Britain are Punjabis. The Punjab sits athwart the border of India and Pakistan and is home to substantial communities of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. Muslims live almost exclusively in the Pakistani half of Punjab, while Sikhs and Hindus live largely in Indian Punjab. Whatever their religion, Punjabi migrants to Britain have a great deal in common. Most come from small, peasant, farming families, share basic cultural premises, speak a common language, and originally entered Britain intending to pocket savings from manual labor and return home. (In the end, many Punjabi guest workers remained in Britain.)

“In family life, Punjabis of whatever religion organize themselves into patrilineal descent groups. Within those patrilineal clans, a ‘joint family’ forms around a man, his married sons, and their children, with women leaving their natal homes to move in with their husbands. The family lives communally, sharing wealth and property, with grown sons under their father’s authority, and in-marrying wives working under the direction of their mother-in-law. And whether Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh, the modesty of women in dress and behavior is a key cultural value for all Punjabis.

Despite these many similarities, the position of Punjabi Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu immigrants in Britain dramatically differs. Ballard focuses his comparison on two immigrant groups: Punjabi Muslims from the Mirpur region of Pakistan and Punjabi Sikhs from the Jullundur region of India. (Ballard frequently invokes Punjabi Hindus for comparative purposes as well.) Far from being obscure or isolated examples, it turns out that nearly three-quarters of British Punjabis are either Mirpuri Muslims or (largely Sikh) Jullunduris. With Punjabis making up the great majority of all British South Asians, Ballard’s careful comparison is therefore telling us about two of the largest and most influential South Asian immigrant groups in Britain.

So what’s the difference between Jullunduri Sikhs and Mirpuri Muslims? Quite simply, Jullunduri Sikh’s have moved relatively far down the road of assimilation, while Mirpuri Muslims have not. Now largely middle class, many British Sikhs have abandoned manual labor to start their own businesses, have moved from the inner city to the suburbs, and currently see their children performing academically at the same level as other middle-class Britons. British Mirpuri Muslims, on the other hand, move between unemployment and manual labor, are still largely confined to poor, inner-city ethnic enclaves, and rear children with a limited grasp of English and a notably low level of academic achievement.

“Given the broad social, cultural, and linguistic similarities between Mirpuri Muslims and Jullunduri Sikhs (and Hindus), how are we to account for the radically different trajectories of these immigrant communities in Britain? Can religion explain the difference? In a sense, it can. Yet the key barriers to assimilation aren’t always religious in the strict sense. The factors that inhibit assimilation have less to do with Muslim beliefs per se than with the distinctive, non-textual practices that organize Muslim society.

In particular, the practice of cousin marriage has served to create a culturally insulated community of Mirpuri Muslims in Britain….

“After noting that economic factors can have only limited explanatory value in this case, Ballard goes on to highlight the influence of marriage practices on patterns of immigrant assimilation. Ballard suggests that the Muslim practice of cousin marriage may account for the formation of ‘far more in-turned and all-embracing’ kinship networks than we find among British Sikhs, thus helping to explain the two groups’ divergent patterns of economic achievement and cultural accommodation….

“Assimilation Studies, Part II”
“On cousin marriage and Pakistani Muslims in Britain.”
March 22, 2007

The practice of cousin marriage among Pakistani immigrants has significantly slowed Muslim assimilation in Britain. Muslim cousin marriage has also facilitated a process of ‘reverse colonization,’ in which large, culturally intact sections of Pakistani Muslim society have been effectively transferred to British soil. These conclusions emerge from the work of British South Asianist Roger Ballard — particularly from his path-breaking paper ‘Migration and kinship: the differential effects of marriage rules on the processes of Punjabi migration to Britain.’ In the first part of ‘Assimilation Studies,’ I laid out the background necessary to follow Ballard’s case. Here in Part II, I’ll run through the core of his argument. I’ll also explain why highlighting the significance of Muslim cousin marriage is such a difficult and controversial enterprise….

“Ballard (who’s done extensive fieldwork in Pakistan’s Mirpur district) estimates that ‘over 60% of all Mirpuri marriages are contracted between first cousins.’ In 2002, Ballard noted that: ‘At least half (and possibly as many as two-thirds) of the marriages currently being contracted by young British-based Mirpuris are still arranged with their cousins from back home….’

“What differences did Ballard find between the two big groups of British immigrants from the Punjab: Muslims from the Mirpur district of Pakistan, and Sikhs from the Jullundur district of India? Although both of these groups share a broadly similar social and cultural background, their patterns of assimilation have been strikingly different….

“Even in the 1970s, when Mirpuri Muslim laborers finally did begin to bring their wives and children to live with them in Britain, ties to Pakistan were sustained through ‘chain migration.’ With immigration regulations in Britain reflecting a lesser need and desire for foreign workers, villagers back in Mirpur could obtain visas only by marrying Mirpuri migrants already in Britain. Children of these couples, in turn, married and brought to England yet another generation of Mirpuri villagers, with each link in the chain of marriage migration insuring that the process of adjustment to English language and culture would begin again from scratch. These relatively unassimilated Mirpuri marriage-migrants were largely confined to the inner-city — to neighborhoods that recreated, insofar as possible, the linguistic and cultural conditions of Pakistan itself. Given their limited contact with English-speaking neighbors, Mirpuri children in these ethnic ghettos continued to have problems in school.

So, even when Mirpuri migrant men finally did reunite their families in Britain, it was less a breaking of the bonds that linked them to Pakistan than an effective transfer of a South Asian village society to Britain itself — a sort of ‘reverse colonization’ — with marriage-driven chain migration keeping the ties between the ‘reverse colony’ and the Punjabi homeland as strong as ever. In combination with the original post-war labor inflow, marriage-driven chain migration has now succeeded in transferring well over 50 percent of Mirpur’s original population to Britain. ‘We don’t cultivate wheat here any more,’ one of Ballard’s Mirpuri informants commented, ‘we cultivate visas instead….’

“As Muslim and Sikh immigrants gradually adjusted to life in Britain, it became increasingly evident that marriages arranged with villagers from back home tended to be riven with conflict. Cultural differences, the language gap, and the wide divergence in general social competence between British-raised youth and their spouses from South Asia frequently made for trouble and strife. So when the parents of British-born Sikhs were faced with the offer of an arranged marriage with a villager from Punjab, their children invariably opposed the match. In doing so, these young Sikhs had the advantage of knowing that their parents were under no obligation to accept any particular proposal of marriage. Given the Sikh practice of clan exogamy, every marriage is arranged from scratch with an outsider. In short order, therefore, the new generation of British-born Sikhs successfully pressed their parents to arrange marriages with British-born (or perhaps even North American-born) Sikh partners.

“The situation was very different for children of Mirpuri Muslims. Among Mirpuris, it’s taken for granted that cousins have a virtual right-of-first-refusal in the matter of marriage. Even in the absence of immigration, it would have been entirely expected that the children of Mirpuri migrants would marry their cousins. How much more so was this the case when a marriage meant a British visa, and a vast increase in wealth — all redounding to the honor of the patriclan? Many Mirpuri migrants had only made it to Britain in the first place with economic help from a brother back in Pakistan. This practice of sharing of resources within the joint family created a powerful moral obligation to repay that financial help by arranging a marriage (and a visa) for the child of the brother who remained in Pakistan.

“The British-born children of these Mirpuri Muslim migrants were perhaps a bit less apprehensive than their British Sikh counterparts about the idea of marrying villagers from back home. After all, these young Mirpuris had gotten to know their cousins on those long visits to Pakistan, and some affectionate attachments had developed. Yet the chronic problems of transnational marriages did indeed call forth opposition to such matches from many young Mirpuris. In contrast to the situation among immigrant Sikhs, however, the hands of Mirpuri parents were largely tied. To refuse a marriage with a relative back in Pakistan, when customary rights, financial obligation, and family honor were all at stake, would have been tantamount to a repudiation of siblingship itself. Such a severing of ties could bring retaliation in the form of efforts to blacken the honor of an immigrant and his family — a particularly severe sanction among Muslims.

So while Sikh immigrants increasingly broke the links of marriage-driven chain migration, the practice of Muslim cousin-marriage insured that assimilation itself would virtually begin again from scratch with each new generational infusion of Mirpuri spouses. The result has been economic stagnation and the literal transfer of more than half of Mirpur’s population to an archipelago of ‘reverse colonies’ in the heart of Britain….”

previously: stanley kurtz rocks and nowhere to run and father’s brother’s daughter marriage and tribes and types of cousin-marriage

(note: comments do not require an email. british mirpuri community.)


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