Archives for posts with tag: biology matters

september 10, 506 — 1,508 years ago today — was the final day of the council of agde, a meeting of bishops from all over what was then the visigothic kingdom in southern france (and spain, too, obviously). the council was headed by caesarius of arles and held at the basilica of st. andrew. (don’t know on which day the council was convened — sometime in late august.) the church is still there, btw!:

agde

an interesting little sidenote is that the visigoths at the time were still arians, so this meeting of bishops really related to, and would’ve affected only, the gallo-roman population of the region. in fact, the bishops were all very much gallo-romans themselves!

anyway, the council issued numerous canons, one of which forbade marriage to first and second cousins. this is the earliest official cousin marriage ban by the church that i know of, although st. augustine of hippo (d.430) certainly discussed at length in his The City of God (early fifth century) how it would be a good thing if christians were to marry out, a theme that st. aquinas would later pick up on.

people often ask me: “so why did the church get it into its head to ban cousin marriage, hbd chick?”

i. don’t. know. (*^_^*)

as i said above, this is the earliest official ban against cousin marriage from church authorities that we know of. what possessed the gallo-roman bishops at agde to do so, i have no idea. bishop caesarius was certainly an interesting fellow though. for instance, he thought that all priests and bishops (and nuns) ought to live austere lives like monks, and he actually instituted that policy in his own disocese, so i suspect that he was one of these guys who really did want to recreate god’s kingdom here on earth as much as possible, and he seems to have practiced what he preached.

caesarius’ teacher was one julianus pomerius, and his teacher was st. augustine, so here we have a direct line from augustine — who thought that christians ought to marry out — to caesarius and his council issuing this marriage canon. the funny thing is, though, augustine’s teacher was st. ambrose (d.397) who also had some things to say about cousin marriage — in fact, it was apparently he who recommended to theodosius i (d.395) to issue a secular ban against cousin marriage in the empire (theodosius did, but it didn’t stick — theodosius ii rescinded the ban). funnily enough, ambrose, like caesarius, was also from gaul (trier), so we come nearly full circle with these connections.

i suspect that the idea of avoiding cousin marriage was somehow a roman idea which was familiar to these early, urbanized, roman (or romanized) church leaders, one which they began to utilize when they encountered all these clannish barbarians (in gaul and in north africa, for example) and, as christopher burd put it on twitter, uncivilized, inbreeding country “hicks” in general. my guess is that they were trying to come up with a way to get rid of all the clannish infighting — and their plan just happened to work MUCH better than they ever imagined.

what i don’t understand — and what i need to find out more about — is how the early medieval church functioned. how the hierarchy worked and how the issuing of rules and regulations happened.

i’ve read a little about this council of agde now, and the historians i’ve read describe it as a “national” council — their scare quotes, not mine — since, unlike one of the huge church councils such as nicaea, the bishops who attended agde were only local — just from the areas in southern france held by the visigoths. what i want to know is, were the canons issued at agde binding everywhere then, or just in southern france there? could bishops in southern italy or ireland or constantinople just say, oh h*ck, we’re not going to follow those silly canons, or were they obliged to? or did canons issued by “national” councils need to be approved by rome first? i have no idea. Further Research is RequiredTM.

if canons issued by local councils only applied locally, that might explain why cousin marriage appears to have continued for some time after 506, like among the franks, for instance, who were just a stone’s throw away in northern france (until they took over the visigothic kingdom!), but who don’t seem to have taken these cousin marriage bans seriously until something like the 700s.

we do know, though, that rome was definitely behind the cousin marriage bans by the late sixth-early seventh centuries. augustine of canterbury (d.604) was sent in 595 to convert the anglo-saxons in england by pope gregory the great. he wrote to pope gregory in a panic asking what he should do about all the cousin marriage among the anglo-saxons, to which gregory replied that the newly converted should be allowed to remain married to their cousins, but going forward, NO cousin marriage.

how and when hq back in rome began backing this idea remains to be discovered.

anyway…happy council of agde day to you all! (^_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. 12th-century reliquary of caesarius of arles.)

pinker, that is. staffan wins, of course! (^_^)

if you haven’t read staffan’s latest post, you really should! it’s terrific!: The Myth of the Expanding Circle or You Can’t Learn How to Be an English Vegetarian.

here’s a short excerpt:

“[Goldstien] argues that it was Enlightenment (aka the Age of Reason), beginning from late 1600s, that expanded the circle of empathy, a process driven by the thinkers of that era,

“‘…if you look at the history of moral progress, you can trace a direct pathway from reasoned arguments to changes in the way that we actually feel. Time and again, a thinker would lay out an argument as to why some practice was indefensible, irrational, inconsistent with values already held.’

“We wouldn’t like to be kept as slaves, we wouldn’t like this for our family or friends either, so why would we like it for foreigners? Reason compels us to widen our circle of empathy.

“She then proceeds to illustrate her point with some humanitarians like Bentham, Erasmus, John Locke, Mary Astell etc. Pinker concedes and they both reflect on how this reason-driven process will make our grandchildren think of us as barbarians given how much further their circle of empathy will reach. End of story.

“And yet at the beginning of the dialogue Pinker stated,

“‘My fellow psychologists have shown that we’re led by our bodies and our emotions and use our puny powers of reason merely to rationalize our gut feelings after the fact.’

“This of course refers to Jonathan Haidt and others whose research makes a good case for such post hoc rationalization being an important aspect of human nature. To illustrate this behavior he likens our emotions with an elephant and our reason with the rider. The elephant, being much stronger, walks about as he pleases while the helpless rider pretends that he is in complete control.

“Given this statement, it’s a bit disconcerting how easily Pinker ignores the obvious risk that their conclusion might also be post hoc rationalization. After all, two top notch academics agreeing that all you need is reason sounds a bit like two hippies agreeing that all you need is love. So is it post hoc? It definitely has some conspicuous flaws that suggest so.

“As Pinker himself pointed out back in 2002 in his book The Blank Slate, all behavioral traits are highly inheritable and change very little over the lifespan and, most importantly, they are unaffected by shared environment, such as schools, education – and humanitarian essays. But width of empathy must, by any reasonable definition, be a behavioral trait. But by their logic it would be a trait like no other, strongly affected by shared environment, even though all other traits, thus including very similar traits like ingroup loyalty and identification, aren’t. So either width of empathy isn’t a behavioral trait – which is crazy – or it is somehow a completely unique trait affected by shared environment. Either way Pinker and Goldstein have some serious splaining to do.”

(~_^) read the whole post @staffan’s — it’s definitely NOT to be missed!

(note: comments do not require an email. The Blank Slate.)

THIS is the best article i’ve read all week! possibly all month. in fact, it’s soooo interesting, i’m going to read it over and over again! (pretty sure i’ve got it memorized already actually…. (*^_^*) )

by ed west, The Church v the Family appeared in The Catholic Herald a couple of weeks ago:

“So why is Europe different? The answer is the Catholic Church. Christianity in our minds is linked to ‘family values’, as Right-wing politicians used to say before an imminent sex scandal, but from the beginning it was almost anti-family, and Jesus told his disciples to leave theirs. Whereas Judaism had been heavily kinship-based, Christ voiced the view that the noblest thing was to lay down one’s life for a friend – a gigantic moral leap. This universal ideal was spread by St Paul who famously stated that there would be neither Jew nor Greek, ‘for ye are all one in Christ Jesus’.

“Although both large Abrahamic faiths are universalist, western Christianity was far more jealous of rival loyalties, such as could be found in the clan, and wanted to weaken them. St Augustine of Hippo and St Thomas Aquinas both encouraged marrying out as a way of widening social ties, and in Summa Theologica Aquinas objected to cousin marriages on the grounds that they ‘prevent people widening their circle of friends’. He wrote: ‘When a man takes a wife from another family he is joined in special friendship with her relations; they are to him as his own.’

“The influence of the Church caused Europeans to be less clannish and therefore made it easier for large territorial magnates to forge nation-states.

“Another consequence was the nuclear family, which developed in the North Sea region around the turn of the millennium. It was influenced by the western European manor system of agriculture, under which peasants managed their own farms let out to them by the lord of the manor, owing him obligations of work. This encouraged adult children to move out of the family home, whereas in most cultures three generations lived together under a paterfamilias.

“With the nuclear family came a move away from group identity and towards the western concept of individual rights and liberalism. It was a revolutionary idea and in parts of the world where the clan still rules it is still an alien one.”

(^_^) read the whole thing on west’s blog!

previously: whatever happened to european tribes? and st. augustine and st. thomas aquinas and big summary post on the hajnal line

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

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.
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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.
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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.)

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