which came first?

(the culture or the biology?)

so, some researchers found a rare variation of the 5-HT2B gene in finns that correlates strongly with violent, impulsive behavior. (see @gnxp: “hotheads by nature”)

which brought to my mind this paper by richerson and boyd: “Culture is Part of Human Biology: Why the Superorganic Concept Serves the Human Sciences Badly.”

in it, the researchers, referring to cohen & nisbett’s work, have this to say…

“Rates of violence in the American South have long been much greater than in the North. Accounts of duels, feuds, bushwhackings, and lynchings occur prominently in visitors’ accounts, newspaper articles, and autobiography from the 18th Century onward. According to crime statistics these differences persist today. In their book, Culture of Honor, Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen (1996) argue that the South is more violent than the North because Southerners have different, culturally acquired beliefs about personal honor than Northerners. The South was disproportionately settled by Protestant Scotch-Irish, people with an animal herding background, whereas Northern settlers were English, German and Dutch peasant farmers….

“Their [Cohen & Nisbett] laboratory experiments are most relevant to our argument here. Cohen and Nisbett recruited subjects with Northern and Southern backgrounds from the University of Michigan student body, ostensibly to work on an psychological task dealing with perception. During the experiment, a confederate bumped some subjects and muttered ‘asshole’ at them. Cortisol (a stress hormone) and testosterone (rises in preparation for violence) were measured before and after the insult. Insulted Southerners showed big jumps in both cortisol and testosterone compared to uninsulted Southerners and insulted Northerners….”

…and then richerson & boyd go on to say…

“Nisbett and Cohen’s study illustrates the two main points we want to make in this essay.
– Culture is fundamental to understanding human behavior.
– Culture causes behavior by causing changes in our biology.”

yeah. sure. terrific.

but what if, also, our biology causes human behaviors which collectively become human culture(s).

i mean, in cohen & nisbitt’s study, there’s cortisol and testosterone levels going up. that sounds like biology to me!

personality is heritable. so is intelligence. what if different frequencies of whatever genes (alleles) it is that contribute to, say, flying off the handle happen to be more common in protestant scotch-irish people than in the english, german or dutch? couldn’t that account for why the culture of the american south is more violent?

i’m sure that there’s constant feedback here between our biology(ies) and our culture(s), but how come researchers never even bother to ask the sort of question i’m asking here? seems kinda, you know, obvious.

see also: Warrior gene prevalent in Maori: study

previously: extraversion and culture

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ethnographic chart of the world

from 1854 (click on the image for a LARGER view):

from flickr via BibliOdyssey“Chart of the World Exhibiting Its Chief Physical Features. Currents of the Ocean &c. Ethnographic Chart of the World Shewing [sic] the Distribution and Varieties of the Human Race.”

IN: ‘General Atlas Of The World: Containing Upwards Of Seventy Maps. Engraved On Steel, In The First Style Of Art, By Sidney Hall, William Hughes, F.R.G.S., &c. New Edition. Embracing All The Latest Discoveries Obtained From Government Surveys And Expeditions, Books Of Recent Travel, And Other Sources, Including The North-West Passage Discovered By H.M. Ship Investigator. With Introductory Chapters On The Geography And Statistics Of The Various Countries Of The World, And A Complete Index Of 65,000 Names’ by Adam & Charles Black, Sidney Hall and William Hughes, 1854; published in Edinburgh by A & C Black.

tribalism makes a comeback!

(had it ever really gone away?)

Rise of the Hans
By Joel Kotkin

“But most people do not really see themselves as members of a large multinational unit, global citizens, or ‘mass consumers.’ Instead the drivers of history remain the essentials: the desire to feed one’s family, support the health of the tribe, and shape the immediate community. The particularistic continues to trump the universalistic….

“The new tribalism is also increasingly evident in Europe. Just a few years ago Europhiles like French eminence grise Jacques Attali or left-wing author Jeremy Rifkin could project a utopian future European Union that would stand both as a global role model and one of the world’s great powers. Today, Rifkin’s ideal of a universalistic ‘European dream’ is collapsing — a process accelerated by the financial crisis — as the continent is torn apart by deep-seated historical and cultural rifts.

Europe today can best be seen as divided between three cultural tribes: Nordic-Germanic, Latin, and Slavonic. In the north, there is a vast region of prosperity, a zone of Nordic dynamism. Characterized by economies based on specialized exports, a still powerful Protestant ethic, and a culture that embraces authority, these countries — including Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Germany, and, arguably, the Baltic states — are becoming ever more aware of the cultural, fiscal, and attitudinal gulf between them and the southern countries….

“In a world dominated increasingly by Asia, northern Europe cannot be anything more than a peripheral global power, which may explain its new introversion. Instead these resilient cultures more accurately represent a revival of the old Hanseatic League, a network of opportunistic and prosperous trading states that ringed the North and Baltic seas during the 13th century. This new league increasingly battles over issues of trade and fiscal policy, often with ill-disguised contempt, with the southern European countries I call ‘the Olive Republics’: a region typified by dire straits, with rapidly aging populations, enormous budget deficits, and declining industrial might. Southern Europe now constitutes a zone of lassitude that extends from Portugal and Spain through the south of France, Italy, the former Yugoslavia, Greece, and Bulgaria.

“The last European tribe includes the Slavic countries, centered by Russia but extending to parts of the Balkans as well, places like Ukraine, Belarus, Serbia, and Moldova that historically have looked east as well as west and are currently defined by shrinking populations and weak democratic institutions. A historic pattern of Russian domination is evident here, based in large part on a revived Slavic identity that embraces similarities in religion, culture, history, and language with countries living under Russia’s shield. In this sense the czars are back, not a great development for the rest of the world or for the fading chimera of a “common European home….'”

this is an ages old divide in europe — latins+the british isles (-the anglo-saxons, of course) versus the germans versus the slavs. going right back to, possibly, the neolithic when famers from the middle east spread out through europe, mainly taking a southern, mediterranean route (club med! who wouldn’t?), as far as i can see, through the balkans, italy, the iberian peninsula, up through france and finally hitting the british isles:

this tripartite division of europe has influenced|dictated so much in european history. i mean, look at the (broadly speaking) religious divide in europe (just look at it!):

latins+british isles=roman catholic; germans=protestant; slavs=eastern orthodox.

also, latins+british isles=piigs; germans=the thrifty, competent people who might get stuck bailing-out the e.u.; slavs=f*cked up former communist countries.

the economic|tribal divide in europe that kotkin talks about is the same one that has created the long-standing cultural divides in europe. all of it is founded in long-standing genetic divides in europe — i.e. there are different peoples in europe.

after all, where does culture come from again?

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and now back to our regularly scheduled programming

christmas and new year’s were reeeeally busy! full house. visiting relatives. kids and toys everywhere! (i’m still finding stray lego pieces….)

and then i came down with the flu. ugh.

so that’s my excuse for the the lack of posting (and i’m sticking to it!) … and sorry for the lag-times in approving comments.

anyway. back to business!

besos,
hbdchick (^_^)