happy birthday to me!

well, happy birthday to the hbd chick blog which launched one year ago today. yay! have a muffin**. (^_^)

(**paleo-diet safe ’cause they’re, you know, only virtual muffins.)


in 1964, william d. hamilton published a couple of papers outlining his theory of inclusive fitness in which he suggested that individual organisms may increase their total fitness (i.e. the propogation of their genes) not only by reproducing themselves, but also by helping out other individuals with whom they share genes to reproduce successfully. if, in addition to having two children myself (or none at all for that matter), i also help my two siblings — with whom i share genes — to raise a couple of kids each, then i have helped to propogate even more copies of my own genes than those that my children carry. i have increased my fitness.

hamilton gave some examples in one of these papers of how this might work in various animal societies. he talked a lot about ants, for one, and how inclusive fitness explains the quirky social structure of the ant colony — i.e. that (in most ant societies) only the queen reproduces and all the rest of the ants just work to help raise her kids. why would any ant in their right mind do such a thing? well, the key is that, because of the way ants reproduce (don’t ask — it’s too complicated!), the worker ants actually share three-quarters (0.75) of their dna with their sisters rather than, say, one-half (like in humans), so it makes more sense for them fitness-wise to help raise their sisters than their own offspring. hamilton had cracked the mystery of the seemingly incomprehensible altruistic behaviors of ants.

much hilarity research into inclusive fitness and altruism has ensued since the publication of hamilton’s articles.

and while that’s all really interesting (really, really interesting!), hamilton thought that inclusive fitness could explain not just altruistic behaviors, but all sorts of social behaviors in organisms (including humans, of course), as is evidenced by the title of another one of his papers: “Innate Social Aptitudes of Man: an Approach from Evolutionary Genetics.” not the “innate altruistic aptitudes of man” but the “innate social aptitudes of man.” many different types of human behaviors hinge on inclusive fitness from the altruistic to the (depending on your p.o.v.) very un-altruistic.

one set of behaviors that seems to be influenced by inclusive fitness considerations is the control of reproduction in others. this has been fairly well established in certain social animals (mongooses, meerkats, naked mole-rats); but it also — not surprisingly — seems to be the case in humans. i haven’t discussed it much on the ol’ blog here, but i have brought it up once or twice. well, once anyways. humans — like mongooses, meerkats and naked mole-rats — take a keen interest in who their relatives choose to mate with — and they’re (we’re) more interested in the mating choices of closer relatives than more distant ones. this makes sense because we share more genes with more closely related relatives.

so, all sorts of social behaviors beyond altruistic ones are probably affected by inclusive fitness.

the other thing to keep in mind (which i’ve been babbling about at length here on the hbd chick blog) is that different populations of people have different degrees of relatedness to their fellows due to different mating patterns. this makes the inclusive fitness thing all the more interesting because, for instance, in many societies around the world, peoples’ children are also their cousins and so they (probably) share more genes with their children than we do with ours. therefore, their inclusive fitness interests in their children will be somewhat — or, perhaps, very — different from ours.

different degrees of relatedness (looking away from any inbreeding for a sec) have been shown to affect the behaviors of family members toward one another. the different types of grandmothers (paternal versus maternal), for instance, behave differently towards their male and female grandchildren because of inclusive fitness-related interests. (grandmothers are related to their granchildren to various degrees due to the differential inheritance of the sex chromosomes.) imagine what happens when inbreeding occurs and these different degrees of relatedness are, therefore, amplified.

mating patterns affect social behaviors right across entire societies because the relatedness between individuals in different societies differs. thus you get the rampant nepotism and clannishness in places like iraq and afghanistan that makes, as steve sailer, parapundit, stanley kurtz and robin fox have all pointed out, a political system based on democracy a non-starter in those places. the people in those populations are too genetically invested in their fellow family members to ever want to cooperate in a civil society with unrelated individuals. there is too much genetically at stake for them to do so.

the flip-side of inbreeding (too much?) is outbreeding (too much?). outbreeding results in a different set of inclusive fitness-related drives and issues as compared to inbreeding. in a population that is not inbred you get, as steve sailer put it, “broad but shallow regional blood ties.” inclusive fitness interests in an outbred population operate in such a way as to make, not the members of a clan (a very extended family) driven to cooperate against all outsiders like in an inbred society, but rather a much larger number of more distantly related individuals — a nation you might call it — really eager to work together. this is because the members’ genes are spread out over a wider population.

and, in a nice recursive twist, inclusive fitness and genetic relatedness affect the structures of societies — which, in turn, become new environments with new factors for natural selection to “use” upon individuals. a shift in mating patterns can mean a shift in the social environment, as we’ve seen in medieval europe (if you’ve been following along), which can mean that different behavioral traits will be selected for in a population. (yes, i know — i should read “A Farewell to Alms.”) what goes around comes around.

so, inclusive fitness underlies not only altruism and social control of reproduction, but nepotism and tribalism — and even individualism and democracy and universalism. genetic relatedness and inclusive fitness are the keystones of human social behaviors from the small (whether your favor your son or your daughter) to the great (western civilization as we know it). am i over-estimating its importance? maybe. but i don’t think so. it’s all biology, after all. (or maybe chemistry … or physics ….)

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

see also: cousin marriage conundrum addendum and everything in the “Inbreeding in Europe Series” listed below in the left-hand column.

update 11/23/11: see also four things.

(note: comments do not require an email. altruism?)

linkfest – 08/28/11

No Surprise for Bisexual Men: Report Indicates They Exist — see also: Scientific U-Turn: Male Bisexuality Is Real

The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight“The Misconception: You celebrate diversity and respect others’ points of view. The Truth: You are driven to create and form groups and then believe others are wrong just because they are others.”

Sex Differences in Scientific Knowledge – @the reluctant apostate.

Why boys bottle it up and girls can’t keep quiet: The different ways the sexes deal with problems“A study claims that most men, rather than being too inhibited to share their feelings, simply do not see the point of airing their woes.”

Harvard study says poverty doesn’t explain away low American math scores

What Determines A Company’s Performance? The Shape Of The CEO’s Face!“CEOs with wider faces, like Herb Kelleher, the former CEO of Southwest Airlines, have better-performing companies than CEOs like Dick Fuld, the long-faced final CEO of Lehman Brothers.”

The Shape of a Nose“Cold-weather noses may function differently from those that evolved in hot and humid climates”

Prone to flu? Just blame it on your genes… scientists discover that some of us can resist the bug

Birthweight link to lifelong health“If crucial genes are not switched on during foetal development as they should be, that can permanently change the structure and function of an unborn baby for life.”

El Nino Weather Cycle Boosts Civil War Risks – @futurepundit.

Older Brains Better At Longer Term Strategy Games? – also @futurepundit.

bonus: London’s Burning: Is Bootcamp the Solution?“Are the London riots a moral or a tribal issue?”

(note: comments do not require an email. diamonds are a girl’s best friend!)

la famiglia

so, we saw that at the time of italian unification — presumably a period of lots o’ social upheaval — italians started marrying their cousins more and more:

cavalli-sforza, et. al., put this down to increasing population size (more people around in the population, more cousins available to marry), and that may very well be right (altho i wonder about that). but i also think that people might just turn to marrying family as a sort-of security move in times of distress — like after the two world wars in italy.

another way that italians turned towards their families around this time period, especially in sicily, was in the development of the mafia. the feudal system (finally!) collapsed in sicily in the early part of the nineteenth century — and then the island was united to the rest of italy in 1860. (interesting times!) during all this upheaval, the mafia was born. originally it was simply a bunch of groups of extended family members and villagers (i.e. extended extended family members) banding together to protect themselves and their properties. aaaaand pretty soon they got into the protection racket. and the rest is godfather prequel material history.

a lot of the stories about the modern mafia (at least the ones i’ve read over the past couple of days) like to emphasize the almost corporate nature of the group now. you just swear an oath and you’re in. well, in some cases, yeah — but the various mafia clans are really mostly still that — clans.

from “Honour and Violence” [pgs. 88-89]:

“As is well known, mafia enterprise involves control over the local economy (including real estate, building contracts and markets), canvassing votes for politician-protectors and (since the 1970s) international drug-trafficking. There were well over a hundred of these families in Sicily as a whole and about twenty-five in Palermo alone. In total there were several thousand mafiosi. What is known about the composition and structure of these families?

“First, they include agnatic kinsmen — that is, blood relatives who are exclusively related through males or, differently phrased, related on the father’s side. Often, the core of these families consists of a father and his sons, a set of brothers, sometimes including one or more agnatic uncles and cousins. In particular, sets of brothers have always been very common in mafia families, both in the city and in the countryside.

“All these people are related by blood…. If in the absence of effective state control trust can be found anywhere, it is primarily in the bonds between agnatic kinsmen.

“Succession to positions of leadership usually follows the same agnatic lines. The oldest son often takes the place of his father, or, sometimes, his father’s brother or, less commonly, his mother’s brother….

“Bonds within and between mafia families are reinforced by intermarriage. Along with agnatic kinsmen, therefore, these families include in-laws, or affines. Also defined as kinsmen (parenti), they are relatives by marriage and as a rule not people to whom one is related by blood, although marriage between cousins does occur. Bonds with in-laws figure prominently in coalitions of mafiosi. Next to sets of agnatic kinsmen, one often finds sets of brothers-in-law as the core of these local groups of mafia families….

“Moreover, in order to illustrate the organizational flexibility and structural fluidity of the Sicilian mafia, matrilineal relations are also used to build powerful alliances. Of particular importance are the bonds between a mother’s brother and sister’s son since the position of leadership may also be transferred matrilineally….”

and, here from a report from the palermo public prosecutor’s office [pgs. 91 & 93]:

“The Spatolas were found to be one of the four Mafia Families forming a transatlantic colossus. The Cherry Hill Gambinos were another. The Inzerillos, closest of all clans to Stefano Bontate, were a third. The fourth, related to the other three by blood and marriage, were the Di Maggios of Palermo and southern New Jersey. Their intercontinental family ties resembled the Hapsburgs’ or Hohenzollerns’, the marriages arranged to strengthen dynasties and preserve the blood royal. There were six Spatolas involved, five Gambinos (three brothers and two cousins), four Di Maggios, and fifteen Inzerillos. The Gambinos’ mother’s brother was a Spatola. The Inzerillos’ father has married a Di Maggio, who brother had married a Spatola.

Salvatore Inzerillo, the biggest heroin broker of all, had been chosen to head the Family’s clan by his retiring uncle, Rosario Di Maggio…. Inzerillo was married to a Spatola [his mother’s brother’s daughter]. His sister was married to a Spatola. His uncle in New Jersey was married to a Gambino. His cousin and namesake in New Jersey was married to a Gambino. His cousin Tommaso was a brother-in-law of John Gambino, who was married to a different Gambino. His cousin Maria Concetta was the wife of John Gambino’s younger brother, Giuseppe. All the American-side members of these families were made Men of Honor from Sicily; and all had homes in or around Cherry Hill….

“These four families, living partly in Sicily and partly in New York, form a single clan unlike anything in Italy or the United States — the most potent Family in Cosa Nostra. John Gambino is the converging point in the United States for all of the group’s activities in Italy, and the final destination for its drug shipments. Salvatore Inzerillo has emerged as the Gambino brothers’ principal interlocutor, the central personage in Sicily, with myriad interests and heavy capital investments.”

la famiglia, indeed!

previously: il risorgimento and italian inbreeding? and inbreeding in italy and i wasn’t imagining it

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child swapping

in the south pacific:

“Warring Pacific tribes swap two young children to end violent feud”

“In a move designed by Vanuatu tribal chiefs to heal the rift, a young boy and girl will be exchanged between the groups – a practice that has not taken place on the island for more than 200 years.

“Warring tribes on the tiny Pacific island of Tanna have agreed to swap two children to settle a long-running land dispute that descended into violence.

“The clans, who have been arguing over property rights on the island for more than two decades, revived the ancient and controversial custom of child swapping in an attempt to end hostilities after the feud turned violent and several people were injured in a brawl.

“Such a child swap has not taken place in more than 200 years.

“Seth Kaurua, from the Vanuatu Council of Chiefs, said the feud between the two tribes had been going on for 27 years, but the chiefs had to step in when it turned violent and several people were injured….

“The aim of the exchange was to ‘build a bridge between the two tribes and make the relationship stronger….’

“Exchanging children is rare in Tanna, and frowned on by the court system, but it is does take place from time to time. It is not uncommon on the island for a female child to be given away to replace a lost family member – for example if a child is killed in a car accident, the driver could offer one of their own children as reparation….

“While the child does not have to move to its new tribe immediately, they will grow up in the knowledge that they no longer belong to their parents, and will eventually have to leave, Mr Kaurua said.”

from another article on the story:

“Vauatu and dispute settled through child swap”

“WILSON: So does the child typically maintain contact with both families?

“KAURUA: Yes, the child will always stay wherever he wants, he or she can go to the other family as well as the other family, so that’s how, I’m saying it’s like building a bridge across the two different families….

“WILSON: How is the child or the family involved, how are they selected?

“KAURUA: The child is normally selected from the family that is the ringleader to that particular violence.”

fair enough.

child swapping in the form of hostages and fosterage was pretty common in medieval europe — hostages amongst the carolingians and fosterage in the “celtic” fringe for example. in fact, fosterage seems to have lasted into the late eighteenth-century in remote parts of scotland (i know — that last phrase is redundant).

back to the south pacific — tanna sounds like a fun place! it’s the home of the john frum cargo cult! and another cult that i hadn’t heard of until just now — the prince philip movement!:

“The Prince Philip Movement is a religious sect followed by the Yaohnanen tribe on the southern island of Tanna in Vanuatu.

“The Yaohnanen believe that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the consort to Queen Elizabeth II, is a divine being; the pale-skinned son of a mountain spirit and brother of John Frum. According to ancient tales the son travelled over the seas to a distant land, married a powerful lady and would in time return. The villagers had observed the respect accorded to Queen Elizabeth II by colonial officials and came to the conclusion that her husband, Prince Philip, must be the son from their legends….”

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