two things

1) inclusive fitness — hamilton’s idea that your genetic success should be calculated by considering both your direct descendants AND other individuals who happen to share copies of your genes and whom you have aided in some way — means that individuals who are more altruistic towards those other individuals with whom they share a good deal of genes, close-ish family members being the most likely candidates, increase their total fitness. inbreeding, because it amplifies the relatedness between family members, can amplify the altruistic behaviors between them.

2) altruistic behaviors are behavioral traits that are selected for under certain conditions (selective pressures) because such behaviors pay off (i.e. increasing an individual’s fitness or inclusive fitness). there are many, many, many types of altruistic behaviors, including those that are on the “dark side” of altruism (bigotry, waaaaycism, genocide), so there cannot possibly be just one “gene for altruism.” inbreeding, because it amplifies the relatedness between family members, can make the evolution of “genes for familial altruism” easier/happen more quickly (see here and here).

(ok. so technically that’s more than just two things. so sue me! (^_^) )
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regarding the first point — inbreeding, because it amplifies the relatedness between family members, can amplify the altruistic behaviors between them — let’s take two examples: a population that breeds entirely randomly (doesn’t really exist in humans) and a population that inbreeds (cousins marry cousins regularly, for instance).

in the randomly breeding (diploid) population, the relatedness between the various family members looks like this. in such a population, first-cousins will probably share 1/8th (12.5%) of their dna in common; that’s an inbreeding coefficient of 6.25%.

first-cousins in the regularly inbreeding population will share a greater amount of dna in common because they share so many ancestors in common, so their inbreeding coefficients will be higher. for instance, some first-cousins from pakistan and saudi arabia, two societies with very long histories of cousin marriage, have inbreeding coefficients of 11%, almost double those in a randomly mating population.

so, all else being equal (which is obviously never the case), if we take a totally made-up example of an altruistic behavior — the sharing of bananas — one would expect to find that the first-cousins in the inbreeding population, since they are more closely related to one another, share more bananas with each other on average than the first-cousins in the randomly mating population. the first-cousins in the randomly mating population should share more bananas with each other than they do with their second-cousins, because they share more genes with each other than they do with their second-cousins — but overall their altruistic behaviors won’t hold a candle to the inbred first-cousins.

got that? (^_^)

macaque monkeys provide a good example of how more closely related family members are more altruistic towards one another than more distantly related family members. the closer the genetic relationship, the more grooming between two macaque relatives; the more distant the relationship, the less grooming

confused beetles provide a good example of how more inbred family members are more altruistic towards their close relatives than randomly mated family members are. in this case, we’re talking about an example of the “dark side” of altruism: randomly mated confused beetles cannibalize other related confused beetle larvae more than inbred ones.

steve sailer applied these ideas to humans way back in 2003. from Cousin Marriage Conundrum:

“Are Muslims, especially Arabs, so much more loyal to their families than to their nations because, due to countless generations of cousin marriages, they are so much more genealogically related to their families than Westerners are related to theirs? Frank Salter, a political scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany whose new book ‘Risky Transactions: Trust, Kinship, and Ethnicity’ takes a sociobiological look at the reason why Mafia families are indeed families, told me, ‘That’s my hunch; at least it’s bound to be a factor.’

“One of the basic laws of modern evolutionary science, quantified by the great Oxford biologist William D. Hamilton in 1964 under the name ‘kin selection,’ is that the more close the genetic relationship between two people, the more likely they are to feel loyalty and altruism toward each other. Natural selection has molded us not just to try to propagate our own genes, but to help our relatives, who possess copies of some of our specific genes, to propagate their own.

“Nepotism is thus biologically inspired. Hamilton explained that the level of nepotistic feeling generally depends upon degree of genetic similarity. You share half your personally variable genes with your children and siblings, but one quarter with your nephews/nieces and grandchildren, so your nepotistic urges will tend to be somewhat less toward them. You share one eighth of your genes with your first cousins, and one thirty-second with your second cousin, so your feelings of family loyalty tend to fall off quickly.

“But not as quickly if you and your relatives are inbred. Then, you’ll be genealogically and related to your kin via multiple pathways. You will all be genetically more similar, so your normal family feelings will be multiplied. For example, your son-in-law might be also be the nephew you’ve cherished since his childhood, so you can lavish all the nepotistic altruism on him that in an outbred family would be split between your son-in-law and your nephew.

“Unfortunately, nepotism is usually a zero sum game, so the flip side of being materially nicer toward your relatives would be that you’d have less resources left with which to be civil, or even just fair, toward non-kin. So, nepotistic corruption is rampant in countries such as Iraq, where Saddam has appointed members of his extended family from his hometown of Tikrit to many key positions in the national government….”
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what i got interested in was the flip-side of what steve talked about. in other words, if inbreeding leads to the sort of nepotistic behaviors we see in the middle east, maybe not-so-much inbreeding — or even outbreeding — leads to the opposite. lots of inbreeding in humans seems to lead to all sorts of family-oriented, clannish behaviors, not just nepotism. it even seems to, as randall parker pointed out, impede the development of democracy because everyone’s so focused on their extended families/clans/tribes. again, maybe outbreeding does just the opposite. i think there’s a lot of pretty good evidence pointing in these directions (see the Mating Patterns series down below ↓ in the left-hand column), but so far it’s all circumstantial.

furthermore, point number two from the top: inbreeding, because it amplifies the relatedness between family members, can make the evolution of “genes for familial altruism” easier/happen more quickly. not only are inbred populations of humans more likely to be more altruistic to their near kin than not-so-inbred populations because they are more closely related to one another (like the confused beetles), various “altruistic alleles” related to familial altruism ought to develop more quickly and be more frequent in the inbred populations (again, see here and here).

greg cochran’s not convinced. he said: “Your general notion that the degree of inbreeding does something, by itself, in the short run, is incorrect.”

i think he’s misunderstood my argument (well, how much can one communicate in a couple of comments to a blog post?). i am not arguing that “inbreeding does something by itself — except for potentially amplifying already existing altruistic behaviors (see the beetle example again). nor am i arguing that “inbreeding does something, by itself, in the short run.” no. of course, any “genes for altruism” would have to be selected for (or not) over some amount of generations.

wade and breden found that inbreeding accelerates the spread of altruism genes in a population, and that “genes for altruism” would already be on the increase after just fifty generations if the selection was strong and the genes dominant. populations like arabs in the middle east have certainly been inbreeding closely for well over fifty generations (i’ve over-estimated the length of generations at 25 years/generation to come up with a conservative guess of how long they’ve been inbreeding). and northwest europeans have been doing just the opposite for something like fifty generations or so. the one group is almost freakishly oriented towards the extended-family/clan/tribe; the other, as m.g. miles put it, to the commonweal.

i think there’s been an almost exactly opposite evolutionary history in terms of altruism in these two populations over the last one thousand years (how cool is that?!) — an evolution that’s ongoing, of course, since middle easterners are still inbreeding and northwest europeans are outbreeding more and more.
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greg also said:

“Imagine that in much of history, people lived in small groups that often fought with their neighbors. In that sort of situation, selection for group altruism is at least possible, since the group is full of close relatives, while the opponents are less closely related. Both sides are probably members of the same broad ethnic group or race, but that doesn’t matter: only the kinship coefficients matter.

“Suppose that many people emerge on to the stage of history with this impulse to fight for their side: in the past, this always meant closely related people. Now, with the emergence of states, they find themselves fighting in armies, which feel like their side, but are no longer closely related – not a bunch of cousins and such. It could well be that many individuals are actually willing to risk themselves for that state. They’re willing to die for truth, justice and the Assyrian Way. It’s not genetically smart, but their adaptations are wired for past circumstances….

Over time, this misfiring of altruism should decrease. Patriotism burns itself out. Dying for Assyria doesn’t do your close relatives any good at all. Some people will be more prone to this, some less, and that tendency will be heritable. Those with a tendency to volunteer (in the service of anything other than close relatives) should dwindle away over time.

yes. familial altruism (all sorts of behaviors!) can be misapplied in new circumstances. but i think that what greg describes would only occur IF you started off with a population with lots of smaller, somewhat related but inbred sub-groups which had lots of “genes for familial altruism” and then brought them together into a state. maybe like the roman empire. or any of the chinese empires.

BUT there are other sorts of altruism beyond familial altruism — like reciprocal altruism — tit-for-tat sorts of behaviors, for example.

if you started off, not with a population that consisted of sub-groups with lots of “genes for familial altruism,” but rather a population with more “genes for reciprocal altruism,” the patriotism may not be quite so artificial. i suspect — but have no real proof, of course — that northwest europeans are such a population.

to quote myself from over @west hunter [links added]:

“i wondered before, though, if an opposite of these sorts of kin-oriented altruism alleles might be certain types of reciprocal altruism alleles. you know: the ones behind tit-for-tat sort-of behaviors, etc.

“if you have a population that oubreeds A LOT (nw europeans from the middle ages onward) in which family and kin connections are downplayed (prolly because of the outbreeding) — AND you have the ‘right’ sort of selection pressures (something that selects for cooperation and corporate behavior, like medieval manorialism and farming in a cold climate) — then maybe the frequencies for whatever alleles code for reciprocal altruism increase because lots of reciprocal altruism increases your success at reproducing.”

if you kept warring, you would still burn through the most patriotic members of the group (think wwi and wwii), but you wouldn’t be left with clans at the end of the day (see the rest of greg’s comment below). perhaps bunches of self-oriented nuclear families/individuals, but not clans.

speaking of misapplied altruism, i think our reciprocal altruism is now being misapplied in the face of migrating mexicans and muslims and all sorts of third world populations who, on the whole, are not big into reciprocation.
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finally, greg said:

“But states are older in some places than others, and some have made greater demands than others. Imagine a region where states have been around longer, a place in which the locals have lived through empire after empire after empire. They should have had the patriotism bred clean out of them. They should feel altruistic about their families, maybe their clan – and nothing else.

yes, they do — middle easterners (the strongest of the inbreeders) and to a lesser extent the chinese (who also have a very long history of inbreeding) feel more altruistic about their families and their clans, but that’s not because they had the altruism/patriotism bred out of them. they’re sooo inbred (the muslims way more than the chinese) that they never had any patriotism in the first place! they have such strong drives for familial altruism that anything like patriotism doesn’t even enter into the picture. feelings of patriotism — nationalism — have historically been strongest amongst northwest europeans — the most outbred, civic, and “corporate” peoples in the world.

i think there are some really cool evolutionary histories that led to these differences in altruistic behaviors — differences which are some of the most profound, innate differences between human populations that are out there — the instinctive feelings guiding us in how to treat the others around us.
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see also: Giving Bigotry a Chance and Your country’s not your blood from henry harpending and greg cochran @west hunter (who seem to have caught the inbreeding/outbreeding & altruism bug! (~_^) ).

previously: inbreeding and the evolution of altruistic behavior and four things and which altruism genes? and inclusive inclusive fitness

(note: comments do not require an email. altruism. what’s in it for me?)

29 Comments

  1. I find the logic of your two points persuasive and quite troubling. If inbreeding causes altruism to increase AND if inbreeding causes fertility to rise (and the evidence there is strong but I understand it is not widely accepted) then inbreeding should have two ways of increasing overall altruism. Kin survive and there are more offspring. Win, win. BUT you describe the dark side of altruism (terrorism I suppose being the poster child) in which the kin are favored rather to the exclusion of ousiders. I suppose I might say weakly that I don’t expect or desire altruism from stangers; I’d be happy if they just didn’t do terrible things like knock over skyscrapers. My own logic is quite different: tolerance promotes outbreeding, which depresses fertility so that prejudice and hostility rise by default. Maybe both mechanisms work. Maybe the second is why socieites that have been living cheek by jowwel for the longest have such troulbe. I shall have to think about this.

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  2. I don’t see how the dark side of altruism implies multiple genetic loci for altruism. The point of altruism is the promotion of one’s genes. Behaviors that help relatives and behaviors that hurt competitors both do this and might have a common genetic root.

    People who believe morality is an evolved human character (I do) tend to focus on the nice stuff. But evolution can also favor bad behaviors. There is a game theoretic issue here. If nearly everyone is nice, bad people can exploit the niceness and thrive.

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  3. @bob – “I don’t see how the dark side of altruism implies multiple genetic loci for altruism.”

    oh, no it doesn’t. sorry if how i worded myself implied that it all.

    i just meant that 1) there are many sorts of altruistic behaviors and 2) altruistic behaviors are very complex. if something as “simple” as height has many related genes, i can’t imagine that behaviors (including being altruistic) don’t either.

    @bob – “Behaviors that help relatives and behaviors that hurt competitors both do this and might have a common genetic root.”

    sure. but you’d think there might also be some difference between the “share your bananas with your relatives” genes and the “beat the strangers over the head with a club” genes.

    @bob – “But evolution can also favor bad behaviors.”

    well, bad or evil are just labels that we apply, aren’t they? because we don’t like it when those sorts of behaviors are applied to us or to those we’re related to. Ma Nature doesn’t care about good or bad.

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    1. This is a trivial point, but it’s kind of funny. Male baboons are super alturistic toward their tribe, laying their lives on the line in defense, sharing food and so forth. BUT if you drop of banas from time to time the big males soon start grabbing them all for themselves. Maybe there is a better example of altruism.

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  4. @linton – “I find the logic of your two points persuasive and quite troubling. If inbreeding causes altruism to increase AND if inbreeding causes fertility to rise….”

    yes. might be a bad combination, really! =/

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  5. @ihtg – “You could both be right.”

    should’ve been me that said that! i’m usually the one trying to reconcile two different points of view. (^_^)

    (d.h. oftens says i’m like winnie the pooh: milk or honey? yes, please! (~_^) )

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  6. “so there cannot possibly be just one “gene for altruism.”

    Even before that i think there’s at least two broad categories of altruism that operate from opposite directions but which can seem to overlap.

    1) Positive altruism which starts at self and flows outward proportional to genetic similarity and the level of an individual’s altruistic trigger.
    2) Threat altruism which is much more contextual and is proportional to threat and relative genetic difference.

    Taking the Arab proverb again as repesenting what used to be the default human state the positive altruism goes self, brother, cousin, outsider in a clear geometric pattern. Threat altruism varies with context so for example if your brother is chasing you with an axe you might run to your cousin for help.

    You see this all the time in violent family disputes where outsiders arrive to break it up and the family unite to attack the outsiders.

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  7. “You share one eighth of your genes with your first cousins, and one thirty-second with your second cousin, so your feelings of family loyalty tend to fall off quickly.”

    Also the drop-off point will be steeper. If you take an individual from a lineage that has been marrying first cousins over many generations and graph his relatedness to say 20 of his extended family and 80 random people from the same town then the line of the graph in order of relatedness would start very high and then plummet when it reached the edge of kin. If you did that with an outbred population the line would be smoother.

    When you think of it more at this scale it gets easier to see how this could effect larger scale competition. If you had a relatively more endogamous population like say Armenians and they migrate to live among Anglo-Americans and do well the success may not be directly to do with Armenians competing with Anglo-Americans as an ethnic group (in the broad sense) but Armenian *extended familes* clans competing with Anglo-American clans – which is an easy win as Anglos don’t really have clans any more (and the ones that do come from the places that had them most recently).

    Competing on a larger scale Anglos win easily because they cooperate better as a whole population – because they don’t have clans – but at the lower level they can’t compete at all – because they don’t have clans.

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  8. g.w. – “Even before that i think there’s at least two broad categories of altruism that operate from opposite directions but which can seem to overlap.

    1) Positive altruism which starts at self and flows outward proportional to genetic similarity and the level of an individual’s altruistic trigger.
    2) Threat altruism which is much more contextual and is proportional to threat and relative genetic difference.”

    i keep thinking of altruism (esp. familial altruism maybe) as having sorta +/- polar opposites:

    1) be altruistic to your kin/people with whom you share genes ’cause that’ll help your inclusive fitness,
    2) be un-altruistic to non-kin/people with whom you don’t share genes ’cause that’ll help your inclusive fitness.

    i think those are pretty close to your positive vs. threat altruism categories, but my un-altruistic category could also include offensive behaviors, not just ones responding to a threat. see what i mean?

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    1. I’m missing something here. I understand that helping your near kin helps your inclusive fitness compared with more distant kin, but at some level we are all kin. So any time I help another person, I’m helping humanity. It’s logical if humanity is facing an existential threat to make every sacrifice to try to fix it. At least I hope so. Otherwise I’ve wasted the past ten or fifteen years.

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  9. @g.w. – “Also the drop-off point will be steeper. If you take an individual from a lineage that has been marrying first cousins over many generations and graph his relatedness to say 20 of his extended family and 80 random people from the same town then the line of the graph in order of relatedness would start very high and then plummet when it reached the edge of kin. If you did that with an outbred population the line would be smoother.”

    yup!! (^_^)

    @g.w – “Competing on a larger scale Anglos win easily because they cooperate better as a whole population – because they don’t have clans – but at the lower level they can’t compete at all – because they don’t have clans.”

    that’s really good. i knew that in a fuzzy sorta way, but now i can see that aspect of it all more clearly. thnx!

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  10. “Otherwise I’ve wasted the past ten or fifteen years.”

    I am here to confirm that you have indeed wasted the past ten or fifteen years acting under the illusion of a universal ethics.

    Like every other Homo sap ambulator, you act for yourself alone. Fortunately, while the rest of the world is f-cking and breeding, you are in the company of your fellow no-baby white misanthropes who sit around for decades fearing shit they can’t control.

    You know wot — it’s a good thing schools don’t teach children that walking on the ground is sinful and affecting to walk on air is righteous.

    We’d need thousands of blogs and endless “peer-reviewed studies” to show that we are all, in fact, walking upon the ground.

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    1. uh. Well perhaps you are right. It’s something to consider. But it seems that you are rejecting alruism altogether. Again, possibly true, but the debate was sort of assuming that the current evidence supports the idea that altruism exists.

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  11. @linton – “I’m missing something here. I understand that helping your near kin helps your inclusive fitness compared with more distant kin, but at some level we are all kin. So any time I help another person, I’m helping humanity.”

    mmmm, yes — now you’re getting into some deep evolutionary/population genetics waters — and i can just barely tread water at this end of the pool (~_^) (since i am terrible at math!) — but i’ll try to explain it as best i can.

    what we’re talking about here is the evolution of altruistic behaviors and the spread of the genes for that behavior in populations. if a gene for some altruistic behavior suddenly pops up in one person somewhere (via mutation), it will begin spreading within his own family, first via his kids, and then his grandkids, and so on and so on.

    these individuals are now banana sharers (or whatever altruistic behavior you want to imagine), so they naturally share their bananas with others. they just can’t help themselves. now, here’s the important part: if they share their bananas with fellow family members, they increase their inclusive fitness and increase the spread of this altruism gene.

    BUT if they share their bananas with unrelated people, they decrease their inclusive fitness (because they’re no longer sharing their bananas with their family members) AND they decrease the likelihood that this banana-sharing gene will spread, because the individuals who are benefitting from the extra bananas likely do not have this altruism gene.

    this is what greg cochran was getting at over on his post, “Your country’s not your blood.” if one behaves too altruistically to people who don’t have the same altruism genes as oneself, the altruism will simply burn itself out in that population (greg cochran was using patriotic behavior as an example).

    it’s very nice and seems very right to most westerners — especially people with a northwestern european background — to share all of our bananas with everybody everywhere. unfortunately, that will ultimately be a losing game. my recommendation is, while not ignoring the plight of others, to focus first on family and friends and others like oneself. then reach out to help others.

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    1. hbd chick “my recommendation is, while not ignoring the plight of others, to focus first on family and friends and others like oneself. then reach out to help others.” Yes. That makes good sense. I like it. By the way, how does “uh” know so much about me?

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  12. hbdchick
    “i think those are pretty close to your positive vs. threat altruism categories, but my un-altruistic category could also include offensive behaviors, not just ones responding to a threat. see what i mean?”

    Yes, threat isn’t the best word as i mean any kind of resource competition – from parental attention or inheritance at the sibling scale to an oasis at the tribal scale to a tax on tea at the national scale.

    .
    “that’s really good. i knew that in a fuzzy sorta way, but now i can see that aspect of it all more clearly. thnx!”

    yes i really need to remember that. finally getting to the point where i can explain it better than “it’s like pushme-pullyou” :)

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  13. “threat isn’t the best word as i mean any kind of resource competition”

    should be

    “threat isn’t the best word as i mean the reaction to any kind of resource competition”

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  14. Linton
    “I’m missing something here. I understand that helping your near kin helps your inclusive fitness compared with more distant kin, but at some level we are all kin. So any time I help another person, I’m helping humanity.”

    It’s easier if you think of each potentially altruistic decision as a threeway choice – yourself, person B and person C – based on relatedness and distress.

    If all three of you are in a life-threatening situation at the same time then it makes sense to look after yourself. If you’re comfortable and with resources to spare while B and C are in a life-threatening situation and B is more closely related to you than C then it makes sense to look after B. If both yourself and B (and all your personal kith and kin are comfortable) then maybe it makes sense to think about humanity?

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    1. Greying wanderer. “If both yourself and B (and all your personal kith and kin are comfortable) then maybe it makes sense to think about humanity?”

      Yes, that makes good sense. And indeed, it was not until I deluded myself into thinking my personal fitness really couldn’t be improved (Boy was I wrong on that one) that I began to work on other things. Seems like a pity from this perspective, though. It might have been possilble to accomplsh something way back when my options were at their maximum.

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  15. @linton – “the debate was sort of assuming that the current evidence supports the idea that altruism exists.”

    well, it does exist. it’s just that in biology, altruism has a very specific definition: “behaviour by an individual that increases the fitness of another individual while decreasing the fitness of the actor.”

    it’s hard to see how purely unselfish altruism would ever evolve. a lot of what looks today like purely unselfish altruism is probably misplaced altruistic behavior (which will likely disappear unless some sort of correction happens).

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    1. hbd chick So altruism is “behaviour by an individual that increases the fitness of another individual while decreasing the fitness of the actor.”

      Sounds a bit harsh, but at least it makes sense. I wonder. If somebody comforts a dying person, it takes time from going out and trolling for sex so it decreases the fitness of the comfortor but it does zilch for the dying one. I guess it just doesn’t apply. Not that this is a big issue. I’ve watched a lot of people die and they generally don’t get much support, so there is no great need to explain such support.

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  16. @linton – altruism has to be taken in context, too, as greying wanderer described above.

    taking my banana example again: bananas, of course, need to be crucial for fitness. if they’re not, sharing them or not will not (necessarily) affect one’s fitness. also, if there are soooo many bananas around that they are really plentiful, then it doesn’t cost so much to share them.

    the problem comes when bananas are crucial for survival AND rather scarce. then, if you have innate altruistic drives for sharing bananas with everybody — a behavior that evolved, say, in a past environment in which bananas were plentiful, or in which everybody you shared with was a close family member — then you’re just going to lose when you share bananas with strangers.

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    1. hbd chick: Right. So what is crucial is that bananas be crucial. Otherwise you can dabble around as you please and nobodies fitness is really on the line, as is the case with bananas and baboons, which love bananas but never get them without help from people studing them. Isn’t it nice to live in the small zone of history and geography where one can dabble? I mean so far as getting fed goes. Of course there is the reproduction thing, whereby we are woefully unfit as I believe brother (all right, maybe sister but I doubt it) “Uh” did not hesitate to point out.

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  17. @linton – “Isn’t it nice to live in the small zone of history and geography where one can dabble? I mean so far as getting fed goes.”

    that side of things is definitely pretty wonderful. (^_^)

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  18. “But it seems that you are rejecting alruism altogether.”

    Not at all. I owe you an apology in fact, as I assumed from your website url that you are that other freak who advocates human extinction and creeps around HBD blogs, but having just looked at it, and in light of your latest comments, your concern appears to be the polar opposite:

    Birth rates all over the world are falling or are already too low for survivial.There is intense prejudice against marrying kin.However if we do not resume marrying kin the brith rate will never recover.

    Resume marrying kin … ahhhh, so glad to not be the only one saying it.

    Even so, humanity is a myth, a trick of language. No other species can take an ecumenical view of itself; if a segment of, say, newts or grizzlies suddenly woke up to their existence as a species (requiring, of course, language and a huge frontal cortex), you may be certain that precisely that segment would die out in a few generations from the paralysis that comes with losing the proximate focus upon kin.

    In a word, those newts & grizzlies would have become chronic ruminators, obsessed with what is beyond themselves and their immediate kin.

    Find me the depressive who “gets the girl”, and … you’ll have the plot of Goethe’s Faust. That is, pure fiction.

    Very broadly speaking, therefore, everything intelligent whites are up to today may be defined as a maladaptive cognitive style.

    I see you wavering between two styles of your own, first the hard-nosed scientist, second the soft-headed human — from your bit on free will:

    “Much work is brought to bear from modern studies of the brain. They rather leave me cold. If I walk around outside barefoot, my feet get dirty. That means I am a physical thing. Any further observation is simply elaborating on an uncontested issue.”

    Here you would love to stop at the physical. But then,

    “And I have a kind of sentimental attachment to the idea of free will.”

    Ah! So the rigorously physical leaves you feeling robbed of something. Well, the evo-psychs would tell us that overperception of agency was an adaptive cognitive bias. Now how much that has cemented the belief in free will, against Biblical dogma, or the basic perceptual bias of a self-conscious being, or some reinforcing interplay of the three factors — can’t say. But I suspect that in in-bred societies, the phrase “free will” would fall on mostly deaf ears. Consider hbdchick’s posts back whenever using overlapping colored squares to illustrate the cognitive “amount” of identity in a person from such a society as against one from ours. “Free will” is perhaps largely an obsession of those who have been “free” enough from ethnic nepotism, and freed up for leisure by the technology that resulted from that long process, to play with such ideas.

    To be sure, there’s no pilpul in the Hebraic conception of free will. It is simply that God gave Adam and Eve the wherewithal to the resist temptation to knowledge (tov wara, “good and bad”, is a dichotomy but a plurale tantum meaning “everything”) and they went the wrong way. But note that the punishment for their error was condemnation to live by the sweat of their brow (be-zeat apekha tokhal lehem), i.e. intense physical labor — agriculture. The hereditary sin resurfaces in Cain the farmer bashing Abel the shepherd over the head with his ploughshare.

    Now if you’ve ever herded sheep, you’ll know that though it is good for light reading on the go — hence the association with piping and poetry — it is absolutely wrong for heavy cogitation and the production of culture. Indeed, ‘culture’ goes straight back to the fields sewn with next season’s lehem. My point is that the Hebrew worldview, especially as reflected in Genesis, is old Semitic, that is, one of the world’s classical civilizations, i.e. agricultural complexes, where people had the leisure and ‘culture’ to play with ideas of freedom, rights and so on. We find “free will” again in Athenian high culture with the vast helot mudsill supporting it.

    Probably this just reflects growing social complexity. Opportunities for deception increase as societies diversify and bonds become less immediate. If you’re a Roman Jew Cicerone consule you can’t cheat your auntie of a few denarii but you can commission that Hindoo snake charmer to entertain the goyim and skim the profits; if you went among the Scythians along the Volga with the same act, you might realize some profit yet, but if discovered there’d be no Trastevere tenements to which to abscond. (Those Scythian nomads are chewing rhubarb and smoking C. ruderalis, and don’t give a fig for metaphysics.)

    Anyway, fuck free will, lol.

    Reply

    1. Yeah, I at least think free will is given too much credit. The Icelandic study and Danish studies I refer to together indicate that the fertility of a couple is due to kinship (going back a few generations) AND NOTHING ELSE. But push those graphs into somebody’s face and pretty much you get, “It’s all free will.” So is the choice of whether to marry cousins free will or not? On that one I do wonder. What I see is not encouraging.

      Reply

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