here’s my hbd day essay that appeared on olave’s site yesterday:

Altruism and Human Biodiversity

Human biodiversity comes in all shapes and sizes. There are average physical differences between various human populations, average intellectual differences, average behavioral differences. In addition to all of these, there are differences between human populations in certain social behaviors such as the types of altruistic behaviors displayed (reciprocal altruism versus what I will call “familial altruism”), nepotism and corruption. These social behaviors all relate to a biological concept known as inclusive fitness.

Evolution is, of course, all about the survival of the fittest, or those individuals who, via reproduction, pass on the most copies of their genes into the succeeding generation. However, according to the concept of inclusive fitness, an individual can also increase his fitness not only by reproducing, but also by helping others with whom he shares genes to successfully reproduce as well. The other people with whom individuals usually share the most number of genes are their family members, so by helping out nieces and nephews for example, a person can increase his own fitness since he shares a good deal of his genes with these relatives.

In his now classic article, “Cousin Marriage Conundrum,” Steve Sailer pointed out how the concept of inclusive fitness explains why some populations with high degrees of inbreeding, such as Arab and South Asian societies, exhibit greater amounts of nepotism and corruption than Western societies. This is because the inclusive fitness payoff described above is greater for inbred groups than outbred groups. As he put it, in inbred populations:

“[Y]ou’ll be genealogically 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….”

I like to think of these sorts of altruistic behaviors that are directed towards family members, such as nepotistic behaviors, as “familial altruism.” An alternative form of altruism, which is often directed towards non-family members, is reciprocal altruism in which an individual is altruistic towards another individual in the hopes that the favor will be returned at some later point. Both forms of altruism are undoubtedly found in all human populations everywhere, but familial altruism occurs more frequently in inbred populations due to the greater inclusive fitness payoff, probably at the expense of reciprocal altruism.

In addition to explaining why some groups of people are more nepotistic than others, inclusive fitness also helps us to understand the evolution of these behaviors in humans (and other animals). Significant amounts of inbreeding in a population over numerous generations can lead to increased frequencies of those genes that are related to familial altruistic behaviors, whatever they may be. If inbred individuals are more successful at passing their genes on than non-inbred individuals because they are naturally more inclined to practice familial altruism, then, thanks to natural selection, “genes for familial altruism” will gradually spread through the population (see also here). In contrast, such genes will hardly spread at all through an outbreeding population since the inclusive fitness payoff to be extra altruistic towards family members isn’t so great in these populations.

What does any of this have to do with the real world as we know it?

Well, not only do different human populations today inbreed or outbreed to differing degrees as Steve Sailer alluded to in “Cousin Marriage Conundrum,” but different human populations have different histories of inbreeding and outbreeding; histories during which various frequencies of different types of genes (alleles) related to altruistic behaviors might have been selected for.

For instance, the Arabs have been regularly and frequently marrying their first-cousins since well before Muhammad’s time, probably since the time of Christ or even before. Arabs, with their tribalistic societies, exhibit some of the greatest amounts of familial altruism of any human population on the planet. Society operates almost exclusively around the extended-family, the clan and the tribe; nepotism and corruption are the norm; and liberal democracy, which is based on individual freedoms and rights, is difficult if not impossible to implement in these societies.

The Arab form of cousin marriage, what is known as father’s brother’s daughter marriage, spread to the populations of the Maghreb, the Mashriq and parts of South Asia during the Middle Ages, and today these other societies behave tribally just as the Arabs do. Father’s brother’s daughter marriage is almost exclusive to this part of the world. It is the most incestuous of the cousin marriage forms since both mother and father come from the same (paternal) lineage.

The most common form of cousin marriage in the world is mother’s brother’s daughter marriage and it has a very long history in China going back to at least the third century B.C. This form of cousin marriage involves less inbreeding than the Arab type since parents come from different lineages, but it is still a form of inbreeding. That the relatedness of family members in Chinese populations is not as close as in the Arab world is reflected in the shape of Chinese society versus Arab society: the extended family and the clan is important, but society is not fractured along tribal lines. Nepotism and corruption are still rampant, however, and again liberal democracy is difficult to implement. The influence of familial altruism is still too strong in Chinese society.

Due to an historical accident, namely the introduction of Christianity, the one area of the world in which human populations have been outbreeding for a significant amount of time is Europe, more specifically Western Europe, and even more specifically Northwestern Europe. Starting as early as the fourth century A.D., the Roman Catholic Church banned cousin marriage in Europe (and civil codes often backed up these bans). Which cousins you could or could not marry according to the Catholic Church, and later the Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches, has varied over the centuries; but from the 1200s through the 1800s, marriage up to third cousins was forbidden in the Catholic Church (although dispensations have been available to different degrees at varying times).

In other words, for a good 800 to 1600 years, Europeans have not been inbreeding. The conditions which, as described above, can promote the spread of familial altruism genes in a population were removed from European populations. Not surprisingly, European societies today are not tribalistic and very few are clan-based or even centered around the extended family. European societies, especially Northwestern European societies, are founded upon the individual and the nuclear family. Nepotism and corruption are much less frequent. It was here that liberal democracy, based on the rights and obligations of individuals in reciprocally altruistic relationships to one another, was born.

There are some exceptions to the historic pattern of European outbreeding. The periphery of Europe held on to inbreeding practices for much longer than “core” Europe, core Europe being the English, the French, the Germans, the North Italians and possibly the Scandinavians.

Working counter-clockwise around the periphery of Europe, the following populations continued inbreeding, to different degrees and for different lengths of time, beyond the Early Medieval period, sometimes well beyond, unlike core Europeans: the Irish, the Spanish, Southern Italians, the Greeks, the Poles, the Russians and Eastern Europeans in general. Most of these societies still place emphasis on the extended family rather than the individual and the nuclear family; most have relatively high levels of corruption and nepostism and clientelism; and many have shaky democratic systems. It’s probably no coincidence that Europe’s P.I.I.G.S. are found in this group of historic inbreeders. Again, familial altruism still reigns supreme in these populations, although to a lesser degree than in the Arab world.

How can this information be of any use to us? Like any knowledge grounded in human biodiveristy, we can come to understand that all human populations are, on average, not indentical in nature. It is very likely that populations with long histories of inbreeding have greater frequencies of whatever genes are related to familial altruism; and because of these innate differences, it would be very difficult to get any of these populations, the inbred ones or the outbred ones, to change their average altruistic behavioral patterns overnight.

The Arab Spring will never look like the American Revolution and produce liberal democratic societies because Arab populations are too innately tribal. Their tendency toward familial altruism affects their thoughts and feelings on how to interact with others on an everyday basis. It is sheer folly to insist on “bringing democracy” to these populations, and frankly it is insulting to them to insist that they adopt our ways when they think and feel very differently about the right ways that family- and non-family relationships should work.

The European Union is also doomed to failure because it is an attempt to unite individualistic outbreeders with more family-oriented (recent or current) inbreeders. The combination will never work because, again, the innate attitudes of the people in each of the populations are too different. The one side operates as a group of “atomized” individuals collectively working towards “the common good;” the other is still too focused on “me and mine.”

Finally, the implications of the effects of long-term inbreeding on altruistic behaviors for the immigration policies of Western societies are enormous. To allow the mass immigration of peoples with very different historic mating patterns to Western nations is simply a recipe for disaster. The outcome, at least in the short term, will very much resemble a mixture of oil and water: the two simply will not blend since their compositions are too dissimilar.

Human biodiversity – it matters!

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