i said last week that the week would be devoted to the woodley & bell consanguinity and democracy paper … and then i got distracted. typical. so, now, back on track…

aside from looking for any straight up connection/s between consanguinity and democracy (see previous post), woodley & bell also looked at consanguinity and democracy and several other possible factors that might affect the success of democracy in the nations included in the study: economic freedom, inequality, exports of fossil fuels (the “resource curse”), pathogen load (i’ll come back to that one!), and islam.

using path analysis, they found that islam seems to have a direct impact on democracy in muslim nations and ALSO that islam has an indirect impact on democracy via consanguinity.

recall that woodley & bell used two different indices of democracy: data from the polity iv project and the eiu democracy index. so they worked up two path analyses (click on charts for LARGER view). percent muslim for each country came from pew:

both analyses indicate: “that Islam has both direct effects on democracy and effects that are mediated by consanguinity, although the direct path from percentage Muslim to democracy [in the first model] only approached the conventional cutoff for significance (p = .096).”

from the paper (pg. 12):

“The largest impacts on consanguinity in the path models were produced by pathogen load and the effect of the percentage of Muslims within a nation. In the first path model the latter variable did not have a significant direct path to democracy, which suggests that its effects on democracy are largely mediated by consanguinity. Both pathogen prevalence and the influence of Islam have been described in the literature as having an inhibitory effect on democracy (e.g., Fincher et al., 2008; Fish, 2002; Fukuyama, 2001; Huntington, 1984; Thornhill et al., 2009). Here we indicate that these variables, which had previously been posited to have independent effects on democracy, are actually mediated by consanguinity.”

so, if a nation is islamic, that will affect how democratic it is (or not!), but what seems to be more important is if the population practices cousin marriage. it’s islam+consanguinity that is the key here, not just islam.

i think it makes sense that the effects islam has on democracy are “mediated” by how much cousin marriage there is in a society. cousin marriage directly affects the genetic relatedness between the individual members of a population, making individuals more related to their family members than would happen in an outbred society, while making those same individuals less related to non-family members, again unlike in an outbred society. i think this pretty clearly leads to clannish or tribal behavioral patterns which, as woodley and bell point out, are not conducive to liberal democracy at all.

islam doesn’t demand cousin marriage, but it doesn’t prohibit it either. since muslims are supposed to emulate mohammed (who married a cousin – see below), it probably rather encourages it. and anyway — which came first, cousin marriage or islam? yup. cousin marriage. one of mohammed’s wives was a cousin of his (his fzd) — and ali (yes that ali), who was mohammed’s cousin, married mohammed’s daughter, ali’s first cousin once removed. cousin marriage was very much the norm amongst the arabs in mohammed’s day. and, unlike roman catholic church policy makers, neither mohammed nor any imam since him (at least none that count) seem to have come down against cousin marriage afaik.

furthermore, good ol’ father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage, the form of cousin marriage that leads to the most inbreeding, and that is still the preferred form amongst many muslims, was probably already well established amongst the arabs in mohammed’s day. fbd marriage was probably introduced to the arabs by jewish tribes from the levant who migrated into the arab peninsula starting in the second century b.c. so not only is cousin marriage amongst the arabs old, it’s really old — and it’s fbd marriage to boot. the arabs went on to introduce fbd marriage to the peoples of north africa, the mashriq and south asia (like the pakistanis and the afghanis).

my guess is that it’s not just the amount of consanguinity in a nation that negatively affects the success of democracy in that country, but the length of time the people have been practicing cousin marriage AND how close that cousin marriage is. like i said in the previous post, i think the evolution of “genes for altruism” comes into play here, not just the immediate genetic relatedness between the individuals in these societies, although it’s important, too.

so, i would bet that democracy would fare the worst in the levant, where fbd marriage originated, and the arab peninsula, where fbd marriage has been present for so very long, and that distance from that core region would predict better odds of democracy working at all.

kinda looks that way, don’t it? (eui democracy index 2011 – click on map for LARGER view):

syria, saudi arabia, yeman and oman have the worst scores for democracy in the muslim world (in the world!). iran, turkemenistan and uzbekistan have similar scores and all three of those countries were “arabized” in the early- to mid- seventh century a.d. pakistan was not brought under the arab sphere of influence until later (the early eighth century) and conversion to islam and arabization (and, presumably, the adoption of fbd marriage) took some time. this, i think, might partially explain why, even though pakistan today has similar consanguinity rates to saudi arabia, it does better as far as having a democratic state goes — the pakistani populations haven’t been marrying their fbd for as long as arabs.

similarly, at the other end of the “arab” world, north africans are relatively better at democracy than the saudis since they, too, were arabized — and adopted fbd marriage — comparatively late. the far flung islamic nation, indonesia, manages democracy fairly ok since they’ve hardly adopted fbd marriage at all, although they’ve probably been marrying their mother’s brother’s daughters for a while like other east asian populations.

previously: consanguinity and democracy

(note: comments do not require an email. albatrosses!)