human biodiversity, racism, eugenics, and genocide

in chapter two of A Troublesome Inheritance“Perversions of Science” — nicholas wade tracks the histories of several lines of thought about human races which have existed over the last few centuries both within as well as outside of various scientific disciplines. he begins with the earliest biologists such as linnaeus, blumenbach, morton, and darwin; continues on through to spencer and his social darwinism and galton and his ideas on eugenics; describes the application of eugenic policies in the u.s. and europe; and eventually finishes up with the holocaust perpetrated by the nazis.

wade “goes there” since much of the fear expressed by people about human biodiversity and its study seems to be connected to the concern that such knowledge will inevitably lead to (what i would agree are) repugnant practices like the forced sterilization of individuals deemed unfit in some way or another, or officially sanctioned discriminatory practices against the members of one or more groups in society, or even genocide. many people seem to think that if we unleash “the horror that is hbd”, some groups will be told to get to the back of the bus or the ovens will be fired up or even worse.

as is often the case, however, i think that the majority is drawing what i call upside-down-and-backwards conclusions here. human groups haven’t committed injustices or atrocities toward each other thanks to understanding, or even misunderstanding, the biological differences between us all — humans are atrocious to one another because of their (our) biology. sadly, it’s in our nature(s).

the nazis, with their particular understanding of human races, did not invent genocide (although they may have come close to perfecting some truly diabolical techniques there). a simple glance at history and prehistory tells us that human populations have been trying to eliminate “the other” since time immemorial despite not having the slightest info about human biodiversity or biology or even science itself. just a couple of examples: genocidal practices were present in the americas long before europeans ever set foot there, and the mongols (as in ghengis khan and co.) were no strangers to genocide either (see “The Origins of Genocide” chapter here — you might also want to flip through the two volume Dictionary of Genocide if you have the stomach for it).

humans don’t really fight and kill neighboring populations or discriminate against subgroups within their nations — not to mention enslave one another — for any of the goofy ideological, religious, or “moral” excuses that they give. those are mostly just after the fact rationalizations that they’ve come up with (no, really — the human brain is not to be trusted!). like other creatures, humans very often try to eliminate or dominate other groups because they are in competition with them for resources [pdf] — or, at least, feel that they are anyway, whatever the reality on the ground may be. this is a behavioral pattern that we share with many other organisms, including some of our closest relatives, the chimpanzees. chimp groups will “go to war” with neighboring groups — very purposefully ambushing and killing individuals from other bands — in order to gain control over new territory, which means access to additional resources and, therefore, better chances of reproducing (which is, of course, what life is all about). we know very well that our ancestors did the same, and if those that did succeeded in reproducing the most, this violently competitive nature would’ve been selected for in humans. and as most of human history has been one of extreme violence with one group pitted against another, i’d say that this is probably exactly what happened.

i think that we need to work toward a better understanding of the biological roots of human drives and behaviors, both those that are universal to our species and any that might be more prevalant in some groups rather than others (that’s the hbd part), including the negative and violent types described above, in order that we may better be able to put an end to war and killing and genocide, etc. i know. i sound like a miss america contestant now — but i am serious!

people have a tendency to favor their own. we know that. monkeys and beetles and — h*ll! — even plants tend to favor their own. plants! this is how fundamental the us-and-them divide is. if you put a bunch of different sorts of people together, society ceases to function well. robert putnam found this in his extensive research [pdf] — and diverse communities have been shown not to work in twenty million different permutations [pdf]. this is really the best case scenario, though, when it comes to trying to get everybody to just get along: that communities are not so cohesive and that there’s a lack of unity amongst the neighbors. the worst case scenarios are agressive and violent and murderous societies. (these, perhaps, may be avoided by making sure that nations are as ethnically homogeneous as possible. perhaps.) understanding human biology, including human biodiversity, can help us hopefully to prevent both.

for those of you out there who don’t like the idea of biological or genetic explanations for human behaviors — who find them distasteful or potentially dangerous — think instead of research into human biodiversity as a way of ruling out such explanations. if science demonstrates that there are little or no biological reasons for our behaviors and/or little or no reality to human biodiversity, i will be the first to say so — i promise! but as ashutosh jogalekar said in his review of wade’s book: “Science is about ideas, not answers…. A scientific topic cannot be declared off limits or whitewashed because its findings can be socially or politically controversial…” and it definitely should not be off limits when the findings might have the potential to help humanity.

i don’t mean minimize the dangers here or say that they don’t exist. as far as i am concerned, the human species has a despicable record when it comes to how its members treat one another (and other species, for that matter), nor do i see that that much has changed over time (although some groups do seem to have been pacified quite a bit at least when it comes to day-to-day within-group interactions). in future some individuals or groups might use the knowledge of human biodiversity as a rationalization when trying to eliminate or discriminate or otherwise repress other individuals or groups. but as i described above, it won’t have happened because of that knowledge. if they succeed, though, that might be because too many people today ignored biology and human biodiversity.

previously: hbd fallout
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p.s. – still updating my A Troublesome Inheritance linkfest. don’t miss the latest links there!

(note: comments do not require an email.)

147 Comments

  1. @hbd chick “humans are atrocious to one another because of their (our) biology.” Er, with all due respect, no. We are atrocious because of ignorance of the demographic consequences of outbreeding. I could fix it. Don’t need to change our biology. But who listens? It’s easier just to read the drizzle of inter-ethnic gore in the news and shrug.

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  2. Well said! Conflict, of some kind, sooner or later, is likely inevitable. It’s unfortunately the nature of our sorry species. Will knowledge of HBD hasten this? Good question. The answer might just be yes, though, especially in currently multiracial places (i.e., the West).

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    1. @jayman “Conflict, of some kind, sooner or later, is likely inevitable. It’s unfortunately the nature of our sorry species.” Nope. The evidence does not support that unless you limit yourself to the past few thousand years. Given the biological pressure pushing us toward violence it’s amazing that we ever have moments of peace. Speaks well for us. Of course I’ve been through all that before. It there is something wrong with our sorry species it is out love of willful ignorance.

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  3. Considering what Mao, Stalin, Castro, Pol Pot, and others like them did in the name of “equality”, I can only say that I’m not too worried. And by the way, why do the “equalists” always get a pass on this? How come Wade equals Hitler, but Gould doesn’t equal Stalin? Which is particularly ironic, since Gould was actually a card-carrying Marxist.

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  4. If your group’s behavioral survival strategy is parasitism then your group will fight to the death against allowing the mention of human group’s behavioral survival strategies.

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    1. @steve Johnson re social parasitism, I’m reminded of a remark a friend made, “The devil’s greatest triumph has been to persuade people that there is no devil.”

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  5. No, Nazis didn’t invent genocide, but they implemented it on a particularly perverse and large scale, and it was in a “civilized,” Western, enlightened etc. country. I think that’s why comparisons to Nazis come up frequently, and there’s a trope that it could happen to anybody, it could happen here (which I don’t think it could– history can’t repeat itself, although it can owe its similarity to past events).

    In the light of WWII, the move away from eugenics was a sensible one, even if it threw the baby out with the bathwater (so to speak).

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  6. In reviewing Wade’s book, mainstream writers start by asking if he is a racist.

    The best way to win an argument isn’t to make factual, relevant points that support some logical or moral conclusion. Instead, it’s to seize the power to define what’s being discussed.

    Even if we can’t say exactly what racism is (and isn’t), and even if we aren’t clear on whether it’s you secretly think, or what you write, or the way you behave. Or, per Sailer, if the best telltale is in what you notice.

    No matter — Leftists are the ones with the right to point and shout, “J’Accuse!” The bad people are on the defensive, and another argument is won.

    James Thompson quoted William Hazlitt’s 1830 definition of “Prejudice” —

    Prejudice is prejudging any question without having sufficiently examined it, and adhering to our opinion upon it through ignorance, malice or perversity, in spite of every evidence to the contrary

    In a healthier society, the conversation would be about the prejudices of Wade and like-minded individuals. And about those of the racist-hunters, as well.

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  7. Superbly relevant, the final scene of Harald Eia’s Brainwash: “Race” (36m32s if it doesn’t start there):

    Covers it very concisely, I think.

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  8. We should change the term ”environmental factors” for ”circumstantial adaptation strategy”, predisposed by individual limited genetic pool.

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  9. Smart people need to prove the reality that your eyes are seeing?
    These sensitive hearts that love the diversity (and earn money and status on it) should prove with their own eyes and bodies, whatever, by means of a large longitudinal study, as a good scientist should do.
    These people do not know humans do not know themselves. Humanists are dehumanized.They also turned mankind into an abstraction.
    Older people, in the time that we had no internet, and especially television and the mass cinema, depended only on the individual-individual interaction and knew how it worked much more humanity than high IQS delusional that are paid for it.

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  10. “i think that we need to work toward a better understanding of the biological roots of human drives and behaviors, ……. to put an end to war and killing and genocide, etc.”

    If that ain’t an invitation to eugenics what is?

    If genes are responsible for evil behavior then isn’t it only logical to try and get rid of those bad genes? In the name of Universal Peace, of course.

    What you’re basically arguing for is genetic engineering for better social outcomes. Once you establish that practice, what’s to stop it from applying it to other areas where humans could be “improved”. Once the liberals realise that blank slatism has failed, what’s to stop them from implementing “genetic policies” to better improve social outcomes? Breed out white racial superiority? Or Raciss?

    The problem with “hard” HBD is that it effectively denies moral agency and thus human will and places the locus of evil in our genes. But then again, there is no other source of evil when your whole metaphysical view is materialistic.

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  11. The extension of this would be that the accusations of “Nazi” and “racist” are not based on reasonable or compassionate ideas, but are held simply because they work. Those who make the accusations have found a way to deny status, and thus ultimately resources, to those they are in competition with. They could shout “Blue!” or “Clement Atlee!” or “Anchor Steam!” instead, if they worked.

    It would provide an explanation why the academy, social sciences, and journalism are most enraged by the ideas. It would cost them status, jobs, and therefore, mates and reproductive opportunities. None of this need be the least bit conscious. Undermining one’s competition is the whole game. They can’t help it, really. Only if one acknowledges the power of one’s biology can one step free and decide against it.

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    1. @assistant village idiot ” It would cost them status, jobs, and therefore, mates and reproductive opportunities.” Yes, that makes sense. I mean there has to be a reason why academia – broadly speaking – has dropped the task of maintaining the treasures of our culture and seems out to destroy them. Let me just put my foot in it. I don’t offer this as Great Truth, just something I play with. Given, as I often say, that excess genetic diversity will kill off a population for reasons having to do with the race to speciation (not by the mechanism of speciation itself, actually) there comes a time when there is no defensive reflex. Like if you are really freezing, you stop feeling cold. Evolution has not developed a way for you to save yourself, so it has not installed a mechanism to motivate you. So the doomed then seek their own poison “EVER MORE DIVERSITY.” Actually it’s more than just losing the survival reflex of staying in the family. It is active aversion of family. It’s like evolution doesn’t just not care, evolution needs you GONE if you are a threat to the rest of the species, which obviously any excessively diverse population must .

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  12. @linton – “We are atrocious because of ignorance of the demographic consequences of outbreeding.”

    no, linton. really — no. just look at how inbred populations behave towards outsiders — AND their own fellow members. look at the yanomamo, for example.

    humans s*ck. that’s the reality of it. we have ok moments, too. but there’s a lot of s*ckiness.

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    1. @hbd chick “no, linton. really — no. just look at how inbred populations behave towards outsiders — AND their own fellow members. look at the yanomamo, for example.” Ah, I think you are beginning to see my drift. I fear you are changing the definition of “inbred.” You had kind of settled on its being first cousins. Now you are talking about Yanomamo sized populations. And they aren’t inbred in the same sense. They are traditional, and like almost all traditional societies (the Inuit are an exception for obvious reasons) when the population reaches a critical size ALWAYS THE SAME SIZE it splits in half. Forever. Sure they’re awful to outsiders as they are to groups from which they have split. That’s the price you have to pay to keep a viable gene pool size. The other price, which alas seems to be harder for people than living with the constant drizzle of gore we read of in the news, is actually to understand the process. Then it’s all easy, or ought to be. Nobody has ever tried it.

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  13. @toddy cat – “Considering what Mao, Stalin, Castro, Pol Pot, and others like them did in the name of ‘equality’, I can only say that I’m not too worried. And by the way, why do the ‘equalists’ always get a pass on this? How come Wade equals Hitler, but Gould doesn’t equal Stalin?”

    excellent points! which all fit nicely together with my main point: humans s*ck. and little of that has to do with our ideologies. they’re mostly just reflections of our s*ckiness. our nature s*cks. we’re just not angels (who can be pretty violent, too, if i remember my catechism lessons correctly…).

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  14. @panafancypants – “No, Nazis didn’t invent genocide, but they implemented it on a particularly perverse and large scale, and it was in a ‘civilized,’ Western, enlightened etc. country.”

    right. but my point is that “racial science” or sociobiology or an understanding of human biodiversity, etc. — none of these lead inevitably to genocide or racism or whatever. neither do christianity or islam or communism or whatever.

    humans — like most (all?) other creatures on the planet — are predisposed to favor their own and hate “the other” — especially when there is competition over resources. that’s where genocides come from. a little understanding of basic biology would go a looong way in preventing future genocides, imho.

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  15. @amac78 – “In reviewing Wade’s book, mainstream writers start by asking if he is a racist. The best way to win an argument isn’t to make factual, relevant points that support some logical or moral conclusion. Instead, it’s to seize the power to define what’s being discussed.

    apparently, yes. =/

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  16. @slumlord – “If genes are responsible for evil behavior then isn’t it only logical to try and get rid of those bad genes?”

    nope. you could alternatively try, for instance, to mitigate the negative effects of our nature. in this case, for instance, make sure that each group (ethnic group?) had a nation of their own so they wouldn’t get locked in struggles with “others” which, as we know, does lead to lack of cohesiveness, discrimination, violence, and genocide. see, for example, the muller article which i linked to in this previous post – and which i also linked to in the above post. you should really follow the links i offer so you can understand what i’m saying and so that you don’t jump to the wrong conclusions in future.

    we can’t undo the racial/ethnic diversity in the u.s., of course. but we can try to work as best we can with what we have — and the most important thing right now, imho, is not to dig ourselves into a deeper hole by ADDING to that diversity. we’ve had centuries of problems between whites and blacks (ignoring all the other inter-ethnic problems we’ve had for a sec) — WHY are we trying to make that WORSE by adding millions of hispanics to the mix? bad idea (given what we know about human nature).

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  17. @jayman – “Superbly relevant, the final scene of Harald Eia’s Brainwash: ‘Race'”

    yeah! great stuff. (^_^) my thoughts and feelings exactly — i mean what eia had to say, and what that final philosopher of science had to say: that all things should be studied.

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  18. Rather a problem that our leaders are trying to make our societies and nations as non-homogenous as possible.

    the worst case scenarios are agressive and violent and murderous societies. (these, perhaps, may be avoided by making sure that nations are as ethnically homogeneous as possible. perhaps.) understanding human biology, including human biodiversity, can help us hopefully to prevent both.

    An entire industry has been built on it:

    Press release: Professional Diversity Network, Inc. announces first quarter 2014 financial results

    http://blazingcatfur.blogspot.com/2014/05/press-release-professional-diversity.html

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  19. Someone I’ve read recently – probably Mr Sailer – contrasts British “positive” eugenics (encourage the best to breed) with American “negative” eugenics (forcefully stop the worst from breeding). This seems to me to correlate with various other lines of evidence that Americans are, by the standards of other advanced countries, unusually violent. Do you suppose that the explanation is genetic?

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  20. Nice essay.
    Panafancypants,
    “In the light of WWII, the move away from eugenics was a sensible one, ”

    How so? WwII was fought for typical nationalistic reasons, not eugenics. Resources and power. The Nazi government favored sub-average ethnic Germans over above-average Slavs and Jews. I’m not condemning or supporting either nationalism or eugenics here, but lets just nit confuse political rhetoric with reality..

    AVI’s explanation seems far more plausible one than any kind of rationally made decision..

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  21. @HBD girl

    Bit bossy today.

    My love, you’ll notice that I was the first commentator on the article you linked to.

    Hmmmmm.

    I know that you’re not a malign eugenicist but the problem with the “Hard” HBD school is that it tends to take a reductionist approach to human behaviour and culture, placing a preeminent emphasis on the biological (i.e) genetic aspect of our nature. Intentionally, or not, this interpretation of humanity logically leads to eugenics (benign or malignant) when it comes to achieving social outcomes.

    The “Hard” HBD school may argue that environment has a role but it sure as hell reverts to “genetics= everything” once the disclaimer has been announced. The other problem with this approach is that a hell of lot of science showing that environmental factors influence phenotypic expression. To be clear, I’m not saying that environment can trump genetic limitation, it’s just that if HBD wants to gain scientific respectability its got to be logically and empirically rigorous. In my opinion, ” Hard HBD” seems to cherry pick data just as assiduously the blank slaters. Cognitive bias is a pox on both houses.

    Wade is a perfect illustration of this with his colossal ignorance of religion, the major cultural force in European history. Weber (who lived in an age where eugenic talk was respectable) didn’t feel the need to resort to it when explaining the disparity in economic outcomes between Catholic and Protestant countries. You don’t have to like religion to recognise it’s importance to European cultural development. Wade’s dismissal of it makes him look dumb. Really dumb.

    Kulcha matters. ( Note, lest we get into the “Where does culture come from argument” I shall refer you to Searle (an atheist) who recognised that there are serious difficulties with mechanistic explanations of semantic content,)

    For the record, I do believe in “Race” and I reckon multiculturalism is a dumb, really dumb, idea. I’m also of the opinion that “soft” segregation is a good idea especially with regard to improving the performance in under-performing groups for a whole variety of reasons. But in order to provide effective remedies for social problems you’ve got to understand human nature accurately.”Hard” HBD is too reductionist, in my opinion, and effectively (if not explicitly) puts aside cultural factors which may seriously influence outcomes.

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  22. @dearieme

    contrasts British “positive” eugenics (encourage the best to breed) with American “negative” eugenics (forcefully stop the worst from breeding).

    In the U.K. the proles don’t have much legitimacy in public debate. Public debate in the U.S. is far more accommodating.

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  23. @slumlord:

    “Intentionally, or not, this interpretation of humanity logically leads to eugenics (benign or malignant) when it comes to achieving social outcomes.”

    Knowledge ≠ what people do with that knowledge. People need to keep that crystal clear at all times!

    “The “Hard” HBD school may argue that environment has a role but it sure as hell reverts to “genetics= everything” once the disclaimer has been announced.”

    Allow me to quote myself on that issue:

    Let’s get it right: I didn’t say the environment doesn’t matter. Never have.

    I’m starting to notice that when people say I say “environment doesn’t matter” (when I don’t say that), it’s because I said the way they think the environment matters doesn’t. Sorry, environment isn’t anything goes. Sure, some forces in the environment have an effect, but we can tell you which ones certainly and very likely don’t.

    (emphasis added)

    You’re not proving to be much of an exception.

    “The other problem with this approach is that a hell of lot of science showing that environmental factors influence phenotypic expression.”

    Sure. But see my post above on that. That doesn’t mean anything goes (and odds are it doesn’t mean your environmental nonsense goes).

    “Wade is a perfect illustration of this with his colossal ignorance of religion, the major cultural force in European history.”

    I’m sure HBD Chick herself will say much the same, but for the umpteenth time (yep, we’re going to go there), where does religion comes from? See here for a clue.

    “Kulcha matters. ( Note, lest we get into the “Where does culture come from argument” I shall refer you to Searle (an atheist) who recognised that there are serious difficulties with mechanistic explanations of semantic content,)”

    Here’s the problem with arguments like this: they are borne out of ignorance of precisely what human intelligence is. Our brains do many things (most of the things it does) without us (our own selves) realizing what it is that it is doing. This goes for all the things that go into everyday, fully conscious cognition (like all the actions going on in your brain as you read this). This was demonstrated by people who discovered that certain non-human animals could do things that were things “only humans” can do, like say use tools, recognize self in the mirror, or identify substances. They have often generated excitement initially because they (supposedly) proved that animals were smarter than we thought – even as smart as we are. However, in reality, what these examples have demonstrated is that the human brain has additional abilities – abilities we didn’t even recognize we had because we don’t “think” about them; we just do them. So is the case with this computer example. Turing’s test and similar things are examples of our naivety about human intelligence than a true test of machine intelligence.

    So, in other words, what I’m trying to say is that your example means diddly squat.

    “But in order to provide effective remedies for social problems you’ve got to understand human nature accurately.”

    I agree.

    “‘Hard’ HBD is too reductionist, in my opinion, and effectively (if not explicitly) puts aside cultural factors which may seriously influence outcomes.”

    I’m going to keep on linking this until people get it:

    http://xkcd.com/435/

    No science can be too reductionist. Reductionism is the goal of science! But, yes, an explanation can be too simplistic, in that it there are facts that it doesn’t account for. I think that’s what you meant to say. And to be fair, you did provide an (faulty) example of what you believed demonstrated that “hard” HBD was too simplistic. However, I don’t the believe what HBD Chick and I talk about is that. We both will add additional explanatory terms as needed, as per the evidence.

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    1. @Jayman ” but for the umpteenth time (yep, we’re going to go there), where does religion comes from?” Nice. Nice link. Forgive me for boring myself with a minority report. Before there were formalized religions such as say classical gods, there the The Goddess. They mad little figurines that the anthropologists say have something to do with fertility. They were so common I own one that’s seven thousand years old. I forget what I paid for it, but it wasn’t like a new car, even though it is a greater treasure. Making little figurines is still a religious behavior. Harumph: RELIGION COMES FROM CONCERN OVER FERTILITY. Mr. Putin has a religious service daily; he knows his biggest problem is demographic. Christianity is a fertility cult. It’s still around. Religion isn’t about the after life. About as many seek an afterlife through their religion as seek to avoid an afterlife through their religion.
      And religion works. No hocus pocus. Just plain old xenophobia. That’s what keeps the gene pool small, the birth rate up and the society alive. The Goddess was kind of nice, but she didn’t get us far in technology or produced one squalling brat. Just about at exactly the same time as we got detestable religions we got the bronze age, civilization was off and running… just check out what Sumer did in a couple centuries.
      I’m not sure I like this, truth to tell. But nature doesn’t seem much to care what I like.

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  24. Hi, I’m going to ask a very un PC question, but I don’t know how to find out the answer. In the beginning of Wade’s book, he mentions that Hitler started by getting rid of all the sick and mentally handicapped. If he was right, Germany today should be healthier in mind and body, even after a war. Does anyone know if Germany today IS healthier, mentally and physically than it was pre WWWII?

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  25. the concern that such knowledge will inevitably lead to (what i would agree are) repugnant practices like the forced sterilization of individuals deemed unfit in some way or another, or officially sanctioned discriminatory practices against the members of one or more groups in society

    We already have “officially sanctioned discriminatory practices” aimed at whites and males in general and white males in particular. So the concern is really that “such knowledge will inevitably lead to the END of officially sanctioned discriminatory practices”. The peculiar thing is that feminists and oppressed minorities don’t want to start lives for themselves, far away from the oppression of the white racist patriarchal hegemony. It’s almost as tho’ they don’t really believe their own claims and are just trying to instill guilt and manipulate their way to unearned privileges.

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  26. HBD isn’t going to gain traction until there is a pleasant, socially acceptable centre-left position that can accommodate this long-denied reality. We need to start calling for state-funded embryo selection opportunities (a la BGI Genomics) for disadvantaged minorities. Call it Affirmative Action Day 0 or something.

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  27. “In the U.K. the proles don’t have much legitimacy in public debate.” What can that mean?
    “Public debate in the U.S. is far more accommodating.” Not sure about that either.

    Only when I know what they mean could I begin to guess at their relevance, if any, to the question of whether the American taste for violence is genetic in origin.

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  28. @Dearieme

    The American propensity for violence probably lays less in the “genetic makeup” Americans than in the legitimacy of participation of the “average man” in public policy. The UK seems a more stratified society where a degree of competence is expected before one can contribute. The mob always wants to lynch.

    Ortega y Gasset reconginsed this phenomenon back in the 20’s. Mob rule is “genetic” insofar it is devoid of the controlling influence of reason. Take away the British intellectual aristocracy and the U.K., too, will slouch towards barbarism and violence.

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  29. @jayman

    Verbiage without substance.

    Let’s break this down.

    Knowledge ≠ what people do with that knowledge. People need to keep that crystal clear at all times!

    That’s true. But when you theory effectively discounts any form of environmental influence then all you’ve got is genetic manipulation. That’s a conclusion logically derived from the facts. And it is naive to the extreme to suppose that the low brow types that frequent this debate aren’t going to opt for a eugenic option.

    Let’s get it right: I didn’t say the environment doesn’t matter. Never have.

    That’s what you say but immediately proceed to refute it.

    In your SQUID INK post, for instance, I quote,

    I will say one thing: with all these considered, it’s hard to escape the seeming importance of eugenics, if crafting a better society is what you’re after. Indeed, if that’s your goal, eugenics – in one form or another – does appear to be your only avenue.

    Your words, not mine.

    I’d invite intelligent readers to read you post and see how much you actually “concede” to environment. What you like to say is that environment matter, “but not in the way you think” and then proceed to list in that post how environment doesn’t matter. You practice verbal assertion with functional negation.

    Either you can’t see the logical contradiction and are retarded, or as we say here in Australia, you’re full of it.

    However, in reality, what these examples have demonstrated is that the human brain has additional abilities – abilities we didn’t even recognize we had because we don’t “think” about them; we just do them. So is the case with this computer example. Turing’s test and similar things are examples of our naivety about human intelligence than a true test of machine intelligence.

    This is something I expect to hear for a “Star Trek” type of fan and it shows a colossal ignorance of the relation between signal processing and semantics and, furthermore, shows an ignorance of basic computation. The brain is not special in terms of it’s signal processing ability. The fact that it implements its processing electro-chemically does not confer on it any “special” powers. Complexity, that vague concept, seems to infer amongst weaker minds the invocation of a “special magic” to explain neural functioning.
    It isn’t.

    Searle’s Chinese room argument is a rock solid demonstration–BY AN ATHEIST– of the impossibility of signal manipulation conferring the “special magic” of semantic apprehension. Religion, with it’s semantic content, thus poses a problem to the theory that “it’s all in your genes”. But I guess that argument went right over your head. Or should I say you were genetically incapable of appreciating it.

    What you’re comments and posting are prime exposition of, is cognitive bias. The selective interpretation of information to fit your preconceived narrative. Relgious fundamentalists are rightly held in intellectual contempt because of this. You are their atheist equivalent.

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  30. @slumlord:

    The key challenge with discussing much of this stuff is getting people to unload their priors/pre-conceived notions. You have been unable to fully do that, and it shows.

    “‘Knowledge ≠ what people do with that knowledge. People need to keep that crystal clear at all times!’

    That’s true. But when you theory effectively discounts any form of environmental influence then all you’ve got is genetic manipulation. That’s a conclusion logically derived from the facts.”

    You’re missing a key point, and this is why you are translating an empirical claim into a normative one. Allow me to repeat:

    “I will say one thing: with all these considered, it’s hard to escape the seeming importance of eugenics, if crafting a better society is what you’re after. Indeed, if that’s your goal, eugenics – in one form or another – does appear to be your only avenue.”

    Why presuppose everyone shares that goal? Not everyone does. The facts can only inform you how to go about achieving your goals, not establish what your goals are. That’s a matter of personal values (i.e., normative).

    “I’d invite intelligent readers to read you post and see how much you actually ‘concede’ to environment. What you like to say is that environment matter, ‘but not in the way you think’ and then proceed to list in that post how environment doesn’t matter.”

    I “concede” to the environment only what is warranted by the evidence, no more, no less. Allow me to repeat myself again:

    I’m starting to notice that when people say I say “environment doesn’t matter” (when I don’t say that), it’s because I said the way they think the environment matters doesn’t. Sorry, environment isn’t anything goes. Sure, some forces in the environment have an effect, but we can tell you which ones certainly and very likely don’t.

    (emphasis added)

    I can keep repeating that until you finally get it. That you would then go on to insist that I am claiming “environment doesn’t matter” when all I say is what I say above shows that my claim, in your case, is quite correct.

    Try approaching it like a five year old hearing all this for the first time.

    “This is something I expect to hear for a “Star Trek” type of fan and it shows a colossal ignorance of the relation between signal processing and semantics and, furthermore, shows an ignorance of basic computation. The brain is not special in terms of it’s signal processing ability.”

    As for all this, this is basically mumbo-jumbo. When you cam precisely establish all the functions that are involved in human cognition (which you CANNOT do since no one can at the moment), then maybe you’ll have a point. I’ve given you solid examples of previously unrecognized cognitive abilities the brain has. There are likely plenty more that we have yet to discover. See Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate for some discussion of the matter. (For example, what does it take to recognize someone that you’re familiar with?)

    The reality is that the discussion went over your head on this one, it would seem.

    I suggest rewinding and finding your center here. You are basically spouting off because I’ve contradicted apparently cherished beliefs of yours. Sorry, but don’t blame me, blame reality.

    Reply

  31. Thank you, slumlord, I now see what you mean. One way to moderate the propensity of the mob to violence might be to copy classical Athens; let ’em hold votes to ostracise people, rather than killing them.

    Reply

  32. @dearieme

    I think it’s time for Banishment to make a comeback.

    @ jayman

    Frameshift.

    The question here is how much does environment matter, not what my pre-concieved notions are. Basically, you’re not ceding anything at all to environmental influences.

    I “concede” to the environment only what is warranted by the evidence, no more, no less. Allow me to repeat myself again:

    Rubbish. See your “Squid Ink” post.

    When you cam precisely establish all the functions that are involved in human cognition (which you CANNOT do since no one can at the moment),

    “Ya canna break da laws of fisiks”

    We don’t know the logic of the neural circuitry but they still operate by physical laws and the physical laws are well understood. Searle’s argument applies ANY form of logical circuitry and the fact that you can’t grasp this fact (genetic?) shows that you’re out of your league. Mind you, that won’t stop you from getting accolytes, since Eugenics is a simple idea for simple men, and God knows the world is full of simple men.

    You are basically spouting off because I’ve contradicted apparently cherished beliefs of yours.

    I’m perfectly fine with my cherished beliefs being challenged (How I love it when people try to tell me what my motives are.) but what I’m not alright with is dumb.

    Reply

    1. @slumlord “We don’t know the logic of the neural circuitry but they still operate by physical laws and the physical laws are well understood. Searle’s argument applies ANY form of logical circuitry” The question of how much we are nature and how much nurture continues to be debated, and I seem to have more sympathy with each side than each has with the other. However there are a couple of tiny technical notes you may ignore at your pleasure since they don’t impinge on my own interest. “Physical laws well understood.” Scientists are always saying that, but then they’re always finding they were wrong. The fine structure “constant” proves not to be constant. Most of physical reality proves to be “dark energy,” which behaves in some way we really have no clue about. Second point is that Turing proved any programmable computer can do what any other programmable computer can do, but if you have proof it can do absolutely everything, like resolve the paradox “this statements cannot be proved,” I am all ears.

      Reply

  33. >Searle’s Chinese room argument is a rock solid demonstration–BY AN ATHEIST– of the impossibility of signal manipulation conferring the “special magic” of semantic apprehension.

    Did you really just use “Chinese Room” and “rock solid” in the same sentence?

    Reply

  34. @slumlord:

    “The question here is how much does environment matter, not what my pre-concieved notions are.”

    Unfortunately, that’s a not even wrong question. See here:

    First of all, of course, overall environment is important to one’s life outcomes – try living life alone on a deserted island and see. Yes, humans require certain basic environmental inputs to function and develop (most basic being food, air, water, etc.). But when people talk of this, the thing that they’re interested in is what degree the differences between people – differences which include:

    Differences between individuals within a group
    Differences in the same group at different times
    Differences between different groups

    …are caused by differences in each’s respective environment?

    That’s a more coherent version.

    See there for my answers to these.

    In short:

    1. Little to none (pathogens one important component)
    2. Over short time periods, considerable, but poorly predictable/controllable
    3. Seemingly similar to #1, but still under investigation

    “We don’t know the logic of the neural circuitry but they still operate by physical laws and the physical laws are well understood.”

    This is a John Horgan-type argument. Our understanding of basic physical laws doesn’t mean we fully understand what results when they operate in complex systems, of which human brain is among the most complex.

    “Searle’s argument applies ANY form of logical circuitry and the fact that you can’t”

    You are Dunning-Krugering here now (yup, verb form is a JayManism). The basic point, which you’re totally missing, is that there are more cognitive processes involved in “making us human” than the simplistic operations described by Searle’s thought experiment.

    “The American propensity for violence probably lays less in the ‘genetic makeup’ Americans than in the legitimacy of participation of the ‘average man’ in public policy.”

    Except that you’re wrong, as we’ll see shortly.

    Reply

  35. The fine structure “constant” proves not to be constant. Most of physical reality proves to be “dark energy,” which behaves in some way we really have no clue about. Second point is that Turing proved any programmable computer can do what any other programmable computer can do, but if you have proof it can do absolutely everything, like resolve the paradox “this statements cannot be proved,” I am all ears.

    This is the atheist version of the the “God of the gaps” argument. Dark energy, which we don’t understand, will provide the answer for semantic apprehension ’cause we have no other explanation.

    Sure.

    An “Ether” theory is an Ether theory by any other name.

    Reply

    1. @slumlord ” Dark energy, which we don’t understand, will provide the answer for semantic apprehension ’cause we have no other explanation.” Not to seem anti-semantic, but I don’t think that’s your word here. I’m talking science, not language. And when I say nobody knows, I don’t mean that I know. I do think that one could afford to be a bit more tolerant of another’s views if one puts a lot of importance on science. If not, then one may rave on with perfectly logical consistency.

      Reply

  36. @matt – “juvenile promethean bullshit”

    well, yeah, i agree that the idea that understanding human biodiversity will lead to more racism, genocide, and forced eugenics programs is ridiculous and lacking an historical perspective, but i wouldn’t go so far as to call those people’s argument is “juvenile promethean b*llsh*t.” that’s going too far, i think.

    (~_^)

    Reply

  37. i meant you. your argument is juvenile promethean bullshit. maybe i’ll elaborate in the future.

    Reply

  38. @matt – “i meant you. your argument is juvenile promethean bullshit.”

    ooohhh, MY argument! yeah, right! because there’re no indications AT ALL of genocides or racism or even eugenics having occurred before nazi germany. riiiiight.

    Reply

  39. okay. here we go.

    you’re probably right about the biological roots human aggression, but this is near-useless when we want to find explanations of particular cases. chalking up the entirety of man’s inhumanity to man to “human nature” is fine as far as it goes, but it sweeps aside all talk of more proximate causes.

    For example, consider the question of why eliott rodger killed all those people. was it mental illness, or misogyny? (fwiw, i think it’s pretty obvious it was both.) maybe it was “anti-blondism” or, even more ridiculously, feminism (whatever else can be said about the different varieties of feminists out there, i’m pretty sure none of them have ever advocated starving the vast majority of women in concentration camps and keeping the rest around only for breeding purposes. let me know if i’ve missed any counterexamples).

    but wait! here comes hbdchick to tell us that we’re all wrong! the real reason why that piece of shit killed all those people is human nature.

    you may not subscribe to the hypothesis that a toxic misogyny contributed to rodgers’s willingness to murder six innocent people, but it’s hardly an argument to respond by saying: “well, human nature being what it is, people would go on killing people even if misogyny didn’t exist.”

    Reply

  40. when confronted with the question “why did this particular atrocity occur?”, “human nature” is about as good an answer as “original sin”. notice that this is true even if human nature and original sin exist and make conceptual sense.

    Reply

  41. @matt – “when confronted with the question ‘why did this particular atrocity occur?’, ‘human nature’ is about as good an answer as ‘original sin’.”

    i’m more interested in ultimate causes rather than proximate causes for events in human history, because i think that only then can we truly understand what’s going on. it’s not that the proximate ones are unimportant or should be ignored, it’s just that they’re secondary in importance.

    obviously genocides, racism, and eugenics all occurred throughout history — with stunning frequency — well before the nazis appeared on the scene, so if we want to put a stop to those things, we need to understand why they occurred. human nature (or even natures) is the only possible explanation — unless you believe in supernatural forces, of course. or that we’re brains in vats or trapped inside some sort of simulation.

    Reply

    1. @hbd chick: “if we want to put a stop to those things, we need to understand why they occurred. human nature (or even natures) is the only possible explanation ”

      As usual, you take a difficult concept and phrase it deftly and precisely. Of course you know I do not agree. What we are looking at is a law of nature that applies to all sexually reproducing life, not necessarily just this planet. Until people grasp that, history, biology and ordinary human nastiness will remain an impenetrable fog. But some, as you, will peer more deeply than others. Pity I can’t get you to come over to the dark side. It’s the incandescent side, but the dark side always says that.

      Reply

  42. i’m more interested in ultimate causes rather than proximate causes for events in human history, because i think that only then can we truly understand what’s going on. it’s not that the proximate ones are unimportant or should be ignored, it’s just that they’re secondary in importance.

    that’s fine. you have a right to be more or less interested in anything you want. but if proximate causes are important, as you concede, then we should pay attention to them, especially since there isn’t much we can do, short of illiberal measures, about human nature(s). if it turns out that hbd or proto-hbd played a role among the proximate causes of past cases of genocide or oppression, then that is relevant to the question of whether hbd research should be undertaken.

    take another example: the post-1960s rise in violent crime. conservatives often say that ideas associated with the 60s contributed to this rise: ideas like liberation from social taboos, personal expression, etc. maybe this is true, maybe it isn’t, but it isn’t a good response to say that violence has always existed, crime has risen in other eras for other reasons, and so on. if certain ideas from the 60s contributed to the crime increase, then those ideas are worth paying attention to.

    i’d also like to point out that one of your premises seems to be this:

    in order to solve a problem, we need to understand its ultimate causes.

    this is far from obvious in general. the problem of vision impairment was basically solved in the 18th century with the invention of bifocals, at a time when human beings knew very little about the problem’s ultimate environmental causes, and nothing at all about its genetic ones.

    Reply

  43. by the way, if you’re really interested in “ultimate causes”, why stop at biology? if you want to reduce history, economics, and sociology to biology, why not continue on down to chemistry? or all the way to particle physics?

    or maybe, just maybe, the world is just a little more complicated than that.

    Reply

  44. @matt:

    “by the way, if you’re really interested in ‘ultimate causes’, why stop at biology? if you want to reduce history, economics, and sociology to biology, why not continue on down to chemistry? or all the way to particle physics?

    or maybe, just maybe, the world is just a little more complicated than that.”

    Emergent properties, my friend. The effects at lower levels often simplify at higher levels, which why you’re able to predict the motion of the planets using Kepler’s equations (well, with general relativity) and not have to model the behavior of every constituent atom of these planets.

    You’re hence deeply misunderstanding the idea of ultimate causation here.

    Reply

  45. Jayman,

    that’s more or less my point, if I’m reading you correctly. it certainly seems true that every biological event (say) is identical to some physical event, so that biology is in some ultimate sense about physics (the subject matter of biology is a subset of the subject matter of physics). it also follows that if one can make a prediction P from the laws of biology (conjoined with a statement of initial conditions), then one can predict P from the laws of physics (and the initial-conditions statement) as well, at least in principle.

    but it hardly follows that biological language is just really complicated physical language, nor that biological explanations are just really complicated physical explanations.

    now, if this point applies to the relations among the more basic sciences, then it even more strongly to the relations among the higher sciences. we know a lot more about how the laws of biology interact with the laws of physics (through chemistry) than we do about how the laws of, say, economics (such as they are) interact with the laws of biology. doubly so for disciplines, like history, that can’t be said to have any “laws”, at least any that we have discovered.

    it may be that every historical event is a biological event (because every historical event is contingently identical to (a) psychological event(s), and every psychological event is contigently identical to a neurological event, and every neurological event is contingently identical to a biological event. then again, maybe not.) but this doesn’t mean that history is just a sub-discipline of biology, and it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s a sub-discipline of physics.

    but i didn’t mean to digress into the philosophy of science. read the fodor paper for more details.

    Reply

    1. @Matt: “history, that can’t be said to have any “laws”, at least any that we have discovered.” I discovered a law of history many years ago and have told everybody I could. Check it out at http://www.nobabies.net/A%20January%20summary.html
      and scoot down to the third graph. If you could get a curve that clean in a physics lab you would be happy. This is a graph of real world events. If that isn’t a law of nature, then nothing in science is a law of nature.
      But nobody cares. And that, alas, raises an imponderable nobody ever discusses. Nobody cares that nobody cares. I guess we are all up to some social game that controls our minds more than evidence does.

      Reply

  46. linton herbert,

    if you think you’ve discovered a law of history, submit it to a peer-reviewed journal and try to get it published. if there’s anything to it, i’m sure someone will be interested.

    in the meantime, you might want to familiarize yourself with some of the philosophical literature on the possibility of general historical laws, starting here.

    in any case, if there were historical laws, they probably couldn’t be reduced to the laws of physics (or of any more general science). to see why, consider a hypothetical law of of an idealized science of history:

    (H) all wars are fought over resources

    suppose, for the sake of argument, that (H) is true. now consider the word “wars.” what are wars? from the standpoint of history, the class of wars seems to be a highly unified, homogenous set of events. indeed, we may suppose that they comprise a fundamental category (a “natural kind”) of our hypothetical idealized historical science.

    from a physical standpoint, however, the class of wars, although perhaps a class of physical events, seems like a random jumble. after all, wars can be fought with horses, tanks, or airplanes. they can be fought with sticks, stones, broadswords, muskets, cannons, submachine guns, mustard gas, cluster bombs, napalm and hydrogen bombs. these are all very different kinds of physical things. wars do not fall under a fundamental category of physical events. therefore, if you were to “translate” (H) into the vocabulary of physics, you would get a very complicated, downright monstrous sentence that would have no right to be called a “law of physics” (since scientific laws are supposed to use vocabulary that refer to the fundamental categories of the science in question). so, it is impossible to reduce (H) to a law of physics.

    that was a dumbed-down version of fodor’s argument. for the full story, read his paper, linked to above.

    Reply

    1. @Matt “if you think you’ve discovered a law of history, submit it to a peer-reviewed journal and try to get it published. if there’s anything to it, i’m sure someone will be interested.” I doubt it. Before you publish something you really ought to chat it over with some other interested people, and there aren’t any. For instance you might have nailed some fatal flaw. Might have. If it’s there. But I’m not sure you even looked at the evidence.
      I like your notion that war is hard to define. It seems to me the “regime change” might be easier; it”s more stereotyped and as I said … no matter. Nobody cares.

      Reply

  47. @Matt
    there are many ways to engage an ‘enemy’ but isn’t the universal element of the scenario you use that, whoever wants to engage an enemy should have, not only a plan for engagement but also, a good supply line, wherever that supply goes and whatever specific supplies are needed? That’s a rule of engagement isn’t it?

    Reply

  48. kate,

    not all wars are fought with supply lines. sometimes, an army tries to “live off the land.” even so, what are supply lines, from the standpoint of physics? the physical substrata of different supply lines are extremely variegated. you can deliver supplies with camels, railroads or airplanes.

    i think i have “derailed” (as they say) my own conversation. i didn’t mean for an offhand, snarky comment to turn into the main focus of the discussion. please, no more questions about the philosophy of science, as interesting as that subject is.

    Reply

  49. linton herbert,

    with all due respect, it’s outside of my field, i doubt i’d have very many interesting things to say about it, and there are other things that i have to read.

    I like your notion that war is hard to define. It seems to me the “regime change” might be easier

    i didn’t say that war is hard to define. i’m fairly sure it’s quite easy to define in the vocabulary of history, international relations, etc. (though those aren’t my fields either). my point is that it is hard to define in terms of the fundamental categories of physics (chemistry, etc.). this is because the categories employed by history, etc, cut across physical categories. the interesting generalizations one can make about different events from a historical standpoint are such that no interesting generalizations can be made about them from the standpoint of the laws of physics. this is why history will never be physics, not even if we become gods.

    i can’t see how “regime change” is any better than “war” from a physics-standpoint. different regime changes have been the product of many different kinds of physical things coming together. William and Mary overthrew King James II with wooden ships and horses; Gen. Pinochet overthrew President Allende with steel ships and tanks. both were regime changes.

    p.s. it occurred to me that the fodor paper might be a little too technical for non-specialists. a more accessible version of the same thesis was made in fodor’s deservedly scathing review of e.o. wilson’s Consilience (one of the more tone-deaf, philistinic expositions of physicalist reductionism).

    Reply

    1. @Matt “my point is that it is hard to define in terms of the fundamental categories of physics (chemistry, etc.). this is because the categories employed by history, etc, cut across physical categories. ” That’s a legitimate challenge. Remind me in a year or two.

      Reply

  50. @matt:

    The only word on the subject:

    Any time an argument goes there, we are entitled to immediately disregard it, in my opinion.

    Reply

  51. Jayman,

    Not once was “religion” or the “supernatural’ invoked. The whole point is that even if everything falls within the domain of what is studied by physics, not every science is a branch of physics. I don’t think you even understand what the issue is.

    Reply

  52. In fact, I don’t need to invoke religion. I’m perfectly content to invoke computer/cognitive science. From my comment on your blog (which you apparently refused to publish):

    “…[R]eductionist physicalism is false. This becomes quite obvious if you consider computer science. The same type of computational state can be manifested in many different types of physical systems. (This is called “multiple realizability”). The same algorithm can be run on a computer made of silicon chips or mechanical gears. If it’s simple enough, it can be run on an abacus. It’s obvious that the laws of physics can’t say anything interesting about computers, because the types that computer science kind-predicates refer to overlap and cut across the types that physics kind-predicates refer to. Therefore it isn’t merely difficult to express descriptions of the activities of computers in terms of the laws of physics. It’s impossible.

    “Indeed, the view underlying most of cognitive science since Turing has been that the human mind is, in highly relevant ways, computational. If we take that view seriously, we have to say that facts about our psychology cannot be explained by the laws of neuroscience (whatever those are). If we have computational psychological states, then those states should be able to be replicated in other types of organic or non-organic physical systems. If that’s the case, then neuroscience (and a fortiori physics) will only be able to tell us so much about our mind.”

    Reply

  53. @Matt

    I find your comments interesting, I find the debate interesting. I think there are two different debates in fact.

    First, how ‘natural’ is culture?

    Second, how restricted by average heritability is the individual organism?

    Culture is 100% natural and is a process for utilising physical resources.

    Physical resources + People = Culture.

    When people go, the physical resources remain but there is no hub-ub or laughter hanging in the air. No people = no culture.

    Reply

  54. Kate,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Suppose you agree that everything (rocks, birds, stars, human thought, laughter, hub-bub) is, at bottom, subatomic particles (or fields, or maybe strings or whatever else physics ends up saying there is). So, in that sense, culture is purely ‘natural.’ Like everything else, it just consists of the behavior of subatomic particles. That doesn’t mean that physics as a science will be able to tell us anything useful about human culture. Human culture may be purely physical, but the “science” of human culture (whatever it is) is not the science of physics. To conflate the two is to conflate metaphysics with epistemology.

    (The point is made rather bluntly here)

    The same goes for biology. Human beings are biological organisms with an evolutionary history. Human culture is the product of biological organisms interacting with their environments, both in the present and during that evolutionary history. But the science of biology doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about any given aspect of human culture. You shouldn’t expect biology to tell us anything about some aspect of human culture just because human beings are biological organisms, any more than you would expect particle physics to tell us anything about the ethological behavior of birds just because birds are composed of fermions and bosons.

    So the issue isn’t whether culture is ‘natural’ or not. We might say it’s 100% ‘natural’ (i.e., there’s no non-physical stuff that goes into its production). That still doesn’t tell us which kind of science (physical, biological, or social) we need to explain culture.

    That doesn’t mean that biology (or even physics) can never tell us anything useful about culture, just that there’s no a priori reason to think that it will, and that it will never completely subsume the study of culture. A lot of people who like to think of themselves as hard-headed science types seem to take it as a methodological axiom that more general levels of explanation are always relevant to more specific levels, and that it is (at least “in principle”) possible to subsume the special sciences within the more general ones. Ironically for those who claim to take empiricism, logic, and science seriously, there doesn’t seem to be any empirical or logical evidence for this assumption, and it is produced, in my opinion, by ignorance of how science actually works.

    The Nature/Nurture debate is somewhat orthogonal to the question of which level of explanation is best for a given purpose. That is, the question of the exact proportion of Nature and Nurture that goes into the cause of a given trait is a different question than the question of which science is needed to explain and understand the trait.

    For example, take language. Noam Chomsky (probably) showed that there is an innate human language faculty, and its development is coded for by the genes in the same way that hearts, lungs, limbs and other bodily organs are coded for by the genes. So it seems like the Nature/Nurture debate with respect to language has been settled in favor of Nature. But we still don’t know which genes code for the language faculty, nor do we know much at all about the evolutionary history of the faculty.

    That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to “really understand” language. We’ve in fact made some degree of progress on that front, by directly investigating the formal, mathematical, computational structure of natural language grammars. We don’t even really need to know anything about the brain in order to do that. Chomsky’s breakthroughs weren’t dependent in any significant sense on genetics, evolutionary biology or even neuroscience, just as Harvey managed to discover quite a lot about human anatomy more than two centuries before the discoveries of Darwin and Mendel.

    Nor does the fact that a “problem” is to some degree genetically determined mean that we need to know anything about genes in order to solve it. A person with genetically inherited myopia can largely solve her problem by wearing glasses or contacts, or with lasik surgery, without knowing which genes caused her impaired vision, or even knowing what genes are. Nor do the glasses/contacts manufacturers, optometrist who prescribes them, or the lasik surgeons need to know very much about genetics.

    Again, none of this means that genetics and biology never tell us anything interesting about higher-level phenomena. No doubt they often do. All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t automatically expect them to, anymore than we expect string theory to tell us anything interesting about biological phenomena. And we certainly shouldn’t impose a priori restrictions on the investigations of scientists in order to make the sciences conform to this expectation.

    Reply

  55. Indeed, the original topic of discussion (violence) is a perfect illustration of the point I made in the penultimate paragraph my last post. As hbdchick concedes in the OP, violence in some parts of the word has been declining since the Middle Ages. But if it’s been declining from the Middle Ages to the present day, that means it was also declining from the Middle Ages to the 1860s, during a time when no one knew anything about natural selection or genetics. So violence, even if to a large degree genetically caused, has been in the process of being solved or at least meliorated, even though most of this progress occurred during a period in which knowledge of the genetic and evolutionary causes of violence was nil, (and I’m not sure how it could be argued that very much, or any, of the post-1860s decline was caused by this knowledge either. Indeed, homicide rates seem to have increased for a time after this period in the Netherlands). therefore the vast majority of the decline in violence cannot have been caused by knowledge of violence’s “ultimate causes.”

    Now, I suppose one could try to make the argument that further knowledge of violence’s genetic causes would help speed up the decline in the remaining violence, but as of now I can’t see how such an argument would go. Perhaps someone could help me.

    Reply

  56. @Matt

    Thanks for your previous reply, I read it several times and wrote a couple of draft replies. In the end I decided that really it just shows that we need a Culture Science to complement Culture Sociology.

    Homicide seems to fall dramatically after about 1300 and then starts levelling off at a very low level in the 1800s. I can’t understand why the Pinker diagram uses a log scale because that seems to hide what actually happened.

    Linton has ideas about civilisational cycles.

    HBDC’s theory uses (my interpretation) Mendelian genetics to suggest that a gene pool structured on the basis of everyone being 6th cousin might lead to reduced frequency of alleles associated with in-group/out-group conflict because, everyone becomes one loosely knit group.

    But, even if the transition to nuclear families and/or self-selected partners isn’t the root cause of the reduction in homicide, nevertheless this theory on this blog still stands because, how sexual selection is structured must influence the frequency of alleles in a gene pool, and that alone is worth dwelling on. Because if social structures affect allele frequency then the reverse might also be so.

    We can only create culture with ourselves. So any culture that exists, must have come from the people in it, one way or another, can we agree on that?

    Reply

    1. @Kate I like your general approach to a scientific understanding of social events. It seems to me it’s very important even though I would bet it’s not everything. As regards social arrangements and violence, there is a reference

      Death Squared:
      The Explosive Growth and Demise
      of a Mouse Population
      by John B Calhoun MD
      (Section on Behavioral Systems,
      Laboratory ofBrain Evolution & Behavior,
      National Institute ofMental Health,
      9000 Rockville Pike,
      Bethesda, Maryland 20014, USA)Proc. roy. Soc. Med. Volume 66January 1973

      He raised a bunch of mice that were well fed but crowded. Some became very violent while others became very passive and just groomed themselves. Fertility crashed for both sorts, of course. Anyway, he put all the change down to environment and crowding. Indeed it seemed to be too fast for gene mutation and selection. I suspect the mechanism is epigenetic rather than genetic, but do not yet have data with which to make an assertion.

      Reply

  57. Kate,

    Thanks again for responding. I also would not mind reading the reply about “Culture Science” that you alluded to in you first paragraph, if you care to post it.

    HBDC’s theory uses (my interpretation) Mendelian genetics to suggest that a gene pool structured on the basis of everyone being 6th cousin might lead to reduced frequency of alleles associated with in-group/out-group conflict because, everyone becomes one loosely knit group.

    Perhaps. Pinker seems to think it was cultural changes, but I won’t adjudicate between empirical hypotheses here. But notice that even if hbdchick’s theory is true, my point still stands. Genes may have caused the declines in European intra-group violence, but knowledge about genes certainly didn’t. (Remember, metaphysics ≠ epistemology!)

    In general, there seems to be an noticed inconsistency in hbdchick’s argument. On the one hand, she wants to affirm that,

    (1) Inter- and intra-group violence is largely genetically caused, and ideas and culture have little to no effect;

    and on the other hand, that

    (2) Knowledge of HBD can significantly reduce inter- and intra-group violence.

    (1) and (2) are, if not straightforwardly logically inconsistent, certainly in significant tension.

    There is a dilemma: Either ideas significantly affect violence, or the do not. If they do not significantly increase or decrease violence, then neither will HBD ideas significantly decrease violence.

    If they do, then there is at least is much (and, if recent history is any guide, more) chance that HBD ideas will increase inter-group violence as there is that it will decrease it.

    Either way, I can’t see how the ethical case for HBD research has been made. And one does need to make an ethical case for scientific research, in my opinion, if there is a possibility that it will be harmful. Scientific curiosity is important, but it is not the supreme human value. Scientists themselves recognize this, which is why they place ethical restrictions on the kinds and techniques of research they undertake.

    We can only create culture with ourselves. So any culture that exists, must have come from the people in it, one way or another, can we agree on that?

    I don’t see anything to disagree with in this. I would only say that the fact that we create culture, and that we are biological organisms, does not imply that biology is the best tool for understanding culture.

    (Even Pinker doesn’t seem to understand this. On p.19 of this article, he criticizes Fodor for his supposed

    failure to distinguish pairs of disciplines whose subject-matters are in a superset-subset relation from pairs of disciplines whose subject matters are disjoint…. The issue… is not whether all the sciences are mutually relevant, but but whether evolutionary biology and psychology (and other pairs of sciences with overlapping subject matters) are mutually relevant.

    But Pinker does not understand that the question whether two sciences have overlapping subject matters is an ontological question, logically distinct from the epistemological question whether the sciences themselves are mutually relevant.)

    Reply

  58. @matt – “(1) Inter- and intra-group violence is largely genetically caused, and ideas and culture have little to no effect;

    and on the other hand, that

    (2) Knowledge of HBD can significantly reduce inter- and intra-group violence.”

    the only important effect that ideas and culture had on the decrease in violence (specifically homicides, so intra-group) was a genetic one. christianity didn’t reduce violence in nw europe by persuading everyone to love their neighbors — rather, it got them to outbreed and then, subsequently, less violent behaviors were selected for. i think.

    also, just because natural selection happened in the past doesn’t mean that we couldn’t use artificial selection going forward. or gene therapies or whatever. if we decided to, that is (not what i would necessarily argue for).

    @matt – “Now, I suppose one could try to make the argument that further knowledge of violence’s genetic causes would help speed up the decline in the remaining violence, but as of now I can’t see how such an argument would go.”

    i’m not sure, either. what’s more clear to me is that, perhaps, other, still violent populations could apply the method that nw europeans, admittedly, accidentally hit upon. if they so chose.

    Reply

  59. hbdchick – christianity didn’t reduce violence in nw europe by persuading everyone to love their neighbors — rather, it got them to outbreed and then, subsequently, less violent behaviors were selected for. i think.

    So, if I’m understanding you, Christianity indirectly reduced violence by directly influencing out breeding levels, which in turn directly reduced violence.

    The model you posit looks like this:

    Christianity —-> more outbreeding —–> less violence

    But if Christianity is a strong enough cultural influence to affect outbreeding, why couldn’t it also have been strong enough to directly (perhaps as well as indirectly) reduce (at least intra-group) violence?

    In other words:

    Christianity
    / \
    / \
    / \
    less violence <——– more outbreeding

    hbdchick also, just because natural selection happened in the past doesn’t mean that we couldn’t use artificial selection going forward. or gene therapies or whatever. if we decided to, that is (not what i would necessarily argue for)…. perhaps, other, still violent populations could apply the method that nw europeans, admittedly, accidentally hit upon. if they so chose.

    How would they do it, on your model? How could HBD ideology (a cultural force) manage to get what are (on your view) innately violent and backward cultures to undertake the organizational effort necessary to implement eugenic measures? And HBD ideology is powerful enough to do that why wouldn’t it also be powerful enough to increase inter-group violence?

    Reply

  60. @matt – “So, if I’m understanding you, Christianity indirectly reduced violence by directly influencing out breeding levels, which in turn directly reduced violence.”

    not directly, no. the outbreeding set up a different set of selection pressures, that’s all.

    @matt – “But if Christianity is a strong enough cultural influence to affect outbreeding, why couldn’t it also have been strong enough to directly (perhaps as well as indirectly) reduce (at least intra-group) violence?”

    because you don’t/can’t reduce violence by just asking people to be nice. you reduce violence in a population by selecting for innately nicer individuals — until you have enough of them in your population that levels of violence drop.

    @matt – “How could HBD ideology (a cultural force) manage to get what are (on your view) innately violent and backward cultures to undertake the organizational effort necessary to implement eugenic measures?”

    prolly wouldn’t be able to. you might be able to communicate these ideas to some high iq populations like the chinese or japanese — but then they don’t really need to reduce their violence levels. the chinese could work on their clannishness, tho.

    you could force some not so bright populations to adopt christianity — but then you’d have to make sure they follow the outbreeding regulations and not give them a pass, like the roman catholic church did for latin america and africa in the 1500s. remember, there was a lot of force to get nw europeans to outbreed — i’m not saying it was an easy or pretty job. (nor am i recommending this for other populations.) and even if you managed to get some other populations to outbreed for, say, 500 years, it’s not certain they’d wind up exactly like nw europeans. the different populations have already gone down unique evolutionary pathways. they’re all beginning at different starting points.

    Reply

  61. hbdchick – because you don’t/can’t reduce violence by just asking people to be nice.

    Then how do you get them to outbreed just by asking them to outbreed? What makes violence such a special type of human behavior that it can’t be significantly affected by culture? Or is it that outbreeding is the special behavior, uniquely susceptible to cultural influences?

    you could force some not so bright populations to adopt christianity…. and even if you managed to get some other populations to outbreed for, say, 500 years, it’s not certain they’d wind up exactly like nw europeans.

    So, in the best case scenario, HBD ideas could improve the human condition half-a-millenium down the line, by using extremely illiberal measures that you yourself do not endorse.

    On the other hand, it’s fairly easy to think of ways in which it would be at least possible for HBD to contribute to inter-group violence.

    It seems like no matter how you want to draw up the decision matrix, the expected utility of HBD research is going to come out negative.

    Reply

  62. @matt – “Then how do you get them to outbreed just by asking them to outbreed?”

    you don’t. you force them by passing laws and such and punishing the ones who don’t follow your laws. read the “mating patterns in europe series” — links below in the left-hand column — to see how it worked.

    @matt – “What makes violence such a special type of human behavior that it can’t be significantly affected by culture?”

    it’s not. but all human behaviors are heritable and not significantly affected by culture. not in the way most people think, anyway.

    @matt – “So, in the best case scenario, HBD ideas could improve the human condition half-a-millenium down the line, by using extremely illiberal measures that you yourself do not endorse.”

    no. i also mentioned other techniques — gene therapy, for instance. pay attention.

    i also gave a practical example in the post of — given what we know about biology and human biodiversity — how we could reduce inter-group conflicts.

    maybe you ought to work on your reading comprehension/recall.

    Reply

  63. hbdchick – you force them by passing laws and such and punishing the ones who don’t follow your laws

    Who got it in their head to pass and enforce these laws? And how did it happen? And why did Europeans decide to convert to Christianity in the first place (sure, there were forced conversions, such as of the Franks, and there was persecution of Greco-Roman pagans. But in the main, Christianity did not spread through Europe that way. Besides, how did Christians decide to persecute non-Christians?)

    It’s not that your hypothesis is implausible (though I’m not endorsing it). It’s that you insist on making it more implausible than it needs to be by denying any role for the epistemically (note: epistemically) autonomous effects of culture.

    hbdchick – but all human behaviors are heritable and not significantly affected by culture.

    (Almost) All human traits/behaviors are heritable. Not all human traits/behaviors are generically determined, in any meaningful sense. Not all human traits/behaviors are immune from cultural influence.

    As Ned Block points out, at one time, wearing earrings was highly heritable, “because differences in whether a person had an earring were “due” to a chromosomal difference, XX versus XY” (104). When more men, due to cultural changes (!), started wearing earrings, the heritability fell. But at no point was the trait “genetically determined” in anything like the sense in which we use that phrase.

    (Nor are genetically determined traits always highly heritable. Number of toes is not very heritable, since most of the variance in this trait is caused by environmental differences. (Block, 103-4). But it sure is genetically determined. Try introducing some cultural changes that would increase or decrease the number of toes humans have. Good luck.

    I’m sure you know all this, it’s just good to be reminded of it now and again.)

    hbdchick – i also mentioned other techniques — gene therapy, for instance.

    I wouldn’t pin my hopes on gene therapy. There are huge technological and ethical hurdles to overcome (most of which have nothing to with HBD). Not to mention the prohibitive cost.

    But even if all these problems could be solved, what would gene therapy have to do with HBD? Suppose we discover a violence gene (let’s keep it simple for argument’s sake), and suppose we discover a gene-therapeutic way of counteracting its effects. Why would we have to know the distribution of this gene across human populations? Why would we have to know whether it’s more commonly found in Ukrainians than it is in Moldovans? Why not just treat individuals who have the gene?

    i also gave a practical example in the post of — given what we know about biology and human biodiversity — how we could reduce inter-group conflicts.

    I’m assuming you mean this:

    making sure that nations are as ethnically homogeneous as possible.

    I’m not as convinced as you that ethnic diversity is such a bad thing, by itself. There are places where it works. Kerala has a gigantic amount of ethnic, religious, and caste diversity, and it also has the highest human development indices and one of the lowest rates of communal violence in India (interesting question: what are the consanguinity rates in Kerala? This study says they’re low (and that consanguinity has been declining in some South Indian states). Are there differences between Keralan Hindus, Muslims and Christians?).

    Putnam’s research is interesting and important, but it’s hardly the last word on the subject. Other social scientists like Merlin Schaeffer and Bo Rothstein have extensively investigated the relationship between diversity and social cohesion, and have concluded, in short, that that relationship is really, really complicated.

    But even if I agree that ethnic diversity (at least beyond a certain point) is a bad thing, what does that have to do with human biodiversity directly? I might agree that it’s bad, and because it’s bad, I might agree to implement harsh immigration restrictions (hypothetically. I don’t actually advocate them). But why does it matter why it’s bad? Why not just point to the social science research that says it’s bad, and then remain silent on the possible sociobiological factors underlying that fact, especially since pointing to those factors might have unintended negative consequences?

    hbdchick – maybe you ought to work on your reading comprehension/recall.

    It’s a work in progress. Be patient.

    Reply

  64. @Matt

    My replies probably missed your point. I’m not sure I understand metaphysics vs. epistemology.

    “Pinker seems to think it was cultural changes”
    The Church’s ban on cousin marriage is a cultural change. So too is the proliferation of the taboo in north Europe.

    Ethics – what is the boundary you are drawing, how is the exclusion worded? How can being cognisant of relatedness amongst tribal societies be a threat to humanity? Isn’t such knowledge exactly what tribal societies would like ‘westerners’ to have of them? What have anthropologists been doing all these years other than working out what a tribe’s kinship relations are and how these are used to exploit and distribute resources?

    “epistemological question whether the sciences themselves are mutually relevant.”

    pass. my best guess is:
    culture is a real thing, it’s a social construct but it exists in a material sense and it’s a valid subject of scientific study.

    Reply

  65. Excuse me, I was wrong. I said Kerala had one of the lowest rates of communal violence in India. According to this, it actually has one of the highest rates of communal “incidents” in India, though not of casualties from communal incidents.

    So yeah. My bad. The point about it having the highest social indices still stands, as far as I know.

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  66. Kate – The Church’s ban on cousin marriage is a cultural change. So too is the proliferation of the taboo in north Europe.

    Right. Even on hbdchick’s hypothesis, she needs to posit cultural changes that are irreducible to biological changes.

    Why did violence decrease? Because of increased outbreeding. Why did outbreeding increase? Because the Church enforced a taboo against it. Why did the Church enforce a taboo against it? How did the Church become so influential in Europe that it was in a position to enforce the taboo in the first place?

    At some point, biological explanations of culture hit an epistemic wall. That’s not because culture isn’t part of the natural world, it’s because (roughly) the concepts with which we understand culture are very different from the concepts with which we understand biological phenomena, just as the concepts with which we understand biological phenomena are very different from the concepts with which we understand vibrating strings (supposing that biological phenomena consist of vibrating strings).

    Kate – Ethics – what is the boundary you are drawing, how is the exclusion worded

    I think it needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis. I may have been to sweeping in condemning “HBD” tout court. There may be areas of research that fall under that heading that aren’t morally dangerous at all. I think research on possible innate IQ differences, in particular, probably is.

    How do we tell the difference between those research programs that won’t be morally dangerous and those that will? The same we evaluate any course of action: by trying to determine the likely consequences. Scientific research is like any other kind of human behavior: it has consequences, and it needs to be morally evaluated in the light of those consequences. (Not that I’m endorsing any form of pure consequentialism. Just that consequences are relevant to the evaluation of behavior).

    culture is a real thing, it’s a social construct but it exists in a material sense and it’s a valid subject of scientific study.

    I don’t disagree with that at all. I just ask: which sciences should study which aspects of which cultures?

    Reply

  67. But Kerala isn’t more diverse than other Indian states. So what does that prove about its social development indicators ?

    Plus Kerala has a terrible flaw : the most unpronounceable state capital name : Trivandrananandrapandrathapuramandranpur, or something.

    Reply

  68. @matt – “Who got it in their head to pass and enforce these laws? And how did it happen?”

    again, you should probably start by reading my “mating patterns in europe series” — links to posts below in left-hand column. there’s also a lot of literature on this subject: you could start with jacky goody and michael mitterauer (references in posts).

    @matt – “interesting question: what are the consanguinity rates in Kerala? This study says they’re low (and that consanguinity has been declining in some South Indian states). Are there differences between Keralan Hindus, Muslims and Christians?”

    in 1992-1993, the rate of first and second cousin marriage in kerala was 7.5% [pg. 87], which is about double the rate of that of the upper classes in england in the 1800s.

    the important thing to pay attention to, though, are the long-term rates, because we’re talking about evolution by natural selection which, although it can and does happen pretty rapidly, doesn’t happen overnight. so, have the consanguinity rates in kerala been 7.5% for one generation? ten generations? fifty generations? well, the rates were as high as 20% in 1967, which is pretty high [pg. 11]. so although the rates have obviously dropped in the last generation, it is quite possible that the long-term rates have been pretty high. that’s what we’d need to find out.

    there are differences in cousin marriage patterns between hindus, muslims, and christians in india — muslims usually have the highest rates, while hindus and christians have around the same rates [pg. 86] — so i’d guess there are differences in the mating patterns between these groups in kerala.

    Reply

  69. @matt – “But why does it matter why it’s bad? Why not just point to the social science research that says it’s bad, and then remain silent on the possible sociobiological factors underlying that fact, especially since pointing to those factors might have unintended negative consequences?”

    to go back to your example of poor eyesight and wearing glasses [in this comment], wearing glasses doesn’t fix the problem of my poor eyesight — it merely treats the symptoms (can’t read the words on the laptop screen). if i lose my glasses or break them, or even if they just fog up, my poor eyesight is still there, and it’s still a problem. however, if we understand how eyes and eyesight work, we can try to actually fix the problem — insert some stem cells into my eyeballs to grow some new rods or whatever they h*ll it is that i’d need.

    just looking at the social science research that shows us that diverse communities don’t work as well as homogeneous ones doesn’t help us much. if we keep on only looking at that, anybody could come up with any silly old “fix” to the problems — and, so far, none of the ones they’ve come up with have worked. the only one that seems to help that humans have hit upon — after millennia of randomly trying different solutions — is to keep populations separate. maybe if we understood how our nature(s) really work, we could devise a few more solutions — save a few more lives.

    understanding how the world really operates is the only way to tackle problems, afaics. as far as i know, cancer researchers don’t just study the symptoms of cancer patients and then try to ameliorate those. they’re working to find what causes cancer in the hopes of eradicating it. i think we should apply the same practice to things like genocide.

    edit: see also this tweet. (^_^)

    Reply

  70. @matt – “At some point, biological explanations of culture hit an epistemic wall. That’s not because culture isn’t part of the natural world….”

    where does culture come from?

    Reply

  71. “seems to help that humans have hit upon — after millennia of randomly trying different solutions — is to keep populations separate”

    But what does that mean in practical terms — after all, most populations are already mixed.

    Reply

  72. Pseudoramusm,

    Actually, Kerala is pretty religiously diverse for India. Below are the religious demographics for Indian States calculated from the 2001 census.

    (The 2011 census did not include religious data, because there are indications that the Hindu proportion might be declining, and the ruling party at the time, the Congress Party, did not want to galvanize the right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP’s base by publishing these statistics. So, even though this data is 13 years old, it’s the best we’ve got.)

    Andaman and Nicobar Islands – 69.2% Hindu, 8.2% Muslim, 21.7% Christian

    Andhra Pradesh – 89% Hindu, 9.2% Muslim, 1.6% Christian

    Assam – 64.9% Hindu, 30.9% Muslim, 3.7% Christian

    Bihar – 83.2% Hindu, 16.5% Muslim

    Chandigarh – 78.6% Hindu, 3.9% Muslim, 16.1% Sikh

    Chhattisgarh – 94.7% Hindu, 2% Muslim, 1.9% Christian

    Dadra & Nagar Haveli – 93.5% Hindu, 3% Muslim, 2.7% Christian

    Daman & Diu – 89.7% Hindu, 7.8% Muslim, 2.1% Christian

    Delhi – 82% Hindu, 11.7% Muslim, 0.9% Christian, 4% Sikh, 1.1% Jain

    Goa – 65.8% Hindu, 6.8% Muslim, 26.7% Christian

    Gujarat – 89.1% Hindu, 9.1% Muslim, 1% Jain

    Haryana – 88.2% Hindu, 5.8% Muslim, 5.5% Sikh

    Himichal Pradesh – 95.4% Hindu, 2% Muslim, 1.2% Sikh, 1.2% Buddhist

    Jammu & Kashmir – 29.6% Hindu, 67% Muslim, 2% Sikh, 1.1% Buddhist

    Jharkhand – 68.6% Hindu, 13.8% Muslim, 4% Christian, 13% “Other Religious Communities”

    Karnataka – 83.9% Hindu, 12.2% Muslim, 1.9% Christian

    Kerala- 56.2% Hindu, 24.7% Muslim, 19% Christian

    Lakshadweep – 3.7% Hindu, 95.5% Muslim

    Mahdhya Pradesh – 91.1% Hindu, 6.4% Muslim

    Maharashtra – 80.4% Hindu, 10.6% Muslim, 1.1% Christian, 6% Buddhist, 1.3% Jain

    Manipur – 46% Hindu, 8.8% Muslim, 34% Christian, 10.9% “Other Religious Communities”

    Meghalaya – 13.3% Hindu, 4.3% Muslim, 70.3% Christian, 11.5% “Other Religious Communities”

    Mizoram – 3.6% Hindu, 1.1% Muslim, 87% Christian, 7.9% Buddhist

    Nagaland – 7.7% Hindu, 1.8% Muslim, 90% Christian

    Orissa – 94.4% Hindu, 2.1% Muslim, 2.4% Christian, 1% “Other Religious Communities”

    Pondicherry – 86.8% Hindu, 6.1% Muslim, 6.9% Christian

    Punjab – 36.9% Hindu, 1.6% Muslim, 1.2% Christian, 59.9% Sikh

    Rajasthan – 88.8% Hindu, 8.5% Muslim, 1.4% Sikh, 1.2% Jain

    Sikkim – 60.9% Hindu, 1.4% Muslim, 6.7% Christian, 28.1% Buddhist, 2.4% “Other Religious Communities”

    Tamil Nadu – 88.1% Hindu, 5.6% Muslim, 6.1% Christian

    Tripura – 85.6% Hindu, 8% Muslim, 3.2% Christian, 3.1% Buddhist

    Uttar Pradesh – 80.6% Hindu, 18.5% Muslim

    Uttaranchal – 85% Hindu, 11.9% Muslim, 2.5% Sikh

    West Bengal – 72.5% Hindu, 25.2% Muslim, 1.1% “Other Religious Communities”

    So, as you can see, Kerala is pretty religiously diverse. Of all the Hindu-majority states, it has the smallest Hindu majority. Of the Muslim-minority states, it has the 3rd largest Muslim minority. And of the Christian-minority states, it has the 4th largest Christian minority.

    Kerala is not very linguistically diverse, admittedly. The vast majority speaks Malayalam, although many can also speak Tamil.

    I will not attempt to measure Kerala’s relative cast diversity, unless someone wants to pay me to do it.

    You have a point about the name of the capital, although you could always just call it Trivandrum.

    Reply

  73. Even on hbdchick’s hypothesis, she needs to posit cultural changes that are irreducible to biological changes

    Why did violence decrease? Because of increased outbreeding. Why did outbreeding increase? Because the Church enforced a taboo against it. Why did the Church enforce a taboo against it? How did the Church become so influential in Europe that it was in a position to enforce the taboo in the first place? At some point, biological explanations of culture hit an epistemic wall.

    You are just making an “irreducible complexity” argument and the proper response is Dawkinsian.

    The fact that one cannot yet come up with a materialistic explanation for something does not mean there isn’t one. Since everything we are and do is a product of biology, directly or indirectly — often indirectly — there must be a materialistic explanation.

    I agree it’s a mystery why marriage practises are abandoned or adopted. And I think for Europe the Catholic Church is not a sufficient explanation. It didn’t have the power to independently enforce anything outside Latium which it directly governed. As history amply shows, the Church depended on the goodwill of secular powers to enforce ecclesiastical laws.

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  74. @matt

    “Either way, I can’t see how the ethical case for HBD research has been made.”

    Medicine does that on its own. There will be thousands of medically significant differences between different populations.

    Iraq and Afghanistan might not have happened or at least might not have been so disastrous if knowledge of the significance of patterns of relatedness had existed.

    .

    “violence in some parts of the word has been declining since the Middle Ages. But if it’s been declining from the Middle Ages to the present day, that means it was also declining from the Middle Ages to the 1860s, during a time when no one knew anything about natural selection or genetics.”

    However lots of people had lots of ideas about heredity – bad blood etc – based on observation, just not based on the science of genetics…

    “Now, I suppose one could try to make the argument that further knowledge of violence’s genetic causes would help speed up the decline in the remaining violence, but as of now I can’t see how such an argument would go.”

    Conjugal visits and studying MAOA would be the two most immediately obvious.

    More generally if it was accepted that the – i wouldn’t say causes so much as contributing factors – of violence were partly genetic then it would be obvious that the aim of the criminal justice system should be selective pressure not rehabilitation.

    .

    “That doesn’t mean that biology (or even physics) can never tell us anything useful about culture, just that there’s no a priori reason to think that it will,”

    There is though. Patterns of relatedness determine who among the people around you have how many of your genes. This means every type of human behavior will have a different effect on fitness depending on the pattern of relatedness. So a cultural element designed to influence behavior – whether through conformity in the short term or through artificial selection in the long term and even if it is invented out of thin air like out breeding as a possible solution to clan violence – is tied to fitness.

    .

    “Then how do you get them to outbreed just by asking them to outbreed? What makes violence such a special type of human behavior that it can’t be significantly affected by culture? Or is it that outbreeding is the special behavior, uniquely susceptible to cultural influences?”

    Number of decision points. Genetic solutions to behaviors operate all the time whereas cultural solutions need to be policed so decisions that occur rarely and in public will be easier to control culturally than decisions which occur much more frequently and often out of sight.

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  75. Matt, I knew you would point to Kerala’s religious diversity. All those Malabar Christians ! But by that metric India isn’t a terribly religious place at all, since it’s basically 88% Hindu. So why should you privilege religious diversity as opposed to linguistic, ethnic and caste diversity ? Arunachal Pradesh is usually considered the most linguistically diverse. I’ve never counted or seen counts, but I wager Uttar Pradesh is at least as byzantine in terms of castes and subcastes, not to mention tribals, as any place else in India.

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  76. @pseudoerasmus

    “I agree it’s a mystery why marriage practises are abandoned or adopted. And I think for Europe the Catholic Church is not a sufficient explanation.”

    I don’t think it’s a mystery. hubchik has shown pretty clearly that a bunch of people thought it might reduce clan violence so they tried it and it did.

    The materialist explanation for why it did is if you change the pattern of relatedness then you change the fitness effect of a behavior.

    For example if you had a population split into a number of villages in a valley where each village were 2nd cousins to each other and 6th cousins to the other villages then the fitness cost/benefit of violent raiding that benefited the home village and harmed the target village might come out positive. On the other hand if the valley out bred to the point where all the villages were 4th cousin to each other then the benefit minus the cost of helping one village by harming another would tend to zero or negative.

    (Of course this wouldn’t apply to raiding the people outside the valley.)

    #

    On the other hand I don’t think this speaks to reducing violence specifically so much as reducing conflict in general. Farming cultures all seem to become pacified eventually even if clannish (through various forms of direct selection against violence) however in clannish farming environments the inter-clan *conflict* is still there but takes non-violent forms such as corruption, nepotism etc instead.

    So basically I think selection against violence is much more to do with farming and civilization and is fairly universal when those two environments apply and the out breeding is more responsible for selecting against conflict in general due to changing the pattern of relatedness and thus the cost/benefit of conflict locally.

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  77. “The materialist explanation for why it did is if you change the pattern of relatedness then you change the fitness effect of a behavior.”

    Not what I was asking about.

    “a bunch of people thought it might reduce clan violence so they tried it and it did.”

    Not how it happened. The Church passed certain prohibitions on consanguinity. The mystery is why they could be enforced or consented to, since the Church did not have such temporal powers.

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  78. I’m totally onboard with the idea that certain parts of Europe went from extensive inbreeding to extensive outbreeding and this had a profound impact on social behaviour. But I find the reasons for the switch totally mysterious.

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  79. @pseudoerasmus

    “Not how it happened. The Church passed certain prohibitions on consanguinity. The mystery is why they could be enforced or consented to, since the Church did not have such temporal powers.”

    It’s scattered among many posts but hubchik has shown (at least to my mind) a pretty clear chain from individuals like Augustine and Aquinas who first persuaded the church to change canon law and who then persuaded the temporal authorities to enforce canon law.

    The last step is the physical ability to enforce canon law hence the potential significance of manorialism.

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  80. But you make my argument for me. The chain of causation from the church getting the idea to persuading the manorial lords is not clear. Why were the manorial lords persuaded ? Was there something in it for them ? If you say it was merely the force of faith, then you are kind of playing into Matt’s argument !

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  81. Matt’s point via Fodor about proximate, anteproximate and ultimate explanations seems valid. The fact that biology is reducible to physics doesn’t make biological explanations collapse into physical ones, and the same relationship does hold between biology and the social sciences. Unlike most with a sociobiological bent I come from the social sciences, but what I try to do is to reconcile the sociobiological theories that I think are correct with the social science frameworks which I think remain largely valid despite the sociobiological lacunae. For example, unemployment. The unemployment rate is not a trait, per se. It is an outcome of demand and supply of labour. But the supply of labour is an aggregation of individual decisions by workers to supply hours of work, and those decisions are influenced by individual temperament and preferences for leisure — which are the underlying traits that are heritable. The existing framework in the theory of labour supply, via the “utility function”, can easily accomodate sociobiological theories of temperament. (There are other mechanisms of sociobiological influence that could weigh on the unemployment rate, but I adduce the most obvious one for illustration.) So it’s ultimately an empirical question of how heritable those preferences and temperaments are.

    The big differences in working hours between Europe and the United States are usually attributed by free-market economists to differences in taxes, labour regulations, etc. Europeans did once work a lot more than they do now (when they were less rich, in the 1960s and 1970s). So these free-market economists usually say, if Europe taxed less and deregulated more, working hours would converge with those of the USA. More liberal economists acknowledge some of that, but they tend to emphasise cultural differences in preferences for work/leisure. And there’s a mechanism in economics for expressing such preferences. But they keep getting mocked by right-wingers with lines like “That’s just an ad hoc assumption. If you’ve wanted to be a sociologist all along, why did you train as an economist ?” (Hahaha!) But the idea that different people would have different rates of work/leisure tradeoff for any extra dollar of income, is ripe for sociobiological interpretation.

    As Ned Block points out, at one time, wearing earrings was highly heritable, “because differences in whether a person had an earring were “due” to a chromosomal difference, XX versus XY” (104). When more men, due to cultural changes (!), started wearing earrings, the heritability fell. But at no point was the trait “genetically determined” in anything like the sense in which we use that phrase.

    (Nor are genetically determined traits always highly heritable. Number of toes is not very heritable, since most of the variance in this trait is caused by environmental differences. (Block, 103-4). But it sure is genetically determined. Try introducing some cultural changes that would increase or decrease the number of toes humans have. Good luck.

    Those examples are red herrings.

    Re the earrings : the underlying genotype about which behavioural genetics makes inferences from the phenotype is in the autosome, not the sex chromosomes !!!

    As for the fingers : it’s just a very strained variation on the maize illustration that’s used for kids. Genetically identical seeds planted in two very different environments will produce genetically identical maize with very different phenotypes and different heritability coefficients. This is not earth-shattering news.

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  82. @pseudoerasmus

    “If you say it was merely the force of faith, then you are kind of playing into Matt’s argument!”

    If part of his argument is what i think is is (i may have misunderstood) then I don’t mind. I don’t think culture always stems *directly* from biology although i do think it always stems *ultimately* from biology.

    I think there have often been cases in human history where what is for the common good can’t be directly selected for at an individual level because although it might benefit the group and therefore indirectly help the individual it doesn’t directly benefit the individual and so there is no physical genetic mechanism for the trait to evolve. Most altruistic traits are like this beyond very close kin.

    Culture can resolve this problem. An individual can spot this kind of situation and propose a cultural solution and if persuasive enough it is adopted.

    For example it is in everyone’s interests if a group’s warriors are brave but it is in an individual’s interest for everyone but him to be brave. A culture that enforces a “cowards have a 100% chance of dying” rule replaces the individual’s cost/benefit bravery equation for the group’s. At the same time – as long as that rule is enforced and bravery / cowardice are rewarded or punished – it creates a selection pressure which over time will change the trait frequencies for bravery and cowardice.

    So culture can both substitute for evolution i.e. get people to conform to behavioral traits they don’t have, and create artificial selection pressures for desired and undesired traits i.e. DIY evolution.

    However it is still *ultimately* biology because the “common good” (if it actually is the common good) is simply the group version of fitness. If the culture does promote the common good in that sense then the group will reproduce successfully and if not they won’t.

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  83. hbdchick,

    again, you should probably start by reading my “mating patterns in europe series” — links to posts below in left-hand column.

    I have, actually. Fascinating stuff. But it still doesn’t give biological explanations for why the Church Fathers decided to enforce the incest taboo. Nor does it give biological explanations for why Europeans converted to Christianity, or why Christians decided to proselytize.

    wearing glasses doesn’t fix the problem of my poor eyesight — it merely treats the symptoms (can’t read the words on the laptop screen). if i lose my glasses or break them, or even if they just fog up, my poor eyesight is still there, and it’s still a problem.

    Lasik surgery could do it. It’s supposed to be pretty good by now. Of course, there are risks like with any surgery, and there are still minor inconveniences associated with it; but life is full of risks and minor inconveniences.

    however, if we understand how eyes and eyesight work, we can try to actually fix the problem — insert some stem cells into my eyeballs to grow some new rods or whatever they h*ll it is that i’d need.

    Sure. Of course, there will be risks and complications associated with that too. A person with genetically inferior eyesight will never have a life that is exactly the same as a person with genetically superior eyesight. But so what?

    just looking at the social science research that shows us that diverse communities don’t work as well as homogeneous ones doesn’t help us much. if we keep on only looking at that, anybody could come up with any silly old “fix” to the problems — and, so far, none of the ones they’ve come up with have worked. the only one that seems to help that humans have hit upon — after millennia of randomly trying different solutions — is to keep populations separate

    Assuming we agree on exactly what the social science research tells us (which we don’t; see the research cited in my previous comment), why can’t we make an argument that looks something like the following:

    (1) Diversity reduces social cohesion all over the world.
    (2) Every effort to solve this problem, short of separating populations, has failed.
    (3) Social cohesion is more important than diversity.

    Therefore,

    (4) Efforts (that respects basic human rights, etc.) to keep populations separate should be made (e.g., strict immigration controls).

    Notice, for this argument to work, I don’t need to invoke the sociobiological factors that supposedly explain (1) and (2). All I need are (1) and (2) (and (3)) themselves.

    In general, most of the arguments starting from an “HBD” premise and ending in a policy prescription don’t actually strictly require the “HBD” premise. If you remove the premise positing HBD and replace it with a premise positing highly intractable but purely cultural differences, the argument works just as well (or just as poorly) as it did before. Herrnstein & Murray basically admit this in Chapter 13 of The Bell Curve.

    maybe if we understood how our nature(s) really work, we could devise a few more solutions — save a few more lives.

    Are you saying here that HBD might help us find ways to solve the problems caused by diversity without separating populations? That is, that we could have diversity without the problems caused by diversity? That we could have our cake and eat it too?

    If so, that’s very interesting, and I would like to see that case made. That might indeed be a reason to go forward with HBD research, though it would still have to be balanced against potential negative consequences.

    as far as i know, cancer researchers don’t just study the symptoms of cancer patients and then try to ameliorate those. they’re working to find what causes cancer in the hopes of eradicating it.

    Right. But (A) the path from cancer research to the elimination of cancer, though murky, is much clearer than the path from HBD research to the elimination of inter-group conflict, and (B) the potential negative consequences of HBD research are much greater than the potential negative consequences of cancer research. That’s where the analogy breaks down.

    where does culture come from?

    From us, of course. And yes, we are biological organisms. But, as I’ve been repeating ad nauseam, that doesn’t mean biology is the best method for understanding and explaining our behavior, and more than particle physics is the best method for understanding and explaining biological phenomena (though biological phenomena arise from the interactions of subatomic particles). It’s just a non sequitur.

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  84. Greying Wanderer,

    Medicine does that on its own. There will be thousands of medically significant differences between different populations.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with this application of HBD. Again, it’s got to be taken on a case-by-case basis.

    Iraq and Afghanistan might not have happened or at least might not have been so disastrous if knowledge of the significance of patterns of relatedness had existed.

    But there were/are far more important reasons to oppose those wars. Chief among them being that they were acts of aggression (certainly Iraq was, and I am prepared to argue that Afghanistan was as well), and that military aggression is gravely immoral. That doesn’t just rule out aggression against Iraq or Afghanistan; it rules out aggression against Sweden, too.

    Conjugal visits and studying MAOA would be the two most immediately obvious.

    I’m not exactly sure what the proposal is. Is it:

    (1) Ban all conjugal visits;

    (2) Ban conjugal visits for prisoners in populations that are more likely to have the MAOA gene; or,

    (3) Ban conjugal visits for prisoners who actually have the MAOA gene?

    All of these strike me as excessively illiberal. (1) would be draconian; (2) would be unjustly discriminatory; and (3) seems like it would involve undue violations of the civil liberties of prisoners.

    I suspect you disagree. I’m starting to think that one’s evaluation of some of these issues might depend in part on one’s background political views.

    More generally if it was accepted that the – i wouldn’t say causes so much as contributing factors – of violence were partly genetic then it would be obvious that the aim of the criminal justice system should be selective pressure not rehabilitation.

    I’m not sure how anyone with even a passing familiarity with the US criminal justice system could think that it is, in 2014, overly-skewed toward rehabilitation. Again, I suspect you disagree.

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  85. Pseudorasmus,

    Re: Kerala

    Isn’t religious diversity relevant? Don’t religions constrain who their adherents can marry and reproduce with? Islam, in particular has strict rules on this subject: a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man (unless he converts), but a Muslim man can marry a Christian or a Jewish woman as long as she agrees to raise the children as Muslims.

    Is Kerala’s ethnic and caste diversity is below average for the subcontinent? And we should also compare Kerala to other countries in the region and around the world. Kerala’s Human Development Index (HDI) score is 0.790, which puts it in the same range as parts of Latin America and Eastern Europe, and far above India’s national score, and that of it’s neighbors (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, Bhutan; Sri Lanka also has a relatively high HDI score at 0.715). Is Kerala more or less diverse than these places, or regions within these places? I think there’s a lot more that needs to be said about this.

    Re: genes and heritability

    Re the earrings : the underlying genotype about which behavioural genetics makes inferences from the phenotype is in the autosome, not the sex chromosomes !!!

    What if we used an example that has nothing to do with sex? To modify another one of Block’s examples (ultimately from Christopher Jencks), what if the government sawed off a toe on every red haired child? Wouldn’t the heritability of the trait having four toes increase? And yet still very few individuals would be genetically determined to have four toes.

    All this example is meant to do is to show that heritability does not logically imply genetic causation. I take it you already knew that.

    As for the fingers : it’s just a very strained variation on the maize illustration that’s used for kids. Genetically identical seeds planted in two very different environments will produce genetically identical maize with very different phenotypes and different heritability coefficients. This is not earth-shattering news.

    Not exactly. Lewontin’s corn seed thought experiment was meant to show that within-group heritability does not logically imply between-group heritability. Block’s example of the trait having five toes is meant to show that genetic causation does not logically imply high (or even non-zero) heritability.

    Again, that’s all the examples do. All I was trying to say is that “heritability” (a precisely defined mathematical metric), does not perfectly map on to “genetic causation” (an imprecise folk-concept).

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  86. P.S. wrt Kerala, we’d also need to control for per capita income, since Kerala has been historically poor even by Indian standards.

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  87. correction – in the last paragraph of this comment, it should read “ANY more than particle physics is the best method…”

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  88. That’s one of the reasons economists and biologists both use game theory, to model emergent cooperative behaviour out of individually self-interested behaviours. But it still requires individual-level interest/fitness.

    ”Culture can resolve this problem. An individual can spot this kind of situation and propose a cultural solution and if persuasive enough it is adopted.”

    Sure, for tramp stamps within a single generation.

    But for a fundamental social institution ? I don’t believe people are just “persuaded” out of it.

    It strains credulity that a group of people were beguiled out of a millennia-old social custom by the rhetorical arts of persuasion, that if they’d just stop marrying their cousins to the nth degree, it would be in the eventual best interest of everybody because, ultimately, those guys would all just feel warm and fuzzy toward each other. The benefits are too abstract, diffuse and distant.

    People used to argue the same sort of thing with respect to the rise of polities and social contracts : it was a kind of spontaneous voluntary decision, emerging out of individually self-interested behaviours, to submit to some kind of government, because individuals realised that by coordinating individual efforts there are collective benefits. That may work for some very small scale chieftaincy, but for the rise of large-scale polities ? No, conquest and brute compulsion created the state.

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  89. The word fuzzy is perhaps from Low German fussig, sponge.

    “so, it’s hard to say what the structure of early (pre-5th century) germanic societies was — clans? kindreds? who knows? there does seem to be something of a consensus, though, that from ca. the 5th century onwards (until…?), germanic societies were featured by bilateral kinship and kindreds. lorraine lancaster concluded this about the anglo-saxons, phillpotts about the germanics across europe, and now drew and others, referred to in the above quote from jones.

    the fact that germanic populations were probably kindred- and not clan- or tribal-based at the time that they converted to christianity leads me to think that, while they probably did practice cousin marriage (as suggested by the fact that the church/authorities DID have to ban it starting in the early medieval period), it probably wasn’t practiced extremely frequently, and probably a very close cousin form of cousin marriage (like father’s brother’s daughter [fbd] marriage) wasn’t preferred.

    what do i mean by “wasn’t practiced *extemely* frequently”? i’m not sure. just that cousin marriage couldn’t have been as regularly occuring as it was in, say, medieval scotland (or ireland) or else (i think) that germanic society would’ve been structured in clear-cut extended families or clans rather than these more floating kindreds. similarly, i don’t think early medieval germanic cousin marriage could’ve been very close (e.g. fbd marriage) or else, again, they would’ve had more tightly structured clans/tribes. the pattern seems to be — and i could be wrong about this — the closer the long-term marriage practices, the tighter and more structured the extended family structures within a society. kindreds are neither very tight nor structured — they vary with every individual (or every set of siblings, rather). they’re floating. kindreds are clannishness-lite.

    there was close — including probably cousin — marriage in pre-christian germanic societies, otherwise the church/secular authorities wouldn’t have had to go through all the trouble of banning it. but i think that most early medieval germanic populations (looking away from funny little groups like the frisians and ditmarsians) must’ve been already comparatively loosely structured, and, therefore, were predisposed to accepting — or at any rate being more receptive to — the medieval cousin marriage bans. they were already not that clannish compared to most other european populations at the time, so it didn’t take much, i think, to push them out of clannishness altogether.”
    https://hbdchick.wordpress.com/?s=german+kindreds

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  90. @pseudoerasmus

    “But for a fundamental social institution ? I don’t believe people are just “persuaded” out of it.”

    It’s happening in reverse right in front of our eyes now TV has become the Church but I agree in the historical case it would have required enforcement but at what point did it require enforcement?

    In the historical case I think the critical point is the Church was already in place and already accepted as the arbiter of the “moral common good” wrapped up in their canon law (backed up by temporal law as and when the temporal authorities felt like it).

    So the only people that needed persuading were the church leaders. The populace didn’t need to be persuaded. Canon law said you couldn’t marry your cousin. The upper class who could afford a buy a dispensation could do that, the peasants who didn’t need to be respectable could ignore it, remote hill farmers far away from enforcement could ignore it, the artisans and small farmers on the manors who needed to be “respectable” to maintain their position couldn’t ignore it.

    Over time as the descendants of those artisans and small farmers out bred the rest and not marrying your cousins became “normal” and didn’t need enforcement.

    That’s how I see it happening anyway.

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  91. @pseudoerasmus

    “That’s one of the reasons economists and biologists both use game theory, to model emergent cooperative behaviour out of individually self-interested behaviours. But it still requires individual-level interest/fitness.”

    Yeah, i think this is why religion (or equivalents) has been so important in human history. It’s what has been used to bridge the gap between behaviors which are in an individual’s interests but not directly enough for natural selection to work.

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  92. pseudoerasmus,

    Bangladesh is over 98% Bengali-speaking ethnic Bengalis, and is around 90% Muslim. It is far less diverse then Kerala on any measure except language (and it is no more diverse on this measure, either). Bangladesh’s HDI score is 0.515, whereas Kerala’s is 0.790.

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  93. @matt – btw, matt – i dunno why i have to keep approving your comments. i’ve approved your ip, but WP is still sending your comments to moderation. sorry about that. been trying to figure out if there’s something i can do to fix it, but so far i haven’t been able to. argh!

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  94. I’ve used a lot of hyperlinks; maybe WP thinks its spam? I’ll try to cut back on the linking.

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  95. Grey:
    Well, if you look at everything else other than marital practises, it’s clearly the church that adapted to the world, not the other way around. The adoption of Christianity by the Roman state had led to major theological changes out of necessity. For a famous example, St. Augustine, amongst others, had amply qualified Nazarene pacifism as well as the implications of the “thou shall not kill” commandment, so that you might in fact commit violence under certain circumstances. Terribly impractical doctrines and institutions usually do not usually flourish over the very long run. Another famous example of this is usury in Islam. Though banned, it has nonetheless always been practised through numerous ingenious workarounds that are non-usurious only in an absurdly legalistic way.

    Matt,
    There is a large literature showing that on a global basis heterogeneity (as captured in indices of “fractionalisation” constructed from data on ethnic, linguistic & religious divisions) is inversely associated with the provision of public goods. The relationship also holds within countries. Hell, less “fractionalised” countries come out of financial crises faster, on average, than less fractionalised ones (because they are able to achieve consensus on what to do faster and more peacefully). The classic example is South Korea. Most developing countries were devastated by oil/financial shocks in 1973, 1979, 1982, 1997, etc. South Korea too. Except South Korea turned around and emerged out of recession within a year, whereas others like Brazil or Indonesia took like a decade to recover.

    I’m actually not sure why you brought up Kerala, but you really don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Kerala has been studied a lot. Read Amartya Sen, for example. The (proximate) reason Kerala has high HDI for its income class is that it has had a strong Marxist party in electoral politics which caused the state to invest more in health & education than other states. In independent countries Marxist regimes normally nationalised private property and redistributed incomes to things like health and education. So, on average, other poor non-communist countries with comparable levels of income will usually have lower HDI. Now, I say this is “proximate” because the real question is why Kerala has such a strong Marxist party. Emmanuel Todd argues in several books it’s about the family structure.

    ”what if the government sawed off a toe on every red haired child? Wouldn’t the heritability of the trait having four toes increase”

    Not unless behavioural geneticists became Lamarckians.

    ”Lewontin’s corn seed thought experiment was meant to show that within-group heritability does not logically imply between-group heritability. Block’s example of the trait having five toes is meant to show that genetic causation does not logically imply high (or even non-zero) heritability.”

    It’s really a silly comment because heritability is a ratio of variances. So if in a sample there is no variance because everyone has 5 toes, then the heritability is simply undefined. If, however, you are measuring a population some tiny percent of whom are mutants with 6 toes then there is a variance of greater than zero, and the standard heritability coefficient has a value between 0 and 1. End of story.

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  96. Read Amartya Sen, for example. The (proximate) reason Kerala has high HDI for its income class is that it has had a strong Marxist party in electoral politics which caused the state to invest more in health & education than other states. In independent countries Marxist regimes normally nationalised private property and redistributed incomes to things like health and education. So, on average, other poor non-communist countries with comparable levels of income will usually have lower HDI.

    I’m aware of Sen’s work, and I agree with his/your explanation for this. My point in bringing up Kerala was that to show that even polities with high levels of diversity can have robust, effective social democracy if the government is competent, treats each group fairly, and is dedicated to improving social conditions (see the Bo Rothstein article in my comment above for more details). Diversity is not necessarily incompatible with social cohesion or a welfare state.

    Sen also does a good job of explaining why Maoist China, for all its many evils, did much better than India at raising life expectancy over the same period. Short answer: because China was Marxist. See, e.g., “Indian Development: Lessons and Nonlessons,” Daedalus Vol. 118, No.4, 1989. (No hyperlinks this time. Google it.)

    I’m not aware of Emmanuel Todd’s work. Can you point me to a reference?

    Not unless behavioural geneticists became Lamarckians.

    Doesn’t heritability only measure the correlation between phenotypic and genotypic difference? This really isn’t my forte, so I’m prepared to concede this point. I just want to get clear on this.

    If, however, you are measuring a population some tiny percent of whom are mutants with 6 toes then there is a variance of greater than zero, and the standard heritability coefficient has a value between 0 and 1.

    What if you’re measuring a population where there are no genetic mutants, and everyone who has a different number of toes got that way because of prenatal complications? Then heritability is zero, but obviously the genes still code for number of toes. Right?

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  97. @matt

    “Bangladesh is over 98% Bengali-speaking ethnic Bengalis, and is around 90% Muslim. It is far less diverse then Kerala on any measure”

    The measure of diversity at a genetic level is the pattern of relatedness.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coefficient_of_relationship

    It will depend on how related you are to how many people. If you have a homogeneous population who all marry their 1st cousins then that population won’t be homogenous. They might look like it from the outside but on the inside you will have lots of tight clusters of very closely related people who are only loosely related to the other clusters. Genetically the pattern may be no different to a place where there are lots of different languages and religions.

    The more out bred the population the more of a uniform structure you’d see. It’s a bit like the molecular lattice structure you see in different types of iron.

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  98. Greying Wanderer,

    The consanguinity rate of Bangladesh was measured to be 6.7% in 1966 and 17.6% in 1976. For Kerala, like hbdchick said, it was measured as 20.7% in 1966, and as 13.0% in another, 1968 study.

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  99. @Kate

    I think the German kindreds are likely to have lowered the resistance to the ban also..

    @pseudoerasmus

    “Well, if you look at everything else other than marital practises, it’s clearly the church that adapted to the world, not the other way around.”

    Well I’d say there was a half way compromise on violence (as there was with marriage as you could buy a dispensation).

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  100. @matt

    “All of these strike me as excessively illiberal.”

    Well maybe so but that wasn’t the question. The question was what could HBD have to say about the criminal justice system.

    .

    “I’m not sure how anyone with even a passing familiarity with the US criminal justice system could think that it is, in 2014, overly-skewed toward rehabilitation. Again, I suspect you disagree.”

    The state of the US prison system now is the result of not treating crime as an HBD problem.

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  101. GW,

    The question was what could HBD have to say about the criminal justice system.

    Well, if the only policy prescriptions that could come out of an HBD analysis of crime are reactionary and objectionable on independent, deontic grounds, then, from my perspective at least, HBD might as well have nothing to say about crime.

    I’m making a moral argument: it is morally inadvisable to undertake at least some forms of HBD research, because of their potential moral/political consequences (note: not that certain forms of research should be banned, just that researchers ought to refrain from undertaking them). How plausible you find that argument is going, therefore, to depend partly on your background moral/political views. If you’re a consequentialist, or an ethnonationalist, you might evaluate the issues differently than I would.

    I’m a little to the Left of Robespierre myself, but I don’t think you need to adopt my political views in order to appreciate the force of my argument. I think the points I’ve been making are compatible with a very robust conservatism. I’ll explain below.

    The state of the US prison system now is the result of not treating crime as an HBD problem.

    What does it mean exactly to “treat crime as an HBD problem”? Certainly there are differences in crime rates among various populations. The issue is whether these differences are partly innate or purely environmental (I take it we all agree that they are partly environmental).

    Imagine one wants to argue for racial profiling (for example). Typically, such arguments start from the fact that there is a disparity in the crime rate between blacks and whites. Does one need to go further than this? Does it make a difference, as far as the argument for racial profiling goes, whether this disparity is caused by genes, by single mothers and gangster rap, or by racism, socioeconomic depravation, and the legacy of slavery and redlining? The argument for racial profiling does just as well or just as poorly if you posit any of these three causes (fwiw, I think it does rather poorly, on both deontological and consequentialist grounds. but that’s for another time). All that you need to do is point to the disparity itself. You don’t have to worry about the causes.

    Sometimes, arguments for conservative policies require not just the existence of group but disparities, but the intractability of group disparities. Criticism of various educational reforms intended to “close the gap” take this form. But still, this does not require positing genetic causes for the disparities, it only requires positing the intractability of the disparities. You could take Thomas Sowell’s view that differences between black and white American’s are caused solely by culture, but are nevertheless deeply ingrained and unlikely to change anytime soon, and you would end up with much (maybe exactly) the same political platform as an HBDnik.

    Let’s distinguish two positions:

    Jensenism – Group disparities are substantially caused by innate differences, and are therefore unlikely to disappear in the near future.

    Sowellianism – Group disparities are caused entirely by highly intractable cultural differences, and are therefore unlikely to disappear in the near future.

    Jensenists and Sowellians are likely to agree on just about all matters of political importance. Herrnstein & Murray say as much in The Bell Curve (pp. 314-15):

    In sum: If tomorrow you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that all the cognitive differences between races were 100 percent genetic in origin, nothing of any significance should change. The knowledge would give you no reason to treat individuals differently than if ethnic differences were 100 percent environmental. By the same token, knowing that the differences are 100 percent environmental in origin would not suggest a single program or policy that is not already being tried. It would justify no optimism about the time it will take to narrow the existing gaps. It would not even justify confidence that genetically based differences will not be upon us within a few generations. The impulse to think that environmental sources of difference are less threatening than genetic ones is natural but illusory.

    Jensenist arguments for policy prescriptions generally take the following form:

    (1) There are significant disparities between groups X and Y.

    (2) These disparities are caused in large part by genetic differences.

    Therefore, (3) These disparities are unlikely to disappear in the near future. [Inductive inference from (2)]

    (4) Policy P is the best policy available to deal with the problems caused by (1) and (3).

    Therefore, (5) We should implement P.

    Sowellian arguments look like this:

    (1) There are significant disparities between groups X and Y.

    (2) These disparities are caused by deeply ingrained cultural differences.

    Therefore, (3) These disparities are unlikely to disappear in the near future. [Inductive inference from (2)]

    (4) Policy P is the best policy available to deal with the problems caused by (1) and (3).

    Therefore, (5) We should implement P.

    Since Jensenist and Sowellian arguments will always or almost always get you the same values for P, why not make Sowellian arguments instead of Jensenist ones, especially since making Jensenist arguments may have unintended negative social consequences that Sowellian arguments won’t have?

    Maybe you think Sowellianism is, as a matter of fact, false, and you would prefer not to be intellectually dishonest. In that case, you could opt to remain publicly neutral between Jensenism and Sowellianism, and just make arguments that skip premise (2) above. To wit:

    (1) There are significant disparities between groups X and Y.

    (2) These disparities are unlikely to disappear in the near future.

    (3) Policy P is the best policy available to deal with the problems caused by (1) and (2).

    Therefore, (4) We should implement P.

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  102. @matt – “I’ve used a lot of hyperlinks; maybe WP thinks its spam? I’ll try to cut back on the linking.”

    no, don’t think so. jayman’s having troubles with WP comments, too, so i think it’s something on WP’s end. hope they sort it out soon. so, link away! (^_^)

    Reply

  103. @matt – “The consanguinity rate of Bangladesh was measured to be 6.7% in 1966 and 17.6% in 1976. For Kerala, like hbdchick said, it was measured as 20.7% in 1966, and as 13.0% in another, 1968 study.”

    again, what you’ve got to take into consideration are the long term rates of inbreeding and how they’ve affected relatedness within the population. rates over the short term are not very interesting for these questions.

    Reply

  104. @matt:

    Here we prove that if JayMan is away from a topic, it spirals out of control. Let’s set the record straight.

    matt, you’re very much acting like a “clever silly” here. You’re spewing out many complex topics but are completely missing any sense within it.

    First, I am a very busy man. I didn’t have time to get to your comment, which, really, is a lot of nonsense (gobbledegook):

    ““…[R]eductionist physicalism is false. This becomes quite obvious if you consider computer science. The same type of computational state can be manifested in many different types of physical systems. (This is called “multiple realizability”).”

    Short answer: yes, logic (which a computer program is) transcends the “physical” world, and seems to have an existence on to itself. So does the golden ratio. So does 2 + 2 = 4. So does eiπ + 1 = 0. Mathematics (which includes logic) seems to exist in a Platonic sense. Max Tegmark has argued that there’s a simple reason for that: the universe is inherently mathematical. Read all about it here and here.

    I’ve already addressed the nonsense that arises from the inability to appreciate the nature of emergent properties in my post here:

    No, You Don’t Have Free Will, and This is Why | JayMan’s Blog

    Higher-level phenomena are completely explained by the rules acting on the lower-levels. It is just cumbersome to express it in those terms. If you know anything about physics, you know that certain equations simplify to easier equations in certain situation. This is how you can act as if the Earth and the Sun behave gravitationally is if they were one single solid object despite the fact that the gravity is result of all the constituent subatomic particles.

    All of that stuff about this:

    “The same goes for biology. Human beings are biological organisms with an evolutionary history. Human culture is the product of biological organisms interacting with their environments, both in the present and during that evolutionary history. But the science of biology doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about any given aspect of human culture.”

    …is complete nonsense.

    “As Ned Block points out, at one time, wearing earrings was highly heritable, “because differences in whether a person had an earring were “due” to a chromosomal difference, XX versus XY” (104). When more men, due to cultural changes (!), started wearing earrings, the heritability fell. But at no point was the trait “genetically determined” in anything like the sense in which we use that phrase.”

    “Heritability”, at least in the sense that trait variation can be fractionally attributed to genetic variation is context-dependent. I went over all that in my post. Heritability can go to zero even if the trait in question is genetically “determined” if there is no phenotypic variation (like, for example, the number of eyes we have – that is fixed in the species). But whenever there is phenotypic variation, genetic variation is always to some degree responsible. It is that that gives natural selection the raw material it has to work with.

    Most of the other nonsense you’ve brought up has been adequately addressed here.

    Reply

  105. Jayman,

    First, let me congratulate you. You provided a response that was better than your first one (LOL RELIGIONSUX LMAO #FLYINGSPAGHETTIMONSTER), though not by much.

    Short answer: yes, logic (which a computer program is) transcends the “physical” world, and seems to have an existence on to itself. So does the golden ratio. So does 2 + 2 = 4. So does eiπ + 1 = 0. Mathematics (which includes logic) seems to exist in a Platonic sense.

    You’re missing the point. You don’t need to figure out the ontology of computational states in order to grasp the multiple realizability objection to reductionism. The platonism vs. nominalism debate doesn’t have very much to do with the reductionism vs. anti-reductionism debate.

    For example, there are philosophers (like David Lewis and Penelope Maddy) who endorse a kind of physicalist platonism, in which impure sets are co-located in the same space-time regions as their members. On this view, computational states might be considered equivalence classes of computationally isomorphic temporal parts of physical systems. These equivalence classes would be physical things, with scattered locations in space-time. But they wouldn’t be physical kinds, and physical kinds are what the laws of physics talk about. Therefore the laws of psychology (if minds are at least in part computational systems) are irreducible to the laws of physics.

    There’s a huge literature on this topic, which I suggest you read if you want to have anything relevant to say about it. You can start with the two seminal papers by Jerry Fodor and Hilary Putnam outlining the multiple realizability objection to reductionism:

    https://ethik.univie.ac.at/fileadmin/user_upload/inst_ethik_wiss_dialog/Fodor__J._1974._Special_sciences_in_Synhtese.pdf

    http://dai.fmph.uniba.sk/courses/ICS/readings/ICS_03read_Putnam1967.pdf

    There are still a minority of philosophers who defend reductionism, though they are a minority. If you’re interested in their arguments, you can read Jaegwon Kim:

    http://www.sfu.ca/~jillmc/Kim1992.pdf

    and Fodor’s response to Kim:

    http://www.sfu.ca/~jillmc/FodorStill.pdf

    Get to work.

    I’ve already addressed the nonsense that arises from the inability to appreciate the nature of emergent properties in my post here

    To which I responded at length. Not only have you not answered that response (except to call it, without argument, “gobbledegook [sic]”), you still have not published it.

    Re: “emergent properties”, I do not think that phrase means what you think it means. The existence of “emergent properties”, to the extent that the phrase has a clear meaning in contemporary Anglophone philosophy, is incompatible with physicalist reductionism.

    As for whether my arguments (which are not mine, they represent the consensus in philosophy of science and philosophy of mind) are “complete nonsense”, “gobbledegook”, etc.: They may be, but one would like to see some arguments. Until you’ve provided some, you’re wasting my time.

    Higher-level phenomena are completely explained by the rules acting on the lower-levels. It is just cumbersome to express it in those terms.

    No, higher level phenomena are not “completely explained by the rules acting on the lower levels.” Not in any sense of “explained by” that anyone has in mind. Or if they are, you’ve provided us with absolutely no reason to think that they are. Assertion is not argument.

    Heritability can go to zero even if the trait in question is genetically “determined” if there is no phenotypic variation

    If there is no phenotypic variation, then heritability is not zero. It is undefined, because a fraction with denominator 0 is undefined.

    But whenever there is phenotypic variation, genetic variation is always to some degree responsible.

    In a population in which everyone has five toes on each foot, except for some who have a different number of toes because their mothers thalidomide during pregnancy, genetic variation would not be to any degree responsible for phenotypic variation.

    Reply

  106. hbd chick,

    again, what you’ve got to take into consideration are the long term rates of inbreeding and how they’ve affected relatedness within the population. rates over the short term are not very interesting for these questions.

    Right. My only point was that, from the little evidence we have, we have no reason to think that the long term consanguinity rates in Bangladesh have been higher than in Kerala.

    Reply

  107. @matt – “My only point was that, from the little evidence we have, we have no reason to think that the long term consanguinity rates in Bangladesh have been higher than in Kerala.”

    well, actually we do since bangladesh is majority muslim, and muslims in that area of the world (from arabia to south asia) tend to have more consanguineous marriages than other populations.

    but we’ve no data either way, so i don’t think we can make a guess about their past rates.

    Reply

  108. @matt – “Lasik surgery could do it.”

    lasik is a poor example for your position and actually a good one for mine. using a laser to correct someone’s vision by altering the curvature of their corneas requires an understanding of how the eyes and vision work. knowledge. eye surgeons don’t just point and shoot lasers at peoples’ eyeballs hoping that they’ll get it right and fix those peoples’ vision — they (someone) researched it — and that research was based on all the decades (centuries!) of biological research into vision and eyeballs, etc., that went before it.

    i suspect that you and i are not going to agree on this. i think that, when confronted with a problem, the best course of action is to find out what’s causing that problem and, then, address that cause. you seem to think that that’s not necessary in life — that people should just assess the superficial symptoms of problems and bandaid those a bit — and carry on as before.

    that’s fine. we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    Reply

  109. @matt:

    Once again:

    You are the quintessential clever silly, or at least are giving a great impression of such.

    Broadly, I don’t care much about what various philosophers think (see The Black Cat Analogy | JayMan’s Blog). Most modern philosophy is interminable nonsense. I only care about what I see – the evidence scientific research provides. A lot of these questions can be answered. And much of it simplifies if you rely on that mightily powerful tool, Occam’s Razor: in it’s most basic form, if the universe looks a certain way, the simplest explanation is that it is that way.

    And in my experience, every time someone is making some sort of silly philosophical appeal and tells me I don’t “understand” some concept, it’s because they’re in the middle of twisting the situation with some metaphysical garbage (I had a great comic that I wish I could find here that fit the situation pretty well).

    If we want to understand what’s going on, we conduct observations, we trust that our senses aren’t deceiving us. Any other explanation, such as the stuff you’re spinning, would be massively more complicated. Yes, the includes the idea that all things reduce to simple physics. We have absolutely no reason to think otherwise and every reason to think that’s the case. And even if it wasn’t it has no bearing on what’s being discussed here. Unless you’re invoking some other unseen mystical force we have never heard of or encountered, then all human behavior, including culture, is the result of the biological make up of the people who exhibit it. Plain and simple.

    Reply

  110. hbd chick,

    Fair enough. Sorry for starting off on the uncivil note (“juvenile promethean bullshit”), and for any incivility that followed.

    Jayman,

    More caricature, unsupported assertion, and an inability or unwillingness to even understand what is at issue. Zero argument. As I expected.

    Reply

  111. @matt

    “Well, if the only policy prescriptions that could come out of an HBD analysis of crime are reactionary and objectionable on independent, deontic grounds, then, from my perspective at least, HBD might as well have nothing to say about crime.”

    Well we can at least stop pretending you’re arguing in good faith.

    .

    “I’m making a moral argument”

    It’s an entirely political argument. You know HBD is correct and you know it will undermine your political beliefs so you don’t want it researched. It’s an entirely immoral argument.

    .

    “What does it mean exactly to “treat crime as an HBD problem”?”

    See the first point above for why I’m not going to spend any time typing that.

    .

    “All that you need to do is point to the disparity itself. You don’t have to worry about the causes.”

    That’s what makes your position so immoral to me. A genuine Victorian liberal would never accept that there isn’t a solution because there *always* will be (at least partially).

    (They might reach the wrong solution but that’s a different thing.)

    .

    “it only requires positing the intractability of the disparities”

    They’re not intractable. That’s the thing about evolution. By definition no group difference can be intractable.

    However they are only tractable (if that’s a word) through HBD research.

    Reply

  112. @matt

    “Right. My only point was that, from the little evidence we have, we have no reason to think that the long term consanguinity rates in Bangladesh have been higher than in Kerala.”

    Even so we can fix on the principle underlying the theory. If “diversity” at the genetic level is the pattern of relatedness then a town which has dozens of religious, caste and ethnic groups all marrying endogamously isn’t any different from a seemingly homogenous population where everyone marries their 1st cousins. Effectively you get the same thing – lots of tight clusters of very closely related people who are much more loosely related to the other clusters.

    Reply

  113. “Doesn’t heritability only measure the correlation between phenotypic and genotypic difference?”

    No. It’s a ratio of variance in the phenotype due to genes, to the total variance in the phenotype. The correlation comes into play in a different way.

    Say you have two samples of identical twin pairs. In one sample, they were raised together, in the other sample they were raised in separate families. The pairwise correlation in (say) test scores in one sample will be different from the pairwise correlation in the other sample. The difference in the pairwise correlations is the non-genetic component of the variation in the trait. Once you have that, then it’s just a matter of arithmetic what is the numerator in the heritability coefficient.

    For obvious reasons genes are best controlled for with identical twins, but the same pattern is observed for genetically related but not identical people. Those who criticise behavioural genetics fail to consider that a variety of methods, study designs, and study objects all converge on one point : whatever is the degree of heritability in a trait, the value always goes up with genetic relatedness.

    What if you’re measuring a population where there are no genetic mutants, and everyone who has a different number of toes got that way because of prenatal complications? Then heritability is zero, but obviously the genes still code for number of toes. Right?

    Yes, but only because you’ve defined away any possible genetic contribution to polydactyly. One could conceivably design a study to check for genetic susceptibility to the trait even if it were triggered by some environmental complication.

    Besides, heritability is fundamentally about trait variation within a species — variations reflecting microevolutionary events taking place over short time spans. It’s not meant to model macroevolutionary adaptations across species — let alone those which obtain for several ranks of taxa, such as the number of digits or the number of eyes. Most primates in their normal state are pentadactylic, and I’m sure you would be freaked out by a three-eye raven. So you might as well say the fact that I must get my carbs from potatoes because I can’t synthesise them out of water, CO2 and sunlight is “genetic but not heritable”. It’s silly.

    Reply

  114. As for Kerala, I actually don’t believe the Marxist explanation for Kerala in any deep sense. After all West Bengal has also had a strong communist party and its HDI scores are abysmal. (Andhra Pradesh also had a communist party of decent strength but now that Telangana has become a separate state since the recent election I wager most of the communist vote will manifest there.) Which is also why Sen’s assertions about China are ultimately shallow : East Asia in general stresses education, health and egalitarian growth much more than other countries. This shows up in land reform. Many have observed that Japan’s land redistribution in 1946, which created a large class of small proprietor-farmers out of what had been closer to a Latin-America-like latifundist system, was the work of the Americans. That is true. However, the very similar land reforms in South Korea and Taiwan were not the work of the Americans. More importantly, all three succeeded. And China has also succeeded with small-holder agriculture since decollectivisation. But the record of land reform in most other places is truly abysmal. Democratic India in the 1950s and 1960s had a “zamindari abolition commission” yet the number of small holders in India is still fairly low because the process was strangulated by bureaucratic delays, corruption, repartition into smaller within-family plots, etc. There’s more going on here than mere redistribution of wealth. Well, I think you know what I’m getting at : even if we allow that certain political regimes will invest more in people all things equal, redistribution still requires a certain amount of social competence that is not uniformly distributed in the world. Some people appear to do better under socialism and communism than others. As for Emmanuel Todd, his argument is that Kerala is an extreme example of the matrilineal family system found in the South in general which produces better HDI than the north. Todd explains the unusual predilection for Marxism in Kerala as a reaction to the slow erosion of that family structure. I think Todd supplies good descriptions, but not very good explanations. (He’s French.) I only have the French version of “explanation of ideology” which I can quote from if you read French. But I think the French version is available for free floating around on the internet as a PDF document (La Troisième planète : structures familales et systèmes idéologiques).

    Reply

  115. Pseudoerasmus,

    Thanks for the stuff about heritability. Those examples from Block and Jencks are widely cited so it’s good to know if they’re misleading.

    Sen also points to Sri Lanka (“Indian Development,” p. 376), which although non-Communist, carried out similar investment in education, health and welfare, and now has an HDI of 0.715. Sen (ibid, p. 380-82) also mentions post-1975 Communist VIetnam (current HDI 0.617; higher than India (0.554), higher than Cambodia and Laos (both 0.553); I also think we need to account for the impact of the war in these countries).

    I would also point to Cuba, with an HDI of 0.780, close to Kerala’s and well above the demographically similar Dominican Republic (0.702). Also the Seychelles, another diverse Marxist country with the highest HDI score in Africa (0.806, even above Kerala).

    But I think Sen’s argument is strongest when he points to differences within China over time. Thus, life expectancy in China underwent a sharp downturn following the market-based reforms of Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s (ibid., pp. 385-87).

    This was because the breakup of the communal farms dismantled the system of healthcare provision in place. Sen explains here (p. 2):

    “[T]he economic reforms of 1979 greatly improved the working and efficiency of Chinese agriculture and industry; but the Chinese government also eliminated, at the same time, the entitlement of all to public medical care (which was often administered through the communes). Most people were then required to buy their own health insurance, drastically reducing the proportion of the population with guaranteed health care….

    …The change sharply reduced the progress of longevity in China. Its large lead over India in life expectancy dwindled during the following two decades—falling from a fourteen-year lead to one of just seven years.

    The Chinese authorities, however, eventually realized what had been lost, and from 2004 they rapidly started reintroducing the right to medical care. China now has a considerably higher proportion of people with guaranteed health care than does India. The gap in life expectancy in China’s favor has been rising again, and it is now around nine years; and the degree of coverage is clearly central to the difference.”

    HBD doesn’t do a very good job of explaining these changes.

    Reply

  116. You misunderstand me. I have no problem with the view that, all else equal (such as demographic characteristics), a redistributionist political regime in a poor country is more likely to improve HDI than a non-redistributionist one. That was my point about East Asia. The HBD angle would address who is more likely to adopt redistributionist policies, and who is more competent at them once they are adopted.

    So I think that easily covers Cuba vs DR (fairly similar demographics) — though you do not consider that Soviet subsidies to Cuba were on the order of 1/3 of GDP (via purchase of inflated price of sugar) and that helped a lot in Cuba’s human development. Also Cuba In fact most of your examples are pretty bad. The Seychelles compared with the rest of Africa ? Why ? The Seychelles are a mixed-race Franco-East-African country with about 80,000 people and a GDP per capita comparable with the Czech Republic. I should hope they would have decent HDI !

    As for China and life expectancy, see the chart I’ve uploaded here :

    http://pseudoerasmus.com/?attachment_id=1011

    Don’t see any big drop. The rate of increase slowed, but that’s normal especially in a country like China with a big divide between the coasts and the interior. Besides, life expectancy is not strongly correlated with access to medical care in the broadest first-world sense, and only weakly correlated with income. (You don’t need huge jumps in income to improve HDI.) The post-war global increase in life expectancy (as well as the global fall in infant mortality) is best explained by greater food availability, more balanced micronutrient intake, innoculations, public health measures (such as sanitation), etc. Most of these measures don’t require high incomes.

    Reply

  117. Re: Cuba

    It’s been 13 years since Cuba received those subsidies, and the DR still hasn’t caught up. Also, we have to factor in the embargo against Cuba from 1959. Remember, from 1964 until 1975, that embargo wasn’t just from the United States, it was from the entire Organization of American States, except Mexico. There’s also the fact that Cuba needed to divert spending to its military in order to deter the very real threat of an American invasion (which happened of course in 1961) and the near-constant terrorism directed from Miami and Langley. Finally, if we’re going to look at subsidies, we’d also have to look at the massive U.S. subsidies to South Korea during the Cold War.

    Re: China

    I’ll quote Sen directly:

    “While the gross value of agricultural output doubled between 1979 and 1986, the death rate firmly rose after 1979, and by 1983 reached a peak of being 14 percent higher than in 1979 (in rural areas, the increase was even sharper: 20 percent). The death rates have come down somewhat since then, but they remain higher than before the reforms were launched” (“Indian Development,” p. 385).

    See also the chart on p. 383 of “Indian Development” and p. 26 of Sen’s “Hunger and Entitlements.” He takes the Chinese part of the chart from Judith Banister’s “An Analysis of Recent Data on the Population of China,” Population and Development Review, 10 (1984). It shows a noticeable drop from 1979.

    Bannister (ibid., 254) says that China’s life expectancy, after having risen every year from 1960 to 1978, fell from 65.1 to 64.7 from 1978-1982. The Google chart (which says it came from World Bank data) says that life expectancy rose from 66.51 to 67.57 during the same years. I don’t know why the discrepancy exists.

    Sen repeats his claim about the China-India gap falling from 14 to 7 from 1979 to the early 2000s, then rising from 7 to 9 after 2004 (when the Chinese reinstituted the public health system) in “The Art of Medicine: Learning from Others,” The Lancet, Vol 377 (2011), but he doesn’t give a source.

    What do you think about Sri Lanka?

    Reply

  118. P.S. Sen also mentions this paper by Athar Hussain and Nicholas Stern, and his own paper “Food and Freedom.” See Table 5 on p. 16 for data on the rise in the death rate from 1979, and Table 6 on p. 17 for data on the decline in the number of “barefoot doctors” from 1980.

    Reply

  119. Matt, all this is making me nostalgic about the cold war. I’m in my mid-40s and in the mid 1980s and early 1990s I used to have arguments like this all the time ! They are déjà vus. Your bit about South Korea especially brings back memories !

    It’s been 13 years since Cuba received those subsidies, and the DR still hasn’t caught up.

    Why do you keep talking about the Dominican Republic ? I have already agreed with you that redistributionist policies are more likely to result in better HDI than otherwise.

    However, you are looking at it the wrong way. Cuba had to expropriate nearly all private assets and receive large external subsidies to get it done. The Dominican Republic didn’t exproproriate and its foreign assistance was much more limited, but its HDI score today is not that much lower than Cuba’s.

    Also, we have to factor in the embargo against Cuba from 1959. Remember, from 1964 until 1975, that embargo wasn’t just from the United States, it was from the entire Organization of American States, except Mexico.”

    No need to “factor” that in at all. What ever Cuba lost via the embargo, it was much more than made up for by sugar purchases by the Soviet Union and the rest of the East bloc at inflated prices — especially after 1972, when the Soviet Union agreed to pay not the international price, but nearly four times the international price.

    Also, Cuba never lost export markets for sugar outside the East bloc. At any given time between 1960 and 1990, exports to non-communist countries were between 20% to 50% of the total volume. Western Europe and Japan never observed any embargo against Cuba.

    By the way, the OAS dropped its embargo in 1975. Besides, that never stopped anyone from having trade relations unilaterally with Cuba if they wanted, like Argentina before 1976.

    There’s also the fact that Cuba needed to divert spending to its military order to deter the very real threat of an American invasion (which happened of course in 1961) and the near-constant terrorism directed from Miami and Langley.

    Castro built up the Cuban armed forces to such an extent that he could send thousands of troops to Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, etc. Now you can say this was tit-for-tat against US support of the opposing side, but these luxury foreign adventures belie the claim of Castro’s “having” to divert spending anywhere.

    “Finally, if we’re going to look at subsidies, we’d also have to look at the massive U.S. subsidies to South Korea during the Cold War.”

    At the peak of US aid to South Korea in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it amounted to less than 5% of South Korean GDP. This was not trivial but never approached the vicinity of Cuba’s dependence on the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s. Besides, no sensible person believes South Korea’s explosive growth has much to do with external assistance.

    As for Sen, I’ve looked into his claims a little more, and, yes, there was a drop in Chinese life expectancy after 1979 which gets reversed in the late 1980s. But in the Bannister data the drop is trivial. Hussein & Stern’s argument is more interesting : the life expectancy data appear to be driven by rising infant mortality in the first half of the 1980s, which are substantial enough to be interesting. But there must be more happening than is implied by Sen’s argument, because China’s crude death hit its low in 1979 and still remains higher than then : http://www.indexmundi.com/facts/china/death-rate So the age-structure effects of the population must be important — something Hussein & Stern do not discount.

    Reply

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