reverse renaissance?

trigger warning: the following post contains much that is speculative. in fact, the entire post is one long speculation. if the thought of speculating when it comes to human biodiversity/sociobiology makes you queasy or fills you with existential angst, this might not be the blogpost for you. no, really. you might want to pass the time in some other way.
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i wrote about this once before, and since i’m extremely lazy, i’m just going to cut-and-paste from the previous post:

“in Innate Social Aptitudes of Man: An Approach from Evolutionary Genetics [pdf], william hamilton suggested that, perhaps, one gets a renaissance by (re-)introducing barbarian altruism genes into a too outbred population, letting the mixture ferment for ca. 800 years or so, and then enjoying the fruits of everyone’s labors. he’s talking here, of course, about the european renaissance of the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries…and classical greece/athens after the dorian invasion of ca. 800 years earlier? i *think*. if it happened at all (link inserted by me):

“‘The incursions of barbaric pastoralists seem to do civilizations less harm in the long run than one might expect. Indeed, two dark ages and renaissances in Europe suggest a recurring pattern in which a renaissance follows an incursion by about 800 years. It may even be suggested that certain genes or traditions of pastoralists revitalize the conquered people with an ingredient of progress which tends to die out in a large panmictic population for the reasons already discussed. I have in mind altruism itself, or the part of the altruism which is perhaps better described as self-sacrificial daring. By the time of the renaissance it may be that the mixing of genes and cultures (or of cultures alone if these are the only vehicles, which I doubt) has continued long enough to bring the old mercantile thoughtfulness and the infused daring into conjunction in a few individuals who then find courage for all kinds of inventive innovation against the resistance of established thought and practice. Often, however, the cost in fitness of such altruism and sublimated pugnacity to the individuals concerned is by no means metaphorical, and the benefits to fitness, such as they are, go to a mass of individuals whose genetic correlation with the innovator must be slight indeed. Thus civilization probably slowly reduces its altruism of all kinds, including the kinds needed for cultural creativity (see also Eshel 1972).'”

william hamilton — probably the greatest evolutionary theorist since darwin and an evil, evil speculator! not to mention crimethinker.

anyway…my own speculation re. the biological substrate of renaissances is that it’s not populations which experience an injection of barbarian altruism genes that wind up having a renaissance, but rather that populations which outbreed (i.e. quit marrying close relatives) for ca. 400 to 800 years (egs. medieval/renaissance europe and archaic/classical greece?) undergo a sort-of wikification of their society which drives intellectual openness and curiosity and sharing — the kinds of behavioral derring-do that you need in order to have a renaissance at all. see the previous post for more on all of those speculations.

today’s speculation is that perhaps the arabized world underwent a reverse renaissance process thanks to the introduction by the arabs of the most inbred form of cousin marriage — father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage — to the populations of the middle east/maghreb (not to mention the introduction of arabs, themselves, who had probably been inbreeding closely for up to nine hundred years before their expansion).

the islamic golden age lasted for a good six hundred years or so, but instead of the scope of islamic philosophy and science and law widening over the time period — instead of a wikification process — the tendency was for thinking in the arabized world to narrow. ijtihad (“independent thinking”) was gradually replaced by taqlid (“imitation”). this narrowing of thought was already widespread in the muslim world by the twelfth century — just about 400-450 years after the arab conquests. (braudel puts the beginning and end dates of the islamic golden age as 813 and 1198, the beginning of al-ma’mun’s caliphate and the death averroes respectively. – pg. 202.)

irfan habib points out that the islamic golden age in science was very much founded on long-established traditions of free inquiry in the near east, from greece to persia [pg. 69 — link added by me]:

“[T]his particular phase in Islamic history was marked predominantly by the Mu’tazilite school of philosophy, which was based on freethinking and rationalism. It was an ecumenical setting for science, where savants of nearly all creeds and origins worked towards a common purpose. And this was not something new, it was a long established pre-Islamic tradition in the Near East, where translation of scientific and philosophical texts from Greek to Syriac took place….

i wonder if what happened was that, with the establishment of the caliphate and all the civilized elements that went with it — good communications over long distances, (relative) peace within the realm, an excess of wealth — a “renaissance” was quickly established. however, that golden age — which happened in the early part of the era of the caliphs — was really a late flowering of whatever had been going on the region previous to the arabs (especially in persia). this renaissance was then reversed — stunted, really — as a result of the centuries of close inbreeding of the populations in the middle east and maghreb thanks to the introduction of fbd marriage by the arabs.

like i said — pure, unadultered speculation! (~_^)

previously: renaissances

(note: comments do not require an email. averroes and porphyry.)

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44 Comments

  1. Persia had millennia of experience of civilisation, coming and going under different ruling classes. Arabs had none. The reverse renaissance would be as easily explained as just the triumph of the uncivilised over the civilised. And, anyway, what about the incursion of uncivilised folk from the steppes – Turks and such?

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  2. Yeah but the persians of today are no better on social, economical, and technological rankings then the rest of the middle east. Meanwhile the europeans are much better.

    So, either

    1) Islam had a dysgenic effect

    2) Europeans were just as savage and wild by everyone but became extremely domesticated/dorkified in the last 1000 years.

    Maybe both?

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  3. @dearieme – “The reverse renaissance would be as easily explained as just the triumph of the uncivilised over the civilised. And, anyway, what about the incursion of uncivilised folk from the steppes – Turks and such?”

    possibly. but, just to be clear, i was really thinking about the intellectual side of it all, not so much aspects of civilizations like good internal transport, which are all extremely useful for having a civilization at all in the first place of course.

    it seems to me that in ancient athens and renaissance europe, you have this attitude of openness and a strong desire to share knowledge with others (what i call a “wikification” process). my working theory is that the long-term outbreeding leads to a population of individuals who are really keen on cooperating with all sorts of people, even non-family. it’s part of the universalism package.

    so, i’ve been wondering if the inverse might also be true: inbreed too much and your population will not be universalistic and, therefore, won’t be wikified either. and i wondered if we could see a change in the middle east when (presumably) those populations’ mating patterns changed to the most inbred form of cousin marriage there is.

    it’s all wild speculation, of course.

    the turks. are you thinking of the mongols+the turkish tribes or other “turks” like the seljuks? the mongols are too late to be the explanation for the reverse renaissance (i.e. the decline in freethinking over the course of the islamic golden age) — braudel has it ending already by 1198. maybe some of the earlier turks had an effect, though — or were the effect. dunno.

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  4. @spaghettimeatball – “So, either

    1) Islam had a dysgenic effect

    2) Europeans were just as savage and wild by everyone but became extremely domesticated/dorkified in the last 1000 years.

    Maybe both?”

    both!

    1) it’s not so much islam itself that had this dysgenic effect, but rather the arabization process, and very specifically the introduction of father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage, which just so happens to be the most inbred form of cousin marriage you can do. islam doesn’t technically prescribe cousin marriage, but mohammed married one of his cousins, and his daughter fatimah married a cousin, so it’s not exactly frowned upon either. and the arabs (especially the najdi tribes) very much practiced it, so if you wanted to emulate your new overlords, you started marrying your fbds.

    there are some indications that maybe long-term inbreeding reduces iq by a few points (maybe six?), but the thing i’m getting at is how the altruistic behaviors are different in strongly inbred populations versus outbred populations: outbred populations seem to be more universalistic in their thinking and more willing and better able to cooperate with non-family and strangers, and so (imho) i’ve thought that they might be better at renaissances. and now i’m speculating whether or not the introduction of this strong form of inbreeding (fbd marriage) to the middle east put the kaibosh on free and open thinking there. free and open thinking and the sharing of ideas (which you really need for a renaissance, i think).

    dunno. just an idea.

    2) oh yeah. mos def.

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  5. This sounds very plausible.
    I’m reminded of your theory that manorialism, where the lord of the manor chooses which of his peasants or serfs are reliable enough to be granted a plot (and thus marry and reproduce) was the main driver of ‘domestication’ in core Europe, and thus the spur for the Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, and modernity generally. This bottom-up theory seems to me a lot more plausible than Greg Clark’s courtly-manners-percolating-down theory – the rich have more children than the poor all over the world and all through history, but manorialism and associated nuclear family structure is a geographically local phenomenon.

    Likewise, ‘European tribes + centuries of outbreeding = golden age’ seems to fit the facts closely. Renaissance Europe was all notably outbred, but included parts of Germany that had never been part of the Roman empire, as well as former imperial territory. Some areas probably had significant barbarian/civilised intermixing, but others were initially ‘all barbarian’, and this difference did not have a significant effect. It was the outbreeding in the formerly tribal societies that mattered.

    There seems to be a strong policy implication here: if you don’t want a ‘reverse renaissance’, better ban FBD cousin marriage!

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  6. “where the lord of the manor chooses which of his peasants or serfs are reliable enough to be granted a plot”: really? Where did it operate like that? (In England the serf’s right to his plot became hereditary, though he had to pay a fee on inheriting it from his father.)

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  7. The great blog Armarium Magnum (http://armariummagnus.blogspot.co.uk/) is right that this the idea of Dark Ages as holes in technological progress, can easily be simplifed to what TIm O’Neill dubs “the stupidest thing on the internet” – http://www.nobeliefs.com/images/DarkAges.gif

    Still, there are differences in rates of technological advance.

    The thing with infusions of barbarians is that it seems probable that Italy didn’t really change much, genetically, or Greece. So, how could an infusion of genes change the situation there? Some selected allele perhaps, but it’s pretty detached from general ancestry if so (so not that persuasive a story).

    One story which does seem possible to me is that the breakdown of selective conditions for “intelligence” and technological ability probably occurs (or preceeds) the onset of Dark Ages.

    However, things are quick to move back to the equilibrium of where they should be, once conditions are correct. Under the much less Malthusian conditions of a Dark Age (both from the perspective of the technological and subsistence frontier), selective pressure for ability is higher, so things even out.

    (Whether all this is of “genes and cultures (or of cultures alone if these are the only vehicles“)

    Talking about post-Dark Ages renaissances may be a lot like talking about post-Black Death population booms. Essentially, how could it be anything else? Eventually, conditions change, and things move back to match the curve, and there’s more room for growth and selection under the less Malthusian conditions, so they happen quickly.

    Take East Asia. Would it have done better with a Dark Age? Probably not. The only distinction in progress (certainly the only one in favor of the West), between the East and West is the 18th century – 19th century Great Divergence, Scientific Revolution and Industrial Revolution (which is sui generis). And that really can’t be placed under a Dark Ages-Renaissance cause and effect, like the the Renaissance of the 12th century and the Renaissance with the pretty pictures can.

    Also correct me if I’m wrong, but the Classical Greeks and Medieval Renaissance Europeans were not, exactly, known for technological innovation. They advanced a lot, yet Classical Greece and Renaissance Europe to the extent they advanced technologically (for which the evidence is rather circumspect when we compared their advancement in the humanities), scientifically, were mainly about rediscovery that was lost during a dark age and sideloading of technology from other cultures that hadn’t declined (e.g. the civilization of Islam). Not *actually* doing anything *new*.

    Can we really talk about them doing anything new or being psychologically open to novelty and risk in these situations? The world of the Renaissance surely was much less open minded than Hamilton’s age, an age in which any glimmer of barbarism was slight, if at all present. Outbreeding might help explain the open knowledge sharing society of our age, perhaps (I doubt it somewhat), yet it seems to have preciously little to do with barbarian invasions if so.

    The Islamic Golden Age, I guess, could be a counterexample. There’s no real Dark Age there though. And IIRC a post by Psuedoerasmus (?) indicated that there wasn’t really anything too unusual about the Islamic Renaissance, considering the scale and scope of the societies it ruled over, and the people brought together.

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  8. Don’t forget there’s an important cultural shift happening too.

    To begin with, the Arabs are a new confessional minority, ruling over a Christian majority. That’s more likely to encourage open-minded engagement. There’s less point being obsessed with Islamic dogma and orthodoxy if it’s only the religion of the elite.

    Over the next 300 years most Christians convert, probably to avoid paying the Jizya. Once Islam is the majority religion of the empire, the dynamic changes. People lower down can position themselves, and raise their status, attacking those above by saying “I’m more Islamic than you”. So religious correctness becomes more of an issue, crowding out the public space.

    European history moves in the opposite direction (with bumps along the way). It starts with a unitary Catholic confession, shared by Kings and peasants alike. This breaks apart at the Reformation. Lots of different groups become passionate about their beliefs, but the ultimate effect is to drive religion out of the public sphere.

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  9. “a unitary Catholic confession, shared by Kings and peasants alike. This breaks apart at the Reformation.” It first breaks apart when the Roman Catholics flounced out from the rest in 1054.

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  10. If for example innovation requires the combination of three things:

    1) IQ
    2) aggression/drive/cantankerousness
    3) thinking outside the boxness

    then peak innovation would occur where you had all three (and the reverse for the reverse).

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  11. Hamilton may be exaggerating the genetic impact of the barbarian invasions in Europe. In some areas, like England, Flanders, and Normandy, there seems to have been considerable population replacement, but elsewhere the admixture rate was about 5 to 10%. That’s comparable to the contribution of African slaves to contemporary Middle Eastern populations. Did that lead to a renaissance after 800 years or so?

    Off topic, but what have you found in your research on the relationship between execution rates and the decline in the homicide rate? I believe you were looking at data from northern Italy.

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  12. Ok here is lots of speculations from me:
    Lebanese Christians and Muslims must be genetically almost identical. Lebanese Muslim iq is around something like 80-85 and Christian iq by looking at their gdp per capita in US must be something like 103-105.
    It seems to me the reason of the decline of Near East and end of Islamic Golden Age is not the cousin marriage but the higher reproductive success of lower classes under the Islamic rule. In India lowest class/lower iq people (Dalits) converted to Islam after the Muslim conquests because their lifes were hellish under Hindus and Islam was a much more egalitarian religion. And some of the pillars of Islam is about helping the poor, (Zakat, Qurban) It is likely that same thing happened in other Muslim conquered lands too, which is the empowerment of te lower iq people (poor, more conservative/violent people)
    I think under the rule of Islam wherever Islam penetrated lower iq people had more reproductive success and this caused a decline in the avg iq. It is possible that poor used Islam as a political tool against the more intelligent and rich. They probably banked on their sheer numbers against the more intelligent. By comparing the Lebanese Christian/Muslim iq it looks like avg iq fell something like 15-20 points from 100+ to 85s. but i admit it is also possible that Lebanese Christian iq increased in the Islamic ME as a result of merchant specialization. (similar to Ashkenazi but softer selective pressures)

    Mongol invasions do not totally explain the end of Islamic Golden Age. It certainly effected Mesopotamia but why did North Africa, Andalusians started to become extremely conservative and their scientific output ended during 1200’s? This was before Mongols and Mongols also never invaded North Africa.

    It is possbile that Mongols killed all the intelligent people living in the great cities of Mesopotamia. Think about it, Ashkenazi are only 10 million (%0,02 of world population) but they get %25 of all Nobels. If there were no Ashkenazi today scientific output of humanity would significantly decrease. Given that Mongols killed millions of people in Middle East (maybe %20 of ME? – i do not have source for this ) especially in the great cities like Baghdad maybe they killed the Ashkenazi of Near Easterners and this finished the scientific research. But this theory still would not explain the decline in the North Africa so dysgenics theory is still more likely to me.

    It is more likely that this dysgenics process which lowered the iq by around at least 15 points took something like 500-600 years and as a result of this Islamic Golden Age ended around 1200s. Rest is culturally incredibly static Middle East for the next millenia.

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  13. Perhaps their empire simply enabled the extraction of intellectual resources without being able to maintain such culture themselves. The FBD practice could be the way they responded to the new situation of having more strangers around them.

    Generally speaking it’s also likely that disgust sensitivity plays some role here too as it relates to xenophobia and one way to deal with this fear is to inbreed. There is bound to be a lot similar behavioral correlates of the behavioral immune system and clannishness/familiar altruism.

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  14. I echo dearieme’s manorialism objection and would add that courtly-manners-percolating-down was not my main takeaway from Clark.

    As for the arab world, it is of course an oversimplification to reduce it to two strains. Still, let us try that on just for observational purposes. We see that cultural conflict going on throughout the 20th C and now the 21st as well: dreams of a pan-arab culture that refuse to die (the Caliphate is more of a panarabist heterodoxy than a descendant of earlier Islamic theology); tribal loyalties undermining it at every turn.

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  15. @dearieme – “‘where the lord of the manor chooses which of his peasants or serfs are reliable enough to be granted a plot’: really? Where did it operate like that?”

    it operated like that in the early stage of manorialism in western europe, but plots/farms did eventually become hereditary like you say. i don’t know the timing of this (yet) — been planning on looking into that. i picked up this basic outline from mitterauer’s Why Europe?.

    the other thing that was important about manorialism in many parts of western europe at different points in time was that those attached to the manor had to get the lord’s approval to marry. there’s some potential for eugenics there, if you ask me.

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  16. @matt – “Also correct me if I’m wrong, but the Classical Greeks and Medieval Renaissance Europeans were not, exactly, known for technological innovation.”

    what interests me is not so much what was actually achieved in these renaissances — although my impression has always been that it was quite a lot — but, rather, the nature of them. you get this great openness where thinkers and philosophers and scientists just want to share their knowledge with each other and anyone who will listen to them. and they want to explore all (or maybe most) avenues of thought. they want to explore naturalistic explanations for what they observed in the world and to h*ll with whatever the majority view (i.e. religious) on it all was.

    it’s what i’ve been calling a “wikification” process that interests me. that’s what i think might tie in with different sorts of altruistic behaviors.

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  17. @georges – “Don’t forget there’s an important cultural shift happening too.”

    sure. but the two “cultural” shifts you described…

    “Over the next 300 years most Christians convert, probably to avoid paying the Jizya. Once Islam is the majority religion of the empire, the dynamic changes. People lower down can position themselves, and raise their status, attacking those above by saying ‘I’m more Islamic than you’. So religious correctness becomes more of an issue, crowding out the public space.

    “European history moves in the opposite direction (with bumps along the way). It starts with a unitary Catholic confession, shared by Kings and peasants alike. This breaks apart at the Reformation. Lots of different groups become passionate about their beliefs, but the ultimate effect is to drive religion out of the public sphere.”

    …could also fit with exactly what i’m saying: that medieval nw europe became more open/broad thanks to all of the outbreeding while the arabized middle east became more closed/narrow thanks to all of the inbreeding.

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  18. @cplusk – “Lebanese Christians and Muslims must be genetically almost identical. Lebanese Muslim iq is around something like 80-85 and Christian iq by looking at their gdp per capita in US must be something like 103-105.”

    middle eastern muslims inbreed more than middle eastern christians. (~_^) at least they do nowadays. don’t know how long this difference has been present, but i’d guess a very long time since most of the christian churches have discouraged close cousin marriage at some point or another. i know that the pre-islamic nestorians in iraq, for instance, issued some canon laws re. close marriages (although i don’t know if those regulations related to cousin marriage or something else like maybe uncle-niece marriage). and, of course, there are some indications that long-term inbreeding might reduce the average iq by a handful of points.

    however, like i said in a comment above, what i find interesting about these renaissances (any renaissance, i suppose) is the attitude of openness — the “wikification” of society. i’m not sure that that’s directly or only related to iq. i think hamilton was more on the mark in that it has to do with certain altruistic behavioral patterns, although i suppose that could be wrong.

    @cplusk – “It is possbile that Mongols killed all the intelligent people living in the great cities of Mesopotamia.”

    yeah. pseudoerasmus blogged about that, didn’t he? neat idea! (although not for the intelligent people living in mesopotamia at the time. =/ )

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  19. @staffan – “Perhaps their empire simply enabled the extraction of intellectual resources without being able to maintain such culture themselves.”

    yes. that’s what i’m thinking. PLUS they also introduced fbd to the existing populations in the middle east which led to a decline in their ability/willingness to cooperate more broadly with non-family, etc., etc.

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  20. @grey – “If for example innovation requires the combination of three things:

    1) IQ
    2) aggression/drive/cantankerousness
    3) thinking outside the boxness

    then peak innovation would occur where you had all three (and the reverse for the reverse).”

    yeah. and good luck trying to get the combination right! need a lot of happy circumstances for it to happen, it seems.

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  21. @peter – “…but elsewhere the admixture rate was about 5 to 10%.”

    well, but you only need one (or maybe ten or so) individuals with a really beneficial trait to enter a population and for that trait to spread then, right?

    having said that…

    @peter – “That’s comparable to the contribution of African slaves to contemporary Middle Eastern populations. Did that lead to a renaissance after 800 years or so?”

    yeah. which is why i prefer my outbreeding for 400 years or so theory. (~_^)

    @peter – “Off topic, but what have you found in your research on the relationship between execution rates and the decline in the homicide rate? I believe you were looking at data from northern Italy.”

    alas, alack — i haven’t had ANY time to work on that lately. argh! i do plan on exploring that whole topic again soon, though. (i hope!)

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  22. “those attached to the manor had to get the lord’s approval to marry. there’s some potential for eugenics there, if you ask me.” More likely there’s an opportunity for the L of the M to tax his peasantry.

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  23. @dearieme – “More likely there’s an opportunity for the L of the M to tax his peasantry.”

    oh, definitely. and there was very often a fee involved. but also, if you’re relying on your villeins for revenue, and the economic success of your farmers very much depended upon the good teamwork of a husband and wife (which is why widowers were encouraged to remarry asap), you might think about whom you want your best and most capable farmers to marry. you might want to encourage them to marry the best and most capable hausfraus. (~_^)

    i think they might’ve done some (probably) inadvertent eugenics down on the manors.

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  24. “you only need one (or maybe ten or so) individuals with a really beneficial trait to enter a population and for that trait to spread then”

    Northern and southern Europeans were never reproductively separated, as was the case with Neanderthals and modern humans. Any genetic variants that existed in the Germanic barbarians would have likely existed in the Romans as well, although at a different prevalence. Keep in mind that northern barbarians were moving into southern Europe long before the Roman Empire collapsed and even before it existed. The situation is quite different from that of modern humans moving into Europe and cherry picking useful variants from the Neanderthals (and I have reservations about “cherry picking” in that situation as well).

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  25. Even with a hereditary plot manor system, if the fee to succeed your father was significant, that could be eugenic for conscientousness. If the eldest son was feckless, there might be a younger more conscientous son who could pay the fee. And permission to marry is significant too.

    The reason I’m impressed by this is that the farms are breeding grounds for people, whereas towns were population sinks until Victorian sanitation (I’ve been to Bazelgette’s sadly neglected tomb in Wimbledon). Greg Clark talks as if the elites (a warrior caste then and now!), and then the medieval urban bourgeoisie, were the source of widespread ‘bourgeois values’ in England, but that seems very unlikely to me. Manorial domestication of the farmers (peasants, but did this also affect free yeomen?) combined with church-enforced outbreeding just seems to fit the facts better.

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  26. There is a particular book, chick, that’s makes a lot of interesting remarks on the running of manors in England. You can guess which.

    I particularly like the tale of Cambridge, where by the Middle Ages the identity of the Lord of the Manor was long lost, and the town council (“corporation”) took up his duties. I once looked into the question of the commoners on one of the Cambridge commons. In the 19th century there were complaints that people who weren’t entitled to were grazing their stock on the commons. So the Council looked into the question of which citizens were commoners. The conclusion was that it would be prohibitively expensive to establish the answer, so we ended up with a law that says that all citizens of the town are commoners but those who want to graze their animals have to pay the council. Hmph! The principal grazier at the moment judges breeds partly by their looks, so her taste is imposed on the rest of us. Happily her taste is excellent. For example http://www.redpoll.org

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  27. @ hbdchick – “you get this great openness where thinkers and philosophers and scientists just want to share their knowledge with each other and anyone who will listen to them. and they want to explore all (or maybe most) avenues of thought. they want to explore naturalistic explanations for what they observed in the world and to h*ll with whatever the majority view (i.e. religious) on it all was.”

    http://armariummagnus.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/gods-philosophers-how-medieval-world.html – stuff like this book might be worth a read for an idea of the treu shape Dark Ages, medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment science and intellectual culture.

    Sample – “Hannam gives the context for all this in suitable detail in a section of the book that also explains how the Humanism of the “Renaissance” led a new wave of scholars to not only seek to completely idolise and emulate the ancients, but to turn their backs on the achievements of recent scholars like Duns Scotus, Bardwardine, Buridan and Orseme. Thus many of their discoveries and advances were either ignored and forgotten (only to be rediscovered independently later) or scorned but quietly appropriated. The case for Galileo using the work of Medieval scholars without acknowledgement is fairly damning. In their eagerness to dump Medieval “dialectic” and ape the Greeks and Romans – which made the “Renaissance” a curiously conservative and rather retrograde movement in many ways- genuine developments and advancements by Medieval scholars were discarded. That a thinker of the calibre of Duns Scotus could end up being known mainly as the etymology of the word “dunce” is deeply ironic.”

    But I’m not that knowledgeable about the Renaissance myself!

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  28. @dearieme – “There is a particular book, chick, that’s makes a lot of interesting remarks on the running of manors in England. You can guess which.”

    okay, okay, okay! i can take a dozen hints. (~_^)

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  29. @simon – “Manorial domestication of the farmers (peasants, but did this also affect free yeomen?) combined with church-enforced outbreeding just seems to fit the facts better.”

    yeomen appear in english society in the later medieval period, so i’m guessing they’re actually part of the outcome of the outbreeding/domestication process. but you’d think their own situation in life would’ve resulted in particular selection pressures affecting that group. as greg cochran has said, every society selects for something. (^_^)

    i like greg clark’s theory, too. i don’t think the outbreeding theory rules out the downward movement of the elites in medieval western europe. both could’ve been the case!

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  30. hbdchick, pseudoerasmus and all, on the specific selection by the manorial farming system, and peasant and yeoman farming more generally:

    Estimates for farmers in medieval europe tend to be 65%-90%, median would be 75%, so we could estimate around 85% as sensible.

    The majority of these, say 90%, would be grain and dairy farmers, so 75% grain and dairy farmers.

    The remainder of the population would be around 20% of a potpourri of (in order of presumed declining importance) shifting pastoralists, artisans, general purpose manual / wage labourers, fishermen, small merchant, guard / warrior labour (men with swords and bows and armour and horses), criminals (e.g. part time prostitutes, thieves, etc) leaving perhaps 5% or less for noblity.

    At around 75% farmers, you shouldn’t get much specific selection for a farmer type personality without strong caste or clan structure – as Greg Cochran has demonstrated and is know to ag science, reproductive isolation is important. Even a constant inflow of 3% of a population under different selective conditions stops cold any realistic level of change, so 15%-25% should kill it dead. The Indians and Middle East probably have selected populations of pastoralists, farmers, etc yet this is less likely except in small cases (Burakumin, Borderers, Irish Travellers, Jews) in East Asia and Europe.

    What should happen is that the population of medieval europe was selected only away from those occupations which were completely absent. So they were not selected *to* be farmers, but rather *not* to be hunter gatherers. No one was a hunter-gatherer, so everyone was likely selected away from it. Same with pastoralism in China – no one was a pastoralist so everyone was likely selected away from it.

    For some support on the demographics, see – http://www.nuffield.ox.ac.uk/users/allen/ecstrucagprod.pdf . In England, rural non-agriculture seems about 20% of the population already by 1300 (4% urban), and an identical percentage in Poland by 1400. Is the level of reproductive isolation for “selection for farming” really there?

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  31. Matt:
    “At around 75% farmers, you shouldn’t get much specific selection for a farmer type personality without strong caste or clan structure – as Greg Cochran has demonstrated and is know to ag science, reproductive isolation is important.”

    No, you have this back to front, as best I can tell.
    Reproductive isolation allows different population subgroups to emerge. You need reproductive isolation to create new races, as Cochran demonstrated. Otherwise it’s effectively a single population and selection effects operate on it as a single population. But that single population can change in response to selective pressure.

    If farmers and warriors were isolated castes, each group could be selected for different characteristics, eg docile or forward-looking farmers, aggressive or clever warriors. *Because* English farmers were not a reproductively isolated population, selection effects on them will affect the entire population. And the bigger the fraction of the reproducing population they are, the more affect they will have on the characteristics of the whole population.

    If farmers are 75% of the reproducing population (75% of babies are farmer-born) then selection for farmer-who-has-lots-of-children characteristics will have a major effect on the characteristics of the whole population.
    If nobles are 5% of the reproducing population, then selection for noble-who-has-lots-of-children characteristics will NOT have a major effect on the characteristics of the whole population, unless those selected-for characteristics ALSO make non-noble farmers more fit.

    For instance: a society where brave and daring nobles are rewarded, while cautious and reserved farmers are rewarded. A brave and daring noble warrior might then have lots of children (especially in polygamous societies) but if most of his (bastard?) children become farmers, then bravery and daring will NOT be selected for among his farmer children. This to me is the problem with the Clark thesis.

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  32. ““‘The incursions of barbaric pastoralists seem to do civilizations less harm in the long run than one might expect. Indeed, two dark ages and renaissances in Europe suggest a recurring pattern in which a renaissance follows an incursion by about 800 years. ”

    Oh great. ONLY 800 years huh? And then some unsupported rubbish about fresh gene infusions or whatever. Was this guy drunk when he wrote this?

    Reply

  33. Yeah but the persians of today are no better on social, economical, and technological rankings then the rest of the middle east. Meanwhile the europeans are much better

    How about comparing the Persians with the Chinese? Its seems to me that the general Iranian populace is doing better than the Chinese one.

    Culturally and intellectually, the Chinese tradition seemed to lag behind the Islamic tradition.

    Intellectually, the Muslims made several contributions in the sciences, when they were provided with a framework, especially coming from the Ancient Greeks. Today, we have an overrepresentation of Chinese students in our universities studying STEM, and they are not much breakthroughs, if any, coming from their studies.

    Culturally, the Muslims were more interested in human society than just being Confucian with the Chinese. Besides the Qur’an, they had manuals on ethics, chivalry, the governing of non-Muslims, civic discourse, etc….

    Re: Islamic Golden Age

    Many people who study this subject in depth, outside of the leftist Ivory Tower, seem to disagree on the much touted Islamic Golden Age. Yes, as stated before, most of the intellectual achievements came from the fringes of the Islamic empire, notably Persia, and also Spain. Only a small handful of intellectuals made any lasting contributions, especially in the sciences, and almost all of them were Persian. Europe at the same time, was not in a “dark age” – oblivious to the previous Greco-Roman past, as they were a few Medieval Christian scholars who dabbled with Roman writings and the Byzantines studied Aristotle independently of the Muslims. And unsurprisingly, because the Byzantines were the custodians of the Classical Greek works that have been passed down to us.

    Reply

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