human biodiversity and culture and history

william hamilton, considered to be one of the — if not the — greatest evolutionary theorists since darwin, had this to say:

“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).”

so hamilton clearly thought that biology and human biodiversity strongly influence culture and history, including the broad movements of history like renaissances or maybe even reformations or enlightenments, etc. and he thought that outbreeding, specifically too much outbreeding (i.e. panmictic populations), and presumably inbreeding too, relate to the selection for altruistic behaviors…and, therefore, certain aspects of cultures and history, etc. (remember that there’s more to hbd than just iq. (~_^) ) i dunno, maybe i and other hbd-ers are crazy (if so, we’re in GOOD company!), but this just makes intuitive sense to me. as john derbyshire said [15:00]:

“…if dimensions of the individual human personality are heritable, then society is just a vector sum of a lot of individual personalities.”

i like the big, probably impossible to answer fully questions: where does culture come from? where do institutions come from? where do renaissances come from? i don’t have the answers to those questions. nor am i under any illusions that i’ll ever be able to answer them. but am i very certain that they cannot be answered without taking into consideration human biology and biodiversity along with more conventional explanations drawn from history, economics, etc., and so i like to periodically bring them up.

so, if you happen to be new here, if you don’t like questioning — on every level — or biological explanations applied to The Big Questions, i’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. sorry. for my fellow hbd-ers — see you back here later in the week! (^_^)

previously: renaissances
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p.s. – btw, my vacation has been extended by a week (long story), so i’ll be back properly next week. sorry for the delay! (*^_^*)

(note: comments do not require an email.)

11 Comments

  1. Let’s assume that environment affects biology, then biology will affect culture because culture in possibly a simplistic view, is the accumulation of survival techniques over time, in that same environment. If and as one travels over the globe, these techniques must be adapted. Society then is the accumulation and optimization of a group of individual (families) working together as a more effective power (synergy). This organizational skill then becomes ingrained in culture as well. Ie organizational culture.

    An interesting example is the Red Indian culture that could not change because they did not engage a different environment, despite the change in organization. The same is happening in South Africa, where the Afrikaner does not seem to be able to change appropriately to the threats they’re facing in organizational terms, NOT environment.

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  2. A big difference is going to be found between successful barbarian invasions from the global north compared to from the south. It is not as if SSA is conquering Europe because of greater martial fitness, they are sliding in under corrupt political parties with cover from a hostile and mentally ill western media establishment.

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  3. While there is a long-term bright side to this pattern — “In 800 years we’ll have a renaissance!” — one can see the wisdom of resisting pastoralist incursions when you have your children’s and grandchildren’s (and many succeeding generations’) interests in mind.

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  4. “…if dimensions of the individual human personality are heritable, then society is just a vector sum of a lot of individual personalities.”

    Well, yes and no. Obviously if Abraham Lincoln hadn’t come along things could have turned out quite differently in the U.S. and, by extension, in Europe (no US Germany might have won WWI or WWII) etc. So there are a lot of stochastic processes going on as well. But more than that: one you get into an outbred society the influence of ideas becomes much more important. Guys like Adam Smith, to take one very important example, become influential historical figures. You can say that ideas were also important in archaic civilizations like China and India, for example, but not quite in the same way in my opinion: there is a lot more free play in Western culture and civilization, the possibilities of innovation, not just in science but in moral thought as well. The whole concept of the rights of the individual, for example, and the rule of law, with an independent judiciary, etc.. Stuff we take for granted but that seems to make little sense, or at least does not resonate the same way, in more traditional cultures around the world. At least this is what I am thinking.

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    1. @Luke Lea:

      “Well, yes and no. Obviously if Abraham Lincoln hadn’t come along things could have turned out quite differently in the U.S. and, by extension, in Europe (no US Germany might have won WWI or WWII) etc. So there are a lot of stochastic processes going on as well.”

      Don’t be so sure about that. Sometimes all roads have a way of leading to the same place.

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  5. Chick-
    With regard to Panmixia (Panmitic Mating), isn’t the cause of the observed decrease in competitiveness, the simple by product of regression to the mean? In other words, without assortative mating by class or group, or a scarcity of options (near-breeding), mate selection cannot produce local, self-perpetuating, excellences without regressing toward the mean? I am trying to work through the incentives in my head, and if I’m seeking mates (reproductive quality) and optimum opportunity (status) and optimum consumption (wealth), then the broader my choices are the more likely I am able to find an asymmetry of quality, consumption and status, that I can use to my advantage. Whereas the narrower my choices the harder I must compete for advantage. (Or am I missing something. Thanks.)

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  6. “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 ” Don’t mind me. I’ll just sit over here by myself and mutter “ingredient – yeah, like babies.”

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  7. Then Mongols had to spark renaissance (which should be booming just now) in every society their arrows had touched.
    And we can spot evidence of such all around Eurasia.

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  8. After we humans developed complex language, it became feasible to pass wisdom to succeeding generations via memetic indoctrination (also known as wetware programming). The evolutionary advantage of this capability is pretty obvious, which is why it has persisted via genetic encoding. The advent of widespread adoption and implementation of these practices was the genesis of culture and civilization; both of which co-evolve in tandem with physical evolution, but at a higher recursion rate.

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  9. I think barbarian invasions add aggression to more pacified societies which in itself is generally net bad (hence most historical examples) however I also think in just the right quantity a controlled dose of aggression is maybe good for creativity; so too much = bad and too little = bad.

    So I think Hamilton was poking in the right direction but there’s a piece missing.

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