it is a truth universally acknowledged, that whenever someone posts a map like this…
…on twitter, that a chorus of people will respond: oh, just look at the terrible effects communism had on eastern europe! for no good reason really because, as we all know, correlation does not equal causation — although it does “waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing ‘look over there.'”
just because soviet regimes were present in the past in the same areas of europe where there are high corruption levels today does not mean the one is the cause of the other. (and anyway…look at the regions beyond europe! or southern europe, for that matter.) the relationship is certainly suspicious though, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the two were somehow connected.
one way to try to settle this debate would be to look at pre-soviet corruption rates in eastern europe versus the west to see if the situation was any different beforehand.
i have not done that in this post, in large part because i don’t speak any slavic or other eastern european languages, but primarily because it seemed like way too much work. instead, i’m going to take a look a civicness, a set of behaviors — along with things like intelligence, low amounts of corruption, and low levels of violence — that many researchers reckon are necessary in order to have western-style liberal democracies and economies, if that’s what you want in life. i’ll be focusing on russia, again just to kept this little project manageable. but first, italy.
in Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, robert putnam (yes, that robert putnam) concluded that democracy in northern italy functions better than in the south because the north has had a longer tradition — stretching back to the middle ages — of civicness or of having a civic community. (see previous post: democracy in italy.) according to putnam [pgs. 88-89, 91]:
“Citizenship in the civic community entails equal rights and obligations for all. Such a community is bound together by horizontal relations of reciprocity and cooperation, not by vertical relations of authority and dependency. Citizens interact as equals, not as patrons and clients nor as governors and petitioners….
“Citizens in a civic community, on most accounts, are more than merely active, public-spirited, and equal. Virtuous citizens are helpful, respectful, and trustful towards one another, even when they differ on matters of substance….
“One key indicator of civic sociability must be the vibrancy of associational life.”
in civic societies and civic societies ii, i looked at (self-reported) participation rates in voluntary associations across the world as found in the 2005-2008 wave of the world values survey. specifically, i tallied up the number of individuals who responded that, yes, they were ACTIVE members of the following voluntary associations (thus giving some indication of how civic-minded each of the populations is):
– Church or religious organization
– Sport or recreation organization
– Art, music or educational organization
– Labour union
– Political party
– Environmental organization
– Professional association
– Charitable organization
– Any other voluntary organization
the response rates for eastern europe were abysmal, often vying for last place with the middle east (see previous post for more):
not much has changed in the latest wave (2010-2014). here, for example, are the active membership rates for the russian federation for each of the organization types — the first figure is from the 2005-2008 wave, the second from 2010-2014:
– Church or religious organization = 2.60% – 2.00%
– Sport or recreation organization = 5.90% – 2.40%
– Art, music or educational organization = 4.20% – 1.50%
– Labour union = 3.40% – 2.00%
– Political party = 0.80% – 0.50%
– Environmental organization = 0.40% – 0.40%
– Professional association = 1.60% – 1.40%
– Charitable organization = 1.10% – 0.6%
– Any other voluntary organization = n/a – 1.4%
as joseph bradley says in Voluntary Associations in Tsarist Russia: Science, Patriotism, and Civil Society (2009), russia is “not known as a nation of joiners.” apparently not! (mind you, i am not in a position to cast any stones on this account. *ahem*)
but were the russians more civic-minded before the revolution?
unfortunately, i don’t have any figures which can be directly compared to our modern world values surveys, but, yes, there was some amount of participation in voluntary civic institutions in russia in the two hundred years or so preceding 1917. however, civic participation didn’t begin in russia until the mid-1700s (and that is a key point to which i’ll return), and for most of that period, it occurred mostly among the upper classes. participation rates did grow across the nation and classes over the next century and a half, until just after the revolution of 1905 when there was a rapid rise in one sort of voluntary association — consumer cooperatives — among all classes of russians. however, civil society was still comparatively shallow in early-twentieth century russia — it hadn’t fully penetrated the whole of society by that point yet because the concept was so relatively new to the populace. here is laura engelstein in “The Dream of Civil Society in Tsarist Russia: Law, State, and Religion” (2000) quoting the sardinian antonio gramsci on the matter [pg. 23]:
“On the margins of the European state system, sharing but not fully integrating the Western cultural heritage, Russia, it is said, has always lacked just these civic and political traits. Antonio Gramsci provides the classic statement of this contrast: ‘In Russia,’ he wrote in the 1920s, ‘the state was everything, civil society was primordial and gelatinous; in the West there was a proper relation between state and civil society, and when the state trembled a sturdy structure of civil society was at once revealed.’ When in 1917 the Russian autocracy not only trembled but tumbled to the ground, there was no ‘powerful system of fortresses and earthworks,’ in Gramsci’s phrase, to prevent the Bolsheviks from erecting another absolutist regime in its place.”
civic society in russia first came to life under catherine the great (1729-1796), who did go some way to promote enlightenment ideals in the empire; perhaps more so when it came to the arts rather than politics, but still…it was a start, albeit one restricted in extent. from engelstein again [pg. 26 – my emphasis]:
“Eighteenth-century Russia had a lively public life. Private presses, a market in print, debating societies, literary salons, private theaters, public lectures, Masonic lodges — all linked inhabitants of the capitals and provincial centers in something of an empirewide conversation. Yet this world was limited in scope, audience, and resources and was fatally dependent on the autocrat’s good will. Catherine, when it pleased her, cracked down on independent publishers.”
this public life did continue to grow, however, although in fits and starts. nicholas i (1796-1855) was not too thrilled by it all, and alexander i (1777-1825) actually banned the freemasons, but by the nineteenth century, alexander ii (1818-1881) was, for a tsar, positively a radical when it came to permitting and promoting civic society as was evident in his great reforms. by the late nineteenth century then [pg. 16]:
“…an increasingly active public sphere of debate that included advocacy and representation was no longer in doubt in tsarist Russia. Thus well before the Revolution of 1905, the groundwork was laid for the participation of private associations in the public arena.”
the practice of joining voluntary organizations came later to the russian lower classes. consumer cooperatives began to appear in russia and the empire in the 1860s, but these first cooperatives were organized and run by the upper classes. peasants and workers would’ve been customers only. cooperatives among middle class professionals in towns and cities appear in the early-1890s. the idea spread to villages in 1900 via proselytizing intellectuals (also worth noting), and after 1905, the cooperative movement exploded right across the country. from The Co-operative Movement in Russia: Its History, Signficance, and Character (1917) by j.b. bubnoff — delightfully published in manchester by the co-operative printing society limited (so the work could be a bit biased) [pg. 49]:
“In 1891 consumers’ societies were formed in towns among the lower-grade officials, various classes of employees, teachers, members of liberal professions, and other sections of the population. These societies were of two types. One open only to members of a particular class of officials or to employees of a particular firm or institution; the other was open to all. These latter societies were already marked by the spirit of independence.
“Throughout this period the number of consumers’ societies was not large, and their output was small…. In 1900 the position was the same. Beginning from 1900, the Co-operative Movement spread in the villages…. [T]he first consumers’ societies in the villages were initiated by the intellectuals and by the authorities and were not the outcome of free enterprise on the part of the peasants themselves. At the end of the last century, and particularly at the beginning of the present one, an agrarian movement spread among the peasantry and ended in the revolution of 1905.”
by 1917, provided bubnoff wasn’t exaggerating, there were ca. 20,000 consumer cooperatives in russia (bubnoff notes that the other organizations listed in the table below — credit and loan savings associations, agricultural societies, and the artels — were all either government run or arranged by the large landowners, so they weren’t really voluntary associations in the sense of being organized by the members.):
again, though, this is late for finally getting around to launching civic institutions in your country. nineteen hundred and seventeen (1917) is very, very late compared to what happened in northwestern europe. even compared to what happened in northern italy. as valerie bunce says in “The Historical Origins of the East-West Divide: Civil Society, Politcal Society, and Democracy in Europe” [pg. 222]:
“By the end of the nineteenth century, then, it was evident that there were two Europes, long separated by their histories and, thus, by their politics, economics, social structure, and culture.”
not to mention their evolutionary histories.
so how did northwestern “core” europe (including northern italy) differ from russia historically as far as participation in civic institutions goes? the short answer is: civicness in “core” europe began centuries before it did in russia or the rest of eastern europe, at least 500-600, if not 800-900, years earlier.
“[I]n the towns of northern and central Italy…an unprecedented form of self-government was emerging….
“Like the autocratic regime of Frederick II, the new republican regime was a response to the violence and anarchy endemic in medieval Europe, for savage vendettas among aristocratic clans had laid waste to the towns and countryside in the North as in the South. The solution invented in the North, however, was quite different, relying less on vertical hierarchy and more on horizontal collaboration. The communes sprang originally from voluntary associations, formed when groups of neighbors swore personal oaths to render one another mutual assistance, to provide for common defense and economic cooperation…. By the twelfth century communes had been established in Florence, Venice, Bologna, Genoa, Milan, and virtually all the other major towns of northern and central Italy, rooted historically in these primordial social contracts.
“The emerging communes were not democratic in our modern sense, for only a minority of the population were full members…. However, the extent of popular participation in government affairs was extraordinary by any standard: Daniel Waley describes the communes as ‘the paradise of the committee-man’ and reports that Siena, a town with roughly 5000 adult males, had 860 part-time city posts, while in larger towns the city council might have several thousand members, many of them active participants in the deliberations….
“As communal life progressed, guilds were formed by craftsmen and tradesmen to provide self-help and mutual assistance, for social as well as for strictly occupational purposes. ‘The oldest guild-statute is that of Verona, dating from 1303, but evidently copied from some much older statute. “Fraternal assistance in necessity of whatever kind,” “hospitality towards strangers, when passing through the town”…and “obligation of offering comfort in the case of debility” are among the obligations of the members.’ ‘Violation of statutes was met by boycott and social ostracism….’
“Beyond the guilds, local organizations, such as *vicinanze* (neighborhood associations), the *populus* (parish organizations that administered the goods of the local church and elected its priest), confraternities (religious societies for mutual assistance), politico-religious parties bound together by solemn oath-takings, and *consorterie* (‘tower societies’) formed to provide mutual security, were dominant in local affairs.”
in general, nothing like this existed in medieval russia (or eastern europe) — not on this scale anyway — the novgorod republic, which lasted for three centuries and came to an end in 1478, probably being the most notable exception. eastern european society was still very much founded upon the extended family for much of the period (although, again, in certain times and locales that was not the case — russia’s a big place). only a handful of merchants’ guilds were given permission to exist in russia between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries, and the powers that be (including the orthodox church) regularly suppressed craftsmen’s guilds [pg. 13]. by contrast, northern italy was full of civic-mindedness already by the high middle ages.
meanwhile, in england (and other parts of northwestern europe) [pgs. 3-4]:
“As a form of voluntary association, bound by oath and by a (usually modest) material subscription, the fraternity or guild was widespread in late-medieval England and continental Europe. Both the ubiquity and the frequency of the form have been underlined by recent historical case-studies. While the particular purpose and activities of a fraternity might be infinitely various, the organization may be characterized in general as combining pious with social, economic, and political purposes. Its declared aims invariably included important religious functions, expressed in the invocation of a saintly patron and an annual mass with prayers for deceased members. With equal certainty, the annual feast day would bring the members together for a drink or a meal to celebrate their community. The overwhelming majority of English guilds admitted women alongside men: a feature generally characteristic of guilds of medieval northern Europe, although not so prevalent in the Mediterranean world. Sometimes described in modern English accounts as ‘parish fraternities’, these clubs indeed were often founded by groups of parishioners and regularly made use of an altar in a parish church as a devotional focus; yet they as often drew their memberships from a wider field than that of the parish, whose bounds they readily transcended…. An individual might join more than one guild, thereby extending still futher the range of his or her contacts. A significant minority of fraternities crystallized around a particular trade…. The overwhelming majority of guilds, however, were not tied by such association to a single craft, but brought together representatives of various trades and professions.”
extraordinarily, one type of fraternity — of non-kin remember (the whole point of voluntary associations is that they’re made up of non-kin) — appeared in england as early as the late-800s. from a previous post, the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society:
“the *gegildan* appears in some of the anglo-saxon laws in the late-800s as an alternative group of people to whom wergeld might be paid if the wronged individual had no kin. by the 900s, though, in southern england, the gegildan might be the only group that received wergeld, bypassing kin altogether. from Wage Labor and Guilds in Medieval Europe [pgs. 39-42]:
“‘The laws of King Alfred of Wessex, dated to 892-893 or a few years earlier, are more informative about the *gegildan*. Again, the context is murder and the wergild — the compensation required for the crime. By Alfred’s time, if not during Ine’s, the *gegildan* is clearly a group of associates who were not related by blood. The clearest example of this is in chapter 31 of the laws: ‘If a man in this position is slain — if he has no relatives (maternal or paternal) — half the wergild shall be paid to the king, and half to the *gegildan*.’ No information exists on the purpose of the *gegildan* other than its role as a substitute for kinship ties for those without any relatives. These associates, who presumably were bound together by an oath for mutual protection, if only to identify who was responsible, would benefit anyone, whether the person had relatives or not…. Although the evidence from the laws of Ine may be read either way, the *gegildan* seems to be an old social institution. As seen more clearly in the tenth and eleventh centuries, it acquired additional functions — a policing role and a religious character.
“‘The nobles, clergy, and commoners of London agreed upon a series of regulations for the city, with the encouragement and approval of King Athelstan, who caused the rules to be set down some time in the late 920s or 930s. The primary purpose of these ordinances was to maintain peace and security in the city, and all those supporting these goals had solemnly pledged themselves to this *gegildan*. This type of inclusive guild, sometimes referred to as a peace guild, was an attempt to create one more additional level of social responsibility to support the king and his officials in keeping the peaces. This social group of every responsible person in London is a broad one, and the law does not use the term *gegildan* to describe the association in general….
“‘The idea of a guild to keep the peace was not limited to London, and a document from the late tenth century contains the rules and duties of the thegn‘s guild in Cambridge. This guild appears to have been a private association, and no king or noble is mentioned as assenting to or encouraging this group. Most of the rules concern the principle purposes of this guild — the security of the members, which receives the most attention, and the spiritual benefits of membership itself. The guild performed the tasks of the old *gegildan*: the members were obliged to defend one another, collect the wergild, and take up vengeance against anyone refusing to pay compensation. The members also swore an oath of loyalty to each other, promising to bring the body of a deceased member to a chosen burial site and supply half the food for the funeral feast. For the first time, another category of help was made explicit — the guild bound itself to common almsgiving for departed members — and the oath of loyalty the members swore included both religious and secular affairs. Although in many respects this guild resembles a confraternity along the lines Hincmar established for the archdiocese of Rheims, the older purpose of the group — mutual protection with its necessary threat of vengeance — makes the Anglo-Saxon guild something more than a prayer meeting. To include almsgiving to members in distress would be a small step, given the scope of activities this guild established. There is no sign that the thegns cooperated in any economic endeavors, but older rules of rural society had already determined methods of sharing responsibility in the villages, and the thegns cooperated on everything that was important in their lives. The thegns of Cambridge had a guild that resembles in some important ways the communal oath, that will be discussed below, of some Italian cities in the next century.'”
the gegildan of early medieval england, then — a voluntary association, a fraternity — appeared on the scene something like two hundred years before the communes of northern italy arose, three hundred plus years before the novgorod republic was formed, and nearly nine hundred years before the russians gave civiness another shot (after novgorod). i’m not aware of any earlier such associations in western medieval europe, although they may have existed. it appears, too, that the gegildan appeared in situ in england, a newly developed social structure to take over some of the earlier functions of the rapidly disappearing kindred (including feuding and protection), although maybe the concept was imported from the carolingians — the heart of the preceding frankish kingdoms, austrasia, was where manorialism had begun, which was then imported across the channel, so perhaps the gegildan concept was as well.
whatever the case, it’s in the core of “core” europe, once again, that we find the earliest evidence for behavioral patterns that are now the hallmarks of western civilization: late marriage and nuclear families, lowest levels of cousin marriage for the longest period of time, low levels of violence, high levels of civic-mindedness (see above), universalism, unparalleled accomplishment — they all appear earliest (in medieval europe), and are still the strongest, in this central area (very roughly the area indicated by the green oval on this map).
so, now we come to it: why? why was it “evident” by the end of the nineteenth century that there were two europes, and what do all these long-standing historical differences have to do with it?
the ultimate cause must lie in our biologies. humans are biological creatures, so there’s no way around it. we know that all behavioral traits are heritable, so we have to look to differences in the populations’ genetics and evolutionary histories.
as i wrote recently: evolution in humans is ongoing, recent, can be pretty rapid (within some constraints), and has been/is localized (as well as global). in fact, human evolution has sped up since the agricultural revolution since the number of individuals, and therefore mutations, on which natural selection might work skyrocketed in post-agricultural societies. remember, too, that “every society selects for something,” and that we’re talking about frequencies of genes in populations and that those frequencies can fluctuate up and down over time.
so there is NO reason NOT to suppose that the differences in behavioral traits that we see between european sub-populations today — including those between western and eastern europe — aren’t genetic and the result of differing evolutionary histories or pathways.
even rapid evolution takes time, though. we’re not talking one or two generations, but more like thirty or forty — fifty’s even better. point is, evolutionary changes don’t only occur on the scale of eons. they can also happen over the course of centuries (again, multiples of centuries, not just one or two). the circa eleven to twelve hundred years since the major restructuring of society that occurred in “core” europe in the early medieval period — i.e. the beginnings of manorialism, the start of consistent and sustained outbreeding (i.e. the avoidance of close cousin marriage), and the appearance of voluntary associations — is ample time for northwestern europeans to have gone down a unique evolutionary pathway and to acquire behavioral traits quite different from those of other europeans — including eastern europeans — who did not go down the same pathway (but who would’ve gone down their own evolutionary pathways, btw).
what i think happened was that the newly created socioeconomic structures and cultural (in this case largely religious) practices of the early medieval period in northwest “core” europe introduced a whole new set of selective pressures on northwest europeans compared to those which had existed previously. rather than a suite of traits connected to familial or nepostic altruism (or clannishness) being selected for, the new society selected for traits more connected to reciprocal altruism.
before the early medieval period, northwest europeans — looking away from the urbanized gallo-romans who may have been something of a special case (more on them another day) — had been kin-based populations of agri-pastoralists whose societies were characterized by inter-clan feuding, honor/shame (vs. integrity/guilt), and particularism (vs. universalism). i think these traits were under constant selection in those populations because: reproductive success in those societies was dependent upon one’s connection to, and one’s standing within, the extended kin-group, so, thanks to being tied to kin rather than non-kin, nepotistic altruism genes would’ve been favored over reciprocal altruism ones; the extended kin-group was the element within which most individuals would’ve interacted with others, those others being related individuals who would’ve been likely to share the same nepotistic altruism genes (alleles) [see here for more]; and cousin marriage was rife, which again would’ve further fuelled the selection for these genes, since members of the same kin-group would’ve had an even greater likelihood of sharing the same versions of their nepotistic altruism genes.
pretty much the opposite happened during the early and high middle ages in “core” europe. manorialism pushed for nuclear families rather than extended family groupings, and so people began to interact more with non-kin rather than kin, enabling the selection for more traits related to reciprocal altruism. the avoidance of close cousin marriage meant that family members would’ve shared fewer altruism genes in common, so any selection for nepotistic altruism would’ve slowed down. and once voluntary associations of non-kin appeared, the selection for reciprocal altruism really would’ve (or, at least, could’ve) taken off. reproductive success was no longer dependent upon connections to the extended family group, but, rather, unrelated individuals living with the community.
the manor system developed in the 500s in “core” europe (austrasia), but did not arrive in russia (and much of eastern europe) until the late medieval/early modern period. (it never got to the balkans.) the extended family was most likely gone on the manors in the west by the 800s (see mitterauer), although it is conceivable that the nuclear families found on the manors in the earliest days were residential nuclear familes rather than the fully atomized ones that we see in the west today. certainly by the 1500s, there are no longer any traces of the extended family among “core” europeans (although there are still some pockets). the avoidance of cousin marriage was underway in earnest by the 800s (possibly earlier, but definitely by the 800s). it was still on shaky ground as late as the 1400s in russia. and, as we’ve seen, voluntary associations appeared very early in “core” western europe, but only very recently in russia (and, presumably, other areas of eastern europe).
most of you will recognize this as the hajnal line story (yet again!) with a few new nuances thrown in. manorialism, outbreeding, and voluntary associations all began in “core” europe — again very roughly the area outlined by the green oval on the map below (the other lines indicate, again roughly the extent of the hajnal line) — and they spread outwards from there over time, eventually reaching russia and other parts of eastern europe, but not until very late. (and the manor system in russia, once it was adopted there, was of a very different form than what had existed in western europe.)
inside the hajnal line, which (imo) reflects the extent of the strongest selection for behavioral traits related to reciprocal altruism over nepotistic altruism, the populations have stronger democratic traditions, are more civic-minded, are less corrupt, and score higher on individualism (vs. collectivism) on hofstede’s idv dimension than the populations outside the hajnal line. (please, see my big summary post on the hajnal line for more details.) all of these behavioral patterns “fit” better with the idea that these populations are characterized by innate reciprocal altruism tendencies rather than more nepotistic altruism ones. the populations outside the hajnal line seem to be more oppositely inclined.
there is no doubt that soviet communism wreaked havoc on eastern european populations. some untold millions died in the gulags, families and towns and villages were ripped apart, political repression was beyond belief. but smart money says that, along with civicness, many of the “non-western” features of contemporary eastern europe — high corruption rates, etc. — have deeper roots, and are not the consequences of communism, but rather of recent evolution by natural selection.
(note: comments do not require an email. sorry there’s no tl;dr summary!)
am reading edith hall’s Introducing the Ancient Greeks. good stuff! (^_^) here’re some excerpts that i posted to twitter:
read all about phalaris, the most tyrannical of (sicilian) greek tyrants, here. *gulp*
(i know! i know! the greeks didn’t wear togas, it was the romans. i know!)
(note: comments do not require an email. oh noes!)
in Experimenting with Social Norms ensminger and henrich compile several very interesting studies on prosocial “fairness” norms conducted on various populations of different types — ranging from hunter-gatherers to urban factory workers — from around the world. three different economic experiments were conducted on the various populations (although it’s not clear to me if all three were run on each group — i haven’t read through all of each of the studies chapters yet): the ultimatum game, the third-party punishment or altruistic punishment game, and the dictator game.
the authors conclude that [pgs. 89-90]:
“1. Fairness and punishment show both reliable patterns and substantial variability across diverse populations.
2. Fairness increases with a population’s degree of market integration.
3. Fairness increases with an individual’s participation in a world religion.
4. Willingness to engage in punishment increases with community size.”
they ultimately conclude “that social norms evolved over thousands of years to allow strangers in more complex and large settlements to coexist, trade and prosper” — but they just mean that the norms and the cultures evolved, not the peoples.
possible biological/evolutionary reasons for the findings are given some consideration, but only across one and a half pages, and the authors end with the following [pg. 139]:
“Genetic differences between populations or groups would most likely account for the behavioral patterns we observe if they arose in response to stable differences in the culturally evolved social norms and institutions (formal and informal) found in different societies. Norms and institutions, in creating stable regularities in the local social environment, can theoretically produce conditions for natural selection to act on genes that make individuals better adapted to those particular norms and institutions (Henrich and Boyd 2001; Laland et al. 2010; McElreath, Boyd, and Richerson 2003; Richerson et al. 2010). This is an intriguing and provocative possibility, but there is no evidence at this point supporting a suspicion that such a culture-gene coevolutionary process has occurred.”
…and it’s too scary to think about anyway, so we won’t give it any more ink here. (>.<)
in 2010, re. pretty much the same data sets/findings, they had this to say [my emphasis]:
“These findings indicate that people living in small communities lacking market integration or world religions — absences that likely characterized all societies until the Holocene — display relatively little concern with fairness or punishing unfairness in transactions involving strangers or anonymous others. This result challenges the hypothesis that successful social interaction in large-scale societies — and the corresponding experimental findings — arise directly from an evolved psychology that mistakenly applies kin and reciprocity-based heuristics to strangers in vast populations (4,5), without any of the ‘psychological workarounds’ (42) that are created by norms and institutions. Moreover, it is not clear how this hypothesis can explain why we find so much variation among populations in our experimental measures and why this variation is so strongly related to MI, WR, and CS. The mere fact that the largest and most anonymous communities engage in substantially greater punishment relative to the smallest-scale societies, who punish very little, challenges this interpretation.”
this is old school evolutionary psychology at its worst — that human nature and the human psyche (and there’s only one sort in this viewpoint) stopped evolving at the end of the last ice age when a majority of us quit being hunter-gatherers.
well, i’ve got news for them: evolution in humans is ongoing, recent, can be pretty rapid (within some constraints), and has been/is localized (as well as global). in fact, human evolution has sped up since the agricultural revolution since the number of individuals, and therefore mutations, on which natural selection might work skyrocketed in post-agricultural societies.
remember, too, that all human behavioral traits are heritable (and more down to biology than many like to think), “every society selects for something,” and that we’re talking about frequencies of genes in populations and that those frequencies can fluctuate up and down over time.
given all of the above, there are NO good reasons for dismissing genetic or evolutionary explanations for variations in social norms between populations (and individuals for that matter). since we are biological creatures, biological explanations should be ruled out (properly!) first before moving on to other sorts of explanations.
again ensminger and henrich said:
“This result challenges the hypothesis that successful social interaction in large-scale societies — and the corresponding experimental findings — arise directly from an evolved psychology that mistakenly applies kin and reciprocity-based heuristics to strangers in vast populations, without any of the ‘psychological workarounds’ that are created by norms and institutions.”
no, of course not. a more likely scenario is that the behavioral traits realted to social norms in large-scale societies — post-agricultural societies (and post-post-agricultural societies) — evolved with some rapidity away from what had existed before in smaller societies thanks to: 1) the larger population size itself (generating a greater number of mutations), and 2) the larger societies and the structures that developed exerting new selective pressures on those populations in sort-of giant feedback loops — society selects for genes for new behavioral traits which in turn produces new societal forms, and so on.
more from the authors:
“Moreover, it is not clear how this hypothesis can explain why we find so much variation among populations in our experimental measures….”
well, that’s easily explained if you remember that human evolution is ongoing, recent, pretty rapid, and can be local.
to take just one example from their findings, if we look at their results from the dictator game…
…it was primarily members of the hunter-gatherer or horticulturalist groups who gave low offers in the game, african agriculturalists (or pastoralists) middling offers, and the residents of hamilton, missouri, the highest. (annoyingly, a couple of the populations — accra and isanga — are groups of mixed ethnicities, so it’d be difficult for anybody to tease apart what’s going on.)
well, hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists — like the hadza, the tsimane’, the au, and the sursurunga — have largely missed out on the agricultural revolution and its evolutionary effects. the middling offers from the mostly african (mostly bantu) agriculturalists are not a surprise either since agriculture and the development of large-scale societies got going comparatively late in sub-saharan africa. and that the hamiltonians offered up the most money — and have the highest market integration — probably owes a lot to the fact that that population is a part of the u.s. midlands and are descended from a group that experienced the agricultural revolution back in the neolithic, and furthermore went through the selection pressures created by medieval manorialism and long-term outbreeding (and who knows what else?).
those are just a few ideas for starters. i’m sure it’s much more complicated than that. for instance, why are the tsimane’ forager-horticulturalists so stingy while the au from papua new guinea, who are also forager-horticulturalists, quite generous? i dunno, but one possibility i suggest checking out is the difference in the family structures of the two groups (prolly will be difficult to do this very far back in time): the interconnectedness of au families, which stretch between villages, is quite complex, while tsimane’ families are not so much (afaik). among many other possibilities and scenarios, we should be looking for the selection pressures created by family types and the flow of genes (especially for behavioral traits like altruism) through different family types.
one final thing – ensminger and henrich et al. from 2010:
“Methodologically, our findings suggest caution in interpreting behavioral experiments from industrialized populations as providing direct insights into human nature.”
well, quite. but it works in the other direction, too: we should also be cautious in interpreting behavioral experiments from non-industrialized populations as providing direct insights into human nature(s).
see also: The 10,000 Year Explosion
(note: comments do not require an email. citizens against prosocial behaviors.)
First humans to leave Africa went to China, not Europe – “The first humans to leave Africa decamped to far east Asia, not Europe. A trove of ancient teeth found in a cave in China adds evidence to the idea that humans reached the region thousands of years before they made it to Europe. The find suggests that modern humans reached China between 80,000 and 120,000 years ago. That challenges the widespread assumption that humans didn’t leave Africa until 60,000 years ago. It’s further evidence that Homo sapiens may have left Africa several times, says María Martinón-Torres of University College London. ‘It means we have to re-think different models of our dispersal.'” – and john hawks tweeted: “An 80kya modern human population in SE Asia w/Denisovan ancestry might help explain pattern of admixture in Philippines Mamanwa.”
Way Down South – “I hear (tweets by Razib Khan, concerning Sankararaman’s talk at ASHG) that the Denisovans had substantially more genetic diversity than Neanderthals (determined mainly by the variety seen in admixed segments)….” – from greg cochran.
Lactase persistence and ancient DNA – “‘…it seems plausible to me that the [European LP] allele first appeared in Central Europe, was spread around Europe by the LBK, before being introduced to the steppe later by migration from Europe.'”
Basques are not simply a fusion of Iberian hunter-gatherers and early farmers – “[T]he story told by the PCA is that Basques are the progeny of Bronze Age Iberians, who, unlike their Copper Age predecessors, experienced a pulse of steppe-related admixture from the east…. The key question now is who brought the steppe-related ancestry to Basque country. Were they Indo-Europeans or speakers of Proto-Basque?”
Sex‐specific demography and generalization of the Trivers–Willard theory – h/t owen jones! who tweeted: “Can mothers adaptively adjust offspring sex ratio? It’s complicated….”
The Great Migration and African-American genomic diversity – “We find higher African ancestry in southern United States compared to the North and West. We show that relatedness patterns track north- and west-bound routes followed during the Great Migration, suggesting that admixture occurred predominantly in the South prior to the Civil War and that ancestry-biased migration is responsible for regional differences in ancestry. Rare genetic traits among African-Americans can therefore be shared over long geographic distances along the Great Migration routes, yet their distribution over short distances remains highly structured.”
Connectivity matrix predicts fluid intelligence – “The enchanted loom is slowly giving up its secrets, of which it holds many. The patterns of brain activity that so many researchers have tracked with wonder are beginning to reveal a larger pattern: the possibility that each of us has a habitual pattern of brain activity which identifies us, and distinguishes us from others. So, dear reader, we are separated by the idiosyncratic rhythms of our brains, dancing to a different beat, visiting a different pattern of cortical locations, and no doubt coming to different conclusions…. The unexpected finding which I find startling is that individuals can be identified by their habitual brain patterns (not just on specific tasks) and those patterns of activity predict fluid intelligence on Raven’s Matrices at about r=0.5.” – from dr. james thompson.
Meta-analysis of associations between human brain volume and intelligence differences: How strong are they and what do they mean? – “Positive associations between human intelligence and brain size have been suspected for more than 150 years…. Our results showed significant positive associations of brain volume and IQ (r = .24, R2 = .06) that generalize over age (children vs. adults), IQ domain (full-scale, performance, and verbal IQ), and sex…. We show that the strength of the positive association of brain volume and IQ has been overestimated in the literature, but remains robust even when accounting for different types of dissemination bias, although reported effects have been declining over time.”
Correlation not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies – “Here we test the causal relationship between personality traits and political attitudes using a direction of causation structural model on a genetically informative sample. The results suggest that personality traits do not cause people to develop political attitudes; rather the correlation between the two is a function of an innate common underlying genetic factor.” – h/t robin hanson!
Generalised Anxiety Disorder – A Twin Study of Genetic Architecture, Genome-Wide Association and Differential Gene Expression – “A heritability analysis of the same cohort also confirmed a significant genetic component with h2 of 0.42.” – h/t siberian fox! – and jayman tweeted: “I suspect anxiety is more common in some places than others. Perhaps due to genetic pacification.”
A Unified Crime Theory: The Evolutionary Taxonomy – “Drawing on a variety of influences, we argue that many types of crime can be understood in the evolutionary context of human life history. Along these lines, we present a framework capable of explaining different patterns of criminal offending both at the individual level as well as the macro-level.” – from brian boutwell et al.
Resting heart rate and antisocial behavior: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis – “Low resting heart rate was associated with higher levels of antisocial behavior…. Results were similar across behaviors, including aggression and violence.” – h/t anthony hoskin!
The association between childhood autistic traits and adolescent psychotic experiences is explained by general neuropsychiatric problems – from amir sariaslan et al. amir tweeted: “The ‘p factor’ explains assoc’s btwn childhood autistic traits and adolescent psychotic experiences.”
The Flynn Effect: IQ Testing Across Space and Time – from steve sailer.
What Extroverts and Introverts Can Learn From Snails – “Genes may change a snail’s ‘personality’ and the thickness of its skin (or rather, its shell)”
Dimensional assessment of normal and abnormal personality in adults of the general population: Comparison of ‘five’ and ‘alternative five’ personality models – h/t andrew sabisky! who tweeted: “are normal and pathological personality all part of one continuum?”
So what if grammars don’t help social mobility? – “On the Today programme and the New Statesman website, a statistic was quoted showing that grammar schools have a smaller percentage of pupils on free school meals than comprehensives. There are probably many reasons for this, but most likely the largest factor involved is that intelligence is hereditary and social class correlates with IQ; in other words, middle-class kids tend on average to be more intelligent than working-class ones. You could make the system fairer by replacing grammar entrance exams (for which richer parents hire tutors to help their children pass) with straight-up IQ tests, but the number of poorer children would still be disproportionately low. In fact the more social mobility we have over the generations, as everyone seems to want, the more that social class will correlate with intelligence. Richard Herrnstein pointed this out more than four decades ago. Many years earlier, Michael Young warned about this very process in The Rise of the Meritocracy. Social mobility does have its downsides; that’s because intelligence is just another privilege you inherit from mummy and daddy.” – from ed west.
The economic value of Breaking Bad: How misbehavior in school pays off for some kids – “Surprisingly, we find evidence that some non-cognitive skills that manifest as childhood misbehavior in the classroom (and are predictive of lower schooling attainment) are also predictive of higher earnings later in life.”
A social science without sacred values – “We argue (1) that many social scientists are paranoid egalitarian meliorists; (2) that they are therefore very sensitive to threats to a sacred egalitarian narrative; (3) that this sensitivity may be excessive (at least in the domain of science) and may cause researchers to unfairly reject research that challenges egalitarianism; (4) that this may then lead to the marginalization of individuals who forward controversial theories and/or data; and (5) that these tendencies lead to bias in the social sciences.” – from the winegard bros.
Social Status: Down the Rabbit Hole – h/t billare! who tweeted: “There are two systems of social status: Dominance & Prestige. For what selfish reasons might the latter one evolve?” – this was a really interesting read, btw.
Shame, guilt, and facial emotion processing: initial evidence for a positive relationship between guilt-proneness and facial emotion recognition ability – “Guilt-prone people are highly skilled at recognising other people’s emotions.” [via] – w.e.i.r.d. study. pretty small n.
Gamblers, Scientists and the Mysterious Hot Hand – “We’re all in the same boat. We evolved with this uncanny ability to find patterns. The difficulty lies in separating what really exists from what is only in our minds.” – h/t claire lehmann!
The Mutant Genes Behind the Black Death – “Only a few genetic changes were enough to turn an ordinary stomach bug into the bacteria responsible for the plague.”
The End of Indian Summer – “At first, human rights commissions fought discrimination only in employment and housing, and there was strong resistance to prosecution of people simply for their ideas. This situation changed from the 1970s onward. Human rights took the place in society that formerly belonged to religion, and human rights advocates acquired the immunity from criticism that formerly belonged to the clergy. Discrimination was no longer wrong in certain cases and under certain circumstances. It became evil, and people who condoned it in any form and for any reason were likewise evil.” – from peter frost.
Is Eastern Europe Any More Xenophobic Than Western Europe? – yes. but france is an exception in the west.
bonus: superforecasting conference on october 24th, if you happen to be in or near london: Superforecasting and Geopolitical Intelligence- Who can Predict the Future, and how?
bonus bonus: Did photosynthesis begin 3.2 billion years ago? – “Rusty rocks from ancient ocean suggest bacteria produced oxygen far earlier than thought.”
bonus bonus bonus: The Beetle That Eavesdrops on an Ant’s Secret Language – “A beetle evolves to ‘listen in’ on ants’ chemical messages to one another, changing the balance of an ecosystem.” [via]
bonus bonus bonus bonus: Ants con others into being their slaves by mimicking their scent
bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Sticky situation: maple syrup bandits face Quebec courts for infamous heist – “Trials are under way for the 2012 attempt to steal $18m worth of Quebec’s sweetest export – a case that has succeeded in capturing Hollywood’s attention.”
bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Pop Culture Pulsar: The Science Behind Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures Album Cover
and the tweet of the week… (^_^)
(note: comments do not require an email. cheeeeeese!)
several people have compared the current migrant crisis in europe to the arrival of the barbarians in rome in the fourth century — for example, here’re steve sailer, peter frost, and historian tom holland. their concern — at least that of steve and peter — is the future of the west: will these migrants (help to) bring down modern western civilization just as the goths et al. did to rome? the question is not just an emotional or an irrational one — migration is one of the main driving forces of evolution (along with things like natural selection and genetic drift), since the movement of individuals from one population to another also means the movement of genes. and because all behavioral traits are heritable, the transference of genes via migration ought to be a matter of interest and importance to one and all. (that’s not to say that it should never be allowed, just that people(s) ought to pay it due attention.)
what i haven’t seen though are any comparisons to a more recent mass migratory event, one which also happened to feature germany, a major player in today’s migrant crisis. i suppose that’s because the whole subject is rather sensitive, but that’s no excuse for ignoring it — rather to the contrary! so, here goes…
in the late-1800s/early-1900s, at least a couple of million (i haven’t been able to find a precise number) eastern european jews migrated to and/or through germany. and how well did that work out for everybody?
from Unwelcome Strangers: East European Jews in Imperial Germany [pgs. 11-12]:
“In the last two years of the 1860s, a few thousand Russian Jews crossed into Prussia seeking relief from cholera epidemics and famines that were wreaking havoc in the western part of the Tsarist Empire. Desperately ill and malnourished, the refugees deluged their German coreligionists with pleas for economic assistance and medical attention. The latter responded by launching numerous ad hoc committees that collected funds throughout Germany and then funneled their receipts to Jewish communities along the frontier; these, in turn, provided relief to the needy. In time, the immediate crisis passed. Many of the Russian Jews remained in Prussia or traveled farther west, some as far as the New World. And the ad hoc committees, convinced that their mission had ended, folded their operations….
“Over the next half-century, the momentum of Jewish emigration from Russia steadily increased. During the 1870s perhaps 40,000 to 50,000 Jews migrated westward. After the pogroms of 1881, however, the trickle turned into a flood as tens of thousands abandoned their homes annually…. By the early twentieth century, over 100,000 such refugees emigrated each year, so that by 1914 at least two and a half million Russian Jews had settled in Western countries, including England, France, Canada, Argentina, and principally the United States.
“Concurrently, Jews from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Rumania also were on the move. In the face of economic boycotts and rising unemployment at the end of the nineteenth century, Jews emigrated from the Polish sectors of the Hapsburg Empire. Rumanian Jews, too, made their way west after their country denied them citizenship and introduced blatantly anti-Jewish policies….”
(yes, eastern europeans are, on average, more xenophobic than most western european populations. and, judging by the above, they apparently have been for some time).
“…Between 1870 and the outbreak of World War I, over 400,000 Jews left their homes in the Galician, Bohemian, Moravian, Hungarian, and Rumanian lands to seek a new future in Western countries, while and even larger number migrated *within* the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
“Whereas anti-Semitism and impoverization provided the push to drive Jews *from* Eastern Europe, emigrants were also drawn *to* Western lands. They were lured by the promise of eonomic opportunity in the more industrialized West and the knowledge that their fellow Jews in England, France, Germany, and the New World countries enjoyed comparatively greater freedom and prosperity. The promise of toleration and opportunity, therefore, also attracted adventuresome Jews to seek their fortunes in new environments.“
funnily enough, during at least some of this period, germany behaved more like macedonia or serbia today, shuffling the migrants onwards to the next country (making a ton of cash in the meantime, sounds like). ‘course the eastern european jews wanted to just migrate through germany, kind-of like the middle eastern/north african/african migrants of today don’t want to stay in macedonia or serbia or hungary [pgs. 13-14]:
“Germany had a vested economic interest in allowing Jewish refugees into the Reich. For Germany — and especially its shipping companies — hoped to benefit from the lucrative business of transporting Eastern Jews to England and America via the ports of Hamburg and Bremen. The sheer number of Jewish transmigrants embarking from German ports was staggering, exceeding 700,000 during the peak years between 1905 and 1914….
“The extent of German interest in encouraging Jewish transmigrant traffic is illustrated by some of the policies pursued by governments and shipping firms. For example, according to Prussian decrees in force between the 1890s and the outbreak of World War I, no Russian transmigrant was officially allowed into Germany without a proper pass, a ticket for passage out of the country, plus an additional sum of money. (Each person over ten years of age had to posses 400 mark, and children needed 100 mark.) Significantly, individuals holding tickets on German ships were exempted from this rule and permitted into the Reich even if they possessed less money. Perhaps the most revealing episode in the campaign to develop the transmigrant traffic occurred in 1893 when the eastern-most states of the Reich sealed their borders in response to cholera epidemics in Eastern Europe. Led by the Hamburg America Line, German shipping companies successfully lobbied for a reversal of this policy, arguing that Jewish transmigrants posed no health risk to the German populace. To further allay fears, shipping firms expended significant sums of money to erect special transport centers in key German cities and vast barrack areas in port cities; such facilities were designed to isolate Jewish travelers from the German populace and thereby eliminate objections to the temporary presence of these Jews on German soil.”
unfortunately, even though most of them didn’t even stay very long in germany, the ostjuden left a bad impression on the minds of germans. i couldn’t even tell you if any of the stereotypes were true or not, and if true by how much — and i really don’t want to get into a discussion about it here and now (although i strongly suspect that eastern european jews are, on average, more clannish than german jews, so there’s possibly that) — but even german jews at the time panicked a bit over the behaviors of their eastern cousins. from Brothers and Strangers: The East European Jew in German and German Jewish Consciousness, 1800-1923 [pgs. 33, 57]:
“German Jews undertook massive charitable work on behalf of the persecuted East European Jews at the same time that they sought the most efficacious means to prevent their mass settlement in Germany….
“Ultimately the difference between German Jews and Ostjuden, both in and out of Germany, was regarded as cultural in nature. Liberal German Jews viewed Eastern Jewish culture as ‘ghetto’ culture which by definition was backward and underdeveloped. The German historical experience had made it abundantly clear that Jewish modernization was conditional upon deghettoization, and this in turn left no room for *Kulturjuden* along the lines still maintained in Eastern Europe.
“This point of view was perfectly understandable. German Jews felt like Germans and their culture *was* German culture. By the beginning of the twentieth century they possessed almost nothing akin to the ‘Jewish’ culture that characterized life in the ghettos of Eastern Europe. The distance they felt, the dissociation from Ostjuden was, then, predicated upon both an objective and subjective reality.”
eastern european jews had a very different (bio-)culture to german jews and gentiles, one that, unfortunately, did not sit well with too many members of the mainstream culture. (the timing was bad, too. more on that below.) am i blaming jews for the holocaust? no. but i am warning — again — that in order to prevent future genocides, we need to understand previous ones, and that includes examining them with a biological/evolutionary eye. as i said previously:
“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.”
bill hamilton pointed to the fourfold increase in the number of ashkenazi jews in eastern europe over the course of just the nineteenth century as a possible contributing factor to the holocaust. this would’ve represent an enormous change in the competition for resources between jews and gentiles in eastern europe. couple that already existing situation to the mass migration of a (bio-)culturally different population into/through germany at the turn of the century, and THEN the appalling economic conditions in germany after wwi and the stock market collapse — further feuling the competition for resources — and you have a recipe for an absolutely horrific biological disaster.
no, i’m not saying that such a scenario is guaranteed to happen again in the west with our new migrants. if there’s enough manna from heaven to go ’round, people probably won’t take it out on their neighbors. (there’s been no genocide of jews in the u.s. where times have generally been pretty good. always.) but i am saying that the powers that be ought to be MUCH more careful in shuffling peoples around willy-nilly. they’re playing a very dangerous game.
see also: us and them
(note: comments do not require an email. eastern european jewish immigrants on an american liner, 1906.)