Archives for category: consilience

over @ altright, man-of-the-people and champion of the working class, scott locklin, has been reviewing (in a terrific series of posts, btw) america’s social classes and the current war between them.

he’s right. there’s a ginNORmous class war in america right now with the upper crusties allied with the lower classes (especially minorities) vs. the hard-working middle and upper-working (especially white) classes.

but he’s wrong when he characterizes hbd studies as all about “race and genetics” (“Many people on the Alternative Right seem to think that race and genetics are the ultimate forbidden topic in America today.”)

hbd is not just “race and genetics”, although one could be forgiven for thinking so since most of the hbd (and related) blogs out there tend to focus mainly on race, iq and the sexes.

but that’s not what hbd is all about – or it shouldn’t be anyway. no – studies of human biodiversity are simply studies of biology with a focus on the various human phenotypes and behaviors.

yes, i’m talking consilience.

sure, there’s a class war in america right now (and prolly in most other countries), but i don’t think it will be understood unless we take a look at the underlying biology generating these behaviors. marxist – or any other social – theory just ain’t gonna cut it.

why are american upper crusties battling the middles classes? what’s in it for their genes?

maybe it’s ’cause the two groups are not very related (genetically speaking) anymore (think of the likes of obama, too). maybe it’s ’cause the upper crusties are mostly psychopaths. maybe they’re just misguided and their behaviors (and, therefore, their genotypes) will be weeded out by natural selection (we can always hope!).

but i guaratee you – their behavior, like everyone else’s on the planet, is rooted in their biology; and without understanding that we will never understand their actions.

THAT is what hbd is all about.

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so it turns out that even bugs have personalities – personalities that are prolly largely innate – but bugs, too, learn and are influenced by their environment – so the personality of a bug is affected by both its nature and nurture. makes sense, really. ma nature is nothing if not flexible.

which reminds me of what (*ahem*) bugs me about research into the biology of human cultures – i.e. that there isn’t much of any! and any little bit that there is tends to emphasize the nurture side of the equation while nearly ignoring the nature side.

take, for instance, this interesting finding that ed yong reported on recently:

Genes and culture: OXTR gene influences social behaviour differently in Americans and Koreans

“Kim [the researcher] looked at a specific version of the OXTR gene, whose carriers are allegedly more social and sensitive. But this link between gene and behaviour depends on culture; it exists among American people, who tend to look for support in troubled times, but not in Korean cultures, where such support is less socially acceptable. Culture sets the stage on which the OXTR gene expresses itself….

“Distressed Americans with one or more copies of the G version were more likely to seek emotional support from their friends, compared to those with two copies of the A version. But for the Koreans, the opposite was true – G carriers were less likely to look for support among their peers in times of need (although this particular trend was not statistically significant). In both cases, the G carriers were more sensitive to the social conventions of their own cultures. But the differences between these conventions led to different behaviour….”

ok. so the cultural context that a person with a certain OXTR allele finds himself in influences how he behaves. culture affects behavior = nuture kinda/sorta seems to trump nature here. or affects it a lot anyway. and that’s really interesting to know, i agree.

but here’s (what i find to be) the most interesting bit:

“Kim also hopes that her work will encourage more scientists to investigate the ways in which genes and culture evolve together. She notes that the G version of OXTR is more common among white Americans than Korea. It’s tantalisingly possible that American culture has come to emphasise social support partly because more people have genes that skew them towards social behaviour. So genes constrain culture, while culture creates the stage on which genes exact their influence.

uuhhhhh – i would say that not only do “genes constrain culture” but that genes really, really, like, strongly influence culture! i.e. sounds like they play a pretty gosh-darn big role in its formation! i mean, amirite? if human (and other) cultures are not, in part, products of biology, then where, exactly, do they come from? where does culture come from?

clearly many aspects of human cultures are accidents of cirucumstance – papua new guineans decorate themselves with feathers from birds of paradise…

…because they can, while austrians decorate themselves with (what?) grouse feathers…

so lots of humans like to decorate themselves with feathers. but, there are differences in how this is done and i don’t just mean in the types of feathers used. the png look above, for instance, is much more ostentatious than the austrian look. why? could it possibly be that there are some, you know, broad, innate personality differences between the png and austrian populations that affect the two very different cultures?

too many researchers seem to poo-poo such thinking. mind you, the researcher above (kim) seemed open to the idea: “Kim also hopes that her work will encourage more scientists to investigate the ways in which genes and culture evolve together.”

exactly! you’d think there must be some feedback thing going on here. nature+nuture affects behavior/culture affects nature again, and so on, and so on….

like i said before – where does culture come from? enquiring minds want to know!

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satoshi kanazawa wrote a while back:

“Like individuals, nations vary in their preferences and values.

“The Hypothesis about the effect of general intelligence on individual preferences and values may also have implications for national differences in their characters, institutions, and laws. More intelligent populations may hold different collective preferences and values than less intelligent populations.

“If more intelligent individuals are more likely to be liberal and atheistic, and if more intelligent men are more likely to value sexual exclusivity, then it follows that, at the societal level, populations with higher average intelligence are more likely to be liberal, to be atheistic, and to practice monogamy than populations with lower average intelligence. Data indeed do confirm these macrolevel implications of the Hypothesis….”

it sounds to me like he’s talking about culture. it also sounds to me as though culture is an emergent property of our genetic make-up.

kanazawa only considers the connection between iq and culture, but what of our other biologically-based traits like personality or conditions such as adhd or schizophrenia? you’d think that variations between the frequencies of these traits in different populations would also lead to “nations vary[ing] in their preferences and values.”

take, for example, genes/epigenetics related to vasopressin – you know, the little hormone that makes voles (they’re so cuuuute!) more or less monogamous:

“Hasse Walum at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues looked at the various forms of the gene coding for a vasopressin receptor in 552 Swedish people, who were all in heterosexual partnerships. The researchers also investigated the quality of their relationships.

“They found that variation in a section of the gene called RS3 334 was linked to how men bond with their partners. Men can have none, one or two copies of the RS3 334 section, and the higher the number of copies, the worse men scored on a measure of pair bonding.

“Not only that, men with two copies of RS3 334 were more likely to be unmarried than men with one or none, and if they were married, they were twice as likely to have a marital crisis.” (source and more here)

well, what if there are different frequencies of these and/or other vasopressin-related alleles (and/or differing frequencies of epigenetic states related to vasopressin levels) in various human populations around the world? could that account in any way, shape, or form, for the different cultural traditions related to monogamy vs. polygamy, etc., etc.?

what about other human biological traits and culture? enquiring minds want to know!

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