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

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! (*^_^*)

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kandahar vs. levittown

the walled family compounds of kandahar


…vs. the invisible boundaries of levittown


previously: there’s no place like home

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there’s no place like home

changing gears for a sec (kinda): peoples who inbreed regularly build different types of houses than people who do not (or maybe that should be the other way around). particularly — or maybe mostly — those that live in urban areas.

if you’re a bedouin and your whole clan lives in tents and travels together and marries one another, the following prolly doesn’t apply since you don’t normally encounter other, unrelated people on a daily basis, so there’s no need to wall yourself in. however, if you and your clan are inbreeders and you live in a place where you’re likely to encounter unrelated people quite often, your response will prolly be to build…

…a courtyard house:

“A courtyard house is a type of house — often a large house — where the main part of the building is disposed around a central courtyard. The main rooms of a courtyard houses often open onto the courtyard, and the exterior walls may be windowless and/or semi-fortified and/or surrounded by a moat…. Courtyard houses consisting of multiple separate residences have been built in many regions and eras, including the earliest Chinese dynasties and the Inca period…. In Ancient Roman architecture courtyard houses were built around an atrium. Courtyard houses are also common in Islamic architecture. Courtyard houses are also a form of dwelling built in the British Isles late in the Iron Age.”

lots o’ inbreeders on that list.

the point of the courtyard house — well, there are many reasons to build a courtyard house, but the main point anyway — is to keep out unrelated folks. you don’t even want them looking in to your domain in any way. no front yard. no backyard — definitely not one that is barely separated from your neighbor’s backyard! — your neighbor with whom you share hardly any genetic ties whatsoever! and, like the wikipedia description says, maybe not even any outside windows. if you’ve ever been to the greek isles, you know what they’re talking about. in islamic countries, part of the point of the courtyard house is so that women may observe purdah.

here’s a model of a chinese siheyuan (courtyard house):

and here’s the sort of thing that will greet you in the front (this is from a rather wealthy home, according to wikipedia):

a wall with a door in it. it’s a very nice looking wall with a door in it, but it’s still a wall with a door in it.

here’s a machiya house in japan (kyoto) — the front as passersby would encounter it:

and the family’s courtyard:

here’s the front entranceway to a courtyard house in india:

interior of traditional courtyard house in iran (it was under renovation, apparently):

traditional courtyard home in turkey:

and one in morocco (this one’s a vacation rental, so next time you’re in marrakesh…!):

these are all really different from, say, a typical swiss village where all the houses have large windows — and barely any boundaries separating them from neighboring houses at all!:

courtyard houses are also very different from traditional houses found in english villages which typically are oriented toward a common village green:

and they’re very unlike these houses which, again, have large windows, are oriented out towards the street, and have no boudaries between the front lawns (there might be fences between the backyards — and maybe a particularly tall one or two depending on how the neighbors get along (~_^) ):

the ultimate in insular clan housing, tho, must be the hakka walled villages of southern china. entire clans — hundreds of families — could literally hole up in one of these! again, there’s a central courtyard with apartments around the perimeter for all the nuclear families that made up the clan — and not many windows facing outwards — maybe only a few high up:

the interior of one:

further reading (one of these days i might even read these myself!): Courtyard housing: past, present and future and Riyadh’s Vanishing Courtyard Houses. for more on the chinese siheyuan, see here.

update: see also damascus courtyard house

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la endogamia en la españa medieval

ok. so, moving counter-clockwise around the periphery of europe: spain.

medieval spain is complicated. ¡muy, muy complicado! there are so many different populations: visigoths, other germanics, moors, basques, cantabri, jews…. so, this is not going to be the last word on inbreeding in medieval spain at all. it’s barely even the first word.

but, broadly speaking — really broadly speaking — there was a north/more outbred versus a south/more inbred divide in medieval spain. that’s pretty much because you had christians in the north who, like we’ve seen, were under pressure from the church authorities to out-marry; and you had muslims in the south who brought with them their tradition of strong inbreeding.

the visigoths controlled a large part of the iberian peninsula in the early medieval period (418-721). they converted (or, at least, their king at the time did) to nicene christianity in the late 500s (they’d been arian christians before that). ausenda suggests that the pre-christian visigoths married close-relatives, including cousins, and that they had a patrilineal, tribal society. like the other gemanic tribes, they began to outbreed more and more after converting to christianity since the church demanded out-marrying.

this scenario is probably more or less correct, but i wonder if the visigoths were actually less influenced by the church’s laws than other germanic peoples living further north, like the franks. mitterauer insists, rightly so imho, that tribalism and feudalism do not go together (see, for example, the irish). you cannot get to a feudal society until you get rid of tribalism — and you cannot do that without outbreeding. the visigoths in spain, according to mitterauer, were less feudalistic than their counterparts the franks, so perhaps they hadn’t moved so far along the outbreeding path as the franks during the early medieval period.

then the moors arrived and wreaked bloody havoc on the whole system.

from “Islamic and Christian Spain in the early Middle Ages” by thomas glick [pg. 146]:

“Until recently, the nature of kinship and its shaping effect upon social and political institutions in medieval Spain was not a topic accorded much importance by historians…. This imbalance has been rectified by the work of Pierre Guichard, who has demonstrated the tribal organization of Andalusi society of the Emirate and, in the Christian orbit, Ruiz-Domenec, Garcia de Cortazar, and others have identified the dissolution of the extended family as a significant and central social process of the high middle ages.

the latter pattern we’ve seen already amongst the northern germanics: the church and tptb put an end (more or less) to inbreeding in those populations which brought about the demise of the tribes. the introduction of the feudal/manorial system plus continued outbreeding further broke down the extended family (a tribe being just a very extended family) leaving central europeans with nuclear or stem families (a stem family is where one married child remains living with his parents, so you get grandparents + a nuclear family in one household).

more from glick [pgs. 146-48]:

“The Arabs and Berbers who conquered the peninsula did so not as isolated warriors, but as members of organized tribal groups. The Arabs and most of their early Berber allies were members of agnatic, patrilineal groups forming a segmentary social system, whereby individuals belonged to a hierarchy of increasingly inclusive segments, from the clan up to the tribal confederation. The basic tribal unit, the qawm (variously translated fraction or clan), is a unit of several hundred tents or families, linked agnatically. That is, the kinship system ascribes importance only to relationship through males. In such a system, endogamous marriages are viewed as the ideal because through endogamy power, prestige, and wealth are retained within the agnatic group rather than shared with a competing group into which a daughter might marry, with parallel-cousin marriages (the wedding of one’s son with the daughter of the paternal uncle [i.e. fbd marriage]) preferred. A cross-cousin marriage (with the daughter of the maternal uncle or paternal aunt) is considered exogamous because the offspring gain a different lineage. The more powerful a tribal group is, the more women it will attract from outside, the fewer it will lose, and the more endogamous it will become.

“Guichard demonstrates that the early Muslim residents of the peninsula settled in tribal or sub-tribal groups and that, indeed, it was the policy of important figures to travel with tribal entourages and to reconstitute their clans once the decision to settle in al-Andalus had been reached….

“Segmentary organization gives rise to typical political forms. The basic unit is the clan — the Arab qawm, the Berber canton — which lives and fights together. The segmentary tribal structure makes it possible for such groups to subsist in relative isolation and, at the same time, because they are embedded in larger solidarities, to join in political or military federations with related groups. This gives rise to the kaleidoscopic pattern of atomization and amalgamation which is so characteristic of western Islamic, particularly Berber, society.”

so, in moorish spain, we have arabs and berbers practicing fbd marriage and living in a tribalistic society. tens of thousands of people who had been living in spain before the arrival of the moors converted to islam during the medieval period. it’s unclear to me what percentage of them adopted the marriage practices of the conquerers. it sounds, however, as though it was not an insignificant amount as glick points out [pg. 151]:

[C]onsanguinity remained a powerful social force [throughout the middle ages] (and so remained even among the Moriscos of the sixteenth century, who resisted taking Spanish names because such an act made it impossible to keep track of agnatic lineages), as did ethnicity.”

finally, from glick again [pgs. 149-51]:

“Arab and Berber tribal structure found political expression in the organization of confederations or alliances, which were formed according to the underlying logic of segmentary societies. The essence of this kind of political organization is that politics is viewed as a zero-sum game. The wealth, power, and prestige of one’s own group are increased only by decreasing those of a rival group, leading to a more or less permanent state of conflict between neighboring groups as well as to characteristic patterns of alliances….

“Much of the political history of al-Andalus, therefore, is occupied with accounts of tribal in-fighting, generally along lines of moiety division….”

this is totally unlike what was happening in northern europe throughout the middle ages. northern europeans became less tribal — in spain, especially southern parts of spain, tribal life was alive and well.

until the reconquista.

glick describes how, in the wake of the reconquista, feudal structures took hold throughout spain, starting in the north and progressively moving southwards. the population converted back to (or to) catholicism — ’cause they had to — and, presumably, they had to start following the catholic codes on marriage, altho as we saw above the mariscos resisted this for quite a long time.

quite extraordinarily, researchers looking at catholic church dispensations for cousin marriage in sigüenza in north-central spain between the 1950s and 1980s found that the folks there were marrying their first- and second-cousins at a rate of 12.6% [pg. 4; abstract here]. in the early 1940s, the overall rate for endogamous marriage in spain — and this is including uncle-niece marriage — was 4.1% [pg. 4]. the overall rate for france in the late 1940s was 0.8%; london in 1950, 0.4%; the netherlands in the late 1940s, 0.2% [pgs. 2 & 5]. close relative marriage has obviously remained more common and more important for longer in spain than in northern european populations.

so, now we’ve looked at one of the i’s and the s. the p is prolly pretty similar to spain. next stop, italy. aaaaaah — la dolce vita! (^_^)

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

previously: inbreeding in europe’s periphery

also previously: northern vs. southern spanish iq, redux and, from the reluctant apostate, Mapping The 2009 PISA Results For Spain And Italy

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music’s biological basis

dennis posts on some recent research (that i linked to here) about how, it turns out (surprise, surprise to anyone not paying attention), that listening to music is biological; specifically that individuals with certain variations of a gene related to the hormone, vasopressin, listen to music more frequently than other individuals with different variations of the gene. (btw, the same gene variations have been associated with musical ability.)

that same gene has also been associated with monogamy (or not) in prairie voles (they’re so cuuuuuute!), and so it’s not too much of a stretch, i think, to say that this is obviously one of the genes involved in singing (or making some other sort of musical noise) and mate attraction|retention. yeah, just like the birdies.

and, while that’s all extremely interesting, i think dennis asks the most interesting (rhetorical) question: “How could music not have a biological or evolutionary basis?”


in fact, how could all sorts of “cultural” things that we humans do NOT have a biological or evolutionary basis?

in case you haven’t noticed, that has been, and will prolly continue to be (don’t say i didn’t warn you!), an ongoing theme here on this blog: where does culture come from? (hint: i think a helluva lot of it is from our biologies. at the same time, of course, there are clearly many aspects of our cultures that are pure happenstance.)

and now, for your viewing enjoyment, “why do voles fall in love?”:

~ ~ ~

(p.s. you just know that there’s gotta be differences in the frequencies of these vasopressin gene types, as well as any other genes related to pair-bonding, in different human populations. ¿sí?)

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family feud

update 05/31/12: if you’re looking for info on the hatfield and mccoy feud, see here. (^_^)

sooooo … the whole sunnishi’a split just started as a family argument, huh?

lemme see if i got this straight:

muhammad, of the banu hashim branch of the quraysh tribe, dies.

his followers — a lot of them who are ALSO members of the quraysh tribe — disagree on who his successor should be.

on the one hand, muhammad’s closest family (wife and kids) and closest followers) want ali, muhammad’s paternal cousin AND son-in-law**, ANOTHER member of the banu hashim, to be the new leader of islam.

muhammad’s enemies, primarly the members of the umayyad family, aka the banu abd-shams, which is a DIFFERENT branch of the quraysh tribe, support abu bakr as the new leader of islam. abu bakr was muhammad’s father-in-law and a member of the banu taym branch of, again, the quaraysh tribe.

the umayyad branch of the family and their allies won, and they and all their fellows became sunnis. muhammad’s closest family and the banu hashim lost out, and they and all their fellows became shi’as.

so, we’ve got a minimum of three branches of ONE tribe (the quaraysh tribe) — the banu hashim on one side vs. the umayyad family and the banu taym — fighting over the succession.

afaics, then, the whole sunni-shi’a split started as one great arab hatfield-and-mccoy battle to secure supremacy over mecca and other territories as well as over any other clan-branches|clans|tribes that had happened to convert to islam at that time. no?

click for LARGER view:


“Me against my brother, me and my brother against my cousin; me, my brother, and my cousin against the world.”

**notice the inbreeding.

previously: cousin marriage conundrum addendum

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the shia crescent…

“…is a geo-political term used to describe a region of the Middle East where the majority population is Shi’a, or where there is a strong Shi’a minority in the population…. The nations where Shi’a Muslims form a dominant majority are Azerbaijan, Iran, Bahrain and Iraq, a plurality in Lebanon and large minorities in Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, India, UAE, and Syria. The shape of these countries put together does in fact resemble a crescent moon or a half moon.” [source]

here’s a map:

looks to me like this crescent coincides pretty well with the extent of the arab y-chromosome haplotype (the j y-chromosome haplotype). i ‘shopped (in red) the shia crescent onto this map:

and here’s the distribution of the j1 y-chromosome haplotype w/shia crescent:

and here’s the distribution of the j2 y-chromosome haplotype w/shia crescent:

coinkidink? don’t think so.

previously: baharnas and ajams and howalas, oh my! and tribalism makes a comeback!

update 03/03: meng bomin worked a little of his cartographical magic and came up with a couple of neat maps showing how|how much the j2 haplotype corresponds to where the wild shi’as are. here’s what he did:

j2 haplotype map + this muslim distribution map = meng’s map number 1
j2 haplotype map + this mid-east religions map = meng’s map number 2


thnx, meng! (^_^)

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how long can they** be an influence? ca. 200+ years. ca. 2000+ years?

there are three broad regions in libya: cyrenaica to the east, tripolitania to the west, and fezzan to the southwest.

these were provinces in the ottoman empire, and cyrenaica and tripolitania were parts of the umayyad caliphate before that. they were only joined up into a nation called libya in 1951.

by a guy who was from cyrenaica:

But [King] Idris himself was first and foremost a Cyrenaican, never at ease in Tripolitania. His political interests were essentially Cyrenaican, and he understood that whatever real power he had—and it was more considerable than what he derived from the constitution—lay in the loyalty he commanded as amir of Cyrenaica and head of the Sanussi order. Idris’ pro-Western sympathies and identification with the conservative Arab bloc were especially resented by an increasingly politicized urban elite that favored nonalignment.”

and then he was ousted by a guy from tripolitania.

and now he’s being ousted by — well, a LOT of people in libya — but the uprisings seem to have started (and it’s my impression have been strongest) in benghazi, which is back in cyrenaica.

so, while there’s all these gosh-derned tribes in libya, there also seems to be a broad east-west divide (plus fezzan which is mostly tuareg and other partially sub-saharan african folks).

cyrenaica was, very early on, settled by greeks:

tripolitania, on the other hand, by phoenicians:

now berbers and arabs are obviously very important if one tries to work out the “folkways” of libya. but my question is, could the greeks and phoenicians still be having an influence after all these years?

**of course, folkways are not just airy-fairy mores floating on the wind. they originate with folks and their various biologies.

update 02/27: according to this site

“Arabs, whether descending from Phoenicians or medieval tribes, constitute a minority in Libyan population. They mainly reside in Northeastern Libya, where Awlad Ali, the largest Arab tribe in Libya, lives.

“Some other major Arab tribes in Libya are Fawatir, Beni Selim, and Beni Hilal….”

so, there’s (possibly) an east|arab vs. west|berber divide in libya.

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