community vs. communism

it is a truth universally acknowledged, that whenever someone posts a map like this

cpi 2014 - europe

…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.
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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):

wvs - membership voluntary organizations - totals

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*)
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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.):

Russia - The co-operative movement in Russia - table

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.
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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.

here is putnam on the formation and functioning of communes in northern italy beginning in the 1000s [pg. 124-126]:

“[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?
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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).
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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.)

hajnal line - core 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.

previously: civic societies and civic societies ii and democracy in italy and big summary post on the hajnal line

(note: comments do not require an email. sorry there’s no tl;dr summary!)

evolving social norms

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…

mean dictator game offers

…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

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human self-domesti- cation events

the idea that humans have self-domesticated themselves (ourselves!) is definitely in vogue: here’s a recent irl+online symposium held on the topic.

domestication in mammals results in a specific suite of traits known as the “domestication syndrome”:

“[I]ncreased docility and tameness, coat color changes, reductions in tooth size, changes in craniofacial morphology, alterations in ear and tail form (e.g., floppy ears), more frequent and nonseasonal estrus cycles, alterations in adrenocorticotropic hormone levels, changed concentrations of several neurotransmitters, prolongations in juvenile behavior, and reductions in both total brain size and of particular brain regions.”

humans — in some cases some human populations — appear to exhibit many, if not all, of these traits: increased docility, skin color changes, reduction in tooth size, craniofacial feminization, more frequent/nonseasonal estrus cycle, neotenous gene expression in the developing human brain, prolongation in juvenile behavior, and reduction in total brain size.

much of the current thinking seems to be centered on the idea that humans self-domesticated “in the more distant past,” but the fact that humans have been able to dwell together at all in ridiculously large numbers beginning around the time of the agricultural revolution suggests that human self-domestication did not stop “in the more distant past” and is probably even ongoing. this is 10,000 Year Explosion territory, and cochran and harpending have been here already [pgs. 110-113 — my emphases]:

“If your ancestors were farmers for a long time, you’re descended from people who decided it was better to live on their knees than to die on their feet.

“Farming led to elites, and there was no avoiding their power. Foragers could walk away from trouble, but farms were too valuable (too important to the farmers’ fitness) to abandon. So farmers had to submit to authority: The old-style, independent-minded personalities that had worked well among egalitarian hunter-gatherers (‘A Man’s a Man for a’ That’) were obsolete. Even when some group had a chance to refound society on a more egalitarian basis, as in the case of the medieval Iceland republic, elites tended to reappear.

“Aggressive, combative people may also have experienced lowered fitness once ruling elites began to appear. With strong states, the personal payoff for aggression may have become smaller, while law and order made combativeness for self-defense less necessary. Sheer crowding must also have disfavored some personality traits that had worked in the past. Intuitively, it seems that a high level of aggressiveness would be less favored when encounters with strangers were frequent. Fight too often and you’re sure to lose. Moreover, although the winner of a deadly struggle between two peasants might conceivably gain something, his owners, the elites who taxed both of those peasants, would not, any more than a farmer benefits when one bull kills another.

“Farmers don’t benefit from competition between their domesticated animals or plants. In fact, reduced competition between individual members of domesticated species is the secret of some big gains in farm productivity, such as the dwarf strains of wheat and rice that made up the ‘Green Revolution.’ Since the elites were in a very real sense raising peasants, just as peasants raised cows, there must have been a tendency for them to cull individuals who were more aggressive than average, which over time would have changed the frequencies of those alleles that induced such aggressiveness. This would have been particularly likely in strong, long-lived states, because situations in which rebels often won might well have favored aggressive personalities. This meant some people were taming others, but with reasonable amounts of gene flow between classes, populations as a whole should have become tamer.

“We know of a gene that may play a part in this story: the 7R (for 7-repeat) allele of the DRD4 (dopamine receptor D4) gene. It is associated with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a behavioral syndrome best characterized by actions that annoy elementary school teachers: restless-impulsive behavior, inattention, distractibility, and the like.

“The polymorphism is found at varying but significant levels in many parts of the world, but is almost totally absent from East Asia. Interestingly, alleles derived from the 7R allele are fairly common in China, even though the 7R alleles themselves are extremely rare there. It is possible that individuals bearing these alleles were selected against because of cultural patterns in China. The Japanese say that the nail that sticks out is hammered down, but in China it may have been pulled out and thrown away.

Selection for submission to authority sounds unnervingly like domestication. In fact, there are parallels between the process of domestication in animals and the changes that have occurred in humans during the Holocene period. In both humans and domesticated animals, we see a reduction in brain size, broader skulls, changes in hair color or coat color, and smaller teeth. As Dmitri Belyaev’s experiment with foxes shows, some of the changes that are characteristic of domesticated animals may be side effects of selection for tameness. As for humans, we know of a number of recent changes in genes involving serotonin metabolism in Europeans that may well influence personality, but we don’t know what effect those changes have had — since we don’t yet know whether they increase or decrease serotonin levels. Floppy ears are not seen in any human population (as far as we know), but then, changes in the external ear might interfere with recognition of speech sounds. Since speech is of great importance to fitness in humans, it may be that the negative effects of floppy ears have kept them from arising.

“Some of these favored changes could be viewed as examples of neoteny — retention of childlike characteristics. Children routinely submit to their parents — at least in comparison to teenagers — and it’s possible that natural selection modified mechanisms active in children in ways that resulted in tamer human adults, just as the behaviors of adult dogs often seem relatively juvenile in comparison with adult wolf behavior.

“If the strong governments made possible by agriculture essentially ‘tamed’ people, one might expect members of groups with shallow or nonexistent agricultural experience to be less submissive, on average, than members of longtime agricultural cultures. One possible indicator of tameness is the ease with which people can be enslaved, and our reading of history suggests that some peoples with little or no evolutionary exposure to agriculture ‘would not endure the yoke,’ as was said of Indians captured by the Puritans in the Pequot War of 1636. In the same vein, the typical Bushman, a classic hunter-gatherer, has been described as ‘the anarchist of South Africa.'”

what i’d like to draw attention to is the idea that there have been multiple (probably multiple multiples of) human self-domestication events which occurred at different places and at different times — all sorta within the broader human self-domestication project which began back in some stone age or, perhaps, even before. one of these, i propose, was the manorialism/outbreeding/execution-of-violent-criminals combo of medieval europe which left “core” europeans with a very specific set of behavioral traits. another might very well be whatever domestication package went along with rice farming in southern china as peter frost has discussed. others undoubtedly include the sorts of civilizations described by cochran & harpending in the passage quoted above — those “strong, long-lived states” — like those found in ancient egypt, ancient china, and ancient india.

just like how we (prolly together with dogs themselves) domesticated dogs thousands of years ago, but then continued and honed the process by selecting for specific traits in specific breeds, i think we should consider that, not only did humans start self-domesticating themselves a very long time ago so that there are common domestication traits in (nearly?) all humans populations, but also that there have been more localized self-domestication events which selected for somewhat different behavioral traits depending on what sort of selection pressures were present in these various events.

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random notes: 07/30/13

from A Brief History of Great Britain (2010) [pages xiv-xvi]:

“Britain is marked by pronounced regional differences. The most basic division is that between highland areas and lowland areas. The ‘highland zone’ is defined by being over 200 meters (656 feet) above sea level. Highland zones are found in Wales, much of Scotland, northern England, and parts of southwestern England, although lowland pockets exist in highland territories. The British highland zone is not really mountainous, as the highest mountains reach the mode height of roughly 4000 feet (1,129 meters). There is a much higher proportion of highland land in Scotland than in England, and the difference between the highlands and the lowlands and their inhabitants plays a central role in Scottish history and culture.

The highlands are marked by a greater emphasis on pastoralism, as they have mostly chalky soil and are too wet and cold for successful agriculture. The highlands are also much less densely populated than the lowlands, as it requires much more land to support a human being through pastoralism than through agriculture. Lowland areas are usually more fertile. The most fertile lowlands are in the south and southeast of Britain, where there is rich, heavy soil more suited to agriculture. Lowlanders can engage in raising either grains or livestock, depending on circumstances. In the Middle Ages much of the lowlands was truned over to the highly profitable production of wool. Lowlanders tended to live in villages, highlanders in small hamlets or isolated farmsteads, or to be nomadic.

“Invasions of Britain had much less effect on the highlands than on the lowlands, which constituted the really valuable prize due to their greater agricultural productivity. Those regimes exercising power throughout Britain or the British Isles were usually based in lowland England, the only place capable of supporting tehm. The extension of power from the lowlands to the highlands was a difficult challenge due to the difficulty of the terrain. Mountainous Wales preserved its independence for centuries despite its poverty and its inability to unite politically. The only invaders to subdue Wales before the 13th century were the well-organized and disciplined Roman legions, and it took them years after the conquest of England. The less-organized Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Normans had a much harder time, and Wales was only permanently annexed to England in 1284.

“The greater poverty of the highlands meant that highlanders often raided lowlanders, creating hostility between the two. The highlands were also more culturally and linguistically conservative. Cultural innovations usually originated in the lowlands and spread to the highlands. The highlands were where the Celtic languages lasted the longest, as English and its offshoots, originally the language of Anglo-Saxon invaders, became the dominant tongue of the lowlands in the early Middle Ages. This cultural division further added to the hostility between highland and lowland peoples.”
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from The Environment of Early Man in the British Isles (1975) [pgs. 147-149]:

“The Highland Zone/Lowland Zone division

“It is from this time [late bronze/early iron age] onwards that the division of the British Isles into Highland and Lowland Zones becomes relevant. The division has been used by geographers to explain differences in settlement patterns, farming practices and the quality of material culture between the two zones, and Cyril Fox exploited it to a considerable extent in ‘The Personality of Britain’.

“In brief, the Highland Zone (Fig. 62) is that part of the British Isles which is made up of the most ancient group of rocks, those formed in the Paleozoic Era. They lie in the north and west and the division with the later Mesozoic and Tertiary rocks of the Lowland Zone falls roughly on a line from the mouth of the Tees to the mouth of the Exe. The Palaeozoic rocks are generally hard, forming mountainous regions, with continuous streches over 300 metres above sea level. Plains and vales are not extensive. There are steep slopes and crags making cultivation difficult or impossible, and soils are often thin, stony and impoverished. Rainfall is high and there is a strong correspondence between the chief moorland areas and mean annual rainfall.

“Lowland Britain, on the other hand, is made up of geologically younger rocks which are softer, and which have given rise to a series of low-lying, rolling hills and intervening extensive vales and plains. Slopes are gentle, crags few and almost all the land is available for tillage, pasture or settlement. Soils are generally fertile and there is little evidence of erosion. Rainfall is light and there is little waste ground.

“But there are many topographical exceptions, in particular various lowland areas within the Highland Zone. Some of these are relatively small — the Vale of Glamorgan, the Hebridean machair and certain fertile river valleys such as Strath Tay. Others are of much greater extent, including the Central Scottish Lowlands, East Banff and Aberdeen, and the Orkney Islands. Ireland can be divided topographically into its own Highland and Lowland Zoens, and presents an anomaly in that approximately half the country is essentially lowland but situated in a high rainfall area….

“Indeed, the key distinction between the Highland and Lowland Zones is not so much elevation and topography as rainfall which is greatest in the west (Fig. 62) since this is the direction from which the main rain-bearing winds blow….

britain - lowland-highland zones

“[F]or a variety of economic and environmental reasons, the first millennium bc represents a period of significant change in the Highland Zone. Fields were abandoned and either reverted to pasture or waste ground, or became covered by peat. In low-lying areas communications became difficult because of mire formation or flooding. The importance of stone and Highland Zone metal deposits dwindled. And there was no great exploitation of timber for iron smelting as occurred in the Lowland Zone. Indeed, it is from the beginning of the Iron Age that the Highland Zone as a whole assumes the pastoral character which it has retained ever since.

“‘It is generally understood that…the remains of the monuments and material costructed or used throughout Britain reveal no noticeable differences in quality between the lowland and highland areas until well into the first millennium bc, but that thereafter a contrast developed between the two areas, comprising a falling-off of the material culture of the highland in comparison with that of the lowland — a contrast which has lasted to the present day.'”
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look! another line – the tees-exe line (the red one):

tees-exe line
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from The British Isles: A History of Four Nations (1989, 2006) [pgs. 18-19]:

“To draw attention to this fact [i.e. that much of the pre-roman british isles was a part of a broader european celtic culture] is not to say that there was political and social uniformity throughout the area. The existence of tribal groupings in both Britain and Ireland is an indication of political differences at the local level. The Romans, to whom we are indebted for Latin versions of tribal names in the absence of their original Celtic forms, distinguished over twenty tribes in Britain south of the Forth. In Ireland, where politcal aggregation had not gone as far as it had elsewhere, the number of tribes seems to have been much larger.

“One powerful cause of variety was geography, in particular the contrast between Highland and Lowland Zones. It was Sir Cyril Fox who argued in his book ‘The Personality of Britain’ (1932) that the Lowlands would usually be exposed to forces of change before the Highlands. The Highland/Lowland contrast certainly makes good sense when applied to Britain, where north and west form a distinctive geographical area, including a good deal of land over 400 metres above sea-level. Poorer soil and climatic conditions made agriculture more of a challenge in the Highland Zone than it was in the south and east. In a British Isles context, however, the Highland/Lowland contrast is not quite so clear. Ireland, which has been compared to a saucer in which the rim represents the hills and the flat base the central plain, is not, geologically speaking, a Highland Zone. There is no doubt, however, that the narrow seas between north-west Ireland and south-west Scotland linked rather than divided them. At this particular period, however, it may be seen as forming part of a ‘cultural Highland Zone’, cut off, for better or worse, from the influence of the rising military power of Rome.

“Geographical determinism should not be pressed too far, however. It can also be argued that, under certain conditions, the Irish Sea provided a channel of communication…. It also seems to have been the case during the fifth and sixth centuries AD when Christian communities on both sides of the Irish Sea retained their links with Christian Europe at a time when the eastern half of Britain was being overrun by Germanic settlers. The Irish presence in Scotland in the sixth century AD and in parts of Wales illustrates the same point….

Another contrast between the Highland and Lowland Zones was almost certainly demographic. No firm statistical evidence exists but several strong indicators suggest that there was a considerable increase of population in the Lowlands from the fifth century onwards, well before the Belgic invasions. A good deal of internal colonisation seems to have taken place during this period….”
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from The Culture of the English People: Iron Age to the Industrial Revolution (1994) [pgs. 5-7]:

“Some fifty years ago Sir Cyril Fox published one of the most seminal books in the history of British archaeology and culture, ‘The Personality of Britain’. In it he distinguished two parts of these islands, a ‘highland’ zone and a ‘lowland’ zone, with a boundary between them which ran from County Durham to Lyme Bay on the south coast (Fig. 1.1). This line separated a predominantly hilly region of Paleozoic rocks from a gentler region of Secondary and later rocks. These two regions, he argued, corresponded with two differing modes of cultural evolution. Simply expressed, his argument was that the bearers of outside cultural influences reached the Highland Zone often by sea and almost always in small numbers. Their impact was never sufficient to blanket or submerge the indigenous cultures. Instead they became assimilated. Elements of older cultures are today not only present, but conspicuously so in Highland Britain. Lowland Britain, by contrast, lay at the receiving end of a long series of invasions, from those who walked across the landbridge which once existed with Europe to the more recent invasions of Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans. Each wave was powerful enough to impress its own culture, and thus to mask or to destroy pre-existing cultures. Fox commented on the relative ease with which new civilizations are established in the Lowland Zone, repressing without necessarily obliterating those which had prevailed before. ‘There is [thus] greater unity of culture in the Lowland Zone, but greater continuity in the Highland Zone.’

“The Fox model has not been without its critics. Some, including the present writer, would interpose a third zone covering the basically claylands of the English Midlands, between the Highland and the Lowland, with its own distinctive cultural history. But, however modified, the Fox model has been of incalculable imortance to a cultural history of these islands. It gives a rational explanation for a phenomenon which will recur in the pages of this book, namely the persistence of early cultural traits in the Celtic west and north, and the greater degree of cultural traits in the Celtic west and north, and the greater degree of cultural homogeneity in the lowlands of the south and east.”

england - lowland-midland-highland zones
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previously: this one’s for g.w. and the flatlanders vs. the mountain people

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why human biodiversity is true…and why jason richwine is right

human biodiversity — the set of biological and genetic differences between (and within) groups — is true because The Theory of Evolution is true, and since The Theory of Evolution is true, human biodiversity must be the case. (of course, The Theory of Evolution might be wrong. if so, everyone will have to head back to the drawing boards. but all the scientific indications are that The Theory is correct, so now it’s simply a matter of working out all the details.)

most of the hysteria surrounding jason richwine’s crimethink (i.e. that hispanics have a lower average iq than whites) is coming from the politically correct chattering classes — most of them on the left of course, but there are plenty of examples to be found on the right as well. these are people who probably claim to be smart (and most of them are probably pretty smart, actually), modern, and well-read. many of them are likely skeptics and atheists, too. most all of them no doubt “believe” in evolution. the problem is that they don’t understand evolution.

if they did understand evolution, they would know that, thanks to natural selection, genetic differences between populations having had long histories of developing in different types of environments are inevitable. and if they understood anything at all about biology (perhaps i’m asking too much), they would know that dna contributes to (not determines) variance in all sorts of traits in humans and other animals like personality, physique, and yes … intelligence. frankly, we’d be one really WEIRD species if there were NO differences between us all! (the pc-crowd would all probably be horrified to learn that this evolution in humans has sped up in the past 10,000 or so years thanks to the hugely increasing sizes of our populations — i.e. the more individuals you have, the more mutations there’s gonna be, and the more on which natural selection can work.)

so, the fact that the average iq of hispanics has been found, by many psychometricians btw, to be lower than the average iq of whites — and, i’ll note, that the average iq of whites has been found to be lower than the average iq of east asians — should not be surprising. that is, that there are differences between the average iqs of these different groups should not be surprising. those are the sorts of differences you’re gonna get with EVOLUTION.

do these differences mean that some peoples should be considered superior or inferior to others? no. do these differences mean that some peoples should be treated differently before the law (or in our daily lives for that matter)? of course not. do these differences mean that we should give pause for thought when considering which groups — and, perhaps more importantly, how many of any one group — to allow to immigrate to our country? absolutely!

jason richwine was right in his ph.d. thesis to suggest that we ought to consider the natures of the peoples we allow to immigrate to the u.s. if we want america to remain american in nature, since different peoples are different by nature. the addition of large numbers of foreigners to any country changes the culture and the workings of that country. jason has apparently said that immigrants to the u.s. in the past — the irish and the italians, for instance — successfully assimilated, while hispanics will not. i would suggest that what, in fact, happened was that the irish and the italians, et al., while assimilating to a certain degree also changed the nature of the country. perhaps less so than tens of millions of hispanics will do, but they altered it from a mostly anglo-saxon nation into a more generic western european nation.

all mass immigration serves to alter recipient nations to some degree or another. even the slightest bit of rational thinking based upon an understanding of evolution would lead anyone to realize that is an inevitable consequence of human biodiversity.

sadly, we live in irrational times.
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see also:
White v. Hispanic cognitive gap across 39 studies with 5,696,529 sample size from steve sailer.
Generations of Exclusion from greg cochran via steve sailer.
NYT: Dr. Richwine guilty of not being oblivious to the obvious from steve sailer.
“Burn The Witch!” Heritage Foundation Scuttles Away From Jason Richwine — And The Cold Hard Facts – from john derbyshire.
Christopher Jencks – “Who Should Get In?” – New York Review of Books from steve sailer.
The Crucifixion of Jason Richwine – from michelle malkin.
Jason Richwine and a bottle of Rich Wine from james thompson.
Jason Richwine’s Racial Theories Are Nothing New @the atlantic.
The IQ Test @slate.

further reading on human biodiversity:
– jayman’s hbd fundamentals
hbd bibliography

update: see also “to disbelieve in witchcraft is the greatest of heresies”

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