Archives for posts with tag: altruism

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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there’s some amount of confusion out there in the hbd-o-sphere (and beyond!) about inclusive fitness, which is understandable since the concept is not that straightforward — especially for those of us who are not scientists. i thought it’d try to dispel some of that misunderstanding by sharing my layman’s understanding of the concept — i think i grok the idea pretty well now (in a basic sorta way) — hope i don’t add to the confusion!

to start with, inclusive fitness is NOT some sort of biological law that organisms (including humans) will automatically be altruistic towards other individuals with whom they share a lot of genes (or vice versa if vice versa). if you hold that idea — and i get the impression that a lot of people do — get it out of your mind right now! you’ll feel better for it, trust me.

inclusive fitness is simply a concept or model which explains HOW certain social behaviors — especially altruism — might’ve evolved at all. period. full stop.

to understand inclusive fitness, we need to back up a sec first and think about fitness and what that is. very (very!) simply, fitness refers to an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment. traits — including behaviors — that enable an organism to survive and successfully reproduce will be selected for simply because that organism *is* able to survive and reproduce in its environment. this is natural selection. pretty simple, really, darwin’s dangerous idea.

when it comes to certain social behaviors in humans, it’s readily understandable why many of them were selected for. for example, mothers who devote a lot of time and energy to care for their infants — who obviously can’t take care of themselves and would die without any care — will be more fit than those mothers who don’t. the genes that predispose for those behaviors get selected for since children get half of their dna from their mothers, and the ones that are cared for are much more likely to survive.

what was — and to some extent still is — a big mystery is why other sorts of altruistic behaviors were ever selected for even though they hurt an organism’s fitness. how would self-sacrificing altruistic behaviors directed towards non-descendants ever be selected for? for instance, why on earth would somebody feel compelled to run into a burning building to save a neighbor (who wasn’t their child) at great risk to their survival and, therefore, to their fitness? we can see how “genes for altruistic behaviors towards offspring” could be passed down from mother (or parents) to kids, but how were genes for more general altruistic behaviors selected for?

here is where william hamilton‘s absolutely genius idea — inclusive fitness — comes in: perhaps certain social behaviors, which on the surface appear to reduce an organism’s fitness, and so shouldn’t get selected, might’ve been selected for if those behaviors were directed toward other close kin with whom individuals also share much dna in common.

everybody gets half of their dna from each of their two (for now, anyway) parents. but we also share dna with siblings and (blood-related) aunts and uncles and (wait for it…) cousins. given this inheritance pattern, probability says, for instance, that, in a randomly mating population, an individual should share 12.5% of their dna with a first cousin. so, if an individual with certain “genes for altruism” behaves altruistically toward their first cousins, odds are not bad that those first cousins might also have those same “genes for altruism.” here, then, we have a mechanism for how apparently self-sacrificing social behaviors can be selected for: since the altruistic individual 1) aids close kin with whom he shares much of his dna AND 2) probably in many instances shares the same “genes for altruism,” his being altruistic toward those kin 1) does not reduce his fitness AND 2) the “genes for altruism” get selected for, too. mystery solved. (see also: kin selection.)

one way i like to think of inclusive fitness — which, perhaps, isn’t entirely the right way to look at it, but i feel it helps my understanding — is that if you wanted to calculate an individual’s total fitness by adding up how many actual copies of his genes he passed on, you need to add together those found in his offspring and those in his close relatives’ offspring. in other words, you need to add together his own direct fitness plus his close relatives’ fitness to get his inclusive fitness (or his total fitness).

it seems likely that many of the altruistic (or spiteful, etc.) behaviors we’re talking about are pretty general in nature, i.e. not that specific behaviors like “be altruistic to your close kin” were selected for, but rather more like “be altruistic to the people around you, because they’re probably your close kin” were. it remains to be seen how much kin recognition plays a role in altruism in humans, but that’s a topic for another post anyway. for right now, i just wanted to make clear what inclusive fitness is — and isn’t. again, inclusive fitness is a concept which explains HOW altruistic behaviors MIGHT be selected for. it does NOT predict that individuals will DEFINITELY be more altruistic toward those with whom they share much dna.

the whole topic of inclusive fitness is, of course, much more complicated than all that, but i think this is a good basic intro to the concept. hope so, anyway! (^_^)

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Zigzags on a Shell From Java Are the Oldest Human Engravings“The early human Homo erectus also made the oldest known shell tools half a million years ago.” — see also: The art of Homo erectus“What we can say is that these artifacts carry information about the capabilities of their makers. The few non-perishable marked objects also speak to the likely presence of design in perishable elements of material culture. Clothing, however rudimentary, was likely to have been decorated in some way. Wooden tools were also probably notched and zigzagged — as the occasional bone and ivory implements suggest. They lived for the first time in a world that they could change.” – from john hawks.

Genetic diversity of Sub-Saharan Africa revealed[T]he researchers also found that there were more genetic similarities across Africa than they had thought. Dr Sandhu said: ‘The diversity among populations is not as diverse as we expected it to be….’ The researchers found that many Africans have some Eurasian DNA within their genetic ancestry, which suggests that Eurasians migrated back into Africa many thousands of years after they first left. And several of the populations were descended from the Bantu, a group that spread across Africa about 5,000 years ago.” — see also: The African Genome Variation Project shapes medical genetics in Africa.

and here is dienekes on the above study: African Genome Variation project paper“In too many papers to count, decreasing genetic diversity from East Africa was taken as evidence of an origin of H. sapiens in that locality and its expansion from there to Eurasia. This ‘East Africa=cradle of mankind’ theory has, as far as I can tell, nothing really to stand on. Granted, the oldest anatomically modern human remains have been found in East Africa 200-150 thousand years ago. But, the fact that old sapiens have been found in East Africa and not elsewhere is easily explained by the excellent conditions for preservation (as opposed, e.g., deserts or rainforests of Africa or elsewhere), and by the extraordinary effort by palaeoanthropologists in that area. One also needs to overlook a century of physical anthropology that concluded that East Africa was a contact zone between Caucasoids and Sub-Saharan Africans. We now know that there is no deep lineage of humans in modern east Africans. Take out the Eurasian ancestry and only a paltry Fst=0.027 remains with other Sub-Saharan Africans, a fraction of the Fst between, say, Europeans and East Asians.”

Living African group discovered to be the most populous humans over the last 150,000 years“New genetic research reveals that a small group of hunter-gatherers now living in Southern Africa once was so large that it comprised the majority of living humans during most of the past 150,000 years. Only during the last 22,000 years have the other African ethnicities, including the ones giving rise to Europeans and Asians, become vastly most numerous…. ‘This and previous studies show that the Khoisan peoples and the rest of modern humanity shared their most recent common ancestor approximately 150,000 years ago, so it was entirely unexpected to find that this group apparently did not intermarry with non-Khoisan neighbors for many thousand years….'” — see also The Least Bottlenecked Humans of All from razib.

Ants, altruism and self sacrifice“It’s the selfishness of genes that makes us unselfish…. ‘Group selection’ has always been portrayed as a more politically correct idea, implying that there is an evolutionary tendency to general altruism in people. Gene selection has generally seemed to be more of a right-wing idea, in which individuals are at the mercy of the harsh calculus of the genes. Actually, this folk understanding is about as misleading as it can be. Society is not built on one-sided altruism but on mutually beneficial co-operation. Nearly all the kind things people do in the world are done in the name of enlightened self-interest. Think of the people who sold you coffee, drove your train, even wrote your newspaper today. They were paid to do so but they did things for you (and you for them). Likewise, gene selection clearly drives the evolution of a co-operative instinct in the human breast, and not just towards close kin.” – from matt ridley. — see also: E.O. Wilson’s The Social Conquest of Earth from jason collins. h/t billare!

Genetic Variation in Human DNA Replication Timing“Replication timing, a driver of locus-specific mutation rates, varies among humans…. Replication timing associates with common polymorphisms near replication origins….” – whoa.

Genetic and environmental exposures constrain epigenetic drift over the human life course – h/t casey brown! who tweeted: “Worth repeating: DNA methylation is more genetic than epigenetic.”

IQ is in the genes“How parents raise us has no impact on how smart we become, a new study finds.”

Link discovered between fathers’ criminal history and sons’ intelligence“Sons whose fathers have criminal records tend to have lower cognitive abilities than sons whose fathers have no criminal history, data from over 1 million Swedish men show. The research, conducted by scientists in Sweden and Finland, indicates that the link is not directly caused by fathers’ behavior but is instead explained by genetic factors that are shared by father and son.”

Are bright people normal?“‘We found no support for the genetic Discontinuity Hypothesis that nonadditive genetic variance is greater for high intelligence….'” – from dr. james thompson.

Booze culture may date back 10 million years say scientists“A new study suggests that primates may have begun drinking alchol 10 million years ago, as fermented fruit on the forest floor…. Experts at Santa Fe College in the US studied the gene ADH4 which produces an enzyme to break down alcohol in the body. It was hypothesised that the enzyme would not appear until the first alcohol was produced by early farmers. But scientists were amazed to find it 10 million years earlier, at the end of the Miocene epoch.” – (them’s *my* ancestors right there! (~_^) )

Psychiatry: End of the Road for “Endophenotypes”?“In a nutshell, the researchers ran seven different genetic studies to try to find the genetic basis of a total of seventeen neurobehavioural traits, also known as ‘endophenotypes’…. Essentially an endophenotype is some trait, which could be almost anything, which is supposed to be related to (or part of) a psychiatric disorder or symptom, but which is ‘closer to genetics’ or ‘more biologica’ than the disorder itself. Rather than thousands of genes all mixed together to determine the risk of a psychiatric disorder, each endophenotype might be controlled by only a handful of genes – which would thus be easier to find…. Over 89% of the searches came up null in this way; for eight of the seventeen traits, the researchers found no associated genes using *any* strategy.” – from neuroskeptic.

Unequal fates for maths superstars“The fates of US child prodigies of the 1970s reveal great accomplishments but strong gender differences…. [B]oth genders reported unusually high levels of satisfaction with their lives and careers. ‘It seems that both sexes got what they wanted from life, even if those things were somewhat different….'” – h/t charles! – see also: Sometimes men and women want different things from ben southwood.

Are Chinese babies more docile? – peter frost on the freedman studies.

Inferior Faunas – from greg cochran.

Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2014 released this week.

Domestication and Human Evolution Symposium @getCARTA sessions now available to watch online.

Does evolution need a revolution? – from jerry coyne.

Experimentally induced innovations lead to persistent culture via conformity in wild birds – birds have culture.

A Magisterial Synthesis Of Apes And Human Evolution“[Russell H.] Tuttle’s tome is a grand synthesis of all the latest research and data about apes and their relation to us…. He believes that bipedalism preceded the development of the brain in early humans –and was likely something inherited from smaller apes already used to using their feet to move laterally along branches in trees. Although chimpanzees and bonobos are our closest relatives on the evolutionary tree, they do not represent in their own locomotion good proto-models of what led to human upright posture and walking.”

‘Superbugs’ Kill India’s Babies and Pose an Overseas Threat“A growing chorus of researchers say the evidence is now overwhelming that a significant share of the bacteria present in India — in its water, sewage, animals, soil and even its mothers — are immune to nearly all antibiotics.” – h/t razib!

The RNA World: molecular cooperation at the origins of life“The RNA World concept posits that there was a period of time in primitive Earth’s history — about 4 billion years ago — when the primary living substance was RNA or something chemically similar. In the past 50 years, this idea has gone from speculation to a prevailing idea. In this Review, we summarize the key logic behind the RNA World and describe some of the most important recent advances that have been made to support and expand this logic. We also discuss the ways in which molecular cooperation involving RNAs would facilitate the emergence and early evolution of life.”

Tool to edit DNA revolutionizing research in Boston area – CRISPR.

Thomas Docherty on academic freedom“Managerial fundamentalism has taken hold in universities, with scholars viewed as resources that must be controlled…. A creeping incremental assault on academic freedom threatens not just what can be spoken aloud, but also what it is permissible to think: thought itself is to be subjected to management, so that its critical power is neutered or constrained….”

The Dark Enlightenment for Newbies“So what is dark about the Dark Enlightenment? Absolutely nothing. The Dark Enlightenment only looks dark in contrast to the blinding (as in, it blinds you) optimism of flash in the pan of blank slate equalism. The things that the DE contend about human nature — that parents naturally favor their children, that sexual attraction is a biological phenomenon, that some people are naturally smarter than others — were all accepted as common sense for most or all of human history. It is the unrealistic utopianism of modern liberalism which is ridiculously absurd. The Dark Enlightenment might be better termed The Return to Normalcy. So the phrase “Dark Enlightenment” might not be the best, but it has received enough attention that I don’t think we should abandon it.” – very nice post from empedocles.

Tanzania evicting 40,000 people from homeland to make room for Dubai royal family“It will become a private hunting reserve” – =/ (i’m linking to salon!) – h/t john durant!

bonus: Why Some Mosquitoes Spread Malaria and Others Don’t“Sequencing the genomes of numerous Anopheles mosquito species from locations around the world has shown why some can carry and spread the deadly disease malaria while others don’t.” – h/t srikant mantri!

bonus bonus: Humpback Whales in the Arabian Sea Have Been Isolated for 70,000 Years

bonus bonus bonus: A diet to die for“One bird feasts on food that would leave most other animals stone dead.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Insect Swarms Go Critical“Scientists have found tantalizing evidence that diverse biological systems, including the human brain, gene expression networks, bird flocks, and fish schools, behave as though they are near the ‘critical point’ of a phase transition, like correlated spins in a magnet on the verge of ordering.” – h/t jayman!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Weird Physics Can Make an Invisible Cat Visible“These cat pictures are brought to you by quantum entanglement as discussed by Einstein and Schrödinger.”

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: “The Feynman Lectures on Physics”, The Most Popular Physics Book Ever Written, Now Completely Online

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Tette per la Scienza – boobies! (it really IS this time! (~_^) )

(note: comments do not require an email. quantum cats!)

Europeans drawn from three ancient “tribes”“The modern European gene pool was formed when three ancient populations mixed within the last 7,000 years, Nature journal reports. Blue-eyed, swarthy hunters mingled with brown-eyed, pale skinned farmers as the latter swept into Europe from the Near East. But another, mysterious population with Siberian affinities also contributed to the genetic landscape of the continent.” – see also: Before Slavery“From what I can see so far, it looks as the invaders killed all the LBK-descended farmers in northern Europe, or nearly so. The locals had had long trapezoidal houses clustered in small villages: the Corded Ware culture has almost no buildings at all, and a lot less agriculture. They didn’t make the EEF guys serfs and get a cut of their grain – the villages disappeared. They didn’t tax them, but then money and bureaucracy hadn’t been invented yet. Same for slavery: hadn’t been invented, probably. Judging from the mtDNA patterns, they didn’t even grab many of the nubile women. The genetic mix changes little as you move across the north European plain: if the invaders were picking up local genes as they rolled along, it should have. We used to call Corded Ware the Battle-Axe culture, but that’s too accurate for comfort.” – from greg cochran.

They weren’t wimps: how modern humans, like Neanderthals, braved the northern cold“Recent finds at Willendorf in Austria reveal that modern humans were living in cool steppe-like conditions some 43,500 years ago – and that their presence overlapped with that of Neanderthals for far longer than we thought.” – h/t mr. robert ford!

Stone Age groups made similar toolmaking breakthroughs“Different palaeolithic populations around the world might have developed a crucial toolmaking skill independently. This conclusion, based on the analysis of hundreds of artefacts from a recently excavated archaeological site in Armenia, weakens a long-held theory that Stone Age people in Eurasia learnt sophisticated techniques from migrating African tribes. The work is published in Science.”

Human paternal and maternal demographic histories: insights from high-resolution Y chromosome and mtDNA sequences“Comparisons of maternally-inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and paternally-inherited non-recombining Y chromosome (NRY) variation have provided important insights into the impact of sex-biased processes (such as migration, residence pattern, and so on) on human genetic variation…. Our results confirm the controversial assertion that genetic differences between human populations on a global scale are bigger for the NRY than for mtDNA, although the differences are not as large as previously suggested. More importantly, we find substantial regional variation in patterns of mtDNA *versus* NRY variation.” – h/t juan fernández lópez! – see also: New analysis of human genetic history reveals female dominance – (heh. that was a nice twist on the story! (~_^) ) h/t frau katze!

23andMe mega-study on different American groups – @dienekes’. see also: The genetic ancestry of African, Latino, and European Americans across the United States.

Admixture in Latin America: Geographic Structure, Phenotypic Diversity and Self-Perception of Ancestry Based on 7,342 Individuals“We estimated individual ancestry proportions in a sample of 7,342 subjects ascertained in five countries (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, México and Perú). These individuals were also characterized for a range of physical appearance traits and for self-perception of ancestry. The geographic distribution of admixture proportions in this sample reveals extensive population structure, illustrating the continuing impact of demographic history on the genetic diversity of Latin America. Significant ancestry effects were detected for most phenotypes studied. However, ancestry generally explains only a modest proportion of total phenotypic variation. Genetically estimated and self-perceived ancestry correlate significantly, but certain physical attributes have a strong impact on self-perception and bias self-perception of ancestry relative to genetically estimated ancestry.” – see also razib: The Phenotypic and the Genotypic.

Ashkenazi Jewish population has distinctive, yet similar genomes“Post-population bottleneck, descendants of Eastern European Jews are all 30th-ish cousins…. Compared to genomes of modern Europeans—in this case, the genomes of 26 Flemish people—the Ashkenazi genomes have 47 percent more novel DNA differences per genome. These DNA variants, while novel, are population specific; sequence sharing, where two individuals have a set of the same variants, is eight percent more abundant among the Ashkenazi Jews than it is between the two populations or even among the Flemish genomes.” – h/t billare!

Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa? – from steve sailer.

Force of nature gave life its asymmetry“‘Left-handed’ electrons destroy certain organic molecules faster than their mirror versions.”

make sure not to miss jayman’s new Obesity Facts page. and give him some money, too! (^_^)

A fruitful encounter“Did the Christian doctrine of original sin create the guilt cultures of Northwest Europe? Or did the arrow of causality run the other way?” – from peter frost.

Review: G Is for Genes: The Impact of Genetics on Education and Achievement (Kathryn Asbury, Robert Plomin) – from emil kirkegaard.

The hereditarian hypothesis almost certainly true“Surely, there are huge benefits to being the first author to publish a study that almost conclusively disproves the genetic model for AA’s. Researchers with access to the data have a strong incitement to publish such a study. If the data supports the view, they have all the necessary means too. Since they haven’t published it, we can hence infer that the data does not support the politically favorable non-genetic conclusion, but instead the genetic model.” – also from emil kirkegaard.

Cognitive ability and party identity in the United States“[I]ndividuals who identify as Republican have slightly higher verbal intelligence than those who identify as Democrat…. [H]igher intelligence among classically liberal Republicans compensates for lower intelligence among socially conservative Republicans.” – the results suggest. – h/t stuart ritchie!

Lighter-skinned minorities are more likely to support Republicans

A study of the performance of Egyptian college students on the Advanced Progressive Matrices“The Egyptian raw scores were transformed to British IQ equivalents using the published 1992 British norms for the APM, on which the sample obtained a British IQ of 89.5. Science students obtained a significantly higher average mean score than arts students by 7.5 IQ points. Male students obtained a non-significantly higher average IQ than female students 1.2 IQ points. Male students had greater variability than the female students.” – h/t erwin schmidt!

The Available Pool – ed realist goes all voldemort on us. again.

Epigenetics, the Glory and the Hype“Epigenetics is real. But it doesn’t change everything. That needs to be said, because people seem to get the impression that everything is changed.” – from razib.

Human preferences for sexually dimorphic faces may be evolutionarily novel [pdf] – “A large literature proposes that preferences for exaggerated sex typicality in human faces (masculinity/femininity) reflect a long evolutionary history of sexual and social selection. This proposal implies that dimorphism was important to judgments of attractiveness and personality in ancestral environments. It is difficult to evaluate, however, because most available data come from large-scale, industrialized, urban populations. Here, we report the results for 12 populations with very diverse levels of economic development. Surprisingly, preferences for exaggerated sex-specific traits are only found in the novel, highly developed environments. Similarly, perceptions that masculine males look aggressive increase strongly with development and, specifically, urbanization.” – h/t jayman!

Do your genes skew how you taste alcohol?“A new study shows that how people perceive and taste alcohol varies as a result of genetics. The scientists focused on three chemosensory genes—two bitter-taste receptor genes known as TAS2R13 and TAS2R38 and a burn receptor gene, TRPV1. The research is the first to consider whether variation in the burn receptor gene might influence alcohol sensations, which has not previously been linked to alcohol consumption.” – alcohol tastes gooooood! (~_^) – h/t phillip melton!

Parent–Offspring Similarity for Drinking: A Longitudinal Adoption Study [pdf] – “Findings imply that genetic influences on drinking behavior increase with age while shared family environment influences decline, especially during the transition from late-adolescence to early adulthood.” – h/t emil kirkegaard!

Violent Video Games and Real-World Violence: Rhetoric Versus Data“Contrary to the claims that violent video games are linked to aggressive assaults and homicides, no evidence was found to suggest that this medium was positively related to real-world violence in the United States. Unexpectedly, many of the results were suggestive of a decrease in violent crime in response to violent video games. Possible explanations for these unforeseen findings are discussed and researchers are cautioned about generalizing the results from laboratory and correlational studies to severe forms of violent behavior.” – h/t mugwump! who tweeted some of the tables here, here, and here.

The Objective Morality Delusion“Atheists often scorn those who believe in the God Delusion. The faithful, in turn, scorn those atheists who believe in the Objective Morality Delusion. The scorn is understandable in both cases, but I give the nod to the faithful on this one….” – from helian.

Paradox of nationalism“Nationalism as we know it arose in modern times in Europe. Other countries outside Europe just don’t seem to have the same thing, although there are exceptions, such as Japan, or maybe Turkey. And in fact, nationalism was at one time considered a part of liberalism – which is another European invention…. Other countries that don’t have the same history as Europe seem unlikely to develop that kind of nationalism. Think of Iraq, Syria, most African countries, even China: they are more given to clannishness than patriotism.” – from mr. mangan, esq.

Plant breeding, not working slaves harder, drove cotton efficiency gains in the US South – from pseudoerasmus.

Confusion Over the Biological Reality of the Human Races“[O]ne can see clearly why Wade’s argument is not racist: at the core of his argument is his claim that the tribalism of racial ethnocentrism belongs to an ancient stage of human evolution that has to be overcome to move into modern states and inclusive institutions (see Wade, 136, 173-82, 196-97).” – larry arnhart on A Troublesome Inheritance.

Yes, it’s official, men are from Mars and women from Venus, and here’s the science to prove it“In his fascinating new book the developmental biologist Lewis Wolpert argues that there is actually hard science behind many of our stereotypical gender roles.” – h/t claire lehmann!

The Woman’s Heart Attack“[M]en more typically have ‘crushing’ pain; women, nausea. That women are likelier to have early warning signs, such as unaccustomed fatigue or insomnia (unaccustomed: That’s the key word here). That we are likelier — this spooked me and kept me, for months, glued to calendars — to die within a year of a heart attack. That our symptoms can be so varied and nuanced that we feel no fear, seek no help, and possibly die — which may be why, although more men have heart attacks, a greater percentage of women die of them.”

The Evolution of Culturally-Variable Sex Differences: Men and Women Are Not Always Different, but When They Are…It Appears *Not* to Result from Patriarchy or Sex Role Socialization“[E]vidence is marshaled across 21 data sources that directly challenge this foundational assumption of social role theory. Empirically, sex differences in most psychological traits — in personality, sexuality, attitudes, emotions, behaviors, and cognitive abilities — are conspicuously *larger* in cultures with more egalitarian sex role socialization and greater sociopolitical gender equity. Even sex differences in many physical traits such as height, obesity, and blood pressure are larger in cultures with more egalitarian sex role socialization and greater sociopolitical gender equity.”

School Performance After Preterm Birth“An increased risk of poor school performance for children born preterm has been shown in many studies, but whether this increase is attributable to preterm birth per se or to other factors associated with preterm birth has not been resolved…. Preterm birth was strongly and negatively correlated with school performance. The distribution of school grades for children born at 31-33 weeks was on average 3.85 (95% confidence interval = -4.36 to -3.35) centiles lower than for children born at 40 weeks. For births at 22-24 weeks, the corresponding figure was -23.15 (-30.32 to -15.97). When taking confounders into account, the association remained. When restricting the analysis to siblings, however, the association between school performance and preterm birth after week 30 vanished completely, whereas it remained, less pronounced, for preterm birth before 30 weeks of gestation. Our study suggests that the association between school performance and preterm birth after 30 gestational weeks is attributable to factors other than preterm birth per se.”

Are Neighborhood Health Associations Causal? A 10-Year Prospective Cohort Study With Repeated Measurements – h/t amir sariaslan! who tweeted: “Neighborhoods did not cause health outcomes in Australian large longitudinal within-individual study over 10 years.”

Seat of Selflessness Found in Brains of Extreme Altruists“In this case researchers chose to study people who donated a kidney to a complete stranger. They found that not only are extreme altruists’ brains different from a normal person’s, they’re basically the opposite of a psychopath’s in one key way – indicating that a specific brain region may play an important role in people’s ability to care for one another.” – n=39, but it’s a start!

Can the Game of Thrones option save the UK?“The situation now resembles the Union of Crowns from 1603-1707 when Scotland had its own parliament but was still under the king in Westminster, and Cameron is behaving like Charles I: making promises to his northern kingdom that affect the southern one, without regards to how the southerners feel. Just as in 1640, the greatest protests are coming from the east of England, once the stronghold of Puritanism and the parliamentary rebels and now the Ukip heartland.” – from ed west.

God, Darwin and My College Biology Class“[A] third consequence of evolutionary insights: a powerful critique of theodicy, the scholarly effort to reconcile belief in an omnipresent, omni-benevolent God with the fact of unmerited suffering. Theological answers range from claiming that suffering provides the option of free will to announcing (as in the Book of Job) that God is so great and we so insignificant that we have no right to ask. But just a smidgen of biological insight makes it clear that, although the natural world can be marvelous, it is also filled with ethical horrors: predation, parasitism, fratricide, infanticide, disease, pain, old age and death — and that suffering (like joy) is built into the nature of things. The more we know of evolution, the more unavoidable is the conclusion that living things, including human beings, are produced by a natural, totally amoral process, with no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator.” – david barash, pessimist(?).

Incest a “fundamental right” says German committee says“Anti-incest laws in Germany could be scrapped after a government-backed group said relationships between brothers and sisters should be legal.” – those wacky germans! h/t anatoly!

Radicalised Muslims in UK more likely to be born in Britain, rich and depressed“Young British Muslims whose families have lived in the UK for generations are more at risk of radicalisation than recent migrants to Britain, according to new research which reveals the common characteristics of those most vulnerable to recruitment by terrorists.” – we’ve seen that pattern before. h/t ed west!

Millions of Old Tyres are Dumped Near Empty Apartment Blocks in Spanish Ghost Town – you HAVE to see the photos! h/t ian geldard!

bonus: Skin coloring of rhesus macaque monkeys linked to breeding success, new study shows

bonus bonus: Fantastically Wrong: Europe’s Insane History of Putting Animals on Trial and Executing Them – h/t kyle hill!

bonus bonus bonus: Belgium to build beer pipeline under Bruges – those wacky belgians!

(note: comments do not require an email. guilty!)

African pygmies evolved their short stature twice“In the rainforests of Africa, being small is so helpful that it evolved twice in separate groups. Luis Barreiro of the University of Montreal in Quebec, Canada, and his colleagues identified 16 regions of the genome associated with short stature in the Batwa pygmies of Uganda. They then compared these regions in 169 Batwa and 74 Baka pygmies from West Africa. ‘In both groups, there was greater variation in those regions associated with being short, but no overlap between them,’ says Barreiro. This suggests they evolved their stature independently instead of inheriting the same ‘pygmy genes’ from a common ancestor.”

The strange history of the North American Arctic“Archaeologists mapping ancient cultures in the North American Arctic — a region spanning present-day Greenland — have long puzzled over how different cultures relate to one another. Now, an unprecedented large-scale genomics study has traced many such cultures to the Paleo-Eskimos, a people who early inhabited the harsh environment continuously for 4000 years, only to vanish mysteriously about 700 years ago. The discovery could change how scientists understand migration patterns in the North American Arctic…. After comparing the ancient and modern genetic data, the researchers found that the Saqqaq and Dorset cultures belonged to one Paleo-Eskimo people, whose genetic lineage continued in the region for more than 4000 years, from 3000 B.C.E. to 1300 C.E., contradicting previous theories that the diverse cultures came from different peoples. The Paleo-Eskimos are genetically distinct from Native Americans and Inuits, which means they represent a separate, later pulse of migration into the New World, says evolutionary geneticist Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen, a co-author of the study. This contradicts previous theories that humans arrived in the Americas in three waves, painting a scenario of four waves instead — the Amerinds, the Na Dene Native Americans, the Paleo-Eskimos, and the Neo-Eskimo Thules…. What intrigues researchers most is why the Paleo-Eskimo lineage disappeared after the late Dorsets, around the same time that Neo-Eskimo Thules expanded rapidly to the Arctic. Archaeologists have found no evidence of violent conflict between the Thules and the Dorsets, but it would be hard to ignore contrasts between the two groups. The whale-hunting Thules lived in large, well-organized villages and boasted advanced technologies such as dog sleds and sinew-backed bows. The Dorsets, on the other hand, lived in small villages of 20 to 30 people and hunted with chipped stone blades. The researchers suspect that the Dorsets might have been pushed out to the fringes of the Arctic, or perhaps annihilated by a disease. ‘It’s just mind-blowing to imagine an entire people who just completely vanished,’ Willerslev says.” — see also Degüello from greg cochran.

Genetic changes transformed wild rabbits into tame bunnies, DNA study reveals“When humans domesticated wild rabbits and turned them into pet store favorites, they also changed their genome, a study has found…. The domestication of rabbits happened much more recently than that of cattle, sheep, pigs and dogs, which happened between about 15,000 and 9,000 years ago. Monks in monasteries in the south of France first domesticated northwestern europeans rabbits around 1,400 years ago…. [T]he researches report in the journal Science, small pre-existing genetic variations — sometimes just one letter of DNA code — started to become more common in the animals as they became domesticated. These variations generally didn’t affect the genes themselves, but rather acted on the genome’s regulatory regions, which are in control of whether genes are turned on or off. ‘Wild and domestic rabbits do not differ so much in actual protein sequences, but in how gene and protein expression is regulated,’ says Andersson. Among the genes particularly targeted during domestication were those involved in rabbits’ brains and nervous systems. That’s to be expected, Andersson says, because the differences between domestic and wild rabbits are almost all behavioral, while physical differences are slight…. Domestication of rabbits was made easier because the wild variety is a highly polymorphic species that already possesses many of gene variants selectively enhanced during domestication, the researchers say. That is likely to have been the case with most domesticated species, they say. ‘We predict that a similar process has occurred in other domestic animals and that we will not find a few specific genes that were critical for domestication,’ Andersson says.” — see also: Rabbit genome analysis reveals a polygenic basis for phenotypic change during domestication.

Comparative population genomics in animals uncovers the determinants of genetic diversity – h/t lars penke! who tweeted: “Across species, higher genetic diversity is not predicted by ecology, but by faster life history.”

Genome-wide genotype and sequence-based reconstruction of the 140,000 year history of modern human ancestry“We investigated ancestry of 3,528 modern humans from 163 samples. We identified 19 ancestral components, with 94.4% of individuals showing mixed ancestry. After using whole genome sequences to correct for ascertainment biases in genome-wide genotype data, we dated the oldest divergence event to 140,000 years ago. We detected an Out-of-Africa migration 100,000–87,000 years ago, leading to peoples of the Americas, east and north Asia, and Oceania, followed by another migration 61,000–44,000 years ago, leading to peoples of the Caucasus, Europe, the Middle East, and south Asia. We dated eight divergence events to 33,000–20,000 years ago, coincident with the Last Glacial Maximum. We refined understanding of the ancestry of several ethno-linguistic groups, including African Americans, Ethiopians, the Kalash, Latin Americans, Mozabites, Pygmies, and Uygurs, as well as the CEU sample. Ubiquity of mixed ancestry emphasizes the importance of accounting for ancestry in history, forensics, and health.” — don’t miss figure 2!

Seals May Have Carried Tuberculosis To The New World — thousand-year-old skeletons from peru suggest seals brought tuberculosis to americas.

Y Chromosomes of 40% Chinese Descend from Three Neolithic Super-Grandfathers“This observation suggests that the main patrilineal expansion in China occurred in the Neolithic Era and might be related to the development of agriculture.”

Blue Eyes Are More Common Than Any Other Colour in Britain“The Blue Eyes Project has found that although all eyes in Britain were once brown, they are now 48% blue, 30% green and just 22% brown…. The study mapped eye colour across the UK and Ireland and found that Scottish and Irish people are more likely to have blue eyes than in other parts of the UK, particularly the south. Just over a third (35%) of the population of south-west England and 41% in east England have blue eyes, compared to 57% in southeast Scotland…. Blue eyes are the result of a variant in the HERC2 gene, which, when it mutates, switches off the supply of brown-eye forming melanin, researchers say. Green eyes are also a result of this change, because they arise from a combination of the blue variant with brown. The first gene mutation resulting in blue eyes is understood to have occurred in the Baltic region around 10,000 years ago.”

Neanderthals in Europe Died Out Thousands of Years Sooner Than Some Thought, Study Says

The Other Neanderthal – h/t billare! who tweeted: “‘Denisovans are an example of…how mitochondrial DNA [misleads], & only the nuclear genome tells the full story.'”

Admixture in South African Afrikaners — from razib.

Finland’s love of milk dates back to the Stone Age“A combined team from the Universities of Bristol (England) and Helsinki (Finland) have been examining examples of Corded Ware pottery found in the northern parts of Finland. The pieces examined were cooking pots dated at 3,900 to 3,300 BCE and also approx. 2,500 BCE. Astonishingly the pots from 2,500 BCE contained traces of milk fats. This proved that the inhabitants at that time, despite a climate where it can snow for up to four months of the year, had domesticated animals.”

Holding a Mirror to Their Natures“[U]nrelated look-alikes showed little similarity in either personality or self-esteem. By contrast, twins — especially identical twins — score similarly on both scales, suggesting that the likeness is largely because of genetics…. Personality traits do not appear to be influenced by the way people are treated because of appearance. Moreover, they found, there appears to be no special bond between look-alikes. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University who is also an identical twin, praised that study, saying it went to the heart of what makes people form a bond. ‘Even in cases where a person is a dead ringer for another, the natural pull is not there,’ Dr. Fisher said, ‘which builds the case that there is an underlying biology to kinship.'” — h/t steve stewart williams!

On the genetic architecture of intelligence and other quantitative traits — from steve hsu. h/t richard harper! who tweeted: “cognitive ability gene search requires sample sizes of 10,000 genes across a million persons.”

Genes Influence Young Children’s Human Figure Drawings and Their Association With Intelligence a Decade Later“Do genes influence individual differences in this species-typical behavior, and is drawing related to intelligence (g) in modern children? We report on the first genetically informative study of children’s figure drawing. In a study of 7,752 pairs of twins, we found that genetic differences exert a greater influence on children’s figure drawing at age 4 than do between-family environmental differences. Figure drawing was as heritable as g at age 4 (heritability of .29 for both). Drawing scores at age 4 correlated significantly with g at age 4 (r = .33, p < .001, n = 14,050) and with g at age 14 (r = .20, p < .001, n = 4,622). The genetic correlation between drawing at age 4 and g at age 14 was .52, 95% confidence interval = [.31, .75]. Individual differences in this widespread behavior have an important genetic component and a significant genetic link with g." – h/t rosalind arden!

Differences in intelligence between ethnic minorities and Han in China

The Canadian IQ calculated from the standardization of the WAIS IV eh? — h/t emil kirkegaard (no relation)!

Genome-wide screening for DNA variants associated with reading and language traits

Differences in cognitive abilities among primates are concentrated on G: Phenotypic and phylogenetic comparisons with two meta-analytical databases“Using meta-analytic databases of ethological observations of cognitive abilities involving 69 primate species, we found that cognitive abilities that load more strongly on a common factor (which is here termed G, in line with the terminology developed in previous literature to describe aggregated measures of general intelligence) are associated with significantly bigger interspecies differences and bigger interspecies variance. Additionally, two novel evolutionary predictions were made: more G-loaded abilities would present (1) weaker phylogenetic signals, indicating less phylogenetic conservativeness, and (2) faster rates of trait evolution, as it was hypothesized that G has been subjected to stronger selection pressures than narrower, more domain-specific abilities. These predictions were corroborated with phylogenetic comparative methods, with stronger effects among catarrhines (apes and Old World monkeys) than within the entire primate order. These data strongly suggest that G is the principal locus of selection in the macroevolution of primate intelligence. Implications for the understanding of population differences in cognitive abilities among human populations and for the theory of massive modularity applied to intelligence are discussed.” – h/t erwin schmidt!

The Flynn Effect: A Meta-Analysis [pdf] – h/t jelte wicherts! who tweeted: “IQ [continues] to go up with 3 points per decade. New meta-analysis shows no evidence of diminishing Flynn Effect.”

The Elusive X-Factor, or Why Jonathan Kaplan Is Wrong about Race and IQ – @humanvarieties.

Coevolution of languages and genes“[E]volutionary processes are more complex than simple models of gene-language coevolution predict, with linguistic boundaries only occasionally functioning as barriers to gene flow. More frequently, admixture takes place irrespective of linguistic differences, but with a detectable impact of contact-induced changes in the languages concerned.” – h/t jayman!

Does Natural Law exist?“While certain notions of right and wrong can apply to all humans, much of what we call ‘morality’ will always be population-dependent. What is moral in one population may not be in another.” – from peter frost.

Morality: The Amazing Side-Taking Machine“If there are so many evolutionary pathways to nice behaviors, and if many animals are cooperative, including bees, bats, hyenas, and monkeys, then perhaps the elaborate paraphernalia of human morality — explicit rules of behavior, moral taboos, moral debates, accusations, impartiality, punishments — are not needed to make people nice. Right? This is exactly what psychological research indicates. Developmental evidence shows that children are nice to people before acquiring adult-like moral judgment. Moreover, when children develop moral judgment, it does not prevent them from taking actions they judge wrong such as lying or stealing. In adults, research shows that moral judgments differ from and can even oppose altruistic motives. Research on hypocrisy shows that people are mostly motivated to appear moral rather than to actually abide by their moral judgments. Research on ‘motivated reasoning’ shows that people deviously craft moral justifications to push their own agendas. In short, people can be nice without morality and nasty with morality — altruism and morality are independent. In fact, humans are more eager to judge other people than to follow their own moral advice. Moral condemnation of other people’s behavior is distinctly, perhaps uniquely, human. So, what is the evolutionary function of condemnation…? People can use moral judgment to assess the wrongness of fighters’ actions and then choose sides against whoever was most immoral. When all bystanders use this strategy, they all take the same side and avoid the costs of escalated fighting. That is, moral condemnation functions to synchronize people’s side-taking decisions. This moral strategy is, of course, mostly unconscious just like other evolved programs for vision, movement, language, and so on.”

The roots of human altruism“[T]he willingness to provision others varies greatly from one primate species to the next. But there was a clear pattern, as summarized by Burkart: ‘Humans and callitrichid monkeys acted highly altruistically and almost always produced the treats for the other group members. Chimpanzees, one of our closest relatives, however, only did so sporadically.’ Similarly, most other primate species, including capuchins and macaques, only rarely pulled the lever to give another group member food, if at all – even though they have considerable cognitive skills. Until now, many researchers assumed that spontaneous altruistic behavior in primates could be attributed to factors they would share with humans: advanced cognitive skills, large brains, high social tolerance, collective foraging or the presence of pair bonds or other strong social bonds. As Burkart’s new data now reveal, however, none of these factors reliably predicts whether a primate species will be spontaneously altruistic or not. Instead, another factor that sets us humans apart from the great apes appears to be responsible. Says Burkart: ‘Spontaneous, altruistic behavior is exclusively found among species where the young are not only cared for by the mother, but also other group members such as siblings, fathers, grandmothers, aunts and uncles.’ This behavior is referred to technically as the ‘cooperative breeding’ or ‘allomaternal care.'”

Feminist activist women are masculinized in terms of digit-ratio and dominance: A possible explanation for the feminist paradox“The feminist movement purports to improve conditions for women, and yet only a minority of women in modern societies self-identify as feminists. This is known as the feminist paradox…. We measured the 2D:4D digit ratios (collected from both hands) and a personality trait known as dominance (measured with the Directiveness scale) in a sample of women attending a feminist conference. The sample exhibited significantly more masculine 2D:4D and higher dominance ratings than comparison samples representative of women in general, and these variables were furthermore positively correlated for both hands. The feminist paradox might thus to some extent be explained by biological differences between women in general and the activist women who formulate the feminist agenda.”

Global genetic variations predict brain response to faces“[A] significant proportion of the brain response to facial expressions is predicted by common genetic variance in a subset of regions constituting the face network. These regions show the highest inter-individual variability in the number of connections with other network nodes, suggesting that the genetic model captures variations across the adolescent brains in co-opting these regions into the face network.” – h/t razib!

Brain, behavior and genetics“Regardless of where the science now lies, we know that biology controls behavior. Our actions and thoughts aren’t magic, they rely on the biochemistry of neurotransmitters and nerve signals. They have physical substrates that are controlled by our genes….”

The impact of neighbourhood deprivation on adolescent violent criminality and substance misuse: A longitudinal, quasi-experimental study of the total Swedish population“We found that the adverse effect of neighbourhood deprivation on adolescent violent criminality and substance misuse in Sweden was not consistent with a causal inference.” — see also Depraved on account of being deprived? from dr. james thompson.

Does Urban Living Cause Mental Illness? – h/t jayman! who tweeted: “Interview w/ @AmirSariaslan, on his work showing that adverse environments don’t cause schizophrenia, & killing GxE.”

Daughters provide as much elderly parent care as they can, sons do as little as possible — h/t frau katze!

Honor: The Cause of — and Solution to — All of Society’s Problems“Centuries-old cultural norms don’t change overnight….” — gee, i wonder why? (where does culture come from?)

Social sciences suffer from severe publication bias“Survey finds that ‘null results’ rarely see the light of the day.” – h/t claire lehmann!

Haidt: “Political Diversity Will Improve Social Psychological Science” – from steve sailer.

How Do Liberal and Conservative Attitudes About Obedience to Authority Differ? The Surprising Result of My Study“Together with my collaborators Dr. Danielle Gaucher and Nicola Schaefer, we asked both red and blue Americans to share their views about obeying liberal authorities (e.g., ‘obey an environmentalist’). In an article that we recent published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, we found that liberals were now the ones calling for obedience. And when the authorities were viewed as ideologically neutral (e.g., office manager), liberals and conservatives agreed. Only when people perceived the authority to be conservative (e.g., religious authority) did conservatives show a positive bias.”

The Kennewick Man Finally Freed to Share His Secrets

Measuring Inbreeding in the Greek Gods“it seems that Ares has an inbreeding coefficient of 37.5%. This is due to the fact that his parents—Zeus and Hera—are siblings, as well as his grandparents with each other. Zeus has an inbreeding coefficient of 25%.” — (^_^)

bonus: Walking fish raised on land mimic ancient evolutionary transition

bonus bonus: Why are all our wagtails vanishing? Scientists baffled by long-term decline of three species in Britain“The three wagtail species spotted on our shores are the Yellow Wagtail, a farmland bird that migrates to sub-Saharan Africa, and two which largely remain in the UK over the winter, the Grey Wagtail, a river specialist, and the familiar Pied Wagtail. Researchers said the races of both Pied and Yellow Wagtail breeding in the UK nest almost nowhere else in the world…. Sarah Harris, BBS Organiser at the British Trust for Ornithology, said: ‘I find it fascinating that three seemingly similar birds, the Yellow, Grey and Pied Wagtail can lead such different lives and face such a variety of challenges. With the UK races of two of these species – Pied and Yellow Wagtails – being largely confined to our islands, these population changes are of global conservation significance….'” – ornithologists are soooo waaaaycist! they make me sick! (~_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. biophobia. (~_^) )

trigger warning: the following post contains much that is speculative. in fact, the entire post is one long speculation. if the thought of speculating when it comes to human biodiversity/sociobiology makes you queasy or fills you with existential angst, this might not be the blogpost for you. no, really. you might want to pass the time in some other way.

i wrote about this once before, and since i’m extremely lazy, i’m just going to cut-and-paste from the previous post:

“in Innate Social Aptitudes of Man: An Approach from Evolutionary Genetics [pdf], william hamilton suggested that, perhaps, one gets a renaissance by (re-)introducing barbarian altruism genes into a too outbred population, letting the mixture ferment for ca. 800 years or so, and then enjoying the fruits of everyone’s labors. he’s talking here, of course, about the european renaissance of the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries…and classical greece/athens after the dorian invasion of ca. 800 years earlier? i *think*. if it happened at all (link inserted by me):

“‘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).'”

william hamilton — probably the greatest evolutionary theorist since darwin and an evil, evil speculator! not to mention crimethinker.

anyway…my own speculation re. the biological substrate of renaissances is that it’s not populations which experience an injection of barbarian altruism genes that wind up having a renaissance, but rather that populations which outbreed (i.e. quit marrying close relatives) for ca. 400 to 800 years (egs. medieval/renaissance europe and archaic/classical greece?) undergo a sort-of wikification of their society which drives intellectual openness and curiosity and sharing — the kinds of behavioral derring-do that you need in order to have a renaissance at all. see the previous post for more on all of those speculations.

today’s speculation is that perhaps the arabized world underwent a reverse renaissance process thanks to the introduction by the arabs of the most inbred form of cousin marriage — father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage — to the populations of the middle east/maghreb (not to mention the introduction of arabs, themselves, who had probably been inbreeding closely for up to nine hundred years before their expansion).

the islamic golden age lasted for a good six hundred years or so, but instead of the scope of islamic philosophy and science and law widening over the time period — instead of a wikification process — the tendency was for thinking in the arabized world to narrow. ijtihad (“independent thinking”) was gradually replaced by taqlid (“imitation”). this narrowing of thought was already widespread in the muslim world by the twelfth century — just about 400-450 years after the arab conquests. (braudel puts the beginning and end dates of the islamic golden age as 813 and 1198, the beginning of al-ma’mun’s caliphate and the death averroes respectively. – pg. 202.)

irfan habib points out that the islamic golden age in science was very much founded on long-established traditions of free inquiry in the near east, from greece to persia [pg. 69 — link added by me]:

“[T]his particular phase in Islamic history was marked predominantly by the Mu’tazilite school of philosophy, which was based on freethinking and rationalism. It was an ecumenical setting for science, where savants of nearly all creeds and origins worked towards a common purpose. And this was not something new, it was a long established pre-Islamic tradition in the Near East, where translation of scientific and philosophical texts from Greek to Syriac took place….

i wonder if what happened was that, with the establishment of the caliphate and all the civilized elements that went with it — good communications over long distances, (relative) peace within the realm, an excess of wealth — a “renaissance” was quickly established. however, that golden age — which happened in the early part of the era of the caliphs — was really a late flowering of whatever had been going on the region previous to the arabs (especially in persia). this renaissance was then reversed — stunted, really — as a result of the centuries of close inbreeding of the populations in the middle east and maghreb thanks to the introduction of fbd marriage by the arabs.

like i said — pure, unadultered speculation! (~_^)

previously: renaissances

(note: comments do not require an email. averroes and porphyry.)

in Genes underlying altruism published in october of last year, three biologists/researchers think through what “genes for altruism” ought to look like and how we will recognize them (“we” meaning teh scientists!):

(i) Genes underlying altruism should satisfy Hamilton’s rule of rb > c, where r is relatedness of actor to recipient, b is benefits to the recipient and c is costs to the actor. Altruism exists, and to the extent that this type of behaviour has evolved, we expect genetic variation to underlie it. In this sense, there must be genes ‘for’ altruism (genes showing allelic variation that is statistically associated with variation in altruistic behaviour) that are potentially detectable….

(ii) Genes underlying altruism should be environmentally sensitive. If genes for altruism are to evolve, then at least some carriers must reproduce. This inference implies that genes underlying altruism should be conditionally expressed as a function of their social environment….

(iii) Genes underlying altruism should increase in number and complexity with social-behavioural sophistication….

(iv) Genes underlying altruism should coevolve with, or depend on, the previous evolution of genes for kin recognition….

(v) Genes for altruism may reside in regions of low recombination, exhibit co-expression and show modular genetic architecture….

(vi) Genes underlying altruism should be at least partially additive. The evolution of altruism requires heritable variation, and we therefore expect genes for this and other evolved social traits to have significant additive effects that are responsive to kin-mediated selection….

(vii) Genes underlying altruism should exhibit strong pleiotropy. Pleiotropy (multiple phenotypic effects of alleles) should be fundamental to the evolution of altruism, given that it involves combinations of costs and benefits that may be simultaneously physiological, morphological, reproductive and behavioural….

the authors offer some candidate “genes for altruism” (this is a truncated version of their table. i’ve only included the ones for humans here — they also suggested some for eusocial insects):

genes underlying altruism - table

i think teh scientists should also look for some genes related to violence — particularly tempermental, hotheaded sorts of violence — the kind that raises the testosterone levels of scots-irish, but not yankee, folks when they’re insulted. those types of fly off the handle behaviors, i think, are often altruistic in nature, since the hotheaded individual can be more willing to sacrifice himself in a fight or in battle for his kin.

also, i guess that “genes for altruism” ought to be found in differing frequencies — even variations — in different human populations, especially long-term inbred versus long-term outbred ones.


(note: comments do not require an email. citizens against altruism!)

Quick Questions for Peter and Rosemary Grant“There is widespread misunderstanding about evolution; that it occurs extremely slowly and therefore cannot be studied in a person’s lifetime. This was the view of Charles Darwin. Many biologists and others now know that this is not correct…. The idea that animals as large as birds might evolve before our eyes is not so well known, yet our study in the entirely natural world of Daphne Major island has revealed this does in fact happen when there is a change in the environment, and it takes place over a period as short as a year, and repeatedly.” – h/t billare!

Is DNA Multilingual?“The genetic code has traditionally been viewed as a universal set of instructions, exquisitely tuned to maintain robust stability and allow evolution-sustaining mutations. But the pervasive occurrence of recoded stop codons, and the backchannel crosstalk between microbes and viruses, paints a more intricate picture of multilingual genetic instructions.”

Jelly genome mystery“The uniqueness of this ctenophore’s nervous system leads Moroz and his team to argue that it must have evolved independently, after the ctenophore lineage branched off from other animals some 500 million years ago.”

Genomic divergence in a ring species complex“Ring species provide particularly clear demonstrations of how one species can gradually evolve into two, but are rare in nature…. Here we use genome-wide analyses to show that, although spatial patterns of genetic variation are currently mostly as expected of a ring species, historical breaks in gene flow have existed at more than one location around the ring, and the two Siberian forms have occasionally interbred.” – h/t razib!

Natural selection and infectious disease in human populations“The ancient biological ‘arms race’ between microbial pathogens and humans has shaped genetic variation in modern populations, and this has important implications for the growing field of medical genomics. As humans migrated throughout the world, populations encountered distinct pathogens, and natural selection increased the prevalence of alleles that are advantageous in the new ecosystems in both host and pathogens. This ancient history now influences human infectious disease susceptibility and microbiome homeostasis, and contributes to common diseases that show geographical disparities, such as autoimmune and metabolic disorders.”

High genetic differentiation between populations often driven by classic selective sweeps“‘We demonstrate that while sites of low differentiation represent sampling effects rather than balancing selection, sites showing extremely high population differentiation are enriched for positive selection events and that one half may be the result of classic selective sweeps. Among these, we rediscover known examples, where we actually identify the established functional SNP, and discover novel examples including the genes ABCA12, CALD1 and ZNF804, which we speculate may be linked to adaptations in skin, calcium metabolism and defense, respectively. Conclusions: We have identified known and many novel candidate regions for geographically restricted positive selection, and suggest several directions for further research.'” – @dienekes’.

Mendelian-Mutationism: The Forgotten Evolutionary Synthesis – h/t neuroskeptic! who tweeted: “Did geneticists ‘crack’ the secret of evolution much earlier than believed?”

this one’s for linton!: Why Marrying Your Cousin May Pay Off“In line with previous findings, the researchers found that among non-foraging societies, a couple’s relatedness was linked with having more surviving children. But among foraging societies, the opposite was true: More-closely related spouses had fewer surviving children. Furthermore, the more family intermarriage in a society, the greater the benefit of intermarrying on the number of children couples had. In other words, in societies in which people frequently married their relatives, intermarrying showed a stronger link to having more children.”

The Closest of Strangers“[I]dentical twins who are aunts and uncles invest more in caring for the children of their twins (their ‘genetic’ sons and daughters) than do fraternal twins.”

Why Do Honor Killings Defy the First Law of Homicide? And Will Smaller Families Lead to Fewer Of Them? – h/t tom farsides! – previously: inclusive inclusive fitness.

Genetic and educational assortative mating among US adults“We find that spouses are more genetically similar than two individuals chosen at random but this similarity is at most one-third the magnitude of educational similarity.”

Irish fair skin can be traced to India and the Middle East“A major new US study at Penn State University has found that Europeans’ light skin stems from a gene mutation from a single person who lived 10,000 years ago…. Keith Cheng from Penn State College of Medicine reported that one amino acid difference in the gene SLC24A5 is a key contributor to the skin color difference between Europeans and West Africans…. ‘The mutation in SLC24A5 changes just one building block in the protein, and contributes about a third of the visually striking differences in skin tone between peoples of African and European ancestry, he said…. The mutation, called A111T, is found in virtually everyone of European ancestry. A111T is also found in populations in the Middle East and Indian subcontinent, but not in high numbers in Africans. All individuals from the Middle East, North Africa, East Africa and South India who carry the A111T mutation share traces of the ancestral genetic code. According to the researchers, this indicates that all existing instances of this mutation originate from the same person.” – h/t 23andMe!

The puzzle of European hair, eye, and skin color“The physical appearance of Europeans seems to result from a selection pressure that acted primarily on women and only secondarily on men. This is especially true for highly visible traits on or near the face—the focus of visual attention.” – from peter frost.

The Dark Triad of Personality – special issue of Personality and Individual Differences. – h/t claire lehmann!

Heritability of brain volume change and its relation to intelligence“Human brain volumes change throughout life, are highly heritable, and have been associated with general cognitive functioning…. Results show that changes in volumes of total brain (mean=-6.4ml; -0.5% loss), cerebellum (1.4ml, 1.0% increase), cerebral white matter (4.4ml, 0.9% increase), lateral ventricles (0.6ml; 4.8% increase) and in surface area (-19.7cm2, -1.1% contraction) are heritable (h2=43%; 52%; 29%; 31%; and 33%, respectively). An association between IQ (available for 91 participants) and brain volume change was observed, which was attributed to genes involved in both the variation in change in brain volume and in intelligence. Thus, dynamic changes in brain structure are heritable and may have cognitive significance in adulthood.”

Cognitive abilities amongst the Sámi population“Lapps have an IQ around 100.8 are tilted towards visuospatial ability and away from verbal ability.” – from elijah armstrong, michael woodley the younger, and richard lynn. edit: original paper here on elijah’s blog! (^_^)

The Flynn Effect in a Nutshell – from elijah.

Does brain structure determine your political views?“‘People like to believe that their own political beliefs are rational, that they’re a sensible response to the world around them, so when we come along and say, “Maybe there are these predispositions, influential but perhaps not fully in your conscious awareness,” that’s not the way we like to view our own political beliefs.'” – h/t mr. robert ford!

Sex-Related Neuroanatomical Basis of Emotion Regulation Ability“Behavioral research has demonstrated that males have a higher capability of regulating their own and others’ emotions than females; however, little is known about the sex-specific brain mechanisms involved in emotion regulation ability…. we found the sex differences in the neuroanatomical basis of emotion regulation ability. Males showed a stronger positive relation between emotion regulation ability and regional gray matter volume (rGMV) in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. In contrast, females demonstrated a stronger positive relation between emotion regulation ability and rGMV in an anatomical cluster that extends from the left brainstem to the left hippocampus, the left amygdala and the insular cortex.”

More Maps of the American Nations – from jayman.

Privilege and Morality“Our species isn’t good at nuance. The ‘privilege’ debate will and must take place in a morally charged context. It is not possible to sanitize the discussion by scrubbing it free of moral emotions. That is one of the many reasons why it is so important to understand what morality is and why it exists. It does not exist as a transcendental entity that happened to pop into existence with the big bang, nor does it exist because the Big Man upstairs wants it that way. It exists because it evolved.” – from helian.

Economic Growth & Human Biodiversity“Economic growth in lower-IQ countries does not invalidate either the reality of IQ differences between countries or the persistence of those disparities.” – from pseudoerasmus.

Good Fences: The Importance of Setting Boundaries for Peaceful Coexistence“Switzerland is recognized as a country of peace, stability and prosperity. This is surprising because of its linguistic and religious diversity that in other parts of the world lead to conflict and violence. Here we analyze how peaceful stability is maintained. Our analysis shows that peace does not depend on integrated coexistence, but rather on well defined topographical and political boundaries separating groups, allowing for partial autonomy within a single country. In Switzerland, mountains and lakes are an important part of the boundaries between sharply defined linguistic areas. Political canton and circle (sub-canton) boundaries often separate religious groups. Where such boundaries do not appear to be sufficient, we find that specific aspects of the population distribution guarantee either sufficient separation or sufficient mixing to inhibit intergroup violence according to the quantitative theory of conflict. In exactly one region, a porous mountain range does not adequately separate linguistic groups and that region has experienced significant violent conflict, leading to the recent creation of the canton of Jura.”

Was Territoriality Important in the Pleistocene? A Commentary on Johnson and Toft – @peter turchin’s.

Southern Europe is suspicious: the evolution of trust in the EU – ess and wvs results.

Trust and In-Group Favoritism in a Culture of Crime [pdf] – h/t ben southwood! who tweeted: “Areas in Palermo with high Mafia involvement have lower generalised trust but higher in-group favouritism.”

In dogs’ play, researchers see honesty and deceit, perhaps something like morality – woof!

What is Phonemic Diversity? — And Does It Prove the Out-of-Africa Theory? – h/t james winters!

How a Protestant spin machine hid the truth about the English Reformation“It seems that in 1533, the year of Henry’s break from Rome, traditional Catholicism was the religion of the vast majority of the country. And in most places it was absolutely thriving. It had developed a particularly English flavour, with a focus on the involvement of ordinary people in parish churches, village greens, plays, and pageants – much of which seemed to involve a good deal of community parties, dancing, and drinking. It is true that English religion in the early 1500s was not especially studious or erudite. The people did not spend hours a day in biblical studies, contemplation, and moralising in the manner of the more intense European reformers. But England had a nationally cohesive spirituality that was alive and exuberant, with a distinctly community feel…. The conclusion of this modern grassroots scholarship is that bulldozing the Catholic Church off the face of medieval England was not a ‘bottom up’ revolution in which Henry merely acquiesced to his people’s wishes by throwing off a widely hated foreign domination. To the contrary, it looks increasingly like Henry and his circle imposed the Reformation ‘top down’, unleashing 100 years of deep anger and alienation that was only overcome by sustained politicking and ruthless force.” – h/t william briggs!

bonus: “No Oxygen? No Problem!” Says Squid That Can Shut Down Its Metabolism – h/t kyle hill!

bonus bonus: A Theory on How Flightless Birds Spread Across the World: They Flew There

bonus bonus bonus: Chicken project gets off the ground“Effort aims to unravel the history of bird’s domestication.” – cluck!

(note: comments do not require an email. humble humboldt squid!)


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