Archives for posts with tag: ancient athens

here’s a top ten-ish selection of my posts from this year, selected by me (this blog is not a democracy! (~_^) ). they weren’t necessarily the most read or most commented upon posts, but just the ones that i like the best and/or think are the most important, and that i’d like people to read. ymmv!

‘fraid it was rather slim pickings this year due my general state of unwelledness. am feeling better! and i hope to get back to a more regular blogging schedule next year (see the best laid plans below). i won’t be doing any blogging for the rest of this year — prolly won’t get back to it until after the holidays are over and the eggnog’s all gone. (~_^) you might find me goofin’ off on twitter, though. if you’re not on twitter, you can follow my feed down there (↓) near the bottom of the page in the center column.

many thanks to all of you out there for reading the blog, and for all of your informative and insightful comments! thank you, too, for all of your support and the well wishes while i’ve been ill. they were MUCH appreciated! (^_^) (btw, if you’ve emailed me in the past couple of months, and i haven’t gotten back to you, i am very sorry! am terribly behind on emails, but i’m trying to work through them! behind on replying to comments, too, for that matter. sorry again!)

so, here you go! my top ten list for 2015:

family types and the selection for nepotistic altruism“the logic of the mating patterns/inbreeding-outbreeding theory goes that, given the right set of circumstances (i.e. certain sorts of social environments), selection for nepotistic altruism/clannishness ought to go quicker or be amplified by inbreeding (close cousin marriage or uncle-niece marriage) simply because there will be more copies of any nepotistic altruism genes (alleles) that happen to arise floating around in kin groups. in other words, inbreeding should facilitate the selection for clannishness…if clannish behaviors are being selected for in a population…. northwestern “core” europe has had very low cousin marriage rates since around the 800s-1000s, but it has also, thanks to manorialism, had nuclear families of one form or another (absolute or stem) since the early medieval period — nuclear families are recorded in some of the earliest manor property records in the first part of the ninth century from northeastern france [see mitterauer, pg. 59]. on the other hand, eastern europeans, like the russians and greeks, while they also seem to have avoided very close cousin marriage for several hundreds of years (which is not as long as northwestern europeans, but is quite a while), have tended to live in extended family groupings. you would think that nepotistic altruism could be selected for, or maintained more readily, in populations where extended family members lived together and interacted with one another on a more regular basis than in societies of nuclear family members where individuals interact more with non-kin.

what did the romans ever do for us?“so the romans avoided close cousin marriage, established a republic based on democratic principles, had a legal system founded upon universalistic principles, expanded their polity into a vast and one of the world’s most impressive empires (iow, invaded the world), eventually extended roman citizenship to non-romans and allowed barbarians to come live inside the empire (iow, invited the world), and, then, well…oops! *ahem* … anyway, there is a direct link between ancient rome’s and medieval/modern northern europe’s cousin marriage avoidance. that link is quite obviously the catholic church which adopted all sorts of roman institutional structures and practices; but more specifically i’m referring to several of the church fathers….” – see also: st. augustine on outbreeding.

there and back again: shame and guilt in ancient greece“there was a(n incomplete) shift in the society during the time period from being a shame culture to being a guilt culture…. the transition may have been incomplete — in fact, may have even gone into reverse — because inbreeding (cousin marriage) became increasingly common in classical athens…. the ancient greeks might’ve gone from being a (presumably) inbred/shame culture in the dark ages, to an outbred/quasi-guilt culture in the archaic period, and back to an inbred/shame culture over the course of the classical period. maybe. Further Research is RequiredTM…. in any case, evolution is not progressive. (heh! i’ve just been dying to say that. (~_^) ) there’s nothing to say that evolution cannot go in reverse, although perhaps it wouldn’t go back down the exact same pathway it came up. there’s no reason why we — or, rather, our descendants — couldn’t wind up, as greg cochran says, back in the trees*.”

outbreeding and individualism“northern europeans began to think of — or at least write about — themselves as individuals beginning in the eleventh century a.d…. the individualistic guilt-culture of northwest (‘core’) europeans today came into existence thanks to their extensive outbreeding during the medieval period (…and the manorialism). the outbreeding started in earnest in the 800s (at least in northern france) and, as we saw above, by 1050-1100 thoughts on *individualis* began to stir.”

carts before horses“the usual explanation offered up for why the societies in places like iraq or syria are based upon the extended family is that these places lack a strong state, and so the people ‘fall back’ on their families. this is *not* what happened in core europe — at least not in england. the importance of the extended family began to fall away *before* the appearance of a strong, centralized state (in the 900s). in any case, the argument is nonsensical. the chinese have had strong, centralized states for millennia, and yet the extended family remains of paramount importance in that society. even in the description of siedentorp’s Inventing the Individual we read: ‘Inventing the Individual tells how a new, equal social role, the individual, arose and gradually displaced the claims of family, tribe, and caste as the basis of social organization.’ no! this is more upside-down-and-backwardness. it’s putting the cart before the horse. individualism didn’t arise and displace the extended family — the extended family receded (beginning in the 900s) and *then* the importance of the individual came to the fore (ca. 1050)…. a lot of major changes happened in core european societies much earlier than most people suppose and in the opposite order (or for the opposite reason) that many presume.”

community vs. communism“‘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….’ 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…. 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…. 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).”

eastern germany, medieval manorialism, and (yes) the hajnal line“most of east germany (the gdr) lies outside of the region formerly known as austrasia, as does large parts of both today’s northern and southern germany. southeast germany was incorporated into the frankish kingdom quite early (in the early 500s — swabia on the map below), but both northern germany and southwestern germany much later — not until the late 700s (saxony and bavaria on map). *eastern* germany, as we will see below, even later than that. the later the incorporation into the frankish empire, the later the introduction of both manorialism and outbreeding. and, keeping in mind recent, rapid, and local human evolution, that should mean that these more peripheral populations experienced whatever selective pressures manorialism and outbreeding exerted for *shorter* periods of time than the ‘core’ core europeans back in austrasia…. when east germany was eventually settled by germanic peoples in the high middle ages, it was comparatively late (six or seven hundred years after the germans in the west began living under the manor system); the manor system in the region was *not* of the bipartite form, but rather the more abstract rental form; and the migrants consisted primarily of individuals from a population only recently manorialized or never manorialized. in other words, the medieval ancestors of today’s east germans experienced quite different selection pressures than west germans. so, too, did northern germans on the whole compared to southern germans. these differences could go a long way in explaining the north-south and east-west divides within germany that jayman and others have pointed out.”

human self-domestication events – just ignore what i said about humans and “the domestication syndrome” – pay attention to this, tho: “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…. 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.”

there’s more to human biodiversity than just racial differences“much of the variation between human populations is NOT found at the level of races, nor does it have anything to do with race.” – see also hbd chick’s three laws of human biodiversity.

know thyself – me exhorting ya’ll to do just that. see also me, myself, and i. and see also don’t take it personally.

– bonus: historic mating patterns of ashkenazi jews“i think — going by some things that i’ve read — that the historic mating patterns of ashkenazi jews (i.e. whether or not they married close cousins and/or practiced uncle-niece marriage) were quite different between western vs. eastern ashkenazis…. it seems to me that jews — wherever they have lived (outside of judea/israel, i mean) — have generally copied the broader population’s mating patterns. in medieval western europe, they avoided close cousin marriage and, according to mitterauer, were very worried about incest in the same way that the rest of western europe was at the time. in eastern europe, though, they appear to have married their cousins with greater frequency, probably down through the centuries not unlike the rest of eastern europeans…. as i mentioned in my self-quote at the start of this post, though, european jews did *not* experience whatever selection pressures were connected to the bipartite manorialism of medieval europe.” – see also ashkenazi jews, mediterranean mtdna, mating patterns, and clannishness.

– bonus bonus: my politics – if you’re at all interested. (they’re really dull, actually.)

– and my favorite post from this year by another blogger was jayman’s The Rise of Universalism! (^_^) you should read it. i also meant to mention my favorite post by another blogger in last year’s top ten list, but i forgot, so here it is now: staffan’s The Myth of the Expanding Circle or You Can’t Learn How to Be an English Vegetarian. read that one, too, if you haven’t!

best laid plans for 2016:

– will start off the year with more thoughts on family types and the selection for nepotistic altruism/clannishness.

– i swear to whoever it is we agnostics swear to that i WILL do that series on manorialism in medieval europe!

– i’d like to take a closer look at the reduction of violence/homicides over the course of the middle ages. i think there’s more to it than just the removal of violent individuals from the gene pool (although it is that, too, imo).

– will explore more the rise of individualism, universalism, guilt, etc., in northwest european populations.

– and i may even finish that post discussing the fact that many of the jihadis in europe (france, belgium, spain) appear to be berbers.

– last year i had hoped to respond to prof. macdonald’s post in which he responded to some things i’ve had to say about jews (especially ashkenazi jews). not sure i’ll get to it this year, either. depends on if i’m up to it or not. i think i’ll need to read/reread his books before i respond, and i just may not get around to that this year. we’ll see. same for salter’s On Genetic Interests.

previously: top ten list 2014 and best laid plans 2015

jayman’s got a cool new post up on clannishness and western inventiveness! here are a few thoughts from me…

jayman said re. the abstract thinking type of westerners vs. the holistic thinking type of easterners (a la nisbett) [my emphasis]:

“[A]nother key difference between Western vs. Eastern (i.e., WEIRDO vs. clannish) thought: the former see things (and themselves) as atomized individuals, while the latter view objects in the world as part of an interconnected whole. This is a defining aspect on the clannishness dimension: low-clannishness peoples (WEIRDOs) see themselves as atomized individuals, who form associations voluntarily and not necessarily based on kinship. High-clannishness peoples see themselves as inherently part of the group (e.g., family, clan, tribe, village/town, etc.)….

“How did this penchant for abstraction come about among NW Europeans? I suspect that part of it has to do with the rise of high-trust and social atomization (i.e., individualism) in NW European societies. As clannishness disappeared, and as people were no longer bound to their families or clans (and indeed, we were free to interact with non-relative in cooperative ventures), people became more free to engage in intellectually stimulating thought. Mental space previously devoted understand one’s place in society and keep ahead of schemers now could be used on more abstract pursuits.

while it’s an interesting idea, i don’t think that freed up mental capacity once dedicated to clannish traits was co-opted in the brains of westerners (nw europeans) in their post-clannishness state and then devoted greater abstract thought. maybe. but i suspect the connection is (somehow) much more direct: i think (theorize, speculate, etc.) that in simply becoming more independent individuals — i.e. less genetically like others around them thanks to outbreeding — that the mindset simply shifted. atomized individuals, atomized (and, therefore, abstract) thinking. please don’t get your panties all in a bunch. yes, this is complete and wild speculation on my part. i can’t even guess what the mechanism might have been, so don’t sue me if i’m wrong. (nw europeans, btw, began to think of themselves as individuals in the middle of the eleventh century a.d.)

another much more informed guess: that nw europeans’ exceptional ability for inventiveness especially in science (which cannot be divorced from their high average iqs — as jayman pointed out, africans are pretty inventive, but without enough iq points, no one there’s going to the moon) has a LOT to do with the selection pressures that happened thanks to the manor system which was found in nw europe during the middle ages, specifically bipartite manorialism.

to back up for a sec: inventiveness/creativity/scientific reasoning in east asians, or the relative lack of it. jayman suggests that their tendency for holistic — and, therefore, not abstract — thinking hobbles east asians when it comes to inventiveness, etc. that, i think, makes a lot of sense. i do think, though, that the cochran-harpending idea of conformity in east asia (“nails hammered down”/low levels of adhd) also makes a lot of sense. the two ideas go well together, imho. wrt the “nails hammered down” hypothesis, my bet is that that selection process goes waaaay back. complex chinese civilization (that centered around the yellow river valley) is three or four thousands of years old. i think they’ve been hammering down the contrarians/independent thinkers there for a very long time. greg cochran has mentioned that the high-altitude adaptation of tibetans works better than those of other groups adapted to living in the clouds because the tibetan adaptations have been under selection for longer (even some acquired from the denisovans and/or other archaic humans?). i suspect that this is why conformism/lack of independent thinking is so strong in east asia: it’s been under selection there for a very long time. northwest europe’s civilization is obviously much, much younger.

now, to return to northwest “core” europeans: i strongly suspect their inventiveness/abstract thinking style/scientific thinking (and other behavioral traits, for that matter) were selected for thanks to the the following medieval trifecta:

– outbreeding (i.e. the abandonment of close cousin marriage) which meant that the selection for nepostic altruism was curbed since family members would no longer share so many “genes for altruism” in common (see: renaissances), PLUS individuals became “atomized” (therefore more abstract thinking arose, etc.);
– change in family types from extended to nuclear, which again would limit the selection for nepotistic altruism since individuals would interact more with non-kin than family;
bipartite manorialism, which began in frankish territories in northeastern france/belgium and spread across nw and central europe in areas that are pretty much coterminous (prolly not coincidentally) with the hajnal line.

oh. and the ostsiedlung.

bipartite manorialism, in which tenant farmers would work for (later pay rent to) the head of a manor but also farm for themselves, operated as a sort-of franchise system in which the tenants on their individual farms had to make it or break it independently (i.e. without support from an extended family/clan, the dumber members of which would no longer be a drag on our independent farmers). there was, no doubt, cooperation between the tenant farmers which, once the outbreeding reduced the selection for nepotistic altruism, could’ve resulted in the selection for a more general, reciprocal altruism. but bipartite manorialism, i think, would’ve also selected for other traits like a propensity to be hard working, delayed gratification, and inventiveness: those individuals who came up with new ideas for improving their farming (or related) techniques could’ve bettered their place on the manor and been more successful reproductively.

chonologically, bipartite manorialism came first, arising out of the abandoned latifundia system in what had been roman gaul perhaps as early as the 500s. there also appears to have been pressure from very early on on these manors for nuclear families, so the reduction in family size may very well have come next. finally, the avoidance of cousin marriage came into full swing in the frankish territories in the 800s.

the final stage — at least as far as the medieval period goes — in the selection for “core” europeans was the ostsiedling: this was The Big Self-Sorting to the east of individuals who were already well underway to being outbred/manorialized in western germanic regions — in other words, they were well underway to being westernized as we know it. i don’t think it can be a coincidence that the heart of human accomplishment in western europe (which is also pretty much the heart of human accomplishment) is found in the manorialized regions of europe and very much where the ostsiedlung happened (see also here). my bet is that it was very much hard-working, innovative (especially, at the time, in agricultural/engineering techniques), high-achievers who went forth into the east during the medieval period. and they prospered and multiplied once they were there.

so that’s the picture as i see it so far. i reserve the right to change my mind/be utterly and completely wrong. (~_^)

oh. wrt to thinking like a westerner (abstract/atomized) vs. thinking like an easterner (holistic/group), i still suspect that peripheral europeans (like me!) might think more like easterners (i.e. holistically) than northwest “core” europeans. dunno for sure, and i didn’t have enough data to confirm or refute this little idea, but i’m still hanging on to it for now. really wish an actual scientist would check it out.

jayman also said [his emphases]:

“The reality is that evolution proceeds much quicker than you think. Just as HBD’ers generally understand that human evolution didn’t stop 50,000 years ago, it also did not stop 10,000 years ago, or even 1,000 years ago, or even 500 or 200 years ago. Evolution continues right up to the present day. The reason I bring this up is because I keep hearing about how X group was doing this 2,000 years ago or about how Y group was doing this 1,000 years ago, so how could they be so different now? The reason is that they have changed since that time.

hear, hear! and…duh! human evolution is recent, both global and local, ongoing, and can be pretty rapid. not in one generation, obviously, but twenty or forty is plenty of time. also, gene frequencies in populations move upwards or downwards over time — they do not (have to) remain stagnant. i quoted stephen stearns recently (here):

“Well I think what is very probably going on is that selection is moving a population up and down all the time. It goes off in a certain direction for a while, and then it goes back in the other direction. It’s only if you get a significant change in the environment that it will then continuously go in a new direction.”

and average differences in gene frequencies in populations is all you need for average differences in behavioral traits, etc. for example, i think the ancient greeks might’ve moved from a shame to a part-guilt and back to a shame culture again thanks (at least in part) to changes in mating patterns over the course of several hundreds of years. evolution does not have to be unidirectional.

anatoly karlin said:

“Ancient Greeks did a lot of abstract thinking, and produced the greatest cultural/scientific peak until the Renaissance (according to the same Charles Murray’s figures). During the Middle Ages, in pure scientific terms, the Islamic world was most advanced. The Renaissance began in northern Italy. Only in the 17th century did the bulk of scientific discoveries move to NW Europe.”

as i mentioned above, it looks like the ancient greeks (the athenians) went from inbred to outbred and back to inbred again. mind you, i only have some pretty slim historic/literary evidence for that, so you should take my claim with a large grain of salt, but i’ll keep working on the Greek Question. the romans, who were also pretty sharp, at least when it came to engineering, were very clearly outbred (they bequeathed their outbreeding practices to us). the renaissance did begin in northern italy, and that doesn’t come as a big surprise to me ’cause northern italy was the most heavily manorialized part of italy (i’ll tell you more about this in my long overdue series on manorialism). northern italians were also prboably quite outbred during the medieval period, although further research is required on that front, too. the scientific revolution, however — especially the development of the scientific method — was very much a north european baby, though. from what i understand of science in the medieval islamic world, most of that was down to the persians. can’t tell you anything about medieval persian society, unfortunately, ’cause i don’t know anything about it.

that’s it. outta energy. more soon!

(note: comments do not require an email. De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.)

Why We Fight (Over Land)“In the most recent issue of the journal International Security, Monica Duffy-Toft and Dominic Johnson, political scientists at Oxford, argue that a new theoretical framework is needed to analyze such behavior, one rooted in evolutionary biology…. As Duffy-Toft told me an interview today, ‘It comes back to survival and reproduction. There’s an instinct that we need land in order to exist. We need to have the capacity to get resources to live our lives….’ Duffy-Toft acknowledges that the thesis is controversial. While their piece is currently the lead article in International Security, one of the more prestigious journals in the field, it took almost 10 years to get it published. ‘We’re pushing up against real biases in our field,’ she says. ‘Scholars don’t want to admit that our behavior can be constrained by the fact that we’re animals.’ – *sigh* – original research article here [pdf].

Oldest modern human genome from Siberia ~45 thousand years ago“The femur belonged to an H. sapiens man who had slightly more Neandertal DNA, distributed in different parts of his genome, than do living Europeans and Asians.” – @dienekes’.

Human evolution: The Neanderthal in the family“Thirty years after the study of ancient DNA began, it promises to upend our view of the past.”

The phylogenetic and geographic structure of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a – h/t razib!

Discoveries Challenge Beliefs on Humans’ Arrival in the Americas“[T]he ancient rock art depicts fierce battles among tribesmen….” – h/t steven pinker! who tweeted: “refutes frequent claim of no war before agriculture.”

Cochran-Harpending paper on “Amish Quotient”“‘[T]heir social pattern probably drives strong selection for a particular flavor of personality, which is downright fascinating and worthy of further investigation. One could, with difficulty and a lot of investment, identify dimensions of a hypothetical AQ. It would likely include affinity for work, perseverance, low status competition, respect for authority, conscientiousness, community orientation, and so on. We proposed (Cochran, Hardy, & Harpending, 2006) a similar mechanism to account for Ashkenazi Jewish evolution in Medieval times selecting for ability and success in white collar occupations.'” – from steve sailer. previously @west hunter: Inferring an AQ.

The Son Becomes The Father“The failure of parents to appreciably affect the outcomes of their children affirms Gregory Clark’s findings, and indicates that much of the transmission of status from one generation to the next is ultimately genetic in origin…. Almost certainly, throughout history, and across the diverse societies, that has been a huge amount of ‘noise’ in the transmission of status, especially on the individual level and in the short run. The vagaries of the circumstances no doubt imbued good fortune on some and dashed the success of many others. But through it all, the thing that is at the root of continuity – DNA – remained the active ingredient to propagate lineages in their respective places through out the ages.” – from jayman.

First comprehensive atlas of human gene activity released – h/t mike anissimov!

Sperm competition and Heteropaternal Superfecundation – from greg cochran.

The Holocene Lattice“First, it is now clear that long-range migration, admixture and population replacement have been the rule rather than the exception in human history. Second, the serial founder effect model is no longer a reasonable null hypothesis for modeling the ancient spread of anatomically modern humans around the globe.” – from razib. (emphases in original.)

Percentage of DNA shared amongst the various archaics (including our sapiens sapiens lineage), from a review in Cell – from billare.

Neural portraits of perception: Reconstructing face images from evoked brain activity – whoa. h/t mo costandi!

We Are All Mutants“On the hunt for disease genes, researchers uncover humanity’s 
vast diversity.”

Puerto Rico and IQ: Same as it ever was – from steve sailer.

About That Gene-Environment Interaction Study by Turkheimer et al.“The upshot is that while environmental deprivation may render genetic differences less important in the determination of children’s IQ, the typical black child in this large and downscale sample had apparently not been raised in deprived circumstances any more frequently than the typical white child in the sample. The lower IQs of blacks in this sample cannot therefore be put down to them having been exposed to environments less conducive to the expression of genetic variance in IQ than the environments experienced by whites.” – @human varieties.

People can predict the IQ of men — but not women — by looking at their face, study finds – see also dr. james thompson: The mind’s construction in a face.

Dopamine D4 receptor gene variation influences self-reported altruism“[T]he DRD4 7-repeat allele is associated with lower scores on the NEO-PI-R Altruism facet scale, accounting for about 2% of the variance. As the DRD4 7-repeat allele has been associated with higher scores in impulsive personality traits and ADHD, our result suggests that individual differences in impulsive behavioral tendencies may play a role in the propensity to behave altruistically.” – h/t tom farsides!

How Social Darwinism Made Modern China“A thousand years of meritocracy shaped the Middle Kingdom.” – from ron unz. h/t eduardo zugasti!

Kinder, gentler speech“In sum, when the State imposed a monopoly on the use of violence, it set in motion a process of gene-culture co-evolution with many consequences. Among other things, this process may have favored not only learned ways of speaking but also unlearned ways as well.” – from peter frost.

Crows Understand a Fundamental Part of Logical Reasoning“Crows are far more rational than we had realized. New research shows that wild New Caledonian crows can compete with 7-year-old children when it comes to understanding causality, or how one action causes another.” see also: Crows understand water displacement at the level of a small child: Show causal understanding of a 5- to 7-year-old child.

Do animals have a sense of humour? – koko the gorilla “once tied her trainer’s shoelaces together and signed ‘chase’.” (^_^) (^_^) (^_^) – h/t steve stewart williams!

On “Male” vs. “Female” Brains – twitter convo on sexual dimorphism in human neuro-whatsits. kevin mitchell ftw!

“Natural Law” and Other Rationalizations of Morality“People worry about a ‘grounding’ for morality. There’s really no need to. As Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce pointed out in Wild Justice – The Moral Lives of Animals, there are analogs of moral behavior in many species besides our own…. Other animals don’t wonder why one thing is good and another evil. They’re not intelligent enough to worry about it. Hominids are Mother Nature’s first experiment with creatures that are smart enough to worry about it. The result of this cobbling of big brains onto the already existing mental equipment responsible for moral emotions and perceptions hasn’t been entirely happy. In fact, it has caused endless confusion through the ages.” – from helian.

Inclusive fitness theory for the evolution of religion“We describe and evaluate an integrative hypothesis for the origin and evolution of human religious cognition and behaviour, based on maximization of inclusive fitness. By this hypothesis, the concept of God is represented by one’s circle of kin and social salience, such that serving God and serving this circle become synonymous. The theory is supported by data from anthropology, evolutionary theory, psychology, neuroscience, psychiatry, endocrinology and genetics.” – h/t claire lehmann!

Are liars ethical? On the tension between benevolence and honesty“[I]ndividuals who tell prosocial lies are perceived to be *more* moral than individuals who tell the truth.” – h/t zhana vrangalova!

Speculations on the Evolution of Awareness“The ‘attention schema’ theory provides one possible account of the biological basis of consciousness, tracing the evolution of awareness through steps from the advent of selective signal enhancement about half a billion years ago to the top-down control of attention, to an internal model of attention (which allows a brain, for the first time, to attribute to itself that it has a mind that is aware of something), to the ability to attribute awareness to other beings, and from there to the human attribution of a rich spirit world surrounding us. Humans have been known to attribute awareness to plants, rocks, rivers, empty space, and the universe as a whole. Deities, ghosts, souls-the spirit world swirling around us is arguably the exuberant attribution of awareness.” – h/t neuroskeptic!

Mugshots Built from DNA Data“A computer program crudely predicts facial structure from genetic variations.”

The Oldest Living Things On Earth“Starting in the 1960s, evolutionary biologists have searched for an overarching explanation to account for all the different ways to grow old. The best-supported ones so far are variants on the old truth that a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none. An organism can collect a finite amount of energy, whether it’s a lion killing gazelles, a tulip capturing sunlight, or a microbe breathing iron at the bottom of the sea. It can use that energy to grow, to produce offspring, to defend itself against pathogens, to repair damaged its damaged molecules. But it has a limited budget. The energy spent on one task is energy that can’t be spent on others. Molecular repair and pathogen defense are both good ways to live longer. But a long-lived organism that produces few offspring will not pass on many copies of its genes to future generations. The organisms that will succeed are the ones that do a mediocre job of keeping their bodies in order, leaving more energy for making babies.” – h/t billare!

Mutation, Not Natural Selection, Drives Evolution – according to masatoshi nei: “Every part of our body is controlled by molecules, so you have to explain on a molecular level. That is the real mechanism of evolution, how molecules change. They change through mutation. Mutation means a change in DNA through, for example, substitution or insertion [of nucleotides]. First you have to have change, and then natural selection may operate or may not operate. I say mutation is the most important, driving force of evolution. Natural selection occurs sometimes, of course, because some types of variations are better than others, but mutation created the different types. Natural selection is secondary.”

End the Hype over Epigenetics & Lamarckian Evolution“They insist that characteristics many researchers assume to be the result of epigenetic inheritance are actually caused by something else. The authors list four possibilities: Undetected mutations in the letters of the DNA sequence, behavioral changes (which themselves can trigger epigenetic tags), alterations in the microbiome, or transmission of metabolites from one generation to the next. The authors claim that most epigenetic research, particularly when it involves human health, fails to eliminate these possibilities.” – h/t jayman!

New warning about ‘Celtic Curse’ blood iron disease“Hemochromatosis is a hereditary disease, linked particularly to Irish and those of Irish origin. It causes your body to absorb too much iron from the food you consume. The excess iron becomes stored in your organs, especially your liver, heart and pancreas. It can lead to life-threatening conditions such as cancer, heart problems and liver disease. Those with Irish heritage have a significantly greater chance of carrying the gene mutation that can contribute to the deadly disorder. Some experts believe that hemochromatosis originated more than 40,000 years ago in Ireland when genes mutated allowing the population to over-absorb iron, to compensate for a poor iron diet.” – h/t 23andMe!

The state is the worst wicked stepmother of all“[T]he number of children raised without one of their parents has increased sharply in recent years, partly due to changing sexual mores but also the involvement of the state itself; the largest increase in non-marital births came after the 1977 Homeless Persons Act gave lone mothers priority on housing lists. The Tory MP behind this proposal wrote, ‘The sad truth is that, until now, the Wicked Stepmother would have got away scot-free.’ Possibly, but there would not have been so many wicked stepmothers, or stepfathers, or mother’s current boyfriends, without the state in the first place.” – from ed west.

Pseudoescepticismo y biodiversidad humana“Desde hace años, sin embargo, existe una tendencia ideológica inflacionaria en el movimiento escéptico que tiende a alejarse del ‘núcleo’ original, cuyos contornos de todos modos son imprecisos (¿es la parapsicología una ciencia?). El inconveniente es que este alejamiento del núcleo, yo lo llamaría ‘escepticismo inflacionario’ o simplemente pseudoescepticismo, desdibuja los criterios de demarcación y hace que los nuevos temas sean más y más propensos a la contaminación moral e ideológica…. Un caso bastante claro es la campaña ‘escéptica’ de descrédito contra la psicología evolucionista, que sólo ha convencido a un pequeño grupo. ¿Pudiera ser que el empeño de grupos ‘escépticos’ de asimilar el movimiento de biodiversidad humana con el ‘racismo científico’ y con la ‘pseudociencia’ (la falacia moralista siempre merodeando) corriera una suerte parecida?” – @la revolución naturalista.

Response to ‘Fists of furry: at what point did human fists part company with the rest of the hominid lineage?’“A Swedish study on interpersonal violence reported 63 facial fractures and 57 concussions inflicted by fists, but only eight fractures of the metacarpal or phalangeal bones (Boström, 1997). Thus, human fists are effective weapons and, when humans fight, faces break more frequently than fists.” – h/t john hawks!

Sexually Transmitted Virus Sterilises Insects, Turns Them On“[O]ne particular insect virus can sterilise crickets, but also change their behaviour so they continue to mate with each other. By doing so, they pass the virus on to uninfected hosts.”

Ancient African cattle first domesticated in Middle East, study reveals“The genetic history of 134 cattle breeds from around the world has been completed by a group of researchers. In the process of completing this history, they found that ancient domesticated African cattle originated in the ‘Fertile Crescent,’ a region that covered modern day Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Israel.” – h/t anthropology tip!

Autism characteristics differ by gender, studies find – h/t hbd bibliography! also: Autism begins in pregnancy, according to study: Cortical layers disrupted during brain development in autism – h/t mr. robert ford!

Men ‘size-up’ male competition by watching dance moves” The results revealed that handgrip strength and arm movements of the dancers were predictors of dance quality ratings. Both men and women rated stronger males with larger, more variable and faster arm movements as better dancers. However, men picked up clues of upper-body strength from male dancing more accurately than women.” – previously: “you should be dancin’ yeah!”

A Study of Twins, Separated by Orbit“While circling the earth aboard the International Space Station for a full year — the longest single space adventure for any American astronaut — and after his return, scientists will closely monitor Commander Kelly to see what changes space has wrought. NASA has been studying the effects of long stays in space on astronauts for years, but this set of 10 investigations will be different: The scientists will be doing the same poking, prodding and analyzing on Commander Kelly’s identical twin brother, Mark, a retired astronaut.”

A simple but elegant method to detect election fraud and irregularities. – from randy olson.

bonus: Game of Thrones tells the story of Britain better than most histories“The popular TV drama gives a vivid idea of how people might have behaved in the Middle Ages – which is brutally” – from ed west. and coming out on thursday!: Ebook on the history behind ‘Game of Thrones’ – by ed west. what does he mean, “there aren’t really dragons”??!?

bonus bonus: L.L. Cavalli-Sforza. A bird in a gilded cage. – new ebook from peter frost!

bonus bonus bonus: Advice for a Happy Life“Consider marrying young. Be wary of grand passions. Watch ‘Groundhog Day’ (again).” – from charles murray.

bonus bonus bonus bonus: The War Nerd: Who exactly are the Jihadis (and why aren’t there more of them)?“There’s one simple generalization you can make from these stats: Jihadis from Muslim-majority countries are generally higher-status than those from countries where Muslims are a minority.” – h/t michael “the sailor” story!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Neurosurgeons successfully implant 3D printed skull – whoa.

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Woolly Mammoths Suffered Major Birth Defects Before Extinction“According to the researchers, this influx of birth defects could have come about in two different ways. The genetic mutations could have arisen from inbreeding depression. As mammoths were reduced in number, genetic diversity would have plummeted and the number of mutations would have risen sharply. The other explanation offered states that expecting mothers would have been under considerable stress as the population dwindled. This prenatal stress could have had negative consequences for fetal development.” – h/t avi tuschman!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: A Day in the Life of an Ancient Athenian Citizen – from blowhard, esq. h/t ray sawhill! (for some reason, i always crave a cocktail after visiting uncouth reflections…. (^_^) *hic*)

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Greatest Invention in Human History Helps You Avoid Certain People“The era of antisocial networking has begun with the development of apps such as Cloak, which identifies locations of your contacts so you don’t have to see them.” – FIIIInally!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Absurd Creature of the Week: The 6-Foot Earthworm That Sounds Like a Draining Bathtub – h/t charles (aka the doctor! (^_^) )!

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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).”

“self-sacrificial daring” is probably the equivalent of greying wanderer’s “aggression”, chris’ “drive”, staffan’s “persistence under negative reinforcement”, and/or my “contrarianism” or independent-mindedness.

the connection between these two renaissances might, indeed, be the reintroduction of some good altruism genes, but i think that maybe what these two “rebirths” have in common — what led to them occur at all — are the ca. 400-800 years of outbreeding which happened right before they began. in medieval europe we have the catholic church banning close cousin marriage around the year 500, and many secular authorities banned close cousin marriage at various points after that. and in archaic greece — the period just before classical greece/athens — we apparently have at least ca. 400 years of outbreeding — amongst the upper-classes most probably — and possibly amongst the lower classes, too (hesiod in his Works and Days recommends that a man — an ordinary man, a farmer — marry a nice girl from the neighborhood — from the kome or village — so, if archaic greeks actually did this, their mating patterns would’ve been quite endogamic, but not necessarily to close cousins — maybe third or fourth cousins or something — see A Companion to Archaic Greece).

i think you need some loosening of the genetic ties in populations — enough to get rid of a lot or most of the “clannishness” — so that you can have a “wikification” of those societies, i.e. societies where individuals are really willing to openly share their ideas with other like-minded people (see, for example, harold’s comment on the scientific revolution in england). but outbreed too much, and you might lose that “self-sacrificial daring” — because as hamilton said:

“…the benefits to fitness, such as they are, go to a mass of individuals whose genetic correlation with the innovator must be slight indeed.”

share your innovative ideas — your scientific inventions — with the entire world, and you might wind up benefitting all of those people more than your own descendents (if you’ve got any).

already at the start of the classical period in greece/athens, the mating patterns began to narrow [pg. 67]…

“[W]ith the emergence of the *polis*, exogamy began to give way in some places to endogamy — to marriage within the community. For the upper classes, this meant marriage within a tight circle of aristocratic families living in the same *polis*.”

…so it’s maybe no surprise that the athenians battled throughout the classical period against various aspects of clannishness (cleisthenes’ reforms are one huge example of this struggle) and that their renaissance didn’t last more than a couple hundred years. europeans, on the other hand — especially northern europeans — have continued to outbreed for something like over ca. 1000-1400 years — which, perhaps, is leading to another sort of problem for society — that it’s simplying fraying away at the seams because the weave is not tight enough.

maybe. dunno. all wild speculation on my part, obviously.

previously: archaic greek mating patterns and kinship terms

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a little bit more from robin fox (links added by moi) [pg. 325-26]:

“What is closed in the Closed Society [as opposed to popper’s open society] is the future, because it is thought either to eternally repeat the present, or to recycle fixed ages, or to change in completely known and fixed ways. The Closed Society seeks to ignore, deny, and arrest, or to predict and hence totally control, social change. The Open Society accepts the unpredictable reality of change and deals with it. (The roots of this idea were there in Henri Bergson’s philosophy, and his ‘open morality’ and ‘closed moratlity’ — but that is another essay: see The Search for Society.)

“This contrast was present from the start in the great conflict between democratic Athens (potentially Open but with a heavy burden of Closed features) and tribal Sparta (completely and utterly Closed): the subject of Popper’s first volume (The Spell of Plato). Athens had passed consciously from a tribal society to a democratic city-state, which in turn morphed into a maritime empire. (Curiously, Popper, while making much of Solon and Pericles, does not mention the reforms of Cleisthenes, which were critical to the change. [yes, they were. – hbd chick] Athens struggled to maintain its democratic system, both against outside opponents and against inside forces. By becoming an empire it threatened its own democracy. [hmmmm – sounds familiar.]

The old order of tribal families, which Cleisthenes had tried to break down, hated democracy and conspired with Sparta, the archtypal closed tribal society, which just as consciously arrested change as Athens had embraced it. Many of the Athenian intellectuals took the pro-Spartan side. Plato, Popper’s nemesis, led the intellectural justification for a Spartan-style society in The Republic and The Laws. Plato’s relatives were active in the council of the Thirty Tyrants, who conspired with Sparta and led a reign of terror in Athens.

didn’t know that about plato.

previously: demokratia (in case you missed that link in the text. (~_^) )

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so, what about mating patterns in greece, then?

the ancient athenians, as we’ve seen, and other ancient greeks, quite frequently married their cousins. (in ancient greece you could even marry your half sister! not your full sister, though.) this was a problem since it resulted in strong extended families or clans that periodically would take over the governing of athens for their own benefit. although these tyrants were not always unpopular, the members of the athenian noble families did operate in such ways as to benefit their own. even cleisthenes, whose very clever reforms made athenian democracy possible, probably came up with the reforms to keep other families out of power.

but 500 b.c. is a long time ago. what’s been happening with mating patterns in greece since then?

i haven’t been able to find out all that much about medieval (byzantine and ottoman) greece, but i do have a few details. the eastern church (the greek orthodox church) banned first- and, possibly, second-cousin marriage in 692. this is a couple hundred years after rome put a ban on first-cousin marriage. by the 500s, the roman church had also banned second-cousin marriage. so, western europe was definitely ahead of greece in the don’t-marry-your-cousin game already by the first half of the first millennium.

the emperor justinian, however, was the first to ban marriage between godparents and godchildren. that was something that came to the western church as well, eventually — but such a ban appeared first in the east [pg. 197]:

“The ban on marriage between those involved in baptismal sponsorship seems first to have been formulated by the Byzantine emperor, Justinian, who ruled from A.D. 527-65, in the context of the prohibition on marriage with a fictive child…. [H]e went on to declare: ‘We prohibit absolutely a marriage between a godfather and god-daughter (a sacrosancto suscepit baptismate), even when he has brought her up (as an alumna or foster child). For nothing demands so much paternal affection and impedes marriage as a tie of this kind, which through the mediation of God binds these two souls together.’

“Prohibitions on marriage to spiritual kin, which emerged first of all in the Byzantine area, of which Italy was a part, were later extended. Godparenthood already existed among the Franks and in the Anglo-Saxon world but without any prohibitions on marriage; these were only imposed upon the West in the eighth century as a result of the growing influence of the papacy.”

so, not only could you not marry your immediate family or many members of your extended family, you couldn’t even marry some other random people who probably lived in your village. enforced outbreeding.

i’m not certain, but i don’t think the eastern church went all crazy with cousin-marriage bans like the western church did (out to sixth cousins at some point!), but i don’t actually know for sure. i imagine that the scenario outlined above (ban on first- and, maybe, second-cousin marriage + godparents-godchildren) probably lasted throughout the byzantine period. again, i’m not certain about that. haven’t seen any sources suggesting otherwise, though.

what happened during the ottoman period is anybody’s guess. lots of greeks converted to islam during the ottoman rule. did they start to practice cousin marriage like other muslims and then later convert back to christianity? no idea. this whole period of time is a blank space in my notepad file for the moment. so, fast-forward to…

…the 1970s! from a study of the good people of methana [pgs. 127-129]:

“On Methana, the limits of the group of people considered to be significant blood kin stretched as far as second cousin: that is, descendants of great-grandparents. Marriage between first cousins was considered incentuous. Between second cousins, it was considered highly undesirable and virtually never occurred. Marriage of third cousins was allowed and was often considered favourably (discussed later).

“The exogamous (out-marrying) group consisting of consanguines (blood kin) extending bilaterally (i.e., through both the mother’s and father’s lines) to second cousin was generally described by Methanites as the soi, a word likely to be of Turkish derivation…. The term soi in Methana usage is best translated as ‘kindred’: a group of kin related to an individual equally via the mother’s and father’s sides. Especially in the past, when large numbers of Methanites stayed on the peninsula and lived by agriculture, the computation of who was inside and outside the bilateral kindred was crucially important for finding marriage partners because there was a preference for marriage partners from one’s own village, or at least from Methana….

“Aschenbrenner identifies an emphasis [regarding the term ‘soi’] on patrilineal kin in a western Peloponnesian community, those with a shared surname forming monolithic surname groups manifesting a community of interest and mutual loyalty. All families within these groups are linked by kinship ties, some as remote as third cousin: significantly, third cousins define the prohibited limits of marriage….

“Already by the later nineteenth century, households in Methana villages tended to be located in clusters of immediate kin. Furthermore, although in past generation Methanites preferred marriage partners from their own village, for reasons outlined later, it was frequently necessary to find brides in other villages….”

pg. 143:

In the 1970s, marriages were mostly arranged, although decisions over prospective spouses were not generally considered to be the prerogative of any one person. A boy and girl choosing each other without parental intervention very rarely happened, and parents considered it likely to lead to complications….

“The primary consideration when families were contemplating a suitable marriage partner for a son or daughter was to ensure that they were outside the soi (kindred). Theoretically, second cousins could marry if they received dispensation from the bishop, but in practice this does not seem to have been an issue. In addition, as noted earlier, a marriage placed whole kinship groups into an important kinship relationship. In recognition of this, more than one marriage between two households was forbidden. Thus, according to Methanites, two brothers from one family could not marry two sisters from another family….”

pg. 147:

“In the old days, especially in the interwar years and before, land was a highly desirable commodity on Methana. Dowries, in particular, were often at least partly composed of highly sought-after agricultural resources, such as plots of vines, small irrigated plots, or olive trees. It made sense, therefore, to contract marriages between families living within the same village, if possible. That way there was more likelihood that dowries of agricultural resources would be readily accessible: dowries in other village territories which required substantial travel were distinctly less desirable. However, because of the realtively small size of most villages — the main study community had forty-three households in the early 1970s — the extension of the prohibition on marriage to the degree of second cousin, and the inclusion of fictive kin [e.g. godparents] within the prohibited sphere (discussed later), there were often few possible choices of marriage partners. Nevertheless, on occasions, families went to considerable lengths to ensure marriage within the village, such as the turning of a blind eye to the marriage of the female first cousin of the woman noted earlier to the male first cousin of her husband. The preference for marriage partners from the same village whenever possible further contributed to the semi-reality that the whole village was indeed related as one great family.

well, it probably was!!

pgs. 147-48:

In situation in which a marriage within the village was impracticable in the past, consideration was given to suitable partners in other Methana villages — the preference was so strong that only two women living in the main study village in the early 1970s were not from the peninsula. For partners in other villages, particular attention was paid to third cousins. Because the parental generation of the potential partners were second cousins, and therefore kin, the families were reasonably well known to each other. In particular, the reputations of the families and the personalities of the two young people and the young woman’s potential mother-in-law [with whom she would have to work with on a daily basis in her new household] would be known, even though they lived in separate villages.”

mating patterns in greece’s (or methana’s) recent past are very interesting! on the one hand, there are regulations not to marry too closely — no first- or second-cousins or even two brothers marrying two sisters. but on the other hand there were economic conditions that led to the common practice of not marrying out too far — third cousins were preferable or someone from the village (prolly fourth or fifth or sixth cousins), or at least someone from a neighboring village.

who knows how far back these traditions stretch? i can imagine them going back a few hundred years at least, but you never know about these things. certainly the first- and second-cousin and godparent bans seem to, perhaps, go right back to the 600s (with maybe some interruption during the ottoman years). i also wonder how similar the rest of greece was to methana in its mating patterns? it doesn’t have to have been just like methana, altho from the references cited in this book, it sounds like the rest of the peloponnese region certainly was. i’m guessing that the patterns throughout the entire region of greece were not all that different.

the degree of inbreeding we’re talking about here — third or fourth or fifth cousins — would lead, i think, to some level of clannishness or extended-family-ness. not full-blown tribalism like we see in arab countries; but greece certainly isn’t like northwest europe in its mating patterns, either.

and the fruits of this type and degree of inbreeding are the pretty rampant nepotism and widespread cheating seen in greece today. from michael lewis:

“The evening after I met with the minister of finance, I had coffee with one tax collector at one hotel, then walked down the street and had a beer with another tax collector at another hotel. Both had already suffered demotions, after their attempts to blow the whistle on colleagues who had accepted big bribes to sign off on fraudulent tax returns. Both had been removed from high-status fieldwork to low-status work in the back office, where they could no longer witness tax crimes. Each was a tiny bit uncomfortable; neither wanted anyone to know he had talked to me, as they feared losing their jobs in the tax agency. And so let’s call them Tax Collector No. 1 and Tax Collector No. 2.

“Tax Collector No. 1 — early 60s, business suit, tightly wound but not obviously nervous — arrived with a notebook filled with ideas for fixing the Greek tax-collection agency. He just took it for granted that I knew that the only Greeks who paid their taxes were the ones who could not avoid doing so—the salaried employees of corporations, who had their taxes withheld from their paychecks. The vast economy of self-employed workers — everyone from doctors to the guys who ran the kiosks that sold the International Herald Tribune — cheated (one big reason why Greece has the highest percentage of self-employed workers of any European country). ‘It’s become a cultural trait,’ he said. ‘The Greek people never learned to pay their taxes. And they never did because no one is punished. No one has ever been punished. It’s a cavalier offense — like a gentleman not opening a door for a lady.’

The scale of Greek tax cheating was at least as incredible as its scope: an estimated two-thirds of Greek doctors reported incomes under 12,000 euros a year — which meant, because incomes below that amount weren’t taxable, that even plastic surgeons making millions a year paid no tax at all. The problem wasn’t the law — there was a law on the books that made it a jailable offense to cheat the government out of more than 150,000 euros — but its enforcement. ‘If the law was enforced,’ the tax collector said, ‘every doctor in Greece would be in jail.’ I laughed, and he gave me a stare. ‘I am completely serious.’ One reason no one is ever prosecuted — apart from the fact that prosecution would seem arbitrary, as everyone is doing it — is that the Greek courts take up to 15 years to resolve tax cases. ‘The one who does not want to pay, and who gets caught, just goes to court,’ he says. Somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the activity in the Greek economy that might be subject to the income tax goes officially unrecorded, he says, compared with an average of about 18 percent in the rest of Europe.

“The easiest way to cheat on one’s taxes was to insist on being paid in cash, and fail to provide a receipt for services.”

if you’ve ever been to greece and eaten in a restaurant or had a couple of drinks in a taverna, you know you don’t get a receipt … and you should be prepared for the look you’ll get if you ask for one. (~_^)

because of how they have mated up until fairly recently (things must be changing nowadays with more people moving to urban centers), the greeks are quasi-tribal — or more like quasi-clannish. they don’t want to contribute to the common pot because they are more attached to their regional extended-family group than they are to the larger populace, i.e. the greek nation (if you can really call it that).

what taki views as the “highly individualistic greek” who is “too self seeking” is really a greek who is strongly attached to his rather extended family and who is unwilling to make sacrifices at the expense of those genetic ties. in other words, he is a good altruist. he’s just a bad citizen, that’s all.

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

previously: inbreeding in europe’s periphery and la endogamia en la españa medieval and inbreeding in italy and il risorgimento and italian inbreeding?

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how did the ancient athenians manage? to have a functioning democracy, that is — for as long as they did?

having a real, working democratic society seems to be at direct odds with being a clannish or tribalistic society. but the ancient greeks, including the athenians, were clannish|tribal — they had phylai (clans or tribes) and phratries (kin-groups or, maybe, sub-clans). and they definitely practiced inbreeding, frequently marrying cousins. in fact, fbd marriage was obligatory in the case of a female heiress — she had to marry one of her paternal cousins so that the estate would not go out of the extended family.

so how the h*ck did they manage to come up with a working demokratia?

cleisthenes’ reforms in 508/7 b.c.

in order to put a stop to the tyrannies that were continually popping up in athens (or, more likely, to quash the powers of clans other than his own — some of his family members had been tyrants, after all), cleisthenes devised a new system whereby athenian society would be organized.

the countryside surrounding athens, attica, had been politically arranged into demes, or regions or neighborhoods. to be a citizen, though, you had to be a member of a long-standing athenian phratry (kin-group). the demes were probably dominated by the phratries that happened to live in them.

cleisthenes rearranged all the demes in a brilliant sort-of reverse-gerrymandering scheme. the new political regions (trittyes) each consisted of three different, non-contiguous areas: from the coast, from the city, and from a rural area. everyone eligible to vote would now cast their vote as a member of a trittys, not (so much anymore) as a member of a phratry.

heh. brilliant!:

“After this victory Cleisthenes began to reform the government of Athens. In order to forestall strife between the traditional clans, which had led to the tyranny in the first place, he changed the political organization from the four traditional tribes, which were based on family relations, into ten tribes according to their area of residence (their deme). Most modern historians suppose there were 139 demes (this is still a matter of debate), organized into thirty groups called trittyes (‘thirds’), with ten demes divided among three regions in each trittys (a city region, asty; a coastal region, paralia; and an inland region, mesogeia). Cleisthenes also abolished patronymics in favour of demonymics (a name given according to the deme to which one belongs), thus increasing Athenians’ sense of belonging to a deme.” [wikip]

this system worked, with a few short interruptions and some changes, for more than a couple hundred years. cool.

cheryl anne cox goes into a lot of detail about athenian marriage patterns. i’ve read some of her book, but not all, so i still don’t have a good overview of how it all worked and what sort of changes in how athenians mated, if any, might have happened over time. she does mention that cousin marriage occurred not infrequently, but that arranged marriages (most of the marriages of vips in athens|attica were arranged) also happened between neighbors in a deme — you know, to create alliances between important families, join up big farms, etc., etc. she also notes that marriage in the city was more heterogamous.

the phratries (kin-groups) did, apprarently, loose their significance during the classical period in athens. did this have to do with increasing marriages across the artifically created trittyes (i.e. outbreeding) with a concomitant decrease in marriages within the phratry (i.e. inbreeding)? dunno, but i’d put money on it.

also, had the phratries, which had been powerful during the greek dark ages, already been weakened by the time of cleisthenes’ reforms by the outbreeding in the demes that cox describes? i think it likely.

maybe athenian society was already primed for demokratia by the time cleisthenes got there.

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

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