Archives for posts with tag: familial altruism

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

cpi 2014 - europe

…on twitter, that a chorus of people will respond: oh, just look at the terrible effects communism had on eastern europe! for no good reason really because, as we all know, correlation does not equal causation — although it does “waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing ‘look over there.'”

just because soviet regimes were present in the past in the same areas of europe where there are high corruption levels today does not mean the one is the cause of the other. (and anyway…look at the regions beyond europe! or southern europe, for that matter.) the relationship is certainly suspicious though, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the two were somehow connected.

one way to try to settle this debate would be to look at pre-soviet corruption rates in eastern europe versus the west to see if the situation was any different beforehand.

i have not done that in this post, in large part because i don’t speak any slavic or other eastern european languages, but primarily because it seemed like way too much work. instead, i’m going to take a look a civicness, a set of behaviors — along with things like intelligence, low amounts of corruption, and low levels of violence — that many researchers reckon are necessary in order to have western-style liberal democracies and economies, if that’s what you want in life. i’ll be focusing on russia, again just to kept this little project manageable. but first, italy.

in Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, robert putnam (yes, that robert putnam) concluded that democracy in northern italy functions better than in the south because the north has had a longer tradition — stretching back to the middle ages — of civicness or of having a civic community. (see previous post: democracy in italy.) according to putnam [pgs. 88-89, 91]:

“Citizenship in the civic community entails equal rights and obligations for all. Such a community is bound together by horizontal relations of reciprocity and cooperation, not by vertical relations of authority and dependency. Citizens interact as equals, not as patrons and clients nor as governors and petitioners….

“Citizens in a civic community, on most accounts, are more than merely active, public-spirited, and equal. Virtuous citizens are helpful, respectful, and trustful towards one another, even when they differ on matters of substance….

“One key indicator of civic sociability must be the vibrancy of associational life.”

in civic societies and civic societies ii, i looked at (self-reported) participation rates in voluntary associations across the world as found in the 2005-2008 wave of the world values survey. specifically, i tallied up the number of individuals who responded that, yes, they were ACTIVE members of the following voluntary associations (thus giving some indication of how civic-minded each of the populations is):

– Church or religious organization
– Sport or recreation organization
– Art, music or educational organization
– Labour union
– Political party
– Environmental organization
– Professional association
– Charitable organization
– Any other voluntary organization

the response rates for eastern europe were abysmal, often vying for last place with the middle east (see previous post for more):

wvs - membership voluntary organizations - totals

not much has changed in the latest wave (2010-2014). here, for example, are the active membership rates for the russian federation for each of the organization types — the first figure is from the 2005-2008 wave, the second from 2010-2014:

– Church or religious organization = 2.60% – 2.00%
– Sport or recreation organization = 5.90% – 2.40%
– Art, music or educational organization = 4.20% – 1.50%
– Labour union = 3.40% – 2.00%
– Political party = 0.80% – 0.50%
– Environmental organization = 0.40% – 0.40%
– Professional association = 1.60% – 1.40%
– Charitable organization = 1.10% – 0.6%
– Any other voluntary organization = n/a – 1.4%

as joseph bradley says in Voluntary Associations in Tsarist Russia: Science, Patriotism, and Civil Society (2009), russia is “not known as a nation of joiners.” apparently not! (mind you, i am not in a position to cast any stones on this account. *ahem*)

but were the russians more civic-minded before the revolution?

unfortunately, i don’t have any figures which can be directly compared to our modern world values surveys, but, yes, there was some amount of participation in voluntary civic institutions in russia in the two hundred years or so preceding 1917. however, civic participation didn’t begin in russia until the mid-1700s (and that is a key point to which i’ll return), and for most of that period, it occurred mostly among the upper classes. participation rates did grow across the nation and classes over the next century and a half, until just after the revolution of 1905 when there was a rapid rise in one sort of voluntary association — consumer cooperatives — among all classes of russians. however, civil society was still comparatively shallow in early-twentieth century russia — it hadn’t fully penetrated the whole of society by that point yet because the concept was so relatively new to the populace. here is laura engelstein in “The Dream of Civil Society in Tsarist Russia: Law, State, and Religion” (2000) quoting the sardinian antonio gramsci on the matter [pg. 23]:

“On the margins of the European state system, sharing but not fully integrating the Western cultural heritage, Russia, it is said, has always lacked just these civic and political traits. Antonio Gramsci provides the classic statement of this contrast: ‘In Russia,’ he wrote in the 1920s, ‘the state was everything, civil society was primordial and gelatinous; in the West there was a proper relation between state and civil society, and when the state trembled a sturdy structure of civil society was at once revealed.’ When in 1917 the Russian autocracy not only trembled but tumbled to the ground, there was no ‘powerful system of fortresses and earthworks,’ in Gramsci’s phrase, to prevent the Bolsheviks from erecting another absolutist regime in its place.”

civic society in russia first came to life under catherine the great (1729-1796), who did go some way to promote enlightenment ideals in the empire; perhaps more so when it came to the arts rather than politics, but still…it was a start, albeit one restricted in extent. from engelstein again [pg. 26 – my emphasis]:

“Eighteenth-century Russia had a lively public life. Private presses, a market in print, debating societies, literary salons, private theaters, public lectures, Masonic lodges — all linked inhabitants of the capitals and provincial centers in something of an empirewide conversation. Yet this world was limited in scope, audience, and resources and was fatally dependent on the autocrat’s good will. Catherine, when it pleased her, cracked down on independent publishers.”

this public life did continue to grow, however, although in fits and starts. nicholas i (1796-1855) was not too thrilled by it all, and alexander i (1777-1825) actually banned the freemasons, but by the nineteenth century, alexander ii (1818-1881) was, for a tsar, positively a radical when it came to permitting and promoting civic society as was evident in his great reforms. by the late nineteenth century then [pg. 16]:

“…an increasingly active public sphere of debate that included advocacy and representation was no longer in doubt in tsarist Russia. Thus well before the Revolution of 1905, the groundwork was laid for the participation of private associations in the public arena.”

the practice of joining voluntary organizations came later to the russian lower classes. consumer cooperatives began to appear in russia and the empire in the 1860s, but these first cooperatives were organized and run by the upper classes. peasants and workers would’ve been customers only. cooperatives among middle class professionals in towns and cities appear in the early-1890s. the idea spread to villages in 1900 via proselytizing intellectuals (also worth noting), and after 1905, the cooperative movement exploded right across the country. from The Co-operative Movement in Russia: Its History, Signficance, and Character (1917) by j.b. bubnoff — delightfully published in manchester by the co-operative printing society limited (so the work could be a bit biased) [pg. 49]:

“In 1891 consumers’ societies were formed in towns among the lower-grade officials, various classes of employees, teachers, members of liberal professions, and other sections of the population. These societies were of two types. One open only to members of a particular class of officials or to employees of a particular firm or institution; the other was open to all. These latter societies were already marked by the spirit of independence.

“Throughout this period the number of consumers’ societies was not large, and their output was small…. In 1900 the position was the same. Beginning from 1900, the Co-operative Movement spread in the villages…. [T]he first consumers’ societies in the villages were initiated by the intellectuals and by the authorities and were not the outcome of free enterprise on the part of the peasants themselves. At the end of the last century, and particularly at the beginning of the present one, an agrarian movement spread among the peasantry and ended in the revolution of 1905.”

by 1917, provided bubnoff wasn’t exaggerating, there were ca. 20,000 consumer cooperatives in russia (bubnoff notes that the other organizations listed in the table below — credit and loan savings associations, agricultural societies, and the artels — were all either government run or arranged by the large landowners, so they weren’t really voluntary associations in the sense of being organized by the members.):

Russia - The co-operative movement in Russia - table

again, though, this is late for finally getting around to launching civic institutions in your country. nineteen hundred and seventeen (1917) is very, very late compared to what happened in northwestern europe. even compared to what happened in northern italy. as valerie bunce says in “The Historical Origins of the East-West Divide: Civil Society, Politcal Society, and Democracy in Europe” [pg. 222]:

“By the end of the nineteenth century, then, it was evident that there were two Europes, long separated by their histories and, thus, by their politics, economics, social structure, and culture.”

not to mention their evolutionary histories.

so how did northwestern “core” europe (including northern italy) differ from russia historically as far as participation in civic institutions goes? the short answer is: civicness in “core” europe began centuries before it did in russia or the rest of eastern europe, at least 500-600, if not 800-900, years earlier.

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

“[I]n the towns of northern and central Italy…an unprecedented form of self-government was emerging….

“Like the autocratic regime of Frederick II, the new republican regime was a response to the violence and anarchy endemic in medieval Europe, for savage vendettas among aristocratic clans had laid waste to the towns and countryside in the North as in the South. The solution invented in the North, however, was quite different, relying less on vertical hierarchy and more on horizontal collaboration. The communes sprang originally from voluntary associations, formed when groups of neighbors swore personal oaths to render one another mutual assistance, to provide for common defense and economic cooperation…. By the twelfth century communes had been established in Florence, Venice, Bologna, Genoa, Milan, and virtually all the other major towns of northern and central Italy, rooted historically in these primordial social contracts.

“The emerging communes were not democratic in our modern sense, for only a minority of the population were full members…. However, the extent of popular participation in government affairs was extraordinary by any standard: Daniel Waley describes the communes as ‘the paradise of the committee-man’ and reports that Siena, a town with roughly 5000 adult males, had 860 part-time city posts, while in larger towns the city council might have several thousand members, many of them active participants in the deliberations….

“As communal life progressed, guilds were formed by craftsmen and tradesmen to provide self-help and mutual assistance, for social as well as for strictly occupational purposes. ‘The oldest guild-statute is that of Verona, dating from 1303, but evidently copied from some much older statute. “Fraternal assistance in necessity of whatever kind,” “hospitality towards strangers, when passing through the town”…and “obligation of offering comfort in the case of debility” are among the obligations of the members.’ ‘Violation of statutes was met by boycott and social ostracism….’

“Beyond the guilds, local organizations, such as *vicinanze* (neighborhood associations), the *populus* (parish organizations that administered the goods of the local church and elected its priest), confraternities (religious societies for mutual assistance), politico-religious parties bound together by solemn oath-takings, and *consorterie* (‘tower societies’) formed to provide mutual security, were dominant in local affairs.”

in general, nothing like this existed in medieval russia (or eastern europe) — not on this scale anyway — the novgorod republic, which lasted for three centuries and came to an end in 1478, probably being the most notable exception. eastern european society was still very much founded upon the extended family for much of the period (although, again, in certain times and locales that was not the case — russia’s a big place). only a handful of merchants’ guilds were given permission to exist in russia between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries, and the powers that be (including the orthodox church) regularly suppressed craftsmen’s guilds [pg. 13]. by contrast, northern italy was full of civic-mindedness already by the high middle ages.

meanwhile, in england (and other parts of northwestern europe) [pgs. 3-4]:

“As a form of voluntary association, bound by oath and by a (usually modest) material subscription, the fraternity or guild was widespread in late-medieval England and continental Europe. Both the ubiquity and the frequency of the form have been underlined by recent historical case-studies. While the particular purpose and activities of a fraternity might be infinitely various, the organization may be characterized in general as combining pious with social, economic, and political purposes. Its declared aims invariably included important religious functions, expressed in the invocation of a saintly patron and an annual mass with prayers for deceased members. With equal certainty, the annual feast day would bring the members together for a drink or a meal to celebrate their community. The overwhelming majority of English guilds admitted women alongside men: a feature generally characteristic of guilds of medieval northern Europe, although not so prevalent in the Mediterranean world. Sometimes described in modern English accounts as ‘parish fraternities’, these clubs indeed were often founded by groups of parishioners and regularly made use of an altar in a parish church as a devotional focus; yet they as often drew their memberships from a wider field than that of the parish, whose bounds they readily transcended…. An individual might join more than one guild, thereby extending still futher the range of his or her contacts. A significant minority of fraternities crystallized around a particular trade…. The overwhelming majority of guilds, however, were not tied by such association to a single craft, but brought together representatives of various trades and professions.”

extraordinarily, one type of fraternity — of non-kin remember (the whole point of voluntary associations is that they’re made up of non-kin) — appeared in england as early as the late-800s. from a previous post, the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society:

“the *gegildan* appears in some of the anglo-saxon laws in the late-800s as an alternative group of people to whom wergeld might be paid if the wronged individual had no kin. by the 900s, though, in southern england, the gegildan might be the only group that received wergeld, bypassing kin altogether. from Wage Labor and Guilds in Medieval Europe [pgs. 39-42]:

“‘The laws of King Alfred of Wessex, dated to 892-893 or a few years earlier, are more informative about the *gegildan*. Again, the context is murder and the wergild — the compensation required for the crime. By Alfred’s time, if not during Ine’s, the *gegildan* is clearly a group of associates who were not related by blood. The clearest example of this is in chapter 31 of the laws: ‘If a man in this position is slain — if he has no relatives (maternal or paternal) — half the wergild shall be paid to the king, and half to the *gegildan*.’ No information exists on the purpose of the *gegildan* other than its role as a substitute for kinship ties for those without any relatives. These associates, who presumably were bound together by an oath for mutual protection, if only to identify who was responsible, would benefit anyone, whether the person had relatives or not…. Although the evidence from the laws of Ine may be read either way, the *gegildan* seems to be an old social institution. As seen more clearly in the tenth and eleventh centuries, it acquired additional functions — a policing role and a religious character.

“‘The nobles, clergy, and commoners of London agreed upon a series of regulations for the city, with the encouragement and approval of King Athelstan, who caused the rules to be set down some time in the late 920s or 930s. The primary purpose of these ordinances was to maintain peace and security in the city, and all those supporting these goals had solemnly pledged themselves to this *gegildan*. This type of inclusive guild, sometimes referred to as a peace guild, was an attempt to create one more additional level of social responsibility to support the king and his officials in keeping the peaces. This social group of every responsible person in London is a broad one, and the law does not use the term *gegildan* to describe the association in general….

“‘The idea of a guild to keep the peace was not limited to London, and a document from the late tenth century contains the rules and duties of the thegn‘s guild in Cambridge. This guild appears to have been a private association, and no king or noble is mentioned as assenting to or encouraging this group. Most of the rules concern the principle purposes of this guild — the security of the members, which receives the most attention, and the spiritual benefits of membership itself. The guild performed the tasks of the old *gegildan*: the members were obliged to defend one another, collect the wergild, and take up vengeance against anyone refusing to pay compensation. The members also swore an oath of loyalty to each other, promising to bring the body of a deceased member to a chosen burial site and supply half the food for the funeral feast. For the first time, another category of help was made explicit — the guild bound itself to common almsgiving for departed members — and the oath of loyalty the members swore included both religious and secular affairs. Although in many respects this guild resembles a confraternity along the lines Hincmar established for the archdiocese of Rheims, the older purpose of the group — mutual protection with its necessary threat of vengeance — makes the Anglo-Saxon guild something more than a prayer meeting. To include almsgiving to members in distress would be a small step, given the scope of activities this guild established. There is no sign that the thegns cooperated in any economic endeavors, but older rules of rural society had already determined methods of sharing responsibility in the villages, and the thegns cooperated on everything that was important in their lives. The thegns of Cambridge had a guild that resembles in some important ways the communal oath, that will be discussed below, of some Italian cities in the next century.'”

the gegildan of early medieval england, then — a voluntary association, a fraternity — appeared on the scene something like two hundred years before the communes of northern italy arose, three hundred plus years before the novgorod republic was formed, and nearly nine hundred years before the russians gave civiness another shot (after novgorod). i’m not aware of any earlier such associations in western medieval europe, although they may have existed. it appears, too, that the gegildan appeared in situ in england, a newly developed social structure to take over some of the earlier functions of the rapidly disappearing kindred (including feuding and protection), although maybe the concept was imported from the carolingians — the heart of the preceding frankish kingdoms, austrasia, was where manorialism had begun, which was then imported across the channel, so perhaps the gegildan concept was as well.

whatever the case, it’s in the core of “core” europe, once again, that we find the earliest evidence for behavioral patterns that are now the hallmarks of western civilization: late marriage and nuclear families, lowest levels of cousin marriage for the longest period of time, low levels of violence, high levels of civic-mindedness (see above), universalism, unparalleled accomplishment — they all appear earliest (in medieval europe), and are still the strongest, in this central area (very roughly the area indicated by the green oval on this map).

so, now we come to it: why? why was it “evident” by the end of the nineteenth century that there were two europes, and what do all these long-standing historical differences have to do with it?

the ultimate cause must lie in our biologies. humans are biological creatures, so there’s no way around it. we know that all behavioral traits are heritable, so we have to look to differences in the populations’ genetics and evolutionary histories.

as i wrote recently: evolution in humans is ongoing, recent, can be pretty rapid (within some constraints), and has been/is localized (as well as global). in fact, human evolution has sped up since the agricultural revolution since the number of individuals, and therefore mutations, on which natural selection might work skyrocketed in post-agricultural societies. remember, too, that “every society selects for something,” and that we’re talking about frequencies of genes in populations and that those frequencies can fluctuate up and down over time.

so there is NO reason NOT to suppose that the differences in behavioral traits that we see between european sub-populations today — including those between western and eastern europe — aren’t genetic and the result of differing evolutionary histories or pathways.

even rapid evolution takes time, though. we’re not talking one or two generations, but more like thirty or forty — fifty’s even better. point is, evolutionary changes don’t only occur on the scale of eons. they can also happen over the course of centuries (again, multiples of centuries, not just one or two). the circa eleven to twelve hundred years since the major restructuring of society that occurred in “core” europe in the early medieval period — i.e. the beginnings of manorialism, the start of consistent and sustained outbreeding (i.e. the avoidance of close cousin marriage), and the appearance of voluntary associations — is ample time for northwestern europeans to have gone down a unique evolutionary pathway and to acquire behavioral traits quite different from those of other europeans — including eastern europeans — who did not go down the same pathway (but who would’ve gone down their own evolutionary pathways, btw).

what i think happened was that the newly created socioeconomic structures and cultural (in this case largely religious) practices of the early medieval period in northwest “core” europe introduced a whole new set of selective pressures on northwest europeans compared to those which had existed previously. rather than a suite of traits connected to familial or nepostic altruism (or clannishness) being selected for, the new society selected for traits more connected to reciprocal altruism.

before the early medieval period, northwest europeans — looking away from the urbanized gallo-romans who may have been something of a special case (more on them another day) — had been kin-based populations of agri-pastoralists whose societies were characterized by inter-clan feuding, honor/shame (vs. integrity/guilt), and particularism (vs. universalism). i think these traits were under constant selection in those populations because: reproductive success in those societies was dependent upon one’s connection to, and one’s standing within, the extended kin-group, so, thanks to being tied to kin rather than non-kin, nepotistic altruism genes would’ve been favored over reciprocal altruism ones; the extended kin-group was the element within which most individuals would’ve interacted with others, those others being related individuals who would’ve been likely to share the same nepotistic altruism genes (alleles) [see here for more]; and cousin marriage was rife, which again would’ve further fuelled the selection for these genes, since members of the same kin-group would’ve had an even greater likelihood of sharing the same versions of their nepotistic altruism genes.

pretty much the opposite happened during the early and high middle ages in “core” europe. manorialism pushed for nuclear families rather than extended family groupings, and so people began to interact more with non-kin rather than kin, enabling the selection for more traits related to reciprocal altruism. the avoidance of close cousin marriage meant that family members would’ve shared fewer altruism genes in common, so any selection for nepotistic altruism would’ve slowed down. and once voluntary associations of non-kin appeared, the selection for reciprocal altruism really would’ve (or, at least, could’ve) taken off. reproductive success was no longer dependent upon connections to the extended family group, but, rather, unrelated individuals living with the community.

the manor system developed in the 500s in “core” europe (austrasia), but did not arrive in russia (and much of eastern europe) until the late medieval/early modern period. (it never got to the balkans.) the extended family was most likely gone on the manors in the west by the 800s (see mitterauer), although it is conceivable that the nuclear families found on the manors in the earliest days were residential nuclear familes rather than the fully atomized ones that we see in the west today. certainly by the 1500s, there are no longer any traces of the extended family among “core” europeans (although there are still some pockets). the avoidance of cousin marriage was underway in earnest by the 800s (possibly earlier, but definitely by the 800s). it was still on shaky ground as late as the 1400s in russia. and, as we’ve seen, voluntary associations appeared very early in “core” western europe, but only very recently in russia (and, presumably, other areas of eastern europe).

most of you will recognize this as the hajnal line story (yet again!) with a few new nuances thrown in. manorialism, outbreeding, and voluntary associations all began in “core” europe — again very roughly the area outlined by the green oval on the map below (the other lines indicate, again roughly the extent of the hajnal line) — and they spread outwards from there over time, eventually reaching russia and other parts of eastern europe, but not until very late. (and the manor system in russia, once it was adopted there, was of a very different form than what had existed in western europe.)

hajnal line - core europe

inside the hajnal line, which (imo) reflects the extent of the strongest selection for behavioral traits related to reciprocal altruism over nepotistic altruism, the populations have stronger democratic traditions, are more civic-minded, are less corrupt, and score higher on individualism (vs. collectivism) on hofstede’s idv dimension than the populations outside the hajnal line. (please, see my big summary post on the hajnal line for more details.) all of these behavioral patterns “fit” better with the idea that these populations are characterized by innate reciprocal altruism tendencies rather than more nepotistic altruism ones. the populations outside the hajnal line seem to be more oppositely inclined.

there is no doubt that soviet communism wreaked havoc on eastern european populations. some untold millions died in the gulags, families and towns and villages were ripped apart, political repression was beyond belief. but smart money says that, along with civicness, many of the “non-western” features of contemporary eastern europe — high corruption rates, etc. — have deeper roots, and are not the consequences of communism, but rather of recent evolution by natural selection.

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

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

i keep saying that i’ll define more clearly what i mean by “inbreeding” and “outbreeding,” but i never do. finally! — here i am, and i’m gonna do it! (^_^)

from the oxford dictionary of biology:

inbreeding: “Mating between closely related individuals, the extreme condition being self-fertilization, which occurs in many plants and some primitive animals.” (see also wikipedia.)

outbreeding: “Mating between unrelated or distantly related individuals of a species.”

great. but what’s “closely related” or “unrelated” or “distantly related”? self-fertilization doesn’t really apply to humans (at least not very often — i hope), so where to draw the line between “closely related” and “distantly related”?

i’m primarily interested in the evolution of altruism and other “innate social aptitudes” in man [pdf] — and here’s where inclusive fitness comes into the picture, btw — and the role that inbreeding and outbreeding might play in all that.

inbreeding in and of itself does not change the frequencies of genes in a population — it just moves them around, concentrating them in certain lineages. however, wade and breden showed in some mathematical wizardry modelling that, under certain circumstances, long-term, sustained inbreeding can, in fact, lead to increased frequencies of “genes for altruism” in a population.

wade and breden looked at four inbreeding scenarios: 1) self-fertilization (doesn’t happen in humans); 2) if the mating individuals shared half (50%) their genomes in common (like parent-offspring matings or sibling matings); 3) if the mating individuals shared 20% of their genes in common (this is somewhere in between first cousins and double-first cousins or uncle-niece/aunt-nephew); and 4) if the mating individuals shared no genes in common (not the typical pattern in human matings). most human populations do not practice parent-offspring/sibling matings — in fact, it’s usually avoided and considered by most as really icky. but quite a lot of peoples regularly marry first cousins, and some (in the arab world/middle east) even often marry double-first cousins — nor is the world short on uncle-niece pairings (southern india, for example — or hasidic jews).

wade and breden found that, under certain circumstances, long-term, sustained matings between individuals that share 20% of their genomes in common can lead in an increase in altruism genes in that population. first cousin marriage, probably the most common form of inbreeding in humans, is a little short of what wade and breden looked at, but it’s not terribly far away either (12.5% relatedness vs. 20% relatedness). you would think that the slope of the line for inbreeding at 12.5% relatedness would fall somewhere in between that for 0% and 20% (solid black line) on wade and breden’s lower graph here:

wade and breden 02 small

in clinical genetics, most researchers look at degrees of inbreeding that are between second cousins or closer, commonly referred to in the literature as consanguineous marriages. since i get a lot of my data on inbreeding from such studies, it’s kinda handy for me to define inbreeding as anything between second cousins or closer, but in reconsidering wade and breden’s results, i’m thinking that maybe i should only concentrate on first cousins or closer. for now i think i’ll stick to second cousins or closer, but i reserve the right to change my mind (it is a woman’s prerogative, isn’t it? still?).

so, on this blog:

– inbreeding = in a population, a general pattern of regular and sustained mating between individuals who are related to one another as second cousins or closer.

– outbreeding = in a population, a general pattern of regular and sustained mating in which individuals avoid second cousins or closer.

notice the “regular and sustained” bit. that’s important. we’re not talking here about occasional marriages between cousins. it has to be a regular practice in a society. i’m not sure what the frequency of the inbreeding needs to be. it will vary according to population size, of course — the smaller the population, the more closely related everyone’s going to be anyway (e.g. the yanomamo). in a larger population? — dunno. definitely when 50% of marriages are consanguineous over the long-term i think the frequencies of “genes for altruism” are going to increase pretty rapidly (i’ll come back to what sorts of altruism in another post). 30%? probably. 3%? not really.

outbreeding, too, needs to be “regular and sustained” to have any effect, i.e. to have a population slide back down wade and breden’s slope in reverse. one generation of outbreeding probably won’t have much of an effect, i think. evolution (natural selection) does take some time, after all. also, if one inbreeding group interbreeds with another inbreeding group, that’s NOT outbreeding according to my definiton. technically it is in biological circles, but if we’re talking about two populations that have been inbreeding for a long time and, therefore, have acquired a lot of genes for my “familial altruism,” then all they’re doing by interbreeding is swapping familial altruism genes. for example, if you’re the early medieval irish and are clannish because you’ve been inbreeding for who-knows-how-long, the “outbreeding” that you do with the vikings when they show up (probably) doesn’t count wrt altruism, because they’re a long-term inbreeding group, too.

to have any effect on the frequency of certain “genes for altruism,” outbreeding — like inbreeding — needs, i think, to be regular and sustained over the long-term, as it was with europeans (mostly northwest europeans) since the early medieval period (see also mating patterns in europe series in left-hand column below ↓ for more details) and, perhaps, some other groups like the semai in malaysia.

previously: inbreeding and the evolution of altruistic behavior

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

Feeling Threatened Makes Us Nicer“Perceived menace makes people kinder to their kin but nastier to outsiders. Whether they use this strategy depends on family size.” – hmmm. maybe. part of the study was done on WEIRD students, so … hmmm.

Implicit Race Bias Increases the Differences in the Neural Represen-tations of Black and White Faces“[T]he ways in which Black and White faces are represented in this brain region [fusiform face area] differ for people with a stronger, implicit race bias compared to people with less or no bias. This implies that people with stronger, negative implicit race attitudes may actually perceive Black and White faces to look more different.” – or maybe people who perceive black/white faces to look more different have stronger, negative race attitudes? – original research article here.

Gene flow between Indian populations and Australasia ~4,000 years ago – from dienekes. see also A Three-Hour Tour from greg cochran. (i loved that show! (^_^) )

Genealogy Databases Enable Naming of Anonymous DNA Donors – oops. see also: Matching names to genes: the end of genetic privacy?

HBD: An Abbreviated History of Quisqueya and the Rise of Today’s Dominicans (and Haitians) – from nelson!

The Human Varieties Global IQ Dataset“I’m going to try and use Human Varieties to tabulate a more thorough, immediate, and accurate dataset of international intelligence studies. A dataset that is participatory, updated frequently, and available for download.” – jason malloy’s excellent goal to (single-handedly!) make global iq data open source. yay! (^_^)

Study Discovers DNA That Tells Mice How to Construct Their Homes“The research could eventually lead to a better understanding of what kind of internal reward system motivates mice to dig, or tells them to stop. And although humans do not dig burrows, that, said the leader of the three-person research team, Hopi E. Hoekstra of Harvard, could ‘tell us something about behavioral variation in humans.'”

‘Adventurous’ Woman Needed as Surrogate for Neanderthal Baby – holy cr*p! – via charles!

The Danger of Making Science Political“Many more scientists identify as Democrats than as Republicans…. [B]y some polls only 6 percent of scientists are Republican, and in the recent U.S. Presidential election, 68 science Nobel Prize winners endorsed the Democratic nominee Barack Obama over the Republican candidate Mitt Romney.”

People with low risk for cocaine dependence have differently shaped brain to those with addiction“New research from the University of Cambridge has found that recreational drug users who have not developed a dependence have an abnormally large frontal lobe, the section of the brain implicated in self-control.”

Many researchers taking a different view of pedophilia“Pedophilia once was thought to stem from psychological influences early in life. Now, many experts view it as a deep-rooted predisposition that does not change.”

Scientific evidence that you probably don’t have free will

Like Lance Armstrong, we are all liars, experts say“During a 10-minute conversation between two strangers, 60% lied at least once, Feldman reported in a 2002 study in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology…. Though men were more likely to lie to make themselves feel good, women more often lied to make their conversation partner feel good. Either way, Feldman said, the urge to make oneself likable and competent was a powerful motivator.”

Got milk? Then you might get a Nobel Prize, study suggests“[C]ountries in which people drink the most milk, per capita, also win the most Nobel Prizes, per capita….” – (~_^)

The Truth behind the HBD cult prt 1 – << only good for a laugh. no, really! – via jayman!

bonus: Portraits of ‘sworn virgins’ of Albania fascinate“Northern Albanian women … live and dress as men in order to provide for their families.”

bonus bonus: Great Oxidation Event: More oxygen through multicellularity

bonus bonus bonus: There Are Whales Alive Today Who Were Born Before Moby Dick Was Written – cool!

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Chinese migration to Angola tops 250,000

(note: comments do not require an email. albanian sworn virgin.)

the good professor harpending who, unlike me, actually knows what he’s talking about when it comes to population genetics, took a mathematical look at my suggestion (guess!) that there might have been enough time over the medieval period for genetic changes in the population to have resulted in the historical decline of violence in nw europe that pinker described in The Better Angels (see also eisner).

prof. harpending concludes that — yeah, sure — there might’ve been enough time (from the 1300s to the modern period) to effect such a genetic change. it would’ve been a bit of a push, but it could’ve happened:

“In the present case we need a response of 1/28 of a standard deviation per generation. Assuming an additive heritability of 0.5 (the true value is probably 0.8 or so from literature on the heritability of aggressive behavior in children) the selective differential must be about 1/14 or .07 standard deviations per generation. In terms of IQ this would correspond to a one point IQ advantage of parents over the population average and in terms of stature parents with a mean stature 0.2 inches greater than the population average. This would occur if the most homicidal 1.5% of the population were to fail to reproduce each generation.”

no, i didn’t understand most of that either.

i do understand that he thinks he went conservative in his calculation (i.e. using an additive heritability [<< two links there] of just 0.5 although he thinks it's probably more like 0.8), so that might mean that his calculation should actually be even more in the hbd-ist’s favor. in any case, he concludes that natural selection against “genes for violence” (or selection for “genes for nonviolence”) could explain the historical decline of violence in nw europe “if the most homicidal 1.5% of the population were to fail to reproduce each generation.” a bit of a push, maybe, but possible. (if they really did fail to reproduce.)

he suggests:

“Justice was famously brutal and harsh in Medieval and Renaissance England so this may not be an entirely meaningless exercise. In this excellent essay Peter Frost suggests that the nearly the same selection against violence occurred in the several centuries before the fall of the Roman Empire, and he provides grisly details of Roman treatment of criminals.”

that is one route to go — have the state simply remove the bad guys out of the gene pool.

i’d like to suggest another route (and this is where i’m going to start sounding like a broken record): that they got rid of clannishness in medieval nw europe.

why should getting rid of clannishness matter? because, for whatever reasons (i think the reasons are connected to inclusive fitness), clannish people are violent. blood feuds, honor killings, general obstreperosity — clannish people are just not peaceful.

why? i think it’s ’cause clannish populations are inbreeders and inbreeding alters the possible inclusive fitness payoffs. if you’re from an inbred group, you don’t have to stick your neck out for two brothers or eight cousins to increase your inclusive fitness. if your group is inbred enough, you might only have to be altruistic (in the biological sense) to just one brother or only four cousins (’cause you share that many more genes with your inbred relatives than individuals in an outbred population would, capiche?).

in an inbred population, violent clannish behaviors — which are just the flip-side of being altruistic towards one’s relatives (i.e. be really un-altruistic towards one’s un-relatives) — would/could quickly be selected for since the inclusive fitness payoffs are greater for each altruistic act. and this is exactly what wade and breden (1981) found: inbreeding can accelerate the selection for altruism genes (see also here).

so, to get rid of violence, you could get rid of clannishness. and to get rid of clannishness, you need to get rid of inbreeding. which is exactly what happened in medieval europe starting in the early part of the period. the roman catholic church, supported by secular authorities, banned cousin and other close marriages beginning in 506 (i think that’s when the first ban on cousin marriage was laid down).

enforcement of the various cousin marriage bans, which ranged from first to sixth cousins depending on what century you’re talking about, wasn’t easy — at least not in the beginning. the church, for instance, didn’t require that a marriage ceremony take place in a church until something like 1000 or 1100, so enforcement by the church in the early middle ages was probably patchy at best. however, there were LOTS of secular laws throughout nw europe banning close marriage, including very much so in anglo-saxon england. just a couple of examples: the law of wihtred from the 690s outlawed cousin marriage — and the punishment for cousin marriage in another anglo-saxon law from sometime the 900s-1000s was slavery for the perpetrators. again, difficult to know how well these laws were enforced; but that there were plenty of such laws indicates that the authorities were keen to do something about all this close marriage.

the law of wihtred is, i think, the earliest anglo-saxon law that i’ve come across which made cousin marriage illegal (at least in the part of england where the law of wihtred applied). so the push against inbreeding in anglo-saxon england started at least as early as 690 a.d. again, it may not have been very effective at that point, but england’s outbreeding project had begun by that point.

lorraine lancaster, still considered the authority on anglo-saxon kinship, concluded that, although its importance was beginning to wane (as indicated by a shift in who would be awarded wergeld in the event of a crime against a person, that person’s kinsmen or their guild), an individual’s extended kindred remained of importance in anglo-saxon/english society well into the 1000s. that suggests to me that “clannishness” was still around in the 1000s in england. feuding was definitely still a regular event.

the situation had changed quite a bit by the 1300s when nuclear families were all the rage and englishmen no longer relied so extensively on their extended families. people were still violent in 1300s england, but of course the shift from clannishness to non-clannishness — i.e. from violence to non-violence — would’ve taken some time. evolution doesn’t happen overnight.

the state’s monopoly on violence and outbreeding don’t have to be mutually exclusive explanations for why there may have been a genetic change in nw europeans leading to a decline in violent behaviors. the answer might be both. like jayman said

“Inbreeding, and hence clannishness, can interfere with this process, because while the State is selecting for less violent people, clan conflict presents a counteracting selective pressure for people who are more violent (and can fight feuds).”

…so in places where inbreeding has not abated or did not abate as early as in england — the arab world/middle east, china (or parts of it anyway — h/t luke!), the highlands of scotland, the auvergne — the state hasn’t managed to quell violence as easily. the combo of outbreeding + an effective state seems to be a winning one. better yet if you don’t need such a very strong state (modern nw europe) and the population is just non-violent naturally.

this is all just a theory, of course — theory with a small “t”. but, as cochran and harpending have said (h/t kiwiguy!):

“Whereas tests of hypotheses ought to be careful and conservative, generation of hypotheses ought to be speculative and free-ranging.”

so there! (^_^)

there ought to be a way of mathematically modelling my suggestion — i.e. that the historical decline of violence in nw europe is at least partially the result of the de-selection (if you can say that) of “genes for violence” due to a reduction in inbreeding — but since i’m pretty much numerically illiterate, i won’t be the one working up those models. i would think, though, that in addition to using the breeder’s equation in the calculation, you’d also want to factor in inbreeding/outbreeding somehow.

see also: Genetics and the Historical Decline of Violence?

previously: what pinker missed and “violence around the world” and outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence

(note: comments do not require an email. chinese clan house.)

so i think the connection between inbreeding (or outbreeding) and the evolution of the “innate social aptitudes of man” [pdf] works something like this:

inbreeding in and of itself does not change the frequency of genes (alleles) in a population [pg. 65], but it does move them around, concentrating them in certain family lines.

if, then, some sort of genetic mutation arises in one family line which, let’s say for the sake of argument, results in the carriers somehow behaving more altruistically towards their fellow family members than strangers, and this results in them being able to increase their inclusive fitness, then that genetic mutation will be selected for.

it will really be selected for (i.e. the selection rate will be accelerated) because of the inbreeding because: 1) since the inbred family will have greater than average numbers of this “altruism gene” because it is inbreeding, its members will likely execute a greater total number of altruistic behaviors towards one another and, so, they will really benefit fitness-wise from this new gene. also, 2) perhaps — perhaps — all else being equal, the inbred family members will feel even more strongly altruistic towards their fellow family members than an outbred family would since they are so much more genetically similar to their family members. to be honest with you, i’m not so sure about that second proposition, so i’m just going to skip it for now and focus on the first one.

wrt the first proposition, that the rate of selection of “genes for altruism” is faster in an inbreeding population is exactly what wade and breden found when they ran some models — the more inbreeding, the more rapid the selection of the altruism genes:

you can imagine why.

if you have a bunch of different families in a population, and one of those families possesses some sort of “familial altruism” gene which means that its members help each other out (or whatever) more than the members of the other families do, and this increases the fitness of a majority of this special family’s members, then they are simply going to be more successful than the other families. they’ll leave more descendants behind and, thus, more of those genes behind. IN ADDITION, if this successful family ALSO inbreeds, each of its members is much more likely to have at least one, or even two, copies of this familial altruism gene, so more members of this successful family will be even more altruistic to each other and voilà! — they’ll increase their fitness and success even more than they would have done without the inbreeding.

these familial altruism genes — genes that lead to behaviors in which individuals somehow favor their own family members over non-family members — and by family members i mean extended-family members — are only going to arise, of course, in a population in which there is more than one family. if you’ve got some tiny band somewhere that has absolutely no contact with any other group (doubt that’s ever existed), then my evolutionary scenario simply won’t happen. it’s the competition between the individuals from the different families that is driving this.

naturally, genes in any population — even an inbreeding one — won’t remain restricted to any one family for very long. no family anywhere inbreeds 100% exclusively, so if some successful familial altruism genes do arise in some inbreeding family somewhere, they will quickly spread to the other families in that population. thus, there is probably an ongoing familial altruism genetic arms race in inbreeding populations.

also, i think fewer familial altruism genes — or not such strong ones, perhaps — are going to arise in a comparatively outbreeding population. the accelerated selection due to the inbreeding won’t be there, nor will this arms race to keep one step ahead of the joneses when it comes to familial altruism. additionally, i think that in an outbreeding population, there’ll be greater selection pressures than in an inbreeding population for “reciprocal altruism” genes — i.e. genes which lead people to be willing to cooperate more with non-family members — since more of those sorts of behaviors will likely be required to be successful in life.

so what do these “familial altruism” genes look like?

i dunno.

maybe there are differences in oxytocin-related genes? — the luuuuv hormone that “turns out to be the hormone of the clan.”

or — ya’ll know that i’m kinda fascinated by interclan fighting which is the flip-side of being nice to your family (i.e. be extra un-nice to your non-family) — so maybe one familial altruism gene is the “warrior gene” (MAO-A gene)? dunno.

one that i speculated about before is CYP21A2, the gene connected to congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), a recessive genetic condition which affects the production cortisol which, in turn, affects the production of androgens (like testosterone) — notably, in the most common form of CAH, androgen levels are increased. the condition is a recessive one, so you need to have two copies of the deleterious allele to have the condition, but as i mentioned in my previous post on CAH, carriers with one copy of the allele have been found to have excess androgens — and androgens have been connected to aggression. (also, children with CAH have been found to have smaller amygdalae, so … they’re less fearful? don’t know if this also holds true for adults with CAH.)

increased aggression? fighting at the drop of a hat? interclan fighting? see where i’m going with this?

the interesting thing is — at least i think it’s interesting — is that there are different frequencies of CAH found in different populations. what we’d really want to know, of course, are the gene frequencies for CAH for different populations, but in lieu of those … here are some incidence rates of classical CAH in different populations [numbers acquired from or via here and here]:

1:282 – Yupik Eskimos, Alaska
1:2,141 – La Reunion
1:4,081 – Western Australia Aborigines
1:5,000 – GLOBAL
1:5,000-7,000 – Moroccan Jews
1:5,041 – Zurich, Switzerland
1:7,000 – Kuwait
1:10,866 – France (Whites)
1:10,866 – Italy (Whites)
1:11,500 – Sweden
1:11,764 – Netherlands
1:14,300 – Hungary
1:14,403 – Croatia
1:14,500-23,344 – New Zealand
1:14,869 – Western Australia
1:15,518 – Emilia-Romagna, Italy (Whites)
1:15,800-18,000 – Japan
1:17,098 – Scotland
1:19,939 – Minas Gerais, Brazil
1:20,000 – Norway

i dunno, but i see — maybe — the more inbred clannish fighters (yupik eskimos, moroccan jews, kuwaitis) having more cases of CAH than the more outbred peaceniks (new zealanders, norwegians, even northern italians). also…

“The Texas data indicate a lower disease frequency in African-Americans when compared with Caucasians, and international data indicate higher frequencies in native Yupik Eskimos, Brazilians, residents of La Reunion, and Filipinos.” [source]

“The prevalence of the disease [non-classical CAH] in Ashkenazi Jews was 3.7%; in Hispanics, 1.9%; in Yugoslavs, 1.6%; in Italians, 0.3%; and in the diverse Caucasian population, 0.1%.” [source] (non-classical CAH refers to a less severe form of CAH which might not get noticed until adulthood when it expresses itself in features like a woman having, perhaps, a bit too much facial hair.)

again, what we’d really want to know are the gene frequencies for CAH in different populations. then the über-human savants that we call population geneticists could do their math wizardry to see if these genes were under positive selection or not (zey hav vays av mayking ze data talk). (another interesting thing, btw, is that there are many different mutations in this gene which cause a range of CAH conditions from mild to severe — and different mutations are more common in different populations — see here and here and here for instance.)

of course, maybe these mutations in CYP21A2 aren’t being selected for for increased aggression/upside-down familial altruism. maybe it’s something else. witchel, et al., found that heterozygotes for mutated CYP21A2 alleles (i.e. individuals with just one copy of the cr*ppy gene) had increased cortisol levels and cortisol is, apparently, important for the immune system, so maybe these mutants simply survive infections better. others have found a possible connection between higher iq and CAH (masculinization = higher iq?) — see here and here and here — so maybe that’s it.

or maybe these genes are not being selected for at all. however, fertility rates of people (women) with CAH are low, so it seems like a strange bunch of genes to have around if they don’t have some sort of benefit.

previously: inbreeding and the evolution of altruistic behavior and looking for altruism genes and visions of altruism genes

(note: comments do not require an email. CAHt.)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 395 other followers