top ten list 2015 and best laid plans 2016

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!
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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

outbreeding and individualism

northern europeans began to think of — or at least write about — themselves as individuals beginning in the eleventh century a.d. [pgs. 158, 160, and 64-67 – bolding and links inserted by me]:

The discovery of the individual was one of the most important cultural [*ahem*] developments in the years between 1050 and 1200. It was not confined to any one group of thinkers. Its central features may be found in different circles: a concern with self-discovery; an interest in the relations between people, and in the role of the individual within society; an assessment of people by their inner intentions rather than by their external acts. These concerns were, moreover, conscious and deliberate. ‘Know yourself’ was one of the most frequently quoted injunctions. The phenomenon which we have been studying was found in some measure in every part of urbane and intelligent society.

“It remains to ask how much this movement contributed to the emergence of the distinctively Western view of the individual…. The continuous history of several art-forms and fields of study, which are particularly concerned with the individual, began at this time: auto-biography, psychology, the personal portrait, and satire were among them….

“The years between 1050 and 1200 must be seen…as a turning-point in the history of Christian devotion. There developed a new pattern of interior piety, with a growing sensitivity, marked by personal love for the crucified Lord and an easy and free-flowing meditation on the life and passion of Christ….

“The word ‘individual’ did not, in the twelfth century, have the same meaning as it does today. The nearest equivalents were *individuum*, *individualis*, and *singularis*, but these terms belonged to logic rather than to human relations….

“The age had, however, other words to express its interest in personality. We hear a great deal of ‘the self’, not expressed indeed in that abstract way, but in such terms as ‘knowing oneself’, ‘descending into oneself’, or ‘considering oneself’. Another common term was *anima*, which was used, ambiguously in our eyes, for both the spiritual identity (‘soul’) of a man and his directing intelligence (‘mind’). Yet another was ‘the inner man’, a phrase found in Otloh of Saint Emmeram and Guibert of Nogent, who spoke also of the ‘inner mystery’. Their vocabulary, while it was not the same as ours, was therefore rich in terms suited to express the ideas of self-discovery and self-exploration.

“Know Yourself

“Self-knowledge was one of the dominant themes of the age…. These writers all insisted on self-knowledge as fundamental. Thus Bernard wrote to Pope Eugenius, a fellow-Cistercian, about 1150: ‘Begin by considering yourself — no, rather, end by that….For you, you are the first; you are also the last.’ So did Aelred of Rievaulx: ‘How much does a man know, if he does not know himself?’ The Cistercian school was not the only one to attach such a value to self-knowledge. About 1108 Guibert of Nogent began his history of the Crusade with a modern-sounding reflection about the difficulty of determining motive:

“‘It is hardly surprising if we make mistakes in narrating the actions of other people, when we cannot express in words even our own thoughts and deeds; in fact, we can hardly sort them out in our own minds. It is useless to talk about intentions, which, as we know, are often so concealed as scarcely to be discernible to the understanding of the inner man.’

“Self-knowledge, then, was a generally popular ideal.”
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there seem to be two broad sociobiological/genocultural packages when it comes to average nepotistic vs. not-so-nepotistic altruistic behaviors in human populations — these are not binary opposites, but rather the ends of some sort of continuum of behavioral traits [click on table for LARGER view]:

nepotistic vs. not-so-nepotistic

the common thread running through the not-so-nepotistic groups of today (primarily northwest europeans) is a long history of outbreeding (i.e. avoiding close matings, like cousin marriage). (and a long history of manorialism. yes, i WILL start my series on medieval manorialism soon!) while individualism and guilt cultures may have been present in northern europe in paleolithic or even mesolithic populations, these behavioral traits and mindsets were definitely not present in the pre-christian germanic, british, or irish populations of late antiquity. those populations were very much all about clans and kindreds, feuding and honor, shame, and group consensus. guilt/individualistic cultures (i.e. not-so-nepostic societies) can come and go depending at least partly on long-term mating patterns. human evolution can be recent as well as aeons old.

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. around the same time, communes appeared in northern italy and parts of france — civic societies. violence rates begin to fall in the 1200s, especially in more outbred populations, i would argue (guess!) because the impulsive violence related to clan feuding was no longer being selected for.

by the 1300-1400s, after an additional couple hundred years of outbreeding, the renaissance was in full swing due to the “wikification” of northern european society — i.e. that nw europeans now possessed a set of behavioral traits that drove them to work cooperatively with non-relatives — to share openly knowledge and ideas and labor in reciprocally altruistic ways. the enlightenment? well, that was just the full flowering of The Outbreeding Project — an explosion of these not-so-nepotistic behavioral traits that had been selected for over the preceding 800 to 900 years. individualism? universalism? liberal democracy? tolerance? reason? skepticism? coffeehouses? the age of enlightenment IS what core europeans are all about! hurray! (^_^) the Project and its effects are ongoing today.

it could be argued that the fact that certain mating patterns seem to go together with certain societal types is just a coincidence — or that it’s the societal type that affects or dictates the mating patterns. for example, i said in my recent post on shame and guilt in ancient greece that:

“shame cultures are all tied up with honor — especially family honor. japan — with its meiwaku and seppuku — is the classic example of a shame culture, but china with its confucian filial piety is not far behind. the arabized populations are definitely shame cultures with their honor killings and all their talk of respect. even european mediterranean societies are arguably more honor-shame cultures than guilt cultures [pdf].

“if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ll recognize all of those shame cultures as having had long histories of inbreeding: maternal cousin marriage was traditionally very common in east asia (here’re japan and china); paternal cousin marriage is still going strong in the arabized world; and cousin marriage was prevelant in the mediterranean up until very recently (here’s italy, for example).”

perhaps, you say, the causal direction is that nepotistic, clannish shame-cultures somehow promote close matings (cousin marriage or whatever). well, undoubtedly there are reinforcing feedback loops here, but the upshot is that both ancient greece and medieval-modern europe clearly illustrate that the mating patterns come first. (possibly ancient rome, too, but i’ll come back to that another day.) the pre-christian northern european societies were clannish shame-cultures until after the populations switched to outbreeding (avoiding cousin marriage) in the early medieval period. late archaic-early classical greek society was rather (a bit borderline) universalistic, individualistic [pg. 160+] and guilt-based until after they began to marry their cousins with greater frequency (at least in classical athens). the not-so-nepotistic guilt-culture we see now in northwest european populations is particularly resilient, i think, because the outbreeding has been carried out for a particularly long time (since at least the 800s) and thanks to the complementary selection pressures of the medieval manor system (which ancient greece lacked), but it did not exist before the early medieval period.

so, the direction of causation seems to be: (long-term) mating patterns –> societal type (nepotistic vs. not-so-nepotistic).

i think.

previously: there and back again: shame and guilt in ancient greece and big summary post on the hajnal line and individualism-collectivism

(note: comments do not require an email. earliest formal self-portrait, jean fouquet, 1450.)

there and back again: shame and guilt in ancient greece

william hamilton wondered if renaissances/enlightenments happened in places roughly 800 years after some hardy altruism genes were introduced by barbarians into panmictic (really outbred) populations. i wonder instead if what happens is that renaissances/enlightenments occur after ca. 500 years or so of outbreeding which results in nepotistic altruism (or clannishness) being reduced or even mostly eliminated which, in turn, leads to greater cooperation and reciprocal altruism within the populations — conditions i think you might need to have a renaissance at all (see also here).

where intensive outbreeding (and manorialism) happened in medieval europe — and there is a lot of good, strong evidence for it — certainly seems to match well with where the european renaissance occurred. after some fits and starts in the 500s to 700s, the practice of avoiding close cousin marriages really took hold in exactly the areas where the renaissance/reformation/scientific revolution/enlightenment later happened — i.e. core europe — in short: england, france, the netherlands, germany, and northern italy. scandinavia a bit, too. oh…and the lowlands of scotland.

the evidence for outbreeding in ancient greece is much more tenuous. it appears fairly certain that the upper classes outbred during the archaic period in greece (800-480 b.c.). whether they outbred during the entire time period or began the practice sometime before or after 800 b.c., i don’t know. it may also be, judging by something hesiod said, that the lower classes followed suit, but it’s impossible to know for certain going by just one comment from one ancient writer.

some circumstantial evidence that might offer further support to the outbreeding-in-archaic-greece theory is that, in the 400s to 200s b.c., there was a shift in kinship terminology in ancient greece. the distinctions in the greek language between the paternal and maternal sides of the family began to disappear — for example, uncles on both sides came to be called just “uncle,” rather than there being specific words for paternal vs. maternal uncle, and so on and so forth. the same sort of linguistic shift happened in medieval europe. in germany, for instance, that shift happened between the 1100s and 1400s. at the end of the day, all cousins came to be called simply “cousin” rather than “father’s brother’s cousin” or “mother’s brother’s cousin.” the lesson seems to be: change the kinship structures and the long-term mating patterns in a society, and it shouldn’t be surprising that the kinship terminology will also change. no need to specify different sorts of cousins if all of them are off-limits as marriage partners.

michael mitterauer points out that there was a time lag in the linguistic shifts in medieval europe — the terminology changed ca. 300 to 600 years after the mating patterns began to change. perhaps something similar happened in archaic greece — the linguistic shift happened in ca. the 400s to 200s b.c. so perhaps we can infer that the mating patterns had changed to a more outbred form a few hundred years earlier. maybe right around the end of the greek dark ages and the beginning of the archaic period. dunno. complete speculation.

now i’ve come across another piece of circumstantial evidence that outbreeding may have been happening in archaic greece and that is that there was a(n incomplete) shift in the society during the time period from being a shame culture to being a guilt culture. i’m getting this from The Greeks and the Irrational, a book originally published in 1951 and written by classical scholar e.r. dodds (who was kicked out of oxford for supporting the easter rising — troublemaker! (~_^) ). presumably there have been works criticizing dodd’s thesis written since the 1950s, but i’m afraid i haven’t read any of them yet. i’m just going to run with dodd’s idea for now, but, please, consider this a sort-of thought experiment. more speculation.

first of all, in shame cultures, bad behavior is checked by the fear of being caught — of being shamed and embarassed. in guilt cultures, bad behavior is checked by one’s inner voice — feelings of guilt occurring before any action is taken. these are behavioral traits that must have been variously selected for in different human populations. secondly, shame cultures are all tied up with honor — especially family honor. japan — with its meiwaku and seppuku — is the classic example of a shame culture, but china with its confucian filial piety is not far behind. the arabized populations are definitely shame cultures with their honor killings and all their talk of respect. even european mediterranean societies are arguably more honor-shame cultures than guilt cultures [pdf].

if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ll recognize all of those shame cultures as having had long histories of inbreeding: maternal cousin marriage was traditionally very common in east asia (here’re japan and china); paternal cousin marriage is still going strong in the arabized world; and cousin marriage was prevelant in the mediterranean up until very recently (here’s italy, for example). it’s really, once again, the outbred northwest “core” europeans who are unique here with their guilt culture (although perhaps there are other guilt cultures out there as well). my guess is that long-term inbreeding tends to result in shame-honor cultures, while long-term outbreeding leads to guilt cultures. i’ve said so before.

back to dodd, his thesis is that ancient greece went through something of a transition from a shame to a guilt culture, but that shift was incomplete. the trend may even have reversed in classical athens. dodd points to several thematic shifts in greek literature from the iliad to the writings of plato including: a move away from blaming human failings on atē or the direct, external influences of the gods to more personal “demons,” often seen only by the individual person; the gradual adoption of the idea that individual humans have “souls” or independent “personalities”; a move away from the idea that people’s failings are due to a lack of knowledge (again coming from outside the person) as opposed to, perhaps, their own culpability; that zeus over time becomes more and more a dispenser of justice rather than just a being who capriciously interferes in human affairs (justice being important in guilt cultures as opposed to revenge in shame-honor cultures); and that philosophers and thinkers increasingly complained that the inheritance of guilt down through a family line was unjust. here from dodd on that last point [kindle locations 669-671]:

“Solon speaks of the hereditary victims of nemesis as άυαίτιοι, ‘not responsible’; Theognis complains of the unfairness of a system by which ‘the criminal gets away with it, while someone else takes the punishment later’; Aeschylus, if I understand him rightly, would mitigate the unfairness by recognising that an inherited curse may be broken.”

the idea that only the transgressor should be punished (as in guilt cultures) as opposed to additional or all of his family members (as in shame-honor cultures) doesn’t actually occur to these writers, so they haven’t quite arrived fully into a guilt culture, but they do seem to have been on the way there. much more so than earlier writers anyway. again, dodd emphasizes that [kindle locations 587-588]:

“[M]any modes of behaviour characteristic of shame-cultures persisted throughout the archaic and classical periods. There is a transition, but it is gradual and incomplete.”

the transition may have been incomplete — in fact, may have even gone into reverse — because inbreeding (cousin marriage) became increasingly common in classical athens (see here). from “Agnatio, Cognation, Consanguinitas: Kinship and Blood in Ancient Rome” in Blood and Kinship: Matter for Metaphor from Ancient Rome to the Present [pgs. 24-26], we saw in a previous post that while “aristocrats in early [archaic] Greece…married beyond the limits of their *patris*”, in classical athens “members of the *anchisteia*, the legally defined kinship group including first cousins once removed, were the preferred marriage partners.” 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.

(yes, i know. it’s all very tenuous. i told you it was speculative!)

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*.

i think the way to think of the evolution of behavioral traits like nepotistic and reciprocal altruism in humans — especially perhaps in recent human evolution — is like a big simmering cauldron of stew where bubbles of certain behaviors rise up in some places only to sometimes pop and deflate and almost disppear again. outbreeding appears to have occurred many places, although whether or not over the long-term is not always clear: archaic greece (maybe), ancient rome, the bamileke of cameroon, the igbo of west africa, the turkana of east africa, the semai of malaysia, the bushmen of southern africa (aka The Harmless People), and europeans since the early medieval period — especially northwest europeans. the ancient greek experiment seems to have run out of momentum and collapsed on its own; the roman example probably popped thanks to the barbarian invasions; and the northwest european one is…currently ongoing. for now.

previously: renaissances and the transition from shame to guilt in anglo-saxon england (and “core” europe) and archaic greek mating patterns and kinship terms and ελλάδα
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*“Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.”

(note: comments do not require an email. archaic greek dude.)

mating patterns in medieval norway

at the beginning of this year i said that, since there are so many scandinavian readers of the blog (skål!), i would post about the historic mating patterns of scandinavians/nordic folks … aaaaaaand now it’s december and it never happened. (*^_^*) (did i mention that i come from a population that doesn’t have terrific future time orientation? as han solo said: “it’s not my fault!” (~_^) ) sorry!

i did have good intentions! i swear! back in april i picked up this article: “Norwegians and Europe: The Theme of Marriage and Consanguinity in Early Norwegian Law” from Scandinavia and Europe 800-1350: Contact, Conflict, and Coexistence. so now, in order to assuage my guilt, and so that i might sleep well at night once again, i am finally going to take a look at that article! (^_^)

there were four legal areas in medieval norway (indicated on map below) — the borgartingslag (B), the eidsivatingslag (E), the frostatingslag (F), and the gulatingslag (G):

norwayregions

each of these regions had its own set of secular laws up until the 1270s when magnus the law-mender issued a common law for all of norway. they also each had their own set of ecclesiastical laws which, of course, included regulations on marriage. although there are a couple of differences between these law codes wrt marriage, the upshot is that marriage between sixth cousins or closer was banned in all four regions as well as marriage between affinal family members (i.e. in-laws) related to one another within five degrees (e.g. fourth cousins-in-law or closer). the regulations on blood relations are in line with canon law issued from rome at the time (the ones on in-laws are not) and appear to have been included in norwegian canonical legislation sometime after 1152 (when nicholas breakespear, papal legate in scandinavia and later pope adrian iv, introduced the sixth cousin bans to norway/scandinavia). the penalties in these four norwegian law codes ranged from fines and having to do penance to the splitting up of the couple and even to banishment (“outlawry”).

in the 1270s, when magnus was “mending” all the laws in the country, the cousin marriage bans in norway were scaled back to the fourth degree (i.e. third cousins). this was a bit later than the rest of western europe where the cousin marriage bans were changed in 1215. for this reason, the author of the article suggests that the ban out to sixth cousins probably wasn’t ever strongly enforced in norway, since the authorities didn’t bother to update this regulation right away — like it was a sleeping law or something. that certainly might’ve been the case, and i tend to favor this idea actually. the sixth cousin ban was difficult to enforce right across europe — who knew who their sixth cousins were?! — which is why it was dropped after only a couple of hundred years or so (although thomas aquinas offered other theoretical reasons for scaling back the bans as well) — and i can’t imagine why the situation should’ve been any different in rather remote norway/scandinavia. on the other hand, perhaps the norwegian authorities just decided to hang on to these stringent bans for longer for whatever reasons. that certainly happened in neighboring sweden at the time of the reformation — unlike many of the other newly minted protestant/lutheran churches (as in the german lands, for instance) which did away with cousin marriage bans altogether, the swedish authorities made it difficult for most people to marry cousins right up until 1844.

whatever the case, marriages to closer than third cousins were banned in norway after the 1270s. how well these bans were enforced is, of course, another question. in all likelihood, like elsewhere in europe, enforcement probably became more rigorous and consistent over the course of the medieval period as christianity and the church and its norms permeated norwegian society. remember the example of the franks in the early medieval period: cousin marriage was banned by the frankish kings in the mid-700s, but it wasn’t until sometime in the 800s that the people began thinking that marrying a cousin was unseemly — and that someone ought to tell the bishop if the neighbor had! presumably there was a similar delay with cousin marriage bans gaining traction in norway (and everywhere else, for that matter).

all of this is assuming that the pre-christian norwegians married their cousins to some degree or another in the first place. i don’t know for sure or not if that was the case — Further Research is RequiredTM — but it seems likely that the scandis would’ve behaved similarly to other germanic peoples who certainly did marry their cousins before conversion (see “mating patterns in europe series” below, esp. the posts on the germans and the anglo-saxons) — and they all shared similar kindred structures and feuding practices which seem to go along with cousin marriage, so….

there’s some evidence for a few norwegian christians here and there in the 900s, but the real push for conversion came with olaf ii who was king of norway in the early 1000s, so it’s more than likely that cousin marriage was present in norway right up until this point, although who knows what the frequency was.

one of the earliest — if not the earliest — introductions to norway of the crazy idea to ban cousin marriage at all probably happened in 1022 when the moster assembly (which looks to me to be in the gulatingslag) passed some ecclesiastical cousin marriage bans suggested by bishop grimketel (grimkell), english bishop of selsey. these were based on king æthelred‘s laws from the early eleventh century in which marriage to fourth cousins or closer was banned (this is news to me, btw!).

the arrival of christianity and cousin marriage bans, then, obviously occurred quite a bit later in norway than in the populations closer to the center of “core europe” — i.e. the franks (belgians and dutch) and the southeastern english — whose outbreeding projects were well underway by sometime in the 800s. the norwegians probably lagged behind in outbreeing by three or four hundred years, but, again, no idea exactly how much they’d been marrying their cousins beforehand. (similar case with the swedes.)
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a couple of other notes from the article not directly related to norway:

– sometime between 1161 and 1172, pope alexander iii gave dispensation to a certain group of people who were a part of the archbishopric of niðarós and who were having difficulties obeying the canon law banning sixth or closer cousin marriage. these people lived on an island “twelve days’ journey from Norway” and are believed by historians today to have been the residents of greenland! they were granted permission to marry their fourth, fifth, and sixth cousins. whew!

– the author of the article notes that the cousin marriage bans in iceland were probably never higher than the fourth degree (i.e. third cousins). in other words, icelanders never experienced the crazy bans out to the sixth cousins.

previously: inbreeding in sweden and inbreeding in 18th and 19th century sweden

(note: comments do not require an email. erroneous norwegian claim re. the paper clip!)

more on the origins of guilt in northwestern european populations

in a previous post — the transition from shame to guilt in anglo-saxon england (and “core” europe) — i responded to a post by peter frost in which he argued that sentiments of guilt vs. shame in nw european populations, in particular anglo-saxon (i.e. english) society, go back to at least pre-christian anglo-saxon days. my response was that i think that’s unlikely — there’s no good evidence that feelings of guilt motivated the pre-christian anglo-saxons — and rather that innate feelings of guilt were selected for after the anglo-saxons (and other nw europeans) converted to christianity, and primarily because they quit marrying close relatives which triggered a whole chain of selection processes (if that’s the right way to put it).

peter wrote a part ii to his guilt vs. shame post — Origins of Northwest European guilt culture. Part II (go read it if you haven’t already!) — and this post is a response to that.
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in part ii, peter makes the argument that guilt in nw european populations goes way back to before the arrival of neolithic peoples in the region, and that the fact that there were large-sized, rather complex, semi-sedentary hunter-gatherer (fisher) populations in scandinavia and the baltic area meant that lots of non-kin individuals would’ve interacted with each other and, therefore, feelings of guilt could’ve arisen (read his post if you didn’t follow that — read it in any case, ’cause it is an interesting post!).

unfortunately, he doesn’t offer any evidence for a guilt culture existing in these societies. as far as i can tell, he just sorta assumes it:

“When did this guilt culture emerge? Historians usually link it to the rise of Protestantism, the expansion of the market economy, and the emancipation of the individual from the kin group, all of which happened — or are said to have happened — over the last thousand years. Yet there is compelling evidence for an earlier time frame. At the dawn of history, the peoples along the North Sea and the Baltic already had relatively loose kinship ties, a tendency toward prolonged celibacy, and a high level of circulation of non-kin individuals between households.

where is the evidence for these loose kinship ties, tendency toward prolonged celibacy, and high level of circulation of non-kin individuals between households? he does offer evidence for increased complexity in northern european mesolithic societies, but nothing about the kinship ties/celibacy/circulation of non-kin (unless i missed something -?-).

peter also presents the argument that, since the advance of the neolithic farmers stopped at the edges of where these mesolithic hunter-gatherers in scandinavia/the baltic region lived, that somehow the mesolithic hunter-gatherers were able to stop that advance by some collective action. possibly — but that doesn’t mean they had a guilt-based culture. and, anyway, the advance of neolithic peoples northwards and eastwards in europe seems to have stalled on more than one occasion, like in southeastern europe [pg. 34]:

“As had happened earlier in Greece, the expansion of farming communities into southeastern Europe went only so far and then stopped. The initial phase of rapid, long-distance colonizing movements was followed by consolidation. A frontier was established in Hungary south of Lake Balaton that persisted for at least five hundred years, about 6100-5600 BC…. When another wave of colonizing migrations began about 5600-5500 BC, carrying the farming and stockbreeding way of life over the Carpathians and into Poland, Germany, and France, the villages of southeastern Europe were already old and well established, and had a history of interconnection.”
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the reality of it is, late iron age/late antiquity/pre-christian northwestern european societies were not guilt-based. of the regions peter mentioned, the scandinavians were busy feuding between clans (their ætts) just like all the other germanic (and celtic) clans and tribes of pre-christian europe (stay tuned in the coming weeks for more on the scandis!). and the baltic populations — well, h*ll, they’re STILL barely guilt-based today (they’ve got the highest homicide rates in europe, some of the highest corruption levels, etc., etc.) — probably because the avoidance of close cousin marriage came really late to the baltic region. if mesolithic northern european societies had been guilt-based (and there’s not much evidence that they were), that guilt was long gone by the iron age.

again, peter said:

When did this guilt culture emerge? Historians usually link it to the rise of Protestantism, the expansion of the market economy, and the emancipation of the individual from the kin group, all of which happened — or are said to have happened — over the last thousand years.

the historians are right — or they are sorta right. northwestern (my “core”) european guilt culture emerged not because of the rise of protestantism — that was just the flowering of it — but, rather, had its roots several centuries before that in the early medieval period (see previous post).

the center of the guilt culture in northwestern europe — the core region which (historically anyway) has been characterized by the least corruption, the highest levels of trust, liberal democracy, free societies, low levels of internal violence, high levels of human accomplishment, the invention of capitalism, the advancement of science, the development of the ideas and ideals of the enlightenment, and pretty much everything else we call western civilization today — is the core where The Outbreeding Project began the earliest in europe. here is that core encircled (roughly) in green right here on this map for you (quite possibly denmark and parts of northern italy should be included, too — i’ll keep you posted on that) — the hajnal line represents the outer limits of The Outbreeding Project and the rise of western europe’s guilt culture:

hajnal line - core europe

see these previous posts — mating patterns of the medieval franks and going dutch — for more about the history of mating patterns/The Outbreeding Project in this core region.

we are in The 10,000 Year Explosion territory here. in fact, we are more in the neighborhood of “Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence.” human evolution did not slow down or stop since the rise of culture and civilization — our natures of today were not wholly shaped in the paleolithic — human evolution has, in fact, sped up since the agricultural revolution. and, with strong enough selective pressures, human evolution can happen in ca. 40-50 generations. this is what we’ve got in core europe since the early medieval: ca. 48-52 generations, counting generations at a conservative 25 years in length.

no, i haven’t proven either that the medieval Outbreeding Project in europe led to the guilt culture of northwest europeans (it’s just a theory!), but the circumstantial evidence for the presence of a guilt culture (lack of corruption, low internal violence, etc.) does seem to match the boundaries of The Outbreeding Project awfully well. (^_^)
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p.s. – here’s something that i wrote to someone in an email recently that sums the situation up:

“The connection here, I believe, is in length of time spent outbreeding — and there is also a connection between length of time outbreeding and the Hajnal line. Michael Mitterauer examined and explained this latter connection in chapters two and three of his Why Europe? (I HIGHLY recommend reading the book): during the medieval period, the economy of most of the region that falls within the Hajnal Line was based upon manorialism, and this manor system ‘pushed’ for both outbreeding and late marriage (the late marriage part was Hajnal’s discovery). It also ‘pushed’ for nuclear families.

“The idea of avoiding cousin marriage in Europe was, indeed, one first proposed by the Roman Catholic church, but it really became important — and was implemented to its fullest extent — under the manor system. This is why the range of outbreeding coincides almost perfectly with the Hajnal line: with the expansion of the manor system eastwards across the continent during the medieval period, ideas about cousin marriage — and, indeed, all sorts of Roman Catholic practices — went with it. That expansion stopped in the east when it ran up against the wall of Slavs and vast forests. (This is all covered by Mitterauer.)

“Manorialism also failed to reach all sorts of other areas in Europe where the heavy plow and large agricultural fieds were not practical: the mountainous regions of Italy and Greece, for instance….

“[O]n the whole, yes, Eastern Europeans converted to Christianity quite a bit later than many of the groups in Western Europe. The Russians converted in the late-900s, which is just so very different from the Franks who converted around 500 a.d. That’s a four hundred year delay in any possible implementation of any cousin marriage bans amongst the Kievan Rus vs. the Franks! Complete conversion of the entire populations and the implementation of cousin marriage bans would also have taken time, of course — for instance, I showed in a recent post that, although the Catholic Church banned cousin marriage in the early 500s, the practice of avoiding cousin marriage probably didn’t fully take hold amongst the Franks until the 700-800s. I would imagine that there were similar delays, too, in Eastern Europe — and, in fact, in one post I quoted some evidence that there may have been quite a bit of ‘flip-flopping’ in Russia when it came to enforcing the cousin marriage bans during the medieval period. Again, this is likely due to the fact that the manor system was not in place in Eastern Europe and, so, it just wasn’t considered as necessary to enforce the cousin marriage bans and/or the infrastructure just wasn’t there to properly implement enforcement.

“A curious area of Europe — which I plan on looking into next on the blog — is Scandinavia. They converted to Christianity comparatively late (ca. 1000 a.d.), however, at least in Sweden, they enforced the cousin marriage bans for longer than other Protestant nations. Most of the Protestant nations dropped the cousin marriage bans around the time of the Reformation, but the Lutheran church in Sweden kept prohibiting cousin marriage until the mid-1800s! Oddly, too, cousin marriage doesn’t really seem to have increased much in the Protestant nations after the Reformation — I suppose social norms meant that people just continued to mostly avoid marrying their close cousins. Old habits die hard. (~_^)”

previously: the transition from shame to guilt in anglo-saxon england (and “core” europe)

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

the transition from shame to guilt in anglo-saxon england (and “core” europe)

peter frost has a really, really cool post up about how some societies are “shame cultures” while others are “guilt cultures” (i’ll let you guess which ones are which (~_^) ): The origins of Northwest European guilt culture.

this post is mostly going to be a response to — or a riff off — peter’s post, so, if you haven’t already, you might want to head over to his blog and read his post first. i’ll wait here.

oh! back already? ok! let’s get started…

peter says:

Shame is the primary means of behavioral control in most societies. If you are seen breaking a social rule, you will feel shame, and this feeling will be reinforced by what people say and do (gossiping, malicious looks, spitting, ostracism, etc.). Shame is much less effective if you break a rule without being seen or if you merely think about breaking a rule.

Guilt is more important in European societies, particularly those of Northwest European origin. It operates even when you act alone or merely think about breaking a rule. Behavior can thus be regulated in all possible situations with a minimum of surveillance.”

i haven’t read anything about shame vs. guilt cultures, so i don’t know if this division is correct or not (it certainly feels right), but let’s assume — just for now (i WILL investigate this further, because i think it might be a key point wrt any General Theory of the West) — that this is right and that northwest europeans (my “core” europeans) feel guilt more than most other peoples.

peter suggests that this guilt tripping of nw europeans goes right back to early anglo-saxon england and maybe even to pre-christian, pre-invasion continental germanic societies. he offers a couple of examples from anglo-saxon literature/christian writings: a passage from Beowulf and religious writings from the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries.

peter thinks that the passage from Beowulf might indicate that feelings of guilt versus shame go right back to pre-christian anglo-saxon (germanic) days. i’m a big fan of Beowulf, but its date is disputed — could be from anywhere from the eighth to the eleventh centuries — and parts of it could be earlier or much later than other parts. so it’s difficult to use Beowulf as an indicator of what was going on in the minds of anglo-saxons of any given period. i’m going to call it unreliable and stick to the christian writings which can be much more securely dated.

from peter’s post:

In Anglo-Saxon England, guilt already existed as a major means of behavioral control. The English abbot Aelfric of Eynsham (955-1010) described it as a special kind of shame where the witnesses to the wrongful act are divine entities or spirits of the dead:

“‘He who cannot because of shame confess his faults to one man, then it must shame him before the heaven-dwellers and the earth-dwellers and the hell-dwellers, and the shame for him will be endless. (Bedingfield, 2002, p. 80)’

“This argument comes up repeatedly in Anglo-Saxon literature, where it forms a ‘penitential motif’:

“‘The motif runs: it is better to be shamed for one’s sins before one man (the confessor) in this life than to be shamed before God and before all angels and before all men and before all devils at the Last Judgement. (Godden, 1973)’

Guilt thus played a major role in English culture at least as far back as Anglo-Saxon times. Furthermore, it seems to have been indigenous:

“‘One particularly interesting fact that emerges is the peculiarly Anglo-Saxon character of the motif. Not only did it circulate widely in Old English writings but the only two Latin works in which I have been able to find it were written by Anglo-Saxons — Alcuin and Boniface. Moreover an important element of the motif, the notion of three hosts present at the Last Judgement, is itself characteristic of Anglo-Saxon writers: the usual representation of the Last Judgement in continental works (as in Alcuin’s letter) has the angels and all mankind present, and sometimes the devil as prosecutor, but not the whole host of devils, whereas the concept of the three hosts, as in Boniface’s homily, is very common in Old English writings generally. (Godden, 1973)'”

to me it sounds as though these early christian anglo-saxon writers — boniface (d.754), alcuin (d.804), and aelfric of eynsham (d.1010) — were NOT writing about guilt, but rather about shame — albeit a rather special form of shame where, as peter said, the witnesses who would shame you were not living members of your society but “divine entities or spirits of the dead”. kind-of like how santa keeps a list of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice even though he spends most of the year up at the north pole. (how does he do it?!) somebody’s watching, so you’d better behave!

afaics, that’s still not guilt — i.e. when individuals check their own behavior simply because they’d feel bad if they did something wrong. this early anglo-saxon shame-guilt thing sounds like the beginnings of a transitional phase moving from a shame culture to a guilt culture. and this transitional phase seems to have been underway already in boniface’s day or the eighth century.

early anglo-saxon england was full of transitions. one big one that i’ve written about previously (see here and here) was the disappearance of the kindred which likely began in the early 900s (or possibly the late 800s). the overall trajectory of anglo-saxon society during the early medieval period seems to have been that of a move away from a more local-group-oriented sort-of society based upon kindreds towards a more individualistic society based upon the nuclear family. something similar seems to have been happening across the channel in the low countries (and, probably, northeastern france and northwestern germany — and kinda-sorta in parts of northern italy).

the amazing thing about these societies that became more individualistic is that they — seemingly paradoxically — became the very same societies in which collective behaviors work the best! BROADLY collective — like on a society-wide basis. strong majorities in “core” europe are oriented towards the commonweal in ways that many, if not most, other societies are not (there are exceptions — and there are no doubt more).

so northwest (my “core”) europeans can have these (so can the japanese!)…

vegetable stand - honor system

…or these…

newspaper vending machine

because most people in society would feel guilty — internally, all on their own — if they stole from somebody else.

i suspect that guilt does not go back to pre-christian germanic societies. if they had’ve had guilt proper, then the early christian anglo-saxon clerics wouldn’t have written these weird quasi-shame/quasi-guilt lessons for the people. they would’ve just talked about guilt and everyone would’ve understood it in an “of course” sort-of way.

feelings of guilt were probably selected for over the course of the middle ages in northwestern europe starting in the early part of the period. i would wager good money on it! (^_^) and it was thanks to The Outbreeding Project (imho) — to quote myself:

“think of it like a two-stage rocket:

“- FIRST you have either inbreeding or outbreeding (or any range in between those), and these mating patterns either focus or disperse ‘genes for altruism’ … within extended family groups, which …

“- THEN sets the stage for creating different selection pressures in that different social environments are created (egs. nuclear families, extended families, clans, larger tribes). it’s HERE in this second stage where the behaviors — either clannish or not (or any range in between those!) — are selected for (or can be selected for).

including guilt. i betcha!

look forward to part ii of peter’s post on this question. stay tuned!

(note: comments do not require an email. santa and friends! (~_^) )