Archives for posts with tag: inbreeding

(note: i’ll post the punch line to the do you think like a westerner? post tomorrow…or maybe tuesday. (^_^) )

further to my notion that various jewish populations have tended to imitate the mating patterns (eg. cousin marriage or not) of the broader societies in which they have been situated — at least over the last millennium or so (dunno about the ancient hebrews) — here are some numbers on the types of cousin marriage found in the iranian jewish population. remember that consanguineous marriage is quite high among iranian jews — something on the order of 25%. from Outcaste: Jewish Life in Southern Iran [pg. 112]:

jews - iran- cousin marriage types

notice that nearly one third (3.06%) of all the first cousin marriages (9.88%) are to the father’s brother’s daughter (fbd or FaBrDa in the table). another 1.41% of the marriages are to other patrilateral parallel cousins, probably paternal second cousins. (that’d be father’s father’s brother’s son’s daughter marriage, if you must know. =P or ffbsd marriage! never mind. don’t think about it too hard.)

so ca. 4.5% of iranian jewish marriages are to a patrilateral parallel cousin to some sort. remember that patrilateral parallel cousin marriage (fbd marriage…or ffbsd marriage!) is very unusual. most of humanity avoids it. the vast majority of populations that practice cousin marriage practice maternal cousin marriage — usually cross-cousin maternal marriage or mbd marriage. it’s only the arabized world which favors parallel paternal cousin marriage (and the tswana). it’d be too much of coincidence, i think, for iranian jews to have invented fbd marriage all on their own — i’m betting they picked it up from other iranian peoples after the arabs introduced it to the region.

uuunnnnleeesssss…the jews (also?) introduced it to the region, as they are thought to have done in arabia. hmmmm…?

interestingly, persian jews seem to have put their own twist onto parallel cousin marriage and that is that they also marry maternal parallel cousins (mother’s sister’s daughter or msd marriage or MoSiDa in the table). that form of parallel cousin marriage is even more unusual than fbd marriage. i don’t know of any population that does it. nearly everyone on the planet avoids it. it might, however, have seemed natural to this group of jews — natural, that is, if you’re thinking of adopting parallel cousin marriage at all — since jews have had a very long tradition of allowing/practicing maternal uncle-niece marriage. there are more than two times the number of maternal uncle-niece marriage (SiDa) than paternal uncle-niece marriage (BrDa) in this persian group, for instance. (all of this harkens back to the idea that you know who an individual’s mother is, but you can never be sure who the father is.) i think this is another indicator that persian jews picked up the idea of parallel cousin marriage from the surrounding population (although perhaps it was back in the levant?), and then they adapted it to their own practices. could be wrong. Further Research is RequiredTM.

if (IF) i’m right — going by this persian evidence and the medieval german jewish evidence — that jews have generally adopted the mating patterns of their host populations, then an interesting question is, do other subgroups do this, too? will, for instance, muslim immigrants to the west adopt outbreeding? dunno. mixed signals here. in britain, where most pakistanis are from the kashmir and punjab regions, the total cousin marriage rate in the 1980s (that’s first and second cousins) was 67% [pg. 10]. the rate for all-punjab back in pakistan was 50.3% [pg. 16]. that certainly looks like an increase in cousin marriage in the immigrant population. however, meanwhile in norway, two studies found that pakistani-born pakistanis had higher rates of cousin marriage than norwegian-born pakistanis (37.5% & 34.7% versus 30.1% & 27.1% – pg. 11 – don’t know where pakistanis in norway are from). that looks like a decrease. all things considered, it’s probably too early to tell what the trend(s) might turn out to be.

korotayev and other russian anthropologists have argued — convincingly, imho — that father’s brother’s daughter’s (fbd) marriage was spread by the arabs, since its maximum range today (looking away from the outlier tswana in southern africa) corresponds to the eighth-century caliphate. they further argue that, as part of a more general “arabization” process, the conquered populations emulated their conquerors in all sorts of ways, both in order to succeed in this newly constructed society and, quite possibly, since they viewed the arabs’ culture as somehow superior to their own. the arabs were the conquerors, after all. they must’ve been doing something right! the arabs may even have impressed upon their new subjects that their culture was, indeed, the better one. if they’re right, it seems much less likely to me that immigrant groups to the west will copy our mating patterns if we don’t impress on them that we think they’re important and the right way to go.

previously: historic mating patterns of ashkenazi jews and jewish inbreeding and father’s brother’s daughter’s marriage

(note: comments do not require an email. persian jewish girl. (^_^) )

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

*“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.)

on the recommendation of just about everybody that i know online (thanks, almost everybody!), i am reading graham robb’s The Discovery of France.

this, below, is by far the funniest story so far! and there are a LOT of funny stories like this in the book…and i’m only about a quarter of the way through! great stuff. hbd chick is amused! =P [pgs. 27-28 – link added by me]:

“An expedition into tribal France could begin almost anywhere and at almost any time. A hilltop in the Aveyron, for instance, where the limestone plateaux of the Causses turn into a crumpled map of rocks and gorges. The year is 1884. The priest of Montclar has found an exciting diversion from the monotony of life in a small town. His telescope is trained on a battlefield in the valley below. An army of men, women and children, wielding cudgels and lugging baskets of stones, is advancing on the village of Roqueceziere. But scouts have been posted. Another army has already emerged from the village and is preparing to defend its territory.

“On the bare rock that towers above the village, turning its back to the battle, is a colossal cast-iron statue of the Virgin Mary. The statue has been funded by public subscription — something of a miracle in this impoverished region — and has recently been placed on the rock to commemorate a successful mission.

“Incensed to see the sacred effigy pointing its bottom at their village, the invaders have come to turn it around. The battle rages for hours. Several people are seriously injured. At last, the Roquecezierain lines are breached and the statue is worked around to face the other village. To prevent a full-scale war, the Church authorities find a compromise. The Virgin is rotated ninety degree, supposedly so that each village can see half of her face. However, she now looks east-north-east, towards Saint-Crepin, which contributed more than half the cost of the statue, and still had her back turned to the little clutch of houses at her foot.”

heh! =P i think this must be the statue here:


it should be noted that roquecezière (indicated by red dot) is down in midi-pyrénées in a region having, for france, pretty high cousin marriage rates historically…

roquecezière - cousin marriage

…and it’s also fairly far away from the “core” of core europe (green circle here).

previously: the auvergnat pashtuns

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

emil kirkegaard published an interesting paper recently — well, actually, he’s published a whole slew of interesting papers recently! — but i want to look at something in this one that he coauthored with john fuerst: Educational attainment, income, use of social benefits, crime rate and the general socioeconomic factor among 71 immigrant groups in Denmark.

it’s this chart right here which appears on page 10:

emil's outlier

the curious point on this chart is the flying outlier of lebanon. oftentimes exceptions prove the rule, but occasionally they’re indicators that something might be up. why do lebanese immigrants in denmark (many of whom, i take it from googling around, are actually palestinian refugees) do soooo poorly socio-economically when they don’t score so high on the islamic scale (presumably because about one-third of them are christians, if the joshua project is to be believed)?

emil is skeptical of the inbreeding-can-lead-to-social-and-economic-dysfunction theory, and that’s ok! skepticism is a good thing. but i think that he and john should take it into consideration in this instance. a study from the 1980s found that 16.5% of lebanese christians were in consanguineous marriages (and nearly 30% of lebanese muslims were). sixteen and a half percent is in the neighborhood of the cousin marriage rates in south-central italy, another population not especially known for its great ses achievements, so it’s maybe not surprising to find that the lebanese in denmark are socio-economically quite dysfunctional even though a large portion of them aren’t muslims. we see this pattern over and over again across the world: too much inbreeding (eg. cousin marriage) especially over time in a population and you wind up with social and economic dysfunction, corruption, rampant nepotism, etc., etc.

while it is true that all of the pops in the upper right-hand corner of the chart are majority muslims pops, what they also have in common is a long history of cousin marriage including very close (father’s brother’s daughter/fbd) cousin marriage. the lebanese — including lebanese christians — also fall into this group (although lebanese christians don’t marry their fbds much).

in fact, if you were to draw a horizontal line at .0 across the chart there, no long-term outbreeding population would fall above it. they all actually cluster in the lower left-hand corner of the chart (in other words, the most successful ses-wise): usa, canada, belgium, germany, finland, etc. and as you move upwards on the chart (i.e. away from ses success), you increasingly encounter pops that having been inbreeding for longer: russia, greece, india, china, bosnia, macedonia.

islam might correlate with poor ses in immigrant groups in denmark (and elsewhere), but i suspect that the extent of their history of inbreeding is a more direct cause of the dysfunctionality of these groups.

what the world needs is a good index of inbrededness (rates+history). am workin’ on it! (^_^)

btw, if you’re not regularly checking out the openpsych journals, you should be! “open access, free to publish, open peer review.” good stuff! (dunno why i don’t have them in my blogroll yet. need to do some updating to the ol’ blog here!)

previously: inbreeding amongst christian arabs

(note: comments do not require an email. not emil’s relation.)

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 that i’d like people to read. ymmv!

a BIG thanks to all of you who do read the ol’ blog! and many, many thanks for all the informative and insightful comments. (^_^) …and for some of the crazy comments, too. (~_^)

big summary post on the hajnal line“so, apart from indicating patterns of nuptuality in late medieval and modern europe, hajnal’s line also represents the extent of both manorialism and The Outbreeding Project on the continent. both of these together set up a very new and different sort of social environment for western europeans — a new, and quite unique, social environment which exerted some very different sorts of selection pressures on the populations, particularly on social behaviors, but perhaps on other traits as well.”

medieval manorialism’s selection pressures“medieval society in northern europe (ca. 400-1500 a.d.) produced some quite unique selection pressures which very much shaped the characteristics and personalities of ‘core’ europeans….”

die ostsiedlung“from a sociobiological point-of-view, probably the most underappreciated event in recent western european history. that and the reconquest of spain.”

mating patterns of the medieval franks“by the 800s, second cousin marriages amongst the franks were considered ‘scandalous.’ bishops actively enforced the bans in their dioceses and neighbors willingly squealed on their cousin-marrying neighbors to the bishops. by the 800s-1000s, there is good evidence that both the frankish aristocracy and the lower classes avoided close cousin marriage.” — see also: kindreds, communes, feuds, and mating patterns in medieval france“beginning in the 1000s, there are indications — the rise of lineages and the appearance of communes — that the french kindreds were starting to break apart. however, feuding continued in france into the 1200-1300s, so clannishness did not disappear in france overnight.”

the transition from shame to guilt in anglo-saxon england (and “core” europe)“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.” — see also: more on the origins of guilt in northwestern european populations“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.”

sneak preview: violence, punishment, outbreeding, and swashbuckling pirates in medieval england“over the course anglo-saxon period…the death penalty did come to be more widely applied to cases of homicide, but for most of the period there weren’t really very many executions of killers…. more laws demanding the death penalty (or castration) for killings were issued and enforced during the anglo-norman and angevin periods… [but] executions actually remained comparatively low during large parts of the norman period…. as far as i can tell, criminals were executed right and left during the tudor period. the use of capital punishment really ramped up during the 1500s.” — see also: homicide rates in various regions of thirteenth century england“[I]t is possible that every person in England in the thirteenth century, if he did not personally witness a murder, knew or knew of someone who had been killed.”

a study in swiss“my guess is that the swiss are some of western europe’s ‘inbetweeners’ as far as outbreeding goes. i guessed that they probably got involved in The Outbreeding Project later than some other western europeans — the ones in and closer to the center of my ‘core’ europe. and they didn’t experience manorialism either (unless some of them on the swiss plateau did?).”

reverse renaissance?“perhaps the arabized world underwent a *reverse* renaissance process thanks to the introduction by the arabs of the most inbred form of cousin marriage — father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage — to the populations of the middle east/maghreb….” — see also asabiyyah and asabiyyah ii – clannishness and the abbasid caliphate.

fbd cousin marriage and clans and tribes in iraq“i think a long term inbreeding society selects — or *can* select — for what i call clannishness. and iraqis have got that in spades. they’ve got clans and tribes, nepotism, and an obvious inability to handle liberal democracy. not that that’s some sort of goal in and of itself. i’m just sayin’.”

cousin marriage in sub-saharan africa“there is also a wide variety of mating patterns in ss africa. some populations avoid cousin marriage altogether. we’ve already seen this with the bamileke of cameroon and the igbo of nigeria. also the turkana of kenya and quite possibly the amhara of ethiopia (not 100% sure about them — need to double-check). a notable group which apparently avoids cousin marriage is the zulu. but plenty of other ss africa groups do practice cousin marriage like, as you’ll see in the table below, the kongo and luba in the democratic republic of congo, the ashanti in ghana, the sotho-tswana in south africa, and the kpelle of liberia.” — see also: the bamileke of cameroon and fulani, hausa, igbo, and yoruba mating patterns.

the american revolutions“that there were four american revolutions is a result of the fact that four (five?) somewhat different english populations settled in different regions of north america. the cultural and attitudinal differences between these regions persist to this day because, undoubtedly, there are genetic variations between the populations — probably average genetic differences in the frequencies of genes related to behaviors, personality, and even intelligence. these regional differences also persist because, since the very founding of the united states, like-minded people have been self-sorting themselves within the country so that they group together — and that sorting process has *not* been slowing down.”

it’s not nature and nurture…“…it’s nature and…*we dunno*…miscellaneous/unknown/noise?” — this post's actually very important. READ THIS POST! think about it for a while and let it sink in. and make sure to follow the links!

– my "what is hbd" series: what is human biodiversity (hbd)?“human biodiversity (hbd) is very simply the diversity found among and between human populations that has a biological basis.” — see also: what human biodiversity (hbd) is not; examples of human biodiversity (hbd); why human biodiversity (hbd) is true; hbd and racism; and hbd and politics.

– and finally: you and me and hbd“if you accept that humans exhibit biologically based diversity, then you’d better be prepared to accept ALL of it.”

previously: top ten list 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Admixture in South African Afrikaners — from razib.

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

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

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

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

Differences in intelligence between ethnic minorities and Han in China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Kennewick Man Finally Freed to Share His Secrets

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

bonus: Walking fish raised on land mimic ancient evolutionary transition

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

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

i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again: stanley kurtz is a really, really smart guy. he’s especially smart when it comes to mating patterns and family types in the middle east/arab world and how those affect the social and political workings of the nations in those regions. which is why i had a little #StanleyKurtzFest to myself on twitter the other day. (^_^) and i thought i’d repeat it here.

kurtz trained as a social anthropologist (at harvard) and did his fieldwork in india, so he knows anthropology. he wrote several articles about mating patterns and things like democracy in the arabized world, some of them back before we got involved in iraq in the early 2000s, so the guy is aware. but EVERYthing he wrote back then still very much applies to iraq today, not to mention to afghanistan, syria, libya, egypt — in other words, the whole arab autumn movement.

i’m going to cut-and-paste some excerpts from his articles here, but i highly recommend clicking through and reading them all! the only aspect kurtz misses is, of course, the biological underpinnings for the behavioral patterns we see in the arab world — which is unfortunate, since the biology is fundamental to it all, but hey — nobody’s perfect! for the biological explanation (which you should hold in your mind the entire time while you’re reading kurtz — which you’re going to do, right? promise?!), you should see steve sailer’s classic Cousin Marriage Conundrum — and any random post on this blog. (~_^)

oh. one other thing that stanley — along with many others — gets wrong is the idea that people let go of their extended families if and when they have some sort of just state in charge that will take care of the rights of the individual. that is, imho, exactly backwards. states that are (more or less) of, by, and for the people only come into existence — can only come into existence — after a population has moved away from the extended family as the basic unit of society. there is evidence that this was the order of events in medieval england, and i’m betting that it will hold for elsewhere as well. more on all that another time.

right. here we go…

“I and My Brother Against My Cousin”
“Is Islam the best way to understand the war on terror? Tribalism may offer a clearer view of our enemies’ motivations.”
Apr 14, 2008

“In the Islamic Near East, however, the term ‘tribe’ has a fairly specific meaning. Middle Eastern tribes think of themselves as giant lineages, traced through the male line, from some eponymous ancestor. Each giant lineage divides into tribal segments, which subdivide into clans, which in turn divide into sub-clans, and so on, down to families, in which cousins may be pitted against cousins or, ultimately, brother against brother. Traditionally existing outside the police powers of the state, Middle Eastern tribes keep order through a complex balance of power between these ever fusing and segmenting ancestral groups.

“The central institution of segmentary tribes is the feud. Security depends on the willingness of every adult male in a given tribal segment to take up arms in its defense. An attack on a lineage-mate must be avenged by the entire group. Likewise, any lineage member is liable to be attacked in revenge for an offense committed by one of his relatives. One result of this system of collective responsibility is that members of Middle Eastern kin groups have a strong interest in policing the behavior of their lineage-mates, since the actions of any one person directly affect the reputation and safety of the entire group.

“Universal male militarization, surprise attacks on apparent innocents based on a principle of collective guilt, and the careful group monitoring and control of personal behavior are just a few implications of a system that accounts for many aspects of Middle Eastern society without requiring any explanatory recourse to Islam. The religion itself is an overlay in partial tension with, and deeply stamped by, the dynamics of tribal life….

“Looking at a political map of the Middle East, we tend to assume government control of the territories lying within all those neatly drawn borders. It is a serious mistake. As Salzman puts it, traditional Middle Eastern states are more like magnets, exerting force on territory near the center, while losing power with distance. The Ottoman Empire (and the British) ruled the tribes loosely, demanding an annual tribute but generally leaving them to govern themselves. To a remarkable extent, this holds true today. While the precise degree of centralized power ebbs and flows, tribes living in what are often quite large territories on national peripheries exist largely free of state power.

“Far from viewing this as a disability, Middle Eastern tribesmen consider life beyond the state as the surest way to avoid dishonorable submission. Statelessness is an essential condition of dignity, equality, and freedom. The traditional relation of the state to the peasant, notes Salzman, ‘is that of the shepherd to his flock: the state fleeces the peasants, making a living off of them, and protects them from other predators, so that they may be fleeced again.’ Salzman asks us to think of traditional states as ‘cliques determined to impose their power for the pleasure of dominance and the profit of extortion.’

“Saddam Hussein comes to mind. Not only was his regime exploitative, it was built around a tribal coalition, at the center of which was Saddam’s Tikriti clan. In the traditional system, says Salzman, states were bereft of any wider sense of civic responsibility or benevolence. Secure in distant mountains or deserts, traditional Middle Eastern tribes (like the Yahi in the hills of California) engaged in predatory raiding against settled peasants. Once a particularly powerful tribe or tribal coalition actually captured a state, they simply routinized their predation under official guise. (Saddam and his Sunni tribal allies fit the bill.) From that perspective, avoiding a life of peasant humiliation and exploitation through membership in an independent tribe begins to look good — endemic violence notwithstanding….”

“Marriage and the Terror War, Part I”
“Better learn up on your anthropology if you want to understand the war.”
February 15, 2007

“In this first in a series of essays on Muslim cousin-marriage, I want to begin to make the case that Muslim kinship structure is an unexamined key to the war on terror. While the character of Islam itself is unquestionably one of the critical forces driving our global conflict, the nature of Islamic kinship and social structure is at least as important a factor — although this latter cluster of issues has received relatively little attention in public debate. Understanding the role of Middle Eastern kinship and social structure in driving the war not only throws light on the weaknesses of arguments like D’Souza’s, it may also help us devise a new long-term strategy for victory in the war on terror.

“Self-Sealing Society

Think of the culture of the Muslim Middle East as ‘self-sealing.’ Muslim society has a deep-lying bias toward in-group solidarity, the negative face of which manifests itself in a series of powerful mechanisms for preventing, coercing, or punishing those who would break with or undermine the in-group and its customs. This bias toward in-group solidarity serves to shelter Muslim society from interaction with the forces of modernity, and also explains why Muslim immigrants so often fail to assimilate. Of course, no society can function without some sort of ‘in-group solidarity.’ Yet the Muslim world is truly distinctive on this score. When it comes to the core principles of kinship, Muslim practices strengthen and protect the integrity and continuity of the in-group in a way that sets the Middle East apart from every other society in the world. To appreciate this fact, we’ve first got to understand some fundamental things about the nature of kinship.

“For the greater part of human history, nearly every society has been organized into units based on kin ties. Modern life greatly reduces the significance of these ties, since capitalism tends to allocate jobs based on ability (instead of who your father is), while democracies apply laws, and assign benefits, on the principle of equal citizenship (not birth). By contrast, in most traditional societies, a man’s security, health, prosperity, and religious standing all depend, first and foremost, on his relatives. So to understand the kinship structure of a traditional society is to make sense of a good deal of life there. Unfortunately, our contemporary thinned-out notion of kinship has made it tough to recognize just how profoundly societies are shaped by variations in marriage practices. That’s why we’re far more comfortable making sense of the war on terror through the lens of a familiar phenomenon like religion, than in the light of something alien, like cousin marriage….

“All right, let’s say we have a society made up of clans organized by descent through the father. (Imagine a grander version of your own father’s family line, or something like the Hatfields and McCoys.) In any given clan, the men all trace their descent from a common male ancestor. In such a society, a rule or preference for cross-cousin marriage would create a systematic form of exogamy. In other words, if every man in a patrilineal, clan-based society were to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter, every man would be marrying someone from a different clan. (For example, if you were to marry your own mother’s brother’s child, you would be marrying someone from outside of your father’s family line.) Since every man’s mother in our imaginary society is born into a different patriclan than his own, when a man marries the daughter of his mother’s brother (i.e., his cross cousin) he is renewing an alliance with another patriclan (i.e. his mother’s birth clan) by bringing a woman from his mother’s birth clan into his own clan as a wife, just as his father did before him.

“On the other hand, in a society made up of competing patriclans, a rule or preference for parallel-cousin marriage would have exactly the opposite effect. Parallel-cousin marriage would seal each and every clan off from all of the others. If, say, every man in a society made up of patrilineal clans was to marry his father’s brother’s daughter, every man would be married to a descendent of his own birth clan. (For example, if you were to marry your own father’s brother’s child, you would be marrying someone from within your father’s family line.) That would be a very strong form of endogamy, or “marrying in,” which, according to Tylor, would encourage social isolation, cultural stasis, rivalry, and high levels of conflict between clans….

And as we’ve already seen, parallel-cousin marriage [i.e. fbd marriage-h.chick] has an effect precisely the opposite of the alliance-building interchange encouraged by cross-cousin marriage — and praised by Tylor and Levi-Strauss. Instead of encouraging cultural exchange, forging alliances, and mitigating tensions among competing groups, parallel-cousin marriage tends to wall off groups from one another and to encourage conflict between and among them. However strong the urge among anthropologists to identify the cooperative advantages of exogamy as a core characteristic of human nature itself, the hard fact of the matter is that a significant minority of human societies have chosen to organize themselves according to principles quite the opposite of alliance-based exogamy. Care to hazard guess as to exactly where in the world those societies might be?

“While the vast majority of societies that practice cousin marriage favor the marriage of cross cousins, the relatively small number of societies that encourage parallel-cousin marriage can be found in the Islamic cultures of North Africa and west and central Asia. Russian anthropologist Andrey Korotayev has shown that, while the region that practices parallel-cousin marriage does not map perfectly onto the Islamic world as a whole, it does (with some exceptions) closely resemble the territory of the eighth-century Islamic Caliphate — the original Islamic empire. So there is one great exception to the claim that human society — and even human nature itself — are built around the principle of extra-familial marriage. Almost every known contemporary case of preferential parallel-cousin marriage is the result of diffusion from a single source: the original Islamic Caliphate. And while parallel-cousin marriage may not be Islamic in any strict or formal sense (in fact, the practice apparently predates Islam in the region), as Korotayev puts it, ‘there seems to be no serious doubt that there is some functional connection between Islam and FBD [father’s brother’s daughter — i.e., parallel cousin] marriage.’ Sounds like we’d best find out what that ‘functional connection’ is….”

“Marriage and the Terror War, Part II”
“Protecting the honor of the family; protecting the honor of Islam.”
February 16, 2007

“[O]nce you understand how Muslims construct society as a collection of counterbalanced, sometimes allied, sometimes feuding, closed-off, and self-sufficient family cells, the problem of Muslim cultural persistence begins to make sense. Holy also allows us to appreciate that the Muslim seclusion of women (another critical barrier to modernization and assimilation) is part and parcel of a larger complex of practices, at the center of which is parallel-cousin marriage….

“With all the economic and social diversity in the Middle East, one factor remains constant. Wherever parallel-cousin marriage is practiced, the notion that the honor of the male family-line depends upon the sexual conduct of women is strong. For this reason, a woman’s father’s brother’s son (her parallel cousin) has the right-of-first-refusal in the matter of her marriage. To protect against the possibility of a woman’s shameful marriage (or other dangerous sexual conduct) damaging the honor of the men of her lineage, male relatives have the right to keep her safely within the family line by marrying her off to her parallel cousin.

“As I’ll show in a follow-up piece, all of these kinship mechanisms are much at work in Europe today. Muslim immigrants in Europe use cousin marriage to keep wealth within already tight family lines, and to prevent girls from entering ‘shameful’ marriages with cultural outsiders. All this serves to reinforce family ‘solidarity,’ thereby blocking the assimilation of Muslim immigrants into society at large. We’ve all heard about full-body veiling, the seclusion of women, forced marriage, honor killing, and the like. Europe is struggling with the question of how to handle these practices. What we’ve missed up to now is the sense in which cousin marriage tends to organize and orchestrate all of these controversial practices, thereby serving as the lynch-pin of a broader pattern of resistance to assimilation and modernization. In effect, parallel-cousin marriage in Europe acts as a social ‘sealing mechanism’ to block cultural interchange — just as, over a century ago, Sir Edward Tylor theorized it would….”

“With Eyes Wide Open”
“Who they are; what we’re getting into.”
February 20, 2002

“The split between the state and society-at-large has a long history in the Middle East. The governments of Mohammad and his immediate successors, the ‘rightly guided Caliphs,’ were successful theocracies. But as Islam’s empire grew, the Caliphs were forced to resort to strategies of authoritarian rule and hereditary recruitment that violated strict Islamic principles of equality and consultation. The result was that the state itself lost legitimacy. Righteous Muslims grew more interested in avoiding the state than in serving it. The image of Mohammad’s just theocracy lived on, and religion was still blended with everyday social practice through the regulations of Islamic law, but for much of Islamic history, the state itself was devalued and delegitimated.

“That was less of a problem before the modern era. The great Islamic empires ruled their subjects lightly taxing and offering military protection, but for the most part depending on tribal ties and kinship (along with Islamic law) to regulate the daily business of life. The rulers stayed out of the day-to-day affairs of the people, and the people liked it that way. The old system allowed Muslim governments to cobble together huge empires out of essentially self-governing populations. Yet under modern conditions, the traditional split between the self-contained world of tribe and kin, on the one hand, and the state on the other, sets up a debilitating struggle between tradition and modernity.

“The meltdown in the Middle East has been fueled by massive population growth and a flood of rural immigrants into cities like Cairo and Istanbul. Governments have been hard pressed to provide the new urban immigrants with municipal services, much less jobs. That’s where those kin networks come in. In European history, even in rural areas, extended kinship ties grew progressively less important, until the collapse of feudalism and the rise of cities created a society of truly modern individuals. The new European society was ruled by powerful centralized governments, and bureaucracies that applied the law equally to all. But unlike the urban masses of Europe, the rural migrants powering the Middle East’s urban population explosion have brought their traditional kinship networks with them. Those networks offer support to the common man where weak Middle Eastern governments cannot — while also making it impossible for a modern political and economic system to take root. Family connections get you food when neither government nor the economy can provide it. But the corruption fueled by the family ethos sabotages the government’s distribution plans, undercuts the government’s legitimacy, and blocks the path to societal liberalization….

In short, the entire kinship system and its associated economic apparatus constitutes almost a society within a society, the massive holdings of which aren’t even counted toward Egypt’s GNP. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that the modern Egyptian government and economy are virtual alien implants, floating lightly on the surface of a still remarkably traditional society, even in a big city like Cairo. Yet people still expect the government to deliver cheap foodstuffs and other staples. It’s the government food subsidies that enable parents to squirrel away money for their children’s marriages — alliances that cement social connections that bring the security, opportunity, and prosperity that the government cannot deliver. That’s why threats to the food subsidies bring riots….”

“Veil of Fears”
“Why they veil; why we should leave it alone.”
December 15, 2001

“The conflict between modernity and the traditional Muslim view of women is one of the most important causes of this war. The tiresome claim of the leftist academy that poverty causes terrorism misses the point. So far from being poor, Muslim fundamentalists tend to come from a relatively wealthy modernizing class. The terrorists and their supporters are generally newly urbanized, college-educated professionals from intact families with rural backgrounds. They are a rising but frustrated cohort, shut out of power by a more entrenched and Westernized elite. True, the new fundamentalists often find themselves stymied by the weak economies of Muslim countries, but as a class they are relatively well off. Like many revolutions, the Muslim fundamentalist movement has been spurred by increased income, education, and expectations. But it is the clash between traditional Middle Eastern family life and modernity that has decisively pushed so many toward fundamentalism. And women are at the center of the problem….

“The Taliban’s code of womanly behavior was intentionally directed toward the cities. The aim was to ‘purify’ those areas of Afghanistan that had been ‘corrupted’ by modernization. But the Taliban never bothered to enforce its rules in traditional areas. Actually, in most Afghan villages, women rarely wear the burka. That’s because villages in Afghanistan are organized into kin-oriented areas, and the veil needs wearing only when a woman is among men from outside of her kin group. A rural woman puts on a burka for travel, especially to cities. Yet just by exiting her home, a woman in a modern city inevitably mixes with men who are not her kin. That’s why the Taliban prohibited the modernized women of Kabul from so much as stepping onto the street without a male relative. So the real problem with the veil in Afghanistan was the Taliban’s attempt to impose the traditional system of veiling on a modernizing city. Yet, remarkable as it may seem, many modernizing urban women throughout the Middle East have freely accepted at least a portion of the Taliban’s reasoning. These educated women have actually taken up the veil — and along with it, Muslim fundamentalism. To see why, it is necessary to understand what makes traditional Muslim women veil in the first place.

Life in the Muslim Middle East has long revolved around family and tribe. In fact, that’s what a tribe is — your family in its most extended form. For much of Middle Eastern history, tribal networks of kin functioned as governments in miniature. In the absence of state power, it was the kin group that protected an individual from attack, secured his wealth, and performed a thousand other functions. No one could flourish whose kin group was not strong, respected, and unified.

“In the modern Middle East, networks of kin are still the foundation of wealth, security, and personal happiness. That, in a sense, is the problem. As we’ve seen in Afghanistan, loyalty to kin and tribe cuts against the authority of the state. And the corrupt dictatorships that rule much of the Muslim Middle East often function themselves more like self-interested kin groups than as rulers who take the interests of the nation as a whole as their own. That, in turn, gives the populace little reason to turn from the proven support of kin and tribe, and trust instead in the state.

“So from earliest youth, a Middle Eastern Muslim learns that his welfare and happiness are bound up in the strength and reputation of his family. If, for example, a child shows a special aptitude in school, his siblings might willingly sacrifice their personal chances for advancement simply to support his education. Yet once that child becomes a professional, his income will help to support his siblings, while his prestige will enhance their marriage prospects.

“The ‘family’ to which a Muslim Middle Easterner is loyal, however, is not like our family. It is a ‘patrilineage’ — a group of brothers and other male relatives, descended from a line of men that can ultimately be traced back to the founder of a particular tribe. Traditionally, lineage brothers will live near one another and will share the family’s property. This willingness of a ‘band of brothers’ to pool their labor and wealth is the key to the strength of the lineage.

“But the centrality of men to the Muslim kinship system sets up a problem. The women who marry into a lineage pose a serious threat to the unity of the band of brothers. If a husband’s tie to his wife should become more important than his solidarity with his brothers, the couple might take their share of the property and leave the larger group, thus weakening the strength of the lineage.

“There is a solution to this problem, however — a solution that marks out the kinship system of the Muslim Middle East as unique in the world. In the Middle East, the preferred form of marriage is between a man and his cousin (his father’s brother’s daughter). Cousin marriage solves the problem of lineage solidarity. If, instead of marrying a woman from a strange lineage, a man marries his cousin, then his wife will not be an alien, but a trusted member of his own kin group. Not only will this reduce a man’s likelihood of being pulled away from his brothers by his wife, a woman of the lineage is less likely to be divorced by her husband, and more likely to be protected by her own extended kin in case of a rupture in the marriage. Somewhere around a third of all marriages in the Muslim Middle East are between members of the same lineage, and in some places the figure can reach as high as 80 percent. It is this system of ‘patrilateral parallel cousin marriage’ [fbd marriage-h.chick] that explains the persistence of veiling, even in the face of modernity.

By veiling, women are shielded from the possibility of a dishonoring premarital affair. But above all, when Muslim women veil, they are saving themselves for marriage to the men of their own kin group. In an important sense, this need to protect family honor and preserve oneself for an advantageous marriage to a man of the lineage is a key to the rise of Islamic revivalism….”

“After the War”
Winter 2003

“[I]f we do decide to try to impose democracy on Iraq, it will be far harder than proponents of democratization recognize. It will entail long, unremitting U.S. effort….

“The democratizers’ model for transforming Iraq is America’s post–World War II occupation of Japan….

“Efforts to democratize a country require more than modern liberal ideas; they require a class of people who embrace those ideas and make them effective. Had a sophisticated modern bureaucratic class not been on hand to accept and implement democratic reforms, the American occupation of Japan would not have succeeded. To be sure, excessive bureaucracy can suffocate democratic liberty, but modern bureaucracies are generally democratizing forces. They embody intrinsically modern, democratic ideas — that the government office is distinct from the individual who holds it, for example, and that rules apply to all with equal force. They blow apart traditional social relations — relations that are often powerful barriers to democratic reform—by centralizing authority and power in a national government.

“Japan’s relatively modern bureaucratic class was in place even before the Meiji Restoration. Many former samurai, displaced by history from their traditional military role, had moved into administrative positions. No egalitarians, these men possessed a profound sense of superiority and entitlement, based on a conviction that they had transcended the petty selfishness of the ordinary man to devote themselves to a higher good. In the administrative realm, their elite spirit of nobility and sacrifice took the form of an ethic of detachment, incorruptibility, and public-spiritedness — ideal virtues for modern bureaucratic elites. Once Meiji Japan began to copy Western bureaucratic and meritocratic models, the samurai, with their background in government service, fit right in and helped make those models work in their new Japanese setting, especially since these men had come under the influence of the liberty and popular-rights movement, whose leaders were displaced samurai like themselves.

“The distinctive samurai ethic of public service put an enduring stamp on the Japanese democracy that emerged from the American occupation. To this day, many scholars describe Japan as a ‘bureaucratic polity,’ with government bureaucrats running the country, the political parties, and the industries too.

Nothing comparable to Japan’s liberal intellectual tradition and modern, public-spirited bureaucratic class exists in Iraq or in any Arab country. The influence of fundamentalist Islam in the Arab world reflects a culture deeply inhospitable to democratic and liberal principles. In a perceptive recent National Interest article, Adam Garfinkle explains that, whereas democracies take as bedrock assumptions that political authority lies with society, that the majority rules, and that citizens are equal before the law, Arab societies vest political authority in the Qur’an, rest decision-making on consensus, and understand law and authority as essentially hierarchical. They lack such essential cultural preconditions for democracy as the idea of a loyal opposition or the rule of law or the separation of church and state. No surprise, given their nonmodern political beliefs, that not one Arab Muslim country qualifies as ‘free’ in Freedom House’s annual survey, and that a disproportionate number of Arab regimes qualify in the ‘worst of the worst’ category — the least free and least democratic on earth.

Arab Muslim societies remain un-modern and un-democratic not just in their attitudes toward political authority and law but also in their social organization. For men and women living within a universe where tribal identity, the duties and benefits of extended kinship networks, and conceptions of collective honor organize the relations of everyday life, democratic principles will be incomprehensible.

“And therefore democracy would be impossible. How could a modern, democratic bureaucracy function, for example, if officials remain loyal primarily to tribe, faction, or family? The power of such ties preempts any ethic of disinterested public service. A government office becomes a means of benefiting your family and harming your enemies, not applying the rules fairly. Saddam’s Iraq largely functions like one big tribal patriarchy, with Saddam the patriarch. His kin, together with members of his tribe and allied tribes, rule….”

“Assimilation Studies, Part I”
“Muslim and non-Muslim immigrants to Britain originating from the same region.”
March 21, 2007

“It’s a commonplace that Muslim immigrants in Europe have been slow to assimilate. In a general way, the public attributes this relative isolation to Muslim religion and culture. But if you’re looking for a clear, powerful, and detailed account of exactly what it is that’s been blocking Muslim assimilation in Europe, there is no better place to begin than Ballard.

“Variation on a Theme

“Before turning to Ballard’s work, I need to note that the form of cousin marriage favored by the Pakistani Muslims who immigrate to Britain is a regional variant on the ‘parallel cousin’ marriage [fbd marriage-h.chick] favored by Muslims in the heart of the Arab World. (I discussed the nature and significance of ‘parallel cousin’ marriage in ‘Marriage and the Terror War’ Parts I and II.) While many Pakistani Muslims do in fact marry their first or second ‘patrilateral parallel cousins’ (their father’s brother’s child), many others marry first and second cousins of other types. In contrast to Muslims in North Africa and the Arab World, Muslims in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan prefer marriage with any closely related cousin — not merely ‘patrilateral parallel cousins….’

Part of what makes Ballard’s 1990 ‘Migration and kinship’ piece so powerful is that he has identified Punjabi migration to Britain as something like a natural controlled experiment, with cousin marriage as the key variable. Somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of all South Asians in Britain are Punjabis. The Punjab sits athwart the border of India and Pakistan and is home to substantial communities of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. Muslims live almost exclusively in the Pakistani half of Punjab, while Sikhs and Hindus live largely in Indian Punjab. Whatever their religion, Punjabi migrants to Britain have a great deal in common. Most come from small, peasant, farming families, share basic cultural premises, speak a common language, and originally entered Britain intending to pocket savings from manual labor and return home. (In the end, many Punjabi guest workers remained in Britain.)

“In family life, Punjabis of whatever religion organize themselves into patrilineal descent groups. Within those patrilineal clans, a ‘joint family’ forms around a man, his married sons, and their children, with women leaving their natal homes to move in with their husbands. The family lives communally, sharing wealth and property, with grown sons under their father’s authority, and in-marrying wives working under the direction of their mother-in-law. And whether Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh, the modesty of women in dress and behavior is a key cultural value for all Punjabis.

Despite these many similarities, the position of Punjabi Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu immigrants in Britain dramatically differs. Ballard focuses his comparison on two immigrant groups: Punjabi Muslims from the Mirpur region of Pakistan and Punjabi Sikhs from the Jullundur region of India. (Ballard frequently invokes Punjabi Hindus for comparative purposes as well.) Far from being obscure or isolated examples, it turns out that nearly three-quarters of British Punjabis are either Mirpuri Muslims or (largely Sikh) Jullunduris. With Punjabis making up the great majority of all British South Asians, Ballard’s careful comparison is therefore telling us about two of the largest and most influential South Asian immigrant groups in Britain.

So what’s the difference between Jullunduri Sikhs and Mirpuri Muslims? Quite simply, Jullunduri Sikh’s have moved relatively far down the road of assimilation, while Mirpuri Muslims have not. Now largely middle class, many British Sikhs have abandoned manual labor to start their own businesses, have moved from the inner city to the suburbs, and currently see their children performing academically at the same level as other middle-class Britons. British Mirpuri Muslims, on the other hand, move between unemployment and manual labor, are still largely confined to poor, inner-city ethnic enclaves, and rear children with a limited grasp of English and a notably low level of academic achievement.

“Given the broad social, cultural, and linguistic similarities between Mirpuri Muslims and Jullunduri Sikhs (and Hindus), how are we to account for the radically different trajectories of these immigrant communities in Britain? Can religion explain the difference? In a sense, it can. Yet the key barriers to assimilation aren’t always religious in the strict sense. The factors that inhibit assimilation have less to do with Muslim beliefs per se than with the distinctive, non-textual practices that organize Muslim society.

In particular, the practice of cousin marriage has served to create a culturally insulated community of Mirpuri Muslims in Britain….

“After noting that economic factors can have only limited explanatory value in this case, Ballard goes on to highlight the influence of marriage practices on patterns of immigrant assimilation. Ballard suggests that the Muslim practice of cousin marriage may account for the formation of ‘far more in-turned and all-embracing’ kinship networks than we find among British Sikhs, thus helping to explain the two groups’ divergent patterns of economic achievement and cultural accommodation….

“Assimilation Studies, Part II”
“On cousin marriage and Pakistani Muslims in Britain.”
March 22, 2007

The practice of cousin marriage among Pakistani immigrants has significantly slowed Muslim assimilation in Britain. Muslim cousin marriage has also facilitated a process of ‘reverse colonization,’ in which large, culturally intact sections of Pakistani Muslim society have been effectively transferred to British soil. These conclusions emerge from the work of British South Asianist Roger Ballard — particularly from his path-breaking paper ‘Migration and kinship: the differential effects of marriage rules on the processes of Punjabi migration to Britain.’ In the first part of ‘Assimilation Studies,’ I laid out the background necessary to follow Ballard’s case. Here in Part II, I’ll run through the core of his argument. I’ll also explain why highlighting the significance of Muslim cousin marriage is such a difficult and controversial enterprise….

“Ballard (who’s done extensive fieldwork in Pakistan’s Mirpur district) estimates that ‘over 60% of all Mirpuri marriages are contracted between first cousins.’ In 2002, Ballard noted that: ‘At least half (and possibly as many as two-thirds) of the marriages currently being contracted by young British-based Mirpuris are still arranged with their cousins from back home….’

“What differences did Ballard find between the two big groups of British immigrants from the Punjab: Muslims from the Mirpur district of Pakistan, and Sikhs from the Jullundur district of India? Although both of these groups share a broadly similar social and cultural background, their patterns of assimilation have been strikingly different….

“Even in the 1970s, when Mirpuri Muslim laborers finally did begin to bring their wives and children to live with them in Britain, ties to Pakistan were sustained through ‘chain migration.’ With immigration regulations in Britain reflecting a lesser need and desire for foreign workers, villagers back in Mirpur could obtain visas only by marrying Mirpuri migrants already in Britain. Children of these couples, in turn, married and brought to England yet another generation of Mirpuri villagers, with each link in the chain of marriage migration insuring that the process of adjustment to English language and culture would begin again from scratch. These relatively unassimilated Mirpuri marriage-migrants were largely confined to the inner-city — to neighborhoods that recreated, insofar as possible, the linguistic and cultural conditions of Pakistan itself. Given their limited contact with English-speaking neighbors, Mirpuri children in these ethnic ghettos continued to have problems in school.

So, even when Mirpuri migrant men finally did reunite their families in Britain, it was less a breaking of the bonds that linked them to Pakistan than an effective transfer of a South Asian village society to Britain itself — a sort of ‘reverse colonization’ — with marriage-driven chain migration keeping the ties between the ‘reverse colony’ and the Punjabi homeland as strong as ever. In combination with the original post-war labor inflow, marriage-driven chain migration has now succeeded in transferring well over 50 percent of Mirpur’s original population to Britain. ‘We don’t cultivate wheat here any more,’ one of Ballard’s Mirpuri informants commented, ‘we cultivate visas instead….’

“As Muslim and Sikh immigrants gradually adjusted to life in Britain, it became increasingly evident that marriages arranged with villagers from back home tended to be riven with conflict. Cultural differences, the language gap, and the wide divergence in general social competence between British-raised youth and their spouses from South Asia frequently made for trouble and strife. So when the parents of British-born Sikhs were faced with the offer of an arranged marriage with a villager from Punjab, their children invariably opposed the match. In doing so, these young Sikhs had the advantage of knowing that their parents were under no obligation to accept any particular proposal of marriage. Given the Sikh practice of clan exogamy, every marriage is arranged from scratch with an outsider. In short order, therefore, the new generation of British-born Sikhs successfully pressed their parents to arrange marriages with British-born (or perhaps even North American-born) Sikh partners.

“The situation was very different for children of Mirpuri Muslims. Among Mirpuris, it’s taken for granted that cousins have a virtual right-of-first-refusal in the matter of marriage. Even in the absence of immigration, it would have been entirely expected that the children of Mirpuri migrants would marry their cousins. How much more so was this the case when a marriage meant a British visa, and a vast increase in wealth — all redounding to the honor of the patriclan? Many Mirpuri migrants had only made it to Britain in the first place with economic help from a brother back in Pakistan. This practice of sharing of resources within the joint family created a powerful moral obligation to repay that financial help by arranging a marriage (and a visa) for the child of the brother who remained in Pakistan.

“The British-born children of these Mirpuri Muslim migrants were perhaps a bit less apprehensive than their British Sikh counterparts about the idea of marrying villagers from back home. After all, these young Mirpuris had gotten to know their cousins on those long visits to Pakistan, and some affectionate attachments had developed. Yet the chronic problems of transnational marriages did indeed call forth opposition to such matches from many young Mirpuris. In contrast to the situation among immigrant Sikhs, however, the hands of Mirpuri parents were largely tied. To refuse a marriage with a relative back in Pakistan, when customary rights, financial obligation, and family honor were all at stake, would have been tantamount to a repudiation of siblingship itself. Such a severing of ties could bring retaliation in the form of efforts to blacken the honor of an immigrant and his family — a particularly severe sanction among Muslims.

So while Sikh immigrants increasingly broke the links of marriage-driven chain migration, the practice of Muslim cousin-marriage insured that assimilation itself would virtually begin again from scratch with each new generational infusion of Mirpuri spouses. The result has been economic stagnation and the literal transfer of more than half of Mirpur’s population to an archipelago of ‘reverse colonies’ in the heart of Britain….”

previously: stanley kurtz rocks and nowhere to run and father’s brother’s daughter marriage and tribes and types of cousin-marriage

(note: comments do not require an email. british mirpuri community.)

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

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

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

“‘The incursions of barbaric pastoralists seem to do civilizations less harm in the long run than one might expect. Indeed, two dark ages and renaissances in Europe suggest a recurring pattern in which a renaissance follows an incursion by about 800 years. It may even be suggested that certain genes or traditions of pastoralists revitalize the conquered people with an ingredient of progress which tends to die out in a large panmictic population for the reasons already discussed. I have in mind altruism itself, or the part of the altruism which is perhaps better described as self-sacrificial daring. By the time of the renaissance it may be that the mixing of genes and cultures (or of cultures alone if these are the only vehicles, which I doubt) has continued long enough to bring the old mercantile thoughtfulness and the infused daring into conjunction in a few individuals who then find courage for all kinds of inventive innovation against the resistance of established thought and practice. Often, however, the cost in fitness of such altruism and sublimated pugnacity to the individuals concerned is by no means metaphorical, and the benefits to fitness, such as they are, go to a mass of individuals whose genetic correlation with the innovator must be slight indeed. Thus civilization probably slowly reduces its altruism of all kinds, including the kinds needed for cultural creativity (see also Eshel 1972).'”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

previously: renaissances

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


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