Archives for posts with tag: inclusive fitness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

look! another linkfest! (^_^)

Our Cats, Ourselves“Which brings us to the genome of one critical tame animal: ourselves, humans. The Nobel Prize-winning zoologist Konrad Z. Lorenz once suggested that humans were subject to the same dynamics of domestication. Our brain and body sizes peaked during the end of the last ice age, and declined with the spread of agriculture…. Our cultural flexibility and creativity since the end of the ice age have not freed humans from evolutionary forces, but have opened up novel and startling paths. Thinking of domestication as an evolutionary process that occurs through ‘artificial’ selection creates a false dichotomy of nurture and nature that plays into a conceit of human exceptionalism. In fact, the idea that we are apart from nature, that it is ours to tame and exploit, is an outmoded approach. A more useful interpretation is that over the past 10,000 years, humans fashioned their own ecosystem. We were part of a natural process that altered the landscape…. The same forces that reshaped the genomes of our domesticates also reshaped ours.” – from razib. in the new york times! (^_^)

Ancient Easter Islanders Interbred With Native Americans“According to the recent study conducted by geneticists, the ancient inhabitants of Easter Island met and interbred with Native Americans long before Westerners arrived…. The recent genetic study is published on Thursday in the Current Biology journal. According to the study, these ancient people had significant contact with Native Americans hundreds of years ago, before the westerners reached the Island in 1722…. The finding of the study suggests that the intermixing occurred 19 to 23 generations ago. The researchers said that the Polynesian people (Rapa Nui’s) are not believed to have started mixing with Europeans until much later, the 19th century. Malaspinas said the genetic ancestry of today’s Rapa Nui people is roughly 75% Polynesian, 15% European and 10% Native American.”

Barley fuelled farmers’ spread onto Tibetan plateau“Cold-tolerant crop enabled high-altitude agriculture some 3,600 years ago”

Faster than Fisher“[M]igration and conquest, must explain the wide distribution of many geographically widespread selective sweeps and partial sweeps. They were adaptive, all right, but expanded much faster than possible from purely local diffusion.” – from greg cochran.

The Germ of Laziness – also from greg cochran.

Putting IBD to Bed – from razib.

The Red Queen Model of Recombination Hotspots Evolution in the Light of Archaic and Modern Human Genomes – h/t mwpennell! who tweeted: “Recombination hotspots in humans appear to be young…evidence for Red Queen theory for evolution of recombination?”

Inclusive fitness and sexual conflict: How population structure can modulate the battle of the sexes – h/t rebecca sear!

Do Chinese people get bored less easily?“Advanced farming — intensive land use, task specialization, monoculture — has profoundly shaped East Asian societies, particularly China. This is particularly so for rice farming. Because the paddies need standing water, rice farmers must work collectively to build, dredge, and drain elaborate irrigation networks. Wheat farming, by comparison, requires no irrigation and only half as much work. Advanced farming seems to have favored a special package of predispositions and inclinations, including greater acceptance of monotony. This has been shown in two recent studies.” – from peter frost.

Culture and state boredom: A comparison between European Canadians and Chinese“European Canadians (vs. Chinese) are more likely to experience state boredom.” – h/t erwin schmidt!

Gender differences in preferences, choices, and outcomes: SMPY longitudinal study“The figures show significant gender differences in life and career preferences, which affect choices and outcomes *even after ability is controlled for*…. According to the results, SMPY men are more concerned with money, prestige, success, creating or inventing something with impact, etc. SMPY women prefer time and work flexibility, want to give back to the community, and are less comfortable advocating unpopular ideas. Some of these asymmetries are at the 0.5 SD level or greater.” – from steve hsu.

Are liberals and conservatives differently wired? – also from peter frost.

Detecting ‘polygenes’ using signals of polygenic selection. Tools for increasing the power of GWAS – from davide piffer who tweeted: “Watson and Venter’s genomes have higher frequency of intelligence polygenenes.”

Intelligence lost at 1.23 IQ points per decade“Michael Woodley of Menie spends much of his time tending his ancestral estate, pacing the linen-fold panelled rooms of the ancient house, warming his hands at the towering stone fireplace and meditating on the collapse of the aristocracy, the paucity of contemporary innovation and the lamentable and persistent downward drift of the national intellect. Now he sends me a barefoot runner with his latest manuscript, which I have read as the autumn mists creep across the Nadder valley, before penning this reply for the poor urchin to carry back to his master. Young Woodley avers that, not only are we going to hell in a handcart, but we are doing so at a pace which he can predict with some accuracy (1.23 IQ points per decade), composed as it is of two dysgenic effects: the dull have been reproducing with greater fecundity than the bright (.39), and increasing paternal age has increased the rate of deleterious mutations (.84).” – from dr. james thompson.

Gypsy intelligence – also from dr. james thompson.

Lower Body Symmetry and Running Performance in Elite Jamaican Track and Field Athletes – h/t keith laws! who tweeted: “More symmetrical knees & ankles in Elite Jamaican track and field athletes…Of course…”

Great Ape Origins of Personality Maturation and Sex Differences: A Study of Orangutans and Chimpanzees

The Case Against Early Cancer Detection“[C]ancer screening may harm more people than it helps.” – h/t jason collins!

In the U.S., Few Heavy Drinkers Are Actually Alcoholics“About 90 percent of people who drink excessively — more than eight drinks a week for women, 15 for men — are not alcohol dependent.” – h/t ray sawhill!

Genes tell new story: Alcohol in moderation only benefits 15% of population“An alcoholic beverage a day, especially wine, is widely believed to help keep heart disease risk low, but new research from the University of Gothenburg shows that only about 15% of the human population — those with a specific the form of the cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) gene — actually gain this benefit from moderate alcohol consumption.”

The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis“What a growing body of research reveals about the biology of human happiness — and how to navigate the (temporary) slump in middle age.”

Despite its problems, the United States of America is still the best. Thing. Ever.“Other aspects of America’s story, though, seem less important now that the quest for racial equality has become almost a religious mission; this week I finally got around to watching the HBO series John Adams, which begins with the Massachusetts lawyer defending Captain Thomas Preston, the officer blamed for the Boston massacre. The mob wanted to avenge the deaths but, this being a colony where people passionately believed in their ancestral English liberties, ‘due process’ was followed – a term that dates back to the Parliament of Edward III but was obviously influenced by Clause 39 of the Magna Carta. Due process is what was followed in the Ferguson case, but maybe that’s just a boring old racist Anglo-Saxon idea that we can forget about now (grand juries are literally Anglo-Saxon, dating back to the reign of Ethelred II, or possibly the vibrant culturally-enriching Viking maniac King Canute).” – from ed west.

Children are not science projects“What do we tell to prospective adoptive parents? The first answer, and the only answer that ultimately counts, is that they are doing the Lord’s work. They have the opportunity to provide love and nurturing to a child who needs it. There are few better things that human beings can do with their time. The second answer is that they, like biological parents, are not miracle-workers. They will be unable to mold the child. Sometimes their adopted child will experience problems that are not the adoptive parents’ fault; sometimes they will reveal gifts of talent and character that are equally not to the adoptive parents’ credit. What is to the credit of good parents, adoptive and biological alike, is enfolding the child in love.” – from charles murray…who’s really just a big softie after all. (^_^) — see also: Adopt a child, but discard an illusion from dr. james thompson.

In Northern Ireland, a Wave of Immigrants Is Met With Fists – which came (or *should’ve* come) as a surprise to absolutely no one….

When exactly did the Industrial Revolution start?

Europe’s Bronze Age Collapse Not Caused by Climate Change

How Thanksgiving, the ‘Yankee Abolitionist Holiday,’ Won Over the South

Your Inner Feather“About 300 million years ago, our ancestors began to lay hard-shelled eggs. Those early animals would give rise to mammals, reptiles, and birds (collectively known as amniotes, named for the amniotic egg). Edwards and his colleagues found that the first amniotes already had the *entire* complement of feather patterning genes. That means you, as an amniote, have them too.” – cool!

Viruses as a Cure

Stop eating cats and dogs say animal rights campaigners in Switzerland“Cat appears on traditional Christmas menus in some areas of Switzerland.” – wait. what?!

bonus: Snakes are ‘righties’ — with their penis, that is

bonus bonus: Snakes Leave Identity Within Their Fang Marks“Getting a DNA swab from the fang marks of a snake bite can accurately identify the type of snake, a team working in Nepal has found.”

bonus bonus bonus: Monterey Bay researchers capture rare deep-sea anglerfish on video for first time – whoa!

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Ants Regularly Pack Up and Dig New Nests, and Nobody Knows Why

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Red Baron’s WWI German Fokker triplane rebuilt by flying enthusiast – oooo! pretty. (^_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. a face only a mother could love. maybe.)

there were a handful of science news stories out this past week about how a couple of researchers reportedly discovered a case of “group selection” in certain spiders (Anelosimus studiosus or tangle web spiders): for example, see Proving ‘group selection': Spider colonies need the correct mix of personalities to survive and Elusive Form of Evolution Seen in Spiders. a bunch of people on twitter got all excited about this finding, because they wonder if (some of them i think hope that) group selection might also apply to groups of humans. i agree: that would be very interesting to know one way or the other. so i went and read the original paper — Site-specific group selection drives locally adapted group compositions — to see what these guys had found.

before i offer up my admittedly layman’s thoughts on this paper, let me first say what a really neat piece of research this was! if there existed a nobel prize for geeky dedication and sheer nerdiness, these guys would’ve won it! — and i mean that as a compliment! the researchers, pruitt and goodnight, studied groups of tangle web spiders in the wild, captured some and brought them back to their lab, conducted personality tests on the spiders (yes! there are apparently personality tests for spiders!), painstakingly painted those little dots on the backs of individuals to keep track of them (you know, like how they sometimes do with bees), bred the spiders, released new groups of them back into the wild, and checked up on them one and two generations later to see how they fared. this is some really cool research! nerds ftw! (^_^)

but did they find evidence for group selection?

weeeellll, no, i don’t think so.

to begin with, right at the start of the paper pruitt and goodnight (p&g) define group selection as “selection caused by the differential extinction or proliferation of groups.” eeeehhhh, as far as i understand it, that’s not really the definition of group selection, and even the authors admit that their definition is a “broad” one.

group selection is more accurately defined as when “natural selection [operates] between groups of organisms, rather than between individuals.” in contrast, p&g’s broad definition could theoretically include cases in which natural selection worked between individuals (individual selection) which also just incidentally happened to result in the proliferation of the group to which the lucky selected individuals belonged. an example of this is the selection for lactase persistence in some humans in which those individuals who could drink milk as adults were able to leave behind more descendants than those individuals who could not. while lactase persistence might indeed have benefitted groups of milk-drinking individuals, natural selection did not act on the group, but rather on the individuals in that group. (pretty sure i stole this example from @supermisdreavus, but i can’t find where he said that right now.)

in other words, you always need to work out what the target of selection is: the group or the individuals that make up the group. (really it’s ultimately the genes, but — oh, nevermind.) remember that “‘a fleet herd of deer’ is really just a herd of fleet deer.”

so, really, the discussion could end right here, because i don’t think the authors are talking about group selection proper. but, since i’ve read the whole paper, i’ll carry on. (yes, i’m one of those people who’s never learned to quit while they’re ahead!)

a. studiosus spiders live either as solitary individuals or in groups where they cooperate on tasks like hunting and the raising of young. the individuals that live together in groups are, on average, more closely related to one another than those that live alone [pdf] — they’re generally as related to one another as though they were half-siblings. one reason why they’re probably not more related to one another in these groups — like to the degree that ants or bees in colonies often are — is that the males move between groups. remember that.

the personality types of the individual spiders in a. studiosus groups come in two sorts: docile and aggressive. the docile spiders are typically pretty laid back and aren’t much bothered by the presence of other spiders (even spiders from other species), whereas the aggressive individuals like their space — they’ll chase off other individuals. individuals of both types are found in groups of a. studiosus, but the frequencies vary. from the paper:

“At…high-resource sites, small colonies were dominated by docile females and the frequency of aggressive individuals increased with colony size. By contrast, at low-resources sites, small colonies were dominated by the aggressive phenotype and the frequency of the docile phenotype increased with colony size.”

well, that doesn’t sound too surprising at all. in locales where there is plenty of resources, there are more laid back individuals in the colonies, prolly ’cause being laid back works just fine. in areas where resources are lacking, more aggressive individuals do better. btw, they found that the heritability of these personality types in the spiders is 0.66.

groups that have more docile individuals (i.e. the ones in high-resource areas) are at a greater risk of invasion by other types of spiders which, over the long-term, tends to be a really bad thing for an a. studiosus colony (i.e. it’s usually destroyed). groups that have more aggressive individuals (i.e. the ones in low-resource areas) tend in bad times to experience too much “egg case cannibalism.” needless to say, that’s not a good thing over the long-term either.

what p&g did in their study was to introduce into the wild — into differing environments — groups having varying frequencies of these personality types [source]:

“He [pruitt] took spiders from warrior-heavy colonies and used them to assemble new groups that were heavy on the nannies. He also used spiders from mostly docile colonies to create warrior-laden groups. In addition, he assembled control groups that matched the composition of their original groups.”

what they found was that after three generations:

“60 percent of the colonies were extinct. Control groups that returned to their ancestral homes tended to do well, and those that were transplanted into a new environment generally died. Neither of these outcomes was much of a surprise.

The most interesting results came from colonies made up of spiders that had been forced into a composition different from the one they grew up in — warrior-majority colonies containing spiders from mostly docile groups, for example. The colonies whose composition fit the new environment tended to survive. But over time, surviving colonies reverted to their members’ original group composition. The warrior-majority colonies went back to having more nannies, for example. On the face of it, this is bizarre behavior; if the colonies are well-suited to their environment, why not maintain that ratio? It seems that some innate sense, perhaps encoded in the spiders’ genes, pulled the colony back to its original configuration, even though this change meant the colony would perish.”

well, i dunno. is that really “bizarre behavior?” i mean, if the personality types of a. studiosus are really highly heritable (0.66), is it strange that a population having come from a bunch of docile individuals should regress toward a docile mean? and vice versa? don’t forget, too, that the individuals in these groups are all related to one another as though they were half-siblings, so presumably individuals of either personality type might carry a great many genes of the other type in their genomes. (don’t know about that — i’m just guessing here, tbh.)

what really made me question whether or not this is “bizarre behavior” is the way in which the researchers bred the spiders when they had them in captivity [from the methods section at the end of the paper]:

“Females were mated randomly to a male of like behaviour type from their same source population, but which was collected from a source colony >5m distance.”

hmmmm. i dunno about that. they mated all the females with males of the same personality types, docile or aggressive? i’m guessing that they did this in order to reduce the number of possible confounding factors in the study, but i’m afraid they might’ve added something to the mix here that wouldn’t be found in nature, i.e. a 100% assortative mating rate (for personality type). mightn’t this almost guarantee that individual spider lineages would regress to their original personality-type means? docile females always mated with docile males and aggressive females always mated with aggressive males? that seems unlikely to happen in nature, especially given the fact that the males normally leave their colonies and move to others. (btw, male a. studiosus spiders prefer moving into colonies over mating with lone females. typical males, favoring harems! (~_^) )

p&g offer a number of explanations for how the frequencies of personalities in the groups might change over time:

“How native spiders are actually able to adjust their composition is unknown, but plausible regulatory mechanisms include developmental plasticity in the docile:aggressive phenotypes, policing of group membership, phenotype-biased dispersal, and/or selective cessation of reproduction.”

they reject the first explanation (the plasticity one) on the basis (in part) of the rather high heritability of spider personality types which they found. i’m inclined to agree with them on that.

out of their other reasons, policing of group membership and selective cessation of reproduction are behaviors that can be easily explained by natural selection between individuals, especially in populations that have rather highly related individuals so that levels of altruism are pretty high. the selective cessation of reproduction occurs, for instance, in some ant colonies since, due to the really high degrees of relatedness between individuals, the inclusive fitness payoffs are really large (eg. if you share three-quarters of your dna with your sister’s offspring, there’ll be a greater genetic payoff in helping her to reproduce rather than reproducing yourself, since you’d only share half of your genome with your offspring). that’s individual selection, not group selection. h*ck! both behaviors also occur in meerkat groups, although they, of course, show much less specialization of individuals than ants or bees. the policing of group membership can also be plausibly explained by natural selection between individuals — for example, aggressive individuals keep at bay all sorts individuals because that’s good for aggressive individuals (who are typically found in sparse environments).

so, i’m not at all convinced that pruitt and goodnight have found an example of group selection. i think they’ve found that genetics (as indicated by the heritability of the spiders’ personality traits) and natural selection certainly shape the average characteristics of groups, but it looks to me as though the seemingly “bizarre behaviors” that they found can easily be explained by individual selection. in fact, i’m more than a little concerned that due to the way they bred the spiders, p&g may have affected the outcomes of the reintroduced groups.

see also: The False Allure of Group Selection from steven pinker.

(note: comments do not require an email. a. studiosus group web!)

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.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

genes underlying altruism - table

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Flynn Effect in a Nutshell – from elijah.

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

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

More Maps of the American Nations – from jayman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Svante Paabo talk at NIH“According to Dr. Paabo, Ust-Ishim has longer Neandertal chunks than modern humans and this can be used to estimate that the admixture with Neandertals happened 331+/-99 generations before its time of 45,000y BP, or around 50-60,000y BP…. This pretty much proves that there were modern humans in Eurasia before the Upper Paleolithic revolution and disproves Richard Klein’s theory that modern humans together with UP technologies spread Out-of-Africa only after 50,000 years ago.” – from dienekes.

Europeans have three times more Neanderthal genes for lipid catabolism than Asians or Africans“Contemporary Europeans have as many as three times more Neanderthal variants in genes involved in lipid catabolism than Asians and Africans. Although Neanderthals are extinct, fragments of their genomes persist in modern humans. These shared regions are unevenly distributed across the genome and some regions are particularly enriched with Neanderthal variants.”

The really old Europe is mostly in Eastern Europe“‘These results confirm Sardinia as a refuge area where ancestry related to Early European Farmers has been best preserved, and also the greater persistence of WHG-related ancestry in present-day Eastern European populations. The latter finding suggests that West European Hunter-Gatherers (so-named because of the prevalence of Loschbour and La Braña) or populations related to them have contributed to the ancestry of present-day Eastern European groups.'” – @eurogenes blog.

More on Deafness“Seems to me that limited verbal stimulation is not a very plausible primary cause of low test scores and low academic achievement in blacks, because the degree of deprivation needed to cause a 1-standard deviation decline is extreme (deafness), and because there is an even greater depression of nonverbal scores, which, judging from the results in deaf children, should not be affected at all by limited verbal stimulation.” – from greg cochran.

Language structure: You’re born with it“Humans are unique in their ability to acquire language. But how? A new study shows that we are in fact born with the basic fundamental knowledge of language, thus shedding light on the age-old linguistic ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate.”

Selection for complex traits leaves little or no classic signatures of selection“We present empirical evidence to suggests little discernible ‘selection signature’ for complex traits in the genome of dairy cattle despite very strong and recent artificial selection.” – h/t razib!

Whole genome sequencing of six dog breeds from continuous altitudes reveals adaption to high-altitude hypoxia“To understand the genetic bases of adaption to high altitude in dogs, we performed whole-genome sequencing of 60 dogs including five breeds living at continuous altitudes along the Tibetan plateau from 800 to 5,100 m as well as one European breed…. Comparison of the breeds from different altitudes reveals strong signals of population differentiation at the locus of hypoxia-related genes including endothelial Per-Arnt-Sim (PAS) domain protein 1 (EPAS1) and beta hemoglobin cluster. Especially, four novel non-synonymous mutations specific to high-altitude dogs are identified at EPAS1, one of which occurred at a quite conserved site in the PAS domain. The association testing between EPAS1 genotypes and blood-related phenotypes on additional high-altitude dogs reveals that the homozygous mutation is associated with the decreased blood flow resistance, which may help to improve hemorheologic fitness. Interestingly, EPAS1 was also identified as a selective target in Tibetan highlanders, though no amino acid changes were found. Thus, our results not only indicate parallel evolution of humans and dogs in adaption to high-altitude hypoxia, but also provide a new opportunity to study the role of EPAS1 in the adaptive processes.” – h/t joe pickerell!

Facial Width-To-Height Ratio Relates to Alpha Status and Assertive Personality in Capuchin Monkeys“fWHR was positively associated with alpha status and with a dimensional rating of assertive personality in both males and females. Moreover, fWHR showed significant sexual dimorphism in adults but not juveniles, suggesting a developmental change may occur during puberty. In a sub-sample, sex differences were mediated by weight, suggesting fWHR dimorphism does not exceed what would be expected by differences in body weight. This is the first report of an association between face shape and behaviour in a non-human species.” – h/t stuart ritchie!

The relationship between Microcephalin, ASPM and intelligence: A reconsideration“Microcephalin is strongly associated with DNA repair, which indicates a special role for this allele in the intrinsic anti-viral immune response. Enhanced immune functioning may have advantaged both hunter–gatherer and agrarian societies coping with the heightened disease burden that resulted from population growth and exposure to zoonotic diseases, making it more likely that such growth and concomitant increases in intelligence could occur.” – from michael woodley et al. – see also The riddle of Microcephalin – from peter frost.

Caucasian Boys Show Highest Prevalence of Color Blindness Among Preschoolers“The first major study of color blindness in a multi-ethnic group of preschoolers has uncovered that Caucasian male children have the highest prevalence among four major ethnicities, with 1 in 20 testing color blind. Researchers also found that color blindness, or color vision deficiency, in boys is lowest in African-Americans, and confirmed that girls have a much lower prevalence of color blindness than boys.”

Humans and saber-toothed tiger met in Germany 300,000 years ago

One of the Key Characteristics of Ancient DNA, Low Copy Number, May be a Product of its Extraction – h/t hbd bibliography!

Give it up, Psmithe – steve sailer on greg clark’s The Son Also Rises.

Why I am now skeptical of the hypothesis that dysgenics has had substantial real-world effects – elijah (doin’ his superman thing (~_^) ).

El capital humano de las naciones: ¿Más allá de PISA? – h/t billare! who tweeted: “Take Lynn & Vanhanen’s 2012 estimates, correlate them to PISA math & science results, find an r of 0.98.”

The grasping reflex of babies: a vestigial trait? – from jerry coyne.

Social influence constrained by the heritability of attitudes – h/t andrew sabisky! who tweeted: “more heritable attitudes are more resistant to social pressure.”

What Are Relatives Good For?“The battle over every aunt and uncle’s favorite evolutionary theory.”

Genetic Influences Are Virtually Absent for Trust“Here we examine a population-based sample of 1,012 twins and relatives. We show that the genetic influence on generalized trust in other people (trust-in-others: h2 = 5%, ns), and beliefs regarding other people’s trust in the self (trust-in-self: h2 = 13%, ns), is virtually absent…. We show that, relative to cognitive abilities, psychiatric disorders, and classic personality variables, genetic influences are smaller for trust, and propose that experiences with or observations of the behavior of other people shape trust more strongly than other traits.” – h/t rene bekkers!

Psychopaths: how can you spot one?“But is psychopathy a disorder – or a different way of being…? If someone’s brain lacks the moral niceties the rest of us take for granted, they obviously can’t do anything about that, any more than a colour-blind person can start seeing colour. So where does this leave the concept of moral responsibility? ‘The legal system traditionally asserts that all people standing in front of the judge’s bench are equal. That’s demonstrably false,’ says the neuroscientist David Eagleman, author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. He suggests that instead of thinking in terms of blameworthiness, the law should deal with the likelihood that someone will reoffend, and issue sentences accordingly, with rehabilitation for those likely to benefit and long sentences for those likely to be long-term dangers.” – h/t (heh! (~_^) ) heartiste!

IQ, Neuroticism, booze, and those damn vegetables again – from dr. james thompson.

Tweet of the Week“‘[H]umans are very good at attributing causality when it does not exist. That has led to confusion between correlation and cause on an industrial scale, not least in attempts to work out the effects of diet on health.'” – @jayman’s.

Is there a gene for procrastination? – there’d better be or else i’m all outta excuses! (*^_^*) see also: Genetic Relations Among Procrastination, Impulsivity, and Goal-Management Ability – Implications for the Evolutionary Origin of Procrastination.

Biological evidence of positive and negative people in the world“The ability to stay positive when times get tough — and, conversely, of being negative — may be hardwired in the brain, finds new research.”

“Grounds of War” – A New Paper on Territoriality with Remarkable “Similarities” to the Work of Robert Ardrey – from helian.

Equal ≠ The Same: Sex Differences in the Human Brain“At the root of the resistance to sex-influences research, especially regarding the human brain, is a deeply ingrained, implicit, false assumption that if men and women are equal, then men and women must be the same. This is false. The truth is that of course men and women are equal (all human beings are equal), but this does not mean that they are, on average, the same. 2 + 3 = 10 – 5, but these expressions are not the same. And, in fact, if two groups really are different on average in some respect, but they are being treated the same, then they are not being treated equally on average.”

Inbreeding is associated with lower 2D: 4D digit ratio. – in turkey. meanwhile, classic post from heartiste: Is Finger Length Ratio Evidence Of A Woman’s Fidelity?

diana fleischman speculates on that “perceived intelligence of faces” research that came out recently.

Thinking about a majority-minority shift leads to more conservative views“Facing the prospect of racial minority groups becoming the overall majority in the United States leads White Americans to lean more toward the conservative end of the political spectrum, according to research. The findings suggest that increased diversity in the United States could actually lead to a wider partisan divide, with more White Americans expressing support for conservative policies.”

The ‘Love Hormone’ Can Make You Hate: Study“A study from the Netherlands suggests that oxytocin might only make you love people in your in-group, and can contribute to conflict with outsiders.”

Bacteria Turn Plants and Insects into Zombies“A parasitic phytoplasma deploys proteins to manipulate the plants it infects as well as the insects that spread the microbe.”

Zombie Snipers at the Doorstep“Colony-living insects like ants have a kind of social immune system — they behave in ways that prevent infections from spreading through their nests. They clean each other and remove the corpses of their nestmates. Sick ants, which have been infected by killer fungi, are often shunned by their fellow workers, and sometimes leave the nest to die alone.” – h/t john durant!

Germs Rule the World“The new germ theory: Infections play a role in many, many diseases—in ways we’re just beginning to understand.”

The Remarkable Self-Organization of Ants“It turns out that ants perform these complex tasks by obeying a few simple rules…. The organization of insect societies is a marquee example of a complex decentralized system that arises from the interactions of many individuals.”

The World’s Murder Capitals“[A] group of countries — all of them in either the Americas or Africa — accounting for just 11 percent of the global population are the location of 46 percent of the world’s homicides…. Men accounted for 95 percent of the perpetrators and 79 percent of the victims of homicide in 2012….”

Fearing Punishment for Bad Genes“[M]any people are avoiding the [dna] tests because of a major omission in the 2008 federal law that bars employers and health insurers from seeking the results of genetic testing.” – h/t kevin mitchell!

‘Everything should be open to question’ – h/t claire lehmann!

*A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead*, by Charles Murray. see also “The Curmudgeon’s Guide”: A Q&A with Charles Murray.

bonus: The Moral: Aesop Knew Something About Crows

bonus bonus: Fruit flies maneuver like tiny fighter jets

bonus bonus bonus: This 3000 Year Old Amulet Kind of Looks Like a Gummy Bear

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Measure Yourself by the Standard of the Capybara

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: White wing supremacist: swan attacks foreign students – h/t ed west!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Mike Judge Skewers Silicon Valley With the Satire of Our Dreams“The creator of Beavis and Butt-Head aims his snark cannon at the tech startup scene in his new HBO show, Silicon Valley.”

(note: comments do not require an email. capybara and friend!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sperm competition and Heteropaternal Superfecundation – from greg cochran.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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