know thyself

you will never understand human biodiversity without first turning an hbd-eye on yourself.

before i elaborate on that, a small exercise. indulge me.

at the end of this sentence, when i ask you to, i want you to raise your eyes from your monitor (or smartphone or tablet or whatever device you’re using), glance around for a few seconds, and then come back here. okay: go!

back? great.

now, i don’t know exactly what you saw during your brief adventure away, but what i do know is that when you looked around your room or office or the coffee shop or your own private tropical island (d*mn you!), you experienced seeing a smooth, undisturbed, flowing picture of your surroundings — it was a video-like experience (hopefully not a shaky cam-like one! if so, get to a doctor, quick!). that experience is a false one, created by your brain to make life easier for you. what happens, in fact, is that each and every time we move our gaze from one object or scene to another, in the intervening nanoseconds, we are effectively blind. we don’t “see” anything for those split seconds. the reason we don’t experience what would presumably be a very disturbing and confusing one — the lights going off and on all day long! — is because our brains fool us. the brain interpolates the visual data captured via eyeballs, etc., and presents it all to its owner (user?) in a nice, even — but unreal — picture of what that individual “sees.”

cool, huh? yeah.

the reason i bring this up is just to illustrate how our brains are not really to be trusted. fantastic, wonderful, unfathomable organ! — but one that fools us. a lot! it deceives us so that we don’t go around bumping into things all day long (the saccadic masking mentioned above). it deceives us (deceives itself!) so that we can decieve others. it probably fools each of us into believing that we are discrete individuals — that we are or have “selves.” h*ck! it even looks like our consciousness is not a stream but more like rhythmic pulses. all for good evolutionary reasons, of course. but, still, there it is: the brain is a trickster.

once you realize this about the human brain — that it’s an indispensible but untrustworthy organ — all of the cognitive biases and dissonances that we suffer from start to make sense. humans are not rational creatures. we are capable of some amount of logic and rational thought (some more than others), but more often than not, our “reason” serves as an excuse generator for our innate drives, desires, and proclivities.

the next thing you need to know — and you really have to internalize this — is that all of those drives and desires and proclivities are innate. all behavioral traits are heritable to some degree or another, which means that genes are behind them, and which means that there’s not much any of us can do to change our natures. for instance, there prolly aren’t specific genes that will make a person a christian versus a muslim, but there are definitely genes “for” religiosity. which religion a person with “genes for” religious belief follows will obviously depend to a large degree on the culture in which he is immersed, but persons with “genes for” religious belief will tend to be religious or spiritual somehow.

all behavioral traits are heritable. and, so, you cannot change people or peoples — not fundamentally. people are what they are. you are what you are, and so most of your thoughts and conclusions and feelings about life and the world around you are expressions of your innate traits. mine, too. (don’t worry. i’ll get to that.) and let’s be honest: innate traits and a deceiving brain are no foundations for uncovering the truth. we cannot rely on our gut instincts in trying to uncover the facts about reality or to (consciously) understand how the world works. the only way around this problem of our lyin’, cheatin’, no-good brains is to rely on science and its finding. of course, since science is conducted by humans, we run into all those cognitive biases, etc., again. but with enough effort, i think we can eventually discover some truths. either that or space stations will some day start falling out of the sky, and we’ll know we’re doing it wrong.

now back to my initial point: you will never understand human biodiversity without first turning an hbd-eye on yourself. first, learn this about yourself — that your thoughts and feeling and behaviors are heritable and largely out of your control — and then try to apply this knowledge to your understanding of other individuals and groups. examine your ideas and your feelings. your gut instincts (be especially suspicious of those!). your beliefs. you may think you have thought through the important questions rationally, but chances are you haven’t. not really. be honest with yourself. and be hard on yourself. but remember to have a laugh about it all, too — how absurd it all is really at the end of the day! (~_^)

remember my three laws of human biodiversity. and don’t ever forget that there are exceptions to the rules — and that you might be one of them — or your neighbor might. always — always! — keep in the forefront of your mind the concept of AVERAGE when you think about the human biodiversity between groups — and that not every member of a group will fit the average. do NOT pick and choose the areas of human biodiversity that suit your tastes and disregard the rest. you won’t get any dessert if you do.

most importantly — and i can’t emphasize this enough — do NOT project your innate feeling and thoughts and inclinations onto others! you might think and feel one way, but the other person sitting next to you might not. and he might really think and feel very differently from you, and have a completely different perspective on the world — different in a fundamental way — that neither he nor you can change, because he was born this way. (or maybe experienced a developmental insult that affected his biology in a similarly permanent sort of fashion.)

do not project your preferences onto other individuals or groups. just because you like to keep a super tidy house (you ocd person) doesn’t mean others do. and just because you and your people feel that living in nuclear families and having loose (or nonexistent) extended family ties is a nice way to live doesn’t mean that other peoples want that. and just because democracy happens to work well in your population — or autocracy, depending on where you’re from — doesn’t mean either of them would transfer well to other populations having different average innate characteristics from your own.

so, below are some aspects of human biodiversity you might want to run through when you’re getting to know thyself. there’s lots more. these are just some things i thought of off the top of my head. (if i were really organized, which i am not, i would’ve linked to how heritable each of these different traits is. maybe i’ll go back and fill those in one of these days. for now, you’re on your own — google ’em. or check jayman’s blog. he’s probably got a lot of the heritability figures over there! (^_^) ) try and see if identifying and recognizing any or all of your innate traits helps you to understand why you think and feel and behave in the ways that you do.

i’ll start.

– are you male or female? men and women on average think and feel differently about an awful lot of things. don’t blame me. i’m just the messenger.

– are you heterosexual or homosexual? or some other sort of sexual? heterosexual men and women on average think and feel differently about quite a lot of things compared to gay men and lesbian women et al. and i don’t just mean about preferred sexual partners. remember that there are always exceptions to these rules. and remember not to PROJECT your thinking/feelings onto other subgroups here (yes, i am looking at you butch lesbian feminists!).

– what is your racial and, to my mind more interesting and important, ethnic background? what other sort of population or subpopulation might you belong to (eg. siberian peoples or sicilians)? are you a person of mixed heritage? plenty of average differences in all sorts of directions here.

– how intelligent are you? what’s your iq? try to remember that people of much lower intelligence than you will have a very hard time understanding a lot of the things that you do, and that you will find it difficult, if not impossible, to grasp the ideas and concepts that people more intelligent than you can. be humble (if you’re able).

– what personality traits characterize you? both big 5 and hexaco. are you open to experiences? people who score low on openness are generally conservative. are you conscientious? in other words, are you efficient and organized or more easy going and (*ahem*) disorderly? are you an extravert or an introvert? if you’re an extravert, you’re probably not enjoying this exercise at all. sorry. (in my experience, extraverts are not very introspective.) are you agreeable? kind, sympathetic, warm. or are you angry all the time? are you neurotic or emotional? or are you more stable? and from the hexaco scale, where do you rank when it comes to honesty-humility?

– how old are you? if you’re under, say, 24, keep in mind that your brain hasn’t finished developing yet. your frontal lobes are incomplete, so you’ve got very little sense. (~_^) if you’re a young male, between say 16 and 24, you might be quite aggressive (although not necessarily violent) and risk tasking. be careful out there! if you’re (*ahem*) older, remember that everything slows down with age. (sorry to remind you of that!) it does get harder to teach old dogs new tricks. and everybody, remember that, in general, each of us becomes more like our true selves as we get older, because we get to choose our preferred environments once we grow up.

– are you religious or areligious — or even irreligious? remember that religiosity/spirituality is highly heritable.

– are you conservative or liberal or something in between? or something more extreme? or apolitical? remember than political orientation is also highly heritable.

– are you an optimist or a pessimist? is the glass half full or half empty? are you a depressive, emo kid or are you one of those always-chipper people? again, all highly heritable.

– are you a follower or a contrarian? i haven’t seen much research on this (i know there is some, but i wish there was more), but i’d bet a ton of $$$ that these traits are highly heritable, too. prolly tie in with all the personality traits above.

– are you on the autism spectrum somewhere? one of simon baron-cohen’s systemizers or empathizers? do you have adhd? ocd? a touch of paranoid schizophrenia? (just because you’re paranoid….) all of these conditions can — and do! — obviously strongly affect the way individuals think and feel about the world around them.

– what about your personality and the dark triad? are you a psychopath? narcissist? machiavellian in your nature? again, all of these relate back to the personality traits above. are you histrionic?

– what’s your 2d:4d ratio? no one’s sure what’s behind the differences of these, but the ratio does correlate with all sorts of traits and behaviors.

– are you from what i call a “clannish” population or not? from a population that historically was located behind the hajnal line or not? you may disagree with me on why i think “clannishness” exists as a set of behavioral traits in different populations, but there’s not much disagreement on the fact that the behaviors do exist (and are measurable): individualism/collectivism vs. familism/non-collectivism; universalism vs. particularism; civic-minded/commonweal oriented vs. not civic-minded/not commonweal oriented; low corruption vs. high corruption; etc. again, you might be an exception to your population’s rule. then again, you may not be.

– do you think like a westerner?

– and, a special shout-out to one super-group: are you eastern european? if so, you might prefer authoritarianism (especially left-wing authoritarianism). keep in mind that others of us don’t.

that’s it! that’s all i’ve got for now. (^_^)

see also: me, myself, and i

previously: what is human biodiversity (hbd)? and hbd chick’s three laws of human biodiversity and you and me and hbd

(note: comments do not require an email. know thyself.)

Advertisements

linkfest – 09/15/13

Sir David Attenborough: Humans have stopped evolving“Human beings have stopped evolving becoming the only species to ‘put halt to natural selection of its own free will’, Sir David Attenborough has said, as he predicts the ‘cultural evolution’ of the future.” – lots of responses to that including: Humans are still evolving, and soon we’ll know a lot more about it – from john hawks; Evolution – it’s not over yet – from tom chivers; and Sir David Attenborough is wrong – humans are still evolving – from ian rickard.

Fate of new genes cannot be predicted“New versions of genes, called alleles, can appear by mutation in populations. Even when these new alleles turn the individuals carrying them more fit to survive and reproduce, the most likely outcome is that they will get lost from the populations. The theory that explains these probabilities has been postulated by the scientist J.B.S. Haldane almost 90 years ago. This theory has become the cornerstone of modern population genetics…. The research team … has now experimentally tested Haldane’s theory.”

Poorest Costa Ricans live longest“Biological markers confirm unusually slow ageing regardless of wealth, at least in one population.” – h/t jayman!

Uros people of Peru and Bolivia found to have distinctive genetic ancestries“Genographic project research shows ancestry may date to Altiplano’s initial settlement.”

African-American study identifies four genetic variants associated with blood pressure“‘We anticipated that individuals of African ancestry share similar biology to other populations. However, differences in genomic make-up between African ancestry and other populations have uncovered additional genes affecting blood pressure, in addition to genetic variants that are specific to individuals of African ancestry….'” – via amren.

Handedness GWAS Leads to Suspected Left-Right Asymmetry Genes“A team from the UK and the Netherlands has garnered evidence suggesting left- and right-handedness may involve genes from some of the same pathways that produce other features differing on right and left sides of the body.”

Functional genetic variation in humans: Comprehensive map published“European scientists, led by researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE)’s Faculty of Medicine in the context of the GEUVADIS project, today present a map that points to the genetic causes of differences between people. The study, published in Nature and Nature Biotechnology, offers the largest-ever dataset linking human genomes to gene activity at the level of RNA.”

Insect leg cogs a first in animal kingdom“Toothed gears enable young plant hoppers to synchronize limbs for jumping.”go home, evolution, you are drunk.

The Science of What Makes an Introvert and an Extrovert

Testes Size Correlates With Men’s Involvement in Toddler Care“Men with smaller testes than others are more likely to be involved in hands-on care of their toddlers….” – h/t hbd bibliography!

Can Your Language Influence Your Spending, Eating, and Smoking Habits?“[S]peakers with weak future tenses (e.g. German, Finnish and Estonian) were 30 percent more likely to save money, 24 percent more likely to avoid smoking, 29 percent more likely to exercise regularly, and 13 percent less likely to be obese, than speakers of languages with strong future tenses, like English.” – (“but where does language come from?” hbd chick mumbles to herself in the back row….)

‘Love hormone’ may play wider role in social interaction than previously thought“The new study, to be published Sept. 12 in Nature, pinpoints a unique way in which oxytocin alters activity in a part of the brain that is crucial to experiencing the pleasant sensation neuroscientists call ‘reward’…. ‘People with autism-spectrum disorders may not experience the normal reward the rest of us all get from being with our friends….’ Some genetic evidence suggests the awkward social interaction that is a hallmark of autism-spectrum disorders may be at least in part oxytocin-related. Certain variations in the gene that encodes the oxytocin receptor – a cell-surface protein that senses the substance’s presence – are associated with increased autism risk.”

More Money, More Children“‘[N]ow better-off people seem to be having more children; in the U.S., the fertility rate of wives whose husbands are in the top decile of income is back where it was a century ago.'” – h/t puzzle pirate!

Ashkenazi Jewish gene pool derives from ‘recent severe bottleneck’ of 300-400 individuals ca. 800 years ago – @race/history/evolution notes.

Morality and the Epiphany of Joshua Greene“The manifestations of morality are complex, but its origins are simple. Evolved behavioral predispositions are the ultimate reason for its existence…. Those behavioral traits evolved without a goal, and without a purpose. They exist because they happened to increase our chances of surviving and procreating at a time when our mode of existence as well as our social and physical environment were radically different from what they are now.” – helian’s on fire! (not literally … i hope.)

Are Women Less Corrupt?“Women are more likely than men to disapprove of — and less likely to participate in — political corruption, but only in countries where corruption is stigmatized…. ‘When corruption is stigmatized, as in most democracies, women will be less tolerant and less likely to engage in it compared with men. But if ‘corrupt’ behaviors are an ordinary part of governance supported by political institutions, there will be no corruption gender gap.'” – h/t jayman!

Politicians like power – from steve sailer.

Study: The Neg Works – (~_^) – @heartiste.

Some people are feminine – get over it“Whenever you have one group of people who believe one thing for ideological reasons, and another who believe something else because their business model depends on it, I tend to trust the latter. Who do you think knows more about the minds of girls and boys — the academics who’ve spent years discussing gender feminism, or people who sell toys?” (~_^) – from ed west.

A Brief Word On Pedophilia – scharlach reminds everyone what pedophilia is. THANK you!

Stephen Hsu on Cognitive Genomics“At the extremes, there are some academics and social activists who violently oppose any kind of research into the genetics of cognitive ability. Given that the human brain — its operation, construction from a simple genetic blueprint, evolutionary history — is one of the great scientific mysteries of the universe, I cannot understand this point of view.”

Heritability estimates and unexplained variance“Nobody owns unexplained variance.” – from dr. james thompson.

Study sheds light on genetics of how and why fish swim in schools“‘The motivation to be social is common among fish and humans…. ‘Some of the same brain regions and neurological chemicals that control human social behavior are probably involved in fish social behavior as well.'”

Why do haters have to hate? Newly identified personality trait holds clues“New research has uncovered the reason why some people seem to dislike everything while others seem to like everything. Apparently, it’s all part of our individual personality – a dimension that researchers have coined ‘dispositional attitude.'”

Everyday sadists take pleasure in others’ pain“[P]eople who score high on a measure of sadism seem to derive pleasure from behaviors that hurt others, and are even willing to expend extra effort to make someone else suffer.” – yeah. you know who you are.

How an evolutionary model is better at explaining decisions than neo-classical and behavioral economics models: A review of Douglas T. Kenrick and Vladas Griskevicius, The Rational Animal: How Evolution Made us Smarter than we Think.

Making The Right Mistakes: Error Management And The Evolution Of Errors“Human cognitive mechanisms evolved to deal with the problems of the past, where we spent 99% of our history, not those of the present. We should, therefore, hardly expect our brains to perform well all the time in modern settings where the social and physical environment is so different.”

From Slavs to Slaves“Between 1500 and 1650, Eastern Europe exported 1.5 million slaves to North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Western Europe exported a little over a million between 1530 and 1780.” – from peter frost.

The Madonna or the Whore? – @thosewhocansee.

E.O. Wilson has a new explanation for consciousness, art & religion. Is it credible?

The Evolutionary Case for Great Fiction“Might reading literature help with species survival?” (species survival? hmmmm.)

2013 ig nobel awards were announced this week! my favorite this year: the probability prize – “[T]he longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up; and Second, that once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again.” (^_^)

Mayan mass grave containing 1,400-year-old remains of DECAPITATED prisoners of war discovered in Mexico

Plans to evict Botswana Bushmen revealed by leaked report – @survival international. h/t andrew badenoch!

bonus: Parasite Ants Drafted as Mercenaries

bonus bonus: Inheritance of lifespan is sex-dependent in fruit flies

bonus bonus bonus: ‘Time travel is easy — in one direction,’ says Prof Brian Cox – but the time lords figured it out!

bonus bonus bonus bonus: The sound of interstellar space…” (or not!) – h/ts michael anissimov and nelson!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Wherever there is red tape, the truth will be stranger than fiction“As the [u.k.’s] Government reflects on a bureaucratic obsession with ‘equality’, we ask: which of these tales of political correctness are made up?”

(note: comments do not require an email. all that’s required for successful time travel.)

size doesn’t matter

from “Daily life in the Medieval Islamic world,” here are some examples that show the contrast between (what i think are) innate feelings of individualism vs. clannishness — feelings which are connected to different sorts of altruistic drives (individualistic vs. kin-oriented). in other words, different sorts of peoples (outbred vs. inbred) feel differently about themselves and their place in the world and towards others (both related and unrelated) [pgs. 45-8]:

“American literature, film, and music are full of images glorifying the individual. Novelists and Hollywood directors have made fortunes portraying cowboys, frontiersmen, soldiers, and even intrepied CIA officers who, against incredible odds, are able to defeat perfidious enemies — Indians, Nazis, Russians, drug kingpins, Islamic terrorists, and even space aliens of all types…. And then there is Frank Sinatra’s famous hymn to himself, “My Way.” Americans know full well that such glorification of the individual is largely the stuff of fiction; nevertheless, we still like to dream of ourselves as capable of such heroics.

“Seventh-century Arabians, of course, produced neither novels nor films. What they did produce is a very rich tradition of poetry that conveys conceptions of manhood and womanhood that are very different from the American ideals of the rugged individualist, the self-made man, the solitary high plains drifter, or the autonomous woman who has sole control of her body and her sexuality. In jahili and early Islamic poetry we find men, women, and children who defined themselves not as individuals, but as kin. In short, whether one was an oasis dweller, a resident of the highlands of Yemen, a pastoral nomad, or someone whose way of life fell somewhere between settled and nomadic, it was kinship — one’s family, one’s clan, one’s tribe — that defined who one was. The issue of kinship remained important even in the cosmopolitan urban worlds of medieval Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, and elsewhere. It continues to be important in many Islamic societies today.

“In seventh-century Arabia, this concern with kinship entailed more than just knowing the identity of one’s parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. The bonds of kinship provided the means by which a family’s position in relation to its clan, a clan’s position in relation to its tribe, and a tribe’s position in relation to other tribes were made clear. In short, one’s name and the geneaology that it contained located a person in a complex pecking order of overlapping relationships immediately among one’s siblings, and more broadly within a potentially huge tribal confederation.

“In American society, family connections are certainly important, and the study of genealogy and individual quests for one’s ‘roots’ have long occupied many Americans for reasons of religion as well as simple curiosity. However, there are numerous institutions outside the family in which individuals can make names for themselves….

“Some of the most common themes that we find in jahili and early Islamic poetry deal with the courage and physical prowess in battle among the men of a family, clan, and tribe as well as the beauty and sexual purity of the women….

“The first poem was composed by a certain Abd al-Malik, son of Abd al-Rahman of the Banu l-Dayyan clan, the chief family of the Christian Banu l-Harith tribal confederation of Najran in the Arabian Peninsula. Abd al-Malik composed his verse in response to a woman how had belittled the Banu l-Dayyan because it was relatively small. As the poet sings the praises of his kin, he challenges any and all to find another that can equal the Banu l-Dayyan’s honor, prowess, purity, and generosity despite their small numbers.

She cast blame on us that our number was little to count and few:
I answered her — Yea: the count of noble men is little.
But not few canst thou call those whose remnants are like to us
— young men who vie with the old in the quest of glory.
It hurts us naught that we be few, when our friend by us
is safe, though the friends of most men beside be trampled; …
A folk are we who deem it no shame to be slain in fight,
though that be the deeming thereof of Salul and ‘Amir;
Our love of death brings near to us our days of doom,
but their dooms shrink from death and stand far distant.
There dies among us no lord a quiet death in his bed,
and never is blood of us poured forth without vengeance….
Pure is our stock, unsullied: fair is it kept and bright
by mothers whose bed bears well, and fathers mighty.
To the best of the Uplands we wend, and when the season comes,
we travel adown to the best of fruitful valleys.
Like rain of the heaven are we: there is not in all our line
one blunt of heart, nor among us is counted a niggard.
We say nay whenso we will to the words of other men:
but no man to us says nay when we give sentence….
Our Days are famous among our foeman, of fair report,
branded and blazed with glory like noble horses.
The children of ad-Dayyan are the shaft of their people’s mill:
around them it turns and whirls, while they stand midmost.

It cannot be overemphasized that kinship is the glue that held Arabian society together, nomadic or settled. [O]ne’s identity was subordinate to the honor (or shame) of one’s kin, whether immediate family, clan, or tribe…. According to Abd al-Malik, his clan, the Banu l-Dayyan, were honorable because the young men vied with the old in quest for glory, because they were eager to fly into battle and confront death, because the purity of their lineage was preserved by ‘mothers whose bed bears well, and fathers mighty,’ because they grazed their flock wherever they wished without opposition from any other group, because they were open-handed and hospitable, because they were subordinate to no clan but their own, and because their prowess was known far and wide….”

“eager to fly into battle and confront death” = innate kin-oriented altruistic behaviors.

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