which came first?

(the culture or the biology?)

so, some researchers found a rare variation of the 5-HT2B gene in finns that correlates strongly with violent, impulsive behavior. (see @gnxp: “hotheads by nature”)

which brought to my mind this paper by richerson and boyd: “Culture is Part of Human Biology: Why the Superorganic Concept Serves the Human Sciences Badly.”

in it, the researchers, referring to cohen & nisbett’s work, have this to say…

“Rates of violence in the American South have long been much greater than in the North. Accounts of duels, feuds, bushwhackings, and lynchings occur prominently in visitors’ accounts, newspaper articles, and autobiography from the 18th Century onward. According to crime statistics these differences persist today. In their book, Culture of Honor, Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen (1996) argue that the South is more violent than the North because Southerners have different, culturally acquired beliefs about personal honor than Northerners. The South was disproportionately settled by Protestant Scotch-Irish, people with an animal herding background, whereas Northern settlers were English, German and Dutch peasant farmers….

“Their [Cohen & Nisbett] laboratory experiments are most relevant to our argument here. Cohen and Nisbett recruited subjects with Northern and Southern backgrounds from the University of Michigan student body, ostensibly to work on an psychological task dealing with perception. During the experiment, a confederate bumped some subjects and muttered ‘asshole’ at them. Cortisol (a stress hormone) and testosterone (rises in preparation for violence) were measured before and after the insult. Insulted Southerners showed big jumps in both cortisol and testosterone compared to uninsulted Southerners and insulted Northerners….”

…and then richerson & boyd go on to say…

“Nisbett and Cohen’s study illustrates the two main points we want to make in this essay.
– Culture is fundamental to understanding human behavior.
– Culture causes behavior by causing changes in our biology.”

yeah. sure. terrific.

but what if, also, our biology causes human behaviors which collectively become human culture(s).

i mean, in cohen & nisbitt’s study, there’s cortisol and testosterone levels going up. that sounds like biology to me!

personality is heritable. so is intelligence. what if different frequencies of whatever genes (alleles) it is that contribute to, say, flying off the handle happen to be more common in protestant scotch-irish people than in the english, german or dutch? couldn’t that account for why the culture of the american south is more violent?

i’m sure that there’s constant feedback here between our biology(ies) and our culture(s), but how come researchers never even bother to ask the sort of question i’m asking here? seems kinda, you know, obvious.

see also: Warrior gene prevalent in Maori: study

previously: extraversion and culture

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warships

western warship:

eastern warship:

“A Chinese Song Dynasty naval river ship with a Xuanfeng traction-trebuchet catapult on its top deck, taken from an illustration of the Wujing Zongyao (1044 AD).” [wikipedia]

african warship:

“War canoes have been extensively used in Africa to transport troops and supplies, and engage targets onshore. While documentation of canoe versus canoe battles in on the open ocean is rare, records from the 14th century mention various tribal peoples of West Africa using huge fighting canoes in inland waters, some up to 80 feet (24 m) and carrying over 100 men. Construction of the war canoe was typically from one massive tree trunk, with the silk cotton tree being particularly useful. The inside was dug out and carved using fire and hand tools. Braces and stays were used to prevent excessive expansion while the fire treatment was underway. Fire also served to release sap as a preservative against insect pests. Some canoes had 7 to 8 feet (2.4 m) of width inside, accommodating benches for rowers, and facilities such as fireplaces and sleeping berths.

“Warriors onboard were typically armed with shield, spear and bow. In the gunpowder era, small iron or brass cannon were sometimes mounted on the bow or stern, although the firepower delivered from these areas and weapons was relatively ineffective. Musketeers delivering fire to cover raiding missions generally had better luck. The typical tactic was to maneuver close to shore, discharge weapons, then quickly pull out to open water to reload, before dashing in again to repeat the cycle. Troop and supply transport were the primary missions, but canoe versus canoe engagements in the lagoons, creeks and lakes of West Africa were also significant.” [wikipedia]

bonus photo:

whoa. (click on the photo to see a really BIG version.)

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linkfest 10/24/10

“Gene Activity in the Brain Depends on Genetic Background”“Taken all together, the data from the study demonstrate that closer genetic relatives exhibit fewer differences in gene expression patterns, whereas more distant relatives show greater variation. Interestingly, the researchers found that the expression variations between genetic strains were more likely to be found in areas of the brain that evolved more recently. These regions are most commonly linked to higher order functions such as cognition, social behavior, learning and memory.”

“Human Genome Still Chock-Full of Mysteries” @ wired.

the a epigone looks at “IQ and age differential at first marriage”“[T]he lower a country’s average IQ, the older that country’s women want their men to be.”

“Study: Gay Parents More Likely to Have Gay Kids”

“Girls Are More Intelligent Than Boys, But Men Are More Intelligent Than Women”“The male advantage in general intelligence does not emerge until after puberty, because girls mature faster than boys.”

“Neuroscience, free will and determinism: ‘I’m just a machine'”

“Morals Without God?”“How primate behavior sheds light on the origins of our sense of right and wrong.” (lovely essay from frans de waal.)

“Culture Evolves Slowly, Falls Apart Quickly” @ wired.

“‘Eugenics’ Is What Happens When Cousins Don’t Marry” @ vdare.com.

“Why men are twice as likely to become alcoholics – drinking sparks more pleasure in male brains” (doohh-pamine!)

“Penguins have gay ‘flings’ because they are lonely – but end up in a heterosexual couple” – penguins not so gay after all.

“Women really are more generous as study proves they donate more to charity” – women in the u.s. anyway.

“Revolution Postponed: Why the Human Genome Project Has Been Disappointing” @ scientific american – “The Human Genome Project has failed so far to produce the medical miracles that scientists promised. Biologists are now divided over what, if anything, went wrong—and what needs to happen next.” (behind paywall, unfortunately.)

linkfest 10/03/10

inductivist posts that “Archie Bunker is black, brown, or yellow.” (“gee, our old edsel ran great!”)

“Recent Research on Individualism/Collectivism” from kevin macdonald (“The research reviewed here indicates that predispositions to individualism/collectivism are genetically based.”)

“Study Reveals Why Women Apologize So Much”

“Porn Surge Found in States that Helped Elect President”

“Dancers Are Genetically Different Than The Rest Of Us”

“Diversity Down Under” by the derb

“Stress Brings Out the Difference in Male, Female Brains”

“And all I got was this lousy T-shirt” – cool post @ mefi linking to a bunch o’ classic books @ archive.org like “Forty Years Among the Zulus,” “Twenty-five Years in Honan,” “Twenty-one Years in India,” and so on and so on.

classic link: “Rwandan Genocide Illustrates How Genetics Influence PTSD”

linkfest 09/26/10

“Can Genes Explain the Sex Divide?” via steve sailer (i can’t believe we’re still having this discussion…)

the audacious epigone finds that, gee, the best countries to live in (per newsweek) also, purely coincidentally i’m sure, have the highest, average iqs. whaddyaknow!

bulgarians are not scots are not irish are not swedes are not portugese. via dienekes.

PANIC!!!! (you’re more likely to if you’re white. via inductivist.)

“Found: genes that make kids smart” (via pretty much every blog/website i read)

“Does Race Plays a Factor in Accident Survival? Black Motorcyclists — Even in Helmets — More Likely to Die in Crashes, Study Finds”

“Narcissists Can Be Identified By Their Facebook Accounts – Psychologists”

classic link: “The Inconvenient Science of Racial DNA Profiling” @ wired.

different strokes…

satoshi kanazawa wrote a while back:

“Like individuals, nations vary in their preferences and values.

“The Hypothesis about the effect of general intelligence on individual preferences and values may also have implications for national differences in their characters, institutions, and laws. More intelligent populations may hold different collective preferences and values than less intelligent populations.

“If more intelligent individuals are more likely to be liberal and atheistic, and if more intelligent men are more likely to value sexual exclusivity, then it follows that, at the societal level, populations with higher average intelligence are more likely to be liberal, to be atheistic, and to practice monogamy than populations with lower average intelligence. Data indeed do confirm these macrolevel implications of the Hypothesis….”

it sounds to me like he’s talking about culture. it also sounds to me as though culture is an emergent property of our genetic make-up.

kanazawa only considers the connection between iq and culture, but what of our other biologically-based traits like personality or conditions such as adhd or schizophrenia? you’d think that variations between the frequencies of these traits in different populations would also lead to “nations vary[ing] in their preferences and values.”

take, for example, genes/epigenetics related to vasopressin – you know, the little hormone that makes voles (they’re so cuuuute!) more or less monogamous:

“Hasse Walum at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues looked at the various forms of the gene coding for a vasopressin receptor in 552 Swedish people, who were all in heterosexual partnerships. The researchers also investigated the quality of their relationships.

“They found that variation in a section of the gene called RS3 334 was linked to how men bond with their partners. Men can have none, one or two copies of the RS3 334 section, and the higher the number of copies, the worse men scored on a measure of pair bonding.

“Not only that, men with two copies of RS3 334 were more likely to be unmarried than men with one or none, and if they were married, they were twice as likely to have a marital crisis.” (source and more here)

well, what if there are different frequencies of these and/or other vasopressin-related alleles (and/or differing frequencies of epigenetic states related to vasopressin levels) in various human populations around the world? could that account in any way, shape, or form, for the different cultural traditions related to monogamy vs. polygamy, etc., etc.?

what about other human biological traits and culture? enquiring minds want to know!

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