when in rome?

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

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

jews - iran- cousin marriage types

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


linkfest – 01/21/14

Calcium absorption not the cause of evolution of milk digestion in Europeans“‘The evolution of lactase persistence is one of the best known and most dramatic examples of recent human evolution. One of the ironies of working in this area is that we know it happened but we still don’t fully know why’ says Sverrisdóttir. Lactase persistence is found at highest frequencies in southern Sweden and in Ireland. Given that calcium absorption is not the only reason why this trait evolved so rapidly, Sverrisdóttir and colleagues have proposed another cause: Although most early European farmers would not have been lactase persistent, they would still have been able to consume fermented milk products such as yoghurt and cheese, because fermentation converts much of the lactose into fats. But in famine conditions, such as when crops fail, they are likely to have eaten all the fermented milk foods, leaving only the more high-lactose products. This would have caused the usual lactose intolerance symptoms such as diarrhea. Diarrhea in in healthy people is not usually life-threatening, but in severely malnourished individuals it certainly can be. So famine could have led to episodes of very strong natural selection favoring lactase persistence.”

Human and Helicobacter pylori coevolution shapes the risk of gastric disease“Patients were recruited from two geographically distinct Colombian populations with significantly different incidences of gastric cancer, but virtually identical prevalence of H. pylori infection. All H. pylori isolates contained the genetic signatures of multiple ancestries, with an ancestral African cluster predominating in a low-risk, coastal population and a European cluster in a high-risk, mountain population. The human ancestry of the biopsied individuals also varied with geography, with mostly African ancestry in the coastal region (58%), and mostly Amerindian ancestry in the mountain region (67%). The interaction between the host and pathogen ancestries completely accounted for the difference in the severity of gastric lesions in the two regions of Colombia. In particular, African H. pylori ancestry was relatively benign in humans of African ancestry but was deleterious in individuals with substantial Amerindian ancestry. Thus, coevolution likely modulated disease risk, and the disruption of coevolved human and H. pylori genomes can explain the high incidence of gastric disease in the mountain population.”

Seeing X Chromosomes in a New Light“X-chromosome inactivation, Dr. Nathans’s pictures show, creates a genetic diversity that’s particularly dramatic. Two cells side by side may be using different versions of many different genes. ‘But there is also much larger-scale diversity,’ Dr. Nathans said. In some brains, for example, a mother’s X chromosome was seen dominating the left side, while the father’s dominated the right. Entire organs can be skewed toward one parent. Dr. Nathans and his colleagues found that in some mice, one eye was dominated by the father and the other by the mother. The diversity even extended to the entire mouse. In some animals, almost all the X chromosomes from one parent were shut; in others, the opposite was true.”

Are plants altruistic?“Roots can distinguish self from other, and they know their own kind (species), they can share resources and information about insect attacks and deliver nutrients to trees in need. The preponderance of evidence does seem to suggest that plants are proactive in filling their own needs and the needs of others.” – ooooh, not just their own species, their own close relatives! – see also The Intelligent Plant.

Sluggish metabolisms are key to primates’ long lives“[P]rimates expend 50 per cent less energy than other mammals of equivalent mass during an average day. ‘What’s more, he says the difference is not easily explained by differing activity levels: a human would need to run a whole marathon every day to be on an even energetic footing with mammals that aren’t primates….’ The finding offers a completely new way to understand why primates have slower life histories than other mammals of equivalent body size…. Pontzer thinks that the slower metabolism may have evolved to help primates cope with food shortages. For instance, orang-utans suffer frequent famines. ‘Orang-utans experience extended periods of low fruit availability,’ says Vogel. ‘There are months when caloric intake is less than expenditure – and they burn body fat stores.’ A slow metabolism might help them survive.”

Triune origins“With the latest paper, the story on European origins is becoming clearer. Three populations account for European ancestry: the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers of western Europe (dubbed WHG in the paper), early European farmers derived from somewhere in the Mideast (EEF), and a third group more closely related to ancient Siberians (ANE) than any existing population. Those Sibermen also contributed a third of Amerindian ancestry, the rest being similar to modern East Asian populations.” – from greg cochran.

The first industrial revolution“As early modern humans spread farther north, they entered more challenging environments…. Did these new cognitive demands have an evolutionary impact? Did they select for certain mental capacities over others? Piffer (2013) has addressed these questions by seeing how hunter-gatherers differ from farming peoples in alleles at COMT, a gene linked to executive function, working memory, and intelligence…. Northern hunting peoples, however, differ from other hunter-gatherers and resemble more advanced farming populations.” – from peter frost.

‘Out of Africa’ gene mutation in human pigmentation increases predisposition to skin cancer“The V60L mutation is more common in people with light hair and skin tone that, despite being light, tans easily in the summer. This mutation is positive for the climate of the Mediterranean region, as it facilitates the absorption of vitamin D in the winter months, in which the ultraviolet radiation is lower. In the summer months, in which the radiation is greater, the ease to darken the skin pigmentation provides a certain protection. However, the study also revealed that among people with this mutation there is a greater predisposition to skin cancer.” – see also: Simultaneous Purifying Selection on the Ancestral MC1R Allele and Positive Selection on the Melanoma-Risk Allele V60L in South Europeans.

Longitudinal four-dimensional mapping of subcortical anatomy in human development – h/t kevin mitchell! who said: “Large imaging study details substantial sex differences in maturation dynamics of subcortical structures.” – also: Fundamental sex difference in human brain architecture [behind paywall].

Changes in Thickness and Surface Area of the Human Cortex and Their Relationship with Intelligence“At 10 years of age, more intelligent children have a slightly thinner cortex than children with a lower IQ. This relationship becomes more pronounced with increasing age: with higher IQ, a faster thinning of the cortex is found over time. In the more intelligent young adults, this relationship reverses so that by the age of 42 a thicker cortex is associated with higher intelligence. In contrast, cortical surface is larger in more intelligent children at the age of 10. The cortical surface is still expanding, reaching its maximum area during adolescence. With higher IQ, cortical expansion is completed at a younger age; and once completed, surface area decreases at a higher rate. These findings suggest that intelligence may be more related to the magnitude and timing of changes in brain structure during development than to brain structure per se, and that the cortex is never completed but shows continuing intelligence-dependent development.”

Why do spatial abilities predict mathematical performance?“About a third of the variation in spatial ability at age 12 is explained by genetic factors; a little less than half of the variation in mathematics at this age is genetic. We find no sex differences in the genetic and environmental influences (either in magnitude or type) on mathematical and spatial variation at age 12. The observed overlap between spatial ability and mathematics is substantial (r > .40). Approximately 60% of this overlap is explained by common genetic effects, with 40% of the overlap due to environmental experience.” – h/t DOCTOR stuart ritchie! (^_^)

New evidence shows the FDA was wrong to halt 23andMe testing“While the tests are often too inaccurate for consumers to consider them diagnoses, research shows that most customers will seek a doctor’s opinion before taking action, anyway. According to the authors’ research, 58% of 1,051 surveyed customers did nothing at all with their genomic results. Of the 42% who made health decisions based on the information, only 2% changed prescription drug regimens without consulting a physician. The majority of customers who made changes focused on diet, exercise, and vitamins.”

Dogs’ Closest Wolf Ancestors Went Extinct, Study Suggests” A new genetic analysis of modern dogs and wolves suggests that man’s best friend was domesticated before agriculture. But the origin of this domestication remains stubbornly mysterious. Researchers analyzed the genomes of wolves from three likely sites of domestication (the Middle East, Asia and eastern Europe), and found that modern dogs were not more closely related to any of the three. In fact, it seems that the closest wolf ancestors of today’s dogs may have gone extinct, leaving no wild descendants.” – also: Paedomorphic Facial Expressions Give Dogs a Selective Advantage – woof! – h/t claire lehmann!

The Nurture Enigma – How Does the Environment Influence Human Nature? – from staffan.

The interplay of genetic and cultural evolution – from jason collins.

Eye of the Tiger PeopleBut what the hell is ‘culture,’ anyway? Talk about a social construct! Even the term ‘social construct’ is a social construct, one unique to our culture. And who’s to say culture is entirely separate from genetics? There’s some suggestion that the two may be intimately intertwined. In rawest terms, ‘culture’ may be nothing more than what happens when a group’s genes interact with their environment. – from jim goad.

Toddlers’ aggression is strongly associated with genetic factors, study reports“The development of physical aggression in toddlers is strongly associated genetic factors and to a lesser degree with the environment, according to a new study led by Eric Lacourse of the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital. Lacourse’s worked with the parents of identical and non-identical twins to evaluate and compare their behaviour, environment and genetics.” – h/t mr. mangan, esq!

Modifying DNA May Wipe Away Old Memories – so can several double gin and tonics in a row. (~_^) – they’re talking about epigenetic changes here, btw.

Apes are intuitive statisticians“Here, we conducted the first investigation of such intuitive statistical reasoning with non-human primates. In a series of 7 experiments, Bonobos, Chimpanzees, Gorillas and Orangutans drew flexible statistical inferences from populations to samples. These inferences, furthermore, were truly based on statistical information regarding the relative frequency distributions in a population, and not on absolute frequencies. Intuitive statistics in its most basic form is thus an evolutionarily more ancient rather than a uniquely human capacity.” – iow, the other great apes outperform a lot of humans (i.e. the pc ones)! (~_^) – h/t neuroskeptic!

Study: Chimpanzees Bond Over Shared Meals“[C]himps who share their food have higher levels of oxytocin, known as the love hormone, than those who don’t.” – h/t hbd bibliography!

Comedians have psychotic personality traits, study finds“In a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers analyzed comedians from Australia, Britain and the United States and found they scored significantly higher on four types of psychotic characteristics compared to a control group of people who had non-creative jobs. The traits included a tendency towards impulsive or anti-social behavior, and a tendency to avoid intimacy. ‘The creative elements needed to produce humor are strikingly similar to those characterizing the cognitive style of people with psychosis – both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,’ said Gordon Claridge of the University of Oxford’s department of experimental psychology, who led the study.”

Natural selection can favour ‘irrational’ behaviour – well, there’s your problem!

‘Human evolution likely led to rise of religion’ – h/t holly dunsworth! whose response was: duh! (~_^)

New study finds mistimed sleep disrupts rhythms of genes in humans“During this disruption of sleep timing, there was a six-fold reduction in the number of genes that displayed a circadian rhythm (a rhythm with an approximately 24 hour period). This included many regulators associated with transcription and translation, indicating widespread disruption to many biological processes.” – sleep right!

speaking of which: Study finds later school start times improve sleep and daytime functioning in adolescents – h/t anatoly!

The human brain can process images the eye sees for 13 milliseconds – imagine how quickly THE FLASH’s brain can process images!! (~_^)

The Islamic Republic of Baby-Making“Iran, like other Middle Eastern countries, has an extremely high infertility rate. More than 20 percent of Iranian couples cannot conceive, according to a study conducted by one of the country’s leading fertility clinics, compared with the global rate of between 8 and 12 percent. Experts believe this is due to the prevalence of consanguineous marriages, or those between cousins. Male infertility is ‘the hidden story of the Middle East,’ says Marcia Inhorn, a Yale University medical anthropologist and a specialist on assisted reproduction in the region.”

This Language Names Odors As Precisely As English Speakers Name Colorjahai speakers in malaysia. – h/t t.greer! – see also: Can You Name That Smell?“It’s also possible that the Jahai are built differently than the rest of us. The genes that code for the olfactory receptors in our noses exhibit a great deal of variation not only between different human populations but also between people. So it may be that the Jahai have evolved more of these receptors or a greater diversity of them than everyone else, much like the Tsimane tribe from the Bolivian rainforest were shown to be more sensitive to smells than were Germans.”

Gene therapy ‘could be used to treat blindness’“Surgeons in Oxford have used a gene therapy technique to improve the vision of six patients who would otherwise have gone blind. The operation involved inserting a gene into the eye, a treatment that revived light-detecting cells.”

The thinnest Americans are Asian Americans, CDC data show – surprise!

Shapely centrefolds? Temporal change in body measures: trend analysis – h/t ben southwood! who said: “Playboy centrefolds’ waists have widened, weights have fallen, busts have shrunk and hips have narrowed since 1953.”

Study: Violence, infectious disease and climate change contributed to Indus civilization collapse – h/t mike anissimov!

What was in that grog? Scientists analyze ancient Nordic drink“Ancient Scandinavians quaffed an alcoholic mixture of barley, honey, cranberries, herbs and even grape wine imported from Greece and Rome, new research finds.” – mmmmmm! mmmmmm?

bonus: i’m a journalist! – h/t jayman!

bonus bonus: and a neo-fascist, too, apparently. hahahahahahahaha!! *snort*

bonus bonus bonus: Genetically engineered plant glows so brightly it can be used as a LAMP

(note: comments do not require an email. memory erasers.)

the nyt discovers tribes!

hallelujah! from thomas friedman, no less:

“David Kirkpatrick, the Cairo bureau chief for The Times, wrote an article from Libya on Monday that posed the key question, not only about Libya but about all the new revolutions brewing in the Arab world: ‘The question has hovered over the Libyan uprising from the moment the first tank commander defected to join his cousins protesting in the streets of Benghazi: Is the battle for Libya the clash of a brutal dictator against a democratic opposition, or is it fundamentally a tribal civil war?’

“This is the question because there are two kinds of states in the Middle East: ‘real countries’ with long histories in their territory and strong national identities (Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iran); and those that might be called ‘tribes with flags,’ or more artificial states with boundaries drawn in sharp straight lines by pens of colonial powers that have trapped inside their borders myriad tribes and sects who not only never volunteered to live together but have never fully melded into a unified family of citizens. They are Libya, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The tribes and sects that make up these more artificial states have long been held together by the iron fist of colonial powers, kings or military dictators. They have no real ‘citizens’ in the modern sense. Democratic rotations in power are impossible because each tribe lives by the motto ‘rule or die’ — either my tribe or sect is in power or we’re dead.”

been there, said that.

here’s (some of) what kirkpatrick has to say about the tribal sitch in libya:

“The question has hovered over the Libyan uprising from the moment the first tank commander defected to join his cousins protesting in the streets of Benghazi: Is the battle for Libya the clash of a brutal dictator against a democratic opposition, or is it fundamentally a tribal civil war…?

“The behavior of the fledgling rebel government in Benghazi so far offers few clues to the rebels’ true nature. Their governing council is composed of secular-minded professionals — lawyers, academics, businesspeople — who talk about democracy, transparency, human rights and the rule of law. But their commitment to those principles is just now being tested as they confront the specter of potential Qaddafi spies in their midst, either with rough tribal justice or a more measured legal process.

“Like the Qaddafi government, the operation around the rebel council is rife with family ties. And like the chiefs of the Libyan state news media, the rebels feel no loyalty to the truth in shaping their propaganda, claiming nonexistent battlefield victories, asserting they were still fighting in a key city days after it fell to Qaddafi forces, and making vastly inflated claims of his barbaric behavior.”

well, after hearing that — that the “operation around the rebel council is rife with family ties” — i’m gonna call this a civil war in libya and NOT a democratic uprising. in fact, i’m not even sure civil war is the right term. to be a civil war there needs to be a civitas, right? i’m not so sure that a group of endogamous tribes that happen to live in an artifically created state constitutes a civitas. this is more like good, old-fashioned tribal warfare like you woulda found in pre-state days.

anyway, here’s where kirkpatrick gets it wrong:

“But the legacy of such tribal rivalries in Libya may in fact be fading, thanks in part to the enormous changes that Colonel Qaddafi — a modernizer, in his idiosyncratic way — helped bring about. Coming to power just before the oil boom, he tapped Libya’s new wealth to provide schools, hospitals and other benefits for Libya’s desperately poor, semi-nomadic population.

“Gradually, Libya became overwhelmingly urban, with about 85 percent of its populations clustered around its two main urban centers — Tripoli and Benghazi.

“Though many of the people who flocked to the growing cities continued to identify closely by tribe, they now live mixed together. Many from eastern tribes now live in western Tripoli, and tens of thousands of members of the predominantly western tribes, Warfalla and Tarhuna, which form the core of Colonel Qaddafi’s support, now live in Benghazi and last weekend staged a major public demonstration there calling on their western cousins to join the revolt.”

just ’cause people are shuffled around doesn’t mean that tribal ties will be broken — NOT if they’re still marrying their kin at a rate of 46.5% — a rate similar to that found in iraq, and look how well they all get along! the chinese tried to get rid of the hakka clans in southern china during the cultural revolution by moving them around and not letting the members of various clans live with one another like they traditionally did. didn’t work. (the clan members are now living with one another again.) prolly ’cause the hakka had remained endogamous.

nope. if u wanna get rid of tribes or clans or whatever, u have to understand where tribes and clans come from. they do not just miraculously appear out of nowhere. they are the products of mating patterns. so, to get rid of tribes, u need to use hbdchick’s draconian measures of banning inbreeding. or do something to stop the inbreeding. shuffling people around might help ’cause you might make it more awkward for people to marry their kin over long distances. but better techniques would be just to ban it outright or encourage outbreeding somehow. (note: this is not a recommendation from me. just sayin’ how it could be done if someone really wanted to get rid of tribes. people can inbreed all they want afaiac.)

friedman is really lost-in-space, though, in how he views egypt and iran and tunisia:

“It is no accident that the Mideast democracy rebellions began in three of the real countries — Iran, Egypt and Tunisia — where the populations are modern, with big homogenous majorities that put nation before sect or tribe and have enough mutual trust to come together like a family: ‘everyone against dad.'”


he’s gotta be kidding! ok, so maybe egypt doesn’t have tribes the way saudi arabia and libya does, but they are extremely clannish! their consanguinity rate was 29.7% in 2008. that’s a lot better than libya, but nuthin’ like anything you see in the west. so, good luck with the democracy thing there!

and iran?! he’s gotta be kidding:

these pc correct people are never gonna understand what’s going on in the world until they learn some biology. you can’t mix-and-match different ideologies (like democracy) with different peoples ’cause different peoples is different. duh! and, most crucially when we’re talking about tribes, mating patterns matter.

previously: cousin marriage conundrum addendum and libya – land o’ tribes and all tribes, all the time! and aígyptos

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