consanguinity and islam and democracy

i said last week that the week would be devoted to the woodley & bell consanguinity and democracy paper … and then i got distracted. typical. so, now, back on track…

aside from looking for any straight up connection/s between consanguinity and democracy (see previous post), woodley & bell also looked at consanguinity and democracy and several other possible factors that might affect the success of democracy in the nations included in the study: economic freedom, inequality, exports of fossil fuels (the “resource curse”), pathogen load (i’ll come back to that one!), and islam.

using path analysis, they found that islam seems to have a direct impact on democracy in muslim nations and ALSO that islam has an indirect impact on democracy via consanguinity.

recall that woodley & bell used two different indices of democracy: data from the polity iv project and the eiu democracy index. so they worked up two path analyses (click on charts for LARGER view). percent muslim for each country came from pew:

both analyses indicate: “that Islam has both direct effects on democracy and effects that are mediated by consanguinity, although the direct path from percentage Muslim to democracy [in the first model] only approached the conventional cutoff for significance (p = .096).”

from the paper (pg. 12):

“The largest impacts on consanguinity in the path models were produced by pathogen load and the effect of the percentage of Muslims within a nation. In the first path model the latter variable did not have a significant direct path to democracy, which suggests that its effects on democracy are largely mediated by consanguinity. Both pathogen prevalence and the influence of Islam have been described in the literature as having an inhibitory effect on democracy (e.g., Fincher et al., 2008; Fish, 2002; Fukuyama, 2001; Huntington, 1984; Thornhill et al., 2009). Here we indicate that these variables, which had previously been posited to have independent effects on democracy, are actually mediated by consanguinity.”

so, if a nation is islamic, that will affect how democratic it is (or not!), but what seems to be more important is if the population practices cousin marriage. it’s islam+consanguinity that is the key here, not just islam.

i think it makes sense that the effects islam has on democracy are “mediated” by how much cousin marriage there is in a society. cousin marriage directly affects the genetic relatedness between the individual members of a population, making individuals more related to their family members than would happen in an outbred society, while making those same individuals less related to non-family members, again unlike in an outbred society. i think this pretty clearly leads to clannish or tribal behavioral patterns which, as woodley and bell point out, are not conducive to liberal democracy at all.

islam doesn’t demand cousin marriage, but it doesn’t prohibit it either. since muslims are supposed to emulate mohammed (who married a cousin – see below), it probably rather encourages it. and anyway — which came first, cousin marriage or islam? yup. cousin marriage. one of mohammed’s wives was a cousin of his (his fzd) — and ali (yes that ali), who was mohammed’s cousin, married mohammed’s daughter, ali’s first cousin once removed. cousin marriage was very much the norm amongst the arabs in mohammed’s day. and, unlike roman catholic church policy makers, neither mohammed nor any imam since him (at least none that count) seem to have come down against cousin marriage afaik.

furthermore, good ol’ father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage, the form of cousin marriage that leads to the most inbreeding, and that is still the preferred form amongst many muslims, was probably already well established amongst the arabs in mohammed’s day. fbd marriage was probably introduced to the arabs by jewish tribes from the levant who migrated into the arab peninsula starting in the second century b.c. so not only is cousin marriage amongst the arabs old, it’s really old — and it’s fbd marriage to boot. the arabs went on to introduce fbd marriage to the peoples of north africa, the mashriq and south asia (like the pakistanis and the afghanis).

my guess is that it’s not just the amount of consanguinity in a nation that negatively affects the success of democracy in that country, but the length of time the people have been practicing cousin marriage AND how close that cousin marriage is. like i said in the previous post, i think the evolution of “genes for altruism” comes into play here, not just the immediate genetic relatedness between the individuals in these societies, although it’s important, too.

so, i would bet that democracy would fare the worst in the levant, where fbd marriage originated, and the arab peninsula, where fbd marriage has been present for so very long, and that distance from that core region would predict better odds of democracy working at all.

kinda looks that way, don’t it? (eui democracy index 2011 – click on map for LARGER view):

syria, saudi arabia, yeman and oman have the worst scores for democracy in the muslim world (in the world!). iran, turkemenistan and uzbekistan have similar scores and all three of those countries were “arabized” in the early- to mid- seventh century a.d. pakistan was not brought under the arab sphere of influence until later (the early eighth century) and conversion to islam and arabization (and, presumably, the adoption of fbd marriage) took some time. this, i think, might partially explain why, even though pakistan today has similar consanguinity rates to saudi arabia, it does better as far as having a democratic state goes — the pakistani populations haven’t been marrying their fbd for as long as arabs.

similarly, at the other end of the “arab” world, north africans are relatively better at democracy than the saudis since they, too, were arabized — and adopted fbd marriage — comparatively late. the far flung islamic nation, indonesia, manages democracy fairly ok since they’ve hardly adopted fbd marriage at all, although they’ve probably been marrying their mother’s brother’s daughters for a while like other east asian populations.

previously: consanguinity and democracy

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virtual tribalism!:

“Online game mirrors Lebanese political scene”

“A new online game designed to mirror the Lebanese political scene allows players to join different tribes and parties modeled after the country’s own affiliations and pit themselves against one another in a bid to achieve social domination.

Lebania, which went fully live Wednesday morning after a two-week trial period, is the brainchild of a Lebanese software developer, who is keeping his or her identity under wraps at this stage because of the divisive nature of the game….

“Players of the game, which can be found at, choose one of four tribes – Trinity, Quraysh, Yerevan or Tawhid – intended to represent Christians, Muslims, Armenians and Druze. To play the game, players must attempt to take over neighboring villages with their own resources. They also have the option to form strategic alliances with other players. [just like real life! – hbd chick]

“Reading the description of the tribes, it’s clear where the impression that the game is controversial comes from.

“The Trinity (as in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) tribe is described as having comparatively ‘high levels of social and technological development,’ while the Quraysh (the name of the dominant tribe at the time of the emergence of Islam) are characterized as ‘the plundering hordes roaming the lands’….”


see Lebanese people

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father’s brother’s daughter marriage

or fbd marriage (or patrilateral parallel cousin marriage). i mentioned this before (and i’m sure i’ll mention it again).

cousin marriage is pretty common in the world. but most peoples prefer to marry their cross cousins, i.e. (from the point-of-view of a son) father’s sister’s daughter or mother’s brother’s daughter.

however, a few groups of peoples preferentially follow the fbd system. korotayev (2000) convincingly showed that those peoples are mostly to be found in those areas of the world that were a part of the eighth century islamic caliphate. or, here:

he said (in that same article):

“Islamic law does not prohibit FBD marriage, nor does it impose (or even recommend) it (Schacht 1964; al-Jazi:ri: 1990:60-61). But most traditional cultures have a clear perception that marriage between a man and his FBD is incestuous. This is evident in the fact that in most languages a kinship term for FBD (or MSD) would be identical with a kinship term for one’s sister. This normally implies that marriage with a FBD (or MSD) would be perceived as equivalent to marriage with a sister (Korotayev 1999). There appears to be something here that Kronenfeld (pers. comm.) called a ‘cognitive problem’….”

i think fbd marriage is considered incestuous by most peoples because it creates strongly endogamous lineages. look here — here’s fbd marriage versus fzd (father’s sister’s daughter) marriage. look what happens: in fbd marriage, the men and the women all stay within the same clan. that’s hyper-endogamy if you ask me. in fzd marriage, in contrast, the women move between clans. (the straight lines are men, the dotted lines are women, and the big dots are, well, the union of a man and woman.)

continuing with korotayev, where on earth did fbd marriage come from?:

“At the time of its origin, FBD marriage had nothing to do with Islam. The cognitive problem solution seems to have occurred somewhere in the Syro-Palestine region well before the birth of Christ. Rodionov (1999) has recently drawn attention to the fact that this marriage pattern is widespread in the non-Islamic cultures of this area (e.g., Maronites or Druze) and that it has considerable functional value in this non-Islamic context in facilitating the division of property among brothers after their father’s death (Rodionov 1999). Like Rodionov (1999), I believe that this marriage pattern could hardly be attributed to Islamic or Arab influence here. It seems, rather, that this marriage pattern in the Islamic world and the non-Islamic Syro-Palestinian cultures stems from the same source.

“But prior to the time of Islam, the diffusion of the FBD marriage pattern was rather limited. The only adjacent area where it diffused widely was the Arabian Peninsula (Negrja 1981; Kudelin 1994), where its diffusion can be linked with a considerable Jewish influence in the area well before Islam (Crone 1987; Korotayev 1996; Korotayev, Klimenko, and Proussakov 1999). In any case, by the seventh century, preferential parallel-cousin marriage became quite common among several important Arab tribes (Negrja 1981; Kudelin 1994). In the seventh and eighth centuries, an explosive diffusion of this pattern took place when Arab tribes, backed by Islam, spread throughout the whole of the Omayyid Khalifate. Although preferential parallel-cousin marriage diffused (together with Islam and Arabs) later beyond the borders of the Omayyid Khalifate, the extent of this diffusion was very limited. Hence, the present distribution of FBD marriage was essentially created by the Muslim Arab conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries….”

interesting, huh?

i mentioned over here that i thought the practice should really be called father’s brother’s son marriage — not ’cause i’m a raving feminst who wants everything to be considered from the point-of-view of women (you should know me better than that by now!) — but, rather, because it seems to me to be the father-of-the-bride [“C” in chart below] who really wins out here genetically speaking (which is all that matters, right?). the father-of-the-bride gets to “reunite” his y-chromosome (that he shares with his nephew, his brother’s son) with a quarter of his autosomal dna (his daughter carries half of his autosomal dna) in any male grandkids that he has. what other grandfather gets to do that?:

so what?, you say. here’s what, says i (i.e. relatedness matters).

i also think it’s not a coincidence that, in these societies where fbd marriage exists, you also get these extremely paternalistic societies where women are shrouded in burkas or aren’t allowed to drive or whatever. also, the whole honor killing thing. like rs said here, the males in such societies become “super homies” with each other. exactly! why? ’cause they are really closely related genetically.

i suspect that both the degree and type of genetic relatedness in a society affect all sorts of behaviors of its members (especially those related to reproduction) as well as societal norms and even ideologies (again, especially those related to reproduction).

emmanuel todd seems to have gotten close to this idea as well, although i don’t think he got the genetic side of it (i haven’t actually gotten my hands on a copy of this book yet — gosh-d*rnit!). here’s a blurb about his book, “The Explanation of Ideology: Family Structure and Social Systems (Family, Sexuality and Social Relations in Past Times)”:

“Some parts of the world are dominated by communism, others by Catholicism or by Islam and yet others by liberal doctrines. Why should this be? And why has communism triumphed in Russia, China and Cuba, yet failed in Poland, Cambodia and Indonesia? No one knows. Certainly no clear answer lies in variation of climate, environment, race or, even, economic development. The argument of this book is that world variations in social ideology and belief are conditioned by family structure. The author analyzes the distribution of family forms throughout the world, and examines the relations between particular structures, and (for example) communism, totalitarianism and individualism, as well as the links between these forms and a variety of social phenomena – illegitimacy, suicide, infanticide, marital stability and inheritance laws. He offers evidence to support the belief that family structures and kinship patterns lie behind the ideologies that have shaped the history of the 20th century.”

yes, kinship patterns. and what do kinship patterns reflect? mating patterns.

here’s a little hint at what todd had to say about kinship patterns in the once-part-of-the-caliphate muslim world from a helpful reviewer:

“Endogamous Community Family:
a. Spouse selection: Custom, frequent marriage between the children of brothers.
b. Inheritance: Egalitarian – equality between brothers.
c. Family Home: cohabitation of married sons with their parents.
d. Representative Nations, Peoples, Regions: Arab world, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tadzhikistan.
e. Representative Ideology: Islam.”

it’s not the family structure that matters, it’s the mating patterns i say.

relatedness matters. a LOT, i think.

previously: cousin marriage conundrum addendum and all cousins are not created equal

edit – a nifty diagram of father’s sister’s daughter (fzd) marriage:

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