linkfest – 06/02/13

Genetic Variants Linked to Educational Attainment“A multi-national team of researchers has identified genetic markers that predict educational attainment by pooling data from more than 125,000 individuals in the United States, Australia, and 13 western European countries…. Combining the two million examined SNPs, the SSGAC researchers were able to explain about 2 percent of the variation in educational attainment across individuals, and anticipate that this figure will rise as larger samples become available.” – h/t friendly e-mailer! (^_^) – see also steve hsu on this: First GWAS hits for cognitive ability (thanks, grey!). in particular, check out steve’s graph. and john derbyshire for more on looking for iq-related genes via gwas studies. see also dr. james thompson: Educational attainment, intelligence, and the relentless cracking of the genetic code.

Deforestation Plants the Seed for Rapid Evolution in Brazil“The deforestation of the Brazilian rain forest has created a hidden consequence: The seeds of palm trees have evolved rapidly to be smaller.”

Gene switches make prairie voles fall in love“Researchers have shown for the first time that the act of mating induces permanent chemical modifications in the chromosomes, affecting the expression of genes that regulate sexual and monogamous behaviour.” – epigenetic effects!

Definitions of “Race” and Language and Race — a couple of great posts @habitable worlds!

Genetic structure and different population strata in Italy“‘Our results show that the Y-chromosomal genetic diversity of Italy is not clinal but structured in three geographical areas: North-Western Italy (NWI), South-Eastern Italy (SEI) and Sardinia (SAR). …suggesting a shared genetic background between Southern Italy and the Adriatic coast from one side, and between Northern Italy and Tuscany from the other side.'” – from dienekes!

Just For Show?“Of all humans, male and female, European women have the whitest skin and the most diverse range of hair and eye colors. Are European physical characteristics really female characteristics?” – from peter frost!

Apes Regret Bad Decisions, Throw Tantrums“When apes make a bad decision or took a gamble that doesn’t pay off, they bang on tables and perform other kinds of tantrum-like behaviors, often exhibiting regret by attempting to undo what they had done.”

How Birds and Babies Learn to Talk

GSS on Haidt’s Moral Foundations theory“The GSS results largely support Haidt’s divisions, with liberals putting greater emphasis on liberty/oppression and especially care/harm, just as he found to be the case. Conservatives, on the other hand, are more concerned with fairness/cheating, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation, and loyalty/subversion than liberals are.” – from the awesome epigone!

Homosexuality is natural. Fine. But what if homophobia is natural, too?

The Ugly Truth About Obesity“So yes, the obese group is not unlike its negative stereotypes. Of the, ‘lazy’, ‘sloppy’, ‘less competent’, ‘lacking in self-discipline’, ‘disagreeable’, ‘less conscientious’, ‘poor role models’, ‘unintelligent’, ‘unsuccessful’, ‘weak-willed’, ‘unpleasant’, ‘overindulgent’, it seems ‘disagreeable’ and ‘unpleasant’ are the only clear misses. This is not to hate on the obese, but to call a spade a spade.” – from staffan!

The big fat truth“More and more studies show that being overweight does not always shorten life — but some public-health researchers would rather not talk about them.”

“Were the Victorians cleverer than us?” – from steve sailer!

The Argument Ron Should Have Made – italian iq stuff from chuck the occidentalist! — h/t hbd bibliography!

What Science Says About Arousal During Rape

Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food“Studies published within the past 15 years show that much of our produce is relatively low in phytonutrients, which are the compounds with the potential to reduce the risk of four of our modern scourges: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia. The loss of these beneficial nutrients did not begin 50 or 100 years ago, as many assume. Unwittingly, we have been stripping phytonutrients from our diet since we stopped foraging for wild plants some 10,000 years ago and became farmers.”

More Heroes of the Dark Enlightenment – eat your radishes! they’re good for you! (^_^)

bonus: Yes, the BBC needs more diversity – of opinion, that is – from ed west!

bonus bonus: immigration i, immigration ii, and immigration iii — from the assistant village idiot!

bonus bonus bonus: Raised from the depths, the face of the Mary Rose

bonus bonus bonus bonus: China Builds EU Beachhead With $5 Billion City in Belarus

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Zoologger: The sea cow with super-sensing hairs – i’ve snorkeled with the manatees! (^_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. hover-crafts manatees! (^_^) )

we’re more dumberer than the victorians (part 4)

michael woodley and co. have discovered a bit of modern research on reaction times very (but not exactly) like galton’s late nineteenth century research in london which they feel supports their claims that western iqs have gone down by 14.1 points since the victorian era.


it’s a VERY interesting study, but i’m still not 100% convinced. if the study and its findings are replicated, i might be! (^_^)

i left a comment over there @dr. james thompson’s blog, but, as of the writing of this post, it hadn’t been approved, so i reproduce below.

look forward to more research into this question! neat (and important!) stuff!

“cool study! thanks for drawing it to everyone’s attention, and … yes, i agree … the design of this study seems to be much closer to galton’s original study, so yeah … lots of little red flags should be raised! (^_^)

“personally, i’m still not 100% convinced, though, because i dislike the fact that we have to use *indirect* means to check that the samples are similar — for example, having to rely on eckstein and feist to tell us who, *in general* british museum goers are. i wish wilkinson and allison would’ve just told us *directly* who their participants were! and as for the ethnicity question — that the subjects were white is not enough. they need to be white *brits*. if, for instance, they had too many southern italians or southern spaniards or even irish folks in their study, etc., etc., that might again have dragged down (or up, rather) the scores … *somewhat*.

“(wrt to question of paying for admission, we’ve got indirect evidence for that here as well. a quick email to wilkinson or allison should be able to answer that question. keep in mind, too, that presumably only *some* of galton’s subjects paid a museum entrance fee since on three or four days a week [don’t recall which it was] admission was free to the museum.)

“nevertheless, these are some very interesting results. what would be great, of course, would be to see this study *repeated* and the results *replicated*. if i were to design such a study, i’d make sure that it was in every way possible identical to galton’s, that way there’d be no questions about the sampling, etc. it’d also be cool to test the same individuals’ reaction times on *both* an old, galton-type machine AND a modern one to see exactly how the machines compare.

“in lieu of such a study (or better yet, in conjunction with it), i really think you guys should delve into that 1984-85 health & lifestyle study from the u.k., because they recorded ethnicity and, presumably, ses, so you could get at a sample like galton’s that way. of course, then you’d be left with a modern machine in that instance. i leave the reliability of the machines discussions up to other folks. (and the correlation of rts to iq discussion, too.)

“thanks again, guys!”

previously: we’re dumber than the victorians and btw, about those victorians… and a response to a response to two critical commentaries on woodley, te nijenhuis & murphy (2013)

(note: comments do not require an email. idiocracy – von dem macher von “beavis und butt-head”!)

a response to a response to two critical commentaries on woodley, te nijenhuis & murphy (2013)

first of all, thanks to michael woodley, jan te nijenhuis, and raegan murphy for their response to my (here and here) and scott alexander’s comments on their recent iq paper (Were the Victorians cleverer than us?). thanks, too, to dr. james thompson for hosting their response!

just to refresh everybody’s memory, woodley et al., concluded from their recent research that 1) iqs have decreased in the western world 14.1 points since the victorian period (1889), and 2) that this decrease is due to dysgenics. scott alexander and i both questioned the sampling techniques used in various of the studies looked at by woodley and co. — both in the victorian period and in the modern (see our previous posts linked to above for details).

what is at issue here is whether or not woodley et al. have looked at the same sort of population at both ends of their research. if they’re trying to figure out whether or not iqs have decreased over time in the western world, then the subjects sampled in the past and in the present need to be representative of the two populations, and the two populations need to be of the same sort. unless i’m very much mistaken, sampling issues are considered to be of extreme importance in scientific endeavors (i.e. to get your sampling right). it also simply makes logical sense.

so, we need to know a few things: 1) were the samples taken in the victorian period representative of victorians, 2) were the samples taken in modern times representative of modern populations, and 3) are all of these samples from like populations?

1) were the samples taken in the victorian period representative of victorians?


the victorian samples came from two sources: galton and thompson. (see also here about some other victorian rts data sets.)

thompson’s samples came from university of chicago students in 1898-1900, so they’re unlikely to be representative of victorian americans on the whole. these were probably mostly pretty smart individuals primarily drawn from the elite classes. (see previous post.)

galton’s sample consisted of museum visitors who had paid to take galton’s test (and, in some amount of cases, had probably paid to enter the museum as well). scott alexander superbly analyzed this sample further by combing through the info in johnson et al.’s “Galton’s data a century later.” scott found that galton’s sample was not representative of victorian brits — in fact, it leans heavily towards the middle- and upper-classes. this is not surprising when you think about who, in those days, would’ve been able to afford the costs of taking the test and possibly the museum fee as well.

here’s what scott had to say:

“Tables 10 and 11 turn out to be a gold mine – I worried the records of exactly who took the tests would be lost, but as you might expect of someone who basically invented statistics single-handedly and then beat Darwin in a debate about evolution as an encore, Galton was *very good* at keeping careful data.

This site tells me that about 3% of Victorians were “professionals” of one sort or another. But about 16% of Galton’s non-student visitors identified as that group. These students themselves (Galton calls them ‘students and scholars’, I don’t know what the distinction is) made up 44% of the sample – because the data was limited to those 16+, I believe these were mostly college students – aka once again the top few percent of society. Unskilled laborers, who made up 75% of Victorian society, made up less than four percent of Galton’s sample!”

a very kind person very kindly sent met the johnson et al. paper (thank you very kind person!), so i’ve cut-and-pasted tables 10 and 11 here for you to see for yourselves [click on tables for LARGER views]:

galton's measures - males

galton's measures - females

so galton’s sample is not representative of the victorian british population — it was unbalanced in that it did not include enough subjects from the lower classes.

furthermore, the subjects in galton’s study self-selected themselves. these were individuals who, first of all, chose to go to the south kensington museum (now the victoria and albert museum) to start with (except maybe for the “students and scholars”), AND then they further chose to take galton’s funny little test. this is NOT a good sampling technique. if gallup or pew were to use such a technique, they’d be laughed out of the polling business.

modern studies, of course, try to make sure that data from a representative sample of a population are gathered, otherwise your data might be skewed. which is exactly what scott found with regard to galton’s data. i mean, imagine what sort of person from the lower classes in victorian england first bothered to go to the south kensington museum AND then was interested in taking galton’s test. knowing what i know about the working classes (and i come right out of that class — more like the peasant class, in fact), those that want to go to a boring museum are the exceptions to the rule.

in woodley et al.’s response to our questions about these sampling issues, they point to a study by silverman — Simple reaction time: It is not what it used to be — which i haven’t seen, because i don’t have access to it (and i’m too cheap to pay for it (~_^) ). they say that silverman compensated for these victorian sampling errors by looking at reaction time (rt) data from similar socio-economic sub-groups from more modern eras. sounds like a good idea:

“One advantage of Silverman’s care and meticulous attention to detail is that it permits us to make like for like comparisons with specific socioeconomic and occupational groups in Galton’s data, thus we can directly test the claims of Alexander (2013). Concerning the post-Galton studies Silverman included five student samples, two of which date from the 1940s (Seashore et al. 1941), and the remaining three of which date from the 1970s to the 2000s (mean testing year = 1993; Brice & Smith, 2002; Lefcourt & Siegel, 1970; Reed et al., 2004)…. The difference between the 19th century and the ‘modern’ male students is very similar to the meta-regression-weighted increase in RT latency between 1889 and 2004, estimated on the basis of all samples included in the meta-analysis (81.41 ms). Silverman also included data from other socioeconomic groups. For example the study of Anger et al. (1993) included a combined male + female sample of 220 postal, hospital and insurance workers from three different US cities. These occupations clearly fall into the Clerical/Semiskilled and Semiprofessional groups identified in Galton’s study.”

i’m not going to look through all of these studies to check for sampling irregularities because, again, it’s not my research, so it’s not my job. but let’s take a quick look at the first one i highlighted above: seashore et al. 1941. i don’t have access to this paper either, and, no, i’m not gonna pay for it, so i’ll have to assume going by another of r.h. seashore’s papers that these rt data were drawn from american students (possibly northwestern university where seashore worked — correct me if i’m wrong), and going by the publication date (1941) that the samples were collected in the 1930s or 1940-41.

woodley et al. say that, in comparing the nineteenth century vs. 1940s-era students, there is a +16.8ms (183.2-200 ms respectively) difference between the two groups, and thus a decrease in average iq from the victorian period to the 1940s.

my question is: what makes silverman, or woodley et al., confident that the samples from an american university in the 1930s-40s are comparable to thompson’s university of chicago samples or galton’s samples from the 1800s? as shown above, both of those victorian studies were done on elite victorian groups, while, on the other hand, it is well know that already by the 1940s at least, the “college bubble” had started in the u.s. in which nearly anybody is admitted to university. when the average college grad shifts over time from having been drawn from the upper classes to the middle and even the lower, it’s not surprising that their average iqs drop!

even within galton’s self-selected group of male museum goers (see table 10 above), rts (iq) varied between the classes, with the upper classes having lower rts (indicative of higher iqs): ages 14-26: gentleman=.170, professional=.173, semiprofessional=.182, merchant/tradesperson=.190, clerical/semiskilled=.187, unskilled=.195. why, then, shouldn’t rts/iqs vary between college students of the late-1800s vs. the 1940s when more middle- and lower-class individuals attended college in the 1940s than in the late-1800s?

as for the second study i’ve highlighted above — anger et al. (1993) — which included “a combined male + female sample of 220 postal, hospital and insurance workers from three different US cities….” postal workers? seriously? comparing 1990s american postal workers to galton’s middle- and upper-class museum goers? really?

2) were the samples taken in modern times representative of modern populations?

yes and no.

some of the studies used by woodley et al. are probably better (i.e. more representative of modern populations) than others. as i pointed out in my first post on this study, i would imagine, although i haven’t actually checked it, that the sampling in the 1984–85 U.K. Health and Lifestyle Survey is probably fine, and so the rts representative of the whole of britiain. on the other hand, the 2002 study from the university of bristol may have included at least 10% minority individuals if not more in the study. since only ca. 8% of the u.k.’s population in 2001 was non-white, this bristol study may not have been representative of the nation’s population. hard to know without knowing the demographics of who was included in the study.

3) are all of these samples from like populations?


the victorian samples were drawn from mainly the middle- and upper-classes, not to mention a large group of self-selected individuals who were specifically interested in taking part in such a study, while the more modern studies have included greater numbers of middle- and lower-class individuals as well as a certain percentage of non-whites.

about that latter point, woodley et al. responded:

“Substantial changes in terms of the ethnic composition of test-takers would however be needed in order for the magnitude of change to be *solely* or even *substantially* a consequence of this process.”

i never said so. i only said that it’s not possible to compare apples to apples+oranges when looking for changes in just apples over time. apples vs. apples+oranges are likely to produce different results since two such groups are different. i never said, or even suggested, anything about the extent of those differences. (i wish people would read more closely. *sigh*)

so, again, i think that there are quite a few sampling issues in this study, and that the presence of these means that the researchers’ findings are not as reliable as they think that they are.

could there have been a decline in western iqs since the victorian period due to dysgenic factors? of course.

does the fact that there are sampling issues in the woodley et al. (and silverman, for that matter) paper prove that there hasn’t been a drop in iq since the victorian period? no. obviously not.

most importantly, though, the population geneticists say that such a severe drop in genotypic iqs could not have happened in such a relatively short space of time without some really severe selection pressures (see here, too). i believe ’em. perhaps if all of the sampling issues were cleared away from this study, woodley et al. would be left with a decline that was more realistic/believable. if such a decline happened at all, that is. (which it could have! or maybe it didn’t…. (~_^) )

again, like i said before, this is a really neat study from woodley et al.! i hope they continue investigating along these lines, because it would obviously be important to know if average iqs are declining in the western world.

p.s. – before bruce charlton shows up and gets all inquisitional on me (repent, or be damned to hellfire for eternity!), yes, i ALWAYS get all picky about sampling (see here and here and here and here for just a few examples). if you don’t get the fundamentals right, everything else will inevitably be wrong!

previously: we’re dumber than the victorians and btw, about those victorians…

(note: comments do not require an email. i never expected the spanish inquisition!)

btw, about those victorians…

in my post about the woodley, et al., iq paper the other day, i mentioned that one of the two studies on victorian iqs included in their research had been conducted on university of chicago students. i got to thinking afterwards that, apart from the fact that most of those students had probably been white (probably wasps, in fact), this could hardly have been a representative sample of victorian americans since the vast majority of people didn’t attend college in those days — late nineteenth century college students would’ve mostly been, you know, actual smart people.

so, then i was planning on (reluctantly) splashing out $11.95 on this article to find out the details on what sorts of people were included in galton’s study of victorian english iqs, the second set of victorian iq results used by woodley, et al. (reluctantly because, h*ck! — $11.95 is three or four tall decaf mochas!).

but scott alexander over @slate star codex is way ahead of me! scott writes:

“Galton’s Data A Century Later, published in 1985, tells us a little about how he gained his ground-breaking reaction time statistics. He set up a laboratory in the Science Galleries of the South Kensington Museum. There he charged visitors to the museum three pence ($25 in modern currency after adjusting for inflation) to be measured by his instruments, a process he advertised as ‘for the use of those who desire to be accurately measured in many ways, either to obtain timely warning of remediable faults in development, or to learn their powers.'”

ehhhh. charged a fee? uh-oh.

scott acknowledges that his $25 estimate mightn’t have been the most accurate, so i decided to use the calculator over at measuring worth to see how much three pence from 1889 would be worth today (i used their average earnings index), and i got £5.25 or $7.94 (for 2010). that’s not quite $25, but still that’s two or three tall mochas! i’m not sure that very many lower class victorians would’ve been willing or able to part with that amount of money just to take galton’s funny little test.

additionally, there may also have been an admission fee for the south kensington museum (now the victoria and albert museum) that we might have to add to that $7.94, but i’m not sure because i couldn’t find out anything about museum fees in victorian era london. (i know, for instance, that museums in places like new york generally had fees in the late 1800s, but also often had one free day a week to enable the lower classes to visit and learn. bunch o’ idealists, the victorians! (~_^) )

so again, i think we’ve got an apples and oranges problem here.

go read the whole of scott’s post, btw, because it’s excellent!

previously: we’re dumber than the victorians

(note: comments do not require an email. the south kensington museum.)

we’re dumber than the victorians

or so woodley, te nijenhuisc, and murphy have concluded:

Were the Victorians cleverer than us? The decline in general intelligence estimated from a meta-analysis of the slowing of simple reaction time

– Simple reaction time has slowed since 1889.
– Simple reaction time genetically correlates with g.
– Psychometric meta-analysis reveals a decline in g of − 1.23 points per decade.
– The decline between 1889 and 2004 is − 14.1 points.
– This is the first direct measurement of a probable dysgenic trend in IQ.

The Victorian era was marked by an explosion of innovation and genius, per capita rates of which appear to have declined subsequently. The presence of dysgenic fertility for IQ amongst Western nations, starting in the 19th century, suggests that these trends might be related to declining IQ. This is because high-IQ people are more productive and more creative. We tested the hypothesis that the Victorians were cleverer than modern populations, using high-quality instruments, namely measures of simple visual reaction time in a meta-analytic study. Simple reaction time measures correlate substantially with measures of general intelligence (g) and are considered elementary measures of cognition. In this study we used the data on the secular slowing of simple reaction time described in a meta-analysis of 14 age-matched studies from Western countries conducted between 1884 and 2004 to estimate the decline in g that may have resulted from the presence of dysgenic fertility. Using psychometric meta-analysis we computed the true correlation between simple reaction time and g, yielding a decline of − 1.23 IQ points per decade or fourteen IQ points since Victorian times. These findings strongly indicate that with respect to g the Victorians were substantially cleverer than modern Western populations.


my first question, of course, would be: are they comparing like with like? the authors write:

“We take our general inclusion rules from the meta-analysis by Silverman (2010)…. Third, given that Galton’s sample was British the studies had to have been conducted in a Western country.”

ehhhh. but the demographics of western nations — especially the u.s. and the u.k. — have changed a lot from victorian days!

i especially started asking myself if they’ve compared like with like when i noticed in their table that the iqs of the finnish in the 1980s-90s — demographically still very much a white northern european in those decades — were pretty much the same as the victorians’ scores:

woodley et al - victorian iq

the two reaction time studies on the victorians were done by galton in the u.k. in 1884-1893 and someone named h.b. thompson in the u.s. in 1898-1900. galton’s study presumably included mostly white britons and perhaps some amount of ashkenazi jews. thompson’s study, which was conducted on university of chicago students, was almost certainly comprised of mostly white americans.

what about all the later studies? well, i don’t have access to most of them, but here’s what i found out about a couple of them (again see the table above):

– the 2002 study from the u.k. (rt=324): Effects of caffeine on mood and performance: a study of realistic consumption [pdf] – the subjects were 24 university of bristol students. now, in 2002 at least 10.5% of the university of bristol student population were non-whites, possibly more since the ethnicities of 17.8% of the student population were unknown. this is not really comparing like with like when at least 1 in 10 of the subjects was not white, unlike in galton’s or thompson’s studies. and, do we even know what the ethnic/racial backgrounds of the subjects in this study were? nope.

– the 1984–85 from the u.k. (rt=300): Age and Sex Differences in Reaction Time in Adulthood: Results From the United Kingdom Health and Lifestyle Survey [pdf] – the subjects in this study were drawn from the 1984-85 health and lifestyles survey. i don’t know for sure, but presumably this was meant to be a representative survey — representative of the population of the u.k. in the early 1980s, minorities were 4.2% of the u.k. population [pdf], so 4 out of every 100. and what about the presence of, say, southern europeans in the u.k. at the time? i have no idea, but clearly these things should be taken into account.

i dunno. this is a really neat study, and maybe woodley, et al., are on to something, but i’d like some reassurance that they’re looking at the same sorts of populations.

see also:

Simple reaction time: it is not what it used to be.

Objective and direct evidence of ‘dysgenic’ decline in genetic ‘g’ (IQ) and Taking on-board that the Victorians were more intelligent than us and Intelligence declined one SD since Victorian times – why NOT? from bruce charlton!

The Victorians were cleverer than us! and ORIGINAL PAPER: “A response to Prof Rabbitt – The Victorians were still cleverer than us” by Woodley, te Nijenhuis and Murphy and Can I have a reaction? @dr. james thompson’s blog!

The Victorians were smarter than us, study suggests
Were the Victorians cleverer than us?
Victorian Era Brits Were Smarter Than Us

edit: see also btw, about those victorians…

(note: comments do not require an email. sir francis galton.)

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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consanguinity and democracy

steve sailer posted about this paper the other day — from the amazingly awesome michael woodley and his partner in crimethink edward bell:

Consanguinity as a Major Predictor of Levels of Democracy: A Study of 70 Nations

oh, how such a study just warms hbd chick’s cold, little heart! (~_^)

using the good, ol’ data on cousin marriage rates (which are great but have a lot of problems — i’ll get into that in another post) and data on democracy from polity iv and the eiu democracy index, woodley and bell found pretty strong negative correlations between first-/second-cousin marriage rates in societies and how democratic those societies are: –0.632 between consanguinity and the polity iv data, and –0.771 with the eiu data. (as steve points out, a -0.6 correlation in the social sciences is something to make you stop and go hmmmm, never mind a -0.77 correlation.)

in other words, the more cousin marriage in a society, the less democracy.

woodley and bell also looked at a lot of other neat stuff like economic freedom+consanguinity+democracy and percent muslim+consanguinity+democracy and pathogen index+consanguinity+democracy (i like that one!), but i’ll get to those in another post. (in fact, the rest of this week is probably going to be devoted to the woodley and bell paper here on hbd chick, so if you’re sick to death of hearing about inbreeding and democracy, don’t say you haven’t been warned!)

woodley and bell say:

“Consanguinity … appears to severely restrict the political and social fluidity characteristic of democratic systems, as individual allegiances are primarily to kinship groupings where sophisticated group-level free-rider detection and social identity mechanisms serve to discourage expressions of self-interest that do not maximize collective utility (MacDonald, 2001, 2002). This process of collective utility maximization is consistent with the notion of inclusive fitness in which individuals exhibit altruistic behaviors toward those with whom they share genes, thus indirectly increasing their fitness (Hamilton, 1964; Rushton, 1989, 2005; Trivers, 1971).”

they also say:

“A further shortcoming of the study is its cross-sectional nature; a panel study using data gathered at regular intervals would be ideal for testing the hypotheses and models presented in this study.”

yes. i’ve been thinking that there are at least two things going on with regard to inbreeding and man’s innate social aptitudes (and their expressions like democracy or no democracy):

1) genetic similarity. so, as woodley and bell said, “individuals exhibit altruistic behaviors toward those with whom they share genes.” thus, in highly inbred societies, individuals favor their own extended family members at the expense of their neighbors and unrelated members of their society simply because they are much more genetically related to their [edit] extended family members than individuals in outbred societies are to theirs. this is a very direct effect — change the relatedness, change the behavior patterns. and, so, liberal democracy will simply never work in inbred societies — or not work very well anyway — because you get clannishness.

2) the evolution of “genes for altruism” over the longer term. i think that, in addition to genetic similarity, we’re also looking at populations with different types and/or frequencies of “genes for altruism” due to their long-term mating patterns. i think it could’ve made a difference that northwest europeans have been outbreeding a lot since the early medieval period while arabs having been inbreeding a lot since … well, i’m not sure … probably since at least whenever some jewish tribes from the levant migrated into the arab peninsula. this is a long-term effect — change the relatedness over the long-term, and you might change at least the frequencies of “genes for altruism” in the population. you’d think the selection pressures for different sorts of altruism genes would change, too, if you went from an outbred to inbred society (bushmen vs. yanomamo, for example) or vice versa. in other words, you’d think different altruism genes might be selected for in different types of societies.

this is one of the reasons that i say there are problems with the data, i.e. that they lack time-depth or, as woodley and bell said, they offer only a cross-sectional look at consanguinity.

for instance, the data for china averages to a rate of 5% (per woodley and bell), but all of the data for china come from the twentieth century. however, the chinese have been seriously marrying their cousins since at least the third century b.c. and, as far as i know, the rates only slowed down in the twentieth century (and maybe not to the extent one would think from looking at the data) — and after that, they kept on marrying very locally (endogamously) until very, very recently.

i think woodley and bell would find much higher correlations between consanguinity and democracy if they had long-term consanguinity data. (what will probably need to be used is some sort of genetic data.)

the woodley and bell paper [pdf].

the classics: Veil of Fears by stanley kurtz; Consanguinity prevents Middle Eastern political development by parapundit; and Cousin Marriage Conundrum by steve sailer.

previously: democracy and endogamous mating practices and the corporate nature of european societies and liberal democracy and “hard-won democracy” and consanguinity + corruption = correlation

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