Archives for posts with tag: reciprocal altruism

it is a truth universally acknowledged, that whenever someone posts a map like this

cpi 2014 - europe

…on twitter, that a chorus of people will respond: oh, just look at the terrible effects communism had on eastern europe! for no good reason really because, as we all know, correlation does not equal causation — although it does “waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing ‘look over there.'”

just because soviet regimes were present in the past in the same areas of europe where there are high corruption levels today does not mean the one is the cause of the other. (and anyway…look at the regions beyond europe! or southern europe, for that matter.) the relationship is certainly suspicious though, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the two were somehow connected.

one way to try to settle this debate would be to look at pre-soviet corruption rates in eastern europe versus the west to see if the situation was any different beforehand.

i have not done that in this post, in large part because i don’t speak any slavic or other eastern european languages, but primarily because it seemed like way too much work. instead, i’m going to take a look a civicness, a set of behaviors — along with things like intelligence, low amounts of corruption, and low levels of violence — that many researchers reckon are necessary in order to have western-style liberal democracies and economies, if that’s what you want in life. i’ll be focusing on russia, again just to kept this little project manageable. but first, italy.

in Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, robert putnam (yes, that robert putnam) concluded that democracy in northern italy functions better than in the south because the north has had a longer tradition — stretching back to the middle ages — of civicness or of having a civic community. (see previous post: democracy in italy.) according to putnam [pgs. 88-89, 91]:

“Citizenship in the civic community entails equal rights and obligations for all. Such a community is bound together by horizontal relations of reciprocity and cooperation, not by vertical relations of authority and dependency. Citizens interact as equals, not as patrons and clients nor as governors and petitioners….

“Citizens in a civic community, on most accounts, are more than merely active, public-spirited, and equal. Virtuous citizens are helpful, respectful, and trustful towards one another, even when they differ on matters of substance….

“One key indicator of civic sociability must be the vibrancy of associational life.”

in civic societies and civic societies ii, i looked at (self-reported) participation rates in voluntary associations across the world as found in the 2005-2008 wave of the world values survey. specifically, i tallied up the number of individuals who responded that, yes, they were ACTIVE members of the following voluntary associations (thus giving some indication of how civic-minded each of the populations is):

– Church or religious organization
– Sport or recreation organization
– Art, music or educational organization
– Labour union
– Political party
– Environmental organization
– Professional association
– Charitable organization
– Any other voluntary organization

the response rates for eastern europe were abysmal, often vying for last place with the middle east (see previous post for more):

wvs - membership voluntary organizations - totals

not much has changed in the latest wave (2010-2014). here, for example, are the active membership rates for the russian federation for each of the organization types — the first figure is from the 2005-2008 wave, the second from 2010-2014:

– Church or religious organization = 2.60% – 2.00%
– Sport or recreation organization = 5.90% – 2.40%
– Art, music or educational organization = 4.20% – 1.50%
– Labour union = 3.40% – 2.00%
– Political party = 0.80% – 0.50%
– Environmental organization = 0.40% – 0.40%
– Professional association = 1.60% – 1.40%
– Charitable organization = 1.10% – 0.6%
– Any other voluntary organization = n/a – 1.4%

as joseph bradley says in Voluntary Associations in Tsarist Russia: Science, Patriotism, and Civil Society (2009), russia is “not known as a nation of joiners.” apparently not! (mind you, i am not in a position to cast any stones on this account. *ahem*)

but were the russians more civic-minded before the revolution?

unfortunately, i don’t have any figures which can be directly compared to our modern world values surveys, but, yes, there was some amount of participation in voluntary civic institutions in russia in the two hundred years or so preceding 1917. however, civic participation didn’t begin in russia until the mid-1700s (and that is a key point to which i’ll return), and for most of that period, it occurred mostly among the upper classes. participation rates did grow across the nation and classes over the next century and a half, until just after the revolution of 1905 when there was a rapid rise in one sort of voluntary association — consumer cooperatives — among all classes of russians. however, civil society was still comparatively shallow in early-twentieth century russia — it hadn’t fully penetrated the whole of society by that point yet because the concept was so relatively new to the populace. here is laura engelstein in “The Dream of Civil Society in Tsarist Russia: Law, State, and Religion” (2000) quoting the sardinian antonio gramsci on the matter [pg. 23]:

“On the margins of the European state system, sharing but not fully integrating the Western cultural heritage, Russia, it is said, has always lacked just these civic and political traits. Antonio Gramsci provides the classic statement of this contrast: ‘In Russia,’ he wrote in the 1920s, ‘the state was everything, civil society was primordial and gelatinous; in the West there was a proper relation between state and civil society, and when the state trembled a sturdy structure of civil society was at once revealed.’ When in 1917 the Russian autocracy not only trembled but tumbled to the ground, there was no ‘powerful system of fortresses and earthworks,’ in Gramsci’s phrase, to prevent the Bolsheviks from erecting another absolutist regime in its place.”

civic society in russia first came to life under catherine the great (1729-1796), who did go some way to promote enlightenment ideals in the empire; perhaps more so when it came to the arts rather than politics, but still…it was a start, albeit one restricted in extent. from engelstein again [pg. 26 – my emphasis]:

“Eighteenth-century Russia had a lively public life. Private presses, a market in print, debating societies, literary salons, private theaters, public lectures, Masonic lodges — all linked inhabitants of the capitals and provincial centers in something of an empirewide conversation. Yet this world was limited in scope, audience, and resources and was fatally dependent on the autocrat’s good will. Catherine, when it pleased her, cracked down on independent publishers.”

this public life did continue to grow, however, although in fits and starts. nicholas i (1796-1855) was not too thrilled by it all, and alexander i (1777-1825) actually banned the freemasons, but by the nineteenth century, alexander ii (1818-1881) was, for a tsar, positively a radical when it came to permitting and promoting civic society as was evident in his great reforms. by the late nineteenth century then [pg. 16]:

“…an increasingly active public sphere of debate that included advocacy and representation was no longer in doubt in tsarist Russia. Thus well before the Revolution of 1905, the groundwork was laid for the participation of private associations in the public arena.”

the practice of joining voluntary organizations came later to the russian lower classes. consumer cooperatives began to appear in russia and the empire in the 1860s, but these first cooperatives were organized and run by the upper classes. peasants and workers would’ve been customers only. cooperatives among middle class professionals in towns and cities appear in the early-1890s. the idea spread to villages in 1900 via proselytizing intellectuals (also worth noting), and after 1905, the cooperative movement exploded right across the country. from The Co-operative Movement in Russia: Its History, Signficance, and Character (1917) by j.b. bubnoff — delightfully published in manchester by the co-operative printing society limited (so the work could be a bit biased) [pg. 49]:

“In 1891 consumers’ societies were formed in towns among the lower-grade officials, various classes of employees, teachers, members of liberal professions, and other sections of the population. These societies were of two types. One open only to members of a particular class of officials or to employees of a particular firm or institution; the other was open to all. These latter societies were already marked by the spirit of independence.

“Throughout this period the number of consumers’ societies was not large, and their output was small…. In 1900 the position was the same. Beginning from 1900, the Co-operative Movement spread in the villages…. [T]he first consumers’ societies in the villages were initiated by the intellectuals and by the authorities and were not the outcome of free enterprise on the part of the peasants themselves. At the end of the last century, and particularly at the beginning of the present one, an agrarian movement spread among the peasantry and ended in the revolution of 1905.”

by 1917, provided bubnoff wasn’t exaggerating, there were ca. 20,000 consumer cooperatives in russia (bubnoff notes that the other organizations listed in the table below — credit and loan savings associations, agricultural societies, and the artels — were all either government run or arranged by the large landowners, so they weren’t really voluntary associations in the sense of being organized by the members.):

Russia - The co-operative movement in Russia - table

again, though, this is late for finally getting around to launching civic institutions in your country. nineteen hundred and seventeen (1917) is very, very late compared to what happened in northwestern europe. even compared to what happened in northern italy. as valerie bunce says in “The Historical Origins of the East-West Divide: Civil Society, Politcal Society, and Democracy in Europe” [pg. 222]:

“By the end of the nineteenth century, then, it was evident that there were two Europes, long separated by their histories and, thus, by their politics, economics, social structure, and culture.”

not to mention their evolutionary histories.

so how did northwestern “core” europe (including northern italy) differ from russia historically as far as participation in civic institutions goes? the short answer is: civicness in “core” europe began centuries before it did in russia or the rest of eastern europe, at least 500-600, if not 800-900, years earlier.

here is putnam on the formation and functioning of communes in northern italy beginning in the 1000s [pg. 124-126]:

“[I]n the towns of northern and central Italy…an unprecedented form of self-government was emerging….

“Like the autocratic regime of Frederick II, the new republican regime was a response to the violence and anarchy endemic in medieval Europe, for savage vendettas among aristocratic clans had laid waste to the towns and countryside in the North as in the South. The solution invented in the North, however, was quite different, relying less on vertical hierarchy and more on horizontal collaboration. The communes sprang originally from voluntary associations, formed when groups of neighbors swore personal oaths to render one another mutual assistance, to provide for common defense and economic cooperation…. By the twelfth century communes had been established in Florence, Venice, Bologna, Genoa, Milan, and virtually all the other major towns of northern and central Italy, rooted historically in these primordial social contracts.

“The emerging communes were not democratic in our modern sense, for only a minority of the population were full members…. However, the extent of popular participation in government affairs was extraordinary by any standard: Daniel Waley describes the communes as ‘the paradise of the committee-man’ and reports that Siena, a town with roughly 5000 adult males, had 860 part-time city posts, while in larger towns the city council might have several thousand members, many of them active participants in the deliberations….

“As communal life progressed, guilds were formed by craftsmen and tradesmen to provide self-help and mutual assistance, for social as well as for strictly occupational purposes. ‘The oldest guild-statute is that of Verona, dating from 1303, but evidently copied from some much older statute. “Fraternal assistance in necessity of whatever kind,” “hospitality towards strangers, when passing through the town”…and “obligation of offering comfort in the case of debility” are among the obligations of the members.’ ‘Violation of statutes was met by boycott and social ostracism….’

“Beyond the guilds, local organizations, such as *vicinanze* (neighborhood associations), the *populus* (parish organizations that administered the goods of the local church and elected its priest), confraternities (religious societies for mutual assistance), politico-religious parties bound together by solemn oath-takings, and *consorterie* (‘tower societies’) formed to provide mutual security, were dominant in local affairs.”

in general, nothing like this existed in medieval russia (or eastern europe) — not on this scale anyway — the novgorod republic, which lasted for three centuries and came to an end in 1478, probably being the most notable exception. eastern european society was still very much founded upon the extended family for much of the period (although, again, in certain times and locales that was not the case — russia’s a big place). only a handful of merchants’ guilds were given permission to exist in russia between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries, and the powers that be (including the orthodox church) regularly suppressed craftsmen’s guilds [pg. 13]. by contrast, northern italy was full of civic-mindedness already by the high middle ages.

meanwhile, in england (and other parts of northwestern europe) [pgs. 3-4]:

“As a form of voluntary association, bound by oath and by a (usually modest) material subscription, the fraternity or guild was widespread in late-medieval England and continental Europe. Both the ubiquity and the frequency of the form have been underlined by recent historical case-studies. While the particular purpose and activities of a fraternity might be infinitely various, the organization may be characterized in general as combining pious with social, economic, and political purposes. Its declared aims invariably included important religious functions, expressed in the invocation of a saintly patron and an annual mass with prayers for deceased members. With equal certainty, the annual feast day would bring the members together for a drink or a meal to celebrate their community. The overwhelming majority of English guilds admitted women alongside men: a feature generally characteristic of guilds of medieval northern Europe, although not so prevalent in the Mediterranean world. Sometimes described in modern English accounts as ‘parish fraternities’, these clubs indeed were often founded by groups of parishioners and regularly made use of an altar in a parish church as a devotional focus; yet they as often drew their memberships from a wider field than that of the parish, whose bounds they readily transcended…. An individual might join more than one guild, thereby extending still futher the range of his or her contacts. A significant minority of fraternities crystallized around a particular trade…. The overwhelming majority of guilds, however, were not tied by such association to a single craft, but brought together representatives of various trades and professions.”

extraordinarily, one type of fraternity — of non-kin remember (the whole point of voluntary associations is that they’re made up of non-kin) — appeared in england as early as the late-800s. from a previous post, the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society:

“the *gegildan* appears in some of the anglo-saxon laws in the late-800s as an alternative group of people to whom wergeld might be paid if the wronged individual had no kin. by the 900s, though, in southern england, the gegildan might be the only group that received wergeld, bypassing kin altogether. from Wage Labor and Guilds in Medieval Europe [pgs. 39-42]:

“‘The laws of King Alfred of Wessex, dated to 892-893 or a few years earlier, are more informative about the *gegildan*. Again, the context is murder and the wergild — the compensation required for the crime. By Alfred’s time, if not during Ine’s, the *gegildan* is clearly a group of associates who were not related by blood. The clearest example of this is in chapter 31 of the laws: ‘If a man in this position is slain — if he has no relatives (maternal or paternal) — half the wergild shall be paid to the king, and half to the *gegildan*.’ No information exists on the purpose of the *gegildan* other than its role as a substitute for kinship ties for those without any relatives. These associates, who presumably were bound together by an oath for mutual protection, if only to identify who was responsible, would benefit anyone, whether the person had relatives or not…. Although the evidence from the laws of Ine may be read either way, the *gegildan* seems to be an old social institution. As seen more clearly in the tenth and eleventh centuries, it acquired additional functions — a policing role and a religious character.

“‘The nobles, clergy, and commoners of London agreed upon a series of regulations for the city, with the encouragement and approval of King Athelstan, who caused the rules to be set down some time in the late 920s or 930s. The primary purpose of these ordinances was to maintain peace and security in the city, and all those supporting these goals had solemnly pledged themselves to this *gegildan*. This type of inclusive guild, sometimes referred to as a peace guild, was an attempt to create one more additional level of social responsibility to support the king and his officials in keeping the peaces. This social group of every responsible person in London is a broad one, and the law does not use the term *gegildan* to describe the association in general….

“‘The idea of a guild to keep the peace was not limited to London, and a document from the late tenth century contains the rules and duties of the thegn‘s guild in Cambridge. This guild appears to have been a private association, and no king or noble is mentioned as assenting to or encouraging this group. Most of the rules concern the principle purposes of this guild — the security of the members, which receives the most attention, and the spiritual benefits of membership itself. The guild performed the tasks of the old *gegildan*: the members were obliged to defend one another, collect the wergild, and take up vengeance against anyone refusing to pay compensation. The members also swore an oath of loyalty to each other, promising to bring the body of a deceased member to a chosen burial site and supply half the food for the funeral feast. For the first time, another category of help was made explicit — the guild bound itself to common almsgiving for departed members — and the oath of loyalty the members swore included both religious and secular affairs. Although in many respects this guild resembles a confraternity along the lines Hincmar established for the archdiocese of Rheims, the older purpose of the group — mutual protection with its necessary threat of vengeance — makes the Anglo-Saxon guild something more than a prayer meeting. To include almsgiving to members in distress would be a small step, given the scope of activities this guild established. There is no sign that the thegns cooperated in any economic endeavors, but older rules of rural society had already determined methods of sharing responsibility in the villages, and the thegns cooperated on everything that was important in their lives. The thegns of Cambridge had a guild that resembles in some important ways the communal oath, that will be discussed below, of some Italian cities in the next century.'”

the gegildan of early medieval england, then — a voluntary association, a fraternity — appeared on the scene something like two hundred years before the communes of northern italy arose, three hundred plus years before the novgorod republic was formed, and nearly nine hundred years before the russians gave civiness another shot (after novgorod). i’m not aware of any earlier such associations in western medieval europe, although they may have existed. it appears, too, that the gegildan appeared in situ in england, a newly developed social structure to take over some of the earlier functions of the rapidly disappearing kindred (including feuding and protection), although maybe the concept was imported from the carolingians — the heart of the preceding frankish kingdoms, austrasia, was where manorialism had begun, which was then imported across the channel, so perhaps the gegildan concept was as well.

whatever the case, it’s in the core of “core” europe, once again, that we find the earliest evidence for behavioral patterns that are now the hallmarks of western civilization: late marriage and nuclear families, lowest levels of cousin marriage for the longest period of time, low levels of violence, high levels of civic-mindedness (see above), universalism, unparalleled accomplishment — they all appear earliest (in medieval europe), and are still the strongest, in this central area (very roughly the area indicated by the green oval on this map).

so, now we come to it: why? why was it “evident” by the end of the nineteenth century that there were two europes, and what do all these long-standing historical differences have to do with it?

the ultimate cause must lie in our biologies. humans are biological creatures, so there’s no way around it. we know that all behavioral traits are heritable, so we have to look to differences in the populations’ genetics and evolutionary histories.

as i wrote recently: evolution in humans is ongoing, recent, can be pretty rapid (within some constraints), and has been/is localized (as well as global). in fact, human evolution has sped up since the agricultural revolution since the number of individuals, and therefore mutations, on which natural selection might work skyrocketed in post-agricultural societies. remember, too, that “every society selects for something,” and that we’re talking about frequencies of genes in populations and that those frequencies can fluctuate up and down over time.

so there is NO reason NOT to suppose that the differences in behavioral traits that we see between european sub-populations today — including those between western and eastern europe — aren’t genetic and the result of differing evolutionary histories or pathways.

even rapid evolution takes time, though. we’re not talking one or two generations, but more like thirty or forty — fifty’s even better. point is, evolutionary changes don’t only occur on the scale of eons. they can also happen over the course of centuries (again, multiples of centuries, not just one or two). the circa eleven to twelve hundred years since the major restructuring of society that occurred in “core” europe in the early medieval period — i.e. the beginnings of manorialism, the start of consistent and sustained outbreeding (i.e. the avoidance of close cousin marriage), and the appearance of voluntary associations — is ample time for northwestern europeans to have gone down a unique evolutionary pathway and to acquire behavioral traits quite different from those of other europeans — including eastern europeans — who did not go down the same pathway (but who would’ve gone down their own evolutionary pathways, btw).

what i think happened was that the newly created socioeconomic structures and cultural (in this case largely religious) practices of the early medieval period in northwest “core” europe introduced a whole new set of selective pressures on northwest europeans compared to those which had existed previously. rather than a suite of traits connected to familial or nepostic altruism (or clannishness) being selected for, the new society selected for traits more connected to reciprocal altruism.

before the early medieval period, northwest europeans — looking away from the urbanized gallo-romans who may have been something of a special case (more on them another day) — had been kin-based populations of agri-pastoralists whose societies were characterized by inter-clan feuding, honor/shame (vs. integrity/guilt), and particularism (vs. universalism). i think these traits were under constant selection in those populations because: reproductive success in those societies was dependent upon one’s connection to, and one’s standing within, the extended kin-group, so, thanks to being tied to kin rather than non-kin, nepotistic altruism genes would’ve been favored over reciprocal altruism ones; the extended kin-group was the element within which most individuals would’ve interacted with others, those others being related individuals who would’ve been likely to share the same nepotistic altruism genes (alleles) [see here for more]; and cousin marriage was rife, which again would’ve further fuelled the selection for these genes, since members of the same kin-group would’ve had an even greater likelihood of sharing the same versions of their nepotistic altruism genes.

pretty much the opposite happened during the early and high middle ages in “core” europe. manorialism pushed for nuclear families rather than extended family groupings, and so people began to interact more with non-kin rather than kin, enabling the selection for more traits related to reciprocal altruism. the avoidance of close cousin marriage meant that family members would’ve shared fewer altruism genes in common, so any selection for nepotistic altruism would’ve slowed down. and once voluntary associations of non-kin appeared, the selection for reciprocal altruism really would’ve (or, at least, could’ve) taken off. reproductive success was no longer dependent upon connections to the extended family group, but, rather, unrelated individuals living with the community.

the manor system developed in the 500s in “core” europe (austrasia), but did not arrive in russia (and much of eastern europe) until the late medieval/early modern period. (it never got to the balkans.) the extended family was most likely gone on the manors in the west by the 800s (see mitterauer), although it is conceivable that the nuclear families found on the manors in the earliest days were residential nuclear familes rather than the fully atomized ones that we see in the west today. certainly by the 1500s, there are no longer any traces of the extended family among “core” europeans (although there are still some pockets). the avoidance of cousin marriage was underway in earnest by the 800s (possibly earlier, but definitely by the 800s). it was still on shaky ground as late as the 1400s in russia. and, as we’ve seen, voluntary associations appeared very early in “core” western europe, but only very recently in russia (and, presumably, other areas of eastern europe).

most of you will recognize this as the hajnal line story (yet again!) with a few new nuances thrown in. manorialism, outbreeding, and voluntary associations all began in “core” europe — again very roughly the area outlined by the green oval on the map below (the other lines indicate, again roughly the extent of the hajnal line) — and they spread outwards from there over time, eventually reaching russia and other parts of eastern europe, but not until very late. (and the manor system in russia, once it was adopted there, was of a very different form than what had existed in western europe.)

hajnal line - core europe

inside the hajnal line, which (imo) reflects the extent of the strongest selection for behavioral traits related to reciprocal altruism over nepotistic altruism, the populations have stronger democratic traditions, are more civic-minded, are less corrupt, and score higher on individualism (vs. collectivism) on hofstede’s idv dimension than the populations outside the hajnal line. (please, see my big summary post on the hajnal line for more details.) all of these behavioral patterns “fit” better with the idea that these populations are characterized by innate reciprocal altruism tendencies rather than more nepotistic altruism ones. the populations outside the hajnal line seem to be more oppositely inclined.

there is no doubt that soviet communism wreaked havoc on eastern european populations. some untold millions died in the gulags, families and towns and villages were ripped apart, political repression was beyond belief. but smart money says that, along with civicness, many of the “non-western” features of contemporary eastern europe — high corruption rates, etc. — have deeper roots, and are not the consequences of communism, but rather of recent evolution by natural selection.

previously: civic societies and civic societies ii and democracy in italy and big summary post on the hajnal line

(note: comments do not require an email. sorry there’s no tl;dr summary!)

northern europeans began to think of — or at least write about — themselves as individuals beginning in the eleventh century a.d. [pgs. 158, 160, and 64-67 – bolding and links inserted by me]:

The discovery of the individual was one of the most important cultural [*ahem*] developments in the years between 1050 and 1200. It was not confined to any one group of thinkers. Its central features may be found in different circles: a concern with self-discovery; an interest in the relations between people, and in the role of the individual within society; an assessment of people by their inner intentions rather than by their external acts. These concerns were, moreover, conscious and deliberate. ‘Know yourself’ was one of the most frequently quoted injunctions. The phenomenon which we have been studying was found in some measure in every part of urbane and intelligent society.

“It remains to ask how much this movement contributed to the emergence of the distinctively Western view of the individual…. The continuous history of several art-forms and fields of study, which are particularly concerned with the individual, began at this time: auto-biography, psychology, the personal portrait, and satire were among them….

“The years between 1050 and 1200 must be seen…as a turning-point in the history of Christian devotion. There developed a new pattern of interior piety, with a growing sensitivity, marked by personal love for the crucified Lord and an easy and free-flowing meditation on the life and passion of Christ….

“The word ‘individual’ did not, in the twelfth century, have the same meaning as it does today. The nearest equivalents were *individuum*, *individualis*, and *singularis*, but these terms belonged to logic rather than to human relations….

“The age had, however, other words to express its interest in personality. We hear a great deal of ‘the self’, not expressed indeed in that abstract way, but in such terms as ‘knowing oneself’, ‘descending into oneself’, or ‘considering oneself’. Another common term was *anima*, which was used, ambiguously in our eyes, for both the spiritual identity (‘soul’) of a man and his directing intelligence (‘mind’). Yet another was ‘the inner man’, a phrase found in Otloh of Saint Emmeram and Guibert of Nogent, who spoke also of the ‘inner mystery’. Their vocabulary, while it was not the same as ours, was therefore rich in terms suited to express the ideas of self-discovery and self-exploration.

“Know Yourself

“Self-knowledge was one of the dominant themes of the age…. These writers all insisted on self-knowledge as fundamental. Thus Bernard wrote to Pope Eugenius, a fellow-Cistercian, about 1150: ‘Begin by considering yourself — no, rather, end by that….For you, you are the first; you are also the last.’ So did Aelred of Rievaulx: ‘How much does a man know, if he does not know himself?’ The Cistercian school was not the only one to attach such a value to self-knowledge. About 1108 Guibert of Nogent began his history of the Crusade with a modern-sounding reflection about the difficulty of determining motive:

“‘It is hardly surprising if we make mistakes in narrating the actions of other people, when we cannot express in words even our own thoughts and deeds; in fact, we can hardly sort them out in our own minds. It is useless to talk about intentions, which, as we know, are often so concealed as scarcely to be discernible to the understanding of the inner man.’

“Self-knowledge, then, was a generally popular ideal.”

there seem to be two broad sociobiological/genocultural packages when it comes to average nepotistic vs. not-so-nepotistic altruistic behaviors in human populations — these are not binary opposites, but rather the ends of some sort of continuum of behavioral traits [click on table for LARGER view]:

nepotistic vs. not-so-nepotistic

the common thread running through the not-so-nepotistic groups of today (primarily northwest europeans) is a long history of outbreeding (i.e. avoiding close matings, like cousin marriage). (and a long history of manorialism. yes, i WILL start my series on medieval manorialism soon!) while individualism and guilt cultures may have been present in northern europe in paleolithic or even mesolithic populations, these behavioral traits and mindsets were definitely not present in the pre-christian germanic, british, or irish populations of late antiquity. those populations were very much all about clans and kindreds, feuding and honor, shame, and group consensus. guilt/individualistic cultures (i.e. not-so-nepostic societies) can come and go depending at least partly on long-term mating patterns. human evolution can be recent as well as aeons old.

the individualistic guilt-culture of northwest (“core”) europeans today came into existence thanks to their extensive outbreeding during the medieval period (…and the manorialism). the outbreeding started in earnest in the 800s (at least in northern france) and, as we saw above, by 1050-1100 thoughts on individualis began to stir. around the same time, communes appeared in northern italy and parts of france — civic societies. violence rates begin to fall in the 1200s, especially in more outbred populations, i would argue (guess!) because the impulsive violence related to clan feuding was no longer being selected for.

by the 1300-1400s, after an additional couple hundred years of outbreeding, the renaissance was in full swing due to the “wikification” of northern european society — i.e. that nw europeans now possessed a set of behavioral traits that drove them to work cooperatively with non-relatives — to share openly knowledge and ideas and labor in reciprocally altruistic ways. the enlightenment? well, that was just the full flowering of The Outbreeding Project — an explosion of these not-so-nepotistic behavioral traits that had been selected for over the preceding 800 to 900 years. individualism? universalism? liberal democracy? tolerance? reason? skepticism? coffeehouses? the age of enlightenment IS what core europeans are all about! hurray! (^_^) the Project and its effects are ongoing today.

it could be argued that the fact that certain mating patterns seem to go together with certain societal types is just a coincidence — or that it’s the societal type that affects or dictates the mating patterns. for example, i said in my recent post on shame and guilt in ancient greece that:

“shame cultures are all tied up with honor — especially family honor. japan — with its meiwaku and seppuku — is the classic example of a shame culture, but china with its confucian filial piety is not far behind. the arabized populations are definitely shame cultures with their honor killings and all their talk of respect. even european mediterranean societies are arguably more honor-shame cultures than guilt cultures [pdf].

“if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ll recognize all of those shame cultures as having had long histories of inbreeding: maternal cousin marriage was traditionally very common in east asia (here’re japan and china); paternal cousin marriage is still going strong in the arabized world; and cousin marriage was prevelant in the mediterranean up until very recently (here’s italy, for example).”

perhaps, you say, the causal direction is that nepotistic, clannish shame-cultures somehow promote close matings (cousin marriage or whatever). well, undoubtedly there are reinforcing feedback loops here, but the upshot is that both ancient greece and medieval-modern europe clearly illustrate that the mating patterns come first. (possibly ancient rome, too, but i’ll come back to that another day.) the pre-christian northern european societies were clannish shame-cultures until after the populations switched to outbreeding (avoiding cousin marriage) in the early medieval period. late archaic-early classical greek society was rather (a bit borderline) universalistic, individualistic [pg. 160+] and guilt-based until after they began to marry their cousins with greater frequency (at least in classical athens). the not-so-nepotistic guilt-culture we see now in northwest european populations is particularly resilient, i think, because the outbreeding has been carried out for a particularly long time (since at least the 800s) and thanks to the complementary selection pressures of the medieval manor system (which ancient greece lacked), but it did not exist before the early medieval period.

so, the direction of causation seems to be: (long-term) mating patterns –> societal type (nepotistic vs. not-so-nepotistic).

i think.

previously: there and back again: shame and guilt in ancient greece and big summary post on the hajnal line and individualism-collectivism

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william hamilton wondered if renaissances/enlightenments happened in places roughly 800 years after some hardy altruism genes were introduced by barbarians into panmictic (really outbred) populations. i wonder instead if what happens is that renaissances/enlightenments occur after ca. 500 years or so of outbreeding which results in nepotistic altruism (or clannishness) being reduced or even mostly eliminated which, in turn, leads to greater cooperation and reciprocal altruism within the populations — conditions i think you might need to have a renaissance at all (see also here).

where intensive outbreeding (and manorialism) happened in medieval europe — and there is a lot of good, strong evidence for it — certainly seems to match well with where the european renaissance occurred. after some fits and starts in the 500s to 700s, the practice of avoiding close cousin marriages really took hold in exactly the areas where the renaissance/reformation/scientific revolution/enlightenment later happened — i.e. core europe — in short: england, france, the netherlands, germany, and northern italy. scandinavia a bit, too. oh…and the lowlands of scotland.

the evidence for outbreeding in ancient greece is much more tenuous. it appears fairly certain that the upper classes outbred during the archaic period in greece (800-480 b.c.). whether they outbred during the entire time period or began the practice sometime before or after 800 b.c., i don’t know. it may also be, judging by something hesiod said, that the lower classes followed suit, but it’s impossible to know for certain going by just one comment from one ancient writer.

some circumstantial evidence that might offer further support to the outbreeding-in-archaic-greece theory is that, in the 400s to 200s b.c., there was a shift in kinship terminology in ancient greece. the distinctions in the greek language between the paternal and maternal sides of the family began to disappear — for example, uncles on both sides came to be called just “uncle,” rather than there being specific words for paternal vs. maternal uncle, and so on and so forth. the same sort of linguistic shift happened in medieval europe. in germany, for instance, that shift happened between the 1100s and 1400s. at the end of the day, all cousins came to be called simply “cousin” rather than “father’s brother’s cousin” or “mother’s brother’s cousin.” the lesson seems to be: change the kinship structures and the long-term mating patterns in a society, and it shouldn’t be surprising that the kinship terminology will also change. no need to specify different sorts of cousins if all of them are off-limits as marriage partners.

michael mitterauer points out that there was a time lag in the linguistic shifts in medieval europe — the terminology changed ca. 300 to 600 years after the mating patterns began to change. perhaps something similar happened in archaic greece — the linguistic shift happened in ca. the 400s to 200s b.c. so perhaps we can infer that the mating patterns had changed to a more outbred form a few hundred years earlier. maybe right around the end of the greek dark ages and the beginning of the archaic period. dunno. complete speculation.

now i’ve come across another piece of circumstantial evidence that outbreeding may have been happening in archaic greece and that is that there was a(n incomplete) shift in the society during the time period from being a shame culture to being a guilt culture. i’m getting this from The Greeks and the Irrational, a book originally published in 1951 and written by classical scholar e.r. dodds (who was kicked out of oxford for supporting the easter rising — troublemaker! (~_^) ). presumably there have been works criticizing dodd’s thesis written since the 1950s, but i’m afraid i haven’t read any of them yet. i’m just going to run with dodd’s idea for now, but, please, consider this a sort-of thought experiment. more speculation.

first of all, in shame cultures, bad behavior is checked by the fear of being caught — of being shamed and embarassed. in guilt cultures, bad behavior is checked by one’s inner voice — feelings of guilt occurring before any action is taken. these are behavioral traits that must have been variously selected for in different human populations. secondly, shame cultures are all tied up with honor — especially family honor. japan — with its meiwaku and seppuku — is the classic example of a shame culture, but china with its confucian filial piety is not far behind. the arabized populations are definitely shame cultures with their honor killings and all their talk of respect. even european mediterranean societies are arguably more honor-shame cultures than guilt cultures [pdf].

if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ll recognize all of those shame cultures as having had long histories of inbreeding: maternal cousin marriage was traditionally very common in east asia (here’re japan and china); paternal cousin marriage is still going strong in the arabized world; and cousin marriage was prevelant in the mediterranean up until very recently (here’s italy, for example). it’s really, once again, the outbred northwest “core” europeans who are unique here with their guilt culture (although perhaps there are other guilt cultures out there as well). my guess is that long-term inbreeding tends to result in shame-honor cultures, while long-term outbreeding leads to guilt cultures. i’ve said so before.

back to dodd, his thesis is that ancient greece went through something of a transition from a shame to a guilt culture, but that shift was incomplete. the trend may even have reversed in classical athens. dodd points to several thematic shifts in greek literature from the iliad to the writings of plato including: a move away from blaming human failings on atē or the direct, external influences of the gods to more personal “demons,” often seen only by the individual person; the gradual adoption of the idea that individual humans have “souls” or independent “personalities”; a move away from the idea that people’s failings are due to a lack of knowledge (again coming from outside the person) as opposed to, perhaps, their own culpability; that zeus over time becomes more and more a dispenser of justice rather than just a being who capriciously interferes in human affairs (justice being important in guilt cultures as opposed to revenge in shame-honor cultures); and that philosophers and thinkers increasingly complained that the inheritance of guilt down through a family line was unjust. here from dodd on that last point [kindle locations 669-671]:

“Solon speaks of the hereditary victims of nemesis as άυαίτιοι, ‘not responsible’; Theognis complains of the unfairness of a system by which ‘the criminal gets away with it, while someone else takes the punishment later’; Aeschylus, if I understand him rightly, would mitigate the unfairness by recognising that an inherited curse may be broken.”

the idea that only the transgressor should be punished (as in guilt cultures) as opposed to additional or all of his family members (as in shame-honor cultures) doesn’t actually occur to these writers, so they haven’t quite arrived fully into a guilt culture, but they do seem to have been on the way there. much more so than earlier writers anyway. again, dodd emphasizes that [kindle locations 587-588]:

“[M]any modes of behaviour characteristic of shame-cultures persisted throughout the archaic and classical periods. There is a transition, but it is gradual and incomplete.”

the transition may have been incomplete — in fact, may have even gone into reverse — because inbreeding (cousin marriage) became increasingly common in classical athens (see here). from “Agnatio, Cognation, Consanguinitas: Kinship and Blood in Ancient Rome” in Blood and Kinship: Matter for Metaphor from Ancient Rome to the Present [pgs. 24-26], we saw in a previous post that while “aristocrats in early [archaic] Greece…married beyond the limits of their *patris*”, in classical athens “members of the *anchisteia*, the legally defined kinship group including first cousins once removed, were the preferred marriage partners.” the ancient greeks might’ve gone from being a (presumably) inbred/shame culture in the dark ages, to an outbred/quasi-guilt culture in the archaic period, and back to an inbred/shame culture over the course of the classical period. maybe. Further Research is RequiredTM.

(yes, i know. it’s all very tenuous. i told you it was speculative!)

in any case, evolution is not progressive. (heh! i’ve just been dying to say that. (~_^) ) there’s nothing to say that evolution cannot go in reverse, although perhaps it wouldn’t go back down the exact same pathway it came up. there’s no reason why we — or, rather, our descendants — couldn’t wind up, as greg cochran says, back in the trees*.

i think the way to think of the evolution of behavioral traits like nepotistic and reciprocal altruism in humans — especially perhaps in recent human evolution — is like a big simmering cauldron of stew where bubbles of certain behaviors rise up in some places only to sometimes pop and deflate and almost disppear again. outbreeding appears to have occurred many places, although whether or not over the long-term is not always clear: archaic greece (maybe), ancient rome, the bamileke of cameroon, the igbo of west africa, the turkana of east africa, the semai of malaysia, the bushmen of southern africa (aka The Harmless People), and europeans since the early medieval period — especially northwest europeans. the ancient greek experiment seems to have run out of momentum and collapsed on its own; the roman example probably popped thanks to the barbarian invasions; and the northwest european one is…currently ongoing. for now.

previously: renaissances and the transition from shame to guilt in anglo-saxon england (and “core” europe) and archaic greek mating patterns and kinship terms and ελλάδα

*“Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.”

(note: comments do not require an email. archaic greek dude.)

Humans are still evolving despite massive recent lifestyle changes, study finds – no way! =P – “The researchers analysed church records of births, marriages and deaths for 10,000 inhabitants of seven parishes in Finland since the beginning of the 18th Century and concluded that evolution is still occurring despite the dramatic cultural changes over the same period. ‘We are still evolving. As long as some individuals have more children and other individuals have fewer children than others, there is potential for evolution to take place,’ said Elisabeth Bolund of Uppsala University in Sweden. Dr Bolund and her colleagues at the universities of Sheffield and Turku in Finland…found that between 4 and 18 per cent of the variations between individuals in lifespan, family size and ages of first and last childbirth were influenced by genes. ‘This is exciting because if genes affected differences between individuals in these traits, it means they could also change in response to natural selection,’ Dr Bolund said…. The study, published in the journal Evolution, showed that the genetic influence on the timing of when someone is likely to begin a family and the overall size of the family has actually risen higher in recent times compared to the 18th and 19th Centuries. This means that modern humans could still be evolving because people are responding to Darwinian natural selection on the genetic differences between individuals within the population, the scientists said. ‘It is possible that we in modern societies have more individual freedom to express our genetic predispositions because social influences are more relaxed, and this leads to the genetic differences among us explaining more of the reproductive patterns,’ Dr Bolund said.” – h/t ed west!

The decline of human endogenous retroviruses: extinction and survival“[W]e show that the human genome and that of other hominoids (great apes and gibbons) have experienced an approximately four-fold decline in the ERV integration rate over the last 10 million years.” – huh.

Did Fishermen Find Evidence of an Unknown Group of Primitive Humans?“A fossilized jawbone pulled from the seafloor near Taiwan may be from an ancient type of hominin new to science…. [M]ultiple lineages of extinct humans may have coexisted in Asia before the arrival of modern humans.”

Neanderthals disappeared from the Iberian Peninsula earlier than in the rest of Europe

from lawrence kruass“An interesting fact from Svante Paabo: How related are we to Neanderthals? On average like 1 Neanderthal relative 6 generations back!”

Fossil Provides Evidence Of Early Human Migration To Europe“Some 55,000 years ago, a person — whether female or male, we don’t know — lived in Manot Cave in the western Galilee area of what is now Israel. Judging from the partial skull recovered from the cave, and described in Nature last week by Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University and his co-authors, the person was anatomically modern and closely related to the first modern humans who went on to colonize Europe.” – see also The Manot 1 skull and how we now look at Neandertal ancestry in early modern humans from john hawks.

Before Agriculture, Human Jaws Were a Perfect Fit for Human Teeth“The emergence of agricultural practices initiated major changes to the jaw structure of ancient humans, leading to dental problems we still experience.”

Half of our [european] ancestry comes from the Pontic-Caspian steppe“Here’s the latest teaser for the new David Reich et al. paper on the ethnogenesis of present-day Europeans. It’s part of an abstract for a seminar to be held by Professor Reich at Jesus College, Oxford, on February 9. Interestingly, it argues that migrations from the steppe resulted in a ~50% population turnover across northern Europe from the late Neolithic onwards.” – see also Strong (?) linguistic and archaeological evidence for steppe Indo-Europeans from dienekes.

A couple of AAPA 2015 abstracts to blow your socks off“‘The origins of the Aegean palatial civilizations from a population genetic perspective.'” – cool! (^_^)

Mapping 61 Ancient Tattoos on a 5,300-Year-Old Mummy – ötzi the iceman had 61 tattoos!

Large multiallelic copy number variations in humans“Thousands of genomic segments appear to be present in widely varying copy numbers in different human genomes…. We find that mCNVs give rise to most human variation in gene dosage—seven times the combined contribution of deletions and biallelic duplications—and that this variation in gene dosage generates abundant variation in gene expression.”

Your IQ in 13 genes (or about 29% of it) – from dr. james thompson.

105 years of the Flynn effect: very fluid“Into this torrent of Flynn-Effectism jump Jakob Pietschnig and Martin Voracek with a large raft of a paper which runs to 179 pages, which is what you get when you have the temerity and the Teutonic thoroughness to plough through 105 years of data and assemble 271 independent samples from 31 countries, totalling almost four million participants. What sorts of childhood do German speakers have, which drives them to these immense labours?” – (~_^) – also from dr. james thompson.

Academic performance of opposite-sex and same-sex twins in adolescence: A Danish national cohort study – h/t jayman! who tweeted: “Opposite sex DZ twins & their math grades shows little evidence of hormonal masculinization in utero.”

from sam dumitriu“Serial killers who kill for enjoyment rather than financial gain are on average 10 IQ points smarter.” [source] (…out of the ones that have been caught. =/ )

Intergenerational Wealth Mobility in England, 1858-2012: New evidence based on rare surnames“Descendants of the wealthy people of England in 1850 are still wealthy. They also have longer life spans than the average person; they are much more likely to attend Oxford or Cambridge; they still live in more expensive neighbourhoods; and they are more likely to be doctors or lawyers.”

Social mobility barely exists but let’s not give up on equality“Too much faith is placed in the idea of movement between the classes. Still, there are other ways to tackle the unfairness of society.” – from greg clark. h/t ben southwood!

Chimps with higher-ranking moms do better in fights

Genetic analysis of human extrapair mating: heritability, between-sex correlation, and receptor genes for vasopressin and oxytocin“[W]e used data on recent extrapair mating in 7,378 Finnish twins and their siblings. Genetic modelling showed within-sex broad-sense heritability — i.e. the percentage of variation in extrapair mating due to genetic variation — of 62% in men and 40% in women. There was no between-sex correlation in extrapair mating, making indirect selection unlikely. Based on previous animal and human findings, we also tested for association of the arginine vasopressin receptor 1A gene (AVPR1A) and oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) with extrapair mating. We found gene-based association for AVPR1A in women but not in men, and OXTR showed no significant association in either sex. Overall, these findings confirm genetic underpinnings of extrapair mating in humans, but do not suggest that women’s predisposition to extrapair mating is due to selection on men.” – h/t erwin schmidt!

Sources of Marital Conflict in Five Cultures [pdf] – h/t jayman! who tweeted: “‘Marital conflict tends to arise around issues relevant to reproductive strategies.'”

Science Is Not Always “Self-Correcting”“Some prominent scientists and philosophers have stated openly that moral and political considerations should influence whether we accept or promulgate scientific theories. This widespread view has significantly influenced the development, and public perception, of intelligence research. Theories related to group differences in intelligence are often rejected a priori on explicitly moral grounds. Thus the idea, frequently expressed by commentators on science, that science is ‘self-correcting’ — that hypotheses are simply abandoned when they are undermined by empirical evidence — may not be correct in all contexts.” – no, indeed. =/ – from nathan cofnas.

Liberal Bias in Social Psychology: Personal Experience II“‘To what extent is research on politicized topics in social psychology, psychology, and the social sciences distorted by political bias?’ Or, put differently, how much does political bias lead us to entirely unjustified and invalid conclusions?” – h/t claire lehmann! see also Liberal Bias in Social Psychology: Personal Experience I.

Harsh environments and “fast” human life histories: What does the theory say?“A common belief among human life history researchers is that ‘harsher’ environments – i.e., those with higher mortality rates and resource stress – select for ‘fast’ life histories, i.e. earlier reproduction and faster senescence. I show that these ‘harsh environments, fast life histories’ – or HEFLH – hypotheses are poorly supported by evolutionary theory.” – h/t razib!

Lifecycle Patterns in the Socioeconomic Gradient of Risk Preferences [pdf] – h/t ben southwood! who tweeted: “Risk tolerance drops by 0.5sd between adolescence and age 40, but for badly-off it continues dropping to extremity.”

Evidence of polygenic selection on human stature inferred from spatial distribution of allele frequencies – from davide piffer who tweeted: “Different populations have different levels of genotypic height.”

Shared Genetic Influences Between Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Traits in Children and Clinical ADHD

Dorian Gray without his portrait: Psychological, social, and physical health costs associated with the Dark Triad“Examined the Dark Triad and health in American, Australian, and British samples. Psychopathy was best associated with ‘negative’ health outcomes. Narcissism was associated with ‘positive’ health outcomes…. Sex differences in health outcomes were partially mediated by the Dark Triad.”

DNA methylation age of blood predicts all-cause mortality in later life – h/t stuart ritchie! (i don’t wanna die! =o )

Study uncovers genetics of motion sickness – i betcha i have every. single. one. =/

Correlation: The devil rides again? – bryan pesta on correlation…on his new(-ish) blog!

I Don’t Belong Here – on immigrants in france and their problems. lots o’ data! as usual from those who can see!

Your DNA Is Nothing Special“It’s time to relax about genetic testing.” see also: It’s time for the United States to talk about genetics.

diana fleischman tweets: “85% of students in my lecture today think people shouldn’t be able to choose the sex of their baby.” also, from pew: “83% of Americans say changing a baby’s genes to make it more intelligent takes science too far.”

Why There Is No Perfect Human In Puerto Rico or Anywhere Else – h/t shrikant mantri!

Amazonian horticulturalists live in larger, more related groups than hunter–gatherers“Endogamous marriages among kin create intensive kinship systems with high group relatedness, while exogamous marriages among nonrelatives create extensive kinship with low group relatedness. Here, a sample of 58 societies (7,565 adults living in 353 residential groups) shows that average group relatedness is higher in lowland horticulturalists than in hunter–gatherers. Higher relatedness in horticulturalists is remarkable given that village sizes are larger, harboring over twice the average number of adults than in hunter–gatherer camps. The relatedness differential between subsistence regimes increases for larger group sizes.” – h/t andrew sabisky! (thanks, andrew! (^_^) )

On the Whole How You Raise Kids Doesn’t Matter Much – from razib.

Searching For The Origins Of Individualism And Collectivism

The Implicit Assumptions Test“Does the IAT measure what proponents claim it does?” – short answer: no. – h/t steve stewart williams!

Liberal countries have more satisfied citizens while conservatives are happier individuals

How secular family values stack up“[Bengston] was surprised by what he found: High levels of family solidarity and emotional closeness between parents and nonreligious youth, and strong ethical standards and moral values that had been clearly articulated as they were imparted to the next generation. ‘Many nonreligious parents were more coherent and passionate about their ethical principles than some of the “religious” parents in our study,’ Bengston told me. ‘The vast majority appeared to live goal-filled lives characterized by moral direction and sense of life having a purpose….’ [N]onreligious family life is replete with its own sustaining moral values and enriching ethical precepts. Chief among those: rational problem solving, personal autonomy, independence of thought, avoidance of corporal punishment, a spirit of ‘questioning everything’ and, far above all, empathy. For secular people, morality is predicated on one simple principle: empathetic reciprocity, widely known as the Golden Rule. Treating other people as you would like to be treated…. As one atheist mom who wanted to be identified only as Debbie told me: ‘The way we teach them what is right and what is wrong is by trying to instill a sense of empathy … how other people feel. You know, just trying to give them that sense of what it’s like to be on the other end of their actions.'”

Iceland to build its first temple to the Norse gods in 1,000 years

Formation-flying birds swap places to share out lift – h/t steve stewart williams! who tweeted: “Reciprocal altruism is rare in nonhuman animals, but it looks like scientists have found another example.”

Commentary: Weighing the cost of ‘home rule’ in Maine“The state’s system of strong municipal governments is rooted in the early Puritans’ fear of centralization of power.” – from colin woodard.

The Massacre of Europe’s Songbirds – by italians and balkan populations. h/t mr. robert ford!

Ancient tablets reveal life of Jews exiled in Babylon“…where the Judeans traded, ran businesses and helped the administration of the kingdom. ‘They were free to go about their lives, they weren’t slaves,’ Vukosavovic said. ‘Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t a brutal ruler in that respect. He knew he needed the Judeans to help revive the struggling Babylonian economy.'”

Discovery of writing at Peru’s Checta – possible 5000 year old writing from peru. h/t charles mann!

Found in Spain: traces of Hannibal’s troops – h/t donna yates!

Among New York Subway’s Millions of Riders, a Study Finds Many Mystery Microbes“Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College released a study on Thursday that mapped DNA found in New York’s subway system — a crowded, largely subterranean behemoth that carries 5.5 million riders on an average weekday, and is filled with hundreds of species of bacteria (mostly harmless), the occasional spot of bubonic plague, and a universe of enigmas. Almost half of the DNA found on the system’s surfaces did not match any known organism and just 0.2 percent matched the human genome.” – ruh roh. =/

bonus: Even cockroaches have personalities – personality goes a long way. (~_^)

bonus bonus: In Bedbugs, Scientists See a Model of Evolution – h/t hbd bibliography!

bonus bonus bonus: from john hawks“[M]ale anthropology instructors are vastly more likely to exude spittle than any other field.” =P

bonus bonus bonus bonus: ricky gervais loves natural selection. (~_^)

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: A Great Idea: Create an HMS Beagle in LEGO Form“Vote to turn this tiny version of a famous ship into a LEGO kit available for all to enjoy.” – legohhhhhhhhs!!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: The Closest Thing to STAR WARS’ Greedo is Now a CatfishPeckoltia greedoi! (^_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. baby olinguito!)

i keep saying that i’ll define more clearly what i mean by “inbreeding” and “outbreeding,” but i never do. finally! — here i am, and i’m gonna do it! (^_^)

from the oxford dictionary of biology:

inbreeding: “Mating between closely related individuals, the extreme condition being self-fertilization, which occurs in many plants and some primitive animals.” (see also wikipedia.)

outbreeding: “Mating between unrelated or distantly related individuals of a species.”

great. but what’s “closely related” or “unrelated” or “distantly related”? self-fertilization doesn’t really apply to humans (at least not very often — i hope), so where to draw the line between “closely related” and “distantly related”?

i’m primarily interested in the evolution of altruism and other “innate social aptitudes” in man [pdf] — and here’s where inclusive fitness comes into the picture, btw — and the role that inbreeding and outbreeding might play in all that.

inbreeding in and of itself does not change the frequencies of genes in a population — it just moves them around, concentrating them in certain lineages. however, wade and breden showed in some mathematical wizardry modelling that, under certain circumstances, long-term, sustained inbreeding can, in fact, lead to increased frequencies of “genes for altruism” in a population.

wade and breden looked at four inbreeding scenarios: 1) self-fertilization (doesn’t happen in humans); 2) if the mating individuals shared half (50%) their genomes in common (like parent-offspring matings or sibling matings); 3) if the mating individuals shared 20% of their genes in common (this is somewhere in between first cousins and double-first cousins or uncle-niece/aunt-nephew); and 4) if the mating individuals shared no genes in common (not the typical pattern in human matings). most human populations do not practice parent-offspring/sibling matings — in fact, it’s usually avoided and considered by most as really icky. but quite a lot of peoples regularly marry first cousins, and some (in the arab world/middle east) even often marry double-first cousins — nor is the world short on uncle-niece pairings (southern india, for example — or hasidic jews).

wade and breden found that, under certain circumstances, long-term, sustained matings between individuals that share 20% of their genomes in common can lead in an increase in altruism genes in that population. first cousin marriage, probably the most common form of inbreeding in humans, is a little short of what wade and breden looked at, but it’s not terribly far away either (12.5% relatedness vs. 20% relatedness). you would think that the slope of the line for inbreeding at 12.5% relatedness would fall somewhere in between that for 0% and 20% (solid black line) on wade and breden’s lower graph here:

wade and breden 02 small

in clinical genetics, most researchers look at degrees of inbreeding that are between second cousins or closer, commonly referred to in the literature as consanguineous marriages. since i get a lot of my data on inbreeding from such studies, it’s kinda handy for me to define inbreeding as anything between second cousins or closer, but in reconsidering wade and breden’s results, i’m thinking that maybe i should only concentrate on first cousins or closer. for now i think i’ll stick to second cousins or closer, but i reserve the right to change my mind (it is a woman’s prerogative, isn’t it? still?).

so, on this blog:

– inbreeding = in a population, a general pattern of regular and sustained mating between individuals who are related to one another as second cousins or closer.

– outbreeding = in a population, a general pattern of regular and sustained mating in which individuals avoid second cousins or closer.

notice the “regular and sustained” bit. that’s important. we’re not talking here about occasional marriages between cousins. it has to be a regular practice in a society. i’m not sure what the frequency of the inbreeding needs to be. it will vary according to population size, of course — the smaller the population, the more closely related everyone’s going to be anyway (e.g. the yanomamo). in a larger population? — dunno. definitely when 50% of marriages are consanguineous over the long-term i think the frequencies of “genes for altruism” are going to increase pretty rapidly (i’ll come back to what sorts of altruism in another post). 30%? probably. 3%? not really.

outbreeding, too, needs to be “regular and sustained” to have any effect, i.e. to have a population slide back down wade and breden’s slope in reverse. one generation of outbreeding probably won’t have much of an effect, i think. evolution (natural selection) does take some time, after all. also, if one inbreeding group interbreeds with another inbreeding group, that’s NOT outbreeding according to my definiton. technically it is in biological circles, but if we’re talking about two populations that have been inbreeding for a long time and, therefore, have acquired a lot of genes for my “familial altruism,” then all they’re doing by interbreeding is swapping familial altruism genes. for example, if you’re the early medieval irish and are clannish because you’ve been inbreeding for who-knows-how-long, the “outbreeding” that you do with the vikings when they show up (probably) doesn’t count wrt altruism, because they’re a long-term inbreeding group, too.

to have any effect on the frequency of certain “genes for altruism,” outbreeding — like inbreeding — needs, i think, to be regular and sustained over the long-term, as it was with europeans (mostly northwest europeans) since the early medieval period (see also mating patterns in europe series in left-hand column below ↓ for more details) and, perhaps, some other groups like the semai in malaysia.

previously: inbreeding and the evolution of altruistic behavior

(note: comments do not require an email. hi there!)

i really like this! bjk suggests (link and emphases added by me):

“White guilt, I was thinking about it. Steve Sailer thinks that white guilt has nothing to do with guilt but with status striving. But status doesn’t seem an adequate explanation, and it’s not really very fair to liberals, who say they have honest intentions, and why not? So then what explains the really deep emotional bitterness many liberals feel towards southerners? Not that they’ve ever met somebody with a confederate bumper sticker, but the disdain for Bubba goes deeper than the surface. So then I thought about a wife marrying a new husband. Suddenly she’s dependent on him and his income, maybe on her parents if things go bad, and then on her in-laws, in that order. But if the extended family is weak and distant, and the parents are poor or on bad terms with her, she rightly sees herself in a very vulnerable situation. So she votes for democrats. Compare her with someone who marries a cousin. Now she is not dependent on just her husband, but her husband depends on her also, and there is a strong reinforcement of the marriage from the in-laws.

“So in the perspective of both women, there are three kinds of people: nuclear family, in-laws, and strangers. The first woman, dependent to a great extent on her nuclear family, looks to the strangers as an insurance policy, either literally (by buying insurance) or through the state. But the second women sees the state as simply strangers – she is much better off relying on her extended family, which is large enough to serve as insurance, and includes her in-laws.

So you might figure these two cases are symmetrical, but they’re not. Lady a indirectly relies on lady b, but not vice-versa. Lady b doesn’t think about a at all, except to try to avoid the revenuer. But lady a gets spittle-spewing furious at b if she can’t rely on b, but b just shrugs her shoulders. Not her problem.

So to get back to liberal guilt, what we call liberal guilt is really altruistic punishment directed against other whites (blacks may be the plaintiff but are not really party to the dispute). This altruistic punishment is directed at whites (crackers, bubbas and other racists) who do not engage in stranger-stranger reciprocity via the state ie are shirking their duties.

“So white guilt is not misnamed – it’s the attempt to makes other whites feel guilty, not any feeling of guilt whites feel towards blacks.”

that’s really good. thanks, bjk!

and the southern lady — lady b — doesn’t even have to marry her cousin nowadays to not be so interested in helping out lady a. she, and a majority of her fellow southerners, might just have very different altruistic attitudes than yankees due to their different evolutionary histories (i.e. puritans vs. border reivers and cavaliers).

(and, yeah … blacks and other minorities [such as they are for now!] definitely seem to be pawns in this game … whatever the h*ck it’s all about.)

(note: comments do not require an email. a tarsier in the hand is worth … something or other.)

so i think the connection between inbreeding (or outbreeding) and the evolution of the “innate social aptitudes of man” [pdf] works something like this:

inbreeding in and of itself does not change the frequency of genes (alleles) in a population [pg. 65], but it does move them around, concentrating them in certain family lines.

if, then, some sort of genetic mutation arises in one family line which, let’s say for the sake of argument, results in the carriers somehow behaving more altruistically towards their fellow family members than strangers, and this results in them being able to increase their inclusive fitness, then that genetic mutation will be selected for.

it will really be selected for (i.e. the selection rate will be accelerated) because of the inbreeding because: 1) since the inbred family will have greater than average numbers of this “altruism gene” because it is inbreeding, its members will likely execute a greater total number of altruistic behaviors towards one another and, so, they will really benefit fitness-wise from this new gene. also, 2) perhaps — perhaps — all else being equal, the inbred family members will feel even more strongly altruistic towards their fellow family members than an outbred family would since they are so much more genetically similar to their family members. to be honest with you, i’m not so sure about that second proposition, so i’m just going to skip it for now and focus on the first one.

wrt the first proposition, that the rate of selection of “genes for altruism” is faster in an inbreeding population is exactly what wade and breden found when they ran some models — the more inbreeding, the more rapid the selection of the altruism genes:

you can imagine why.

if you have a bunch of different families in a population, and one of those families possesses some sort of “familial altruism” gene which means that its members help each other out (or whatever) more than the members of the other families do, and this increases the fitness of a majority of this special family’s members, then they are simply going to be more successful than the other families. they’ll leave more descendants behind and, thus, more of those genes behind. IN ADDITION, if this successful family ALSO inbreeds, each of its members is much more likely to have at least one, or even two, copies of this familial altruism gene, so more members of this successful family will be even more altruistic to each other and voilà! — they’ll increase their fitness and success even more than they would have done without the inbreeding.

these familial altruism genes — genes that lead to behaviors in which individuals somehow favor their own family members over non-family members — and by family members i mean extended-family members — are only going to arise, of course, in a population in which there is more than one family. if you’ve got some tiny band somewhere that has absolutely no contact with any other group (doubt that’s ever existed), then my evolutionary scenario simply won’t happen. it’s the competition between the individuals from the different families that is driving this.

naturally, genes in any population — even an inbreeding one — won’t remain restricted to any one family for very long. no family anywhere inbreeds 100% exclusively, so if some successful familial altruism genes do arise in some inbreeding family somewhere, they will quickly spread to the other families in that population. thus, there is probably an ongoing familial altruism genetic arms race in inbreeding populations.

also, i think fewer familial altruism genes — or not such strong ones, perhaps — are going to arise in a comparatively outbreeding population. the accelerated selection due to the inbreeding won’t be there, nor will this arms race to keep one step ahead of the joneses when it comes to familial altruism. additionally, i think that in an outbreeding population, there’ll be greater selection pressures than in an inbreeding population for “reciprocal altruism” genes — i.e. genes which lead people to be willing to cooperate more with non-family members — since more of those sorts of behaviors will likely be required to be successful in life.

so what do these “familial altruism” genes look like?

i dunno.

maybe there are differences in oxytocin-related genes? — the luuuuv hormone that “turns out to be the hormone of the clan.”

or — ya’ll know that i’m kinda fascinated by interclan fighting which is the flip-side of being nice to your family (i.e. be extra un-nice to your non-family) — so maybe one familial altruism gene is the “warrior gene” (MAO-A gene)? dunno.

one that i speculated about before is CYP21A2, the gene connected to congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), a recessive genetic condition which affects the production cortisol which, in turn, affects the production of androgens (like testosterone) — notably, in the most common form of CAH, androgen levels are increased. the condition is a recessive one, so you need to have two copies of the deleterious allele to have the condition, but as i mentioned in my previous post on CAH, carriers with one copy of the allele have been found to have excess androgens — and androgens have been connected to aggression. (also, children with CAH have been found to have smaller amygdalae, so … they’re less fearful? don’t know if this also holds true for adults with CAH.)

increased aggression? fighting at the drop of a hat? interclan fighting? see where i’m going with this?

the interesting thing is — at least i think it’s interesting — is that there are different frequencies of CAH found in different populations. what we’d really want to know, of course, are the gene frequencies for CAH for different populations, but in lieu of those … here are some incidence rates of classical CAH in different populations [numbers acquired from or via here and here]:

1:282 – Yupik Eskimos, Alaska
1:2,141 – La Reunion
1:4,081 – Western Australia Aborigines
1:5,000 – GLOBAL
1:5,000-7,000 – Moroccan Jews
1:5,041 – Zurich, Switzerland
1:7,000 – Kuwait
1:10,866 – France (Whites)
1:10,866 – Italy (Whites)
1:11,500 – Sweden
1:11,764 – Netherlands
1:14,300 – Hungary
1:14,403 – Croatia
1:14,500-23,344 – New Zealand
1:14,869 – Western Australia
1:15,518 – Emilia-Romagna, Italy (Whites)
1:15,800-18,000 – Japan
1:17,098 – Scotland
1:19,939 – Minas Gerais, Brazil
1:20,000 – Norway

i dunno, but i see — maybe — the more inbred clannish fighters (yupik eskimos, moroccan jews, kuwaitis) having more cases of CAH than the more outbred peaceniks (new zealanders, norwegians, even northern italians). also…

“The Texas data indicate a lower disease frequency in African-Americans when compared with Caucasians, and international data indicate higher frequencies in native Yupik Eskimos, Brazilians, residents of La Reunion, and Filipinos.” [source]

“The prevalence of the disease [non-classical CAH] in Ashkenazi Jews was 3.7%; in Hispanics, 1.9%; in Yugoslavs, 1.6%; in Italians, 0.3%; and in the diverse Caucasian population, 0.1%.” [source] (non-classical CAH refers to a less severe form of CAH which might not get noticed until adulthood when it expresses itself in features like a woman having, perhaps, a bit too much facial hair.)

again, what we’d really want to know are the gene frequencies for CAH in different populations. then the über-human savants that we call population geneticists could do their math wizardry to see if these genes were under positive selection or not (zey hav vays av mayking ze data talk). (another interesting thing, btw, is that there are many different mutations in this gene which cause a range of CAH conditions from mild to severe — and different mutations are more common in different populations — see here and here and here for instance.)

of course, maybe these mutations in CYP21A2 aren’t being selected for for increased aggression/upside-down familial altruism. maybe it’s something else. witchel, et al., found that heterozygotes for mutated CYP21A2 alleles (i.e. individuals with just one copy of the cr*ppy gene) had increased cortisol levels and cortisol is, apparently, important for the immune system, so maybe these mutants simply survive infections better. others have found a possible connection between higher iq and CAH (masculinization = higher iq?) — see here and here and here — so maybe that’s it.

or maybe these genes are not being selected for at all. however, fertility rates of people (women) with CAH are low, so it seems like a strange bunch of genes to have around if they don’t have some sort of benefit.

previously: inbreeding and the evolution of altruistic behavior and looking for altruism genes and visions of altruism genes

(note: comments do not require an email. CAHt.)

Ancestral link places Mexican-Americans at greater risk for metabolic disease“Mexican-Americans with an ancestral link to Amerindian tribes were found to have higher insulin resistance levels, which is an indication of several chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes….”

Most mutations come from dad“Humans inherit more than three times as many mutations from their fathers as from their mothers, and mutation rates increase with the father’s age but not the mother’s….” see also Father’s Age Is Linked to Risk of Autism and Schizophrenia. and see also greg cochran (h/t jayman!).

Human responses to unfairness with primary rewards and their biological limits“[H]umans care about being treated fairly when bargaining with primary rewards, and, together with a broader literature suggest that such reciprocal altruism may be particularly prominent in humans.” – note that the study seems to have been conducted on “w.e.i.r.d.” students.

African National IQs, redux“The average for 40 African nations comes out to 75.” – from chuck.

Solutions, Again – jayman’s ideas for a better future!

Working memory training does not improve IQ – from the inductivist.

Male Circumcision and Health Care Costs – @the breviary.

A decade after Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate, why is human nature still taboo? – from ed west.

Hypergamy In China Cutting Fertility Of High Ranking Women – from parapundit.

Do Drivers Make Way In Your Country? – from anatoly.

Divergent Whole-Genome Methylation Maps of Human and Chimpanzee Brains Reveal Epigenetic Basis of Human Regulatory Evolution“Hundreds of genes exhibit significantly lower levels of promoter methylation in the human brain than in the chimpanzee brain…. Differentially methylated genes [in humans] are strikingly enriched with loci associated with neurological disorders, psychological disorders, and cancers.”

Dusting Off GOD“The implication — that religion is basically malevolent, that it ‘poisons everything,’ in the words of the late Christopher Hitchens — is a standard assertion of the New Atheists…. Before you can know for sure, you have to figure out what religion does for us in the first place.”

Planet of the apes“What we really know about our evolutionary past – and what we don’t” – nice review of a couple of human evolution books.

bonus: Octopuses Gain Consciousness (According to Scientists’ Declaration)

bonus bonus: The Racial Divide on … Sneakers

(note: comments do not require an email. clever octopus!)


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