“culture” of honor

in “Culture of Honor,” nisbett and cohen argued that the scots-irish of appalachia are more violent than, say, yankees ’cause of their … you guessed it … culture of honor.

*sigh*

this article [opens pdf] has a good description of what nisbett and cohen found when they researched the flying-off-the-handle-ness of southerners vs. northerers:

“Their laboratory experiments are most relevant to our argument here. Cohen and Nisbett recruited subjects with Northern and Southern backgrounds from the University of Michigan student body, ostensibly to work on an psychological task dealing with perception. During the experiment, a confederate bumped some subjects and muttered ‘asshole’ at them. Cortisol (a stress hormone) and testosterone (rises in preparation for violence) were measured before and after the insult. Insulted Southerners showed big jumps in both cortisol and testosterone compared to uninsulted Southerners and insulted Northerners. The difference in psychological and physiological responses to insults was manifest in behavior. Nisbett and Cohen recruited a 6’3” 250 lb (190 cm, 115 kg) American style football player whose task was to walk down the middle of a narrow hall as subjects came the other direction. The experimenters measured how close subjects came to the football player before stepping aside. Northerners stepped aside at around 6 feet regardless of whether they had been insulted. Un-insulted Southerners stepped aside at an average distance of 9 feet, whereas insulted Southerners approached to an average of about 3 feet. Polite but prepared to be violent, un-insulted Southerners take more care, presumably because they attribute a sense of honor to the football player and are normally respectful of others’ honor. When their honor is challenged, they are prepared and willing to challenge someone at considerable risk to their own safety.”

sooooooooo, they found a biological response in the southerners who were insulted and concluded that the cause of that biological response was … culture. ooooh-kaaaaay.

-OR-

how about southerners are, for whatever evolutionary reasons, somewhat different biologically-speaking than northerners and they, therefore, respond differently biologically to insults. and that, taken collectively, the way all these southerners behave — innately — amounts to their culture.

seems kinda obvious, don’t it?

so what is the evolutionary history of the good folks down in appalachia? we know that they come from the anglo-scottish border areas. what were (are) those people like?

clannish. probably practiced some sort of inbreeding throughout the medieval period — unlike the english, whose descendents became the more chilled yankees in the new world.

and war-ish. for hundreds of years. or, battle-ish anyway:

Border Reivers were raiders along the Anglo–Scottish border from the late 13th century to the beginning of the 17th century…. The border families can be referred to as clans, as the Scots themselves appear to have used both terms interchangeably until the 19th century…. Other terms were also used to describe the Border families, such as the ‘Riding Surnames’ and the ‘Graynes’ thereof…. Both Border Graynes and Highland septs however, had the essential feature of patriarchal leadership by the chief of the name, and had territories in which most of their kindred lived…. Although feudalism existed, tribal loyalty was much more important and this is what distinguished the Borderers from other lowland Scots.

“culture” of honor? gimme a break!

footnote: one of the major anglo-saxon border clans is the clan nesbitt. heh! (^_^)

previously: outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence and which came first?

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reductionism works (pretty good) — again

some biogeographers came awful close (278 miles close, to be precise) to pinpointing osama bin laden’s location a couple of years ago by using biogeographical theories:

“They fingered the spots based on two theories on the distribution of biological species. One of them, the so-called distance-decay theory, states that the similarity and correlation between species at two locations decreases as the distance between them increases. As such, the geographers figure bin Laden can’t have gone far—he is believed to have fled Afghanistan’s Tora Bora region at the end of 2001—if he wished to remain on similar terrain in a familiar cultural environment.

Island biogeography, the other tool in the team’s theoretical analysis, posits that large, closely spaced pockets of life (islands) support more species and are less ravaged by extinction than small, isolated islands. With cities standing in for islands, the researchers speculate that bin Laden would most likely hide out in a large town with minimal isolation, because even though there’s more risk of being spotted he would also have access to resources needed to stay alive as well as under cover.

“These theories, they say, point to Parachinar in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.”

“a” for abbottabad, “b” for parachinar:

reductionism works (on a certain level) ’cause we are just busy little biological creatures running around like all the other busy little biological creatures.

previously: reductionism works and more reductionism working

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more reductionism working

i like reductionism. reductionism works (on a certain level).

from the economist:

Cry havoc! And let slip the maths of war

“Warfare seems to obey mathematical rules. Whether soldiers can make use of that fact remains to be seen….

“[T]he link between the severity and frequency of conflicts follows a smooth curve, known as a power law. One consequence is that extreme events such as the world wars do not appear to be anomalies. They are simply what should be expected to occur occasionally, given the frequency with which conflicts take place….

“In a paper currently under review at Science, however, Neil Johnson of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, and his colleagues hint at what that something useful might be. Dr Johnson’s team is one of several groups who, in previous papers, have shown that Richardson’s power law also applies to attacks by terrorists and insurgents. They and others have broadened Richardson’s scope of inquiry to include the timing of attacks, as well as the severity. This prepared the ground for the new paper, which outlines a method for forecasting the evolution of conflicts.

“Dr Johnson’s proposal rests on a pattern he and his team found in data on insurgent attacks against American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. After the initial attacks in any given province, subsequent fatal incidents become more and more frequent. The intriguing point is that it is possible, using a formula Dr Johnson has derived, to predict the details of this pattern from the interval between the first two attacks….

“Though the fit between the data and the prediction is not perfect (an example is illustrated right), the match is close enough that Dr Johnson thinks he is onto something. Progress curves are a consequence of people adapting to circumstances and learning to do things better. And warfare is just as capable of productivity improvements as any other activity….”

cool!

neat mathematical patterns like this (and this) — patterns that look just like those found in the behaviors of other species — are found when we look at human behaviors ’cause human behavior is just a product of our biological natures, just like ant behavior is a product of their biological natures.

it may seem to each and every one of us like we are acting rationally, or religiously, or whatever, but we’re really just acting biologically:

“Call it the physics of terrorism….

“‘When you start averaging over the differences, you see there are patterns in the way terrorists’ campaigns progress and the frequency and severity of the attacks,’ he says. ‘This gives you hope that terrorism is understandable from a scientific perspective….’

“It is weird when you step back and say, ‘There are thinking, social beings in these organizations, they have families and causes and ideals and so on.’ And I’m thinking about them as being a little bit like particles.

“‘But,’ he says, ‘the patterns speak for themselves.'”

previously: reductionism works

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religion vs. biology

dennis said the other day:

“The waning of religious and nationalistic beliefs means that biology plays a greater role…. Modern science has disillusioned us of our former beliefs, the only belief remaining being the will to power, which is itself a manifestation of nature, in which every living thing lives at the expense of other living things.”

eh. i gotta disagree. ’cause i think this is a false dichotomy: religion vs. biology.

what is religion (or religious beliefs and practices) except an expression of our biology? (our biologies, in fact — that’s partly why we’ve got different religions.) religion is a manifestation of nature. our nature.

religion is just culture — which is just a product of our biology, afaics.

yup. i’m a reductionist. but, hey — reductionism works.

previously: tribalism makes a comeback!

see also: Twins Study Finds Adult Religiosity Heritable from futurepundit.

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