i found it!

i said:

“robin fox, for instance, in The Tribal Imagination (and, i suppose, in his incest book, but i haven’t read that) mentioned that, in father-daughter incest cases, the majority of those relationships are initiated by the daughter.”

redzengenoist asked for a reference, which then i couldn’t find — but now i found it! and it goes to show — you should always ask for a reference! from The Tribal Imagination [pg. 152]:

“In both stories the initiator is the girl, like Lot’s daughters. This is far from the ‘patriarchal’ situation usually envisaged with dominant males sexually exploiting helpless females, as Amnon and Tamar. The poet sees incest as a dangerous female impulse; the men are the horrified victimes. Ovid is almost Wahhabist in his fear of female lust. But this is in line with the fact that in cases of consummated incest the female often is the initiator, and with the classical and ancient world’s depiction of women (some women) as assertive, and as taking the initiative in matters sexual.”

obviously, “often” (what fox said) does not equal “the majority” (what i remembered).

boy, do i have a lousy memory! (*hbd chick blushes*) please, please, always ask me for a reference if i haven’t given one!

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boinking your sister

heh. several of you were grossed out at the thought — and that’s good! that is as it should be.

i don’t have a brother, so i don’t know what the westermarck effect feels like, but apparently it feels like … ewwwwwwww! and it doesn’t just work for sibilings, but any kids that are raised together. i’ve read many accounts of muslim couples who have been made to marry their first-cousins who complain that they’re not attracted to each other and very often they were raised together (in an extended family household), so they feel like … ewwwwwwww!

robin fox had a lot of interesting stuff to say about the westermarck effect in “The Tribal Imagination” (chapter 6 — and also presumbaly in his book on incest, but i haven’t read that). here’s an excerpt for ya [pgs. 128-31]:

“Taboos on sexual relationship between close kin, between the members of the immediate family, were long thought to be a purely human invention. Animals, it was maintained, had no such inhibitions and mated incestuously. Thus the taboos on such animalistic behavior were thought to be the very foundation of human society; they were the ultimate Drumbeat of humanity, by which, in the immortal words of Levi-Strauss, culture said ‘No!’ to nature….

“The move from nature to culture represented by the imposition of the taboos was seen as precarious and counter to natural motives, which were ineradicable. In consequence, the taboos had to be stern and enforced by constant vigilance. In this traditional view, we all wanted to make love to our nearest kin, but once the momentous leap into culture had been taken, it would have been disastrous to go back into the maelstrom of incestuous animality. Our societies were built on the presumption of mating outside the family, it was the very definition of humanity itself, and so stern taboos, laws, and punishments were needed to keep incest at bay.

“This was a plausible view because societies did almost universally ban sex and marriage within the immediate family, and punishments for breaches of this rule were often severe, including torture and death. In their mythologies, primitive tribes and ancients societies often portrayed incest, and the results of it were usually disastrous. There were exceptions to the rule (and we shall return to these), but they were almost always royal exceptions, and royal persons, as gods on earth, were allowed behavior that was not allowed to ordinary mortals. On the whole, then it was agreed, there was a ‘grisly horror’ of incest (Freud) that universally afflicted people and led them to impose and enforce the taboos, often extending them beyond the family to members of the clan, variously defined. Why, the question went, would we have such strong taboos if we did not have the strong desire in the first place?

“Both popular opinion and the collective voice of the behavioral sciences echoed this orthodoxy. But there was always an undercurrent of skepticism. Why, the objectors asked in turn, do we seem, by and large, not to want to have sex with our closest relations? This would be the common-sense observation. Incest happens, but in proportion to non-incest, it does not happen very often. And most of this avoidance of incest does not seem to result from fear of punishment; there seems to be a genuine aversion to incest. This aversion seems to vary according to the relationship: strongest between mother and son, weakest between father and daughter, variable between brother and sister. But it is there, and usually only breaks down in unappetizing circumstances.

“The orthodox view said that left to our own devices we would immediately resort to incest and so we have to be reined in by strong taboos and sanctions…. The skeptical view says that, on the contrary, left to our own devices we would probably mostly avoid incest spontaneously. The orthodox view asks why, then, if this is so, are there the universal strong taboos?

“The skeptic answers that we often taboo the things that we are averse to, not because we secretly want to do them, but because we disapprove of people doing things that are generally obnoxious to us. We strongly taboo murder, not because we are all given to implacable murderous impulses, but because we are averse to it, so that even if only a few people do it, it offends us. We do, however, understand the temptation to do it; we have all perhaps felt it momentarily. So the subject fascinates us and permeates our legends and stories from the beginning. Sex and violence, incest and murder — often linked in our fantasy productions — persist in our imaginative attempts to interpret ourselves to ourselves….

“[I]n looking at animal behavior under natural conditions, indeed at the behavior of all sexually reproducing organisms, outbreeding seemed to be the rule and incest was rare. This was especially true in our primate relatives, and so by implication in our ancestors during the long haul through the savannas and the ice….

“The origin of this sexual reproduction is still a mystery, but whatever the reason, this new form of reproduction won out over its rival (which is still around) by virtue of its ability to produce instant genetic variability for natural selection to work on. Close inbreeding results in a loss of such variability, hence mechanisms evolved to avoid it. At the same time, if inbreeding becomes too random, then any beneficial genes will be dissipated rather than concentrated and preserved. It is this loss of variation that seems to be at the heart of sexual strategies, not the bad genetic effects of close inbreeding. In small bands these effects would quickly be bred out, and even scattered bouts of outbreeding would reestablish a healthy stock.

“So nature aims for a middle ground: organisms breed out to avoid losing variability, but not so far out that they dissipate genetic advantages. In human terms this means that the immediate family is taboo, but that marriage with cousins should be preferred. This is exactly what we find in human history until the dramatic growth and disruption of human populations upset the natural balance of the traditional society.”

actually, this is exactly what we find in human history until the roman catholic church started fiddling with mating patterns in europe in the early middle ages (see Inbreeding in Europe series down below ↓ in left-hand column).

“[I]f inbreeding becomes too random, then any beneficial genes will be dissipated rather than concentrated and preserved.”

think about that in terms of altruism genes.

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probably apocryphal…

…but a great story anyway [pg. 14]:

“The time is World War I and militant ladies are roaming the streets of Oxford giving out white feathers of cowardice to young men of fighting age who are not at the front. (Yes, they did that.) They invade a college quad where a young don in cap and gown is walking across the lawn reading Virgil. Thrusting the white feathers at him, one of the ladies demands: ‘Young man, why are you not out there fighting for civilization?” Without hesitation and with devastatingly correct grammar he replies: “Madam, I am the civilization for which they are out there fighting.”

heh. (^_^)

open vs. closed societies

a little bit more from robin fox (links added by moi) [pg. 325-26]:

“What is closed in the Closed Society [as opposed to popper’s open society] is the future, because it is thought either to eternally repeat the present, or to recycle fixed ages, or to change in completely known and fixed ways. The Closed Society seeks to ignore, deny, and arrest, or to predict and hence totally control, social change. The Open Society accepts the unpredictable reality of change and deals with it. (The roots of this idea were there in Henri Bergson’s philosophy, and his ‘open morality’ and ‘closed moratlity’ — but that is another essay: see The Search for Society.)

“This contrast was present from the start in the great conflict between democratic Athens (potentially Open but with a heavy burden of Closed features) and tribal Sparta (completely and utterly Closed): the subject of Popper’s first volume (The Spell of Plato). Athens had passed consciously from a tribal society to a democratic city-state, which in turn morphed into a maritime empire. (Curiously, Popper, while making much of Solon and Pericles, does not mention the reforms of Cleisthenes, which were critical to the change. [yes, they were. – hbd chick] Athens struggled to maintain its democratic system, both against outside opponents and against inside forces. By becoming an empire it threatened its own democracy. [hmmmm – sounds familiar.]

The old order of tribal families, which Cleisthenes had tried to break down, hated democracy and conspired with Sparta, the archtypal closed tribal society, which just as consciously arrested change as Athens had embraced it. Many of the Athenian intellectuals took the pro-Spartan side. Plato, Popper’s nemesis, led the intellectural justification for a Spartan-style society in The Republic and The Laws. Plato’s relatives were active in the council of the Thirty Tyrants, who conspired with Sparta and led a reign of terror in Athens.

didn’t know that about plato.

previously: demokratia (in case you missed that link in the text. (~_^) )

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democracy and endogamous mating practices

this post is prompted by a (brief) discussion in the comments over @dennis’ place. anonymous objected to me saying that pre-christian (i.e. pre-outbreeding) europeans were not, amongst other things, democratic — germanic tribes had things, for instance, he says.

yes, a lot of societies have democratic elements to them — even hunter-gatherer bands, i do believe, generally operate according to a system in which everyone (at least all the men) gets to voice their opinion on which way the band should head tomorrow or something like that. but no other society ever developed a western-style, parliamentarian-type democratic system except for europeans. here’s robin fox on this curious phenomenon [pgs. 60-61]:

“Again in England, it was not until 1688, after a bitter civil-religious war and a period of hard totalitarianism, that we were able to set up a system whereby political factions would compete for votes and, most amazingly, the losers would vountarily cede power. [fox’s emphasis.] This transformation took a long time and hard practice with many missteps….

“But far from being a fact of human nature, this voluntary ceding of power after elections, this basic feature of liberal democracy, actually flies in the face of nature. It is self-evidently absurd. Our political opponents are always disreputable, and their accession to power will be the ruin of the country. Listen to the rhetoric of campaigns: it almost amounts to criminal malfeasance to allow the opponents to take over. Yet that is what we do after a mere counting of heads: cede control to the villains and incompetents.

“The cynic will say that the only reason we allow this to happen is because we know that in truth there is no real difference between political parties in these systems, and so we join in a conspiracy of the willing to take turn and turn about. Even so, this willingness that we take so for granted is an amazing and unusual and a fragile thing. Ajami quotes an Arab proverb, min al-qasr ila al-qabr: ‘from the palace to the grave.’ Once you have power, in the name of God and the good of the people, you keep it, and the voluntary relinquishment of power is simply seen as weakness or stupidity….

“And our Western democracies still struggle with nepotism, corruption, and cronyism, whose energetic persistence should tell us something…. How could we believe, then, that we could walk into a country like Iraq and do in a few months, or even a few years, or even several decades, what millennia had failed to evolve spontaneously? Because ‘the Iraqi People,’ like everyone else, ‘loved freedom’?”

earlier in this chapter, fox explains how, of course, there is no such thing as “the iraqi people,” but instead that there are lots of tribes in iraq who do not want to share power with other tribes, and certainly do not want the members of other tribes governing over them.

parapundit, waaaay back in 2002, wrote about how the inbreeding practices of middle easterners hampers the development of democracy in those regions. he referred to stanley kurtz’s writings on the matter (stanley kurtz, btw, is a very, very smart fellow and i recommend reading anything and everything by him and taking what he says very seriously) — here are just a couple: Marriage and the Terror War and Marriage and the Terror War, Part II. in that second essay, kurtz wrote:

“Once your subject is the social meaning and function of kinship, the Muslim world stands in stark contrast to every other society in the world — traditional or modern. This contrast, I argue, has everything to do with why Muslim societies have difficulty accommodating modernity, why Muslim immigrants resist assimilation, and why some Muslims are attacking us.

“The key ‘functional connection’ between Middle Eastern marriage practices (which are not religiously dictated, although they are sometimes justified in religious terms) and Islam itself would appear to be the creation and reinforcement of a pervasive cultural tendency to form in-groups with tightly monitored boundaries….

“If we want to change any of this, it will be impossible to restrict ourselves to the study of religious Islam. The ‘self-sealing’ character of Islam is part and parcel of a broader and more deeply rooted social pattern. And parallel-cousin marriage is more than just an interesting but minor illustration of that broader theme. If there’s a ‘self-sealing’ tendency in Muslim social life, cousin marriage is the velcro.

there’s no way a “self-sealing” society is going to adopt modern, liberal democracy (and why do we keep insisting that they do, anyway?). our modern, liberal democratic system requires an open society. it requires the “atomization” of individuals — i.e. that they are not joined at the hip to their extended family members or clans or tribes. it requires society to be corporate in nature [opens pdf] — and that requires outbreeding.

if stanley kurtz explained to all of us online that the muslim world would not become democratic over-night because of their endogamous, cousin-marriage practices, steve sailer explained the why.

in an essay published waaaay back in 2003, steve wrote:

“The biggest disadvantage [from inbreeding], however, may be political.

“Are Muslims, especially Arabs, so much more loyal to their families than to their nations because, due to countless generations of cousin marriages, they are so much more genealogically related to their families than Westerners are related to theirs? Frank Salter, a political scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany whose new book ‘Risky Transactions: Trust, Kinship, and Ethnicity’ takes a sociobiological look at the reason why Mafia families are indeed families, told me, ‘That’s my hunch; at least it’s bound to be a factor.’

One of the basic laws of modern evolutionary science, quantified by the great Oxford biologist William D. Hamilton in 1964 under the name ‘kin selection,’ is that the more close the genetic relationship between two people, the more likely they are to feel loyalty and altruism toward each other. Natural selection has molded us not just to try to propagate our own genes, but to help our relatives, who possess copies of some of our specific genes, to propagate their own.

Nepotism is thus biologically inspired. Hamilton explained that the level of nepotistic feeling generally depends upon degree of genetic similarity. You share half your personally variable genes with your children and siblings, but one quarter with your nephews/nieces and grandchildren, so your nepotistic urges will tend to be somewhat less toward them. You share one eighth of your genes with your first cousins, and one thirty-second with your second cousin, so your feelings of family loyalty tend to fall off quickly.

But not as quickly if you and your relatives are inbred. Then, you’ll be genealogically and related to your kin via multiple pathways. You will all be genetically more similar, so your normal family feelings will be multiplied. For example, your son-in-law might be also be the nephew you’ve cherished since his childhood, so you can lavish all the nepotistic altruism on him that in an outbred family would be split between your son-in-law and your nephew.

Unfortunately, nepotism is usually a zero sum game, so the flip side of being materially nicer toward your relatives would be that you’d have less resources left with which to be civil, or even just fair, toward non-kin. So, nepotistic corruption is rampant in countries such as Iraq, where Saddam has appointed members of his extended family from his hometown of Tikrit to many key positions in the national government.”

brilliant!

steve and stanley and parapundit were all talking about a particular sort of tribal society with a particular form of cousin marriage — father’s brother’s daughter marriage. this form of marriage has been practiced by the arabs since before mohammed arrived on the scene (iow, they have been inbreeding for a very long time). the arabs introduced it to iraq and other places like afghanistan and pakistan and libya in the 700s. the peoples in those places may, of course, have been inbreeding in other ways before their conversion to islam. in any event, they’ve all been inbreeding for many centuries, so liberal democracy is not going to come natural to any of these populations.

but, edogamous mating is endogamous mating, and inclusive fitness is inclusive fitness. what has to be remembered is that there are different degrees of inbreeding (uncle-niece, first-cousin, second-cousin, third-cousin … tenth-cousin, etc.) as well as different types (paternal and maternal being the basic division — paternal results in the “self sealing” societies kurtz described; maternal gets you more alliances with outside groups). while centuries of father’s brother’s daughter marriage results in strongly tribal societies in which liberal democracy doesn’t fit at all, even lesser degrees of endogamous mating don’t seem to be all that great for fostering democracy.

example: the greeks.

we’ve seen that greeks have been practicing endogamous mating for who knows how long (at least back into the mid-1800s, presumably since forever). they don’t marry their first-cousins since that is against the greek orthodox church’s regulations, and they tend to avoid second-cousin marriage. but they do marry very locally — within the same village or neighboring village — preferentially to a third-cousin. (of course, things are probably changing nowadays with moves to urban centers.) the result? the extended-family is very important to greeks — and those familial sentiments spill over into the larger society. nepotism and corruption are very common in greece. almost nobody pays any taxes if they can help it.

how about democracy? how well does does liberal democracy work in what’s considered the birth-place of demokratia? from the nyt:

In the last half-century, three main families have dominated Greek politics.

“The center-left Papandreous have produced three prime ministers: George; his powerful father, Andreas, who founded Pasok, the governing Socialist party; and Andreas’s centrist father, also named George.

“The previous prime minister, Kostas Karamanlis, is the nephew of Konstantinos Karamanlis, a four-time prime minister who founded the New Democracy Party and led Greece in 1974 after the fall of the seven-year military dictatorship.

“Mrs. Bakoyannis and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a member of Parliament with New Democracy, are the children of former Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, who led New Democracy in the 1980s and early 1990s and who often sparred with Andreas Papandreou.

“‘These personalities’ — especially Andreas Papandreou and Konstantinos Karamanlis — ‘helped Greece’s development in recent decades as much as they obstructed it,’ said Dimitris Sotiropoulos, a political scientist who has written on post-junta politics in Greece.

“These governments helped rebuild a traumatized country, but they also hardened the system to serve their own cadres and supporters, Mr. Sotiropoulos said….

“Over the years, leaders from each of the families have promised to end corruption. Kostas Karamanlis, a cigar-smoking lawyer with a doctorate in international affairs from Tufts University in the United States, led New Democracy to victory in 2004 on the promise that he would make government transparent, efficient and clean. Five years later, he left politics in disgrace, after his scandal-ridden party lost to Mr. Papandreou and Pasok, who have also promised to stamp out corruption.”

uh … not a good sign that liberal democracy is working very well in your country when political dynasties keep dominating the scene. (er, oops. *ahem*)

but what about on the ground? how do the greeks decide for whom to vote? according to their consciences or according to family ties? well, kinda-sorta both. here’s an account of a sticky voting situation in some local politics in meganisi (featured previously in this post) which pitted one man’s (babis’) brother (stathis) against his father-in-law (petros m.) [pg. 128]:

“[S]ince kinship could not be discounted, Nikos and his family were quite literally placed in a genealogical double bind. The person in the most invidious position was of course Babis, who had to choose between his brother and his wife’s father. I do not know on what grounds he based his choice, though I suspect they were ones of political conviction. At all events, he opted for his father-in-law and quite decisively. But if Babis’s dilemma was resolved according to political convictions, this certainly did not prevent him from trying to further his cause through family connections. Indeed, he went the rounds of all his and Stathis’s relatives and advised them not to vote for his brother. In this he must have been quite successful, for, as Nikos later explained to me, though Stathis made a respectable showing, the votes he secured were all philika psiphismata (friendly votes) and not oikoyeneiaka psiphismata (family votes). In fact the family had ‘brought him down.’

“Needless to say, my host, Nikos, was himself caught up in these unfortunate events and, with the rest of the family, voted against his relative Stathis, and for his (more distant) relative, Petros M. The exception was Nikos’s wife, who voted for her brother Stathis, As Nikos explained, she could scarcely have done anything else — though, as he admitted, it did result in the embarassing oddity of a husband and wife voting differently. As for Nikos’s old mother, Stavroula, she simply voted for whom she was told — Petros M.

“Stathis himself was outraged by this family betrayal and went so far as to boycott Nikos’s kaphenio for several months. Nikos thus paid a price for his part in the family/antifamily pact — and it should be noted that the price itself was measurable in terms of the values of kinship: the loss of the patronage of his beloved kouniados [baptismal/marriage sponsor]. But the real interest of this episode lies in the fact that although it was clearly recognized that votes could be cast along family lines — hence Babis’s visiting of all his relatives; hence Nikos’s contrast between “friendly votes” and “family votes” — in the final analysis kinship was incapable of controlling the vote, and not because an appeal to kinship lacked persuasion or because individuals had their own political ideas, but because kinship itself [author’s emphasis] actually split the vote. Instead of providing the basis for corporate action, the very complexity and multiplicity of kinship connections meant that, politics aside, people’s loyalties were divided. Kinship could be appealed to; its weight could be thrown on the scales; but nothing resulted from it automatically. It might be expected that one would vote for a relative, but in the end one could only vote for the relative by whom one was most persuaded.”

so, close kinship did not entirely win the day — babis did not vote for his own brother, stathis, but rather for his father-in-law. however, babis and stathis’ sister, nikos’ wife, did vote for her brother. and although nikos didn’t vote for his brother-in-law, in voting for petros m. he was voting for a more distant relative.

but the expectation that family would vote for family was obviously there. stathis boycotted his brother-in-law’s establishment afterwards because he hadn’t voted for him. and the greeks have set phrases for distinguishing family votes (oikoyeneiaka psiphismata) from friendly votes (philika psiphismata)? well, that right there illustrates that liberal democracy is not working 100% in greece.

as the author describes it, all of the kinship ties in greece (from all of the inbreeding) means that corporate action is difficult. family looms large in greek politics — it is not a situation of community members voting for representatives — it is family members picking and choosing amongst family members to best represent — or to get them into a position from where they’ll be able to dole out favors to — other family members.

a lot of endogamy creates tribes, for which a liberal democratic system is anathema. but even a lesser amount of endogamy seems to throw up hindrances to liberal democracy as the members of such a population are more focused on getting the best for their extended families, or even clans, rather than on what is best for all. obviously, other hbd traits, like the average iq and average personality type of a population, play huge roles in all of this. genetic relatedness and the consequent inclusive fitness-related drives and behaviors that influence the patterns of social behaviors within a society are simply another layer of biological factors to be considered when trying to understand human actions.

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

previously: “hard-won democracy” and cousin marriage conundrum addendum

update 11/25/11: see also the corporate nature of european societies and liberal democracy

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linkfest – 08/28/11

No Surprise for Bisexual Men: Report Indicates They Exist — see also: Scientific U-Turn: Male Bisexuality Is Real

The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight“The Misconception: You celebrate diversity and respect others’ points of view. The Truth: You are driven to create and form groups and then believe others are wrong just because they are others.”

Sex Differences in Scientific Knowledge – @the reluctant apostate.

Why boys bottle it up and girls can’t keep quiet: The different ways the sexes deal with problems“A study claims that most men, rather than being too inhibited to share their feelings, simply do not see the point of airing their woes.”

Harvard study says poverty doesn’t explain away low American math scores

What Determines A Company’s Performance? The Shape Of The CEO’s Face!“CEOs with wider faces, like Herb Kelleher, the former CEO of Southwest Airlines, have better-performing companies than CEOs like Dick Fuld, the long-faced final CEO of Lehman Brothers.”

The Shape of a Nose“Cold-weather noses may function differently from those that evolved in hot and humid climates”

Prone to flu? Just blame it on your genes… scientists discover that some of us can resist the bug

Birthweight link to lifelong health“If crucial genes are not switched on during foetal development as they should be, that can permanently change the structure and function of an unborn baby for life.”

El Nino Weather Cycle Boosts Civil War Risks – @futurepundit.

Older Brains Better At Longer Term Strategy Games? – also @futurepundit.

bonus: London’s Burning: Is Bootcamp the Solution?“Are the London riots a moral or a tribal issue?”

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what’s missing from “the tribal imagination”

inclusive fitness.

well, it’s not exactly absent entirely from the book — for instance, fox does talk about some inclusive fitness-related things like how the laws in many traditional societies regarding revenge for the killing of family members closely match what you would expect if you had run some calculations from an inclusive fitness p.o.v. [pg. 44]. but he does seem to be missing out on a couple of subtler points related to inclusive fitness, mating patterns and human societies.

for one, like i said in a previous post, i don’t think fox is correct in saying that democracy (of the universal, parliamentary sort) is unnatural to humans. sure it is uncommon — wildly uncommon in fact. but that’s only because in most human societies in most times in most parts of the world, people have been inbreeding — inbreeding at levels at which democracy just doesn’t work. in fact, it prolly didn’t even occur to them to try.

on the other hand, in the area of the world where humans, curiously, quit inbreeding to any large extent, democracy and ideas like universalism flourished (relatively speaking). that’s because the degree of genetic relatedness within european populations changed. as steve sailer put it:

“The resulting broad but shallow regional blood ties help explain why Western cultures were able to organize politically on a territorial basis without always being looted by self-interested clans.”

broad but shallow regional blood ties. that’s something that fox seems to be overlooking (at least in his book): that democracy, universalism, etc. — all the things that makes western society what it is — are enabled by our broad but shallow regional blood ties AND, therefore, that inclusive fitness is still in play. it hasn’t gone away. it’s just operating in a different sort of environment — not one of clans and tribes but one of individuals and (up until recently) nuclear families.

fox seems to think inclusive fitness applies more to inbred societies [pg. 53]:

“Thus rights involving inclusive fitness are more likely to be respected currently in fundamentalist Islamic societies than in Western democracies.”

well that’s because, of course, people are more inbred in most islamic societies and so they are more driven to support fellow family and clan members. however, in the west, europeans and their decendents are driven to support EVERYBODY in a universal fashion — because of the broad but shallow regional blood ties. it’s still inclusive fitness we’re talking about here. it’s just that the shared genes in other individuals that we are driven to aid are spread out across a wider population. (although those drives are arguably getting misapplied when european peoples want to include very unrelated peoples in their universalism. but evolved behaviors know no logic, so … oops.)

i guess what i’m trying to say is that i get the impression that fox views inclusive fitness more as just kin selection rather than a concept that needs to be applied in all directions and to be considered in light of all degrees of inbreeding. maybe i’m wrong about that, but that’s what i get from my reading (so far) of “The Tribal Imagination.”

the other subtle point that’s missing from the book is the fact that not all groupings of family members — like grandfathers-grandsons — share the same coefficients of relatedness. this is due to the differential inheritance of the sex chromosomes (x and y). so, in the case of grandfathers-grandsons, because of the way the x and y chromosomes are inherited, maternal grandfathers are more related, on average, to their grandsons than paternal grandfathers are. (actually, fox did mention the differential inheritance of the sex chromosomes at one point in the book, but afaics he seems to have gotten the inheritance pattern wrong — unless i’m mistaken. in any case, he doesn’t follow through to work out the social, inclusive fitness implications of these differences.)

so what? well, these inheritance patterns seem to matter in an inclusive fitness sort-of way. on average, family members who share more genes are more altruistic towards one another.

what implications should this have for human societies at large? well, if a society practices a certain type of inbreeding — say father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage (like many muslim societies today) — then the coefficients of relatedness will become amplified in certain ways throughout extended families and clans.

in other words, not all inbred societies are created equal.

anthropologists like fox have noted that different marriage patterns result in societies with differing characteristics — fbd marriage gets you societies with warring, segmented clans while societies with mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage are characterized by clans with broader, external alliances. but what about the behaviors of clan members toward one another as considered from an inclusive fitness p.o.v. given that the degrees of relatedness between the members is different? (some day i’ll finish calculating those coefficients of relatedness, i promise!) you would think that the attitudes toward family members and drives toward altruism and other social behaviors would be different under different marriage patterns. fox didn’t discuss that in “The Tribal Imagination.” i was hoping he would. *sigh*

those are my only complaints about “The Tribal Imagination.” otherwise, it’s a terrific read and i recommend it to all!

previously: what else i did on my summer vacation and “the tribal imagination” and “hard-won democracy”

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“the tribal imagination”

so, i’m still reading robin fox‘s “the tribal imagination” (reviewed in the american interest here). it always takes me forever to finish a book ’cause i’m always reading about a dozen at the one time (bad habit — impatient) — and then there’s all the knitting and baking projects that need to be done, too (you think i’m kidding, right? i’m serious!).

if you remember, i read chapter 3 first (another bad habit) and i talked about that, and chapter 1, here. lemme go back, now, and look at the other chapters i’ve read (i’m reading them in order now!).

first of all, maybe i should say that when fox uses the word “tribes” in this book he’s referring broadly to pre-modern groups of people. he’s not, necessarily, talking about alliances of clans or any more specific definition of the word. he’s just looking at — yeah — groups of people as we were before we lived in any sort of civilization or state. more-or-less. he does sometimes bring up modern tribes, too, though.

anyway…

chapter 2 is about “human rights.” i liked chapter 2. chapter 2 was good. in it, fox takes a look at what we mean by “human rights” and if any such class of things actually exists in the known universe(s) — like, independently of us making it up. he comes pretty close to saying, no — “human rights” or “rights” don’t exist in nature, altho he hedges a bit by saying that, perhaps, there is a right to participate in reproduction.

meh.

i, myself, like to go all the way with this one and have simply concluded (a while ago) that there are no “rights” in life and whatever actions or activities our drives are inclining us to do — well, you just gotta fight for the “right” to do them. sometimes the fight is easy, or there is no fight at all, ’cause everyone more-or-less agrees that, for instance, we won’t just all go around murdering each other all the time. modern humans are kinda silly in claiming that this is because we all believe in everyone’s “right to life” when it’s really just a behavior that has, obviously, been selected for ’cause it works. on the other hand, some “human rights” might be hard to come by, depending on the circumstances. i dunno — the “human (or, maybe, political) right” for everyone to participate in elections. doesn’t come so easy in all places in all times. (and maybe that’s not such a bad thing.)

chapter 4 was also really interesting. it’s entitled: “Sects and Evolution: Tribal Splits and Creedal Schisms.” in this chapter, fox takes a look at the existence of thousands and thousands of religious sects (iirc, 34,000+ christian ones alone, for example) — and he also, amusingly, examines academic sects — and points out that, principally — biologically — the academic sects are no different than the religious ones. heh. here’s a great quote [pgs. 109-110]:

“The school is to the academy, what the sect is to religion. Functionally it is the same thing, and demands the same explanation. In the modern setting of science, with many large research universities, the opportunities for sect formation are almost too tempting. Potentially every department is its own sect, with tenure and grants and lavish resources to fund the prophet and his followers. And it is perhaps remarkable [no it’s not – hbd chick] that despite the influx of women into the universities, almost all the prophets are still men.

“A modern pioneer of ideological dispersal gets his PhD, moves to a new department, sets up his school with the proper flourish of ritual publications, and starts to attract disciples — graduate students — and to disperse them in turn. As Englels fortold, modern communication, now instant with e-mail, texting, and social networking sites, enables the disciples to stay in close touch despite physical dispersal, and this may well prolong the life of scientific sects. Or it may just facilitate great segmentation; we shall have to see how this turns out. But there are several distinct requirements for the process. The prophet has to make certain promises, the main one being novelty. The old prophet could preach a return to ancient and pure ways, but his progressive counterpart has to declare something new. What use is there in science for anything old; it is ipso facto out of date, which is the worst of scientific sins. Try to get graduate students to read anything more than five years old. To do so give them genuine physical pain.

“Thus we find novelty paraded in book titles: ‘Evolution: The Modern Synthesis;’ ‘Sociobiology: The New Synthesis;’ ‘Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind;’ ‘Evolutionary Psychiatry: A New Beginning.’ (Remember that these remarks were first addressed to a meeting of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.) Very often this newness is simply a reinvention of the wheel, redefined by the prophets as a ‘circular motion-facilitation device’ (or ‘standard social science model,’ or for that matter, ‘meme’). No matter: the claim must be made. The sectarians then go to work on the prophet’s new list of normal science problems, reading only each other’s publications and citing only each other, thus maintaining the purity of sect doctrine. The exception to the ‘nothing older than five years’ rule is the ritual citation, in every paper, of the canonical works of the founders. That these citations are mostly ritual can be seen in the case of the original work of William Hamilton, where early on a mistake occurred in the cited pagination, and this has been faithfully repeated by the disciples down to the very present. Nevertheless, the names and works must be ritually intoned: In the name of Williams, and of Hamilton, and of Robert Trivers, Amen.”

ha! i have to say, i lol’d at that last sentence there. (^_^)

fox explains all this sectarianism that pops up everywhere in human societies by claiming that this is a reflection of a basic biological urge (really basic — like, microscopic organisms even do it) to disperse. sexually reproducing organisms are, apparently, particularly prone to it ’cause the whole point (maybe?) of sexual reproduction is to get, or increase, the genetic variation — and that will work even better if at least some members of the population disperse elsewhere. altho it makes sense to me, i’m not so familiar with this topic so i can’t really comment on it. further reading for another summer vacation maybe. i like his theory, tho, ’cause it’s pretty reductionist, and i like reductionism. ’cause reductionism works (often).

chapter 5 — “Which Ten Commandements?: Tribal Taboo and Priestly Morality” — kinda lost me, even though it was also interesting. fox examined at length the two sets of the ten commandments in the old testament (who knew?! i didn’t.) and how that whole scenario came about. one — the set most of us (christians) are prolly most familiar with — is the set from the movies (here and here) and is a set of moral codes; the other is, apparently, a set of ritual codes. fox argues that the ritual codes were the earlier version that were later replaced by the moral code version.

part of the reason for the initial ritual codes, he claims, was to keep the early hebrew tribes distinct from other tribes in canaan, i.e. you shouldn’t cook the meat of a calf in its mother’s milk, like those other tribes do. iow, these ritual codes were a cultural method of keeping the hebrew tribes hebrew. pretty straightforward stuff — most peoples have cultural rules (norms) to keep them separated from unrelated peoples. that’s (usually) one of the main points of having a culture, after all. fox says that the moral codes were later inserted into the old testament at a time when the hebrews started living in a larger community — when it became more important to not kill your neighbor rather than to be concerned about cooking meat in milk.

i think those were the major points of that chapter, altho i have to admit that it wasn’t the most gripping chapter for me. interesting, but not profoundly so. your mileage may vary.

and … that’s as far as i got when i got distracted by cavalli-sforza, et. al., and inbreeding in italy. (^_^) i’ll (try to) get back to reading fox now. and, of course, i’m also still “reading” todd … and mitterauer … and jack goody … and, omg, i have to start knitting christmas presents!!

previously: what else i did on my summer vacation

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