family honor, honor killings, and family likeness

something greying wanderer said recently (thanks, grey!)…

I think at a bare minimum there’ll be family resemblance which on average ought to be increased by inbreeding through linkage effects. I’m not sure if that’s generally accepted or not?”

…got me to thinking about family honor, honor killings, and family likeness.

first of all, family honor: i haven’t done a systematic study of it yet, but all indications are that family honor is more important — oftentimes much more important — in long-term inbreeding societies than long-term outbreeding ones. family honor expresses itself in behaviors like feuding and honor killings. many of the usual suspects are included here (from wikipedia):

– the middle east – noted example, the bedouins
– turkey
– south asia: afghanistan, pakistan, and india
– china and japan: not so much honor killings as not disgracing the family by failing your exams!
– europe: the mediterranean region – “In Italy, infidelity of women was seen dishonorable, thus crimes of passion were classified as second-degree murders until 1970s.” (from here.)
– the old south (u.s.a.)
– hispanic cultures – including brazil.

and about honor in northern european societies (from here – my emphasis):

“[I]n Northern Europe it has a more individualized meaning that is focused on personal accomplishments and qualities.”


anyway, so i think it’s pretty safe to bet that family honor issues go together, for whatever reasons (i have my own ideas on the matter, of course), with long-term inbreeding. we’ve seen before that honor killings really seem to be connected to father’s brother’s daughter’s (fbd) marriage, which is mostly practiced in the arab world/north africa/middle east/parts of south asia and which pushes towards greater degrees of inbreeding (than other forms of cousin marriage).

what about family likeness then? do the members of long-term inbreeding families look more like one another, on average, than the members of long-term outbreeding families? do they share more personality traits with one another? do they behave, on average, more like one another? i don’t know — and i don’t know of any research looking into these questions (anybody?).

remember the ghoul family though (hope they’re ok! =/ ) and how similar the brothers look to one another?:

ghoul brothers

are they indicative at all of what you get with long-term inbreeding? i really don’t know.

but let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, that the members of long-term inbreeding families are more like one another on average than the members of outbreeding families, and that the likeness is not just in appearance but also in personality traits, behaviors, etc. perhaps this (if it’s true) might help explain honor killings.

family honor, at least with regard to honor killings, is a public thing. from what i’ve read — and i’m sorry that i don’t have any references at hand at the moment — honor killings usually happen when the trangression becomes publically known, or at least becomes known outside the immediate family. in societies where family honor is important, people don’t typically kill their errant daughters if they can keep their bad behavior a secret — that would be a waste of all the time and effort and money invested in raising her, and it obviously must be emotionally a very difficult thing to do (although maybe the family honor feelings over-ride that to some extent?).

honor killings are a sort of altruistic act, and i mean altruistic in the scientific meaning of the word (from here)…

“[A]ltruism refers to behaviour by an individual that increases the fitness of another individual while decreasing the fitness of the actor.”

…but in the case of honor killings, the altruistic behavior of the actor (the person who kills the daughter) doesn’t result in the decreasing of the actor’s own fitness, but, rather, the daughter’s (obviously). and, then, it’s the fitness of other members of the family that would be increased, namely any young family members who are of reproductive age or younger, since if the family honor is tarnished, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to get spouses for the other children. i half-jokingly referred to this before as “inclusive inclusive fitness” — you’re not sacrificing your own fitness to benefit another’s (whose genes you share), you’re sacrificing someone else’s — but you share a lot of genes with them, too, so in a way you are sacrificing the fitness of your own genes, just not those in your own person.

what if the underlying reason driving honor killings is because, in inbred societies, everybody knows from loooong experience that family members are really *very* like one another, so then, of course, you’d NEVER marry your kid to a member of THAT family because they had that one daughter who behaved very badly, and — conclusion — the rest of the family is probably like that, too?! maybe it’s crucial, then, for a family in an inbreeding society to distance itself from its badly behaving member by sacrificing her (and it usually is a her) in order to show the rest of society that the remaining members of the family do NOT condone the behavior and, implying, that they would never, EVER behave that way themselves.

don’t know. just an idea.

see also: Family honor and Cultures of honour and cultures of law

previously: father’s brother’s daughter marriage and why fbd marriage amounts to more inbreeding than mbd marriage and father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage and honor killings and inclusive inclusive fitness and mating patterns, family types, social structures, and selection pressures

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sex and “the other”

“the other” is a shapeless concept in anthropology/the social sciences which i never quite understood — prolly ’cause the anthropologists/social scientists don’t understand it themselves. it’s got something to do with how we react to people who are unlike ourselves somehow or in some way … different headdresses or tattoos or taste in music … or something like that. it might’ve been a useful concept if they’d looked at it from the p.o.v. of genetics, but they mostly didn’t so … never mind….


in light of the scandals in rotherham, i thought i’d take some time out from the regularly scheduled program to present a couple of very vague ideas i have related to sex and genetic relatedness between individuals/groups. i haven’t really thought through these ideas, so they’re very vague. don’t say i didn’t warn you. (also, could be that actual scientists have already thought through/done lots of research on all of these already and i’m not aware of it. if so, just ignore me.)

vague thought number one:

if the prime directive is to reproduce your genes (or at least those that would have an effect in this case) as much as possible, one tactic in achieving that goal might be to reduce how much your competitors — those individuals unrelated to you who don’t share your genes — manage to reproduce their genes. you could do that by a) killing them, and/or b) preventing them from reproducing in some other way.

one way to prevent “the other” guys from reproducing (so much) would be to mate as much as possible with, if you imagine two neighboring tribes, their usual mates. then, not only do you reduce the actual reproduction of “the other” guys’ genes, you also increase your own and spread your genes even that much further than you would’ve if you just stuck to the members of your own tribe. so it’s possible — possible — then that a special drive for mating with “the other” could’ve been something that was selected for ’cause it might’ve paid off.

however, you would think this would be a better strategy for men than for women since reproduction for human females is such a long, drawn-out, costly affair, whereas men can just spread their seed hither and thither without a care in the world. a drive for sex with “the other” might, then, be stronger in men than in women, and might even result in a certain amount of sexual coercion (to put it nicely) since the women don’t really want to engage in this sex with “the other” so much. and this coercion might be applied more often to unrelated/unlike females than to related/like females a la ghengis khan and his band of literal brothers sweeping across eurasia raping and pillaging wherever they went (that’d be one of the more extreme examples — extreme in terms of behaviors exhibited and in terms of success).

vague thought number two:

in my world of inbred populations, familial altruism rules the day because it pays more — inclusive fitness-wise — to be altruistic towards your family members, since you share an inordinate number of genes with them compared to non-family members. perhaps, too, in an inbred society it would also pay more to mate with “the other” (as described above) if and when you could since, in an inbred society, the different extended families/clans are less related to one another than families in an outbred society. by mating with your unrelated neighbor’s sister, you’re (heh) screwing him genetically more than a guy in an outbred society would do to his neighbor. in other words, perhaps a stronger drive to mate with “the other” could be selected for in inbred societies because the effect of “vague thought number one” would be amplified. (perhaps this is why peoples in the arab world/middle east cover their women up in burkas — for their own protection just like they often say!)

vague thought number three:

glenn daniel wilson has suggested that rape is/was a reproductive strategy of — i guess the gameboyz would call them beta males — guys who didn’t have access to females ’cause some alpha males had all or most of the access. maybe, then, the drive to rape is a response to polygamy. maybe. if so, that would certainly seem to fit the arab world and might explain why they are overly protective of their women (burkas, purdah). might even explain what happened in rotherham. i have to admit, i’m not 100% convinced by this one. i think it might be part of the explanation, but not the sole one.

vague thought number four:

i’ve been meaning to do a post on this, but just haven’t gotten around to it, so i’ll just tack it on here. sex drives and the hajnal line — something which jayman mentioned in the comments here.

you’ve probably all seen henry harpending and greg cochran’s recent (very cool!) discussions about fathers’ ages and mutation rates (most recent example here). my question, wrt the late marriage trend in western europe for both men and women, is: has there been any selection for behaviors related to these late marriages?

if — if — over the last few hundred years, those nw europeans who married (i.e. mated) at a later age were more successful at leaving their genes behind than those who married young, were certain behavioral traits related to this selected for? greater ability to delay gratification, for instance (in this case sexual gratification!)? relatively lower libido (“no sex, please, we’re british!” — see also monty python)? other traits i haven’t thought of?

like jayman said in his comment, in most of the world even today — and in many more parts up until very recently — a 14, 15, 16 year-old girl is/was considered very marriable/matable. maybe nw europeans feel that relatively less so. dunno.

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