Thursday, June 19, 2014

The centurion made me do it

From Jayman's post a few weeks ago chastising those who offer pet issue(s) psychoanalysis every time a tragedy with high visibility dominates a few days' worth of news cycles:
This should make clear the foolhardiness of trying to identify causal factors – especially those from life experience – that are responsible for any given individual’s behavior.
Jayman is a vociferous proponent of the importance of heredity and the correspondingly diminutive influence external environmental factors have on real world outcomes. That's what the data show, and that presumption wields Occam's Razor a lot more deftly than do all the modern epicycles that are applied (countless inconsistencies notwithstanding) in describing so many aspects of society.

It's important to keep in mind, though, that it isn't quite the whole story. There are threshold requirements--things that are necessary but not sufficient for realizing full potential--like nutritional sufficiencies, avoidance of severe physical injuries and avoidance of severely limited access to peers or exposure to language, etc.

Environmental factors need not only play a role by way of deprivation, either. After blazing a trail of destruction from modern Norfolk through to London, Boudica's bands upon bands of warriors, greatly outnumbering the Paulinus' single legion and its auxiliaries, were cut to pieces in the face of organized, disciplined Roman resistance. The ancient historian Cassius Dio:
Thereupon the armies approached each other, the barbarians with much shouting mingled with menacing battle-songs, but the Romans silently and in order until they came within a javelin's throw of the enemy. Then... they rushed forward and hit the enemy at full tilt so that at the clash they easily broke through the opposing line.
It's recorded that 80,000 Britons died in the battle; just 400 Romans did.

The legionaries' famous steely discipline might, I suppose, have a hereditary behavioral component, but the martial ethos and military culture of the Romans probably account for lion's share of their advantage at arms, and it wasn't as though Celts and Gauls adopted into the legions were markedly less efficient than their Roman counterparts--they just needed to be trained. Even if corporal punishment doesn't get results today, decimation did.

There is a point to harking back nearly two millenia, though, and it's this: The freer, more mobile a society is, the more intractable differences in behaviors and outcomes are going to be. Attempting to eradicate all the incorrigible Gaps by aspiring towards a level playing field (as the Establishment often does by word if not by deed) is a strategy doomed to failure. In fact it'll only accentuate those gaps, not reduce them. It's easier to find truly behavioralist explanations in the past (and outside the WEIRD world) than it is in the present, and it'll be even more so in the future. Liberty and equality* are not complementary; indeed, to a large extent they're mutually exclusive.

Though most HBDers have the knowledge at hand to understand this, it's not always at the surface of their minds (it wasn't at mine until rather recently). It should be.

* Beyond isonomy and the conception of the spiritual, anyway

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Evolutionary Psychology is not given any credence, when it should.

There is no reason to go beyond the basics for why shooting and whatnot happen.

You take a man who is not getting sex, and he does what he has to to get sex. This can be expressed through working hard to gain status, such as getting a higher education, joining a gang, or senseless violence.

Elliot Rodger had no chance at sex through the normal social means, so he went barbarian mode. In the modern world, with advanced police techniques like 911 and radios and shotguns, he was fucked.

But male violence to get sex is never a phenomenon. He in no way stands out. He can get in line with terrorists, gangsters, soldiers, police, anyone who uses violence rather than resource acquisition/provisioning to gain status and mates (though one can use violence to acquire resources, violence is often enough by itself).

There is no theory of mind that applies. It is genetic, in that he is a male doing what males do when times are hard and there is no prospect of passing on one's genes. Elliot threw a last ditch hail mary and failed and turned out to be a dead end. Some times guys like him succeed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rape_of_the_Sabine_Women)

Antiga said...

Yes, you can not have equality of outcome except by an unfree society. Reminds me of Harrison Bergeron. And the notion environmental influences don't matter at all is of course patently absurd.

Audacious Epigone said...

Harrison Bergeron summary for the unfamiliar.

JayMan said...

Gotta clear some things up:

"There are threshold requirements--things that are necessary but not sufficient for realizing full potential--like nutritional sufficiencies, avoidance of severe physical injuries and avoidance of severely limited access to peers or exposure to language, etc."

True.

"Environmental factors need not only play a role by way of deprivation, either. After blazing a trail of destruction from modern Norfolk through to London, Boudica's bands upon bands of warriors, greatly outnumbering the Paulinus' single legion and its auxiliaries, were cut to pieces in the face of organized, disciplined Roman resistance....
The legionaries' famous steely discipline might, I suppose, have a hereditary behavioral component, but the martial ethos and military culture of the Romans probably account for lion's share of their advantage at arms, and it wasn't as though Celts and Gauls adopted into the legions were markedly less efficient than their Roman counterparts--they just needed to be trained."


That actually isn't a good example, and in a way, this excellently highlights a key problem in the way people think about heredity. As the venerable HBD Chick would put it, where do "martial ethos and military culture" come from? Genes reach into every aspect of behavioral differences, between individuals and between groups. Sure, one could argue that a person doesn't step onto a basketball court after coming from the darkest depths of New Guinea and become an instant star – he needs training and practice – but both the sport itself and one's ultimate proficiency in it have to come from somewhere.

This illustrates something important: isolating environmental factors that impinge on behavioral outcomes is very difficult. The problem is the genetic confound is always present.

In the case of my post on the Elliot Rodger shooting, I think people are greatly misunderstanding what I'm saying there. I'm not saying that Rodger's genetic makeup would have compelled him to be a killer no matter what, I am saying that, because of heredity, among many other things, it's impossible to isolate causal factors in his behavior, or for that matter the behavior of any one individual. Any such musing is just unsubstantiated speculation.

OK, now these said, yes, indeed, the point that heritable differences are real and affect every aspect of our lives and the traits of society is under-appreciated, especially in the Western world. In fact, that was Misdreavus's point, as captured in this recent post:

Neocons, Libertarians, and Economists – Misdreavus on These Mixed Nuts | JayMan's Blog

Audacious Epigone said...

Jayman,

The Gauls, Britons, and Dacians all had militaristic cultures, arguably more focused on the martial than the Romans. The Romans still kicked their butts. But once members of these 'pacified' groups were adopted into the legions in varying degrees, they became effective Romans as well. They, too, became more afraid of their commanding officers than of their enemies.

There is a line of thinking that posits the inclusion and increasing reliance on auxiliaries, cavalry, and non-Italian legionnaires was a cause of the empire's decline, so maybe they weren't on par with the Italians on the personality essentials (the Romans were physically smaller than the northern tribes, so it wasn't brute size/strength), but I'm unaware of any serious argument being put forward on those particular lines--the issue is on the obvious one, loyalty.

szopeno said...

I am in the mood for pure speculation, so...

A culture is an effect of the people.
Other people can most likely be raised in such culture to resemble original people.
The question is whether they will be able to sustain that culture.

I guess that if there is few "new" people, they, in time, will adapt, i.e. as each culture selects for something, new people will be selected for being compatible with that culture. There will be enough "old" people to sustain the culture. If, OTOH, there will be too many "new" people, they will change the culture before the culture will change them.

Audacious Epigone said...

Szopeno,

It sounds like a plausible enough approximation for the fall of the western Roman Empire.

EC said...

The freer, more mobile a society is, the more intractable differences in behaviors and outcomes are going to be.

Not necessarily. The Nordic nations contradict this. Sweden, Norway etc etc all rank high in various international scales of freedom, mobility and democracy and they do not have any massive wide swings in outcomes or behaviors for their populations.


This illustrates something important: isolating environmental factors that impinge on behavioral outcomes is very difficult. The problem is the genetic confound is always present.

Not necessarily either. In fact it can be fairly easy. Peoples who are in the environment as nomads for example, tend to develop, at various times and places, aggressive "hit and run" type raiding warfare, compared to more settled peoples. Does this mean 100% of all nomads, in 100% of all locations? Of course not, the point is that the pattern is there in nomadic peoples from American Indian tribes, to Zulu cattle raiders. And in the reverse isolating genetic factors as some automatic cause of a behavior can be quite difficult as well. Are high testosterone levels for example responsible for the mass warfare of some peoples? Asians are documented to have lower testosterone than either whites or blacks, yet they produced some of the most devastating mass warfare in history- with body counts in the millions.

And the genetic confound has its environmental counterpart, for that too is always present, with the two interacting in ways often unknown.