Sunday, August 31, 2014

On A Troublesome Inheritance

An assortment of reactions and responses (calling it a review would be way too pretentious) to Nicholas Wade's A Troublesome Inheritance follow. First, a couple of minor quibbles:

- In the context of the eugenics movement in the US in the early 20th century, Wade equates "restrictive immigration laws" (p38) with the actions of state legislatures decreeing sterilization of the mentally infirm and the Supreme Court's decision in Buck v Bell, which allowed for "unwarranted assaults on the country's weakest citizens".

Immigration restrictionism, to the extent that it has as an objective of increasing human capital inside of the country, is only fairly described as potentially being about positive eugenics. State-mandated sterilization, on the other hand, is an example negative eugenics in practice. Positive eugenics are considerably less 'controversial' than negative eugenics are. Additionally, the implicit assertion that a nation's control over who is allowed inside its borders is as dicey as a nation's control over which of its citizens are allowed to breed, needs, at the least, a full explanation, of which Wade provides none.

- Wade asserts that in contemporary Western countries "the affluent now tend to have fewer children [than the poor do]" (p180). That may be overly pessimistic*, at least in the US.

Now, some inferred policy implications (how's that for audacity?):

- The more a society is characterized by paternal investment, the easier it is for that society to become (or maintain being) one of relatively higher trust. Paternal investment, which includes at its base identification and presence, has, by extension, an influence on the level of inbreeding in a society. Crassly, picture a scenario in the projects where paternal investment or even certainty is not a given. A child who does not know who his father is may end up mating with a relative he would not have otherwise mated with had he known previously that she was his cousin.

More importantly, however, pair-bonding creates a dynamic in which children are familiar not only with their maternal extended families but also with their paternal ones. When they enter the mating market, they then, by extension, become familiar with their in-laws. Their in-laws, of course, are people to whom they are not (outside of tribal societies) closely related to. The base of their social network is thus much wider than it would otherwise be. As Wade puts it, "Having a dad around makes all the difference to social networks" (p45).

When paternal investment is lacking, social networks shrink in size and trust declines. At the same time, the hole left by the absence of said investment must be filled by other suppliers, often the state. The state's role as surrogate father creates a relative material disincentive for future paternal investment, perpetuating a vicious cycle in which the decline of trust in society is but one consequence. Increasing diversity isn't the only reason we're hunkering down.

- There really is no place like home. Among contemporary European adults, 90% of people can be located to within 435 miles of where they were born, and 50% within 193 miles (p79). Among non-Europeans, the percentages are presumably even higher, and in the past these percentages were surely higher still. Feelings of homesickness and deracination experienced by those living far from where they grew up presumably has a genetic basis, and the American tendency towards migration across (and outside) the country can't be free of potentially problematic psychological consequences. Very few of our ancestors were rootless wanderers. 

In this vein, Dan's recent comment in response to the observation that empty nesters are at heightened 'risk' of experiencing boredom is worthy of reflection:
Empty nesting is a degenerate modern thing. The solution is to be engaged with one's clan so that raising kids blends smoothly into helping with grandkids.

For this you need enough descendants to begin with. My nearby parents have from one to all four of my kids over at their house on many days. There is massive mutual benefit.
You also need the geographic proximity to make it possible.

- I've whined about seemingly unnecessary semantic changes over time, one of which is the noun progression to identify people of African descent in the US from negro to black to African-American. Similar to Palestinians, Somalis, and Ethiopians (p94), blacks in the US are a mix of Caucasian and African--two of the three major racial classifications Wade favors, the third being East Asians. As "African" and "negro" are essentially interchangeable in this racial context, black is the most apt descriptor of the three since it identifies a primarily African but also Caucasian racial hybrid category (in much the same way the terms "mestizo" and "mulatto" do).

- "Language is often an isolating mechanism that deters intermarriage with neighboring groups" (p98). If one of the Cathedral's goals is biological assimilation between US natives and immigrants into the US, linguistic assimilation is a prerequisite. Yet the Cathedral has nothing but disdain for those who would have English as the official language of the land.

I suppose we could overcome these two contradictory goals by mastering every tongue now present in our New Babylon!

- How much more history of the ancient and medieval worlds can be told? Are we not at the point where all the major approaches have been exhausted, the consequence being that only niche narratives, like the history of facial hair, are left to be synthesized?

Emphatically, no. Wade explains why: "Each gene under selection will eventually tell a fascinating story about some historical stress to which the population was exposed and then adapted" (p105). The Byzantines didn't think of themselves as Byzantines, they thought of themselves as Romans. The term is a latter scholarly invention. We know said Byzantines were socially and culturally Roman. In the future, we'll know how biologically Roman (or not) they were, too.

- Wade rehashes Jared Diamond's principle argument for the nonexistence of race--that there are lots of contradictory ways of categorizing them, and many of the ways are incompatible with one another so therefore all racial categorizations are equally absurd (p117). Italians, Greeks and Nigerians carry genes for resistance against malaria while Swedes and Xhosas do not, for example. Wade demolishes this argument by stating the obvious fact that convergent evolution (though he doesn't employ the phrase) need not and in fact does not imply racial convergence.

Taking inspiration from the chickadee, lightning bolt fits well in both American control and RDW decks. The shared presence of lightning bolt in both builds, however, does not negate the fact that American control is firmly a member of the control family (ie, race) while RDW is a staple of the aggro family.

- Discussing economists' tendency to treat people everywhere as interchangeable units, Wade provides a zinger: "A few economists ... have begun to ask if the nature of the humble human units that produce and consume all of an economy's goods and services might possibly have some bearing on its performance" (p154/5). Hey Russ Roberts, I have a guest suggestion for you!

- In a perfect world, what came to be called "Social Darwinism" would have been called "Social Spencerism", after Herbert Spencer (p24), and human biodiversity would be called "Social Darwinism", since the association with a revered scientific celebrity would make it sound cool. It's not all bad, though--HBD has diversity, after all, and that's pretty hip in itself!

Relatedly, there's a sort of iridescent irony in the Cathedral's assertion that Darwin's ideas have nothing--Nothing!--to say about Malthus' England when Darwin's impetus for the idea of natural selection came from Malthus' "analysis that population was always kept in check by misery and vice" (p11).

- Writes Wade: "Interest rates, which reflect a society's time preferences, have been very high--about 10%--from the earliest historical times and for all societies before 1400AD for which there are data. Interest rates then entered a period of steady decline, reaching about 3% by 1850. Because inflation and other pressures on interest rates were largely absent, [Gregory] Clark argues, the falling interest rates indicate that people were becoming less impulsive, more patient and more willing to save" (p158).

So, to help get yourself get into the mind of a 14th century European commoner, think about the mentality and behavior of someone who takes out payday loans today.

* That society is better off if wealth and fertility are positively correlated should not be politically controversial. From the left's perspective, it means greater economic equality since the rich are spreading their inheritances across more people (and the poor across fewer, so what they are able to spend on and eventually bequeath to their children goes further than it would if they had more kids).

4 comments:

Matt Welke said...

http://anepigone.blogspot.com
http://assetsignals.com
http://assetsignals.net
http://binaryacademics.com
http://getbb.com
http://misterhighdef.com
http://spotfn.com
http://spotfn.es
http://spotfn.in
http://spotfn.de
http://777ecigs.com
http://beste-cigreviews.com
http://www.mahatmayoga.com
http://assetsignalsreview.com/
http://topdogdinners.com

JayMan said...

Interesting review. My comments:

"The more a society is characterized by paternal investment, the easier it is for that society to become (or maintain being) one of relatively higher trust. Paternal investment, which includes at its base identification and presence, has, by extension, an influence on the level of inbreeding in a society. Crassly, picture a scenario in the projects where paternal investment or even certainty is not a given. A child who does not know who his father is may end up mating with a relative he would not have otherwise mated with had he known previously that she was his cousin."

I don't think there's much relationship between paternal investment and inbreeding – and hence clannishness. Most of the clannish societies in the world (e.g. China, the Middle East) are fairly high paternal investment.

The only place where you might see this connection is sub-Saharan Africa, and HBD Chick's theory seems to breakdown a bit there (suggesting other forces are at work).

"In this vein, Dan's recent comment in response to the observation that empty nesters are at heightened 'risk' of experiencing boredom is worthy of reflection:
Empty nesting is a degenerate modern thing. The solution is to be engaged with one's clan so that raising kids blends smoothly into helping with grandkids."


It's an Anglo thing. Anglos are the most outbred of all the outbred people, and hence the most atomized. And as such, they behave accordingly – old parents are on their own. It would take several generations of inbreeding to reverse that.

"That society is better off if wealth and fertility are positively correlated should not be politically controversial. From the left's perspective, it means greater economic equality since the rich are spreading their inheritances across more people (and the poor across fewer, so what they are able to spend on and eventually bequeath to their children goes further than it would if they had more kids)."

Great way of putting it. But, you know it goes. It would require accepting a lot of other things...

Audacious Epigone said...

Jayman,

Ceteris paribus. I don't think it's likely to have near the amount of influence as consanguinity does--more that it's a plausible mechanism (the lack of paternal investment, that is) by which social trust in an outbred society will deteriorate over time.

Judging by divorce rates and sex differences in income, paternal investment was significantly higher in the US just 50 years ago than it is today, but the country has been quite outbred for longer than that.

As you mention, the contrast between sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East shows that it isn't determinative--the former has low paternal investment, the latter has higher. Though it's hard for me to see how paternal investment gets any higher than the intact nuclear family with a male breadwinner and female caretaker. I'm not sure of the best way to measure it, but I suspect that 1950s America was probably the zenith as far as human paternal investment is concerned, possibly in the entire history of the species.

Re: empty nesting, the US is less Anglo than Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Is it an even more pronounced phenomenon in those countries?

Anonymous said...

WRT to payday loans, low future time orientation is associated with low iq but not perfectly. I have often wondered how much of the Flynn Effect is actually a decline in time preference mistakenly interpreted as an increase in intelligence.