Friday, July 06, 2007

Article, ruminations on human biodiversity

Steve Sailer points to an interesting article in Psychology Today by Alan Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa stating ten un-PC observations. It deals with a broad topic--human biodiversity from an evolutionary perspective--that is as intriguing as it is off-limits by the the Zero Group Differences Thought Police. Notice that the article is the most emailed and the most popular one of the day. Some of the assertions, most notably that Islam has almost nothing to do with suicide bombing, are themselves quite PC, but it is a quick and thought-provoking read.

I'd like to have seen two of the most conspicuous 'hot button' social issues that have clear evolutionary explanations discussed. Discomfort with homosexuality, especially among males, is a natural predilection. Not surprisingly, opposition to same-sex marriage is strong. Gay men are about one-fifth as fecund as their heterosexual counterparts. There is scarcely anything worse for reproductive fitness. Whether or not homosexuality is genetic (seems it should've been weeded out) or caused by a bacterial infection is irrelevant to the issue of the discomfort others have with it.

Like homosexuality, opposition to abortion increases as one gets closer to home. Many people are comfortable with choice at the political level, but are deadset against family members or a spouse ending a pregnancy. Having your own children is paramount, but better for you if your sister has them over someone of more distant relation.

In addition to my speculation on several phenomena an evolutionary perpective helps inform, an admonition to open border leftists: Increased multiculturalism is going to make people less inclined to support welfare entitlement policies.

Lilywhite Scandanavian nations are examples of societies that can (or could) shoulder the entitlement burden and still function well. Islamic immigration is threatening this in Europe, and the same trend can be seen in the US, where whites (who create the wealth that is to be transferred) vote more strongly Republican in more demographically diverse states. Folks from Minnesota and Vermont are more likely to see welfare as a way to help those who've fallen on hard times, something that might happen to them at some point in the future, than whites from Mississippi, who view welfare as a method of extracting resources from their families to bankroll a black community that terrorizes them.

A couple of other candidates for a follow-up of the aforementioned article: Active old fogies live longer than their sedentary counterparts do. With procreative potential gone, many of the elderly have served their purpose. Why sustain the deadweight loss by allowing them to continue consuming the group's limited resources? However, continued high caloric expenditure signals a continued value to the clan--in the form of hunting, taking care of children, farming, etc.

Children of divorced parents have less trouble adjusting to mom remarrying than they do to dad's remarriage. A stepdad means more resources and greater security. A stepmom means less of these. If mom remarries, dad will continue providing, while the newly-added step-dad will begin providing as well. If dad remarries, though, his resources are suddenly split between the offspring of his first family and those who are on the way.

White babies are hot commodities on the adoption bloc in the US. Their availability is scarce, even though most babies given up for adoption are white. Steve's definition of race as a partially-inbred extended family is the pertinent explanation here. The closer the kin, the more attractive taking him in becomes. That becomes obvious when you think of how many adoptions are among members of an extended family (daughter giving her child to her parents, an aunt and uncle taking in their nephew, etc).

Conservatives are happier than liberals. Their understanding of the world is more attuned to reality. Consequently, they are more skeptical of the viability of plans (or government policies) to change the world. And so they are less likely to be disappointed when some half-baked quixotic scheme to save the world fails. Idealistic liberals experience a larger gap between what they'd like the world to become and what it actually is. That's not a recipe for happiness, yet pursuing happiness is an important driver in human affairs. Conservatives are also more likely to see raising a family as their raison d'etre. Not surprisingly, this ultimate act of reproductive fitness is rewarded with greater happiness.

As people age, they become more conservative. During youth, ideological ambition makes sense. Push the envelope, take chances, make bold claims, try to realize the impossible--anything that might help you snag a mate. Young women, unsure of their future prospects and in search of a provider, are more attracted to the one who has the big ideas that will hopefully translate to a big payday in the future. But once the mating game has run its course, the focus turns to ensuring the results of that game have the best chance of making it. You're not talking about building the car anymore. You're concerned with maintaining it. Risk-aversion makes sense--why gamble with what will work if the downside is the sufferance of children?

A few critical questions and comments on the assertions made in the article follow.

Generally, why are men hostile toward their sisters' suitors? Is it similar to the skepticism of a father, who attempts to insure that a reliable provider is chosen, or is there some incestuous explanation?

Our naturally selected impulses are not astute enough to avoid falling for imposters:
Women's desire to look like Barbie—young with small waist, large breasts, long blond hair, and blue eyes—is a direct, realistic, and sensible response to the desire of men to mate with women who look like her. There is evolutionary logic behind each of these features. ...

The irony is that none of the above is true any longer. Through face-lifts, wigs, liposuction, surgical breast augmentation, hair dye, and color contact lenses, any woman, regardless of age, can have many of the key features that define ideal female beauty. And men fall for them. Men can cognitively understand that many blond women with firm, large breasts are not actually 15 years old, but they still find them attractive because their evolved psychological mechanisms are fooled by modern inventions that did not exist in the ancestral environment.
I see this as an argument in favor of judicious social engineering. Just as in inactive modern socities of plenty we need artificial intervention to overcome our struggle with obesity and we need fantastical avenues to channel our innate competitive tendencies (video games and organized sports) to relieve the stress of the cubicle culture we've not evolved for so that we don't end up going postal, so do we need population strategies that compensate for the failings of our natural inclinations.

Among those to advocate for: Allowing men and women to be compensated for producing desirable children for adoption. We already allow it for sperm and egg donation; Making regressive tax credits like the child tax credit and the EITC progressive; Disallowing medical insurance coverage for cosmetic surgeries; and Instituting a merit-immigration program that admits potential applicants based on how they fare on a battery of evaluative tools (occupation, physical health, age, means, IQ, etc).

The authors on civilization as man's way of impressing women:
Women often say no to men. Men have had to conquer foreign lands, win battles and wars, compose symphonies, author books, write sonnets, paint cathedral ceilings, make scientific discoveries, play in rock bands, and write new computer software in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them. Men have built (and destroyed) civilization in order to impress women, so that they might say yes.

Why did humans diverge from the way of the chimp? In chimpanzee communities, the social hierarchy places the bottom-feeding male above the alpha female. If a higher-ranking male allows it, even the lowest ranking male may mate with the highest-ranking female. If she refuses, he will beat her until she submits.

Perhaps the explanation is similar to why, despite being advantageous for males at the top (who make the decisions) and most females, polygynous societies have become history's losers (at this point in time, see below). Leveraging male competition by putting the ball in the female's court is a constructive way to build a civilization. In scambling for ways to be ever-greater providers, males have an incentive to increase the scale of wealth-producing activities. Specialization and economies of scale, two key ingredients in modern societies, are not imperative in polygynous societies, which are more localized (and therefore each member's activities are more generalized).

That leads to a quandary of the modern society. As female power relative to male power increases, so does its size and scope. The ecumenicism of the empowered West is contrasted to the localization of the 'misogynistic' Hmong, Amerindians, or various groups of sub-Saharan Africans. Yet the conciliatory outlook that a more feminized society creates makes it increasingly vulnerable to the aggression of male-dominated societies. European nations refuse to stop immigration from North Africa and the Middle East, Australia from the South Pacific, and the US from Latin America.

Will the patriarchal societies win? Demographic patterns certainly suggest that they will. Like belief in the inherent optimality of the free movement of people and things or in the triumph of tolerance as the highest virtue, the belief in the superiority of a genderless society struggles in the face of the facts on the ground. All of these are enticing in theory, and if all societies engaged equally in them, they'd probably be unsurpassed, but competitive evolutionary pressures create a game-theory effect. Keep in mind that all three of the grand ideals above are very novel in the human story. The question of their sustainability is still up in the air.


JSBolton said...

Increments in diversity tend to make transfer payments less popular with the majority, but a divided society has less ability to use non-compulsory means of taking care of failures, and becomes more disabled in that way, as the diversity increases. Conflicts increase and compulsion spreads, even as the people become less trustful of their officials; so the power-greedy of the left are sniggering at such advice. Power, not harmony and cooperation in the succoring of the poor, is what they're in it for.

al fin said...

Self defeating trends such as forced diversity should have a negative feedback mechanism built in--but they don't. Just the opposite. As you and JSB describe it, diversity itself is a positive feedback system via its self-induced dysfunctionality. In other words, it can't be stopped except by extraordinary means.

But it can be "controlled" more or less, by bumbling government. So as always, the more government intervenes, the more you need the government to keep things from falling apart. They're here to help us, after all.

Audacious Epigone said...


It is at times a struggle to juggle abstract philosophical thought. My level of raw intelligence just comes up short. But this is one of those instances that your perspective is perfectly understandable and hard to dispute.


I read Charles Murray's What it Means to be a Libertarian a few weeks back--he devotes quite a lot of attention to the trend among the American public that has increasingly come to see government as an obstructionary force to be tolerated. It had historically been seen (at least since the beginning of the 20th Century) as an ally. You're being sardonic in your second paragraph, but you're right.

JSBolton said...

Thank you, but you're putting more than enough intelligence into it; what's lacking is suspicion and willingness to refuse to give the assumption of good faith.
Power-seekers are always vulnerable to those who take their fake benevolence at face value.
What, you don't really want to help the poor and promote solidarity and social cohesion? Oh yes, of course that's what everyone wants, and the class war too!
Pro-diversity as a positive feedback mechanism towards ever-increasing conflict:
yes, and when one mode of increasing diversity for conflict generation, proves inadequate, a new one is searched for. If the class war fizzles, it's try for a race or ethnic war, then a war of religion, then a combination of all of the above, but always try for whatever it takes to get dictatorship established, by increments, each of which can be gotten away with by themselves.

JSBolton said...

When the bolsheviks took over in Russia, one of their first moves was to destroy or take over insurance companies, private charities of all kinds, churches and so on.
This would explain some power-seekers' pro-diversity enthusiasm, insofar as increasing diversity tends to destroy non-compulsory cooperation.
The idea would be to make it harder and harder for people to cooperate without compulsion from a figure of power.
One part seems as if it couldn't be much clearer:
pro-diversity is not ever going to be motivated by a wish for less division in society.

Anonymous said...

Married people and religious people are especially disposed to happiness

The fact that the religious are happier disproves your airheaded assumption that conservatives are happier because they're more attuned to reality.

Religious persons dispose of a wide set of metaphysical beliefs and consolations (which, in the case of Christians at least, is not only not founded on reason, but it is direct contradiction to it) that can make difficult situations less unbearable.

Thus, conservatives and religious persons are not happier because they're more attuned to reality, but because they are more able to distort it, and make it artificially more beautiful and bearable. They are less attuned to reality.