April 9, 2014

"The Germ Theory of Democracy"

From Pacific Standard:
The Germ Theory of Democracy, Dictatorship, and All Your Most Cherished Beliefs 
BY ETHAN WATTERS • 
... What kind of government do you live under? Who are your sexual partners? How do you treat strangers? All of these questions may mask a more fundamental one: What germs are you warding off? ...
Anyone with a basic grasp of biology knows that all animals have immune systems that battle pathogens—be they viruses, bacteria, parasites, or fungi—on the cellular level. And it’s also fairly well understood that animals sometimes exhibit outward behaviors that serve to ward off disease. Our moment-to-moment psychological reactions to the threat of illness, they suggest, have a huge cumulative effect on culture. 
Not only that—and here’s where [evolutionary biologist Randy] Thornhill’s theory really starts to fire the imagination—these deep interactions between local pathogens and human social evolution may explain many of the basic differences we observe between cultures. How does your culture behave toward strangers? What kind of government do you live under? Who are your sexual partners? What values do you share? All of these questions may mask a more fundamental one: What germs are you warding off?
The threat of disease is not uniform around the world. In general, higher, colder, and drier regions have fewer infectious diseases than warmer, wetter climates. To survive, people in this latter sort of terrain must withstand a higher degree of “pathogen stress.” Thornhill and his colleagues theorize that, over time, the pathogen stress endemic to a place tends to steer a culture in distinct ways. 
Research has long shown that people in tropical climates with high pathogen loads, for example, are more likely to develop a taste for spicy food, because certain compounds in these foods have antimicrobial properties. They are also prone to value physical attractiveness—a signal of health and “immunocompetence,” according to evolutionary theorists—more highly in mates than people living in cooler latitudes do.

Eh ... sex differences are being overlooked. Looking like Denzel Washington or David Robinson in West Africa is a good symptom that you have an excellent immune system, which you will hopefully leave to your children if you leave them nothing else. But looking like you're strong enough for a lifetime of hoeing the yam patch with the other mothers, because you can't expect that good looking, entertaining baby-daddy to do much providing, seems to be selected for in West African women. A strong back is not exactly what most people around the world visualize as "physical attractiveness" in women.
But the implications don’t stop there. According to the “pathogen stress theory of values,” the evolutionary case that Thornhill and his colleagues have put forward, our behavioral immune systems—our group responses to local disease threats—play a decisive role in shaping our various political systems, religions, and shared moral views. 
If they are right, Thornhill and his colleagues may be on their way to unlocking some of the most stubborn mysteries of human behavior. Their theory may help explain why authoritarian governments tend to persist in certain latitudes while democracies rise in others; why some cultures are xenophobic and others are relatively open to strangers; why certain peoples value equality and individuality while others prize hierarchical structures and strict adherence to tradition.

This seems more like a modern America list of Bad Things and Good Things with little regard for how they relate to actual backward cultures. Being Americans in 2014, we've been told over and over how Xenophobia Is Bad, so cultures that obviously have dysfunctions much be Xenophobic, right? Except ...

But, how about Japan? Healthy, long-lived, prosperous, low-crime, and xenophobic as all get out (just in their polite Japanese way).

In contrast, Africans, who suffer from a very high disease burden, are not terribly xenophobic. So, in colonial times, Africa was relatively easy for Europeans to conquer, especially as they got better at handling the disease burden. Opposition from Africans wasn't that huge of a problem for Europeans. Similarly, disease-ridden India was easy for Europeans to conquer.

Today, African countries routinely accept a million refugees from a civil war in a neighboring country. African tribes generally live much more intermingled with other tribes than in other parts of the world. Why? Until recently, most of Africa wasn't anywhere near it's Malthusian population density limits, so there wasn't all that much incentive to keep outsiders out. In general, Africans tended to worry about having too few people to protect against wild animals (which might explain why, while other cultures try to restrain sexual behavior, African culture generally tries to encourage it -- we need all the babies we can get.)

The real impact of high disease burden on African cultures was that it made urbanization difficult -- if too many people got too close together, the settlement could be wiped out by disease, so Africans tended to live in small villages spread out across the vast countryside, and seldom developed the specialized arts and crafts that urbanization allows.
What’s more, their work may offer a clear insight into how societies change. According to Thornhill’s findings, striking at the root of infectious disease threats is by far the most effective form of social engineering available to any would-be reformer.

Getting infectious diseases under control (e.g., Singapore v. Lagos) has all sorts of socially positive knock-on effects. Bill Gates puts lots of money into looking for a malaria vaccine because he understands this.
If you were looking for a paradigm-shifting theory about human behavior, step right up. “Once we started looking for evidence that pathogens shape culture,” Thornhill told me, “we began to find it in damn near every place we looked.” 
THORNHILL WAS STEERED TOWARD the topic of the human psychological reaction to disease in the early 2000s by a young graduate student advisee named Corey Fincher. Fincher had arrived at the University of New Mexico intending to study the mating behavior of rattlesnakes. After a time, however, he instead became curious about the evolutionary effects of disease on human cultural behavior—and particularly about the question of why cultures tend to fall along a spectrum between individualist and collectivist dispositions. 

This isn't really all that good a spectrum for thinking about success and failure in the modern world. Sure, England is pretty individualist and it's a nice place to live, but then Japan is notably collectivist by temperament and it's not too awful a place, either. In contrast, perhaps the most individualist culture in the world is the Pashtuns of Afghanistan-Pakistan, who downgrade even loyalty within the nuclear family. A charming Pathan saying is:
When the floodwaters reach your chin, put your son beneath your feet.

And Afghanistan is an awful place.

Pacific Standard continues:
Psychologists and other social scientists have long been curious about this robust difference between human populations. In strongly collectivist societies, group membership forms the foundation of one’s identity. Sacrificing for the common good and maintaining harmonious ties with family and kin are expected. By contrast, in strongly individualist societies like those of the United Kingdom, the U.S., Australia, and the Netherlands, individual rights are valued above duties to others. One’s identity does not derive from the group, but rather is built through personal actions and achievements. Although these differences have been confirmed by many cross-cultural studies in a variety of different ways, no one had come up with a convincing evolutionary theory to suggest why it would be advantageous for one group of people to become more collectivist and another group to become more individualist. 
Fincher suspected that many behaviors in collectivist cultures might be masks for behavioral immune responses. To take one key example, collectivist cultures tend to be both more xenophobic and more ethnocentric than individualist cultures.

Are Swedes more individualist or collectivist, more xenophobic or more ethnocentric? All of these concepts are extremely relativistic.
Keeping strangers away might be a valuable defense against foreign pathogens, Fincher thought.

Maybe. Andaman Islanders are very vulnerable to outside world diseases. The North Sentinel Andamans have stayed healthy, though, probably because they murder anybody who lands on their island.
And a strong preference for in-group mating might help maintain a community’s hereditary immunities to local disease strains. To test his hypothesis, Fincher set out to see whether places with heavier disease loads also tended toward these sorts of collectivist values. 
Working with Damian Murray and Mark Schaller, two psychologists from the University of British Columbia, and Thornhill, Fincher compared existing databases that rated cultural groups on the individualist-collectivist spectrum with data collected from the Global Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology Network and other sources. The team paid special attention to nine pathogens (including malaria, leprosy, dengue, typhus, and tuberculosis) that are detrimental to human reproductive fitness. What the team found was a strong correlation between collectivist values and places with high pathogen stress. In 2008, Fincher, Thornhill, Schaller, and Murray published a major paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B that laid out the connection. 

I critiqued one of these Thornhill papers in 2010.
Thornhill and Fincher found further evidence for the pathogen stress theory by looking at geographical regions that had not only severe disease stress but also a highly diverse patchwork of local pathogen populations. The critters that make us ill—not only the viruses and bacteria, but also the ticks, flies, and mosquitoes that spread them—are tiny and lack the ability to regulate their own heat as larger organisms do. They often flourish only in very narrow climatic zones, where they are adapted to certain temperature and moisture levels. As a result, pathogen threats can be highly localized. One study, for instance, found at least 124 genetically distinct strains of the parasite Leishmania braziliensis across Peru and Bolivia.

Interesting; in general, however, the worst diseases are spread by mosquitos, rats, and other mobile carriers. That way they can kill you quick and still spread. Diseases that spread human tend to mutate toward mildness so you can still drag yourself into work and sneeze on your coworkers. Falciparum malaria, carried by one particular type of mosquito, is probably the most significant disease in the world in terms of Darwinian selection. The anopheles mosquito gets around on its own, so the notion of local germs that never move seems unpersuasive.

Super localized germs will tend to get milder because they are in a long term symbiotic relationship with their hosts. The big killers tend to sweep in from another continent, like the Black Death arriving from Asia in 1347 or smallpox in the New World after 1492.

However, germs that are transported from person to person not by the person but by a mosquito or similar mobile vector can remain virulent for a long time. Gregory Cochran's hypothesis from the 1990s is that falciparum malaria, which is worst in West Africa, is such a huge Darwinian selective force that it will tend to select for:

A. Immune systems resistant to malaria
B. Visible clues in males of resistance to malaria, such as being a Big Man

If a higher percentage of selection among West Africans is devoted to selecting for traits associated with malaria-resistance, then less selection in West Africans can be devoted to other kinds of useful traits. In contrast, if the Swedes or Japanese don't have to worry as much about infectious diseases, they can select more for other traits. That seems pretty persuasive, so you don't hear much about it. (David Epstein vaguely alluded to it in The Sports Gene.)
If you were to live in such a pathogenically diverse place, you and your family would likely develop a resistance or immunity to your local parasites. But that defense might be useless if you were to move in with a group just a short distance away—or if a stranger, carrying a foreign pathogen load, were to insinuate himself into your clan. In such places, then, it would be important for neighboring groups to be able to tell the difference between “us” and “them.” 
With that thought in mind, Thornhill and his colleagues made a prediction: that regions with a balkanized landscape of localized parasites would in turn display a balkanized landscape of localized customs and conspicuous cultural differences among human populations—dialects, unique religious displays, distinctive art and music, and the like. While there is much more research to be done, early findings suggest that—particularly when it comes to the development of local languages and religions—pathogen stress does appear to spawn cultural diversity.

Perhaps, but causation could run the opposite way. Places where people don't get around much don't see much interchange of human pathogens.
A set of more cautious researchers would likely have circled the wagons after unveiling their theory and concentrated on building a body of evidence to defend their early claims. Having a novel explanation for why some cultures are collectivist while others are individualist would probably guarantee one’s place in social science lore. Thornhill and Fincher, however, didn’t stop for a breath. By the time the two published a major paper in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in 2012, they had marshaled evidence that severe pathogen stress leads to high levels of civil and ethnic warfare

And vice-versa -- the Spanish Flu of 1918 was spread in troop hospitals, and a lot of plagues in China seemed to follow the breakdown of public health measures during the breakdown of dynastic order.
increased rates of homicide and child maltreatment, patriarchal family structures, and social restrictions regarding women’s sexual behavior. Moreover, these pathogen-avoidant collectivist tendencies, they wrote, coalesce over time into repressive and autocratic governmental systems.

Eh, you know, highly disease prone tropical countries might pretend to have a a Grand Generalissimo with lots of shiny ribbons who makes all the decisions, but they actually tend to be lackadaisical and chaotic places.
Want to understand the rise of fascism, dictatorship, and ethnocentric campaigns that dehumanize outsiders? Look to the prevalence of pathogen threats.

Uh, no, not really. West Africa isn't much of a source of fascism.

Or it could be backwards: if you want to explain Nazis, note that disease burden in Germany was low and falling fast.
 

43 comments:

Karl said...

pathogens in general influence far more of daily life than is currently understood. The main reason is that a number of pathogens, specifically the eukaryotic fungi and protozoa (and even, to a lesser extent, the helminths) present a significant challenge for detection. Also mycobacteria which may play a role in so-called autoimmunity.

The first wave of new research was expected to find pathogens behind sexual activities including homosexuality (duh) but also other non-reproductive sexual acts generally. Autoimmune diseases, if sexuality research taboos prevail, is the other obvious area for inroads.

Broadly, pathogen related research is a major undeveloped field with monster potential to reshape the standard paradigm.

It's great to see you promote anything germ related, Steve.

Karl said...

Also, Steve, you've posted questions about the 'cause' of the 1960s... I expect the ultimate cause, while multfactorial will eventually reveal in research as pathogenic.

Free Love, communism/communalism, poor hygiene, recreational drugs that diminish immune function ... a million other circumstantial clues, the research will bear fruitully here.

Also toxic metal accumulation, chemicals and food quality degredaton, antibiotic use reaching a critical mass in the 1960s also contribute to bio-terrain changes that faciliate rise in low level, novel, transmissible and hard to detect pathogenic infections at this time.

Karl

Anonymous said...

In contrast, Africans, who suffer from a very high disease burden, are not terribly xenophobic. So, in colonial times, Africa was relatively easy for Europeans to conquer, especially as they got better at handling the disease burden. Opposition from Africans wasn't that huge of a problem for Europeans. Similarly, disease-ridden India was easy for Europeans to conquer.

You could argue the exact opposite from these examples though. In fact that's what Alfred Crosby does in his excellent book Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_Imperialism:_The_Biological_Expansion_of_Europe,_900-1900

Crosby argues that Europeans had trouble conquering and never were able to fully conquer India, Africa, and the Mideast during the Crusades because of those locales' pathogens which were a major burden on Europeans.

ben tillman said...

1. Thornhill has a mind of his own; he can think independently of PC dogma, as his work on rape demonstrates.

2. I agree with people like Paul Ewald that the germ theory is under-applied. Often it supplies the simplest explanation for a phenomenon.

Severin said...

The reason this research isn't fruitful is that yes cultures are responding to pathogens, but there are multiple successful ways to respond.

Anonymous said...

English (and Americans) are not really individualists. This is just national mythology. In reality, the Anglos are some of the biggest collectivists around. That's how they tend to create good, well functioning governments and good, well functioning militaries.

Steve Sailer said...

"You could argue the exact opposite from these examples though. Crosby argues that Europeans had trouble conquering and never were able to fully conquer India, Africa, and the Mideast during the Crusades because of those locales' pathogens which were a major burden on Europeans."

Right. In contrast, in conquering North America from the Indians, whites had the advantage that North America was healthy for them while the Indians were dying of Old World diseases. On the other hand, the American Indians, few as they were, were, per capita, a lot ornerier about getting conquered than were Asian Indians, and thus American Indians put up a decent fight, man for man, over 250 years.

sinking said...

"Our moment to moment psychological reactions to the threat of illness ... have a huge cumulative effect on culture."

Jesus I'm starting to feel dumb. Would commenters please tell me whether this is a respectable scientific statement? Is it belied, e.g., by the fact that gays were not slaughtered in the early '80's when it appeared they might carry an infectious agent? Does it ipso facto eliminate the probability that opposition to large-scale Mexican immigration is based on discomfort with crowding and with having to hear Spanish (or what passes for it)? Now that we live in a country in which every policy favored by the majority must be refused, and we're bound by thousands of rule promulgated by unelected officials,how does the writer decide that ours is a "democratic" polity rather than an "authoritaria" one. By the way Steve, I don't think I've ever seen you address California Agenda 21 and the planned death of the single family home.

marty said...

Dear Karl,

How would you deal with the example of a person who spent most of the 1970's consuming daily tetracycline (in the physician's mistaken belief that it would be effective against acne), and who at age 57 has turned out to be in perfect health, requiring no medications whatever beyond aspirin for the occasional
headache?

ben tillman said...

In contrast, Africans, who suffer from a very high disease burden, are not terribly xenophobic. So, in colonial times, Africa was relatively easy for Europeans to conquer, especially as they got better at handling the disease burden.

Because of malaria, Europeans couldn't conquer equatorial Africa. They didn't really get better at handling malaria until shortly before they were forced to leave.

Mountain Maven said...

This is so much trashing about. Sounds like Gladwell or Diamond. The New Grand Theory That Explains Everything. What is of value in this germ hypothesis is likely an incremental increase in knowledge buried in all the noise.

The fundamental biological reality is that human life expectancy keeps increasing despite all the Chicken Littles out there.

JayMan said...

HBD Chick and I have both criticized this theory. There are many parts of the world where it just doesn't work: Eastern Europe, East
Asia, the Arab World, for example.

HBD Chick's theory is a better fit. Althought, strictly speaking, even her theory doesn't work as we in a few places (e.g. Japan, Finland). See:

Where HBD Chick’s Hypothesis Works | JayMan's Blog

Whiskey said...

Steve, Gates is an idiot ... malarial vaccines are doomed to fail because of reservoir hosts in the wild. He just can't understand its not human only polio. That reservoir virus can always rapidly mutate. Unlike polio which thank god has no host but humans.

Second, aids is a good example of a virus that kills the host, just not before it infects another. So localized viruses in chimps say do kill, just not before transmission.

Good point about selection diversity. This might account for high European diversity in traits vs low in Africans.

Anonymous said...

Crosby argues that Europeans had trouble conquering and never were able to fully conquer India, Africa, and the Mideast during the Crusades because of those locales' pathogens which were a major burden on Europeans.

Um, about that time, Mongols/Mughals had very little trouble conquering the vast swathes of the Middle East and India.

I doubt these northern horse nomads were more resistant to tropical/subtropical bacterial conditions than Europeans.

More likely, the military technology and organization of Cinggisids were far more formidable than the Crusaders.

A lot of posters here and elsewhere on "race realism" seem to posit some special civilization building advantage to northern Europeans (you know, those smelly Germanic tribals who built the glory of Rome and Greece -- or was that "burnt," not "built"). They might give some attention to Keegan's proposal that, in much of history, those semi-nomads and tribals who lived on the edge of civilization often came up as top dogs in warfare. Real nomads and forest people were too few in number, badly organized and lacked technology while those who lived in the zone between this area and the civilization benefitted from both the toughness and warlike tendencies of the former while also benefitting from the technology and organization of the latter.

The Rise of Europe to a great extent began BEFORE Europe had caught up to and exceeded the East (whether Middle East or East Asia), largely because Europeans were moderately intelligent/civilized but highly aggressive (militarily) and acquisitive.

So maybe David Duke is right (!). Maybe Europeans beat Asians despite the latter's (small) IQ advantage because the former had moderately high IQ (high enough to be in the playing field) combined with higher testosterone.

Low IQ+high T=violent savages; high IQ+high T=adventurers, explorers and conquistadores; high IQ+low T=scholars.

Guess the races.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, Steve.

I note that you don't mention Rushton's r/K as applied to human ethnicities - in particular the classic west African strategy of rapid reproduction and lack of parental investment in offspring. To put it bluntly, west Africans were selected to breed fast and die fast, damn everything else.

Also, what I cannot agree with you is your observation that Africans are not 'xenophobic' and readily accept strangers and conquerors. Experience in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda and elsewhere hardly bears that out. Neither does what we know of west African history which is basically merely a litany of one tribe anihillating. enslaving, devouring another. Look at the Bantu expansion, for examole. What happened to the 'pygmies'?, did you know that Bushmen - a race distinct from the 'classic' negro, were formerly in posession of the whole of the southern cone of Africa right up to Zimbabwe untl they wer more or less wiped out by conquering Bantus.
Just look at the reality of everyday life in Lagos, Kinshasa or any other large accumulation of African blacks. It's more or less constant low-level warfare. Same pattern back home in the USA.
The point I'm trying to make is that no other race is so inherently hostile to strangers and outsiders than blacks - and no other race will fight so hard to drive out strangers, I mean the mighty Boers of 1960, who built an atomic bomb are now on their knees.
I believe this aggression, this xenophobia, this hatred of outsiders is genetic in origin and is wrapped up with Rushton's r/K. Basically, the nastiness is a survival strategy, a way of guarding genes. It's a by-product of African super fertility.

Anonymous said...

"The real impact of high disease burden on African cultures was that it made urbanization difficult -- if too many people got too close together, the settlement could be wiped out by disease, so Africans tended to live in small villages spread out across the vast countryside {...}"

How did India become so densely populated?

Jerry said...

Germs and mentality is a fascinating subject that cries out for research. I am still shocked by the discovery (more than a year ago) that cats spread a neuropathogen through their feces that makes humans slavishly devoted to cats. This would be enough, for me, to argue for outlawing the keeping of cats. Has not been done.

Sean said...

Germany = land o' Kant and his categorical imperative, which Eichmann quoted at his trial. The categorical imperative caught on in Germany because it was already implicit in their cooperative (conformist) hereditary nature. Social scientist call their projected universalist utopia 'Denmark', and Denmark is the LEAST testosteronised country in the world. It's not too different from large parts of Germany, genetically speaking.

In the Ultimatum game German children gave half, though they didn't have yo give anything at ALL. It is mere definition to call Germany non democratic when Hitler came to power.

West Africa is one of the most unhealthy places in the world largely because the men are so tesosteronised they lack resistance to infectious disease, and, as we all know from Ewald, diseases become nasty when they spead easily. Black skin acts as a barrier to disease. High T = dark skin.

[Brendan] " Simms singles out, perhaps more plausibly than his predecessors, some factors that at various times allowed the Habsburgs or Bismarck or Hitler to dominate mainland Europe. First, since the middle of the 17th century, Germans have been the only major nation to promote ethnic and linguistic unity above religious divisions, so that Protestants and Catholics could live together in a union of smaller states, reconciled by their Teutonic pride. Secondly, Simms seems to imply (the argument is made parenthetically at different points in the book) that the Germans, ruled by compromises between emperor, king or elector and some form of diet or parliament, very often had governments that could make decisions based on consultation, whereas others were either paralysed by too much delegation of power (such as the Poles by their liberum veto) or made erratic by untrammelled absolutism."

Germany was like a beehive. Still is. Hitler was a extraordinarily effective speaker, perhaps the greatest in all history. it was the singer not the song.

Rwanda? there are low level wars going on all over Sub Saharan Africa you don'r hear much about them, because there are no luxury hotels in those places for journalists to stay in

dearieme said...

Over the years I've increasingly tended to the view that (almost) everything medical is explained by genes or germs. Even back-ache can be caused by germs.

But this line of argument is new to me; thanks for introducing it.

Anonymous said...

if westerners are good, democratic and 'open' today thanks to pathogens, does that mean we can blame our past of evil monarchs, evil xenophobia and evil group-related fervours on microbes?

that's great. we can stop beating ourselves up over the sins of our ancestors, knowing it was the germs, not the germans, that made us evil all along.

Andrew said...

If pathogen stress influences cultural diversity, are the Caucusus Mountains under a heavy pathogen stress?

Else why the kaliedoscope of cultures?

It would be interesting if these authors would extend this view to looking at pathogenic origins of mle homosexuality and the reaction to it out of self preservation - homophobia.

Andrew said...

Anon:

Basically, the nastiness is a survival strategy, a way of guarding genes. It's a by-product of African super fertility.

Much of what I have heard of Africa from visitors, missionaires, and natives is exctly opposite this. I think you are greatly projecting out the western hemisphere experience with enslaved blacks back upon Africa.

One must keep in mind when looking at Africa populations in the new world that this is a carefully self-selected population. The enslaved men were very frequently warriors captured in battles and raids and then sold into slavery by their captors. The women were often the wives of such men and hence the type of woman a warrior would find attractive and capable of producing offspring patterned after themselves.

From this starting population of overly violent and agressive people, you now add the self-selecting stress of slave field labor to knock off the weak and the end result is your moden hyper-violent black population of the inner city or favela.

To continue this theory, I highly suspect that many blacks who have moved into the middle class in the western hemisphere were house slaves and thus selected and bred for docility, manners, and grace - i.e. civilization. Those who could not hack such virtues would be quickly sent into the fields.

Steve Sailer said...

Right, the Caucasus and the Dinaric Alps of the Balkans are high and cold, but the locals, such as our friends the Chechens, are notoriously bad at statecraft. The Pathans are high and cold and dry and they're crazy too.

sunbeam said...

Sean wrote:

"West Africa is one of the most unhealthy places in the world largely because the men are so tesosteronised they lack resistance to infectious disease, and, as we all know from Ewald, diseases become nasty when they spead easily. Black skin acts as a barrier to disease. High T = dark skin."

Okay, in my life I have been around blacks to a higher extent than most of you (just the way it works down South).

I have never noticed that they are particularly healthy, though of course Tropical diseases aren't running rampant through the community.

But what does "Black skin acts as a barrier to disease." mean? I don't understand this statement.

And as far as "High T = dark skin." goes, well that's kind of interesting. If you read that Westhunter site regularly, he had mention of a report that European hunter gatherers as of about 7000 years ago had dark skin (and blue eyes). White skin apparently emerged around the Middle East in early agricultural communities, and spread north.

There are some reports of gracilization being associated with lighter color (foxes etc).

So I dunno. I don't understand enough of this sort of thing to have an opinion on it, so I don't.

But I'm also reasonably sure that a really pasty redheaded guy, swilling beer, dressed in a leprechaun outfit on St. Paddy's Day has more testosterone than an Indian or Vietnamese at the same event.

So... I dunno. But I really don't get "Black Skin as a barrier to disease," how is that supposed to work?

The Z Blog said...

Reading the the source material in the post, my BS detector kept going off. Pathogens are one part of the ecosystem. Geography, climate proximity to he ocean or mountains, are all external forces that shape human populations. Of course human populations develop cultures in response to their environment. I was pretty sure we knew that a long time ago.

That said, it could be a clever way to reintroduce population genetics into the mainstream. If you're going to argue that West Africans evolved in response to pathogens, then you really can't argue that they stop being West African when they move to Paris.

Jonathan Silber said...

The North Sentinel Andamans have stayed healthy, though, probably because they murder anybody who lands on their island.

Am I engaging in wishful thinking, or do we have here the framework for the HealthyChoice Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2015?

Anonymous said...

How did India become so densely populated?

Probably caccines and antibiotics, at least in the past century.

Anonymous said...

I can't help feeling that the theory prpounded here is just too over-simplistic and fatuous - it attempts to cover a lot of ground and explain a lot of things, but on close inspection it just falls down.
Until germ theory was really understood - comparativley recently as it happens, infectious disease was the scourge of mankind everywhere, and carried off the bulk of infants in its wake. No doubt population density related to the ddevelopment of agriculture, in the temperate regions at least, assisted the devlopment of germ borne epidemics. But, yet, civilisation and civilesed man flourished in the wake of agriculture - the notion of 'trade off' and 'equilibrium' with reproductive success due to agricultural food versus mortality from concomitant germs seems to be pertinent here. For example, consider Bilharzia which formerly affected virtually all tropical rice cultivators.
On the other hand you have populations which never, until present, really developed agriculture. Agriculture seems to be the key here. Here the west African case is pertinent, but not really developing agriculture and living a more or less 'wild' life-style, the dynamic that evolved there was a classic 'r' selected strategy ie to produce as many offspring as quickly as possible in order to get over malaria - a winnower, a massive winnower, but a known winnower.
Basically, there was no trade-off between fecundity and cooperativeness, as cooperativeness in a culture distinguished by classic Darwinian selfishness, never was needed. Instead, 'anti-cooperativeness' in the form of aggression and subsequent genetic domination of the weak was selected for. Thus, agricultural, termerate people were selected for bee-like eu-sociability and tropical wildmen were selected for
shark-like anti-sociability.

Fisk Ellington Rutledge III said...

The pathogen explanation is just another way of dividing everyone into "privileged" and "oppressed". It enables cowardly, Leftist SWPLs to avoid noticing the truly important group differences.

It's also a way to make one size fit all and enable the global welfare state to continue to funnel millions to the Third World in the vain effort to "lift up" our little brown and black brothers so that they will become just like us. Then we won't have to be so afraid of the witless savages.

el supremo said...

These disease based theories often treat regions as fixed quantities also so ignore the impacts of huge impacts in differences in sanitation and government administration between cultures, even in the pre-modern world.

The Romans had excellent sanitation in both their cities and their military camps - when Caesar conquered Gaul he was never slowed down by disease, whereas the Hundred Years war saw tons of losses due to disease (not just the Black Plague but sieges and campaigns called off after poor sanitation crippled the armies) The terrain of France/Gaul was basically the same, and Caesar's legionaries were not that ethnically different from the medieval Europeans, but differences in organization and sanitary culture created very different dynamics.

The same is true in contrasting the Crusades with the Roman campaigns in the Middle East, where better organized and hygienic Roman troops marched all over the region with impunity, while the Crusaders had regular problems with disease. Same ethnic groups, same terrain, and a major difference in outcomes.

Of course, sub-Saharan Africa was hostile to all outsiders before modern medicine, but I don't think the theory is that useful for most of Eurasia.

Anonymous said...

Steve: But looking like you're strong enough for a lifetime of hoeing the yam patch with the other mothers, because you can't expect that good looking, entertaining baby-daddy to do much providing, seems to be selected for in West African women. A strong back is not exactly what most people around the world visualize as "physical attractiveness" in women.

There's a physical difference, but Black women who physically look like Aisha Tyler or Lupita Nyong'o are not that rare.

Bigger difference, I think, may lie in personality. Black women are selected for being tough, wrathful, hardworking single mothers with preferences for smooth but flighty and irresponsible men (because that's what works for men in Africa).

Genetically, they're dragged down by mixing their genes every generation with Black men, who aren't exactly selected to be responsible, but it's still noticeable.

They aren't that well adapted for giving and sharing long term monogamous relationships, and don't have the kind of gentle, emotional personalities that White and Asian women do. White girls can often be arrogant, pretentious narcissists and Asian girls can be vengeful, shut off, easily upset Dragon Ladies (reflecting each race's general negative racial personality traits), but they're not exactly "independent women who don't need no man.

This, plus African low intelligence, is probably more why they are avoided by men of other races, more than their looks.

In contrast, Africans, who suffer from a very high disease burden, are not terribly xenophobic. So, in colonial times, Africa was relatively easy for Europeans to conquer, especially as they got better at handling the disease burden. Opposition from Africans wasn't that huge of a problem for Europeans. Similarly, disease-ridden India was easy for Europeans to conquer.

Not so sure this is a good signal of xenophobia, more differences in cultural competence and desirable natural resources.

The Russians had an easy time of it North Asia as well. Not really much to do with low xenophobia among the natives.

Anonymous said...

"By contrast, in strongly individualist societies like those of the United Kingdom, the U.S., Australia, and the Netherlands, individual rights are valued above duties to others."

This is simply not true of 1950s Britons. The individualism has been recently grafted on in the 60s Cultural Revolution. I'm not even sure it's true for most Brits today, excepting those with national newspaper columns.

Anonymous said...

The same is true in contrasting the Crusades with the Roman campaigns in the Middle East, where better organized and hygienic Roman troops marched all over the region with impunity, while the Crusaders had regular problems with disease. Same ethnic groups, same terrain, and a major difference in outcomes.

Actually the same ethnic groups weren't involved. The Crusaders who had the most difficulty in the Middle East were the "Franks", which referred to everyone north and west of the Alps. There were Germanics in the Roman armies but the Roman armies had more Mediterranean and native troops.

wiseguy said...

Karl,

It's an interesting theory that the '60s cultural revolution was caused by germs, but I suspect that a simpler and more obvious solution is right: the sixties were just another inflection point in the West's grand revolution that started with Renaissance humanism, moved on to Protestantism, then to old school liberalism, next to socialism, and finally to post-60's leftism. The reason why this cultural revolution occurred in the 1960's is that it obviously was going to come after the Russian Revolution, but it also was delayed by the hardships of the Depression and World War II. You can see some precursors to the 1960's right after the Russian Revolution in the Roaring 20's and Weimar Germany, but it wasn't until the United States and Europe fully recover from World War II in the 1960's that the cultural revolution was able to fully take off.

The more difficult question to me is this: what's going to be the next phase, if there even is one, of this grand revolution?

Anonymous said...

Um, about that time, Mongols/Mughals had very little trouble conquering the vast swathes of the Middle East and India

Actually like the European experience in the Middle East and India, the Mongols/Mughals never fully conquered the Middle East and didn't leave a sustaining genetic presence despite military superiority. And the Mughals were largely Mongol in name only.

Big Bill said...

"Until recently, most of Africa wasn't anywhere near it's Malthusian population density limits, so there wasn't all that much incentive to keep outsiders out."

Africa still isn't anywhere near its Malthusian limits. The UN has done studies on worldwide land use. Africa only uses 25-30% of its arable land. China uses over 90% of its arable land. It's just that very few Africans actually want to work the land, build a home, and live as farmers.

That's the big joke about "land redistribution" in sub-Saharan Africa. They don't want to redistribute "land", they want to redistribute developed farms, farm equipment and other farm assets ... from whites to blacks (and increasingly to Chinese).

Anonymous said...

"I am still shocked by the discovery (more than a year ago) that cats spread a neuropathogen through their feces that makes humans slavishly devoted to cats."

You're speaking of Toxoplasma gondii? As far as I know, there are no definitive studies that T. gondii makes humans "devoted to cats." It does other things, though.

Anonymous said...

"This, plus African low intelligence, is probably more why they are avoided by men of other races, more than their looks."

Their physical stature plays a large part in whether they are attractive to men of other races too.

Michelle Obama is a woman of large stature, wide shoulders and wide pelvis, (and looks even larger because she works out and has defined musculature.) She's larger than almost any Asian male by far and larger than many white men. Most men prefer to be larger, stronger than their women.

I suspect Michelle can take down Barack in a few short seconds.

Idle Spectator said...

"In contrast, Africans, who suffer from a very high disease burden, are not terribly xenophobic. So, in colonial times, Africa was relatively easy for Europeans to conquer, especially as they got better at handling the disease burden."

Africans were notoriously xenophobic. They viewed themselves not as African, but as distinct tribes who fended off invaders of their ancestral territory. Praise God that "civilized" Europeans helped to improve those "backward" societies back in the day.

Anonymous said...

Their physical stature plays a large part in whether they are attractive to men of other races too.

Michelle Obama is a woman of large stature, wide shoulders and wide pelvis, (and looks even larger because she works out and has defined musculature.)


M Obama is about 5 foot 11, doesn't look too heavy. Africans are generally short, and African American women are only about as tall as Whites (seems about a 1/2 inch shorter from some data). They're really mostly only heavier due to obesity as well. They're not like tall, athletically built Scandinavian women or anything.

Body and facial type is a factor, just seems less important than being dumb, toughminded, independent, short tempered single mother types who don't need no unsexy man. That's not going to appeal to White and Asian men who have been shaped by evolution to be good dads in marriages fairly gentle, mild, insecure women who don't demand too much sexiness or pizazz.

Anonymous said...

"Their physical stature plays a large part in whether they are attractive to men of other races too."

I doubt that, being an Asian who has dated black girls before, let me tell you women are built softer and weaker than men even if they look formidable from afar.

Anonymous said...

"Actually like the European experience in the Middle East and India, the Mongols/Mughals never fully conquered the Middle East and didn't leave a sustaining genetic presence despite military superiority. And the Mughals were largely Mongol in name only."

I thank that was because the European and Mongols who came to the Middle East did not bring their women, at least not in large enough numbers. Many Crusaders were celibate monks. The Arabs could breed and increase their numbers but the Euros could not. If the Euros and Mongols would have invaded with the intention of taking away the land for themselves and had migrated like how Whites migrated to North America or New Zealand with wives, kids and cattle, the Middle East could have easily gone European/ Mongol. Besides European like people have always lived in the Middle East, a sizable portion of Northern Israelis in ancient times looked like Northern Euros.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HxyQZM9defQ

BurplesonAFB said...

For a while after I first learned of the North Sentinel Islanders in my late teens, I would often fantasize about sailing there with a few friends, some AKs and a crate of 7.62x39 and ruling them as a God King.

I assume the Indian Navy keeps (or would keep) people away?