Clark/Frost Domestication

Gregory Clark, an economist at UC Davis, posted an essay several years ago titled Genetically Capitalist? in which he proposed that the stable social environment and institutions of Medieval England selected for a new kind of human who was less prone to violence, had an affinity for work, had low time preference, and was individualistic in several ways. This essay was a warmup for his subsequent book. I prefer the earlier essay and assign it in my courses.

It is easy to see, in retrospect, how the social and institutional environment selected for the changes that Clark describes. Higher reproductive fitness of the wealthier led to pervasive downward social mobility so that today the English are descended from the Medieval gentry. How did one enter the gentry? Save some money. With interest rates pushing 10% any savings at all would quickly accumulate. This paid because there were enforceable contracts, courts, and such mitigating risk. A ruthless constabulary and judicial system selected against the violence prone, of course, as well as those with high time preference. Debtors’ prisons for goodness sake.

Clark’s thesis is no less than that this environment bred a new version of humans by selection. This is absolutely revolutionary in the current climate yet it has slipped right past the self-righteous chatterers that have crucified Jason Richwine.

In an important article Peter Frost describes essentially the same process in the Roman Empire with its Pax Romana. Here again a central government with courts and constabulary shaped a new version of human who was peaceful and law abiding and worked hard. Frost also describes the reaction of this new version of human to the Barbarian invasions:

Nonetheless, when Rome faltered in the fifth century it did so as never before. Earlier, the third century had seen a similar crisis: civil war, foreign invasion, return of brigandage, and steep economic decline. Yet Rome fought its way back and reasserted its authority. There was no such response in the fifth century. Instead, the crisis was met with a strange mixture of complacency and willful naiveté.

We cannot understand this change without considering the ideology that now shaped the Roman worldview, i.e., all humans share the same potential for peaceful and submissive behavior. This was largely true among the pacified populations inside the empire’s borders. Outside, it was largely false. Tragically so.

Thinking about the response of the pacified and submission Roman population to barbarian invaders immediately brings to mind the response of contemporary North Americans and Atlantic Europeans to barbarian invaders. It reads just the same: “welcome new neighbor!”

What about the Eastern empire? They kept the barbarians out for a few centuries longer in the European half, but accounts of the loss of the Asian provinces show the Clark/Frost pattern, a pacified submissive population hardly contesting the invasion of Islam (Jenkins 2008, 2010). The new neighbors simply walked in and took over. The downfall of the Western Roman empire reads much like the downfall of the Asian and North African parts of the empire. It is certainly no accident that the Asian provinces were the heartland of Christianity.

This all brings up an interesting question: what happened in East Asia over the same period? No one to my knowledge has traced parallels with the European and Roman experience in Japan or China. Is the different East Asian trajectory related to the East Asian reluctance to roll over, wag their tails, and welcome new barbarian neighbors?

REFERENCES

Phillip Jenkins, Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, And Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe For The Next 1,500 Years, San Francisco: HarperOne, 2010. 328 pages.

Phillip Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia–and How It Died, San Francisco: HarperOne, 2008.

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128 Responses to Clark/Frost Domestication

  1. Polymath says:

    Richwine not Goodwine.

  2. Peter Johnson says:

    Last line of the third paragraph — Goodwine should be the heroic Richwine.

  3. That Guy says:

    I’d suggest that you read: “The Origins of Political Order” by Francis Fukuyama

    In it, he deals extensively with state building in China, and some points I noticed were:

    1. Almost all new dynasties was composed of last year’s barbarian hordes
    - so undomesticated elites replaced domesticated elites

    2. Many new dynasties eliminated the previous elite – by simply killing the existing elite entirely, then confiscating their lands and privileges
    - so domesticated elites left no descendants

  4. So, the meek shall inherit…..nothing.

  5. gwern says:

    > There was no such response in the fifth century. Instead, the crisis was met with a strange mixture of complacency and willful naiveté.

    Correlation/causation. And there are many reasons besides human selection that populations might react that way. For example, consier the Tainter paradigm: perhaps ‘they’ reacted with complacency because the elites had become arrogant and stupid, and willful naivete from those who stood to benefit from the collapse of the existing expensive system for a better simpler system.

    > The downfall of the Western Roman empire reads much like the downfall of the Asian and North African parts of the empire. It is certainly no accident that the Asian provinces were the heartland of Christianity.

    If it is a general trend that empires domesticate their people for easier management and pacification, then this should be reflected in their lifespans: the lifespans should be limited since the domestication makes them ever easier to conquer by outsiders. Why don’t we see this effect in http://www.uvm.edu/~pdodds/files/papers/others/2011/arbesman2011a.pdf “The Life-Spans of Empires”?

    • Difference Maker says:

      “domestication makes them ever easier to conquer by outsiders. Why don’t we see this effect”

      We do. The world has always been ruled by those of, shall we say, barbaric persuasion. All empires declined, and our present age, well -

      • gwern says:

        I don’t think you understood my point.

      • bruce says:

        >pacified, submissive populace

        For ‘pacified, submissive populace’ substitute ‘debellicized populace’?

        Pro- That’s what the Romans called it. There’s more to war than being uppity. You need a whole society training its young men to focus their animal ballsac aggression thru elder wisdom against foreigners.
        Anti- some folks here know more history than me. Hi Jim!

    • “empires domesticate their people”

      Greg said in our book something like “for the same reason that farmers castrate their bulls”

      But the crucial (IMHO) aspect of Clark/Frost is that there is a social order relatively free of corrupt despotism and with police and courts that enforce contracts. There is also a land market so that if I get rich and own a lot of land I can transmit it to offspring, so there is a payoff to work. In rural Africa where I work, forty years ago at any rate, land was like air, a free good. Nice, but at the end there is nothing to transmit.

  6. Misophile says:

    In vino veritas.

  7. D Epstein says:

    Ibn Khaldun described the cycle of nomad invasion, domestication, and dissolution for North Africa quite perceptively, although I don’t think he dealt with anything like natural selection.

  8. JayMan says:

    HBD Chick would likely suggest that the difference between the West and East Asia has something to do with mating practices between the two. East Asians, particularly the Chinese, seem to have been marrying their cousins into the 20th century…

    • George says:

      Europeans and East Asians evolved tens of thousands of years ago.

      • Pincher Martin says:

        And yet they’re both still evolving today. Go figure.

      • George says:

        Right – And they’ve been different for tens of thousands of years.

      • Pincher Martin says:

        George,

        You shouldn’t assume when comparing two groups that only the adaptations in the distant past matter. Recent adaptations can still be responsible for critical differences between groups, especially when we’re discussing recent historical trends.

        An example from Greg and Henry’s book (which I’ll assume you’ve read) is the modern success of the Ashkenazim.

        Jews have been around a long time. But if Greg and Henry’s hypothesis is correct, it’s not something buried deep in Jewish history which is responsible for the Ashkenazim’s success, but a more recent adaptation which occurred over the last millennium.

      • George says:

        I never said that only adaptations in the distant past matter.

        Cochran and Harpending also note in their book that the Ashkenazim were able to penetrate Europe, enter and hold certain professional niches, and were prosperous before the extreme selection for intelligence finished taking place. It’s not clear that whatever adaptations enabled them to achieve that success have played no role in their modern success.

      • George says:

        I didn’t say that only adaptations in the distant past matter.

        Cochran and Harpending also note in their book that the Ashkenazim were able to penetrate Europe, enter and hold certain professional niches, and were prosperous before the extreme selection for intelligence finished taking place. It’s not clear that whatever adaptations enabled them to achieve that success have played no role in their modern success.

  9. Jim says:

    By the fifth century most of the “Roman army” itself consisted of varous Germans. Even many of the generals were Latinized Germans. To the average person in Italy in the fifth century it was probably hard to see much difference between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”.

  10. AG says:

    China is a melting pot which assimilates both conquered or conqueror, especially conquerors. Right around the same of time when West Roman empire fall, numerous northern barbarians invading northern China and ended up assimilated into conquered Han culture. Their rulers even forbiden their own people to speak their own languages or wear their own ethnic clothes. Conquerors behaved like conguered.
    Manchurian of Qing dynasty also completed assimilated into han though they did force dressing code into their styles.
    German defectors to Chinese force during Sino-ducth war over Taiwan loyally called Koxinga “My king”.
    Han culture is about assimilation, not exclusion.

    • Interesting, but how much can any culture assimilate before it disappears into the arms of the assimilees? How will Han cope, for example, with 30 million Hispanics or Malays or whatever?

      • AG says:

        Brutal economic competition and malthusian elimination will take care assimilated people. If you do not have higher enough IQ, your family blood line would not last very long in Chinese society. Even Dutch colonists encourage Han Chinese immigration into Taiwan by claiming: “Chinese are only bees who produce honey”
        To any ruler in China, only productive people are taxible. Barbarian invader/rulers often fall in love with such taxible people who give them wealth. This the real motivation for sinification of barbarians. If your own people did not contribute your own wealth, what is the point to keep them around?

  11. Thrasymachus says:

    Henry, did romans use the term “barbarian” to refer to germanics or to middle-eastern and african merceneries and settlers in rome? Just how different were the germanic peoples with their descendants today?

    • According to Peter’s paper, which is well worth a read, the reference was mostly to the Germans.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        I just want to thank Henry for the great reading material. The two books by Jenkins you list in your references as well as the articles by Frost and Clark. The subject covered, the rise and eventual collapse of empires is incredibly complex. It seems to me two under appreciated factors are genetics and pathogens. Two over emphasized factors are what appeals to popular culture, big glorious battles and charismatic leadership. I hope that through continued scholarship Henry and Greg can continue to pull the depiction of history away from the Hollywoodized versions and towards what actually occured. I’m not sure why the introduction of falciparum malaria into parts of the Roman empire including Rome itself isn’t given its proper significance in history, but it isn’t. The Mason Dixon line in the United States is actually the farthest north that falciparum malaria could go and it had an enormous impact on our nation pre modern medicine. No doubt there was a line through Europe where the winter frost was stong enough to kill p. falciparum and the result was higher population pressure from above that line pushing down below it. But in all the books I have read on the decline of the Roman Empire rarely is this disease or any pathogens mentioned.

  12. asdf says:

    Justinian bankrupted the empire trying to retake North Africa and Italy. Then got blindsided by the Persians while his forces were busy. His largest cities got sacked while his forces were returning and then he fought a long drag out fight with then for decades. At the end of all that both empires got rolled by Islam. Hardly fits the narrative.

    • Difference Maker says:

      Justinian’s manpower, for all the vast and populous east, was comparable to Augustus’s Italian army. Justinian’s army relied substantially on horse archers.. recruited from the Huns

      For that matter one wonders where all the Italian soldiers have gone

      • asdf says:

        They were never born. Like all decadent societies, they had lower TFR.

        I just don’t buy that Justinian or the Byzantian elite were unwilling to fight. They clearly were willing to overextend fighting. And when the Muslims came they were already exhausted from fighting.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        Also, disease. Justinian’s efforts to restore the empire were snuffed out by a massive plague outbreak.

        This thesis about domestication going too far might be part of the explanation, but starting with the Antonine plagues in the 3rd C., it looks like part of Rome’s problem was the increased trade ties and communications within the empire and the increased trade with India/China created a fertile niche for epidemics.

      • No argument with your narrative of the particulars: we are just trying to see if there are general underlying patterns here, not trying to dissect history in detail.

        Also, the Clark/Frost model has nothing to say about armies and such. Docile farmboys can make great soldiers, e.g. WW II. The theory, such as it is, is about proneness to local violence, rage perhaps, not about military aptitude.

  13. Toddy Cat says:

    With all due respect, the Eastern Empire didn’t just hold off the barbarians “for a few centuries” – it held them off for almost a thousand years, making Byzantium the longest-lived political entity in history, excluding the Papacy and the Japanese Emperorship. Byzantium also produced one of Rome’s greatest generals in Belisarius. And yes, the Asian provinces were the heartland of Christianity. It was the more paganized West that fell so rapidly. Any explanation of the fall of Rome also has to explain the survival of the East for so long. And, yeah, the Esat fell eventually, but that is the fate of all political entities. Anyone think that the U.S. will last as long as Byzantium?

      • bob sykes says:

        We’re good for another century, at least. There is no other competitive power on the horizon. China is now at its zenith and will soon begin to decline as its population rapidly ages and falls in numbers. Europe is utterly decadent.

        When America finally collapses in a century or two, there will be no successor. The whole world will be in a state of declining population (beginning 2030) and declining economy. There will be numerous weak regional powers but no world power.

      • Bob Arctor says:

        bob sykes:
        “We’re good for another century, at least.”

        This is utterly and hopelessly delusional; we’re heavily dependent on a dwindling commodity (petroleum) for our transportation system, we face wage competition from three billion or so people in the third world who are willing to work for 25% of what we make, there’s a very high probability of widespread ethnic violence in coming decades, our overseas military position is ridiculously overextended relative to our resources, and we have massive debt obligations and unfunded liabilities that we have no real possibility of paying back. And you’re certain that this teetering structure will last for another century?

        Meanwhile China has none of these crippling problems and is still growing economically at a brisk 8% a year while America has floundered for roughly 25 years now, artificial debt induced bubbles aside. There’s no reason for optimism about America’s future at this point.

  14. g2-337af867fe9cd20258bdbc586fbefd0d says:

    The Romans in the Fifth Century didn’t roll over and waged their tails, they fought against the Huns and their allies, and they lost. The Byzantines fought against the Seljuk Turks and lost. The Chinese did not welcome the Mongol invasion, they were vanquished in battlefield. The Arab armies didn’t walk into Spain, they occupied the country militarily. Empires dont collapse because of peaceful immigration. What you are trying to say is different, but it has no relation with, say, Arab armies conquering North Africa and Spain a thousand years ago.

    • ” The Arab armies didn’t walk into Spain, they occupied the country militarily. ”

      According to Jenkins they walked into Syria: they did indeed get stopped on the Iberian route.

      • asdf says:

        Antioch had already been sacked at that point. What a lot of people seem to forget is that the two empires had absolutely crushed each other in that area for many years before the Muslims showed up.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        Remember that the Middle Eastern Christians were mostly heretics in the eyes of Constantinople and were being actively persecuted. There is pretty clear historical evidence that they saw the Arabs as an improvement.

      • Sid says:

        I’ll add that most of Byzantium’s Middle Eastern territory had been occupied by the Sassanids for a generation before the Byzantines won it back. When the Arabs marched through the Middle East, the locals had little loyalty to the Byzantines. In fact, the Nestorians and Monophysites were better tolerated by the Muslims than the Orthodox Church.

    • Difference Maker says:

      Humanity must have started out as warring tribes, and legendary history is suggestive. Indeed, certain anthropologists have themselves claimed little social stratification existed in the most ancient past.

      When we see the accounts of the Turkic encroachment in the last days of the Byzantine empire, I am struck at how much civilian flight is taking place, the helplessness of the government and the panics over decades, and this cannot be reconciled with the stereotypical ancient Roman who built the empire. It is of course the difference of different populations, something the ancient Romans themselves knew.

      Historians have claimed that many preferred the low taxes and initial laissez-faire of the Turkic raiders, though women would certainly have been taken. Perhaps only the elites fled, and perhaps it took some means and initiative to leave, but what is the use of an elite if not to protect their own domain.

      In 5th century Rome and Visigothic Spain, a barbarized military protected against the barbarians. We should recall that the ruling elite were themselves recent immigrants from beyond the borders. Where were all those Italian soldiers, the might of the Emperors of old?

      The bulk of a population does not aspire to mastery, or even to independence, such has it ever been in civilization, and we have moved away from the model of ancient warrior times and toward large stratified societies.

      Some people seem to be projecting a peaceful, civilian society into the far past. This is an anachronism. In olden times, the hills outside your very town were roiling with barbarian tribes, and it fell to you, citizen, to defend with your life.

  15. My sense of the history, FWIW .. Over time Byzantium increasingly relied on mercenaries, mostly warlike tribes from surrounding provinces, rather than local populations. During the final sackings of Byzantium in the early-mid 15th century, the population within the walls outnumbered the surrounding forces ten to one (so I heard somewhere?) but were all pacified non-military. (Sorry, don’t have a cite for this. ..Anyone?) That had a big impact on Cosimo Medici (who later recruited tutors to Italy after the sackings of Byzantium, thus –> Renaissance.) This response to the failure of mercenaries eventually led to Niccolo Machiavelli’s strongly arguing against the use of mercenaries in his writings. (..Both in The Discourses and The Prince, IIRC.)

    • asdf says:

      We shouldn’t look down on using mercenaries too much. The simple fact, in the entire world, is that some of these barbarians could only be countered by similar barbarians (I’m thinking the Steppe Horse Archer).

  16. teageegeepea says:

    We might need to distinguish between “oriental” and “orthodox” Christianity. The orthodox Byzantines fought the Muslims for a very long time, the oriental Christians tended to be located in what we’d call the Middle East and got conquered. It’s been a while since I read “Lost History” but I’m not sure if they tended to be the majority, or rulers of their territories before the arrival of Islam. If we want an explanation for why they fell more easily, I suppose it was because they were more peripheral from the Roman metropoles and were religiously alienated enough that they didn’t form a strong alliance with either the western or (more plausibly) eastern empire. Being closer to the Arabian heartland of Islam would be another.

    At any rate, I agree with gwern that this is a common narrative which could use some data in support of it. Clark has managed to convince me with data before, Frost has not. On the other hand, I’ve only read some blog posts by the latter rather than an academic book.

  17. Larry, San Francisco says:

    The English may have domesticated by the 20th century but during the 2 world wars they fought pretty hard.

  18. Anonymous says:

    In any large political entity the great majority had to be full-time non-soldiers, but what about the fitness of whatever local men were conscripted (was it worst than that of the peasants?) or the assimilated barbarians? Also, why do we assume that prosecuting murder has necessarily a one-way negative effect on the fitness of the violent? Are the violent necessarily less likely to also be the victims of murder? Also, if anyone can kill anyone, everyone has to be somewhat careful, but without that option the violent may unapologetically dominate the meek. Some think weapons are the reason humans are that egalitarian (by great ape standards). The English didn’t think of themselves as meek. Of course this could just be bragging, but was it by meekness that they and there descendants ended up with an extra continent or two?

    • Anonymous asks “but was it by meekness that they and there descendants ended up with an extra continent or two?”

      It sure was: look at US colonial history. It was the “meek” farmers who produced wealth and food undreamed of in Europe and had 9-child families that got them the continent. If there had been an oversupply of people like that in Europe and who migrated to the Levant the Crusades would likely have turned out differently. Cf. Israel today.

  19. VXXC says:

    You’re overlooking the exhausting results of plague followed by world war between the Persian and Byzantine Roman Empires as well as Civil Wars. The Muslims conquered initially into vacuum when they made their Great Conquests. Byzantium did well against not only the persians and turks but the caliphate and Byzantium had to contend with constant threats from the North as well. The geography was their destiny and the same destiny followed the Ottoman Turks four centuries later.

    Actually your overlooking the military factors altogether. Edward Luttwak laid it out with succinctness in The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire, as well as the same for The Byzantine Empire.

  20. VXXC says:

    America now: IS IT DONE YET?
    No. Nor is it likely to be, it has too many advantages. Matchless geography – which is destiny – tremendous natural mineral resources and arable land, and finally a still quite vigorous population.

    Americas problems are its’ elites. The New Deal Administrative State and the Rule of the Cathedral require men of virtue, patriotism, courage – for their own virtues are the only check.
    These wretches couldn’t be farther from any of those qualities. The solution is simple, direct, and obvious. And I daresay – Incoming.

    Take a look at this map: this is the greatest reservoir of martial vigor on the planet now, when we live. The American south, Midwest and West aren’t exactly slouches either. This is the Scotch-Irish homeland in America.

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.icsd.k12.ny.us/sabbatic/images/stories/geography/Appalachians.png&imgrefurl=http://www.icsd.k12.ny.us/sabbatic/index.php?option%3Dcom_content%26task%3Dview%26id%3D65%26Itemid%3D75&h=424&w=637&sz=93&tbnid=hJ4k7FdO2CUuGM:&tbnh=86&tbnw=129&zoom=1&usg=__PERppynvWUMt4TBYoJtPSPA7XgQ=&docid=IvpAPLfQpLhwrM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ZuqSUcSeI7Gx0AHWiIGwDQ&ved=0CDsQ9QEwAw&dur=702

  21. Greying Wanderer says:

    I think there’s a lot of truth in the basic idea but with a lot of complexity in the details which leads to varying civilization/empire lifespans.

    1. China got conquered by barbarians a lot as well but assimilated them.
    2. Pacified civilizations can still defeat barbarians if they’re better organized imo. It seems to me there’s often a crisis first where they lose that organizational advantage and it’s only after that weakness that any genetic military disadvantage through pacification really kicks in imo.
    3. Violent individuals with a lot of self-control (soldier ants) should survive the pacification process and you only need a few legions of them to hold back lots of barbarians but they’ll get killed off disproportionately in wars so they need to be replenished. Once a pacified population loses all its soldier ants it can’t defend itself. Civilizations which have system for replenishing them may improve their longevity.
    4. A lot of ancient peoples – especially the ones you might consider most likely to be pacified by virtue of long-term civilization e.g. Egypt – tended to try and repair the problem of a too-pacified populace using mercenaries. If part-assimilated mercenaries take over as the new ruling elite the civilization itself can still survive.
    5. I don’t think there is much similarity to what is happening in Europe now as mass immigration is an elite project against the indigenous populations rather than an invasion per se. Although you could say the lack of violent resistance to the elite is a sign of pacification.

    .
    “so that today the English are descended from the Medieval gentry.”

    Artisans also, hence the surnames – important imo because i think artisans would have the highest proportion of assortative versus arranged marriages.

    .
    “in which he proposed that the stable social environment and institutions of Medieval England selected for a new kind of human who was less prone to violence, had an affinity for work, had low time preference, and was individualistic in several ways.”

    I think the basic idea is correct but sometimes it comes across as saying a) the English were modified then b) stuff happened whereas i think it was more of an ongoing process i.e. a) the English were modifed slightly then b) a little bit of social change happened as a result and then c) they were modified a bit more then d) a little bit more social change happened etc.

    It’s a bit of a quibble but otherwise you’re left with the idea of a supposedly “pacified” population invading half the planet.

    At the end of the day it’s “relatively” pacified.

    • isamu says:

      ‘It’s a bit of a quibble but otherwise you’re left with the idea of a supposedly “pacified” population invading half the planet.”

      Pacified, conformist, law-abiding people make the best sort of soldiers in a modern army.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        “Pacified, conformist, law-abiding people make the best sort of soldiers in a modern army.”

        Disagree. A pacified, law-abiding people make the best organisational support for a modern army and can provide a technological edge. The best combat soldiers are that part of the population who are half-pacified.

    • misdreavus says:

      What the hell are you talking about?

    • Again words like ‘pacified’ and ‘docile’ are not good global descriptors of people. By ‘pacified’ I mean, among other things, do males get fitness from winning the punchup in the local bar on Saturday night or do they get fitness from working hard, saving resources, and provisioning their children.

  22. observer says:

    Don’t worry, a few decades of purely political change can only make the difference between North and South Korea.

    • reiner Tor says:

      Most of the upper and middle classes fled the North during the war in the fifties, those who didn’t ended up in concentration camps or at least at the very bottom of society. I guess it was a very strong selection, essentially taking the IQ top 10% of society out.

      Even so, North Korea has the GDP of Ivory Coast and yet unlike Ivory Coast it’s building nukes and intercontinental missiles. Oh, and it has had no civil war, at least so far.

  23. Cattle Guard says:

    So, the fact that chicks dig jerks and the fact that jerky behavior is heritable are what’s keeping us from turning into a civlization full of nice people and getting overrun by barbarians?

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      Chicks dig men they think can protect them.

      • There is apparently polymorphism in what ‘chicks dig’. Dan Freedman wrote some papers about following a group of women from high school into young adulthood. The male hierarchy and the female preference flipped 180 degrees in a few years out of high school. The alpha male in high school, target of female preference, was working at the gas station a few years later and none of the females thought he was worth much. The wonky nerds were in professional school and were the targets of female preference.

  24. Jim says:

    “The Romans in the fifth century didn’t roll over and wag their tails, they fought against the Huns and their allies, and they lost”

    Ih 451 the “Romans” defeated the “Huns” at the Battle of Chalon. That is the way it is often described. But the so-called “Roman army” at Chalons mostly consisted of Visigoths. Even the generals were probably mostly Latinized Germans. The “Hunnish horde” consisted mostly of Ostrogoths and a variety of other East Germans. There probably never were enough actual Huns to make a self-respecting horde.

    So the descendents of the original population of the Western Roman Empire don’t seem to be doing a lot of fighting themselves. Most of the warfare is between different barbarian groups even if some of these barbarians are officially part of the so-called “Roman army”.

  25. Jim says:

    The fighting between “Romans” and barbarians in the fifth century doesn’t refute the theory of there having been a genetic change (domestication) in the populations long under imperial rule. The “Romans” doing the fighting against ‘barbarians” were themselves mostly barbarians.

  26. James says:

    Hello, I should be grateful to know what Dr Harpending (or anyone else) makes of Steven Pinker’s criticisms in The Better Angels of Our Nature of Clark’s hypothesis in Genetically Capitalist? I am a novice on the subject, but to me Pinker’s criticisms seem… well, pretty fatal to Clark’s hypothesis:

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=c3cWa-GnsfMC&pg=PT1006&lpg=PT1006&dq=steven+pinker+a+farewell+to+alms&source=bl&ots=aJkJjnRIfe&sig=-o2vC1xNGgp8MjVvGGNmKTMIl7c&hl=en&sa=X&ei=qpGTUePFLMqU0AW8yYH4Aw&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAQ.

    • What does he say? The link you give does reference Farewell to Alms but only the book page comes up for me what I click the link. I don’t have/have not read Pinker.

      • James says:

        Thank you for replying. I’m sorry about the link. Here is the relevant passage (page 750):

        “…A farewell to Alms is filled with illuminating statistics and gripping narratives about the historical precursors to the Industrial Revolution. But the Genetically Capitalist theory has not competed well in the struggle for survival among theories of economic growth. One problem is that until recently, the rich have outreproduced the poor in pretty much every society, not just the one that later blasted off in an industrial revolution. Another is that while aristocrats and royals may have had no more legitimate heirs than the bourgeoisie, they more than made up for it in bastards, which could have contributed a disproportionate share of their genes to the next generation. A third is that when institutions change, a nation can vault to spectacular rates of economic growth in the absence of a recent history of selection for middle-class values, such as postwar Japan and post-communist China. And, most important, Clark cites no data showing that the English are innately more self-controlled or less violent than the citizenries of countries that did not host an industrial revolution.

        So while recent biological evolution may, in theory, have tweaked our inclinations towards violence and nonviolence, we have no good evidence that it actually has. At the same time, we do have good evidence for changes that could not possibly be genetic, because they unfolded on time-scales that are too rapid to be explained by natural selection, even with the new understanding of how recently it has acted. The abolition of slavery and cruel punishments during the Humanitarian Revolution; the reduction of violence against minorities, women, children, homosexuals, and animals during the Rights Revolutions; and the plummeting of war and genocide during the Long Peace and the New Peace, all unfolded over a span of decades or even years, sometimes within a single generation. A particularly dramatic decline is the near-halving of the homicide rate during the Great American Crime Decline of the 1990s. The decay rate of that decline, around 7 percent a year, is powerful enough to drag a measure of violence down to 1 percent of its original level over just two generations, all without the slightest change in gene frequencies. Since it is indisputable that cultural and social inputs can adjust the settings of our better angels (such as self-control and empathy) and thereby control our violent inclinations, we have the means to explain all the declines of violence without invoking recent biological evolution. At least for the time being, we have no need for that hypothesis.”

      • pauljaminet says:

        James, he’s right that Clark’s proposed genetic-cultural changes don’t explain the Industrial Revolution. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen, or that descendants of the English may not be better suited to thriving in a “bourgeois” market society than ethnicities who didn’t have that selective history.

        There are several pathways by which Clarkian selection may have contributed to England’s success. One is that the people may have become more cooperative and honest, or lengthened their time preference. Another is that it may have increased their comfort level with / preference for an advanced commercial society, so that the English (and their heirs in America, Australia, etc) developed a greater willingness to adopt and maintain free, entrepreneurial institutions than other societies. When technological change created rewards for entrepreneurship, they were ready to take advantage of it.

        An increased entrepreneurial ability has no economic value in a Malthusian, technologically static world, but its value is revealed when technological advances create a need for entrepreneurship.

        Similarly, Pinker’s point about the rapid change in rates of violence refuting genetics has the same problem. In the medieval era, information had to be physically carried and the fastest mode of transport, the horse, was as available to criminals as law enforcers. So it was possible to engage in violence and escape with little risk. Once telegraphs and railroads were invented, the calculus changed; information about crimes could go on ahead of the criminal. So a popular disposition against crime might develop without the technical means to suppress crime (change its cost/benefits), but when technology changes, we could see an order of magnitude reduction in crime rates in some cultures but not others, due to prior evolutionary selection on preferences.

        So it’s quite plausible that the English evolved a disposition against violence in 800-1800 and that this was sharply revealed in the 19th century when they acquired the technical means to suppress crime.

        I am assuming here that the disposition to commit crimes is primarily a result of non-genetic factors, eg health or opportunity, so that genetic selection matters more in the suppressors of violence than the violent themselves.

      • Thanks for the elaboration James. I am not sure that he is ‘getting’ what the C/F model is.

        Anthropologists have shown that everywhere before the Industrial Revolution wealthy people had more surviving offspring: it is close to a human universal as far as we know. That is no knock on the C/F hypothesis. But in low tech societies, when there is nothing to transmit to these offspring, wealth and fitness are not transitive.

        He cites rapid social change, like the 1990s decline in violence. His point is that this “can’t be due to genetics.” So what? No one denies that social change occurs and no one claims that all such change reflects genetics.

        And this: “And, most important, Clark cites no data showing that the English are innately more self-controlled or less violent than the citizenries of countries that did not host an industrial revolution.” One certainly can. Phil Rushton put a lot of it together. Look, for example, at homicide rates in Africa.

        His conclusion is especially problematic: “we have the means to explain all the declines of violence without invoking recent biological evolution”. Social science has the ‘means’ to explain absolutely everything that ever happened and social science has been busily doing that for nearly a century. IMHO it hasn’t gotten us anywhere. For example I can explain it all too by invoking the invisible guiding hand of the blueberry elf.

        I think Steve hasn’t given much serious consideration to the C/F model. I am not happy with it myself but I want to know more. Here is an issue: why didn’t the industrial revolution and all the rest happen in the Fertile Crescent and the Nile Valley where settled agriculture first became important? I expect it had to do with despotism and clanship. Did a rich Assyrian peasant get to transmit his wealth to biological offspring or was it dissipated to the clan? Did the government let him keep his money and did it enforce his contract with his neighbor? I expect that insights about this are to be had from HBD Chick and her preoccupation with cousin marriage. We should try to pry her mind away from the Hajnal line and into the political history of the Nile Valley.

    • James says:

      Many thanks, both Paul and Dr Harpending, for your thoughtful replies. I haven’t read A Farewell to Alms but I was on the verge of buying it when I read Pinker’s dismissal of it and was put off (my esteem for Pinker has been colossal ever since I read the Blank Slate). In the light of your cogent arguments, however, I have now ordered A Farewell to Alms and am looking forward to reading it. I must say, I am rather disappointed that Pinker has seemingly not considered or understood the theory properly. I thought that the 10,000 Year Explosion was absolutely superb, by the way, and I have bought a number of copies for friends and relations. Anyway, thanks again for your replies.

      • reiner Tor says:

        I only bought one for my brother, most of my relations and friends don’t read English language books unfortunately. Does anyone know if a Hungarian translation is in the pipeline?

  27. kevin says:

    Dr Cochran,

    Questions off topic,

    1) How does evolutionary theory can explain the prevalence of male baldness in much of the white race (the Irish being the big exception)? That a man 50,000 years ago had an accidental genetic mutation which caused him to lose his hair, and the women in his tribe were more attracted to him with his bald head than to all the other hairy men, and so he had more offspring than the hairy ones, and so the genetic mutation for baldness spread through the population?

    My point is that we don’t have the slightest idea why male baldness exists and why it is so common, and there is no remotely plausible genetic “scenario” by which it came into existence via an accidental mutation that was then selected. Or maybe baldness just appeared (by a random genetic mutation), but didn’t have to be selected to survive, it just wasn’t selected against? why these factors should have come into existence in the first place, affecting some members of the population to the point of total male pattern baldness, affecting others less, affecting others not at all. Currently, baldness is a negative sexual signifier and maybe bald men incur a mating disadvantage. Although the causes of hairloss in men don’t seem to affect reproductive fitness significantly nowadays so it is difficult to imagine under what circumstances they might have a great impact on fitness. Receding hairlines and baldness decreased facial attractiveness and perceived aggressiveness. On the other hand, increased perceived age and social maturity (Muscarella et al 1996).

    2) What do you think that erectile dysfunction is correlated as a marker of poor phenotypic quality? http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306987705000599

    The optimal phenotypic or behavioral option is the one that maximizes net benefits under the constraints. Since each sex has a bias to prefer individuals of particular qualities because that bias has advantages in realms other than mating and the optimal strategies may be contingent on the condition or phenotype of the individual (conditional or phenotype limited optima).

    I would appreciate if you could comment these issues or posting someday. Thank you so much!

    • 1. Pleiotropy. A classic example (in the current context of breeding for tameness) is the Russian fox farm experiment. (..Selecting for tameness resulting in a host of apparently unrelated changes such as in fur and so on.)

    • Anonymous says:

      “Signal selection”. No optima to just get fixed, everybody doing as best as able. Shows that being haired is somehow demanding, like the rest of looks, practically useless smarts, and the like…

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “How does evolutionary theory can explain the prevalence of male baldness in much of the white race”

      It doesn’t need to if baldness mostly happens *after* sexual selection, marriage and reproduction.

      • Anonymous says:

        Indeed it doesn’t… Senescence theory must be relevant to the fact that many go bald when older, yet there are degrees of hair thinness among the young, higher ones worst than lower, there is more variation among males (which tend to include both the bald and the very thick-haired), and, anecdotally speaking, my young bald acquaintances tend to be more unremarkable than average downwards and inwards the would-be hair line.

      • Fran says:

        “It doesn’t need to if baldness mostly happens *after* sexual selection, marriage and reproduction.”

        That sort of thinking is totally wrong. Although the frequency of balding in the population increases with age, you should realize that:

        1) Onset of hair loss sometimes begins as early as the end of puberty,
        2) Even though about 25 % of men begin balding by age 30, nowadays the paternal average age has gone up a lot. The mating phase lifespan is prolonged over 30 years old in a lot of cases. (Delaying the age of marriage, divorce and reentry in mating market..)

        One possibility is that male patter balding has no particular advantage of its own, but it is genetically tied to a seemingly unrelated trait that is beneficial.

    • Anonymous says:

      Fran,
      Traits that have no practical utility, yet our minds are naturally predisposed positively towards (and hair would be a great example) must be reliable signals of more general quality (that’s why minds are adapted to finding them attractive). Such traits also are at one’s best at prime reproductive time (like right after puberty), and are more variable in the sex that can vary more in number of offspring. Baldness need not be selected for, it’s just that people differ in their ability to keep their hair.

      • Priceeqn says:

        Unless of course we’re talking Fisherian selection, in which the choice of trait may truly be random…

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s the one thing Fisher got utterly wrong, along with Darwin (plus, no detectable craze about the bald); Zahavi, the second innumerate genius of evolutionary biology, got it right.

    • rob says:

      Cads and dads

      Baldness stops women from falling in love, but it doesn’t seem to stop them from staying in love. Bald men put relatively more resources into their current children rather than into finding more wives and having more. Also, it would be mildly surprising if baldness and IQ weren’t correlated within families. People who delay children until they can raise them marry pretty late these days, so baldness must be getting bred out. If the TFR of the marrying sort of women ever recovers, I expect baldness will be much less common in the future.

      Since one gene related to baldness is on the X chromosome, it is entirely possible that heterozygosity has an advantage for women. I think I saw a reference to an old study that bald men had way more daughters than sons, like 2:1, but I’m sure someone would have noticed that more recently if were actually true.

      Come to think of it, the androgen receptor variant is a repeat expansion: more repeats higher more sensitive receptor, which presumably means early/more balding. Triplet repeats are expansion-prone, and mutation leads to fairly high frequency of the disorder. That would be especially true of an X chromosome trait if the Darwinian optimal repeat number is within the ‘pre-mutation’ repeat number.

      • Anonymous says:

        Nope. Baldness ain’t an adaptation for increasing dadness anymore than erectile dysfunction. Anything bad for men on the X needn’t be good for women-they might just get by with what’s on the other. A Trivers-Willard effect towards the bald having more daughters doesn’t have to mean that these daughters benefit from having a bald dad-just like daughters don’t benefit by having a poor dad, yet that too increases daughters. I bet any study will show the bald to have greater fluctuating asymmetry, as well as worst IQ and overall health. Of course some great men are/have been bald. On average, they would have to be a bit greater to have kept their hair.

      • JayMan says:

        “I bet any study will show the bald to have greater fluctuating asymmetry, as well as worst IQ and overall health.”

        Actually, there is evidence that, at least in the case of IQ, the reverse is true. Bald men were seen average 4 IQ points higher than men with a full head of hair. Don’t know if these were men that were naturally balding, and don’t know if it was controlled for age.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah, a sample that selected itself, and a method that gave a national average of 115 for Fox viewers…

      • Anonymous says:

        And if a self-selected sample does indeed have nearly 1 SD higher IQ than the national average, that sampling strongly selected for willingness to show off smarts, which must be greater among the smart bald.

    • Toad says:

      Less cover for lice and fleas.

  28. RS says:

    > We shouldn’t look down on using mercenaries too much. The simple fact, in the entire world, is that some of these barbarians could only be countered by similar barbarians (I’m thinking the Steppe Horse Archer).

    I think when the Chinese got frustrated with steppe nomads’ hypermobility, they created units of Han soldiery who basically went out there and copied the same lifestyle, living off of herds, to complicate the lives of the steppe nomads in the near-China zone. Because of genes, these boys probably weren’t equally happy or successful at this way of being, but of course they got some money from the metropole to make up for that. Pretty clever. Perhaps this was before the Great Wall. I think I got this from the richly informed but confusing and poorly readable _Pursuit of Power_.

  29. Rick Johnson says:

    From Wikipedia, “Caracalla’s reign was also notable for the Constitutio Antoniniana (also called the Edict of Caracalla), granting Roman citizenship to all freemen throughout the Roman Empire, which according to historian Cassius Dio, was done for the purposes of raising tax revenue.”

    Previously, Roman citizenship was limited to Italians, and some others on special grant. The more things change, the more…………………………..

  30. Global Thought Crime says:

    Tommy.

    There will be a need for men such a Tommy again.

  31. Discard says:

    Since farming can support more people per square mile than herding or raiding, the civilized parts of the world have more people than their barbarous rivals. Of that larger population, a certain number will be more violent than average, mean enough to have a chance against the savages. We also have the means to create advanced technology, that the barbarians cannot match. That small fraction of a civilized population that is aggressive enough to go up against the savages can be armed with the technology that their more pacific brethren produce, and crush them. Think Texas Rangers with six shooters against the Commanches with bows and arrows. The Indians were defeated all across the continent by a tiny fraction of the manpower available.

    • Michael says:

      The Indians were hunter-gatherers, not nomadic pastoralists.

      The frontiersmen that engaged the Indians didn’t represent a typical civilized population. Many of them were more akin to nomadic pastoralists.

      Small groups of nomadic pastoralists have often defeated much larger civilized populations throughout history.

    • amk says:

      The Indians were hunter-gatherers, not nomadic pastoralists.

      The frontiersmen that engaged the Indians weren’t a typical civilized population. Many of them were more akin to nomadic pastoralists.

      Small groups of nomadic pastoralists have often defeated much larger civilized populations throughout history.

      • Discard says:

        We read of Daniel Boone and the like, wandering the frontier and killing the occasional Indian, but the real work of displacement was done by armed, ill-tempered farmers and ranchers. Landowners, not nomads. And of course the U.S. Cavalry was the creature of the American taxpayer.
        It’s true that nomads have defeated larger numbers of civilized people, but not if the civilized people have enough of a technological edge.

      • James says:

        The “ill-tempered farmers and ranchers” were like barbarian pastoralists, rather than a typical civilized population, and the Indians were hunter gatherers. So it was a case of barbarian pastoralists vs hunter gatherers, rather than civilized population vs barbarian pastoralists.

        The pattern seems to be that barbarian pastoralists have frequently defeated civilized populations militarily, while the civilized populations have frequently absorbed or assimilated the barbarians.

      • Discard says:

        James: The farmers and ranchers that moved into the Indians’ land were property owners, not nomads. Perhaps they were nomads by nature, but channelled by English law into the settled ways of agriculture? Still, the final slapdown, in the Ohio Valley, the South, and the Great Plains, was always administered by uniformed soldiers, the strong right arm of civilization.

    • IC says:

      Good army needs obedient disciplined soldiers who carry orders like Japanese. Kamikaze is act of extreme obedience to follow order to death, not stupid personal courage or mean attidude. Buntch of aggressive personalites can only form a mob, not army. Organized obedient soldiers always beat mobs.
      This explained aggressive middle easterners are never good at organized army. Yet quiet obedient English is always better than aggressive French in organized conflict. Aggressive Irish seems never a match for obedient English either when everything equal.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        “Organized obedient soldiers always beat mobs.”

        half-pacified* > unpacified > pacified (imo)

        *if there’s enough of them to fill the legions

  32. misdreavus says:

    I took a good look at the first 10 comments on this page, and decided whether it was worth my time reading the rest of ‘em.

    Nope.

  33. Matt says:

    Henry : No one to my knowledge has traced parallels with the European and Roman experience in Japan or China. Is the different East Asian trajectory related to the East Asian reluctance to roll over, wag their tails, and welcome new barbarian neighbors?

    Not an expert, but the following would be my response:

    Barbarian invasions happened in China, so it’s not like they kept the barbarians out, that they didn’t “roll over”.

    The question is more why the barbarians did not experience large demographic growth, and why the cultural systems established by the Chinese and to which they were well adapted continued to prosper (which is why the Chinese maintained their demographic edge).

    I think the main reason has to be that the Germans (and other barbarians, but mainly Germans, who were driven by Slavs, who were driven by Huns) were fairly good farmers (probably not on a par with Romans but like the British Celts possibly superior in a Northern European environment), and were adapted to this (if not order), while the barbarian frontier groups the Chinese encountered were more pure pastoralists, whose strategy was relatively self limiting.

    I think a secondary reason must be fiscal as well – the Chinese equivalents of courts, contracts, police, etc. were likely able to stably maintain themselves, maintaining a selection pressure which would favor Chinese (aided and backed by whichever barbarian famed that got the throne) reproduction rather the barbarians. The Roman Empire experienced major finance and revenue problems throughout and towards its end, and its institutions were not very stable (i.e. constantly repeating military coups). It seems more likely that Roman civil authority and military institutions failed, because they ran out of money (to pay a competitive wage) than out of violent young Roman men.

    All this said, the Chinese, I think, did experience major gene flow from barbarians which changed them deeply (I think probably more than gene flow changed the Italians, as a whole). Chinese show up in formal tests of Admix such as the ADMIXTOOLS as a mix of South East Asian mainland native populations and Korean / Japanese type populations. Chinese civilization expanded onto the southern hills and valleys of South China during the era which corresponds to the Roman Empire and late Antiquity. This may have been a period of fusion between these two elements of Chinese ancestry which may have slowed any selective pressures in the Chinese population.

  34. Clark’s paper presents a nice argument for the influence of selection pressures. I notice he touches somewhat obliquely on the influence of sailing on pages 7 and 8. I don’t recall specifically where I’ve read how the social organization of local communities around “joint-stock” sailing vessels and sailing ventures shaped culture from the 15th c. onward (as England replaced the Dutch in trade), but it might be interested to see that idea developed further in conjunction with the Clark paper.

  35. wfprice says:

    This all brings up an interesting question: what happened in East Asia over the same period? No one to my knowledge has traced parallels with the European and Roman experience in Japan or China. Is the different East Asian trajectory related to the East Asian reluctance to roll over, wag their tails, and welcome new barbarian neighbors?

    They may have been reluctant, but even so East Asians were not very successful at keeping barbarians out. Chinese history reads as an unending series of invasions from the North and West, many of them successful.

    I think the difference really lies in geography. The northern plains, forests, deserts and steppe have always been contested, but even as that was going on classical Chinese civilization took root in the moist, fertile and mountainous south. There, the population grew very large and the culture very deep. So, whether or not the barbarians ruled, they simply didn’t have the demographic weight to displace what had become the Chinese heartland. Nor were their pastoral lifestyles suited to thriving there. Every time a northern usurper took hold of the contested Yellow River region, it wouldn’t take long for Chinese influence to work its way back up from the south, just as it did with the Communist Revolution (the leadership disproportionately hails from Shanghai). Northern Chinese today have a lot more Mongol, Turkic and even Persian blood than southerners. It’s apparent simply from looking at them, so the barbarians do live on there.

    It wouldn’t be accurate, furthermore, to think of Chinese as any more resolutely opposed to barbarian invasions than Europeans. The Manchus, for example, had plenty of Chinese allies on the northern frontier. Chinese generals happily switched sides when they saw it was in their favor, and fought alongside the Manchu invaders. Plenty of traitors welcomed the Mongols, too, and sided with An Lushan during the disastrous rebellion of the Tang dynasty.

    As for the Japanese, well, they were on an island, and the Asian barbarians, unlike Germans, were not very good sailors. But Japan was invaded by Koreans about 2,000 years ago, and they mixed with the locals, creating the race we know today as Japanese.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “I think the difference really lies in geography.”

      Well there are two pieces to it 1) what leads to a successful barbarian conquest or mercenary (probably also barbarian) takeover in the first place and 2) how well can a conquered civilization absorb and survive such an event.

      Maybe places with (relatively speaking) very high population densities like Egypt, India and China had the equivalent of demographic defense in depth and could therefore successfully absorb barbarian invasion or mercenary coup more easily?

      If so then the pacification idea would only speak to the initial conquest. The end-result of the conquest might depend more on the population density and cultural depth of the conquered.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        So

        Part 1) Conquest

        If there are genetic traits that are useful in violence and they exist at a certain frequency within a population and then you apply a selection pressure against them i.e. pacification, through a rule of law then you should gradually reduce the frequency – at least where those traits are paired with impulsivity. Alternatively or additionally if violent traits confer a reproductive advantage in a violent society but that turns into a reproductive disadvantage the more peaceful a society becomes – again disproportionately wieghted to violence paired with impulsivity – then that would also lead to a decrease in frequency.

        So pacification may be (and i think is) a natural feature of civilization separate from any Farewell to Alms effect and over time the frequency of violent traits will decrease (but not disappear).

        asdf
        “Justinian bankrupted the empire trying to retake North Africa and Italy. Then got blindsided by the Persians while his forces were busy. His largest cities got sacked while his forces were returning and then he fought a long drag out fight with then for decades. At the end of all that both empires got rolled by Islam. Hardly fits the narrative.

        By the same token and if you have a population which is part-pacified and only has a limited percentage of individuals with a significant quantity of warrior genes and you apply a very strong selection pressure against them for a short time e.g. getting lots of them killed fighting lots of wars over a few decades so they can’t replenish, then you’d greatly speed up the pacification process.

        but then

        Part 2) Civilizational Survival after Conquest.

        gwern
        “If it is a general trend that empires domesticate their people for easier management and pacification, then this should be reflected in their lifespans: the lifespans should be limited since the domestication makes them ever easier to conquer by outsiders. Why don’t we see this effect in http://www.uvm.edu/~pdodds/files/papers/others/2011/arbesman2011a.pdf “The Life-Spans of Empires”?”

        might depend more on the geographcal / population density / cultural depth of the conquered population. A relatively low density population and low cultural depth Romano-British population might succumb completely to a barbarian conquest while a relatively high density population with a huge amount of cultural depth could survive numerous invasions and / or mercenary takeovers.

  36. George Ditton says:

    Interesting conjecture and seems to fall in line with the thesis put forward in “Albions Seed” and seems to have some explanative power regarding the Red Neck Philosophy about settling all arguments with a fight.

    I do wonder about the Paleolithic Diet advocates and their foundational abelief that evolution has not changed the human genome within the last 10,000 years and that therefore we are not adapted to eat wheat and other grains of agriculture. If we can change through evolution our propensity to violence then surely adapting to digestion of grain protiens ought to be possible. I think the Paleo Diet people might ought to reconsider their stance.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      Except not all populations have had the whole 10,000 years so there might be differences in the level of adaptation between populations depending on how early they adopted agriculture.

      If so then any benefit from the paleo diet might only apply to specific ancestral groups.

    • pauljaminet says:

      The grain proteins have evolved to work against mammals who have been feeding on them for 20 million years — herbivorous grazers like cows, horses, etc. They work against evolutionarily highly conserved mammalian targets.
      In any case, though early Paleo diets argued their case based on an “era of evolutionary adaptedness” in the Paleolithic and discordance between modern lifestyles and genome, the most sophisticated recent ancestral approach (ours, see Perfect Health Diet) makes no such assumption and is based on a much richer evolutionary biology approach. It turns out most dietary needs are evolutionarily conserved across all animals, with slight variations across species and ages for considerations like brain size and rate of brain growth, and animals adapt to different ecological niches by developing abilities to transform the nutrient content of foods into the desired mix through digestive tract and liver evolution. So most of the body is evolutionarily conserved, the digestive functions are evolutionarily plastic and are the primary part of the body that adapts to altered diets. There is modest evidence of recent adaptations in digestive function, eg increased amylase copy number to accommodate higher carb diets, but these primarily make bad diets more tolerable, they don’t significantly alter our optimal diet.

    • TIMS says:

      Paul Jaminet,

      What about pandas? They’re evolved to eat and digest meat, yet they eat bamboo.

      • pauljaminet says:

        Yeah, and they’re almost extinct. They might do better on their Pleistocene diet.

      • mathlogic says:

        Pandas still eats meat. Bamboo rats are part of their diet. They even steal farmers livestocks.
        http://bbs.english.sina.com/viewthread.php?tid=135576
        Panda in action

        With right environment, they can evolve back to pure carnivores.

      • TIMS says:

        Paul Jaminet,

        Yes, are you sure that has anything to do with them not eating meat? Don’t carnivores require fairly significant hunting grounds to survive? If I’m not mistaken, pandas are adversely affected by habitat loss. I think they’d be in the same boat if they ate meat.

      • pauljaminet says:

        Yes, exactly. They lost their habitat to humans and have been forced to eat an inferior diet. If they could eat a natural diet they would have an easier time having babies. Their natural diet contains meat and more digestible plants than bamboo. Zoos would do well to feed them their ancestral diet, not the diet in their contemporary habitat.

      • TIMS says:

        Paul Jaminet

        Their old diet is actually likely pre-Pleistocene. They’re believed to have switched from meat to bamboo 7 to 2 mya. And while major features such as their digestive systems may have evolved to primarily digest meat, they appear to have certain adaptations to eating bamboo, like their false thumbs that help grasp bamboo, behavioral adaptations like low activity levels and not hibernating, and gene mutations that make them unable to taste meat. They appear to get nutrients from the bamboo via gut microbes that process it. So there’s also symbiosis with other organisms rather than their own digestive system that allows them to eat bamboo.

        Humans may also have evolved to digest their Pleistocene or pre-Pleistocene diet more efficiently, but many humans also appear to have certain adaptations to agriculture and processed foods.

      • TIMS says:

        Paul Jaminet:

        Their old diet is actually likely pre-Pleistocene. They’re believed to have switched from meat to bamboo 7 to 2 mya. And while major features such as their digestive systems may have evolved to primarily digest meat, they appear to have certain adaptations to eating bamboo, like their false thumbs that help grasp bamboo, behavioral adaptations like low activity levels and not hibernating, and gene mutations that make them unable to taste meat. They appear to get nutrients from the bamboo via gut microbes that process it. So there’s also symbiosis with other organisms rather than their own digestive system that allows them to eat bamboo.

        Humans may also have evolved to digest their Pleistocene or pre-Pleistocene diet more efficiently, but many humans also appear to have certain adaptations to agriculture and processed foods.

  37. Greying Wanderer says:

    pauljaminet
    “Zoos would do well to feed them their ancestral diet, not the diet in their contemporary habitat.”

    After reading your posts it seems crazy they haven’t tried.

  38. Greying Wanderer says:

    isamu
    “Pacified, conformist, law-abiding people make the best sort of soldiers in a modern army.”

    IC
    “Good army needs obedient disciplined soldiers who carry orders like Japanese…Organized obedient soldiers always beat mobs.”

    When i say above that i disagree with this i mean in the case of ancient armies where men are fighting face to face. As technology improves and the *range* of weapons increases the need for the original kind of warrior genes decreases.

    (Although i still think half-pacified individuals are better in both cases as they have the cooperativeness of the pacified with the grit of the unpacified.)

  39. TIMS says:

    Re baldness, there has been a study suggesting that bald men are perceived as more masculine, dominant, better leaders, etc:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/oct/04/bald-men-dominant-image

  40. TIMS says:

    Re baldness, there has been a study suggesting that bald men are perceived as more masculine, dominant, better leaders, etc

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/oct/04/bald-men-dominant-image

    • Anonymous says:

      Manipulating the hair on pictures loses actual covariances, but that’s the case generally for inforties vs intwenties, and a thirty-something with hair removed from his picture might look like an exceptionally fit forty-something. Do actual balding youngsters look better in any way than their full-haired counterparts? The thin- in comparison to the thick-haired? Hair is costly and practically useless, like a peacock’s tail. Costly decorations evolve ONLY as reliable signals of quality. People who actually shave their scalps (for reasons other than to avoid the ugly horseshoe) are a different story altogether. They are conveying “I’m tough” (for defying convention and not even needing hair). Culturally induced partial hair shaving leaves the hair in the middle to signify pride (as is some war-happy tribes), but removes it (altogether or, significantly, in the middle alone) to signify humility (think of certain monk types).

  41. Re baldness: Does the geographical history of head lice evolution match human lineages of male-pattern baldness?

  42. FredR says:

    This is all well and good, but what happens when all the fighting can be done painlessly (at least, for one side) by machines built by very pacified populations?

  43. Greying Wanderer says:

    An example of a “warrior gene” that would tie into the idea of pacification over time might be hyper-sensitivity to adrenaline. If someone like that got more of the practical benefits of adrenalin in violent sutuations but at the cost of an increased inclination to adrenaline addiction / cravings then in a violent environment such a hyper-sensitivity gene might be adaptive on balance but in a non-violent environment it becomes maladaptive as they kill themselves doing dangerous stuff to get high on adrenaline.

    • Discard says:

      Greying Wanderer: Some of that dangerous stuff that those with a “warrior gene” would enjoy might have to do with having more sex with more women than the non-warriors do. If dysgenic (for warriors) large scale warfare can be avoided, they ought be able to spread their genes around well enough. Car wrecks, mountain climbing accidents, and fatal duels are not common enough to cull the reckless from our midst.
      I recall reading that the British thought it was a good idea to “blood” their regiments, that is, get a few of them killed on a regular basis in order to keep them on their toes. I sometimes wonder if our Army has the same idea. 500 or so dead per year is indefinitely sustainable, and worth the cost (to the Pentagon) if it makes the survivors tougher and sharper. “Good training” as they say.

  44. Bobo says:

    Caeser remarked that the German barbarians were lazy, in particular for not engaging in farming.

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