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Not Everyone Does It

All humans love to kiss, so kissing must go back to early hominids and even chimps and bonobos. This is how ethologists and evolutionary psychologists think when they write about the subject. Just one thing. Even in historic times not all humans loved to kiss. Far from arising millions of years in the past, kissing seems to have arisen no earlier than 40,000 years ago, when modern humans began to enter northern Eurasia.

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Making Europeans Kinder, Gentler

Hanged, drawn, and quartered. Although the Middle Ages were, in the imagination of our contemporaries, “the time of the gallows,” the reality was appreciably different (Carbasse, 2011, pp. 38-39) Like many well-meaning people, I once considered the death penalty a relic of a more barbaric age. Outside the old jailhouse, here in Quebec City, I can see the open space where people used to be hanged … in public. In some cases, the authorities would go one better. The body would be placed in a cage and suspended near a thoroughfare for all to see … while it decomposed. This …

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How Universal Is Empathy?

Bronislaw Malinowski with natives on the Trobriand Islands (1918 – source). Pro-social behavior seems to be a human universal, but is the same true for full empathy? What is empathy? It has at least three components: – pro-social behavior, i.e., actions of compassion to help others – cognitive empathy, i.e., capacity to understand another person’s mental state – affective or emotional empathy, i.e., capacity to respond with the appropriate emotion to another person’s mental state (Chakrabarti and Baron-Cohen, 2013)

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Origins of Northwest European Guilt Culture. Part II

Reconstructed Mesolithic roundhouse near Northumberland, Great Britain (source: Andrew Curtis) At different times and in different regions, humans have entered larger social environments that are no longer limited to close kin. Because there is less interaction with any one person and more interaction with non-kin, correct behavior can no longer be enforced by the to and fro of family relationships. A moral code develops, with rules enforced by ostracism and shaming. In Northwest Europe, the moral code is also enforced by guilt—a form of self-shaming where the wrongdoer inflicts self-punishment even when he or she is the sole witness to …

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The Origins of Northwest European Guilt Culture

Ruth Benedict first made the distinction between “shame cultures” and “guilt cultures” (source). Pervasive feelings of guilt are part of a behavioral package that enabled Northwest Europeans to adapt to complex social environments where kinship is less important and where rules of correct behavior must be obeyed with a minimum of surveillance. Is this pervasive guilt relatively recent, going back only half a millennium? Or is it much older? As societies grew larger and more complex, it became necessary to interact with people who were less closely related. This new social environment was made to work by extending to non-kin …

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IQ & academic success

According to a recent meta-analysis, the correlation between IQ and school grades in the general population is nearly 0.55. Meanwhile the correlation between IQ and years of education in the U.S. is also 0.55.  Given the similarity between these two correlations, we can think of them both as just the 0.55 correlation between IQ and academic success.

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A Fruitful Encounter

  Did the Christian doctrine of original sin create the guilt cultures of Northwest Europe? Or did the arrow of causality run the other way? By definition, gene-culture co-evolution is reciprocal. Genes and culture are both in the driver’s seat. This point is crucial because there is a tendency to overreact to cultural determinism and to forget that culture does matter, even to the point of influencing the makeup of our gene pool. Through culture, humans have directed their own evolution.

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Feeling the Other’s Pain

We like to think that all people feel empathy to the same degree. In reality, it varies a lot from one person to the next, like most mental traits. We are half-aware of this when we distinguish between “normal people” and “psychopaths,” the latter having an abnormally low capacity for empathy. The distinction is arbitrary, like the one between “tall” and “short.” As with stature, empathy varies continuously among the individuals of a population, with psychopaths being the ones we find beyond an arbitrary cut-off point and who probably have many other things wrong with them. By focusing on the …

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Why Re-Colonization? Future Orientation

Each day, the Kung San walked long distances to the mongongo groves to collect their fruits.   Once he asked a tribesman why nobody had ever made an attempt to grow mongongo trees near some of the permanent water holes where the tribe resided.  “You could do that if you wanted to,” he replied, “but by the time the trees bore fruit, you would be long dead.” –Anthropologist Richard Lee

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The Tsar is Far

No sort of philosophy of history, whether Slavophil or Westerniser, has yet solved the enigma,  why a most unstatelike people has created such an immense and mighty state,  why so anarchistic a people is so submissive to bureaucracy,  why a people free in spirit as it were does not desire a free life?  –Nikolai Berdyaev, 1915 The sky is high; the tsar is far.  –Russian proverb Two things have mystified the Francis Fukuyamas of the world about non-Western peoples and their way of ‘adopting democracy.’  One is these peoples’ annoying propensity to produce rulers who stuff urns, crack heads, and …

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Chalk and cheese

“Our Italian colleagues from University of Rome Tor Vergata and University of Parma proposed  an idea that [as far as] public feelings of security and trust in the judicial system, southern and northern Italy should be treated as two separate countries.  In their view, they are as different as chalk and cheese: in the northern part, the sense of necessity in terms of obeying the rules and moral condemnation of corruptive conduct in authoritative organs is much higher than in the South.”   (E.U. Ethics Standardization Team member)

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Ethnocentrism: A Finer-Grained Look at How It Happened

In my earlier entry, we saw that the thing that made the difference between WEIRD Northwestern Europeans and their more clannish neighbors was the selective pressures that each underwent during their histories – particularly since the fall of Rome until the present. This era in time established the conditions in which different sorts of individuals survived and reproduced, eventually leading to the modern world as we know it. As before, it is to be understood that these differences have a genetic basis. That is, they are heritable. This means that genetic differences between different peoples lead to differences in their …

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The Flaws of Meritocratic Immigration

The most compelling alternative to ethnic nationalism is what we might call “meritocrat” or “individualist” nationalism. This is a system in which people are allowed to migrate to a country on a meritocratic basis. In other words, whether a person is allowed to come into a country is solely determined by whether they are, in some respect, good enough. In the real world, these meritocratic criteria usually have to do with occupational status, health, and income. In theoretical discussions, the idea of only letting immigrants in who have a certain IQ score is also often brought up. This proposal has …

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Civilization: Powered by the West, Threatened by the Rest

This article will consist of three parts. In the first, we will look at how regions and populations have varied in their technological, economic, and scientific advancement going from the ancient world to the present. Then I will review research showing that modern national wealth can be predicted based on how advanced a society was long before the industrial revolution or even recorded history. Finally, I will draw out some important implications that this research has on immigration and history.

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Transracial Adoption and the Black-White IQ Gap

In the United States, Blacks score about 15 points lower on IQ tests than Whites do (Roth et al., 2001). There is a debate about why. On the one hand, there are “hereditarians” who argue that this gap is due to a mixture of genetic and environmental causes and that both factors contribute a significant amount to the gap. On the other hand, there are “environmentalists” or “egalitarians” who argue that the gap is 100% caused by the environment. By looking at Blacks raised in White homes, either due to adoption or because they are biracial, we can test whether …

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Regression to the Mean

I am taller than the average American male. This can only be for a combination of two reasons: genes and the environment. I have no idea which environmental factors might have made me taller than average, so if my height advantage is part genetic and part environmental in origin I will probably only pass on the genetic portion to my children. Unless they, by sheer luck, also get the same environmental advantages I did, they will be more like the average person, in terms of height, than I am, but still somewhat taller than average due to my genes. They …

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Race, IQ, and Poverty

(This post was co-written with John Macintyre) Summary: In this post, I am going to look at how well differences in socio-economic status can explain racial IQ differences. First, we will see that affluent Blacks score lower than poorer Whites and Asians on tests of cognitive ability. Second, it will be seen that the Black/White IQ gap is highest among the rich and lowest among the poor. Third, it will be shown that the Black/White SES gap has fallen dramatically over the last 100 years while the Black/White IQ gap has not. And finally, it will be seen that most …

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Racial Discrimination in Loans

Racial differences in the ability to acquire a loan are sometimes pointed to as evidence of White privilege. These differences are said to lead to racial disparities in home ownership rates and entrepreneurship which in turn have a variety of long-term economic and social consequences. Though this story is often repeated, it is not justified by the relevant empirical evidence. The idea that Whites get loans easily due to White privilege is not consistent with the fact that Asians can get loans just as easily as Whites can.

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