What if group ancestry matters?

Elam Bend emails in a fascinating review of A Farewell to Alms. The review is by Nicholas Wade, he who wrote Before the Dawn, so you know it’s worth your time. Farewell is derived from a study of England’s population, which concludes that the contemporary English are descendants from the upper class of the Middle Ages. Further, Farewell argues that agricultural societies generally are biased to the well off, that that they feature downward-mobility, such that descendants of the incompetent can fill the ranks of the (genetically extinguished) ranks of the (starved and infertile) lower classes. Perhaps, Farewell proposes, the reason that the Industrial Revolution started in Europe was that natural selection had produced a generation or two of Europeans fit for revolutionizing industry.

The converse of this is that areas without this harsh selective environment — say, those inhabited by comparatively well-fed hunter-gatherers — would not so select their populations. Thus, the reason that some places (unspoken, but think Africa) have less culture, less wealth, less security, less safety, less happiness, and less peace than other places (unspoken, but think Europe) might be evolution.

I cannot comment on this, Farewell‘s most controversial claim. The issue is complex and there’s good-but-circumstantial evidence both for and against. But it’s clear that one day Farewell‘s claim will be testable.

Only the foolish should have views on human equality that rely on facts alone.

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