Tag Archives: sssm

Evolutionary Psychology and Behavioral Genetics

Dr. Miller’s and Dr. Kanazawa’s Ten politically incorrect truths about human nature is everywhere these days. I discussed it over coffee with Daniel Nexon (of The Duck), Sean Meade (of Interact) emailed it to me, and it has appeared both on Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog and South Dakota Politics. Like evolutionary psychology (of which this article is a manifestation), it is useful in that it helps smash the Standard Social Science Model, but incomplete in that it does not fully embrace social sciences.

The Standard Social Sciences Model (SSSM) is the overall research program of social sciences since World War II. It is most notable for ignoring biological factors, especailly at the group level, as causes of variation in human behavior. So ancient stone axes are described as “ceremonial” (the idea that weapons are for violence being seen as biological reductionism), and racial variations are not even mentioned as possible hypothesis when looking at racial gaps in intelligence or attention span. The SSSM essentially put half of all variables in taboo, hobbling social science to this day. The Evolutionary Psychologists, and the sociobiologists before them, have been tireless opponents of the SSSM, opening the door to real social scientific research for the first time in generations.

However, the exclusion of biological factors from social sciences for half a century did its work in limiting the utility of early biological explanations. The central tools of social science, regression and correlation in explaining variation, are underused by EP and SB because they were relatively new to social science at the time of the taboo began. More scientific approaches to biological factors have now appeared, and these generally go by the name of behavioral genetics. The Evolutionary Psychologists and Biopsychologists ultimately did not prevail, but took the damage that allowed more scientific approachesto flurish.

So back to the original article, Ten politically incorrect truths about human nature. Twenty years ago the authors would have been hounded out of academia, because they dare believe that biology influences behavior. Nowadays there specific claims are dismissed, because of weak operationalize and overbroad generalities.

That’s progress. That’s science. That’s the search for knowledge.

There is now real debate. Men like Edward O. Wilson and John Tooby are to thank for that.

Good.

Some links: The twin blogs, Gene Expression and gnxp, are amazing sources for the latest in behavioral genetics. I first learned of the EvolPsych/behavgen split from Steven Pinker. And at Dreaming 5GW, I examined two cases where dangerously presented half-truths are worse than no truth at all.

Update: Per a request from Sean, my uninformed impressions of the specific claims are below the fold:


Men like blond bombshells (and women want to look like them)

Men should be expected to be attracted, and women should be expected to try to emulate, any hard-to-fake sign of reproductive fitness. As skin color and intelligence are generally correlated with moderate climates, this would imply that the idela female type should be skewed towards signs of moderate climate. (In all populations, women’s skin tends to be lighter than men’s, for perhaps this reason). Blond hair is a particularly European mutation, however, so this specific claim seems unlikely as a human universal.

Humans are naturally polygamous.

Better to say men historically have higher variance in the number of reproductive partners they have than women. The last universal male ancestor was much closer to our time than the last universal female ancestor for just this reason.

Most women benefit form polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy

Indeed. Monogamous societies are male guilds, where competition for females is limited for the bettermen of the average men. In the same way, the professions with the greatest “merit pay” relative to standard wage (academia, hollywood, professional sports) are worst for average workers but best for the best performing. See The Right Nation for more on this.

Most suicide bombers are Muslim

This is an objective fact, so within the claim itself there is no debate.

My own research indicates that genetic variation might have more to do with the particularly Arab (or perhaps more accurately, Semite) form of terrorism we see today. But I don’t know. This is a really open question, and there is a lot of money to be made in implementing an answer.

Having sons reduces the likelihood of divorce.

The claim and explanation both sound reasonable. No argument.

Beautiful people have more daughters.

Something similar is true of deer populations: daughters of highly reproductive males tend to be under-reproductive themselves. My guess is that beauty is an adaption that is particularly useful for females, and so it should skew toward females.

What Bill Gates and Paul McCartney have in common with criminals.

They have something else in common two: risk taking behavior and focus on abstract concepts. Many of the differences between males and females may come from two tendencies which emerge almost at birth: the male preference for systems and risk over people and stability.

The midlife crisis is a myth — sort of

Sounds reasonable. The authors present a specific test of their hypothesis, so it’s up to someone to tst it.

It’s natural for politicians to risk everything for an affair (but only if they’re male)

Solid discussion of inclusive fitness v. individual fitness.

Men sexually harass women because they are not sexist

Many behaviors are sex- (or at least gender-) dependent, and misapplication of these behaviors violates social norms. (Try to punch a mouthy woman or embrace a male aquaintence to see this for yourselves). The authors extend this logic to “harrassment.” Still, it goes without saying that many “harrasing” behaviors would be non-normative in a same-sex environment.

Socially-constructed races and the SSSM

Races are large groups, the members of whom are more closely related to each other than to outsiders. Races can be thought of as large-scale families. While race mixing can and does occur, the historical norm appears to have been for in-breeding within races. (It is through this inbreeding that genetic drift can ultimately lead to trouble.) Where there has been race-mixing in the past, it tends to be the males of one race interbreeding with females of another. Thus the United States has a “black” population that tends to be maternally African but often with distantly British paternity, and Mexico has a “mestizo” population that tends to be maternally American Indian and Iberan.

Some doubt the factual reality of race. That is, some claim that racial differences are only skin deep, and that the mere fact that one person has darker or whiter skin (facial features, bone structure, enzyme collection, etc) says nothing about ultimate ancestry. These skeptics would say that only a very small number of traits very among human groups in the first place, and that if one’s ancestral home is nearer the equator, then it makes sense that one’s ancestors evolved darker skin to avoid the sun’s harmful rays.

A problem exists if we claim that race only effects skin: race as a variable explains variation. Fatality rates from a host of diseases, intelligence, and other factors are better predicted if we take race into account than if we don’t. If race is not real below the skin, that means something besides biology is causing this variation. The race-skeptics answer that race is “socially constructed,” that society has decided that people should be fit into this-or-that racial category based on skin color. In other words, if we would ignore race, it would go away.

However, there is another way that race can be “socially constructed”: perhaps culture can cause genetic evolution. Indeed, it appears this has happened. gnxp notes an article from the Proceeds of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) entitled “ Linguistic tone is related to the population frequency of the adaptive haplogroups of two brain size genes, ASPM and Microcephalin.” The article notes how the long-standing view that humans are language-neutral — an infant from any population can learn any language equally well — appears to be false. Children whose parents come from populations that historically have a tonal language (Latvian, Chinese, etc). have a different sort of gene than children whose parents come from a tone-neutral language (English, Spanish, etc)…


As Scientific American writes, the genes that very between tonal and non-tonal populations affect brain size during embryonic development. Unlike subject-verb order, use of passive tense, round vowels, etc, “tone seemed to be inextricably tied to the variations of [the genes].”

Therefore, language may be socially constructed in that society determines which language genes — which type of linguistic intelligence — thrives in a population because of the population’s culture. This implies that other traits — which provide some advantage in a culture — may be selected for in some cultures but not other. Personality, temperment, skin color, disease resistance, general and multiple intelligences, etc. — can all be selected by culture, not just by natural environment, solar radition, etc.

Why does this matter? And why is it even controversial?

Western civilization and American ideology reject the notion that biological differences can result in differences in worth. Paul teaches “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28). Whether one’s reality is biologically determined (as in sex), culturally determined (as in wealth), or the result of biological-cultural interaction (nationality), all are equal. Likewise, the Declaration of Independence‘ preambles beginning, that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” is absurd if one reads to to say that equal rights are the result of equal inheritance.

However, starting in the 1940s, Academia was seized by the post-Christian, post-American Left. Without the arbitrary faith in equal moral worth that comes from the Christian and American traditions, the Left had to maintain that the facts showed that all humans were born equally capable in all ways. Otherwise, without faith in equal worth, the logical conclusion was Aristotle’s: some men are born to be kings, some are born to be slaves. The Left constructed the Standard Social Sciences Model to justify claims of equal worth by claiming that everyone had equal inheritance.

But the Standard Social Sciences Model is now falling apart. Every week brings new studies which show how genetics influece important traits, such as intelligence. And increasingly, we see papers like the langauge one which implies that cultures shape the biology of their host-nations. Contemporary genetics veto the possibility of equal inheritances, and increasingly the existence of races is seen to be more and more likely.

The SSSM is bankrupt. And with it, the logic of the left. Either a mechanism is found to uphold human equality in the absense of equal inheritances, or the doctrine of equal worth must be abandoned.