Slouching towards barbarism

In his book A Troublesome Inheritance, Nicholas Wade points out what he believes to be two of the most important steps in building an advanced Western civilization. The first is the more fundamental one:

How then was the profound transition made from the chimplike society of the joint ancestor to the hunter-gatherer societies in which all humans lived until 15,000 years ago and in which kinship was a central institution? The likely steps in this process have been persuasively worked out by the primatologist Bernard Chapais. The critical behavioral step, in his view, was formation of the pair bond, or at least a stable breeding relationship between male and female….

Having a dad around makes all the difference to social networks. In highly promiscuous societies like those of chimps, an individual knows only its mother and the siblings it grows up with. With pair bonding, people know not only their father as well as their mother, but all their father’s relatives too. The males in a community now recognized both their daughters and, when their daughters dispersed to a neighboring group, a daughter’s husband and his parents.

The development of the heterosexual pair bond, which eventually developed into monogamous marriage, appears to have been crucial in the development of tribalism. It therefore follows that the modern sexual free-for-all and the weakening of the vital pair bond involved is not only dyscivic, but downright dehumanizing.

The second significant step Wade identifies comes much later, and enables the escape from tribalism. This was accomplished most successfully, and fully, in England, but also took place in East Asia:

The entry to the modern industrial world has two principal requirements. The first is to develop institutions that enable a society to break away, at least to some substantial extent, from the default human institution of tribalism. Tribalism, being built around kinship ties, is incompatible with the institutions of a modern state.

The break from tribalism probably requires a population to evolve such behaviors as higher levels of trust toward those outside the family or tribe. A second required evolutionary change is the transformation of a population’s social traits from the violent, short-term, impulsive behavior typical of many hunter-gatherer and tribal societies into the more disciplined, future-oriented behavior seen in East Asian societies and documented by Clark for English workers at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

But this break from tribalism required a eugenic and eucivic mechanism, one that Wade rather generously labels “natural selection”: the English rich consistently having a little more than twice as many children as the poor.

As it happens, Clark has documented four behaviors that steadily changed in the English population between 1200 and 1800, as well as a plausible mechanism of change. The four behaviors are those of interpersonal violence, literacy, the propensity to save and the propensity to work….

“The surname evidence confirms a permanent selection in pre-industrial England for the genes of the economically successful, and against the genes of the poor and the criminal,” Clark concludes. “Their extra reproductive success had a permanent impact on the genetic composition of the later population.”

Clark’s data provide substantial evidence that the English population responded genetically to the harsh stresses of a Malthusian regime and that the shifts in its social behavior from 1200 to 1800 were shaped by natural selection. The burden of proof is surely shifted to those who might wish to assert that the English population was miraculously exempt from the very forces of natural selection whose existence it had suggested to Darwin.

If Wade and Clark are correct, this has terrible implications for the profoundly dyscivic mechanisms we are witnessing across the West today, where the dependent classes and the imported barbarians have considerably more children than the productive classes. While this part of the book is more logic based on statistical and historical observations than science, its scientific aspects are fairly firm. Blank slatists attempting to dismiss it unread, (the ever-inept PZ Myers being but one example), will soon find themselves forced to take scientifically indefensible positions.