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Western European Marriage Pattern

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Hanging Outside Newgate Prison. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
In England, executions peaked between 1500 and 1750 at 1 to 2% of all men of each generation. Were there genetic consequences? Were propensities for violence being removed from the gene pool? Did the English population become kinder and gentler? Such is the argument I made in a recent paper with Henry Harpending. In this... Read More
In a previous post, I discussed why the capacity for affective empathy varies not only between individuals but also between populations. First, its heritability is high: 68% (Chakrabarti and Baron-Cohen, 2013). So natural selection has had something to grab hold of. Second, its usefulness varies from one culture to another. It matters less where kinship... Read More
The ratio of index finger length to ring finger length provides an index of sexual differentiation. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Are men and women more alike in some populations than in others? It's possible. First, boys and girls differentiate from each other to varying degrees during adolescence, and this process of sexual differentiation is genetically influenced. There are even conditions, like Swyer syndrome, where an individual is chromosomally male (46, XY) and yet develops externally... Read More
In a recent post, Fred Reed asks: The short answer is that any killing, for whatever reason, increases the likelihood of killing for other reasons. One exception is self-defence, but that's not done for pleasure. Another exception is capital punishment, but that, too, is not done for pleasure. More to the point, no single citizen... Read More
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... Read More
Election poster from the 1930s for Sweden’s Social Democratic Party (source). Is the welfare state more workable if the population is more predisposed to obey moral norms? Do we differ genetically in our ability, or willingness, to comply with moral norms? Please note: I'm talking about compliance. The norms themselves can vary greatly from one... Read More
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... Read More
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... Read More
Do older fathers have dumber children? For the past millennium, paternal age has been relatively high in Europe west of the Hajnal line. Yet, if anything, mean IQ is higher there than elsewhere. H/T to JayMan (source) Greg Cochran has been running a series of posts on paternal age and IQ (here, here, and here).... Read More
In pre-industrial Finland, the average woman was caught in a squeeze play. If she married too young, she and her partner might not have enough resources to start a family. If she married too old, she risked genetic extinction. None of her children might survive to adulthood and have children of their own. Source In... Read More
The ‘Hajnal line’ marks the eastern limit of a longstanding pattern of late and non-universal marriage. The line in red is Hajnal's. The dark blue lines show areas of high nuptiality West of the Hajnal line. Source In the 17th and 18th centuries, settlers emigrated from land-poor France to land-rich Canada. The result was a... Read More
Île aux Coudres, a French Canadian community on an island in the St. Lawrence Human biodiversity is slowly making headway in academia. It has three defining principles: 1. Evolution did not end, or even slow down, with the advent of Homo sapiens. It has actually accelerated. 2. It especially accelerated about 10,000 years ago, when... Read More
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