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Henry Harpending (1944-2016) died this past Sunday. He had a stroke a year ago, and then a second one three weeks ago, but apparently he died of a lung infection. This is one of the risks of getting older: you dodge one bullet only to get hit by another.

The cemeteries are full of people who die before their time, but this is one case where I really wish death had held off a while longer, so that he could see more of the fruits of his labors, particularly in the area of gene-culture coevolution.

No, he wasn’t the only academic to show that culture and genes have coevolved in our species. In fact, the idea probably originated with Claude Lévi-Strauss in the early 1970s:

When cultures specialize, they consolidate and favor other traits, like resistance to cold or heat for societies that have willingly or unwillingly had to adapt to extreme climates, like dispositions to aggressiveness or contemplation, like technical ingenuity, and so on. [...] each culture selects for genetic aptitudes that, via a feedback loop, influence the culture that had initially helped to strengthen them. (Lévi-Strauss, 1971)

This idea of gene-culture coevolution became popular in the 1980s through papers by L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, Robert Boyd, Peter Richerson, and Pierre van den Berghe. It then fell out of fashion because … well, because. When Paul Ehrlich wrote Human Natures(2000), he returned to the conventional wisdom that cultural evolution had largely replaced genetic evolution in our species. As one became more important, the other became less so.

In 2007, Henry Harpending turned this thinking on its head with a study on changes to the human genome over the past 80,000 years. With four other researchers, he found that these changes actually sped up more than a hundred-fold some 10,000 years ago, when hunting and gathering gave way to farming, which in turn led to population growth and larger, more complex societies. Our ancestors were no longer adapting to relatively static natural environments but rather to faster-changing cultural ones of their own making. They created new ways of life, which in turn influenced who would survive and who wouldn’t.

As Henry and his co-authors pointed out, this estimate of a hundred-fold acceleration is actually conservative:

It is sometimes claimed that the pace of human evolution should have slowed as cultural adaptation supplanted genetic adaptation. The high empirical number of recent adaptive variants would seem sufficient to refute this claim. It is important to note that the peak ages of new selected variants in our data do not reflect the highest intensity of selection, but merely our ability to detect selection. Due to the recent acceleration, many more new adaptive mutations should exist than have yet been ascertained, occurring at a faster and faster rate during historic times. (Hawks et al., 2007)

Few ideas belong solely to one person, but Henry deserves credit for perseverance. Most of the others, like L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, eventually found it expedient to focus on other ideas. Henry pushed on, not only by co-writing a book with Greg Cochran, but also by continuing to do original research.

I would like to say that Henry was allowed to work in peace. That’s how things are in a free society, no? Unfortunately, he was repeatedly warned to stop, subtly at first and then not so subtly. Last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center added his name to its list of “extremists”—a list that, curiously, omits people whose skin is darker than peaches and cream.

In its “Extremist File” the SPLC describes him as follows:

Harpending is most famous for his book, co-authored with frequent collaborator Gregory Cochran, The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution, which argues that humans are evolving at an accelerating rate, and that this began when the ancestors of modern Europeans and Asians left Africa. Harpending believes that this accelerated evolution is most visible in differences between racial groups, which he claims are growing more distinct and different from one another. The evolution of these racial differences are, in Harpending’s account, the driving force behind all of modern human history. He is also a eugenicist who believes that medieval Europeans intuitively adopted eugenic policies, and that we should recognize the importance of eugenics in our own society. (Southern Poverty Law Center, 2015)

I would give that summary a D+.

- The book’s argument was that genetic evolution slowly accelerated as modern humans spread outward from a relatively small area in Africa, beginning some 80,000 years ago. Much later, this acceleration greatly increased when farming began to replace hunting and gathering some 10,000 years ago. The actual Out of Africa event—when modern humans spread out of Africa some 50,000 years ago—was tangential to this process of accelerating genetic evolution, yet the SPLC summary makes it seem pivotal (perhaps to show that Henry was obsessed with black people?).

- The book’s argument was that culture and genes coevolve: culture drives genetic evolution just as much as genes drive cultural evolution. And this process can take place within groups that are not normally thought to be “racial.”

- The last sentence is way off the mark. Yes, a culture will make it harder for some individuals to survive and reproduce, thereby removing certain predispositions and personality types from the gene pool, but this process is no more a “eugenic policy” than is natural selection itself. It’s silly to use words like “eugenics” and “policy” for something that happens unconsciously in any culture, even in small bands of hunter-gatherers.

I don’t mind people making unfounded criticisms. That’s par for the course in academia. But was the SPLC interested in academic debate when it listed Henry as an “extremist”?

Indeed, what’s the point of that list? Information gathering? Or is it more like incitement to extrajudicial punishment and, yes, extrajudicial violence? “Look folks, this is a BAD PERSON, so go and do what the justice system is too cowardly to do!” Isn’t that the point of the exercise? And isn’t that exactly what the KKK was condemned for doing?

A strange role reversal has taken place between the long-dead KKK and the SPLC. It’s now the latter that tries to enforce its notions of good behavior through intimidation, veiled threats, public shaming, and blacklisting. It’s now the SPLC that is conspiring, literally, to deny people their civil rights.

Anyway, Henry Harpending seemed unfazed by the SPLC’s blacklisting. He was apparently one of those rare tenured professors who put his tenure to good use and blissfully went on doing what he had always been doing. I wish he had lived longer. He was irreplaceable not so much because he knew more but because he was unafraid to say and act on what he knew. I will miss him.


Cochran, G. and H. Harpending. (2010). The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution, New York: Basic Books.

Ehrlich, P. (2000 ). Human Natures. Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect, Penguin.

Harpending, H., and G. Cochran. (2002). In our genes, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), 99, 10-12.

Hawks, J., E.T. Wang, G.M. Cochran, H.C. Harpending, and R.K. Moyzis. (2007). Recent acceleration of human adaptive evolution.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), 104, 20753-20758.

Lévi-Strauss, C. (1971). Race et culture, conférence de Lévi-Strauss à L’UNESCO le 22 mars 1971

Southern Poverty Law Center (2015). Henry Harpending, Extremist Files,

(Reprinted from Evo and Proud by permission of author or representative)

We must act now to bring anti-globalist parties to power: the UKIP in Britain, the Front national in France, the Partij voor de Vrijheidin the Netherlands, the Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, and the Sverigedemokraterna in Sweden. How, you may ask? It’s not too complicated. Just go into the voting booth and vote. You don’t even have to talk about your dirty deed afterwards.

I wrote the above last January, fearing that Europe would see an acceleration of the massive demographic change already under away—the Great Replacement, to use a term coined by Renaud Camus:

Oh, the Great Replacement needs no definition. It isn’t a concept. It’s a phenomenon, as obvious as the nose on your face. To observe it, you need only go out into the street or just look out the window. A people used to be there, stable, occupying the same territory for fifteen or twenty centuries. And all of a sudden, very quickly, in one or two generations, one or more other peoples have substituted themselves for it. It’s been replaced. It’s no longer itself. We should note that the tendency to consider individuals, things, objects, and peoples replaceable or interchangeable is fairly widespread and in line with a threefold movement whereby people have become industrialized, deprived of their spirituality, and dumbed down. Call it a later and more generalized stage of Taylorism. At first, we replace only the parts of manufactured goods. Then, we replace workers. Finally, we replace entire peoples. (Camus, 2012)

Two breaches have been made in the dike that used to hold back this process of replacement: one in Libya and the other in Syria. Through them is pouring the demographic overflow that has been building up in Africa and the Middle East. Meanwhile, there has been an incredible loss of will among Europe’s leaders to do anything, other than hectoring recalcitrant nations like Hungary for not taking their “fair share.”

I’m not using the word “incredible” lightly. This wave of immigrants won’t be a one-time-only thing. It won’t come to an end when conditions improve in their home countries. Indeed, once it gets under way it can only increase in magnitude, and spreading it over a wider area will do nothing to stop the increase. Instead of being confined to Western and Southern Europe, the Great Replacement will be extended to Eastern Europe. Swell. You call that a solution?

Instead of replacing native Europeans, why not replace their leaders? Why not vote them out of office? That was the solution I advocated back in January and still do. Political change is more certain when done by peaceful means at the ballot box, as opposed to being imposed by coercion and illegal acts. Unfortunately, this option faces a number of obstacles.

The obstacles are threefold:

Unwillingness to play by the rules

In this, the problem lies not so much with Europe’s nationalist parties as with their opponents. It’s the latter who are not willing to play by the rules.

This was the case in Belgium, where in 2004 a court ruling shut down the Vlaams Blok, a party that had won 24% of the popular vote for the Flemish parliament the same year.

In October 2000, the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism, together with the Dutch-speaking Human Rights League in Belgium registered a complaint at the Correctional Court, in which they claimed that three non-profit organisations connected to the Vlaams Blok (its education and research office and the “National Broadcasting Corporation”) had violated the 1981 anti-racism law. The publications which were referred to included its 1999 election agenda and 1997 party platform. The challenged passages included those where the party called for a separate education system for foreign children, a special tax for employers employing non-European foreigners, and a restriction of unemployment benefits and child allowances for non-European foreigners. (Wikipedia – Vlaams Blok, 2015)

Elsewhere, nationalist parties have faced a combination of judicial and extrajudicial harassment. Indeed, when antifas commit brazen acts of violence that go unpunished, one cannot help but wonder whether the correct term is “quasi-judicial.” The antifas are functioning as a kind of secret police that is allowed to do what the regular police cannot do.

Even without the antifas, the level of harassment is considerable. In 2013, for example, the European Parliament stripped Marine Le Pen of her parliamentary immunity for having denounced the illegal blocking of French streets for Muslim prayers:

For those who want to talk a lot about World War II, if it’s about occupation, then we could also talk about it (Muslim prayers in the streets), because that is occupation of territory. …It is an occupation of sections of the territory, of districts in which religious laws apply. … There are of course no tanks, there are no soldiers, but it is nevertheless an occupation and it weighs heavily on local residents(Wikipedia – Marine Le Pen, 2015)

For that comment, she was dragged before the courts, being finally acquitted this year. Compare that with the indulgence reserved for the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur when it featured a tweet on its twitter page that called for the mass rape of women who vote FN. The tweet was removed but there was no apology, and there certainly won’t be any prosecution by the Minister of Justice—as was the case with Marine’s comment.

This is the reality of political debate in Western Europe. One side can speak with impunity, whereas the other has to watch what it says.

Extremist image of nationalism

In 2015, the progress of nationalist parties was not uniform. In Greece, Chrysí Avgí (Golden Dawn) seems to have stalled at 7% of the popular vote. In Norway, Fremskrittspartiet (Progress Party) lost support in local elections, this being part of a decline that began in 2011 … with Breivik’s terrorist attacks.

In Norway, it is now difficult to be a nationalist without being associated with Anders Breivik or church burnings by black metallists. In Greece, nationalism is tarred with Nazi-like rhetoric and imagery—this, in a country that Nazi Germany had occupied during the last war. It is a sign of just how bad things are that so many Greeks are still willing to vote for a party that revels in an extremist image.

This problem is inevitable with any movement that begins on the fringes among people who feel alienated. As nonconformists they tend to be lone wolves, and as lone wolves they tend to act without restraint, sometimes mindlessly. Such people are both a help and a hindrance for any new political movement.

Assimilation into the dominant political culture

There is also the reverse problem. In the Venice state election, the Liga Veneta received 41% of the popular vote. This might seem to be good news, since the Liga Veneta is part of the Lega Nord, which in turn is allied with the Front National in France.

Unfortunately, things are not as they might seem. When a new party comes closer to power, it tends to assimilate mainstream values because its leaders now have to navigate within that culture—daily encounters with the media, meetings with campaign donors, invitations to wine and cheese parties … The result may be seen in the Liga Veneta’s political platform for 2010-2015:

The challenges that Veneto should face in the next decades, said the party, were to enhance “internationalization” in the era of globalization, to overcome the traditional Venetian policentrism and interpret Veneto as a united and cohesive region: a “European region in Italian land”. The program stressed also concepts such as “Europe of the regions”, “Europe of citizens”, “global Veneto”, “openness toward the world”, “green economy”, “urban planning” in respect of the environment, “respect for diversity” and “integration” of immigrants, along with the more traditional “think globally, act locally”. (Wikipedia – Liga Veneta)

It is not enough for nationalist parties to gain power. They must also have confidence in their ideas and change the way other people think. Otherwise, they’ll end up assimilating into the dominant political culture.

But there was progress in 2015

Despite these problems—harassment, lack of discipline, ideological assimilation—most nationalist parties are moving forward. In the first round of France’s recent regional elections, the Front Nationaltook first place in six of the thirteen regions in Europe (four others are overseas). Yes, it was shut out in the second round, when left-wing parties threw their support behind the main right-wing party, but this defeat was only a partial one. While not securing the office of president in any region, the FN is now represented on all regional councils of European France, ranging from a high of 34% of council seats in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur to a low of 8% in Corsica. Imagine a similar situation in the United States: a nationalist party with at least 8% of the seats in every state legislature.

This year saw gains for nationalist parties elsewhere. In Poland,Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc (Law and Justice) took power with 38% of the vote, in large part because of its opposition to immigration. In Switzerland, Schweizerische Volkspartei (Swiss People’s Party) became the leading party, receiving 29% of the popular vote, up from 27%. In Denmark, Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party) earned 21% of the popular vote, up from 12%.

Outside Europe, in other European-descended societies, the picture is more mixed. In the United States, Donald Trump has shattered the phoney consensus on massive demographic change, but even if elected he will face a long uphill battle against opposition from the bureaucracy and from entrenched factions in society at large, particularly the business community—which has long been a source of funding for the Republican Party.

In Canada, the Conservative Party lost power in Ottawa and the Parti Québécois lost power in Quebec City. To be honest, I feel little regret for either loss. In their earlier incarnation, as the Reform Party, the Conservatives were committed to a sharp reduction in immigration. But that promise fell by the wayside once they took power, and they instead chose a neo-con policy of “Invade the world! Invite the world!” They followed that recipe to the letter and—Surprise! Surprise!—it wasn’t what their own voters wanted, let alone the rest of the electorate. Well, good riddance.

As for the Parti Québécois, it began in the 1960s as an alliance of the traditional left and the traditional right. Over time, both factions withered away, being replaced by the new synthesis of globalism and post-nationalism. The PQ became an anti-nationalist nationalist party. They lost power largely because they could no longer energize their natural constituency while failing to make inroads into others. Well, good riddance.


This will be my last column for 2015, and I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas! Although I no longer go to church, I still consider Christmas to be a very important time of year when we can spend more time with our loved ones and enjoy the traditions of this mid-winter celebration.

I don’t know whether I will resume my column in the new year. The legal environment in Canada has changed over the past few months, especially with the adoption of Bill 59. If need be, I will concentrate on writing papers for academic journals.


Camus, R. (2012). ” Renaud Camus à L’AF : ” J’ai une conception lazaréenne de la patrie ” “, L’Action française, no 2832,

Wikipedia – Liga Veneta. (2015)

Wikipedia – Marine Le Pen (2005).

Wikipedia – Vlaams Blok. (2015).

(Reprinted from Evo and Proud by permission of author or representative)

What sort of ideas will guide our elites twenty years from now? You can find out by observing university students, especially those in the humanities and social sciences. One popular idea is that race doesn’t exist, except as a social construct. Its proponents include Eula Biss, a contributor to the New York Times Magazine:

Whiteness is not a kinship or a culture. White people are no more closely related to one another, genetically, than we are to black people. [...] Which is why it is entirely possible to despise whiteness without disliking yourself. (Biss, 2015, h/t to Steve Sailer)

The last sentence needs little explanation. It’s possible to like yourself a lot while despising your own people. Such individuals have existed since time immemorial. But what about the second sentence? One often hears it among the educated, even those who dislike genetics and biology. Where does it come from?

From a study by geneticist Richard Lewontin, in 1972. He looked at human genes with more than one variant, mostly blood groups but also serum proteins and red blood cell enzymes. His conclusion:

The results are quite remarkable. The mean proportion of the total species diversity that is contained within populations is 85.4%, with a maximum of 99.7% for the Xm gene, and a minimum of 63.6% for Duffy. Less than 15% of all human genetic diversity is accounted for by differences between human groups! Moreover, the difference between populations within a race accounts for an additional 8.3%, so that only 6.3% is accounted for by racial classification.

[...] It is clear that our perception of relatively large differences between human races and subgroups, as compared to the variation within these groups, is indeed a biased perception and that, based on randomly chosen genetic differences, human races and populations are remarkably similar to each other, with the largest part by far of human variation being accounted for by the differences between individuals. (Lewontin, 1972)

The problem here is the assumption that genetic variation within a human group is comparable to genetic variation between human groups. In fact, the two are qualitatively different. When a gene varies between two groups the cause is more likely a difference in natural selection, since the group boundary also tends to separate different natural environments (vegetation, climate, topography) or, more often, different cultural environments (diet, means of subsistence, sedentism vs. nomadism, gender roles, state monopoly of violence, etc.). Conversely, when a gene varies within a population, the cause is more likely a random factor without adaptive significance. That kind of variation is less easily flattened out by the steamroller of similar selection pressures.

This point isn’t merely theoretical. In other animals, as Lewontin himself noted, we often see the same genetic overlap between races of one species. But we also see it between many species that are nonetheless anatomically and behaviorally distinct. Some two decades after Lewontin’s study, this apparent paradox became known when geneticists looked at how genes vary within and between dog breeds:

[...] genetic and biochemical methods … have shown domestic dogs to be virtually identical in many respects to other members of the genus. [...] Greater mtDNA differences appeared within the single breeds of Doberman pinscher or poodle than between dogs and wolves. Eighteen breeds, which included dachshunds, dingoes, and Great Danes, shared a common haplotype and were no closer to wolves than poodles and bulldogs.

[...] there is less mtDNA difference between dogs, wolves, and coyotes than there is between the various ethnic groups of human beings, which are recognized as a single species. (Coppinger and Schneider, 1995)

Initially, this paradox was put down to the effects of artificial selection. Kennel clubs insist that each breed should conform to a limited set of criteria. All other criteria, particularly those not readily visible, end up being ignored. So artificial selection targets a relatively small number of genes and leaves the rest of the genome alone.

But is natural selection any different? When a group buds off from a population and moves into a new environment, its members too have to conform to a new set of selection pressures that act on a relatively small number of genes. So the new group will diverge anatomically and behaviorally from its parent population, and yet remain similar to it over most of the genome. This is either because most of the genes respond similarly to the new environment—as with those that do the same housekeeping tasks in a wide range of species—or because they respond weakly to natural selection in general. Many genes are little more than “junk DNA”—they change slowly over time, not through the effects of natural selection but through gradual accumulation of random mutations.

With the extension of population studies to nonhuman species, geneticists have often encountered this paradox: a gene will vary much less between two species than within each of them. This is notably the case with sibling species that have emerged since the last ice age, when many new and different environments came into being.

Thus, the genetic overlap between dog breeds also appears between many natural species. In the deer family, genetic variability is greater within some species than between some genera (Cronin, 1991). Some masked shrew populations are genetically closer to prairie shrews than they are to other masked shrews (Stewart et al., 1993). Only a minority of mallards cluster together on an mtDNA tree, the rest being scattered among black ducks (Avise et al., 1990). All six species of Darwin’s ground finches form a genetically homogeneous genus with very little concordance between mtDNA, nuclear DNA, and morphology (Freeland and Boag, 1999). In terms of genetic distance, redpoll finches from the same species are not significantly closer to each other than they are to redpolls from different species (Seutin et al., 1995). The haplochromine cichlids of Lake Victoria are extremely difficult to identify as species when one looks at their nuclear or mitochondrial genes, despite being well differentiated anatomically and behaviorally (Klein et al., 1998). Neither mtDNA nor allozyme alleles can distinguish the various species of Lycaedis butterflies, despite clear differences in morphology (Nice and Shapiro, 1999). An extreme example is a dog tumor that has developed the ability to spread to other dogs through sexual contact. It looks and acts like an infectious microbe, yet its genes would show it to be a canid and, conceivably, some beagles may be genetically more similar to it than they are to Great Danes (Cochran, 2001; Yang, 1996).

We see this genetic overlap not only between sibling species, but even between some species that have long been separated, like humans and other primates. This is the case with ABO blood groups:

Remarkably, the A, B, and H antigens exist not only in humans but in many other primates [...], and the same two amino acids are responsible for A and B enzymatic specificity in all sequenced species. Thus, primates not only share their ABO blood group, but also the same genetic basis for the A/B polymorphism. O alleles, in contrast, result from loss-of-function alleles such as frame-shift mutations and appear to be species specific. (Segurel et al., 2012)

Just think. Lewontin used the same blood group polymorphisms for his study. While the O alleles are specific to each primate species, the A and B alleles show considerable overlap between primates that have been separated for millions of years. So it’s not surprising that this polymorphism should vary much more within human races than between them, as Lewontin found. Little did he know that the same pattern can continue above the species level.

Some have argued that this genetic overlap between humans and apes is only apparent. In other words, the same antigens have evolved independently in each species. Well, no. It seems that this polymorphism has survived one speciation event after another for millions of years:

That different species share the same two A/B alleles could be the result of convergent evolution in many lineages or of an ancestral polymorphism stably maintained for millions of years and inherited across (at least a subset of) species. The two possibilities have been debated for decades, with a consensus emerging that A is ancestral and the B allele has evolved independently at least six times in primates (in human, gorilla, orangutan, gibbon/siamang, macaque, and baboon), in particular, that the human A/B polymorphism arose more recently than the split with chimpanzee. We show instead that the remarkable distribution of ABO alleles across species reflects the persistence of an old ancestral polymorphism that originated at least 20 million years (My) ago and is shared identical by descent by humans and gibbons as well as among distantly related Old World monkeys. (Segurel et al., 2012)

Are blood groups a special case? Perhaps. But there seem to be quite a few trans-species polymorphisms, at least between humans and chimpanzees:

Instances in which natural selection maintains genetic variation in a population over millions of years are thought to be extremely rare. We conducted a genome-wide scan for long-lived balancing selection by looking for combinations of SNPs shared between humans and chimpanzees. In addition to the major histocompatibility complex, we identified 125 regions in which the same haplotypes are segregating in the two species, all but two of which are noncoding. In six cases, there is evidence for an ancestral polymorphism that persisted to the present in humans and chimpanzees. (Leffler et al., 2013)

Many of these appear to be “disease polymorphisms.” If an epidemic sweeps through a community, it pays to have surface antigens that differ somewhat from your neighbor’s. The result is selection that inflates within-group variability, especially for the sort of structural proteins that are easy to collect and examine for studies on population genetics.

If such polymorphisms can remain intact despite millions of years of separation, how many more persist among human populations that have been separated for only tens of thousands of years?

In sum, if we are to believe blood groups and other genetic markers, it seems that Eula Biss may have more in common with certain apes than with the white folks she despises. Let’s hope she feels gratified.

When I discuss Richard Lewontin’s study with antiracists, preferably those with some background in biology, they often agree that he misunderstood his findings. They nonetheless go on to say that their position has many other justifications, particularly moral ones. Fine. But it is above all Lewontin who gave antiracism a veneer of scientific objectivity. He still impresses people who are less impressed by academics who attack racism by attacking objectivity, like Stephen Jay Gould. “I criticize the myth that science itself is an objective enterprise, done properly only when scientists can shuck the constraints of their culture and view the world as it really is” (Gould, 1996, p. 53). It was in this spirit that he impugned the integrity of long-dead scholars who could not defend themselves—or point out that Gould himself was manipulating the data to suit his preconceived views (Frost, 2013).

When one takes Lewontin and Gould out of the picture, who is left? A lot of people, to be sure. Followers for the most part—those like Eula Biss who believe because everyone else in their milieu seems to believe, at least anyone with moral authority.


Avise, J.C., C.D. Ankney, and W.S. Nelson. (1990). Mitochondrial gene trees and the evolutionary relationship of mallard and black ducks, Evolution, 44, 1109-1119.

Biss, E. (2015). White Debt, The New York Times Magazine, December 2

Cochran, G. (2001). Personal communication.

Coppinger, R. and R. Schneider (1995). Evolution of working dogs. In J. Serpell (ed.), The Domestic Dog: Its Evolution, Behaviour and Interactions with People. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 21-47.

Cronin, M. (1991). Mitochondrial-DNA phylogeny of deer (Cervidae), Journal of Mammalogy, 72, 533-566.

Freeland, J.R. and P.T. Boag. (1999).The mitochondrial and nuclear genetic homogeneity of the phenotypically diverse Darwin’s ground finches, Evolution, 53, 1553-1563.

Frost, P. (2013). Not getting the point, Evo and Proud, June 22

Gould, S.J. (1996). The Mismeasure of Man, New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Klein, J., A. Sato, S. Nagl, and C. O’hUigin. (1998). Molecular trans-species polymorphism, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 29, 1-21.

Leffler, E.M., Z. Gao, S. Pfeifer, L. Ségurel, A. Auton, O. Venn, R. Bowden, R. Bontrop, J.D. Wall, G. Sella, P. Donnelly, G. McVean, and M. Przeworski. (2013). Multiple instances of ancient balancing selection shared between humans and chimpanzees, Science, 339(6127), 1578-1582.

Lewontin, R. (1972). The apportionment of human diversity,Evolutionary Biology, 6, 381-398.

Nice, C.C. and A.M. Shapiro. (1999). Molecular and morphological divergence in the butterfly genus Lycaeides (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) in North America: evidence of recent speciation,Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 12, 936-950.

Sailer, S. (2015). White Debt, The Unz Review, December 5

Ségurel, L., E.E. Thompson, T. Flutre, J. Lovstad, A. Venkat, S.W. Margulis, J. Moyse, S. Ross, K. Gamble, G. Sella, C. Ober, and M. Przeworski. (2012). The ABO blood group is a trans-species polymorphism in primates, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A., 109, 18493-18498

Seutin, G., L.M. Ratcliffe, and P.T. Boag. (1995). Mitochondrial DNA homogeneity in the phenotypically diverse redpoll finch complex (Aves: Carduelinae: Carduelis flammea-hornemanni),Evolution, 49, 962-973.

Stewart, D.T., A.J. Baker, and S.P. Hindocha. (1993). Genetic differentiation and population structure in Sorex Haydeni and S. Cinereus, Journal of Mammalogy, 74, 21-32.

Yang, T.J. (1996). Parasitic protist of metazoan origin, Evolutionary Theory, 11, 99-103.

(Reprinted from Evo and Proud by permission of author or representative)

Is sociopathy an illness? We often think so … to the point that the word “sick” has taken on a strange secondary meaning. If we call a ruthless, self-seeking person “sick,” we mean he should be shunned at all costs. We don’t mean he should take an aspirin and get some rest.

Sociopathy doesn’t look like a mental illness, being much less incapacitating than schizophrenia and most mental disorders. A sociopath can deal with other people well enough, perhaps too well. As Harpending and Sobus (2015) point out:

It is a psychopathology because of what sociopaths do to us, and it has significant legal, political, and moral consequences for all of us. Most criminals are probably sociopaths according to some definition (the figure of 80% is often quoted).

Sociopaths regularly present the following characteristics:

  • onset before age 15, childhood hyperactivity, truancy, delinquency, disruption in school
  • early and often aggressive sexual activity, marital histories of desertion, non-support, abandonment
  • persistent lying, cheating, irresponsibility without visible shame
  • sudden changes of plan, impulsiveness, unpredictability
  • charm and a façade of sensitivity
  • high mobility, vagrancy, use of aliases

Sociopaths follow a life strategy that is adaptive for themselves but ruinous for society. Harpending and Sobus (2015) argue that they succeed so well because they know how to manipulate social relationships to their advantage.

Sociopathy is at least moderately heritable (Hicks et al., 2004). Interestingly, it seems to cluster with hysteria in first-degree relatives, with sociopathy being expressed in the males and hysteria in the females. Harpending and Sobus (2015) argue that “hysteria is the expression in females of the same genetic material that leads to sociopathy in males.” In short, “sociopathy in females is the result of a greater dose of the genetic material that leads, in smaller doses, to hysteria, namely, hysteria is mild sociopathy.”

If sociopathy is adaptive, why does it affect only a minority of us? It seems that the rest of us have developed counter-strategies of looking for signs of sociopathy and expelling suspects from society … and the gene pool. This is probably why sociopaths tend to be always on the move—if they stay too long with the same people, they risk being detected and dealt with.

Gene-culture coevolution

We adapt to our cultural environment as we do to our natural environment. More so in fact. The last 10,000 years have seen far more genetic change in our ancestors than the previous 100,000, this speeding up of evolution being driven by the entry of humans into an increasingly diverse range of cultural environments.

Sociopathy may thus propagate itself more easily in some cultures than in others, with the result that its incidence may likewise differ from one to another. In a small band of hunter-gatherers, a sociopath will not last long because he is always interacting with the same small group of people:

In a 1976 study anthropologist Jane M. Murphy, then at Harvard University found that an isolated group of Yupik-speaking Inuits near the Bering Strait had a term (kunlangeta) they used to describe “a man who … repeatedly lies and cheats and steals things and … takes sexual advantage of many women—someone who does not pay attention to reprimands and who is always being brought to the elders for punishment.” When Murphy asked an Inuit what the group would typically do with a kunlangeta, he replied, “Somebody would have pushed him off the ice when nobody else was looking.”(Lilienfeld and Arkowitz, 2007)

In a larger community, a sociopath may evade detection long enough to reproduce successfully and pass on his mental traits. Finally, in some cultures he can use his manipulative skills to dominate the community, becoming a “big man” and enjoying very good opportunities for reproduction.

This Pandora’s Box was opened when humans gave up hunting and gathering and became farmers. First, farming supported a much larger population, so it became easier for sociopaths to move about from one group of unsuspecting people to another. Second, farming created a food surplus that powerful individuals could use to support underlings of various sorts: servants, soldiers, scribes, etc. There was thus a growing class of people who did not directly support themselves and whose existence depended on their ability to manipulate others.

Finally, in the tropical zone, farming greatly increased female reproductive autonomy. Through year-round farming, women could provide for themselves and their children with less male assistance. Men accordingly shifted their reproductive strategy from monogamy to polygyny, i.e., from providing for a wife and children to inseminating as many women as possible. This kind of cultural environment selected for male seducers and manipulators rather than male providers. Conversely, it selected for women who feel only an intermittent need for male companionship and who from time to time are able to coax assistance from people who are not so inclined:

Ethnographic descriptions of women who live in social contexts of low male parental investment portray women who are very demanding. Young women demand help from kin on behalf of children. When the help is not forthcoming the mothers often summarily dump or deposit the child or children at the door of a relative who (in their judgment) will not turn the children away. Women demand gifts from boyfriends for themselves.(Harpending and Draper, 1988)

In women, this selection pressure favors a condition known medically as Briquet’s syndrome and more commonly as “hysteria”:

When males are not good risks for parental investment, females will adjust their behavior accordingly. A common clinical characterization of Briquet’s syndrome is a woman who exaggerates need, who demands high levels of attention and investment, who deceives herself and others as to her requirements. The strategy (learned or inherited) makes sense for a woman with high exposure to low investment males. These males, however, are so fickle and so mobile that they can be dunned only in the short run.(Harpending and Draper, 1988)

Sociopathic behavior, be it hysteria or full-blown sociopathy, is not favored in hunter-gatherers, since both sexes invest heavily in their offspring and in each other. The selection is for men and women who can bond strongly with one partner:

[...] abandonment of the pair bond by either partner is likely to be deadly for the offspring. Draper (manuscript) finds that men with more children spend more time hunting than men with fewer dependents; that is to say that more offspring are directly translated into more parental work for the male. Pennington and Harpending (manuscript) found that infant mortality among women who had more than one mate during their reproductive careers was nearly twice as great as infant mortality of women who had only one husband. [...] In societies of this type the contexts for the anti-social trait are unfavorable. There will be no pay-offs for anti-social behavior and the bearer of the trait will be readily detected and ostracized. (Harpending and Draper, 1988)

Strategy and counter-strategy

Sociopathy is therefore not an illness but a strategy. It has been least successful in small societies where both sexes invest heavily in care for their partners and offspring. It has been more successful in larger societies, particularly those where men invest less in partners and offspring. Indeed, because sociopathy does so well in such contexts, it may have hindered the development of larger and more complex societies.

In most large societies, people seek out and expel sociopaths from their local kin group and treat everyone else with suspicion. The result is the “amoral familialism” we see throughout much of the world. People prefer to deal with relatives, hire only relatives for their businesses and, as a rule, act morally only towards relatives. Thus, the high-trust environment of the family cannot extend to society in general. Among other things, this is why the market economy has failed to develop spontaneously over most of the world and over most of history. Without strong-armed government intervention (military pacification, police, courts, etc.), markets remain marketplaces—places of exchange that are highly localized in space and time. The market principle cannot spread to most economic transactions.

Some humans have resolved this problem by freeing themselves from the straitjacket of kinship, by adhering to social rules that apply to everyone, and by ruthlessly expelling rule breakers wherever they may be. This is the adaptation that Europeans have developed to the north and west of the Hajnal line. The relative weakness of kinship ties and, correspondingly, the relative strength of individualism favored a complex of psychological traits that may be summarized as follows:

- capacity to internalize punishment for disobedience of social rules (guilt proneness).

- capacity to simulate and then transfer to oneself the emotional states of other people, especially when such people are affected by rule-breaking either by oneself or by others (affective empathy).

- tendency to frame moral rules in universal, absolute terms, i.e., moral universalism and moral absolutism, as opposed to situational morality based on kinship. Rule-breakers are likewise condemned in absolute terms and may be expelled from the entire community, as opposed to being ostracized by close kin.

The above mental package brought Northwest Europeans closer than other humans to the threshold where one could escape the limitations of kinship and organize society along other lines, notably the market economy, the modern State, and political ideology. It thus became possible to meet the challenge of creating larger societies while ensuring compliance with social rules and a high degree of personal autonomy.


Cooke, D.J. (2003). Cross-Cultural Aspects of Psychopathy, in T. Millon, E. Simonsen, M. Birket-Smith, and R.D. Davis (eds).Psychopathy: Antisocial, Criminal, and Violent Behavior, pp. 260-276, Guilford Press.

Harpending, H. and P. Draper. (1988). Antisocial behavior and the other side of cultural evolution, in T. E. Moffitt and S.A. Mednick (eds). Biological contributions to crime causation, pp. 110-125, Boston: Nijhoff.

Harpending, H. and J. Sobus. (2015). Sociopathy as an adaptation,Ethology and Sociobiology, 8, 63-72

Hicks, B.M., R.F. Krueger, W.G. Iacono, M. McGue, C.J. Patrick. (2004). Family transmission and heritability of externalizing disorders. A twin-family study, Archives of General Psychiatry, 61, 922-928.

Lilienfeld, S.O. and H. Arkowitz. (2007). What “Psychopath” Means, Scientific American, 18, 90-91.

(Reprinted from Evo and Proud by permission of author or representative)

Black metal is a musical subgenre that grew out of death metal and, more broadly, heavy metal. In general, it pushes certain aspects of this genre to even farther extremes: fast tempos, shrieking vocals, and violent stage acts. Black metal bands can be found almost anywhere—Europe, North America, East Asia, even Indonesia and Israel.

In one country, however, it has developed differently, taking violence off-stage and into the political arena. That country is Norway. In the early to mid-1990s, black metallists launched a wave of arson attacks on churches, including one dating from the 12th century. By 1996 there had been 50 church burnings, with similar attacks spreading to Sweden.

Those convicted showed no remorse, and lack of remorse still prevails among many in the black metal scene:

Many, such as Infernus and Gaahl of Gorgoroth, continue to praise the church burnings, with the latter saying “there should have been more of them, and there will be more of them”. Others, such as Necrobutcher and Kjetil Manheim of Mayhem and Abbath of Immortal, see the church burnings as having been futile. Manheim claimed that many arsons were “just people trying to gain acceptance” within the black metal scene. Watain vocalist Erik Danielsson respected the attacks, but said of those responsible: “the only Christianity they defeated was the last piece of Christianity within themselves. Which is a very good beginning, of course”.(Wikipedia, 2015b)

Why this hostility to Christianity? And why is it more extreme in Norway? These questions are raised in a review of black metal around the world:

Individualistic and anti-Christian rhetoric is common across the American death metal scene, and metal bands worldwide look to native traditions as a means to combat cultural hegemony [...], yet nothing on the scale of the crimes in Norway has occurred elsewhere. (Wallach et al., 2011, p. 198)

One reason is the role of organized religion in Norwegian life. Although there are other denominations, the Church of Norway is the leading one and receives State support. Despite recent legislation in 2012 to weaken this relationship with the State, all clergy remain civil servants, the central and regional church administrations remain part of the state administration, all municipalities must support the Church of Norway’s activities, and municipal authorities are still represented in its local bodies (Wikipedia, 2015a)

As either a partner or a rival of the government, the Church of Norway has helped to make public policy: first, the postwar expansion of the welfare state and, later, the boycotts against South Africa. Now, it is leading the push for large-scale non-European/non-Christian immigration, which began in the early 1990s through the “sanctuary movement.” By 1993, as many as 140 congregations were housing 650 Albanians from Kosovo. By reframing immigration in moral terms, the Church made it that much harder to place limits on it, since morality is normally perceived in absolute terms, e.g., murder is always wrong, and not wrong within limits (Lippert and Rehaag, 2013, pp. 126-129).

After a lull, this movement is once more on the upswing:

As the group of unreturnable refugees in Norway has risen over recent years, churches have again become places for public appeals for these groups, through hunger strikes, tents camped as protest at the walls of central churches, and asylum marches following old pilgrimage paths. (Lippert and Rehaag, 2013, p.129).

The Church of Norway is now working with Lutherans elsewhere in Northern Europe to facilitate immigration from Africa and the Middle East. At a meeting this year in Trondheim, the Lutheran World Federation pushed for three measures: expansion of Italy’s Mare Nostrum initiative to the entire Mediterranean; creation of “safe passage” corridors for migrants; and “just distribution” of migrants within Europe (Anon, 2015).

Norway is not the only country where churches have been promoting African and Muslim immigration, but church involvement is especially pivotal there and in Scandinavia as a whole. Because immigration was very limited until recent decades, it is legitimized much more by Christian universalism than by a pre-existing tradition of immigration, as in the United States, Canada, and France. A second reason is the relative dominance of one State-supported church and the unthinking adherence of most Scandinavians, even atheists, to the Lutheran tradition. Thus, in comparison to other predominantly Christian societies, they can more quickly reach a policy consensus, or have one imposed on them.

When a stage act leaves the stage

This was the social context that radicalized Norway’s black metal scene, causing it to go beyond the fake violence of stage performances. Wallach et al. (2011, p. 196) argue that the acts of arson had their roots in “disaffection and alienation from the dominant society,” which many musicians tried to channel into “an extended campaign to return Norway to an idealized pagan past through acts of destruction.”

That campaign failed. It foundered on the movement’s nihilism and contempt for ordinary men and women. “Extreme metal in general does not lend itself well to inciting social change beyond its own scene, since the lyrics are frequently indecipherable and the musical characteristics are often confounding to the uninitiated listener” (Wallach et al., 2011, p. 196). Moreover, as a haven for disaffected people, the metal scene tended to attract loners, exhibitionists, and other misfits. Though perhaps better at seeing through the lies of mainstream society, they lacked the social skills to win the mainstream over to their point of view.

There were of course other reasons why they failed to win over the mainstream. The burning of historic churches antagonized Norwegians in general, including traditionalists and even many black metallists, thus making it easier for the police to crack down and sentence key individuals to lengthy prison terms. Commercial success caused others to become apolitical: “many black metal musicians are now attempting to focus on their actual music and do not want that to be overshadowed by social and political activism” (Wallach et al.,2011, p. 196).

Today, the black metal scene exists mostly as a weird subgenre:

Isolated acts of vandalism still occur, and some in the scene, like Gaahl of Gorgoroth, still engage in violence. Yet the incendiary rhetoric frequently leveled at Western urban society, multiculturalism, and Christianity has not produced the uprising and pagan resurgence that some in the scene claim to desire. (Wallach et al., p. 196)

And Breivik?

It would be tempting to see the church burnings as a prelude to Anders Breivik and the 2011 Norway attacks. Yet, by his own account, Breivik was never into black metal, preferring hip-hop instead. In his manifesto, he disparaged the Oslo metal scene as quiet and law-abiding, an indication that the church burnings had limited support even within that subculture.

[...] As for the right wing community at that time, it was simple. They loved metal and we loved hip-hop. Being into the very small right wing community or the larger mainstream rock community meant Goth girls and hard rock. I disliked both. The big irony was that they; Edward and his friends, were a lot more “normal” than us during this period. They were peaceful while we were violent. They followed the law and rules while we broke the law and ignored the rules again and again. At the same time, the hip-hop community was cheered by the media, praised as the pinnacle of tolerance among the new generation, while THEY were condemned for their political views, systematically harassed and beaten by non-white gangs, extremist Marxist gangs (Blitz etc) and the police. (Berwick, 2011)

During this time of his life, he saw young Muslim men as role models and looked down on “ethnic Norwegians” as sissies:

If I ever got in to trouble I expected my friends to back me up 100% without submitting or running away, as I would for them. Very few ethnic Norwegians shared these principles. They would either “sissy out”, allow themselves to be subdued or run away when facing a threat. [...] The majority of people who shared these principles of pride was the Muslim youths and the occasional skinhead.

In time, Breivik became disenchanted, eventually leaving the hip-hop milieu after a personal incident. The more he associated with Muslims and antifas, the more his respect for them became a simple matter of “necessity”:

In Oslo, as an ethnic Norwegian youth aged 14-18 you were restricted if you didn’t have affiliations to the Muslim gangs. Your travel was restricted to your own neighbourhoods in Oslo West and certain central points in the city. Unless you had Muslim contacts you could easily be subject to harassment, beatings and robbery. Our alliances with the Muslim gangs were strictly seen as a necessity for us, at least for me. We, however, due to our alliances had the freedom of movement.

In short, there is no reason to believe that the black metal scene helped to push Breivik toward his terror attacks. The only elements common to both are Norway itself, its policy of demographic change, and the weak hold of mainstream culture on marginal individuals.


Aside from a few frozen islands and a brief claim to part of Greenland, Norway never had a colonial empire. Nor was it ever involved in the slave trade. Yet, today, the average Norwegian feels more guilt over having white skin and more deference toward dark-skinned people than do citizens of most European countries, including former colonial powers. This is a relatively recent development, being postwar and mostly post-1960—a time when Norway and other Scandinavian countries were striving to assimilate modern Western values, including antiracism.

Scandinavians have been very good at internalizing and acting out those values. They are like model students who have learned to outdo their teachers. This partly reflects—ironically—their cultural homogeneity and their ability to reach consensus and act collectively with little foot-dragging.

This also reflects certain profound psychological traits that characterize Northwest Europeans in general, with Scandinavians forming the epicenter. To the north and west of the Hajnal line, Europeans have long had weaker kinship ties and correspondingly stronger individualism. This social environment has in turn favored a greater emphasis on absolute, universally applicable rules, combined with a stronger desire to expel rule breakers. This system of morality differs from the relativistic, kin-based morality that prevails elsewhere in the world, where right and wrong are more a matter of whose side you are on … and who does what to whom.

Moral universalism and moral absolutism have brought many benefits. They have enabled Northwest Europeans to free themselves from the limitations of kinship and build large high-trust societies that leave greater room for the individual. But such societies have an Achilles heel. They are vulnerable to people who play by a different rule book, be they native deviants who practice “selfishness for me and selflessness for thee” or immigrants from low-trust, kin-based societies … in short, the majority of humans on this planet.

In the past, this was no problem because Norway received few immigrants and because rule breakers of any origin were ruthlessly ostracized. Over the past half-century, however, Norwegians have been persuaded that the supreme rule is Thou shalt not be racist. It follows, therefore, that racists are supreme offenders who must be expelled from society, like witches and heretics of another age. A psychological mechanism that once enabled Norwegian society to perpetuate itself has been reprogrammed to ensure its self-liquidation.

That outcome is not far off. In a country of five million or so, it doesn’t take long to elect a new people. Even remote Arctic communities like Narvik are starting to look like a cross between Mogadishu and Karachi. Will Norwegians stop before it’s too late?

Stopping means dismantling the moral consensus that has legitimized this massive demographic change. But how? Violence simply confirms the judgment that racism is evil. This is what happened after the church burnings and the attacks of 2011. A moral consensus can be dismantled only by moral means …by denouncing it openly and nonviolently.

That won’t be easy. No one wants to be a “bad” person, and in a conformist society like Norway a rule-breaker is “bad” no matter how stupid the rule may seem. As long as the rule is affirmed and never challenged, people will obey and make others obey. Only when enough people challenge it—openly and defiantly—will the moral consensus weaken and collapse. To get from here to there will be difficult but it can be done. Rules of sexual morality were deconstructed. Why not antiracism?

Finally, Norwegians should remember the cost of being “good.” A “good” member of a death cult will die just as surely as a “bad” member. And that is exactly what antiracism has become for Norway. A death cult.


Anon. (2015). Europe’s Lutherans pledge increased efforts to welcome refugees, The Lutheran World Federation, May 19

Berwick [Breivik], A. (2011). A European Declaration of Independence.

Lippert, R.K., and S. Rehaag. (2013). Sanctuary Practices in International Perspectives: Migration, Citizenship, and Social Movements, Routledge

Wallach, J., H.M. Berger, P.D. Greene. (2011). Metal Rules the Globe: Heavy Metal Music Around the World, Duke University Press.

Wikipedia (2015a). Church of Norway

Wikipedia (2015b). Early Norwegian black metal scene

(Reprinted from Evo and Proud by permission of author or representative)

I’ve published an article on the evolution of long head hair in humans. The following is the abstract:

In many humans, head hair can grow to a much greater length than hair elsewhere on the body. This is a “derived” form that evolved outside Africa and probably in northern Eurasia. The ancestral form, which is frizzier and much shorter, survives in sub-Saharan Africans and in other groups whose ancestors never left the tropics. This original hair form is nonetheless relatively straight and silky during infancy. Head hair thus seems to have lengthened in two stages: 1) retention of the infant hair form at older ages; and 2) further lengthening to mid-back and even waist lengths. These changes seem to have gone farther in women, whose head hair is thicker and somewhat longer. The most popular evolutionary explanations are: 1) relaxation of selection for short hair; and 2) sexual selection for women with long hair. Neither hypothesis is satisfactory. The first one cannot explain why head hair lengthened so dramatically over so little time. The second hypothesis suffers from the assumption that some populations have remained naturally short-haired because they consider long-haired women undesirable. Almost the opposite is true in traditional African cultures, which have a long history of lengthening and straightening women’s hair. It is argued here that sexual selection produced different outcomes in different populations not because standards of beauty differed but because the intensity of sexual selection differed. In the tropical zone, sexual selection acted more on men than on women and was thus too weak to enhance desirable female characteristics. This situation reversed as ancestral humans spread northward into environments that tended to limit polygyny while increasing male mortality. Because fewer men were available for mating, women faced a more competitive mate market and were selected more severely.


Frost, P. (2015). Evolution of long head hair in humans, Advances in Anthropology, 5, 274-281.

(Reprinted from Evo and Proud by permission of author or representative)

Religiosity is moderately heritable—25 to 45% according to twin studies (Bouchard, 2004; Lewis and Bates, 2013). These figures are of course underestimates, since any noise in the data gets classified as ‘non-genetic’ variability. So the estimates would be higher if we could measure religiosity better.

But what does it mean to be religious? Does it mean adhering to a single organized religion with a clergy, a place of worship, and a standardized creed? This definition works fairly well in the Christian and Muslim worlds, but not so well farther afield. In East Asia, people often have more than one faith tradition: “If one religion is good, two are better.” Moreover, ‘religion’ has never controlled East Asian societies to the extent that Christianity and Islam have controlled theirs, as Francis Fukuyama notes in The Origins of Political Order. This word becomes even more problematic in simple societies. Did hunter-gatherers have religion? If we take the example of the Inuit, they believed in spirits of various kinds, but those spirits were indifferent to humans and their concerns, being not at all like the fellow in the Christmas jingle:

He sees you when you’re sleeping.

He knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!

Simple hunter-gatherers had no idea that a moral God exists. Nor did they see morality as being absolute or universal. A human action could be good or bad, depending on who was doing what to whom. Morality could not be separated from kinship. Your first moral obligation was to yourself, then to your family, then to your close kin. Beyond, who cares?

So what exactly is the heritable component of religiosity? Or should we say components? These questions were addressed by a recent twin study, which concluded that “religiosity is a biologically complex construct, with distinct heritable components” (Lewis and Bates, 2013). The most important one seems to be ‘community integration,’ which is the desire to be among people who befriend each other and help each other on a regular basis. Much research shows that religious people have stronger social needs than the rest of us, and they tend to lose interest in religion when such needs are no longer met. When former Methodist church members were asked why they left their church, the most common response was their failure to feel accepted, loved, or wanted by others in the congregation (Lewis and Bates, 2013).

The second most important component seems to be ‘existential certainty’—belief in a controlling God who will ultimately take care of everything. Belief in divine control reduces anxiety and actually increases one’s sense of personal control. As such, it provides “an epistemic buffer from a range of factors such as unpredictability, instability, and concerns over mortality that exist in this world.”

In sum, this study found that community integration accounts for 45% of innate religiosity and existential certainty for 11%. These two components represent most of what we call ‘religiosity.’

Just one thing. The study was done with a sample of Americans who were 85.1% Christian, the rest being mostly atheist, agnostic, or ”no religious preference.” Would the results have been similar with participants from the Middle East, Africa, or East Asia?

I don’t think so. Religiosity, by its very nature, should be very sensitive to gene-culture coevolution. It’s moderately heritable and serves different purposes in different cultural environments. Any one religion will favor its own ways of being and acting, and people who conform will do better than those who don’t. Thus, over successive generations, the gene pool of believers will become characterized by certain predispositions, personality traits, and other heritable aspects of mental makeup. These characteristics will tend to persist even if the believers cease to believe and become secularized.

This point is made by the authors, albeit indirectly. On the one hand, a community of believers will modify their religion to suit their social and existential needs:

[...] religion per-sé may not be the sole organization or system able to fill the niche created by human needs for community and existential meaning. The succession, displacement, and evolution of religions can be viewed in this light as the shaping of religious systems by their adherents to maximize the extent to which their needs are met.

On the other hand, a religion will modify its community of believers by favoring the survival of those with the “right” mindset and by removing those with the “wrong” mindset:

[...] this ”exchangeable goods” notion of religion may fail to acknowledge the tight fit between religious belief and human psychology: ”religious practices and rituals co-evolved with religiously inclined minds, so that they now fit together extremely well.”

In short, Man has made religion in his own image, but religion has returned the favor. In a very real sense, it has made us who we are.


Bouchard, T. J. Jr., (2004). Genetic influence on human psychological traits: A survey. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13, 148-151.

Lewis, G.J. and T.C. Bates. (2013). Common genetic influences underpin religiosity, community integration, and existential uncertainty, Journal of Research in Personality, 47, 398-405.

(Reprinted from Evo and Proud by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: East Asians, Kinship, Religion, Twin Study 

African Americans sleep on average almost an hour less than do Euro Americans. The two groups have mean sleep times of 6.05 hours and 6.85 hours. This finding has recently been discussed by Brian Resnick in National Journal and by our Steve Sailer.

Researchers reject a genetic explanation: “There is a consensus that innate biological differences between blacks and whites are not a factor” (Resnick, 2015). So what is the cause?

One study points the finger at racism: “If you can take out that discrimination piece, the average African-American and the average Caucasian look at lot more similar. [...] “It’s not perfect, but in terms of sleep, a lot of the disparity goes away” (Resnick, 2015).

The study is by Tomfohr et al. (2012). It found that duration of deep sleep and duration of Stage 2 of light sleep correlated in African Americans with perceived discrimination, which is defined as “the extent to which an individual believes that members of his or her ethnic group have been discriminated against in society.”

Nonetheless, as the authors note, sleep duration still differs significantly between African and Euro Americans even when the difference is adjusted for the effects of perceived discrimination. So we are left with a curious finding: two separate causes, one genetic and the other environmental, are producing the same pattern of effects. Both are reducing deep sleep and Stage 2 light sleep in African Americans while not affecting Stage 1 light sleep.

Whenever I see this kind of finding, I start looking for confounds. Is one cause a sock puppet for the other? It may be that perceived discrimination increases with African ancestry. Perhaps African Americans who feel conscious of discrimination also tend to be darker-skinned and more visibly African than those who don’t. This confound has actually been shown by several studies, such as the following:

This study tested the extent to which skin color is associated with differential exposure to discrimination for a sample of 300 Black adults. Results revealed that dark-skinned Blacks were 11 times more likely to experience frequent racial discrimination than their light-skinned counterparts; 67% of subjects reporting high discrimination were dark-skinned and only 8.5% were light-skinned. (Klonoff and Landrine, 2000; see also Keith and Herring, 1991)

Even if perceived discrimination could fully explain the race difference in sleep duration, we still couldn’t exclude a genetic explanation, since the degree of perceived discrimination is confounded with the degree of African ancestry.

In reality, perceived discrimination accounts for only part of the race difference, and since this difference remains significant even if we factor out that putative cause, the most parsimonious explanation is a genetic cause. Only that cause can fully account for shorter sleep duration in African Americans.

Studies in Africa

Another way to solve this puzzle is to look at Africans living in Africa. Do they show the same pattern we see in African Americans?

We know less about sleep patterns in Africa, but what we do know suggests that Africans, too, have shorter sleep duration. When Friborg et al. (2012) studied sleep in Ghanaians and Norwegians, they found that Ghanaians slept about an hour less than do Norwegians on weekends and between a quarter and half an hour less on weekdays. Oluwole (2010) studied sleep in Nigerian undergraduates and found they slept an average of 6.2 hours plus another 70 minutes in the afternoon. This pattern is actually typical in the tropical zone. People prefer to get some sleep when the temperature is at its peak and spend more time awake when it’s more bearable.

But why would this pattern persist in African Americans? Perhaps it’s hardwired to some degree. When siestas become the cultural norm, there is selection for those individuals who enjoy being normal (and against those who don’t).

Sleep patterns are heritable:

Assessed self-reported sleep data from 2,238 monozygotic (MZ) and 4,545 dizygotic (DZ) adult twin pairs born in Finland before 1958. Results indicate a significant hereditary effect on sleep length and on sleep quality. When the data were examined in subgroups defined by sex, age (18-24 yrs and 25+ yrs), and cohabitation status of the twin pair, the highest heritability estimates for sleep length were for Ss living together aged 25 yrs or older. For Ss living apart, the heritability estimates were statistically significant in all Ss aged 25 yrs or older. For sleep quality, significant heritability estimates were found for all groups except women living together. Results indicate that a significant proportion of the variance in sleep length and quality was due to factors that make MZ Ss more similar than DZ Ss. (Partinen et al., 1983)

A single genetic polymorphism seems to explain much of the variability between individuals in sleep patterns, particularly deep sleep and slow wave activity (SWA):

Here we show in humans that a genetic variant of adenosine deaminase, which is associated with the reduced metabolism of adenosine to inosine, specifically enhances deep sleep and SWA during sleep. In contrast, a distinct polymorphism of the adenosine A2A receptor gene, which was associated with interindividual differences in anxiety symptoms after caffeine intake in healthy volunteers, affects the electroencephalogram during sleep and wakefulness in a non-state-specific manner. Our findings indicate a direct role of adenosine in human sleep homeostasis. Moreover, our data suggest that genetic variability in the adenosinergic system contributes to the interindividual variability in brain electrical activity during sleep and wakefulness. (Retey et al., 2005)


So African Americans are getting enough sleep at night. It’s just that they’re not getting enough afternoon naps. But aren’t naps for kids? Or old fogeys? Actually, they’re quite normal for adults in much of the world. In the Nigerian study, 82% of the participants regularly took afternoon naps.

It’s ironic that the “r word” has been injected into this debate. If a behavior deviates from the white American norm, and if racism is held responsible either directly or indirectly, one is assuming that this deviation is pathological. It is “deviant.” It shouldn’t exist and something should be done about it. The white American norm thus becomes a norm for all humans, and all humans—if they want to be fully human—should strive toward it.

In reality, there is no single human nature. Genetic evolution didn’t slow down when humans began to split up and settle the different continents. It accelerated. And not just because our ancestors were adapting to different natural environments. Most of the acceleration took place long after the globe had been settled from the equator to the arctic. It happened when humans began to adapt to an increasingly diverse range of cultural environments. And those adaptations were mostly behavioral and psychological.

One of them is the way we sleep. The African sleep pattern is normal in its native environment. It is simply an adaptation to a particular set of circumstances, just as the northern European sleep pattern is an adaptation to another set of circumstances.


Friborg, O., B. Bjorvatn, B. Amponsah, and S. Pallesen. (2012), Associations between seasonal variations in day length (photoperiod), sleep timing, sleep quality and mood: a comparison between Ghana (5°) and Norway (69°). Journal of Sleep Research,21: 176-184.

Keith, V. M., and Herring, C. (1991). Skin Tone and Stratification in the Black-Community. American Journal of Sociology, 97(3), 760-778.

Klonoff, E. A., and Landrine, H. (2000). Is skin color a marker for racial discrimination? Explaining the skin color-hypertension relationship. Journal of Behavioural Medicine, 23(4), 329-338.

Oluwole, O. S. A. (2010), Sleep habits in Nigerian undergraduates.Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, 121, 1-6.;jsessionid=44273AEA63F6FD0CAA04EB387612555A.f02t01?userIsAuthenticated=false&deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=

Partinen, M., J. Kaprio, M. Koskenvuo, P. Putkonen, and H. Langinvainio (1983). Genetic and environmental determination of human sleep. Sleep: Journal of Sleep Research & Sleep Medicine,6(3), 79-185.

Resnick, B. (2015). The Black-White sleep gap, National Journal, October 23

Retey, J.V., M. Adam, E. Honegger, R. Khatami, U.F.O. Luhmann, H.H. Jung, W. Berger, and H.P. Landolt. (2005). A functional genetic variation of adenosine deaminase affects the duration and intensity of deep sleep in humans, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A., 102, 15676-15681

Sailer, S. (2015). Racism never sleeps: “The Black-White Sleep Gap: An Unexpected Challenge in the Quest for Racial Justice”, The Unz Review, October 29

Tomfohr, L., M.A. Pung, K.M. Edwards, and J.E. Dimsdale. (2012). Racial differences in sleep architecture: The role of ethnic discrimination, Biological Psychology, 89, 34-38.

(Reprinted from Evo and Proud by permission of author or representative)

In my last column, I reviewed the findings of Butovskaya et al. (2015) on testosterone and polygyny in two East African peoples:

- Testosterone levels were higher in the polygynous Datoga than in the monogamous Hadza. This difference is innate.

- Datoga men were more aggressive than Hadza men on all measures used (physical aggression, verbal aggression, anger, and hostility)

- Datoga men were larger and more robust than Hadza men

- All of these characteristics seem to be adaptive under conditions when men have to compete against other men for access to women

Testosterone levels were not only higher in the Datoga but also more variable. Alvergne et al. (2009) studied this variability in Senegalese men, finding that the monogamous ones differed from the polygynous ones in the way testosterone levels changed with age. The levels were higher in the polygynous men than in the monogamous men between the ages of 15 and 30. After 45, this pattern reversed: the monogamous men had the higher levels. At all ages, the polygynous men were more extraverted than the monogamous ones, this quality being defined as “pro-social behavior which reflects sociability, assertiveness, activity, dominance and positive emotions.” Extraversion may assist a reproductive strategy of seducing women, rather than providing for them.

Thus, when Africans gave up hunting and gathering for farming, there was selection for a new package of male traits. Some of these traits are physiological (higher testosterone levels), some anatomical (denser bones, greater arm and leg girth; changes to muscle fiber properties, etc.), and some behavioral (polygyny, aggressiveness, extraversion, etc.). But this selection didn’t eliminate older genotypes, at least not wholly. There seems to be a balanced polymorphism that allows a minority of quieter, monogamous men to thrive in a high-polygyny society like Senegal. When polygynous men become too numerous, they may spend too much time looking for mating opportunities and not enough checking up on their current wives to avoid being cuckolded. It might be better for some to live continuously with one wife.

African Americans versus Euro Americans

The above differences within sub-Saharan Africa (Datoga vs. Hadza, polygynous Senegalese vs. monogamous Senegalese) are also seen between African Americans and Euro Americans. In all these cases, the differences are of degree and proportion, rather than absolute and non-overlapping.

Testosterone reaches high levels in young African American adults (Pettaway, 1999; Ross et al., 1986; Ross et al., 1992; Winters et al., 2001). African Americans are also likelier to have alleles for high androgen-receptor activity (Kittles et al.,2001). Lifetime exposure to testosterone is reflected in development of prostate cancer, with African American men having the world’s highest incidences (Brawley and Kramer, 1996). It was once thought that lower incidences prevail among black West Indians and sub-Saharan Africans, but underreporting is now thought to be responsible (Glover et al., 1998; Ogunbiyi and Shittu, 1999;Osegbe, 1997).

In African Americans, blood testosterone levels peak during adolescence and early adulthood, being higher than those of Euro Americans of the same age. Levels decline after 24 years of age, and by the early 30s are similar to those of European Americans (Gapstur et al., 2002; Nyborg, 1994, pp. 111-113; Ross et al., 1986; Ross et al., 1992; Tsai et al., 2006; Winters et al., 2001). This is the same pattern we saw in polygynous Senegalese men versus monogamous Senegalese men. In short, polygyny seems associated with a more exaggerated pattern of variation with age.

The demographic contradictions of a high-polygyny society

Testosterone levels are normally higher in all young men, but why are they higher still when polygyny is common? The reason seems to be the scarcity of available women. High-polygyny societies generate a shortage of mateable women, and this shortage is managed by giving priority to men who are at least ten years past puberty. For instance, among the Nyakyusa: “[...] there is a difference of ten years or more in the average marriage-age of girls and men, and it is this differential marriage-age which makes polygyny possible” (Wilson, 1950, p. 112).

By concentrating celibacy among young men, this age rule compels them to seek sex through warfare or illicit means. According to Pierre van den Berghe (1979, pp. 50-51):

Typically, the more men are polygynous in a given society, the greater the age difference between husbands and wives. [...] The temporary celibacy of young men in polygynous societies is rarely absolute, however. While it often postpones the establishment of a stable pair-bond and the procreation of children, it often does not preclude dalliance with unmarried girls, adultery with younger wives of older men, or the rape or seduction of women conquered in warfare. Thus, what sometimes looks like temporary celibacy is, in fact, temporary promiscuity. These young men often devote themselves to warfare during their unmarried years and sometimes homosexuality is tolerated during that period.

For young men in a high-polygyny society, warfare—typically raids against neighboring communities—is the main way to gain access to women. In a sense, war becomes a means of resolving the demographic contradictions of a high-polygyny society. Polygyny creates a wife shortage among young men, and this contradiction is resolved by turning it outward. As warriors, young men are encouraged to satisfy their sexual urges through raids against neighboring peoples. Warfare thus becomes endemic.

This relationship between polygyny and war has often been noted in studies of African societies:

Dorjahn (1959) says African warfare emphasized taking captives, rather than killing the enemy. Kelly’s discussion of Nuer warfare provides an interesting perspective on this phenomenon. In Nuer warfare the main casualties were younger men and older women, with male and female mortality being almost equal. Younger women and children were captured. Female captives were valued because they could be used to generate bridewealth when they were married to other Nuer, whereas captive boys were adopted into the lineage of their captor and would require bridewealth payment when they married. Consequently, few males were taken captive (Kelly 1985:56-57). (White and Burton, 1988)

In their cross-cultural study of the causes of polygyny, White and Burton (1988) conclude that “polygyny is associated with warfare for plunder and/or female captives”:

[...] polygyny is seen as associated with the expansion of male-oriented kin groups through favorable environments, facilitated by capture of women or bridewealth via warfare. Following this analysis, it is difficult to see polygyny as having benign effects upon the lives of all women. Rather, polygyny produces benefits for senior wives, who have sons and can mobilize the labor of junior wives and children (Hartung 1982); it has negative effects on women who become slaves, captives, or junior wives, or who do not have sons.

We now come to a leading cause of the African slave trade. Polygyny led to warfare, which led to a surplus of unwanted male captives. These captives could be sold as slaves, but local markets would soon be saturated. The excess supply had to be sold farther away, with the result that slave trading networks began to reach the Middle East as early as the time of Christ (Frost, 2008).

While outsiders from the Middle East and Europe would later get more and more involved, becoming not only traders but also captors, it was Africans themselves who initially controlled the supply chain. In its early stages, and even later, this trade was driven by factors internal to Africa.

Contrary evidence

Whenever I discuss this subject, some people will counter that certain studies have shown an absence of racial/ethnic differences in testosterone levels. Let me discuss these studies at some length.

Richard et al. (2014)

This meta-analysis concluded: “After adjustment for age, black men have a modestly but significantly 2.5 to 4.9% higher free testosterone level than white men.” Here, “adjustment for age” means comparing black and white men of the same age. The conclusion isn’t surprising, since African American men have a testosterone advantage only from puberty to their early 30s. At other ages, their testosterone levels are either equal to or less than those of Euro American men.

This meta-analysis has two other flaws. First, it included only studies on “men,” thus excluding studies on teenagers, among whom the race difference is greatest.

Second, it included Rohrmann et al. (2007). This study suffers from serious methodological problems, as I will now explain.

Rohrmann et al. (2007)

This study concluded that “contrary to the postulated racial difference, testosterone concentrations did not differ notably between black and white men.”

This study also found that 45-69 year old black men have higher testosterone levels (5.62 ng/ml) than do 20-44 year old black men (5.35 ng/ml). Such a finding is paradoxical and indicates a faulty dataset. The authors used serum samples from the National Center for Health Statistics that had been earlier collected for its Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). The authors state they used 1,479 samples that remained out of an initial total of 1,998. Over 25% of the original samples were missing. The authors state that some samples were missing because they were being used for another study.

The same serum bank had in fact been used for research on a sexually transmitted disease. This was the study by Fleming et al. (1997), who reported that more than 25% of adults between 30 and 39 years of age were positive for HSV-2 (Herpes Simplex virus type 2). Those samples may have been set aside either for further testing or for legal reasons. The serum bank would have thus lost some of its most polygynous donors.

Ellison et al. (2002)

This study measured salivary testosterone in young men (15-30 years) from the United States, Congo, Nepal, and Paraguay. Americans had the highest levels (335 pmol/l), followed by Congolese (286 pmol/l), Nepalese (251 pmol/l), and Paraguayans (197 pmol/l).

Who were these Americans? They are simply identified as … young Americans—a demographic that is now less than 60% of European descent. In Boston, where the study was conducted, public schools in 2005 were 46% black and 31% Latino (mainly Puerto Ricans and Dominicans). The authors also state that “the USA participants were recruited by public advertisement.” The pool of participants may have therefore resembled that of people who give blood in exchange for payment, i.e., it may have been disproportionately poor and non-white. In any event, the results are unusable without any information on racial background.

The Congolese participants were likewise unrepresentative of Congolese in general. They were Lese who inhabit the Ituri forest in proximity to the Efe pygmies. Many Lese are, in fact, partly of pygmy ancestry. As such, their testosterone levels would be closer to that of hunter-gatherers with lowers levels of polygyny and less male-male competition for mates.

Richards et al. (1992)

This study concluded that testosterone levels did not differ between African American and Euro American boys between the ages of 6 and 18. Such a finding is to be expected for the first few years of this age range, when no difference should exist between the two groups. The main flaw, however, is that the participants were compared not by age but by Tanner stage. Since African Americans enter puberty earlier, this study compared younger African American boys with older Euro American boys.

Testosterone levels may differ between the two groups because of earlier maturation by African American boys. But why would this difference persist beyond adolescence and into the mid-twenties? This question remains unresolved because none of the participants were older than 18.

Various African studies

Several studies have found lower testosterone levels in African populations than in North Americans. This difference might be partly due to the effects of malnutrition or infectious diseases, notably among the Zimbabwean subjects studied by Lukas et al. (2004). The main reason, however, is that these studies mostly had middle-aged or even elderly participants. Lukas et al. (2004) report a mean age of 42.18. The scatter plot (Fig. 2) suggests a logarithmic decline in testosterone with age, but there were too few participants below 25 for analysis of that age group. The same criticism applies to Campbell et al. (2003), a study of testosterone levels in Ariaal pastoralists from northern Kenya. The mean age was 46.8.

In addition, some of these studies concern hunter-gatherers, like the !Kung of Namibia and the Ituri Forest pygmies of the Congo, who have low polygyny rates and weak male-male competition for mates (e.g., Winkler and Christiansen, 1993). Their low testosterone levels are thus to be expected.


Alvergne, A., M. Jokela, C. Faurie, and V. Lummaa. (2010). Personality and testosterone in men from a high-fertility population,Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 840-844.

Alvergne, A., M. Jokela, and V. Lummaa. (2010). Personality and reproductive success in a high-fertility human population,Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, 11745-11750.

Alvergne, A., C. Faurie, and M. Raymond. (2009). Variation in testosterone levels and male reproductive effort: Insight from a polygynous human population, Hormones and Behavior, 56, 491-497.

Brawley, O.W. and B.S. Kramer. (1996). Epidemiology of prostate cancer. In N.J. Volgelsang, P.T. Scardino, W.U. Shipley, and D.S. Coffey. (eds). Comprehensive textbook of genitourinary oncology. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.

Butovskaya M.L., O.E. Lazebny, V.A. Vasilyev, D.A. Dronova, D.V. Karelin, A.Z.P. Mabulla, et al. (2015). Androgen receptor gene polymorphism, aggression, and reproduction in Tanzanian foragers and pastoralists. PLoS ONE 10(8): e0136208.

Campbell, B., O’Rourke, M.T., and Lipson, S.F. (2003). Salivary testosterone and body composition among Ariaal males, American Journal of Human Biology, 15, 697-708.;jsessionid=850A746CC305355216352318B03D5A19.f01t03

Ellison, P.T., Bribiescas, R.G., Bentley, G.R., Campbell, B.C., Lipson, S.F., Panter-Brick, C., and Hill, K. (2002). Population variation in age-related decline in male salivary testosterone.Human Reproduction, 17, 3251-3253.

Fleming D.T., G.M. McQuillan, R.E. Johnson, A.J. Nahmias, S.O. Aral, F.K. Lee, and M.E. St Louis. (1997). Herpes simplex virus type 2 in the United States, 1976 to 1994, New England Journal of Medicine, 337, 1105-11.

Frost, P. (2008). The beginnings of black slavery, Evo and Proud, January 25

Gapstur, S.M., P.H. Gann, P. Kopp, L. Colangelo, C. Longcope, and K. Liu. (2002). Serum androgen concentrations in young men: A longitudinal analysis of associations with age, obesity, and race. The CARDIA male hormone study, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 11, 1041-1047.

Glover, F.E. Jr., D.S. Coffey, L.L. Douglas, M. Cadogan, H. Russell, T. Tulloch, T.D. Baker, R.L. Wan, and P.C. Walsh. (1998).The epidemiology of prostate cancer in Jamaica, Journal of Urology, 159, 1984-1986.

Kittles, R.A., Young, D., Weinrich, S., Hudson, J., Argyropoulos, G., Ukoli, F., Adams-Campbell, L. and Dunston, G.M. (2001). Extent of linkage disequilibrium between the androgen receptor gene CAG and GGC repeats in human populations: implications for prostate cancer risk, Human Genetics, 109, 253-261.

Lukas, W.D., B.C. Campbell, and P.T. Ellison. (2004). Testosterone, aging, and body composition in men from Harare, Zimbabwe, American Journal of Human Biology, 16, 704-712.

Nyborg, H. (1994). Hormones, Sex, and Society. The Science of Physiology. Westport (Conn.): Praeger.

Ogunbiyi, J. and O. Shittu. (1999). Increased incidence of prostate cancer in Nigerians. Journal of the National Medical Association, 3, 159-164.

Osegbe, D.N. (1997). Prostate cancer in Nigerians: facts and non-facts, Journal of Urology, 157, 1340-1343.

Pettaway, C.A. 1999. Racial differences in the androgen/androgen receptor pathway in prostate cancer, Journal of the National Medical Association, 91, 653-660.

Richard, A., S. Rohrmann, L. Zhang, M. Eichholzer, S. Basaria, E. Selvin, A.S. Dobs, N. Kanarek, A. Menke, W.G. Nelson, and E.A. Platz. (2014). Racial variation in sex steroid hormone concentration in black and white men: a meta-analysis, Andrology, 2(3), 428-35

Richards, R.J., F. Svec, W. Bao, S.R. Srinivasan, and G.S. Berenson. (1992). Steroid hormones during puberty: racial (black-white) differences in androstrenedione and estradiol. The Bogalusa heart study, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism,75, 624-631.

Rohrmann, S., Nelson, W.G., Rifai, N., Brown, T.R., Dobs, A., Kanarek, N., Yager, J.D., Platz, E.A. (2007). Serum estrogen, but not testosterone levels differ between Black and White men in a nationally representative sample of Americans, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 92, 2519-2525

Ross, R.K., Bernstein, L., Lobo, R.A., Shimizu, H., Stanczyk, F.Z., Pike, M.C. and Henderson, B.E. (1992). 5-apha-reductase activity and risk of prostate cancer among Japanese and US white and black males, Lancet, 339, 887-889.

Ross, R., Bernstein, L., Judd, H., Hanisch, R., Pike, M., & Henderson, B. (1986). Serum testosterone levels in healthy young black and white men, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 76, 45-48.

Tsai, C.J., B.A. Cohn, P.M. Cirillo, D. Feldman, F.Z. Stanczyk, A.S. Whittemore. (2006). Sex steroid hormones in young manhood and the risk of subsequent prostate cancer: a longitudinal study in African-Americans and Caucasians (United States), Cancer Causes Control, 17, 1237-1244.

van den Berghe, P.L. (1979). Human Family Systems. An Evolutionary View. New York: Elsevier.

White, D.R., and M.L. Burton. (1988). Causes of polygyny: ecology, economy, kinship, and warfare, American Anthropologist,90, 871-887.

Wilson, M. (1950). Nyakyusa kinship. In Radcliffe-Brown, A.R., & Forde, D. (eds). African Systems of Kinship and Marriage, pp. 111-139, London: Oxford University Press.

Winkler, E-M., and Christiansen, K. (1993). Sex hormone levels and body hair growth in !Kung San and Kavango men from Namibia. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 92, 155-164.

Winters, S.J., Brufsky, A., Weissfeld, J., Trump, D.L., Dyky, M.A. & Hadeed, V. (2001). Testosterone, sex hormone-binding globulin, and body composition in young adult African American and Caucasian men, Metabolism, 50, 1242-1247.

(Reprinted from Evo and Proud by permission of author or representative)

Humans differ in paternal investment—the degree to which fathers help mothers care for their offspring. They differ in this way between individuals, between populations, and between stages of cultural evolution.

During the earliest stage, when all humans were hunter-gatherers, men invested more in their offspring with increasing distance from the equator. Longer, colder winters made it harder for women to gather food for themselves and their children. They had to rely on meat from their hunting spouses. Conversely, paternal investment was lower in the tropics, where women could gather food year-round and provide for themselves and their children with little male assistance.

This sexual division of labor influenced the transition to farming. In the tropics, women were the main providers for their families as gatherers of fruits, berries, roots, and other wild plant foods. They were the ones who developed farming, thereby biasing it toward domestication of wild plants.

This may be seen in sub-Saharan Africa, where farming arose near the Niger’s headwaters and gave rise to the Sudanic food complex—a wide range of native crops now found throughout the continent (sorghum, pearl millet, cow pea, etc.) and only one form of livestock, the guinea fowl (Murdock, 1959, pp. 44, 64-68). Many wild animal species could have been domesticated for meat production, but women were much less familiar with them. Men knew these species as hunters but had little motivation to domesticate them. Why should they? Women were the main providers.

And so women shouldered even more the burden of providing for themselves and their offspring. Men in turn found it easier to go back on the mate market and get second or third wives. Finally, men had to compete against each other much more for fewer unmated women.

There was thus a causal chain: female dominance of farming => female reproductive autonomy => male polygyny => male-male rivalry for access to women. Jack Goody (1973) in his review of the literature says: “The desire of men to attract wives is seen as correlated with the degree of women’s participation in the basic productive process.” The more women produce, the lower the cost of polygyny.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the cost was often negative. Goody quotes a 17th century traveler on the Gold Coast: the women till the ground “whilst the man only idly spends his time in impertinent tattling (the woman’s business in our country) and drinking of palm-wine, which the poor wives are frequently obliged to raise money to pay for, and by their hard labour maintain and satisfie these lazy wretches their greedy thirst after wines.”

Goody cites data from southern Africa showing that the polygyny rate fell when the cost of polygyny rose:

In Basutoland one in nine husbands had more than one wife in 1936; in 1912, it was one in 5.5 (Mair 1953: 10). Hunter calculates that in 1911 12 per cent of Pondo men were plurally married and the figure was slightly lower in 1921. In 1946, the Tswana rate was 11 per cent; according to a small sample collected by Livingstone in 1850 it was 43 per cent. The figures appear to have changed drastically over time and the reasons are interesting. ‘The large household is now not a source of wealth, but a burden which only the rich can bear’ (Mair 1953: 19). Not only is there a specific tax for each additional wife, but a man’s wives now no longer give the same help in agriculture that they did before. One reason for this is that the fields are ploughed rather than hoed. Among the Pondo, ‘the use of the plough means that the amount of grain cultivated no longer depends on women’s labour’ (Goody, 1973)

Although polygynous marriage has become less common in southern Africa, polygynous behavior seems as frequent as ever. To a large degree, polygynous marriage has given way to more transient forms of polygyny: prostitution and other informal arrangements. Goody also notes that polygyny rates have remained high in the Sahel, where pastoralism has nonetheless increased male participation in farming. He gives the example of Ghana. Polygyny rates are about the same in the north and the south, yet in the north men participate much more in farming.

So what is going on? Goody concludes that “female farming and polygyny are clearly associated in a general way” but ultimately the “reasons behind polygyny are sexual and reproductive rather than economic and productive.” It would be more parsimonious to say that the polygyny rate increases when the cost of providing for a woman and her children decreases for men. Over time, low-cost polygyny selects for men who are more motivated to exploit sexual opportunities. This new mindset influences the subsequent course of gene-culture coevolution.

Such gene-culture coevolution has gone through four stages in the evolutionary history of sub-Saharan Africans:

First stage

Tropical hunter-gatherers were already oriented toward low paternal investment. Men had a lesser role in child rearing because year-round food gathering provided women with a high degree of food autonomy. Women were thus selected for self-reliance and men for polygyny. Pair bonding was correspondingly weak in both sexes.

Second stage

This mindset guided tropical hunter-gatherers in their transition to farming. In short, female-dominated food gathering gave way to female-dominated horticulture—hoe farming of various crops with almost no livestock raising. Women became even more autonomous, and men even more polygynous. There was thus further selection for a mindset of female self-reliance, male polygyny, and weak pair bonding.

Third stage

A similar process occurred with the development of trade. Female-dominated horticulture tended to orient women, much more than men, toward the market economy. This has particularly been so in West Africa, where markets are overwhelmingly run by women. Trade has thus become another means by which African women provide for themselves and their children.

Fourth stage

Female-dominated horticulture has given way to male-dominated pastoralism in some regions, such as the Sahel. Despite higher male participation in farming, the pre-existing mindset has tended to maintain high polygyny rates. We see a similar tendency in southern Africa, where polygyny rates have fallen over the past century, and yet polygynous behavior persists in the form of prostitution and less formal sexual arrangements.

The Hadza and the Datoga

Mode of subsistence, mating system, and mindset are thus interrelated. These interrelationships are discussed by Butovskaya et al. (2015) in their study of two peoples in Tanzania: the largely monogamous Hadza (hunter-gatherers) and the highly polygynous Datoga (pastoralists). In their review of previous studies, the authors note:

In hunter-gatherer societies, such as the monogamous Hadza of Tanzania (Africa), men invest more in offspring than in small-scale pastoralist societies, such as the polygynous Datoga of Tanzania [12-14]. Polygyny and between-group aggression redirect men’s efforts from childcare toward investment in male-male relationships and the pursuit of additional mates[15]. When men participate in childcare, their testosterone (T) level decreases [15-18]. Muller et al.[19] found that, among the monogamous, high paternally investing Hadza, T levels were lower for fathers than for non-fathers. This effect was not observed among the polygynous, low paternally investing Datoga. (Butovskaya et al., 2015).

Butovskaya et al. (2015) confirmed these previous findings in their own study:

Datoga males reported greater aggression than Hadza men—a finding in line with previous reports [29,30]. It is important to mention several striking differences between these two cultures. There is a negative attitude toward aggression among the Hadza but not among the Datoga. In situations of potential aggression, the Hadza prefer to leave[30]. In contrast, aggression is an instrument of social control—both within the family and in outgroup relations in Datoga society. Datoga men are trained to compete with each other and to act aggressively in particular circumstances[30]

The authors also confirmed differences in reproductive behavior between the two groups:

Our research indicates a difference in the number of children in Hadza and Datoga men achieved after the age of 50. This may be interpreted as differences attributable to different life trajectories and marriage patterns. Beginning in early childhood, boys in the two societies are subjected to different social and environmental pressures (e.g., it is typical for Datoga parents to punish children for misbehavior, while parental violence is much less typical for Hadza parents). Hadza men start reproducing in the early 20s, but their reproductive success later in life is associated with their hunting skills[15]. In the Datoga, men marry later, typically in their 30s. Male status and, consequently, social and reproductive success in the Datoga are positively correlated with fighting abilities and risk-taking in raiding expeditions among younger men, and with wealth, dominance, and social skills among older men. In the Datoga, as in other patrilineal societies, fathers do not invest directly in child care, but children do benefit from their father’s investment in the form of wealth and social protection, as well as various services provided by father’s patrilineal male relatives[56]. In polygynous societies, spending resources on attracting additional wives may be more beneficial [40,57,58]. It would be difficult for some men to invest directly in providing for all their children, given that men with multiple wives can father a considerable number of children, and that households with wives may be located at substantial distance from one another.

This behavioral difference seems to be mediated by differing levels of androgens, such as testosterone:

The effect of androgens, such as T, operates through stimulation of androgen receptors [21-23]. The androgen receptor (AR) gene contains a polymorphic and functional locus in exon 1, comprising two triplets (CAG and GGN). This locus supports a regulatory function that responds to T, with fewer CAG repeat clusters being more effective in transmitting the T signal[22]. Moreover, the length of the GGN repeat predicts circulating and free T in men.

At the androgen receptor gene, the authors found fewer CAG repeats in the Datoga than in the Hadza. The number of repeats was also more variable in the Datoga. The Datoga’s higher and more variable polygyny rates thus seem to correlate with higher and more variable levels of testosterone.

The authors also wished to see whether these differing levels of testosterone correlate with differing levels of aggressiveness. To this end, they interviewed the Hadza and Datoga participants:

They were asked to provide information including their age, sex, marital status, number of children, ethnicity and aggression history (especially fights with other tribal members). All questions were read aloud in one-to-one dialogues and further explanations were provided, if necessary. Self-reported aggression was assessed with the Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire (BPAQ;[48]). The BPAQ includes 29 statements, grouped into four subscales—physical aggression (9 items), verbal aggression (5 items), anger (7 items), and hostility (8 items)—answered on aLikert scale anchored by 1 (extremely uncharacteristic of me) and 5 (extremely characteristic of me).

Total aggression was found to correlate negatively with CAG repeat number. Age group did not predict aggression.

More polygyny = stronger sexual selection of men

Finally, the authors suggest that Datoga men, with their higher polygyny rate and fiercer competition for access to women, have undergone greater sexual selection. They have thus become bigger and more masculine than Hadza men. Although this selection pressure also exists among the Hadza, the driving force of sexual selection has been weaker because Hadza men are more monogamous and less sexually competitive:

Our findings are in concordance with other research, demonstrating that even among the relatively egalitarian Hadza there is selection pressure in favor of more masculine men [59-62]. At the same time, preference for more masculine partners, with greater height and body size, is culturally variable and influenced by the degree of polygyny, local ecology, and other economic and social factors [59-62]. Many Datoga women commented that they would like to avoid taller and larger men as marriage partners, as they may be dangerously violent [44,62]. Only 2% of Hadza women listed large body size as an attractive mate characteristic[63]. Hadza marriages in which the wife is taller than the husband are common, and as frequent as would be expected by chance[64]. (Butovskaya et al., 2015)

This is consistent with what we see in nonhuman polygynous species. Successful males tend to be the ones that are better not only at attracting the opposite sex but also at fighting off rivals. They thus become bigger, tougher, and meaner.

This is also consistent with what we see generally in the highly polygynous farming peoples of sub-Saharan Africa. They and their African-American descendants exceed European-descended subjects in weight, chest size, arm girth, leg girth, muscle fiber properties, and bone density (Ama et al., 1986; Ettinger et al.,1997; Himes, 1988; Hui et al., 2003; Pollitzer and Anderson, 1989; Todd and Lindala, 1928; Wagner and Heyward, 2000; Wolff and Steggerda, 1943; Wright et al., 1995).


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(Reprinted from Evo and Proud by permission of author or representative)