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A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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Parsi wedding, 1905 (Wikicommons)
The Parsis are dying out. This people of western India, originally from Iran and famous for their role in trade, science, and industry, may disappear by mid-century, having already fallen from 114,890 in 1941 to 69,001 in 2011. Deaths outnumber births by a ratio of almost three to one. What has caused this calamity? War?... Read More
Compendium on agriculture, Japan, 1782. Rice farming, which requires community planning of water use and irrigation, may have favored a less individualistic mindset in East Asia (Wikicommons)
Kinship is the organizing principle of small human societies, such as bands of hunter-gatherers or small farming villages. This is seen in their notions of right and wrong—the same behavior may be wrong toward kin but right toward non-kin, or at least not punishable. Morality is enforced by social pressure from fellow kinfolk, which in... Read More
Yale was founded by English Congregationalist ministers. Today, only 22% of its student body has a Christian European background of any sort. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Last year, around this time, friends and acquaintances offered me all sorts of religiously neutral salutations: Seasons Greetings! Happy Holidays! Joyeuses fêtes! Meilleurs vœux! Only two people wished me Merry Christmas. One was Muslim, the other was Jewish. They meant well. After all, isn't that the culturally correct greeting? In theory, yes. In practice, most... Read More
Rice paddies, China, circa 1917-1923 (source). To grow rice, you must cooperate with neighbors for irrigation and labor. Today, even with the shift to a post-agricultural society, Chinese from rice-farming areas display less individualism and more interdependence than Chinese from wheat-farming areas. Is this evidence of gene-culture co-evolution? Human populations differ in genetic variants that... Read More
Ruth Benedict first made the distinction between “shame cultures” and “guilt cultures” (source). Pervasive feelings of guilt are part of a behavioral package that enabled Northwest Europeans to adapt to complex social environments where kinship is less important and where rules of correct behavior must be obeyed with a minimum of surveillance. Is this pervasive... Read More
Togolese representation of a white man (source) In a previous post, I wrote that the recently published book De quelle couleur sont les Blancs ? was originally supposed to provide a new perspective on French race relations. How do the Français de souche perceive, imagine, and experience their increasingly multiracial society? What does it mean... Read More
A Paris suburb, on the eve of the French Revolution. The shift to democracy and individualism began under conditions of high pathogen prevalence and long before modern sanitation (source) Is stress from parasites a major cause of psychological differences among humans? Yes, if we are to believe a popular theory in evolutionary psychology. According to... Read More
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