After the Second World War, the study of race and heredity became taboo, partly as an understandable result of association with German atrocities. Talk of skull shape and race – whether “Nordic,” “Aryan,” or Jewish – used to be mainstream science but if you discuss any of these today, you are likely to be marginalized as a dangerous crackpot. However, history marches on. The progression of genetics and neuroscience mean that we can know more and more about the biological realities of different ethnic and genetic/racial groups, including their average physical, health, and psychological differences.
Racial/genetic science is even making a slow comeback in Europe. Just last month, Alain de Benoist’s Nouvelle École magazine published an entire dossier on the “Paleo-Genetics of the Indo-Europeans,” showing the genetic imprint left by this ancient warrior people’s conquest of Europe some 4000 years ago. (The clunky term “Indo-European” essentially refers to what used to be called “the Aryans.”)
I would argue that the development of genetics and neuroscience may also help us to understand not only our own nature as humans of various origins, but also the specificity and dynamics of European history. I want to thank Ted Sallis for bringing attention to a fascinating study (which I have only just come across) examining the correlation between skull shape, brain size, and brain morphology on the one hand, and intra-European regional ancestry on the other. The results are very interesting indeed.
The study, published in the journal Human Heredity, was performed by Trygve Bakken, Anders Dale, and Nicholas Schork for the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. The authors compared skull size and brain morphology (the latter identified through MRI scans) with intra-European regional ancestry and genes.
The results are remarkable:
We found that both skull and brain morphological variation exhibit a population-genetic fingerprint among individuals of European ancestry. This fingerprint shows a Northwest to Southeast gradient, is independent of body size, and involves frontotemporal cortical regions.
In short, the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain get bigger as one moves from individuals with a southeast European ancestral background to those with a northwest European one. The authors point out that such knowledge can help us treat mental illnesses like Alzheimer’s, the results suggest “that genetic background should be considered in studies seeking to identify genes involved in human cortical development and neuropsychiatric disease.”
The authors write:
Human brain morphology is highly heritable and influenced by specific genetic factors. . . . However, the relationship between genetic background – the accumulation of genetic variants due to prehistoric and historic demographic processes, including migrations and bottlenecks – and brain morphology among individuals distributed globally and regionally has not been directly studied. . . .
Human skull morphology varies greatly worldwide largely due to the accumulation of genetic and environmental differences within populations but also between geographically separated populations. . . . We focused on this geographic region because populations in Europe are genetically differentiated in a continuous manner consistent with known historical migrations, and these populations vary in skull size and shape. . . .
We found that . . . individuals with NW ancestry are on average 4 cm taller than . . . individuals with a SE or Ashknenazi Jewish ancestry . . . consistent with previously observed differences in height across Europe. . . .
Intracranial and brain volumes and cortical surface area progressively increase with the amount of inferred NW European ancestry . . . and these measures are approximately 5% larger in the 10% of individuals with the most NW European ancestry compared to the 10% with the most SE European ancestry. This percentage increase matches the percentage increase in cranial length and breadth observed along the same NW-SE geographic axis in the skull data set and cannot be attributed to a correlation with body size since we controlled for height and weight. This correlation involves specific – not global – brain morphology because hippocampal, basal ganglia, ventricular, and cerebellar volumes and average cortical thickness are not associated with NW-SE ancestry.
Northern Europeans, famous already in the later Nineteenth Century for their blonde hair and dolichocephalic (long) skulls then really have different brains (implying highly probable psychological differences). The authors speculate on the possible origins of this northwest European difference:
Larger brain size in modern humans is thought to be weakly correlated with increased cognitive performance, and therefore could have been subject to mild positive selection. Alternatively, larger skulls may have been selected for their increased globularity – i.e. a greater volume to surface area ratio – and thus reduced heat loss for a given brain size. Consequently, larger skulls may have provided a small selective advantage to humans in colder climates and indirectly resulted in modestly increased brain volumes in northern European populations. However, whether or not the morphological diversity we have observed across Europe resulted from neutral genetic drift, natural selection, or a combination of both is an open question.
Ted Sallis adds that such brain shape differences be the cause of psychological differences:
One can speculate that these differences are derived from Paleolithic hunter-gatherer vs. Neolithic farmer ancestry percentages, with brain size and intelligence being maximized among northern hunter-gatherers. Note that the frontal lobes are important in judgment and impulse control, and these data may explain the stereotypes of the restrained, disciplined, stoic Nordic vs. the gesticulating, undisciplined, emotional Swarthoid. Temporal lobes deal with sensory input, and size differences there may be related to the greater requirement for spatial competence in hunter-gatherers.
There is a fairly striking, though imperfect, overlap between the authors’ map showing brain shape variation in Europe and long-term economic development outcomes: as one goes from northwest to southeast Europe (say, from Denmark to Turkey), developmental outcomes steadily deteriorate and corruption steadily goes up. As I documented in “The Convergence Hoax,” differences in economic performance in Europe are not being eliminated, with northwest Europe retaining a decisive advantage over southern Europe.
It is perfectly possible that such differences in social outcomes are in part due to underlying biological differences. As E. O. Wilson pointed out in his masterpiece, Sociobiology, in both humans and animals relatively small biologically-based psychological or behavioral differences lead to very significant accumulated social and cultural differences. If you have a slightly more guilt-prone population, this might lead to a wider culture of guilt becoming normative, and hence to a much more law-abiding population. Conversely, if you have a slightly more selfishness-prone population, this might lead to a wider culture of “honesty is for suckers” developing over time, and hence to a generally corrupt society.
In any event, it will be interesting to see how much eastern Europe converges with western Europe economically and socio-culturally. Southern Europe will not converge with the northwest for the foreseeable future. The Visegrád countries and the Baltic states may well converge. However, I can attest that no informed person thinks that the Balkan countries will succeed any time soon, if ever. Their position (including Turkey) is in fact perfectly intermediary between the highly functional (perhaps overly functional) societies of northwest Europe and the vicious non-societies of the Middle-East (where each country has a choice between the tyranny of some ethno-religious group/clan or civil war between said ethno-religious groups/clans).
The dynamism of northern and western Europe has been apparent at least since the days of Carolingians and the Vikings. German minority communities spread across the Balkans and much of the Baltic sea coast, becoming establishing islands of conquest, settlement, trade, and urbanization, among the generally more apathetic eastern European rural masses. Many of the most beautiful and developed cities of these regions were in fact built by the Germans. Emil Cioran, a Romanian nationalist intellectual who later became a Parisian nihilist, could still observe in 1936: “Capricious, irritable, nervous, and flighty, how could the Romanian fraternize with the disciplined, staid, and steady spirit of the Saxon?”Emil Cioran, Apologie de la barbarie: Berlin-Bucarest (1932-1941) (Paris: L’Herne, 2015), p. 180. Cioran spoke from experience, having been raised among the Saxons of his native Transylvania.
More generally, in considering the historical Balkans in particular – with its Jews, Germans, Magyars, southern Slavs (themselves very phenotypically diverse), Romanians, Albanians, and Gypsies – one can only be struck by the astonishing physical, cultural, and behavioral diversity of the various juxtaposes populations. The Balkans are really a remarkable Petri dish of human biodiversity.
Of course, exactly linking any biological trait to particular historical, cultural, and social outcomes is a fraught affair. Human societies are simply too complex. But that does not mean we should assume biology plays no role: rather, there should be entire departments of geneticists, neuroscientists, evolutionary psychologists, psychometricians, sociologists, economics, historians, and others working together to figure out what is going on.
If there is even a partial biological basis to (northwest) Europeans’ psychology, which in turn underpins Western culture in all its uniqueness, then the genetic replacement and dissolution of this population through immigration will, eventually, mean the end of that psychology and culture.
I was also struck by what the authors of this study take for granted as mainstream science today. According to previous studies “cranial variation was associated with geography and language family more than time period (Early and Late Middle Ages and a Recent Period). Therefore, European cranial diversity has retained some of its spatial patterning for at least 1,500 years.” This suggests that European populations had not moved much during this time period, immigrationist propaganda notwithstanding. Furthermore, the authors observe that “Ashkenazi Jewish individuals are geographically dispersed in Europe and yet are genetically quite similar and genetically intermediate between SE European and Middle Eastern populations.”
The authors also observe that “Brain volume and cortical surface area in humans increased dramatically after our evolutionary divergence from non-human primates, peaking some 35,000 years ago.” However, they also say that humans left Africa . . . “approximately 40,000 years ago.” Doesn’t that leave the possibility that those who remained in Africa might have, so to speak, ‘missed the boat’ of much of recent human cognitive development? The authors do not get into inter-continental differences in brain morphology.
The observation of intra-European differences used to be accepted wisdom. During World War II, John F. Kennedy observed that northern Europe was more organized than southern Europe, while one of Charles de Gaulle’s first acts as leader of liberated France, was to decree that French immigration policy should be more welcoming of “Nordics” and reduce the entry of Southerners and Middle-Easterners. Talk of “Nordics” and “Aryans” may have become taboo since then, but certain realities are slowly being raised. The science suggests that northern Europeans are indeed blonder, taller, and have differently-shaped brains.
The Daily Mail recently published a richly-illustrated article on “The most violent group of people who ever lived: Horse riding Yamnaya tribe who used their huge height and muscular build to brutally murder invade their way across Europe [more] than 4,000 years ago” (that’s just the headline). The article notes that the Yamnaya (which, in the olden days, were simply called the Aryans, so dear to Nietzsche and Hitler) conquered Europe and India, often exterminated the local males, drank milk and ate beef, and used horses and chariots. Conan the Barbarian was actually based on a true story. The evidence increasingly suggests Big Beautiful Blonde Brawny Big-Brained Beef-eating Bronze-age Barbarians (B8s) were not just a figment of the nineteenth-century imagination. Rather that it is we postwar moderns who have become too weak and miseducated to accept certain scientific truths when these politically inconvenient or too emotionally and psychologically unbearable.
To this day, the majority of Westerners and northern Indians speak languages which are descended from that of the conquerors. The religion, culture, and institutions of ancient Greece, Rome, and India – the foundation of the Western and Indian civilizations – were furthermore established by various branches of this same people. Their heroic and aristocratic martial ethos is still preserved, in a late form, in the poems of Homer and the Hindu classics.
Finally, I was struck by the fact that the Human Heredity article in question is eight years old. It seems the authors have not published much further the work in the same vein. Some of them did however publish an equally-remarkable study showing that “the three-dimensional geometry of cortical surface is highly predictive of individuals’ genetic ancestry in West Africa, Europe, East Asia, and America.” In short: race is only cerebral-cortex-deep!
There must have been many more similar studies published since then. Are you aware of any? Please add them in the comments.
By way of conclusion, I add that none of these observations are meant in a spirit of hostility or denigration towards any people. I am not happy about the disadvantages of any human population. Anyway, northern European societies may be better at producing and sharing economic wealth, but they have also clearly gone insane and are leading Western civilization towards genetic and cultural dissolution. We also need a dose of the proverbial ‘Mediterranean sanity.’ That having been said, we ought to be brave enough to see the world as it is. Any human order based on falsehoods is bound to collapse sooner or later. Science is coming, whether people like it or not.
 Emil Cioran, Apologie de la barbarie: Berlin-Bucarest (1932-1941) (Paris: L’Herne, 2015), p. 180.