Saturday, January 17, 2015

Moving on ...

Dear readers,

I've decided to complete my move to The Unz Review (, so there will be no further blogging at this site. I'm doing this partly to reduce my workload of supervising two websites and partly to gain more control over my posts at TUR (commenting, correction of errors in the post, etc.). Thanks to Ron, my exposure on the Internet has greatly increased and my audience now includes a silent readership of mainstream journalists and, perhaps, newspaper editors.

Early last year, I had thoughts of closing up shop. I had the feeling of making the same points over and over again. I still have that feeling, but it no longer troubles me so much. For one thing, the same point can have many different applications in real life. For another, a lot of people have short memories, and it doesn't hurt to repeat a point I may have made two or three years ago.

Thank you for your loyalty! This isn't the end; it's just a move onward and upward.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

French lesson

A burning car during the 2005 riots. (Wikicommons: Strologoff)


The gruesome attack on Charlie Hebdo has earned condemnation around the world. It has been called "cowardly" and "evil" by Barack Obama, "a barbaric act" by Stephen Harper, and an "infamy" by François Hollande.

Yes, violence is serious. It's a crime when done by an individual and war when done by a country. It's a grave breach of the rules that govern our society. Whatever differences we may have, they are to be settled peacefully, through the courts if need be. Violence is just not to be done.

Except it increasingly is. The attack on Charlie Hebdo is not an isolated incident. It's part of a worsening trend of violence by people described as jeunes [youths] or simply not described at all. That was not the case in the recent attack; the victims were too well known. But it is generally the case, and this conspiracy of silence has become something of a social norm, particularly in the media.

Yet statistics do exist, notably those compiled by the Gendarmerie. According to French criminologist Xavier Raufer:

The criminality we are talking about is the kind that is making life unbearable for the population: burglaries, thefts of all sorts, assaults, violent thefts without firearms, etc. In these specific cases, 7 out of 10 of these crimes are committed by people who in one way or another have an immigrant background, either directly (first generation on French territory, with or without a residence permit) or indirectly (second generation). (Chevrier and Raufer, 2014)

The word "immigrant" is misleading. Many if not most are French-born, and they tend to come much more from some immigrant groups than from others. In general, they are young men of North African or sub-Saharan African background, plus smaller numbers of Roma and Albanians. 

This criminality, when not being denied, is usually put down to social marginalization and lack of integration. Yet the reverse is closer to the truth. The typical French person is an individual in a sea of individuals, whereas immigrant communities enjoy strong social networks and a keen sense of solidarity. This is one of the reasons given why the targets of the crime wave are so often Français de souche [old-stock French]. "Whites don't stick up for each other."

Personal violence in human societies

In France, as in other Western countries, personal violence is criminalized and even pathologized. The young violent male is said to be "sick." Or "deprived." He has not had a chance to get a good job and lead a nice quiet life.

Yet this is not how young violent males perceive themselves or, for that matter, how most human societies have perceived them down through the ages. Indeed, early societies accepted the legitimacy of personal violence. Each adult male had the right to defend himself and his kin with whatever violence he deemed necessary. The term "self-defence" is used loosely here—a man could react violently to a lack of respect or to slurs on his honor or the honor of his ancestors. There were courts to arbitrate this sort of dispute but they typically had no power, enforcement of court rulings being left to the aggrieved party and his male kin. In general, violence was a socially approved way to prove one’s manhood, attract potential mates, and gain respect from other men.

Things changed as human societies developed. The State grew in power and increasingly monopolized the legitimate use of violence, thus knocking down the violent young male from hero to zero. This course of action was zealously pursued in Northwest Europe from the 11th century onward (Carbasse, 2011, pp. 36-56). There were two reasons. First, the end of the Dark Ages brought a strengthening of State power, a resumption of trade and, hence, a growing need and ability by the authorities to pacify social relations. Second, the main obstacle to criminalization of personal violence—kin-based morality and the desire to avenge wrongs committed against kin—seems to have been weaker in Northwest Europe than elsewhere. There was correspondingly a greater susceptibility to more universal and less kin-based forms of morality, such as the Christian ban on murder in almost all circumstances. 

Murder was increasingly punished not only by the ultimate penalty but also by exemplary forms of execution, e.g., burning at the stake, drawing and quartering, and breaking on the wheel (Carbasse, 2011, pp. 52-53). This "war on murder" reached a peak from the 16th to 18th centuries when, out of every two hundred men, one or two would end up being executed (Taccoen, 1982, p. 52). A comparable number of murderers would die either at the scene of the crime or in prison while awaiting trial (Ireland, 1987).

Gene-culture co-evolution?

The cultural norm thus shifted toward nonviolence. There was now strong selection against people who could not or would not lead peaceful lives, their removal from society being abrupt, via the hangman's noose, or more gradual, through ostracism by one's peers and rejection on the marriage market. As a result, the homicide rate fell from between 20 and 40 homicides per 100,000 in the late Middle Ages to between 0.5 and 1 per 100,000 in the mid-20th century (Eisner, 2001, pp. 628-629).

Was this decline due solely to legal and cultural restraints on personal violence? Or were there also changes to the gene pool? Was there a process of gene-culture co-evolution whereby Church and State created a culture of nonviolence, which in turn favored some genotypes over others? We know that aggressive/antisocial behavior is moderately to highly heritable. In the latest twin study, heritability was 40% when the twins had different evaluators and 69% when they had the same one (Barker et al., 2009). The actual neural basis is still unsure. Perhaps a predisposition to violence is due to stronger impulsiveness and weaker internal controls on behavior (Niv et al., 2012). Perhaps the threshold for expression of violence is lower. Perhaps ideation comes easier (van der Dennen, 2006). Or perhaps the sight and smell of blood is more pleasurable (vanden Bergh and Kelly, 1964).

It was probably a mix of cultural and genetic factors that caused the homicide rate to decline in Western societies. Even if culture alone were responsible, we would still be facing the same problem. Different societies view male violence differently:

In Algerian society for example, children are raised according to their sex. A boy usually receives an authoritarian and severe type of upbringing that will prepare him to become aware of the responsibilities that await him in adulthood, notably responsibility for his family and for the elderly. This is why a mother will allow her son to fight in the street and will scarcely be alarmed if the boy has a fall or if she sees a bruise. The boy of an Algerian family is accustomed from an early age to being hit hard without whimpering too much. People orient him more toward combat sports and group games in order to arm him with courage and endurance—virtues deemed to be manly. (Assous, 2005)

In Algeria and similar societies, a shaky equilibrium contains the worst excesses of male violence. Men think twice before acting violently, for fear of retaliation from the victim's brothers and other kinsmen. Of course, this "balance of terror" does not deter violence against those who have few kinsmen to count on.

Problems really begin, however, when a culture that legitimizes male violence coexists with one that delegitimizes it. This is France’s situation. Les jeunes perceive violence as a legitimate way to advance personal interests, and they eagerly pursue this goal with other young men. Conversely, les Français de souche perceive such violence as illegitimate and will not organize collectively for self-defence. The outcome is predictable. The first group will focus their attacks on members of the second group—not out of hate but because the latter are soft targets who cannot fight back or get support from others. 

But what about the obviously Islamist motives of the Charlie Hebdo attackers? Such motives can certainly channel violent tendencies, but those tendencies would exist regardless. Even if we completely eradicated radical Islam, les jeunes would still be present and still engaging in the same kind of behavior that is becoming almost routine. At best, there would be fewer high-profile attacks—the kind that make the police pull out all stops to find and kill the perps. It is this "high end" that attracts the extremists, since they are the least deterred by the risks incurred. The “low end” tends to attract devotees of American hip hop. Keep in mind that less than two-thirds of France's Afro/Arab/Roma population is even nominally Muslim.


Modern France is founded on Western principles of equality, human betterment, and universal morality. Anyone anywhere can become French. That view, the official one, seems more and more disconnected from reality. Many people living in France have no wish to become French in any meaningful sense. By "French" I don't mean having a passport, paying taxes, or agreeing to a set of abstract propositions. I mean behaving in certain concrete ways and sharing a common culture and history.

This reality is sinking in, and with it a loss of faith in the official view of France. Faith can be restored, on the condition that outrageous incidents stop happening. But they will continue to happen. And they will matter a lot more than the much more numerous incidents tout court—the rising tide of thefts, assaults, and home invasions that are spreading deeper and deeper into areas that were safe a few years ago. The attack on Charlie Hebdo matters more because it cannot be hidden from public view and public acknowledgment. How does one explain the disappearance of an entire newspaper and the mass execution of its editorial board? 

The Front national will be the beneficiary, of course. It may already have one third of the electorate, but that's still not enough to take power, especially with all of the other parties from the right to the left combining to keep the FN out. Meanwhile, the Great Replacement proceeds apace, regardless of whether the government is "left-wing" or "right-wing."


Assous, A. (2005). L'impact de l'éducation parentale sur le développement de l'enfant, Hawwa, 3(3), 354-369. 

Barker, E.D., H. Larsson, E. Viding, B. Maughan, F. Rijsdijk, N. Fontaine, and R. Plomin. (2009). Common genetic but specific environmental influences for aggressive and deceitful behaviors in preadolescent males, Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 31, 299-308.  

Chevrier, G. and X. Raufer. (2014). Aucun lien entre immigration et délinquance ? Une France peu généreuse avec ses immigrés ? Radiographie de quelques clichés "bien pensants" à la peau dure, Atlantico, November 26  

Eisner, M. (2001). Modernization, self-control and lethal violence. The long-term dynamics of European homicide rates in theoretical perspective, British Journal of Criminology, 41, 618-638.

Ireland, R.W. (1987). Theory and practice within the medieval English prison, The American Journal of Legal History, 31, 56-67. 

Niv, S., C. Tuvblad, A. Raine, P. Wang, and L.A. Baker. (2012). Heritability and longitudinal stability of impulsivity in adolescence, Behavior Genetics, 42, 378-392.

Taccoen, L. (1982). L'Occident est nu, Paris: Flammarion. 

Vanden Bergh, R.L., and J.F. Kelly. (1964). Vampirism. A review with new observations. Archives of General Psychiatry, 11, 543-547.  

Van der Dennen, J.M.G. (2006). Review essay: The murderer next door: Why the mind is designed to kill, Homicide Studies, 10, 320-335.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Sometimes the consensus is phony

Migrants arriving on the island of Lampedusa (Wikicommons). The NATO-led invasion of Libya has opened a huge breach in Europe's defences.


A synthesis has been forming in the field of human biodiversity. It may be summarized as follows: 

1. Human evolution did not end in the Pleistocene or even slow down. In fact, it speeded up with the advent of agriculture 10,000 years ago, when the pace of genetic change rose over a hundred-fold. Humans were no longer adapting to relatively static natural environments but rather to faster-changing cultural environments of their own making. Our ancestors thus directed their own evolution. They created new ways of life, which in turn influenced who would survive and who wouldn't.

2. When life or death depends on your ability to follow a certain way of life, you are necessarily being selected for certain heritable characteristics. Some of these are dietary—an ability to digest milk or certain foods. Others, however, are mental and behavioral, things like aptitudes, personality type, and behavioral predispositions. This is because a way of life involves thinking and behaving in specific ways. Keep in mind, too, that most mental and behavioral traits have moderate to high heritability.

3. This gene-culture co-evolution began when humans had already spread over the whole world, from the equator to the arctic. So it followed trajectories that differed from one geographic population to another. Even when these populations had to adapt to similar ways of life, they may have done so differently, thus opening up (or closing off) different possibilities for further gene-culture co-evolution. Therefore, on theoretical grounds alone, human populations should differ in the genetic adaptations they have acquired. The differences should generally be small and statistical, being noticeable only when one compares large numbers of individuals. Nonetheless, even small differences, when added up over many individuals and many generations, can greatly influence the way a society grows and develops.

4. Humans have thus altered their environment via culture, and this man-made environment has altered humans via natural selection. This is probably the farthest we can go in formulating a unified theory of human biodiversity. For Gregory Clark, the key factor was the rise of settled, pacified societies, where people could get ahead through work and trade, rather than through violence and plunder. For Henry Harpending and Greg Cochrane, it was the advent of agriculture and, later, civilization. For J. Philippe Rushton and Ed Miller, it was the entry of humans into cold northern environments, which increased selection for more parental investment, slower life history, and higher cognitive performance. Each of these authors has identified part of the big picture, but the picture itself is too big to reduce to a single factor.

5. Antiracist scholars have argued against the significance of human biodiversity, but their arguments typically reflect a lack of evolutionary thinking. Yes, human populations are open to gene flow and are thus not sharply defined (if they were, they would be species). It doesn't follow, however, that the only legitimate objects of study are sharply defined ones. Few things in this world would pass that test.

Yes, genes vary much more within human populations than between them, but these two kinds of genetic variation are not comparable. A population boundary typically coincides with a geographic or ecological barrier, such as a change from one vegetation zone to another or, in humans, a change from one way of life to another. It thus separates not only different populations but also differing pressures of natural selection. This is why genetic variation within a population differs qualitatively from genetic variation between populations. The first kind cannot be ironed out by similar selection pressures and thus tends to involve genes of little or no selective value. The second kind occurs across population boundaries, which tend to separate different ecosystems, different vegetation zones, different ways of life ... and different selection pressures. So the genes matter a lot more.

This isn't just theory. We see the same genetic overlap between many sibling species that are nonetheless distinct anatomically and behaviorally. Because such species have arisen over a relatively short span of time, like human populations, they have been made different primarily by natural selection, so the genetic differences between them are more likely to have adaptive, functional consequences ... as opposed to "junk variability" that slowly accumulates over time.

Why is the above so controversial?

The above synthesis should not be controversial. Yet it is. In fact, it scarcely resembles acceptable thinking within academia and even less so within society at large. There are two main reasons.

The war on racism 

In the debate over nature versus nurture, the weight of opinion shifted toward the latter during the 20th century. This shift began during the mid-1910s and was initially a reaction against the extreme claims being made for genetic determinism. In reading the literature of the time, one is struck by the restraint of early proponents of environmental determinism, especially when they argue against race differences in mental makeup. An example appears in The Clash of Colour (1925), whose author condemned America's Jim Crow laws and the hypocrisy of proclaiming the rights of Europeans to self-determination while ignoring those of Africans and Asians. Nonetheless, like the young Franz Boas, he was reluctant to deny the existence of mental differences:

I would submit the principle that, although differences of racial mental qualities are relatively small, so small as to be indistinguishable with certainty in individuals, they are yet of great importance for the life of nations, because they exert throughout many generations a constant bias upon the development of their culture and their institutions. (Mathews, 1925, p. 151)

That was enlightened thinking in the 1920s. The early 1930s brought a radical turn with Hitler's arrival to power and a growing sense of urgency that led many Jewish and non-Jewish scholars to declare war on "racism." The word itself was initially a synonym for Nazism, and even today Nazi Germany still holds a central place in antiracist discourse.

Why didn't the war on racism end when the Second World War ended? For one thing, many people, feared a third global conflict in which anti-Semitism would play a dominant role. For another, antiracism took on a life of its own during the Cold War, when the two superpowers were vying for influence over the emerging countries of Asia and Africa.


The end of the Cold War might have brought an end to the war on racism, or at least a winding down, had it not replaced socialism with an even more radical project: globalism. This is the hallmark of "late capitalism," a stage of historical development when the elites no longer feel restrained by national identity and are thus freer to enrich themselves at their host society's expense, mainly by outsourcing jobs to low-wage countries and by insourcing low-wage labor for jobs that cannot be relocated, such as those in construction and services. That's globalism in a nutshell.

This two-way movement redistributes wealth from owners of labor to owners of capital. Businesses get not only a cheaper workforce but also weaker labor and environmental standards. To stay competitive, workers in high-wage countries have to accept lower pay and a return to working conditions of another age. The top 10% are thus pulling farther and farther ahead of everyone else throughout the developed world. They're getting richer ... not by making a better product but by making the same product with cheaper and less troublesome inputs of labor. This is not a win-win situation, and the potential for revolutionary unrest is high.

To stave off unrest, economic systems require legitimacy, and legitimacy is made possible by ideology: a vision of a better future; how we can get there from here; and why we're not getting there despite the best efforts. Economic systems don't create ideology, but they do create conditions that favor some ideologies over others. With the collapse of the old left in the late 1980s, and the rise of market globalization, antiracism found a new purpose ... as a source of legitimacy for the globalist project.

I saw this up close in an antiracist organization during the mid to late 1980s. Truth be told, we mostly did things like marching in the May Day parade, agitating for a higher minimum wage, denouncing the U.S. intervention in Panama, organizing talks about Salvador Allende and what went wrong in Chile ... you get the drift. Antiracism was subservient to the political left. This was not a natural state of affairs, since the antiracist movement—like the Left in general—is a coalition of ethnic/religious factions that prefer to pursue their own narrow interests. This weakness was known to the political right, many of whom tried to exploit it by supporting Muslim fundamentalists in Afghanistan and elsewhere and black nationalists in Africa, Haiti, and the U.S. Yes, politics makes strange bedfellows.

With the onset of the 1990s, no one seemed to believe in socialism anymore and we wanted to tap into corporate sources of funding. So we reoriented. Leftist rhetoric was out and slick marketing in. Our educational materials looked glossier but now featured crude "Archie Bunker" caricatures of working people, and the language seemed increasingly anti-white. I remember feeling upset, even angry. So I left.

Looking back, I realize things had to happen that way. With the disintegration of the old socialist left, antiracists were freer to follow their natural inclinations, first by replacing class politics with identity politics, and second by making common cause with the political right, especially for the project of creating a globalized economy. Antiracism became a means to a new end.

This is the context that now frames the war on racism. For people in a position to influence public policy, antiracism is not only a moral imperative but also an economic one. It makes the difference between a sluggish return on investment of only 2 to 3% (which is typical in a mature economy) and a much higher one.

What to do?

Normally, I would advise caution. People need time to change their minds, especially on a topic as emotional as this one. When tempers flare, it's usually better to let the matter drop and return later. That's not cowardice; it's just a recognition of human limitations. Also, the other side may prove to be right. So, in a normal world, debate should run its course, and the policy implications discussed only when almost everyone has been convinced one way or the other.

Unfortunately, our world is far from normal. A lot of money is being spent to push a phony political consensus against any controls on immigration. This isn't being done in the dark by a few conspirators. It's being done in the full light of day by all kinds of people: agribusiness, Tyson Foods, Mark Zuckerberg, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and small-time operations ranging from landscapers to fast-food joints. They all want cheaper labor because they're competing against others who likewise want cheaper labor. It's that simple ... and stupid.

This phony consensus is also being pushed at a time when the demographic cauldron of the Third World is boiling over. This is particularly so in sub-Saharan Africa, where the decline in fertility has stalled and actually reversed in some countries. The resulting population overflow is now following the path of least resistance—northward, especially with the chaos due to the NATO-led invasion of Libya. In the current context, immigration controls should be strengthened, and yet there is lobbying to make them even weaker. The idiocy is beyond belief.

For these reasons, we cannot wait until even the most hardboiled skeptics are convinced. We must act now to bring anti-globalist parties to power: the UKIP in Britain, the Front national in France, the Partij voor de Vrijheid in 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. 

It looks like such parties will emerge in Canada and the United States only when people have seen what can be done in Europe. Until then, the tail must wag the dog. We in North America can nonetheless prepare the way by learning to speak up and stand up, and by recognizing that the "Right" is just as problematic as the "Left."


Clark, G. (2007). A Farewell to Alms. A Brief Economic History of the World, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford. 

Clark, G. (2009a). The indicted and the wealthy: surnames, reproductive success, genetic selection and social class in pre-industrial England, 

Clark, G. (2009b). The domestication of Man: The social implications of Darwin, ArtefaCTos, 2(1), 64-80. 

Clark, G. (2010). Regression to mediocrity? Surnames and social mobility in England, 1200-2009

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

Frost, P. (2011a). Human nature or human natures? Futures, 43, 740-748.  

Frost, P. (2011b). Rethinking intelligence and human geographic variation, Evo and Proud, February 11 

Harpending, H., and G. Cochran. (2002). In our genes, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A., 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 U.S.A., 104, 20753-20758.

Mathews, B. (1925). The Clash of Colour. A Study in the Problem of Race, London: Edinburgh House Press. 

Miller, E. (1994). Paternal provisioning versus mate seeking in human populations, Personality and Individual Differences, 17, 227-255.  

Rushton, J. P. (2000). Race, Evolution, and Behavior, 3rd ed., Charles Darwin Research Institute.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wishing you a merry ... something

Yale was founded by English Congregationalist ministers. Today, only 22% of its student body has a Christian European background of any sort.


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 Christians feel uncomfortable affirming their identity. And this self-abnegation gets worse the closer you are to the cultural core of Anglo-America. Immigrants of Christian background enjoy being wished Merry Christmas. Black people likewise. Catholics seem to split half and half, depending on how traditional or nominal they are.

But the WASPs. Oh, the WASPs! With them, those two words are a faux pas. The response is usually polite but firm: "And a very happy holiday season to you!"

Things weren’t always that way. The situation calls to mind a Star Trek episode where Capt. Kirk persuades an alien robot to destroy itself. "That which excludes is evil. If you affirm your identity, you are excluding those who don't share your identity. You are therefore evil."

I could question this logic. What about other cultural groups? Why single out just one? But I’ve heard the answer already. WASPs and their culture dominate North America. The path to power, or simply a better life, runs through their institutions. Minorities can affirm their own identities without restricting the life choices of others, but the same does not hold true for WASPs. Their identity affects everyone and must belong to everyone.

I’m still not convinced. Yes, WASPs did create the institutions of Anglo-America, but their influence in them is now nominal at best. The U.S. Supreme Court used to be a very WASPy place. Now, there's not a single White Protestant on it. That's a huge underrepresentation for a group that is still close to 40% of the population. We see the same thing at the Ivy League universities, which originally trained Protestant clergy for the English colonists. Today, how many of their students have any kind of Christian European background? The proportions are estimated to be 20% at Harvard, 22% at Yale, and 15% at Columbia (Unz, 2012).

Sometimes reality is not what is commonly believed.  WASPs are not at all privileged. In fact, they have been largely pushed aside in a country that was once theirs.

Whenever this ethnic displacement comes up for discussion (it usually doesn't), it gets put down to meritocracy. In the past, WASPs were the best people for the job of running the country. Now it's a mix of Jews, Asians, and other high-performing groups. A cynic might ask whether merit is the only factor ... and whether the U.S. is better run today than it was a half-century ago. Indeed, the latest Supreme Court appointee had little experience as a solicitor general and a scanty record of academic scholarship.

Merit isn't the whole story. There is also networking. In most parts of the world, an individual gets ahead in life by forming bonds of reciprocal assistance with family and kinfolk. "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." That's how most of the world works.

But not all of the world. Northwest Europeans have diverged the most from this pattern, at least since the 12th century (Macfarlane, 1978a - 2012). Their kinship ties have been weaker and their sense of individualism correspondingly stronger. As a result, their cultural evolution has to a large degree been emancipated from the restraints of kinship, and this emancipation has facilitated other ways of organizing social relations: the nation-state, ideology, the market economy ... not to mention the strange idea of personal advancement through personal merit alone. This model of society has succeeded economically, militarily, and geopolitically, but it's vulnerable to people who don't play by the rules, since the threat of kin retaliation is insufficient to keep them in line. Societal survival is possible only to the extent that rule-breakers are ostracized and immigration restricted from cultures that play by other rules. 

This brings us to the dark side of traditional WASP culture: the busybodiness, the judgmentalism, the distrust of foreigners no matter how nice or refined they may seem. That mentality still exists, but it has been turned against itself. The people to be excluded are now those who exclude. The cultural programming for survival has been turned into a self-destruct mechanism ... as in that Star Trek episode.

Even if we could somehow abort this self-destruct sequence, it's hard to see how WASPs can survive on the current playing field. WASPs believe in getting ahead through rugged individualism. Most of the other groups believe in using family and ethnic connections. Guess who wins.

Anyway, I wish all of you a merry end of 2014! Far be it for me to exclude anyone from the merriment.


Unz, R. (2012). The myth of American meritocracy, The American Conservative, November 28 

Macfarlane, A. (2012). The invention of the modern world. Chapter 8: Family, friendship and population, The Fortnightly Review, Spring-Summer serial 

Macfarlane, A. (1992). On individualism, Proceedings of the British Academy, 82, 171-199. 

Macfarlane, A. (1978a). The origins of English individualism: Some surprises, Theory and society: renewal and critique in social theory, 6, 255-277.

Macfarlane, A. (1978b). The Origins of English Individualism: The Family, Property and Social Transition, Oxford: Blackwell.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A darker shade of pale

Subjects identified the left-hand image as a woman and the right-hand one as a man. Yet the two images differ only in skin tone. Study by Richard Russell, Sinha Laboratory for Vision Research, MIT.


Skin color differs by sex: women are fairer and men browner and ruddier. Women also exhibit a greater contrast in luminosity between their facial skin and their lip and eye areas. These differences arise from differing concentrations of three skin pigments: melanin (brown); hemoglobin (red); and carotene (yellow). The cause is ultimately hormonal, as shown by studies on castrated and ovariectomized adults, on boys and girls during puberty, and on digit ratios (Edwards and Duntley, 1939; Edwards and Duntley, 1949; Edwards et al., 1941; Frost, 2010; Kalla and Tiwari, 1970; Manning et al., 2004; Mesa, 1983; Omoto,1965; Porcheron et al., 2013). Women are fairer than men in all human populations. The difference is greatest in people of medium color and least in very dark- or very fair-skinned people, apparently because of "floor" or "ceiling" effects (Frost, 2007). 

This sex difference is used by the human mind for sex recognition. In fact, it's more important for this purpose than other visual cues, like face shape. When subjects are shown an image of a human face, they can tell whether it is male or female even if blurred and differing only in hue and luminosity. Hue provides a "fast channel" for sex recognition. If the facial image is too far away or the lighting too dim, the mind switches to the "slow channel" and relies on luminosity (Bruce and Langton, 1994; Dupuis-Roy et al., 2009; Frost, 2011; Hill et al., 1995; Russell and Sinha, 2007; Russell et al., 2006; Tarr et al., 2001; Tarr et al., 2002).

Age differences

Skin color also differs by age. It can be used to distinguish younger from older women, since the contrast in luminosity between facial skin and the lip/eye areas decreases with age (Porcheron et al., 2013). It can also be used to recognize infants. All humans are born with very little melanin, and the resulting pinkish-white skin is often remarked upon in different cultures.

This is especially so where adults are normally dark-skinned, in striking contrast to newborns. In Kenya, the latter are often called mzungu ('European' in Swahili), and a new mother may ask her neighbors to come and see her mzungu (Walentowitz, 2008). Among the Tuareg, children are said to be whitened by the freshness and moisture of the womb (Walentowitz, 2008). The situation in other African peoples is summarized by a French anthropologist: "There is a rather widespread concept in Black Africa, according to which human beings, before 'coming' into this world, dwell in heaven, where they are white. For, heaven itself is white and all the beings dwelling there are also white. Therefore the whiter a child is at birth, the more splendid it is" (Zahan, 1974, p. 385). A Belgian anthropologist makes the same point: "black is thus the color of maturity [...] White on the other hand is a sign of the before-life and the after-life: the African newborn is light-skinned and the color of mourning is white kaolin" (Maertens, 1978, p. 41). 

This infant/adult difference is evolutionarily old, being present in nonhuman primates. In langurs, baboons, and macaques, the newborn's skin is pink while the adult's is black. This visual cue not only helps adults to locate a wayward infant but also seems to induce a desire to defend and provide care (Jay, 1962). Humans may respond similarly to the lighter color of infants and women. This would be consistent with a tendency by the adult female body to mimic the newborn body in other ways: face shape; pitch of voice; amount of body hair; texture and pliability of the skin; etc. Over time, women may have come to resemble this 'infant schema' because it is the one that can best reduce aggressiveness in a male partner and induce him to assume a provider role.

The sun-tanning fad: An aesthetic revolution

The sex-specific aspects of skin color have influenced the development of cosmetics in many cultures. Even in ancient times, women would use makeup to increase the natural contrast in luminosity between their facial skin and their lip/eye areas (Russell, 2009; Russell, 2010). They would also make their naturally fair complexion even fairer by avoiding the sun and applying white powders or bleaching agents.

This feminine aesthetic changed radically in the 1920s with the sudden popularity of sun-tanning throughout the Western world, initially as a health fad. Tanned skin then entered women's fashion and became part of the flapper image, along with bobbed hair, broad shoulders, a relatively flat chest, narrow hips, and long legs. This fashion image was intended to be hermaphroditic, the aim being to energize the erotic appeal of the female body by masculinizing some of its key features (Bard, 1998; Segrave, 2005). 

Has the tanning fad un-gendered skin color? Not wholly, to judge by the above studies on sex recognition. There still seems to be a tendency to prefer a lighter skin tone for women than for men. This was the conclusion of a recent study on how people perceive two skin pigments: melanin (brown) and carotene (yellow). When shown facial images with varying concentrations of melanin and carotene, the subjects had a greater preference for carotene than for melanin. This preference was stronger for female faces than for male faces, irrespective of the observer's sex. Nonetheless, for both male and female faces, the preferred skin color was much darker than it would have been a century ago (Lefevre and Perrett, 2014).

Again, this aesthetic norm has darkened only in the Western world. The tanned look had some popularity among Japanese women in the postwar era up to the 1970s, but it has since gone out of fashion (Ashikari, 2005). It never did catch on elsewhere in Asia (Li et al., 2008). In North America and Europe, the tanned look seems much more persistent, and this persistence suggests that it is locked into place by something else in our cultural environment.

Such as ...? One factor may be the conscious effort to promote images of dark-skinned people in advertising and, more generally, in popular culture. Another factor may be a half-conscious desire in popular culture for more aggressive, "harder" forms of eroticism. This is something that fair skin is less effective at delivering, having been originally part of the infant schema and thus less conducive to that kind of emotional response.



Ashikari, M. (2005). Cultivating Japanese whiteness. The 'whitening' cosmetics boom and the Japanese identity, Journal of Material Culture, 10, 73-91. 

Bard, C. (1998). Les Garçonnes. Modes et fantasmes des Années folles, Flammarion, Paris. 

Bruce, V., and S. Langton. (1994). The use of pigmentation and shading information in recognising the sex and identities of faces, Perception, 23(7), 803-822.

Dupuis-Roy, N., I. Fortin, D. Fiset, and F. Gosselin. (2009). Uncovering gender discrimination cues in a realistic setting, Journal of Vision, 9(2), 10, 1-8.

Edwards, E.A. and S.Q. Duntley. (1949). Cutaneous vascular changes in women in reference to the menstrual cycle and ovariectomy, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 57, 501-509.

Edwards, E.A. and S.Q. Duntley. (1939).The pigments and color of living human skin, American Journal of Anatomy, 65, 1-33.

Edwards, E.A., J.B. Hamilton, S.Q. Duntley, and G. Hubert. (1941). Cutaneous vascular and pigmentary changes in castrate and eunuchoid men, Endocrinology, 28, 119-128. 

Frost, P. (2011). Hue and luminosity of human skin: a visual cue for gender recognition and other mental tasks, Human Ethology Bulletin,

Frost, P. (2010). Femmes claires, hommes foncés. Les racines oubliées du colorisme, Québec: Les Presses de l'Université Laval, 202 p.

Frost, P. (2007). Comment on Human skin-color sexual dimorphism: A test of the sexual selection hypothesis, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 133, 779-781.

Hill, H., Bruce, V., and S. Akamatsu. (1995). Perceiving the sex and race of faces: The role of shape and colour, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 261, 367-373. 

Jay, P.C. (1962). Aspects of maternal behavior among langurs, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 102, 468-476.

Kalla, A.K. and S.C. Tiwari. (1970). Sex differences in skin colour in man, Acta Geneticae Medicae et Gemellologiae, 19, 472-476. 

Lefevre, C.E. and D.I. Perrrett. (2014). Fruit over sunbed: Carotenoid skin colouration is found more attractive than melanin colouration, The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,

Li, E.P.H., H.J. Min, R.W. Belk, J. Kimura, and S. Bahl. (2008). Skin lightening and beauty in four Asian cultures, Advances in Consumer Research, 35, 444-449.

Maertens, J-T. (1978). Le dessein sur la peau. Essai d'anthropologie des inscriptions tégumentaires, Ritologiques I, Paris: Aubier Montaigne. 

Manning, J.T., P.E. Bundred, and F.M. Mather. (2004). Second to fourth digit ratio, sexual selection, and skin colour, Evolution and Human Behavior, 25, 38-50. 

Mesa, M.S. (1983). Analyse de la variabilité de la pigmentation de la peau durant la croissance, Bulletin et mémoires de la Société d'Anthropologie de Paris, t. 10 series 13, 49-60. 

Omoto, K. (1965). Measurements of skin reflectance in a Japanese twin sample, Journal of the Anthropological Society of Nippon (Jinruigaku Zassi), 73, 115-122. 

Porcheron, A., E. Mauger, and R. Russell (2013). Aspects of facial contrast decrease with age and are cues for age perception, PLoS ONE 8(3): e57985 

Russell, R. (2010). Why cosmetics work. In R. Adams, N. Ambady, K. Nakayama, and S. Shimojo. (eds.) The Science of Social Vision, New York: Oxford. 

Russell, R. (2009). A sex difference in facial contrast and its exaggeration by cosmetics, Perception, 38, 1211-1219

Russell, R. (2003). Sex, beauty, and the relative luminance of facial features, Perception, 32, 1093-1107.

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Russell, R., P. Sinha, I. Biederman, and M. Nederhouser. (2006). Is pigmentation important for face recognition? Evidence from contrast negation, Perception, 35, 749-759.

Segrave, K. (2005). Suntanning in 20th Century America, Jefferson (North Carolina), McFarland & Co. 

Tarr, M. J., Kersten, D., Cheng, Y., and Rossion, B. (2001). It's Pat! Sexing faces using only red and green, Journal of Vision, 1(3), 337, 337a

Walentowitz, S. (2008). Des êtres à peaufiner. Variations de la coloration et de la pigmentation du nouveau-né, in J-P. Albert, B. Andrieu, P. Blanchard, G. Boëtsch, and D. Chevé (eds.), Coloris Corpus, (pp. 113-120), Paris: CNRS Éditions, 2008.

Zahan, D. (1974). White, Red and Black: Colour Symbolism in Black Africa, in A. Portmann and R. Ritsema (eds.) The Realms of Colour, Eranos 41 (1972), 365-395, Leiden: Eranos.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Are Chinese babies more docile?


Navaho woman with a child on cradleboard.
see video on cross-cultural differences in newborn behavior, Daniel Freedman, 1974 (posted by hbd chick)


In my last post I discussed recent research on mental differences between Europeans and Chinese people. The latter are less prone to boredom. They think less abstractly and more relationally. They're less individualistic, and less likely to punish friends for dishonesty. Mental differences also seem to exist within China, depending on whether one comes from a region that historically grew rice or one that historically grew wheat. Chinese from wheat-growing regions are closer to Europeans in mentality.

Are these differences inborn? Or are they due to upbringing? The second explanation is hard to reconcile with the fact that the regional differences within China involved urban residents who had never lived on a farm of any sort.

Almost a half-century ago, these questions interested the American psychologist Daniel Freedman and his wife Nina Chinn Freedman. They examined 24 Chinese-American and 24 Euro-American newborns whose parents were otherwise similar in age, economic class, and number of previous children. The two groups nonetheless behaved differently. The Euro-American babies cried more easily, were harder to console, and would immediately turn their faces aside if placed face down on a sheet. In contrast, the Chinese-American babies accepted almost any position without crying or resisting. When a light was shone in their eyes, the Euro-American babies would continue to blink long after the Chinese-American babies had stopped blinking (Freedman and Freedman, 1969; Freedman, 2004).

These findings were partially replicated by another American psychologist, Jerome Kagan, who found that Chinese 4-month-olds cried, fretted, and vocalized less than Euro-American infants. At older ages, however, the pattern reversed with Chinese Americans fretting and crying more when separated from their mothers (Kagan et al., 1978; Kagan et al., 1994).

Is this response specific to Chinese? Or does it apply to East Asians in general? In a study of Euro-American, Japanese, and Chinese 11-month olds, the last group was the least expressive one, being least likely to smile or cry. The Japanese babies either fell between the two other groups or were like the Euro-American babies (Camras et al., 1998). When another study looked at Japanese and British newborns, the latter actually showed more self-quieting activity (Eishima, 1992).

On the other hand, Navaho babies are even calmer and more adaptable than Chinese babies (Freedman, 2004). Some anthropologists have attributed this finding to a traditional practice of tying the baby to a cradleboard. As Freedman pointed out, however, this practice is now only sporadic among the Navaho.

Freedman attributed his Chinese and Navaho findings to a general Mongoloid temperament. If that were the case, infants should behave similarly in other North American native peoples. A study of Alaskan Inupiaq found young children to be shy but otherwise no different from Euro-American children. These subjects were, however, older than Freedman’s, being 3 to 6 years of age (Sprott, 2002).

It may be that the Navaho differ from other North American native peoples in this respect. Perhaps, in the past, mortality was higher among those babies who resisted the cradleboard; over time, they and their temperament would have been steadily removed from the gene pool. As Freedman noted, "most Navaho infants calmly accept the board; in fact, many begin to demand it by showing signs of unrest when off." When Euro-American mothers tried using the cradleboard, "their babies complained so persistently that they were off the board in a matter of weeks" (Freedman, 2004).

Infant calmness can thus arise in relatively simple societies, and not just in advanced ones as I had argued in my last post. In the Navaho case, there may have been some kind of parental selection, i.e., through their child-rearing practices, parents influence what sort of children survive and what sort don't. In other simple societies, such as among the Australian Aborigines, infant behavior is much less calm and compliant (Freedman, 2004).

Behavior can likewise differ between infants from different complex societies. We've seen this with Chinese-American and Euro-American babies, the latter having a less easy temperament. A difficult temperament (colic, excessive crying) is also much more common in babies of Greek or Middle Eastern origin than in babies of Northwest European or Asian Indian origin (Prior et al., 1987).

In the future, it would be interesting to find out whether infants differ in temperament within China, such as between rice-growing and wheat-growing regions.

But will there be more research?

There seems to be less and less interest in this area of research, particularly within the United States. I can point to several reasons:

- The behavioral differences between Chinese and Japanese babies must have arisen over a relatively short span of evolutionary time. Many researchers, even those who are receptive to HBD thinking, have trouble accepting fast behavioral evolution, especially below the level of large continental races.

- American researchers are increasingly interested in the possibility that early parental interaction, such as reading to children, can stimulate brain development. Although it is doubtful that parental interaction can explain differences in newborn behavior, this assumption seems to make people dismissive of Freedman's work. 

- Since the 1970s, and throughout the Western world, academia has become more hostile to the possibility of genetic influences on human behavior. This trend is self-reinforcing, since hiring decisions are biased toward candidates who believe in environmental determinism.

The last two points apply much less to East Asian scholars ... or American ones who are willing to do some of their work offshore. 

Right now, we need to identify the genetic causation for these differences in infant behavior. One cause may be the 7R allele of the D4 dopamine receptor gene, which is associated with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and is very rare in East Asians (Leung et al., 2005). Nonetheless, as with differences in intellectual capacity, we're probably looking at an accumulation of small effects at many different genes. Natural selection acts on what genes produce, and not directly on genes, so there is no reason to believe that a single behavioral outcome has a single genetic cause. That would be too convenient.



Camras, L.A., H. Oster, J. Campos, R. Campos, T. Ujiie, K. Miyake, L. Wang, and Z. Meng. (1998). Production of emotional facial expressions in European American, Japanese, and Chinese infants, Developmental Psychology, 34, 616-628.,%20Japanese,%20and%20Chinese%20infants..pdf  

Eishima, K. (1992). A study on neonatal behaviour comparing between two groups from different cultural backgrounds, Early Human Development, 28, 265-277.  

Freedman, D.G. (2004). Ethnic differences in babies, in L. Dundes (ed.). The Manner Born: Birth Rites in Cross-Cultural Perspective, pp. 221-232, AltaMira Press.

Freedman, D.G., and N.C. Freedman. (1969). Behavioural differences between Chinese-American and European-American newborns, Nature, 224, 1227. 

Kagan, J., D. Arcus, N. Snidman, W. Feng, J. Hendler, and S. Greene. (1994). Reactivity in infants: A cross-national comparison, Developmental Psychology, 30, 342-345.

Kagan, J., R. Kearsley, and P. Zelazo. (1978). Infancy: Its place in human development, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 

Leung, P.W.L., C.C. Lee, S.F. Hung, T.P. Ho, C.P. Tang, et al. (2005). Dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) gene in Han Chinese children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Increased prevalence of the 2-repeat allele, American Journal of Medical Genetics, Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 133B, 54-56.

Prior, M., E. Garino, A. Sanson, and F. Oberklaid. (1987). Ethnic influences on "difficult" temperament and behavioural problems in infants, Australian Journal of Psychology, 39, 163-171.

Sprott, J.E. (2002). Raising Young Children in an Alaskan Iñupiaq Village: The Family, Cultural, and Village Environment of Rearing, Greenwood Publishing Group.