Saturday, October 31, 2015

The contradictions of polygyny

Chief Makwira and his wives, Malawi, 1903 (Wikicommons). Older men had first priority. Younger men could gain access to women only through war or adultery.


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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Polygyny makes men bigger, tougher ... and meaner

Hadza men are smaller, less robust, and less aggressive than the more polygynous Datoga (Wikicommons - Idobi).


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 women are much less self-reliant in the northern savannah of West Africa:

In savannah regions where water is scarce and trees scattered, their collection may make great demands on a woman’s time. So too does the grinding of hard grain, in the absence of mills. In all these domestic pursuits the savannah is more demanding on a woman’s time than the forest and consequently she can often make less contribution to agriculture. (Goody, 1973)

Yet polygyny rates have remained high. Goody 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 farming (pastoralism, cereal crops) in some regions, such as the northern savannah regions of West Africa. 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).


Ama, P.F.M., J.A. Simoneau, M.R. Boulay, O. Serresse, G. Thériault, and C. Bouchard. (1986). Skeletal muscle characteristics in sedentary Black and Caucasian males, Journal of Applied Physiology, 61, 1758-1761.  

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

The end of Indian summer

Antifas, Switzerland (Wikicommons). Today, antifas are becoming an extrajudicial police, just as human rights commissions are becoming a parallel justice system.


Until three years ago, Canada’s human rights commissions had the power to prosecute and convict individuals for "hate speech." This power was taken away after two high-profile cases: one against the magazine Maclean's for printing an excerpt from Mark Steyn's book America Alone; and the other against the journalist Ezra Levant for publishing Denmark’s satirical cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. Both cases were eventually dismissed, largely because the accused were well known and popular. As Mark Steyn observed:

[...] they didn't like the heat they were getting under this case. Life was chugging along just fine, chastising non-entities nobody had ever heard about, piling up a lot of cockamamie jurisprudence that inverts the principles of common law, and nobody paid any attention to it. Once they got the glare of publicity from the Maclean's case, the kangaroos decided to jump for the exit. I've grown tired of the number of Canadian members of Parliament who've said to me over the last best part of a year now, "Oh, well of course I fully support you, I'm fully behind you, but I'd just be grateful if you didn't mention my name in public.” (Brean, 2008)

Despite the dismissals, both cases had a chilling effect on Canadian journalism. Maclean's made this point in a news release:

Though gratified by the decision, Maclean's continues to assert that no human rights commission, whether at the federal or provincial level, has the mandate or the expertise to monitor, inquire into, or assess the editorial decisions of the nation's media. And we continue to have grave concerns about a system of complaint and adjudication that allows a media outlet to be pursued in multiple jurisdictions on the same complaint, brought by the same complainants, subjecting it to costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars, to say nothing of the inconvenience. (Maclean's, 2008)

This situation had come about gradually in Canada. At first, human rights commissions fought discrimination only in employment and housing, and there was strong resistance to prosecution of people simply for their ideas. This situation changed from the 1970s onward. Human rights took the place in society that formerly belonged to religion, and human rights advocates acquired the immunity from criticism that formerly belonged to the clergy. Discrimination was no longer wrong in certain cases and under certain circumstances. It became evil, and people who condoned it in any form and for any reason were likewise evil.

This view of reality progressively transformed human rights commissions. On the one hand, they were given an ever longer list of groups to protect. On the other, their scope of action grew larger, expanding to include not only the job and housing markets but also the marketplace of ideas. Their power increased until they became a parallel justice system, the key difference being that they denied the accused certain rights that had long existed in traditional courts of law, particularly the presumption of innocence and the right to know one’s accuser. All of this was made possible by section 13 of the Human Rights Act (1977):

Section 13 ostensibly banned hate speech on the Internet and left it up to the quasi-judicial human rights commission to determine what qualified as "hate speech." But, unlike a court, there was no presumption of innocence of those accused of hate speech by the commission. Instead, those accused had to prove their innocence. (Akin, 2013)

In 2012, the House of Commons repealed section 13. The ensuing three years brought a return to normal and a dissipation of the chill that had descended on Canadian journalists and writers.

Today, our Indian summer is coming to an end. In Alberta, the human rights commission is pushing to see how far it can go, and Ezra Levant is again being prosecuted:

This October I will be prosecuted for one charge of being "publicly discourteous or disrespectful to a Commissioner or Tribunal Chair of the Alberta Human Rights Commission" and two charges that my "public comments regarding the Alberta Human Rights Commission were inappropriate and unbecoming and that such conduct is deserving of sanction."

Because last year I wrote a newspaper editorial calling Alberta's human rights commission "crazy". (Levant, 2015)

Last month in Quebec, the government passed a bill that greatly expands the powers of its human rights commission to prosecute "hate."

Bill 59, introduced by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard's Liberal government, would make it illegal to promote hate speech in Quebec, without defining what hate speech is. Despite this, it would expand the definition of hate speech to include "political convictions" for any speech deemed by Quebec's human rights bureaucracy to promote "fear of the other", an absurdly vague term which could easily lead to prosecutorial abuses.

Bill 59 would empower Quebec's human rights commission to investigate anonymous complaints, or to launch investigations on its own, without any complaint, culminating in charges before Quebec's Human Rights Tribunal. The tribunal would be able to impose fines of up to $10,000 for first offenders, $20,000 for repeat offenders. Those found to have violated the legislation would be named and shamed on a publicly accessible list of offenders, maintained by the government. (Editorial, 2015)

The new law also casts a wider net by defining two forms of complicity in hate speech, direct and indirect:

Engaging in or disseminating the types of speech described in section 1 is prohibited.

Acting in such a manner as to cause such types of speech to be engaged in or disseminated is also prohibited. (Gouvernement du Québec, 2015)

"Hate speech" is supposedly defined in section 1 of Bill 59, but this section merely repeats the same term:

The Act applies to hate speech and speech inciting violence that are engaged in or disseminated publicly and that target a group of people sharing a characteristic identified as prohibited grounds for discrimination under section 10 of the Charter of human rights and freedoms (chapter C-12).(Gouvernement du Québec, 2015)
In short, "hate speech" will be defined by the Quebec Human Rights Commission, the only limitation being that the speech must target a protected group.

How did this piece of legislation come to be? It had been sold to the public as a means to fight Islamist terrorism and, as such, gained the support of many people, including right-wing politicians who thought its “ant-hate” language was just window dressing to make it more palatable. In its final form, however, there are no references at all to Islamism or terrorism. As columnist Joanne Marcotte points out:

Nowhere in the bill is this goal mentioned. It doesn't seem that this is the intention of the Liberal Party, which is perhaps more concerned about a supposedly Islamophobic current of opinion than about the pressure that radical religious fundamentalists are exerting on our values of individual freedom.

Indeed, no mention of the following words appear in the bill: fundamentalism, fundamentalist, radicalism, radicalization, terrorism, religious (as in "religious fundamentalism").

So it isn't surprising that only two groups to date have supported the bill: The Canadian Muslim Forum and the Muslim Council of Montreal. (Marcotte, 2015)

As Joanne Marcotte notes ironically, this bill was pushed through by a center-right government that claims to believe in individual freedom. Even more ironically, the strongest support for the new law comes from the far left. A demonstration in Montreal against Bill 59 was broken up by a hundred antifas. The police were there but not one antifa was arrested (Kamel, 2015).

This is a growing trend in Western countries: a strange alliance between center-right regimes and far-left antifas. For all intents and purposes, the latter are becoming an extrajudicial police, just as human rights commissions are becoming a parallel justice system. 


After a brief lull, a new offensive has begun against "hate speech" in Canada. Quebec is leading the way with legislation that is not only punitive but also broadly-worded. Hate speech is whatever the human rights commission considers to be hate speech.

Outside Quebec, existing laws are likewise being interpreted more punitively and more broadly, as seen in the prosecution of Ezra Levant for "disrespectful" speech. This trend may lead to new legislation in other provinces and perhaps at the federal level, especially if the Liberal Party takes power on October 19.

Although the Liberal Party of Canada is legally distinct from the Liberal Party of Quebec, the two work together and cater to the same clientele. The major difference is that the former defines itself as center-left and the latter as center-right. In practice, the difference is trivial, "left" and "right" referring more and more to the same ideology. Today, the left pushes for cultural globalism (multiculturalism, antiracism), while the right pushes for economic globalism (outsourcing to low-wage countries, insourcing of low-wage labor).

Quebec's Bill 59 may thus become a template for federal legislation. The Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, has in fact promised to amend the Human Rights Act while not spelling out his plans, other than to say he will recognize transgendered individuals as a protected group.

So will I be packing my bags and going south of the border? No, I love my country too much and, frankly, I don’t envy Americans. The U.S. doesn’t have anti-hate laws because it doesn’t need them. Most Americans have fully internalized the antiracist ethos and can be counted on to be willing partners in their own dispossession.

The situation is different in Canada, especially in Quebec: the new ethos is more recent, has a weaker hold on people, and cannot be counted on “to do its job.” This is why we have legislation like Bill 59. It’s a sign of weakness, not of strength.


Akin, D. (2013). Hate speech provision in Human Rights Act struck down, The Toronto Sun, June 26.

Brean, J. (2008). Maclean's wins third round of hate fight, National Post, October 11 

Editorial (2015). Quebec's Bill 59 attacks free speech, The Toronto Sun, September 4 

Gouvernement du Québec (2015). Bill no. 59: An Act to enact the Act to prevent and combat hate speech and speech inciting violence and to amend various legislative provisions to better protect individuals, Assemblée Nationale du Québec.

Kamel, Z. (2015). Blows exchanged between anti-Bill 59 and anti-fascist demos. No arrests made despite physical altercations, The Link, September 28 

Levant, E. (2015). I'm being prosecuted for calling human rights commissions "crazy," Stand with Ezra 

Maclean's. (2008). Maclean's responds to recent decision from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, June 26, News Release 

Marcotte, J. (2015). Projet de loi 59: liberticide, dangereux, inutile, Le Huffington Post, September 21