Friday, May 16, 2014

Human Biodiversity (5): Cultural Group Selection Through Migration and Assimilation

In A Troublesome Inheritance, Nicholas Wade writes: "Behavioral traits are particularly likely to be retained, but the universal instinct to conform to social rules seems to ensure that the political behaviors of the host country supplant those of the immigrants.  Chinese Americans do not organize themselves into authoritarian structures, nor Arab and African Americans into tribal ones" (188).  He also observes that "the forces of differentiation [of the races] seem now to have reversed course due to increased migration, travel, and intermarriage" (71).

Here and elsewhere in his book, Wade points to the power of cultural group selection and gene-culture coevolution, which has been studied by Darwinian theorists of cultural evolution.  Some of these theorists--such as Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson--have suggested that the historical turn towards liberal capitalism could be explained as a process of cultural group selection driven by immigration and assimilation.  And that seems to be what Wade is pointing to in the above passages.

In some papers--found here and here--Boyd and Richerson have argued that one important mechanism of social evolution is cultural group competition for immigration in which people "vote with their feet."  Although it is true, that groups have often competed through violent conflict and conquest, they argue (as did Darwin) that a more powerful form of group competition is cultural competition for immigration.  People tend to move from poorer, violent, and exploitative societies into richer, peaceful, more just societies.  And thus immigration tends to promote the spread of ideas and institutions that favor prosperity, peace, and justice. 

A dramatic example of this was the Berlin Wall during the Cold War, which showed how an oppressive regime might have to use barbed wire and armed border guards to keep its people from leaving in the pursuit of a better life elsewhere.

Boyd and Richerson also cite the example of two neighboring village societies in New Guinea.  The Gebusi were driving themselves into extinction through disruptive witchcraft trials and executions.  Some of the Gebusi were able to migrate to the society of the Bedamini, who had a better social order.

Similarly, some of the ancient empires--such as Rome and China--flourished because their institutions (such as Roman law and Confucian bureaucracy) attracted immigrants from other societies that were disordered and oppressive.

Beginning in the 18th century, classical liberal regimes based on Lockean political thought--like Great Britain and the United States--have attracted immigrants because of the prosperity, peace, and justice that liberal regimes promote.

Wade captures this same idea when he speaks of the historical move from "extractive" institutions that provoke people to leave to "inclusive" institutions that attract immigrants looking for a better life.

There are genetic propensities at work here.  The natural propensity to "better one's condition" (as Adam Smith called it) motivates people to migrate to societies that offer opportunities for improvement.  And "the universal instinct to conform to social rules" (in Wade's words) ensures that the immigrants will assimilate into their new societies.  This latter corresponds to what Boyd and Richerson identify as the genetically evolved disposition for social learning by conforming one's behavior to the social norms of the majority in the population, which explains why the children of immigrants can pick up the norms of their surrounding culture.  In this way, the process of cultural group selection through migration and assimilation is part of a gene-culture coevolution.

And thus one can explain the power of classical liberal ideas and institutions as cultural traditions that appeal to natural human desires and thus tend to win the competition with illiberal regimes.

Some of these points have come up in previous posts here, here, and here.

Gillian Brown and Peter Richerson have written an excellent paper comparing "cultural evolution," "human behavioral ecology," and "evolutionary psychology" as three schools of evolutionary social science.


Anonymous said...

"increased migration, travel, and intermarriage"

Great Frank Salter article on mass immigration and genetic genocide:

"Estimating Ethnic Genetic Interests: Is It Adaptive to Resist Replacement Migration?"

Another classic paper by Gregory Christainsen:

"Biology, Immigration, and Public Policy"

And there's Byron M. Roth's new book: The Perils of Diversity: Immigration and Human Nature

I like your reviews but I don't know why you seem so obsessed with promoting genocide to make up for racism. Weird. :)

Larry Arnhart said...

Genocide is mass murder. Immigration and racial intermarriage do not murder anyone.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you are really mistaken on that.
The UN Convention on genocide includes:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

I would say that you advocate both (c) and (d).

Larry Arnhart said...

Have you actually read Nicholas Wade's book?

If you have, have you noticed that he argues that modern states require an evolution beyond racial tribalism?

If you have noticed that, do you realize that that is a frontal assault on your racist "white genocide" agenda?

Do you realize that Nicholas Wade is your enemy?

Anonymous said...

I'd think that if your premises lead you to being pro-genocide it's time to rethink your premises: reductio ad genocidum. Especially since it's perfectly possible to be both anti-racism and anti-genocide. Your generation of Darwinists--you, Dawkins, Dennett--have always been inconsistent in your Darwinism; your Darwinism ends right where it bumps up against your latent Kantian/Protestant values (google "How Richard Dawkins got pwned"). We young Darwinists are consistent in our Darwinism and realize that values have survival value and any group adopting your fading generation's values puts themselves on the path to extinction. We don't plan to follow you there.

Larry Arnhart said...

So is Nicholas Wade your enemy?

parabarbarian said...

So far my biggest disappointment with the book is that Wade does not show how his gene-culture hypothesis differs substantially from a culture only hypothesis.

Larry Arnhart said...


I agree with you. Wade's emphasis on the importance of genetics has been the main topic of discussion. But when one notices the importance of culture in his account of human history, and how the genes provide only "small nudges" (53, 250), then one wonders how Wade's stance differs from the "culture only" position.