Monday, September 10, 2007

Basic principles 03 - Deception

DECEPTION: Something that deceives or is intended to deceive; fraud; artifice. [via]

"Do not allow yourselves to be deceived: Great Minds are Skeptical.... There is nothing more necessary than truth, and in comparison with it everything else has only secondary value."
-- Nietzsche

"We like to be deceived." -- Blaise Pascal

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Deception is common and widespread in nature:
- Species of all types use deception.
- Many types of deception are employed in nature (camouflage, concealment, diversion, conditioning / expolit, mimicry.)
- Every environment supports deception in at least one inhabitant of its ecosystem, and usually by many.
- Deception is used by both predators (offensively) and prey (defensively).
- A single species can used deception in both ways.
- Even minor applications of deception can confer selective advantage.
- Deception is more effective in some environments than others. [via]

Deception is common and widespread in the human species:
[T]he work by Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Virginia, confirms Nietzche's assertion that the lie is a condition of life. In a 1996 study, DePaulo and her colleagues had 147 people between the ages of 18 and 71 keep a diary of all the falsehoods they told over the course of a week. Most people, she found, lie once or twice a day —- almost as often as they snack from the refrigerator or brush their teeth. Both men and women lie in approximately a fifth of their social exchanges lasting 10 or more minutes; over the course of a week they deceive about 30 percent of those with whom they interact one-on-one. Furthermore, some types of relationships, such as those between parents and teens, are virtual magnets for deception: "College students lie to their mothers in one out of two conversations," reports DePaulo. (Incidentally, when researchers refer to lying, they don't include the mindless pleasantries or polite equivocations we offer each other in passing, such as "I'm fine, thanks" or "No trouble at all." An "official" lie actually misleads, deliberately conveying a false impression. So complimenting a friend's awful haircut or telling a creditor that the check is in the mail both qualify.)

(...)

In his book
Lies! Lies!! Lies!!! The Psychology of Deceit (American Psychiatric Press, Inc.), psychiatrist Charles Ford, M.D., adds depressed people to that list. He suggests that individuals in the throes of depression seldom deceive others —- or are deceived themselves —- because they seem to perceive and describe reality with greater accuracy than others. Several studies show that depressed people delude themselves far less than their nondepressed peers about the amount of control they have over situations, and also about the effect they have on other people. Researchers such as UCLA psychologist Shelley Taylor, Ph.D., have even cited such findings as evidence that a certain amount of self-delusion —- basically, lying to yourself —- is essential to good mental health. (Many playwrights, including Arthur Miller and Eugene O'Neill, seem to share the same view about truth-telling. In Death of a Salesman and The Iceman Cometh, for example, lies are life sustaining: The heroes become tragic figures when their lies are stripped away....) [via]

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sunday night catechism - Darwin on the evolution of morality

Charles Darwin, October 1838:
Two classes of moralists: one says our rule of life is what will produce the greatest happiness. --- The other says we have a moral sense. --- But my view unites both & shows them to be almost identical. What has produced the greatest good or rather what was necessary for good at all is the instinctive moral senses: (& this alone explains why our moral sense points to revenge). In judging of the rule of happiness we must look far forward & to the general action --- certainly because it is the result of what has generally been best for our good far back. --- (much further than we can look forward: hence our rule may sometimes be hard to tell). Society could not go on except for the moral sense, any more than a hive of Bees without their instincts. (Old & Useless Notes 30, Barrett et al., 1987, 609.) [via]

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Consanguineous marriage and reproductive control: Hajibs, FGM and 'honor killings'

The genetic relatedness between individuals influences the types of social behaviors that occur between those individuals (see kin selection and social evolution):
A behaviour that increases the direct fitness of the actor is mutually beneficial if the recipient also benefits, and selfish if the recipient suffers a loss. A behaviour that reduces the fitness of the actor is altruistic if the recipient benefits, and spiteful if the recipient suffers a loss. - from Wikipedia
The levels of genetic relatedness between individuals influence the levels of mutually beneficial, selfish, altruistic and spiteful behaviors that occur between those individuals.

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A few years ago, Stanley Kurtz wrote a couple of very insightful articles on why many Muslim countries demand that their women cover and/or conceal themselves (hijab; purdah). The reasons are connected to both resource (wealth) control and cousin marriage, i.e. preventing assets from being sieved away from the (extended) family by marrying relatives to relatives. From "Veil of Fears":
If a husband's tie to his wife should become more important than his solidarity with his brothers, the couple might take their share of the property and leave the larger group, thus weakening the strength of the lineage.

There is a solution to this problem, however — a solution that marks out the kinship system of the Muslim Middle East as unique in the world. In the Middle East, the preferred form of marriage is between a man and his cousin (his father's brother's daughter). Cousin marriage solves the problem of lineage solidarity. If, instead of marrying a woman from a strange lineage, a man marries his cousin, then his wife will not be an alien, but a trusted member of his own kin group. Not only will this reduce a man's likelihood of being pulled away from his brothers by his wife, a woman of the lineage is less likely to be divorced by her husband, and more likely to be protected by her own extended kin in case of a rupture in the marriage. Somewhere around a third of all marriages in the Muslim Middle East are between members of the same lineage, and in some places the figure can reach as high as 80 percent. It is this system of "patrilateral parallel cousin marriage" that explains the persistence of veiling, even in the face of modernity.
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Randall Parker and Steve Sailer took this idea of cousin marriage (consanguinity) in the Middle East affecting social behaviors and applied it to the political situation in that area of the world -- specifically to Iraq. From Sailer:
Are Muslims, especially Arabs, so much more loyal to their families than to their nations because, due to countless generations of cousin marriages, they are so much more genealogically related to their families than Westerners are related to theirs? Frank Salter, a political scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany whose new book "Risky Transactions: Trust, Kinship, and Ethnicity" takes a sociobiological look at the reason why Mafia families are indeed families, told me, "That's my hunch; at least it's bound to be a factor."

One of the basic laws of modern evolutionary science, quantified by the great Oxford biologist William D. Hamilton in 1964 under the name "kin selection," is that the more close the genetic relationship between two people, the more likely they are to feel loyalty and altruism toward each other. Natural selection has molded us not just to try to propagate our own genes, but to help our relatives, who possess copies of some of our specific genes, to propagate their own.

Nepotism is thus biologically inspired. Hamilton explained that the level of nepotistic feeling generally depends upon degree of genetic similarity. You share half your personally variable genes with your children and siblings, but one quarter with your nephews/nieces and grandchildren, so your nepotistic urges will tend to be somewhat less toward them. You share one eighth of your genes with your first cousins, and one thirty-second with your second cousin, so your feelings of family loyalty tend to fall off quickly.

But not as quickly if you and your relatives are inbred. Then, you'll be genealogically and related to your kin via multiple pathways. You will all be genetically more similar, so your normal family feelings will be multiplied.
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Natural selection has, however, not only "molded us ... to help our relatives, who possess copies of some of our specific genes, to propagate their own." Natural selection has also molded us to attempt to control -- to wield power (if possible) over -- those relatives who possess copies of some of our specific genes.

For example, parents in the West frequently try to exert pressure on their children when it comes to their choice of a spouse. In the (fairly recent) past, they may have even reserved a right of approval or rejection. Since each parent shares half their genes with each of their children -- and given that 'purpose' of life is to pass one's genes on to successive generations -- it naturally follows that they would want to exert some amount of control in ensuring those genes are well 'invested' for the future.

When, as in the case of cousin marriage, parents share MORE than half of their genes with their children, it follows that they will want to exert a GREATER amount of control over where those genes are invested. I propose that this is precisely what we see in populations where cousin or other consanguineous marriage practices are the norm -- greater controls on reproduction than in areas with low levels of consanguineous marriages.

Women are often the target of such control efforts simply because their reproductive capabilities are a quite limited resource. Men can, if given the opportunity, father hundreds (thousands?) of children -- women are limited to twenty-something (births) at best. Thus, in the West -- a population with low levels of consanguinity -- we have "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenager Daughter", but none for the teenage son.
In populations with greater levels of consanguinity, control efforts are much more stringent and we see such behaviors as the covering/concealment of women, female genital mutilation (female circumcision), even 'honor killings' (and, perhaps, foot binding?) -- all behaviors which are best accounted for by the drive to control genetic flow.

The attempts of families to control their members' reproduction are, certainly, related to resource control (keeping wealth in families) as Kurtz and Sailer have indicated. But, ultimately, the objective is the successful reproduction of genes and the control of that reproduction.

Appended below is some suggestive evidence (clearly much further research -- ANY, in fact -- needs to be done to either support or disprove these assertions). Compare the second two maps with the first one:
1) % of consanguineous marriages by country;
2) map of various hijab types (*India=Muslim minorities only);
3) frequency of FGM in Africa:


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"Muslims [in the UK] integrate less and more slowly than non-Muslims"

George Borjas posts on some new research, "Are Muslim Immigrants Different in Terms of Cultural Integration?" From the paper:
The average Muslim individual [in the UK] clearly appears to be more attached to her/his culture of origin. Indeed, regardless of the dimension of identity considered, the percentage of Muslims having an intense religious identity is roughly twice as much as that of non-Muslims. A greater resistance to cultural integration is also signaled by the percentage of Muslims speaking English at home or with friends, always significantly lower than those of non-Muslims. Finally, Muslims have almost twice the probability of having a marriage arranged by their parents than non-Muslims, also a sign of attachment to cultural and religious traditions.

Importantly, the stronger resistance to integration, which our data documents for Muslims immigrants, can hardly be explained by a difference in the time spent in the UK since it is (on average) not statistically different between Muslims and non-Muslims.
This is not surprising since (at least) two of the largest Muslim groups in the UK -- Pakistanis and Bangladeshis -- practice (to quite high degrees) consanguineous marriage. [See consang.net's Global Prevalence of Consanguinity map and tables.]

This means that the members of these populations are MORE related to one another than are the other members of the greater UK population -- the native English, for example (see
coefficient of relationship). Because of this, these Muslim groups in the UK are bound to be MORE "allied" to each other than to the other members of UK society.

In addition, these Muslims will feel and be MORE allied to each other than the members of OTHER sub-populations in UK society might feel and be toward themselves. Muslim groups in the UK simply have more invested in
each other genetically speaking than would, say, Polish or Japanese immigrants, groups which practice very little consanguineous marriage. Muslim immigrants will have little incentive to assimilate and every incentive to remain loyal to one another. Biologically this makes the most sense for them (see kin selection).

Finally, it is not strange that even those Muslims who are raised in the UK feel little desire to assimilate. They are no different from their parents in that they, too, are MORE related to the members of their families than are people who do not practice consanguineous marriage.

Basic principles 02 - "The Extended Phenotype", Kin Selection, Game Theory, Coefficient of Relationship

"EXTENDED PHENOTYPES": Human ideas, behaviors, and (especially?) institutions -- religious, political, etc. -- can be viewed as sorts of "extended phenotypes", i.e. manipulations of the environment by genes via the humans in which they "reside". Dawkins' Central Theorem of the Extended Phenotype:
"An animal's behaviour tends to maximize the survival of the genes 'for' that behaviour, whether or not those genes happen to be in the body of the particular animal performing it." - from Wikipedia
See also: Dawins, "The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene"

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KIN SELECTION:
The individual's only purpose (in the bigger biological picture) is to ensure that his genes are successfully passed on -- wherever they may be located.
[S]ome organisms tend to exhibit strategies that favor the reproductive success of their relatives, even at a cost to their own survival and/or reproduction.... [A] gene that prompts behaviour which enhances the fitness of relatives but lowers that of the individual displaying the behavior, may nonetheless increase in frequency, because relatives often carry the same gene; this is the fundamental principle behind the theory of kin selection. According to the theory, the enhanced fitness of relatives can at times more than compensate for the fitness loss incurred by the individuals displaying the behaviour. "- from Wikipedia
See also:
Kin recognition

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GAME THEORY:
Interactions between individuals and between populations can be accounted for to a large degree by concepts from game theory. Game thoery:
...studies strategic interactions between agents. In strategic games, agents choose strategies which will maximize their return, given the strategies the other agents choose. The essential feature is that it provides a formal modelling approach to social situations in which decision makers interact with other agents. - from Wikipedia"
In biology, the aim of the game is to successfully pass on one's genes to the next generation. Oftentimes, there are losers as well as winners.

See also: Maynard Smith, "Evolution ahd the Theory of Games"

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COEFFICIENT OF RELATIONSHIP: Individuals in different populations share differing amounts of genes with their relations depending on the mating systems within those populations. The individuals of a population in which mating between close relatives (i.e. inbreeding) occurs share more genes (i.e. are MORE related to one another) than individuals of a population in which outbreeding occurs more frequently.
"In population genetics, Sewall Wright's coefficient of relationship or relatedness is the probability that at a random locus, the alleles there will be identical by descent." - from Wikipedia
See also:
Demystifying Inbreeding Coefficients

Basic principles 01 - Consilience, "Selfish genes", "Will to Power"

CONSILIENCE: History, anthropology, sociology, political science -- all of the social sciences -- must be viewed as sub-disciplines of biology. As long as this is not done, human behavior and actions will never be fully understood:
"[E]ach branch of knowledge studies a subset of reality that depends on factors studied in other branches. Atomic physics underlies the workings of chemistry, which studies emergent properties that in turn are the basis of biology. Psychology can no longer be separated from the study of properties emergent from the interaction of neurons and synapses. Sociology, economics, and anthropology are each, in turn, studies of properties emergent from the interaction of countless individual humans." - from Wikipedia
See also: Consilience - The Unity of Knowledge

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"SELFISH GENES":
All creatures (including humans) are "survival machines" for their genes -- individuals are (in the bigger biological picture) irrelevant. The individual's only purpose is to ensure that his genes (wherever they may be located) are successfully passed on.
Individuals are not stable things, they are fleeting. Chromosomes too are shuffled to oblivion, like hands of cards soon after they are dealt. But the cards themselves survive the shuffling. The cards are the genes. The genes are not destroyed by crossing-over, they merely change partners and march on. Of course they march on. That is their business. They are the replicators and we are their survival machines. When we have served our purpose we are cast aside. But genes are denizens of geological time: genes are forever. - Dawkins, "The Selfish Gene"
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"WILL TO POWER":
All creatures are driven (by their genes) to control their environments, which include any other creatures with which they interact. Nietzsche's ideas on "Will to Power" come very close to describing/explaining these drives, although he was incorrect in his views contesting adaptation. The drive to control one's environment is there only to serve the goal of successfully passing on one's genes.
My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (—its will to power) and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement ("union") with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power. And the process goes on. - Nietzsche, "Will to Power"