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Ethnocentrism: A Finer-Grained Look at How It Happened

In my earlier entry, we saw that the thing that made the difference between WEIRD Northwestern Europeans and their more clannish neighbors was the selective pressures that each underwent during their histories – particularly since the fall of Rome until the present. This era in time established the conditions in which different sorts of individuals survived and reproduced, eventually leading to the modern world as we know it.

As before, it is to be understood that these differences have a genetic basis. That is, they are heritable. This means that genetic differences between different peoples lead to differences in their behavioral traits, which, collectively, manifests as cultural differences. We should be clear that all human behavioral traits are heritable, with “nurture” (as it’s commonly thought of) playing a minimal to nonexistent role in each. As John Derbyshire put it, “if dimensions of the individual human personality are heritable, then society is just a vector sum of a lot of individual personalities.” The rest of this entry proceeds assuming an understanding of this reality.

To recap, in Northwestern Europe it was bipartite manorialism that selected for a certain type of people not seen elsewhere in the world.

In Eastern and Southern Europe, and much everywhere else in the world, the selective factor was the various forms of “viscous” societies, where heavy dependence on relatives for social life selected for individuals who were “particularist” (as opposed to universalist NW Euros) and distrustful of outsiders. As HBD Chick put it:

part of william hamilton‘s theory of inclusive fitness/kin selection, which explains how altruism ever could’ve arisen at all (altruism here having a very specific definition), is that it should be possible for genes for altruism to be selected for if close kin interact regularly. kin don’t need to recognize one another for altruism to be selected for. as long as closely related individuals don’t move far from one another — that is, if a population is viscous — selection for altruism might happen.

i can’t see why this couldn’t also apply to lesser forms of altruism, not just the kind where you sacrifice your life for two brothers or eight cousins. you know what i mean. like: reciprocal altruism or nepotistic altruism. or just pro-social behaviors. whatever you want to call them. seems to me that nepotistic behaviors ought to be selected for more easily in viscous populations (if they increase fitness, of course).

and some populations are more viscous than others

But beyond this, there are great differences between different NW European countries, along with great differences between different clannish societies. Why is this? No doubt, part of the answer is the precise selective pressures each experienced. Let us try to take a look at what those may have been.

The differences among peoples of Europe proceeds on a sort of gradient, which is visible when you look at the World Values Survey data:

Indeed, as HBD Chick’s modifications (from the one where i draw squiggly lines all over the welzel-inglehart cultural map | hbd chick) make it clear:

The left image are the countries within the Hajnal line, while the right are countries that have practiced father’s brother’s daughter marriage.

Across these regions, many social indices proceed along this broad gradient. WEIRDness peaks in the areas bordering the North Sea (England, the Netherlands, northern France, southern Scandinavia) and diminishes in all directions from there. This area is also the area of peak human accomplishment and “core europe” and human accomplish-ment | hbd chick), which likewise roughly diminishes in all directions from there.

WVS axes

Why is this? I’d argue that two main selective factors are involved, at least with respect to HBD Chick’s theory. (I will also discuss two other important selective pressures not directly related to HBD Chick’s theory below).

One was simply the length of time under the manorial system. The longer a selective pressure is (consistently) applied, the stronger the evolutionary change that occurs. The manor first appeared in Austrasia (roughly northern France) and spread outward from there.

The second factor is the farming and inheritance systems that arose – in part due to geography and climate, in part due to the characteristics of the people who adopted them:
Todd's family system map Rings

(Image via M.G. Miles)

We see that the farming and inheritance systems form roughly concentric rings outward from the North Sea. One could imagine that the social systems of each became steadily more “viscous” as you moved away from the North Sea.

Indeed, by the time you reach Eastern Europe, you find that there was a period of actual communal living. In Russia, farming peasants (the bulk of the population) lived in communes, the Obshchina, an arrangement that persisted into the 20th century. Wikipedia has this to say about these (emphasis added):

The organization of the peasant mode of production is the primary cause for the type of social structure found in the Obshchina. The relationship between the individual peasant, the family, and the community leads to a specific social structure categorized by the creation of familial alliances to apportion risks between members of the community. In the Obshchina alliances were formed primarily through marriage and common descent of kin. Usually the eldest members of the household made up the Mir to govern the redistribution of land. The families came together to form a community that depended on making taxes more equitable and the concept of mutual help. Jovan E. Howe writes, “The economic relations so established are essentially distributive: through various categories of exchanges of both products and labor, temporary imbalances such as those occasioned by insufficient labor power of a newly-established family unit or a catastrophic loss, which places one unit at an unfair reproductive disadvantage in relation to its allies, are evened out.[2] In addition the alliance system had residual communal rights, sharing exchanges during shortages as well as certain distributive exchanges. Furthermore the structure defined by these alliances and risk-sharing measures were regulated by scheduling and the ritualization of time. Howe writes, “the traditional calendar of the Russian peasants was a guide for day-to-day living. The names attached to calendar dates, the calendrical periods into which they were grouped, the day on the week on which each fell, and the sayings connected with them encoded information about when to undertake tasks, but also about when not to work, when it was necessary to perform symbolic actions, take part in rituals and compulsory celebrations”.[3]

Peasants (i.e. three-quarters of the population of Russia) formed a class apart,[4] largely excepted from the incidence of the ordinary law, and governed in accordance with their local customs. The mir itself, with its customs, is of immemorial antiquity; it was not, however, until the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 that the village community was withdrawn from the patrimonial jurisdiction of the landowning nobility and endowed with self-government. The assembly of the mir consists of all the peasant householders of the village.[5] These elect a Village Elder (starosta) and a collector of taxes, who was responsible, at least until the ukaz of October 1906, which abolished communal responsibility for the payment of taxes, for the repartition among individuals of the taxes imposed on the commune. A number of mirs are united into a volost, which has an assembly consisting of elected delegates from the mirs.

This is a quintessential viscous society, and vastly different from the corporate, more atomized ways of Northwestern Europeans at the time.

Whereas the circum-North Sea peoples depended on free movement of people and impressing themselves among non-relatives, the inhabitants in the more peripheral European areas had to rely on family or distinct structured alliances with particular people. Democracy flourishes in Northwestern Europe (for better or worse) and is distinctly weaker to the south, east, and in the Celtic fringe – where particularism and strategic social alliances reign.

It should be said here for those that don’t notice that the gradient along the WEIRDO-clannish dimension exists within various European countries.

Great Britain:


From Differences Between the North and South of France – As Told By Dana

French people all over are wonderfully nice (I was even published about it!). However, I find people in the north to be friendlier and less superficial than people in the south. Although people in the north may tend to be a bit more initially reserved, they quickly become so friendly when you get to know them! On the other hand, southerners are upfront quite nice, but it is often only surface level.

I am cat-called and harassed on the street a billion times more in the south than I ever was in the north.

Life’s pace in the south, especially when it comes to work, is much slower and more leisurely.

This may be contrary to the “leisurely lifestyle” but many French people here in the south (as well as Paris) drive like absolute maniacs!

The styles of houses are very different. Houses in the south, specifically in the Côte d’Azur, are very colorful … In the north of France, houses are built with wood or stone, but in a very different Nomadic or Germanic style.

(Indeed, many of these differences within France sound like the broad difference between Northern and Southern Europe.)

This map of the results of the 2012 French presidential election (from Wikipedia):

French 2012 election key

Spain (from Comparing PISA With GDP Per Capita In Spain And Italy | A Reluctant Apostate):

GDP per capita left, 2009 PISA scores right.


Also from Comparing PISA With GDP Per Capita In Spain And Italy | A Reluctant Apostate, GDP per capita left, 2009 PISA scores right:



All of these differences exist in the direction of the gradient of clannishness radiating from the North Sea.

Of course, by the time you reach the Middle East and the Maghreb, you have life in actual clans, with high levels of inbreeding even up to the present day: (image sources here and here):

Inclusive fitness and highly viscous societies select for the highly nepotistic and incredibly corrupt societies we see there.

The key fact is that the fine details of the selective pressures explain the traits of the people, which in turn explains the society they create. (Which of course goes on to shape selective pressures, and hence the traits and hence societies of future people – gene-culture co-evolution).

Geography and climate is a big factor in social organization.

The left is a map of the average minimum winter temperatures across Europe; the right is a map of average annual precipitation. While Europe has experienced several climatic swings throughout the Middle Ages, a general pattern can be seen here. While Eastern Europe is in general colder and drier than Western Europe, the Northeast is much colder than the Southeast, leading to the infamously brutal Russian winters.

Farming systems were in large part influenced by climate, which in turn affected social and inheritance systems. Indeed, as noted about France here: Differences Between the North and South of France – As Told By Dana:

because the weather in the south is so much better, people naturally spend more time outside, and therefore consequently meet and interact with more people on a daily basis. However, it’s sometimes hard to spend quality time with so many people, so the relationships are not always as deep. In the north on the other hand, people spend much more time inside because the weather is not so good during the winter, and as a consequence they spend time with fewer people. However, the people they do spend time with they are very close to. So, although it takes a much longer time to meet people in the north, once you’re friends, you’re friends for life, and you’ll tend to have long, meaningful relationships.

Introversion is more common in colder areas generally:

Predicted Worldwide correlates of major personality dimensions
Personality Dimension Low End High End
H: Honesty-humility (pro-social vs. anti-social traits) Clannish Non-Clannish
E: Emotionality (neuroticism) Non-Clannish/Genetically Pacified Clannish/Not Genetically Pacified
X: eXtraversion High-Latitude Farming Low Latitude
A: Agreeableness Not State Pacified State Pacified
C: Conscientiousness Low-Latitude/non-farming High-Latitude Farming
O: Openness to experience Clannish Non-Clannish

But, as we’ve seen before, one thing that varies across Europe, particularly in a roughly north-south gradient is average IQ. HBD Chick’s theory alone doesn’t completely explain the IQ differences that exist, which brings me to another key force, Clark-Unz selection.

As Gregory Clark discussed in his book A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World – and as Ron Unz posited in How Social Darwinism Made Modern China | The American Conservative, in medieval times, the wealthiest, most intelligent (see also Tollnek & Baten 2012) individuals had more surviving offspring in Europe and in Northeast Asia. Over time, this led to the evolution of increased average IQ in these areas, leading to their modern levels.

However, average IQ is significantly lower in the south. Why? One factor is that without harsh winter conditions, Clark-Unz selection is less efficient. Poorer and less intelligent individuals also survived and reproduced in sufficient numbers.

Finally, an important selective factor in shaping the modern world, in addition to HBD Chick’s selection and Clark-Unz selection, is state pacification, Frost-Harpending selection:

BydoE2BIgAA43cP.jpg large

As Peter Frost writes:

While war has always been with us, personal violence has been declining in Western societies over the last millennium.

Courts imposed the death penalty more and more often and, by the late Middle Ages, were condemning to death between 0.5 and 1.0% of all men of each generation, with perhaps just as many offenders dying at the scene of the crime or in prison while awaiting trial. Meanwhile, the homicide rate plummeted from the 14th century to the 20th, decreasing forty-fold. The pool of violent men dried up until most murders occurred under conditions of jealousy, intoxication, or extreme stress.

The immediate causes were legal and cultural: harsher punishment and a shift in popular attitudes toward the violent male—who went from hero to zero. This new social environment, however, also tended to favor the survival and reproduction of individuals who would less easily resort to violence on their own initiative. Given that aggressive behavior is moderately to highly heritable, as shown by twin studies, is it possible that the high rate of capital punishment gradually removed propensities for violence from the gene pool? This hypothesis is modeled by Frost and Harpending, who conclude that such natural selection could explain a little over half of the reduction in the homicide rate. The rest of the decline may have partly resulted from violent men being increasingly marginalized in society and on the marriage market.

We see a steep decline in rates of violence across Europe:


HBD Chick had noted that the timing of this pattern follows the Hajnal line (see historic european homicide rates … and the hajnal line | hbd chick):


Frost and Hapending 2015 analyze the effects of historic executions and rates of violence across Europe. (This process likely also occurred across much of Northeast Asia.) They themselves note that the selective coefficient they devised explains much of what we see, but is insufficient to explain all of the decline.

I posit that it is the combination of all three of these forces, “HBD Chick selection” (bipartite manorialism and subsequent atomized/corporate societies), Clark-Unz selection (tendency for the wealthiest and brightest to have more surviving offspring), and Frost-Harpending selection (execution of violent individuals) acted in concert in a synergistic arrangement to produce the NW Europeans we know today. The precise combination of all these forces (along with basic geographic, climatic, and food production factors) produced the varying degree of traits we see across Eurasia and North Africa today.

Indeed, beyond evolution by natural selection itself, it is amazing that there are other general trends. But geographic realities (as well as simple proximity) served to create a geographic pattern to selective pressures, and hence the societies we see today. For better or worse, these explain the features of these societies, and the consequences of such.