Daily Archives: November 15, 2010

Race – the most potent of human behavioural triggers

The most potent of human behavioural triggers are racial differences for they exercise the strongest control over the group in a territory where different racial groups exist. Race trumps ethnicity where the ethnic clash is one of people of the same race but different ethnicities. Place a significant population of a different race into a territory where previously ethnicity rather than race was the cause of unrest and the ethnic factions of the same race will tend to unite against those of a different race.

Nothing demonstrates the natural tendency of human beings to remain racially distinct than the remarkably low rate of inter-racial breeding even in circumstances where there is every opportunity for it, most particularly in the great cities of Western Europe and North America, where the populations are increasingly varied and the prevailing elite ideology positively encouraging of such liaisons.

Even  societies which have had very racially mixed populations for a long time display a remarkable ability to maintain retain racial distinctions over very long periods of time – Brazil is an excellent example of this, with social class being very much graded by skin colour. To argue that racial difference is not important to the choice of a mate is as absurd as arguing that the attractiveness of a person is irrelevant to the choice of a mate.

In Freakonomics Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner cite a study made of a US dating site (the full story is on pp 80-84). The site is one of the largest in the US and the data examined covered 30,000 people equally divided between San Diego and Boston. Most were white but there was a substantial minority of non-white subjects.

The questionnaire the would-be daters had to fill in included a question choice on race as “same as mine” and “doesn’t matter”. The study compared the responses by white would-be daters (those from non-white were not analysed) to these questions with the race of the emails actually sent soliciting a date. The result in Levitt and Dubner’s words was:

“Roughly half of the white women on the site and 80 percent of the white men declared that race didn’t matter to them. But the response data tell a different story The white men who said that race didn’t matter sent 90 percent of their e-mail queries to white women. The white women who said race didn’t matter sent about 97 percent of their e-mail queries to white men.

“Is it possible that race really didn’t matter for these white women and men and that they simply never happened to browse a non-white date that interested them?”

Or, more likely, did they say that race didn’t matter because they wanted to come across especially to potential mates of their own race as open-minded?” In short, around 99% of all the women and 94% of all men in the sample were not willing to seek a date of a different race. How much stronger will be the tendency to refuse to breed with a mate of a different race?

Another way of testing the desire to remain racially separate is to look at social class and inter-racial breeding. The higher up the social scale a person is the less likely they are to have a partner of a different race – if you doubt this try to find examples of the rich and powerful who have a partner of a different race. Those who have the most choice overwhelmingly choose members of their own racial type, despite the fact that they have the protection of their wealth and position to shield their spouses and children from the effects of racial discrimination.

The experience of imperial Rome nicely demonstrates racial exclusiveness as a historical phenomenon. Despite the racially mixed population, all the evidence we have suggests that Romans of higher social status (the only Romans we have any substantial knowledge of as individuals) rarely took non-white mates (the same applies today: in white-majority countries the higher the status of whites, the less likely they are to have a non-white partner.) Even the Bible has the story of Moses choosing a black wife and meeting with resistance on the part of his people. (Numbers chapter 12)

If sexual desire will not commonly override the natural disinclination to remain racially separate nothing will.

The fact that humans have external racial differences which are sufficiently distinct to allow people throughout the world to broadly categorise an individual into categories such as white and black is in itself indicative of the innate human tendency to breed with those who are racially similar, even though for several thousands of years large human populations of different racial types have existed in close proximity. If human beings did not have an innate preference for those who racially resemble themselves, humanity would have bred itself into something approaching a uniform racial type, at least in those parts of the world which were not very isolated – different races have had regular and numerous contact with each other for at least three thousand years. The alternative explanation to an innate tendency is the truly fantastic one that Man everywhere spontaneously developed cultural barriers to breeding which had nothing to do with any innate tendency. If anything is a social construct it is not race but the liberal idea that Man is a single species.

Race is much stronger as a mediator of who to mate with than ethnic (cultural) difference – think of the very high proportion of those in Britain who have Irish/Welsh?/Scottish/English mixed ancestry. Nonetheless, ethnic differences are culturally potent amongst racially similar populations. For example, on either side of the England/Scotland border, the inhabitants born and raised close to the border retain Scots and English accents even though they may have lived their entire lives only a few miles apart.

Because the tendency to mate with those of a similar race is so strong and universal, both in place and time, it is reasonable to conclude that the behaviour is innate and that cultures necessarily include the requirement for a member of the society to be of a certain racial type. The consequence of this is that someone of a different racial type is effectively precluded from full integration because one of the criteria for belonging has not been met. That is not to say, of course, that many of the habits of mind of an alien culture may not be adopted by someone of a different race. What is withheld is the instinctive acceptance of the alien and his or her descendants as members of the society. Just as no human being can decide for themselves that they are a member of this or that group, no individual can decide that they belong to this or that nation because it is a two-way process: the other members of the group they wish to join have to accept them as a true member of the group. (Stephen Frears the English film director once wryly remarked that he had known the actor Daniel Day-Lewis “before he was Irish”).

There are also other plausible reasons why inter-racial breeding is rare. There is a widespread biological behaviour known as assortative mating. Members of sexually reproducing animals select mates by certain criteria. In that much loved laboratory animal, the fruit fly drosophila, this may be the number of sternopleural bristles; in Man it includes many criteria including racial type. Other human prime assortative criteria are size, intelligence, education and class. Some of these criteria such as education and class are more clearly linked to nurture than Nature, but even they can be direct or indirect expressions of  qualities which are at least largely innate such as intelligence. I say direct or indirect because the beneficial qualities may not be in the individual, for those with superior education and high social class may lack the innate qualities of their parents or earlier ancestors and their privileged position may simply be a residue of the superior innate abilities of their parents or other ancestors.

For the purposes of inter-racial mating, size, intelligence, education and class all come into play. There are clear average differences of size between the three major races: blacks largest, whites in the middle and Asians smallest. This would mean that on average members of one racial group would be less likely to choose another member of another racial group. The differences in IQ would have the same effect, with blacks being far less likely to mate with the other two races because their IQ is further removed from them than they are from each other. Differences in IQ will also be reflected, directly or indirectly in educational achievement and social class and hence in mating, for example, if a minority population of blacks amidst a majority white population have proportionately more people of low education and low social class than the white majority, something which should happen other things being equal because of their inferior IQ distribution, they are less likely to mate with members of the white majority simply on the grounds of education and class.

What about genetic diversity the reader may be asking themselves, should not the great benefits of that drive people of different races to mate whenever they can? This widespread view is unsurprising because as far as the layman is concerned one of the great “truths” of modern biology is that diversity is good because genetic diversity within a species reputably protects the species from the effects of harmful recessive genes by reducing the chance of both partners in a successful mating having a particular recessive gene, while general organic diversity in an environment is supposed to ensure the stability and endurance of the environment.

One does not need to have any deep grasp of genetics to see there is a logical problem with the idea that genetic diversity within a species is a sine qua non of evolutionary success. The genetic relatedness of breeding pairs in many species must of necessity be close because the opportunities to breed are limited. In the case of Homo sapiens this has been true of most human beings throughout history. Man in his primitive state lived in small nomadic bands which were sparsely spread across the landscape Tribal peoples commonly exchange members (normally women) between tribes, but again that is a local exchange. Even in more advanced societies most people have lived in small settled communities and have mated with people who come from the same locality. Very closely related human beings are substantially more prone to genetic disaster if they mate, but the level of genetic diversity required to reduce the number of genetic disasters to a level in which they are not seriously harmful to the group is clearly not vast.

A small gene pool may even have advantages. Ashkenazi Jews come from what was originally a small population group (some estimates put it as low as 500) which married almost entirely within the group and continued to do so down the generations. They have an abnormally high average IQ – six times as many Ashkenazim as Europeans have IQs of 140+. In June 2005 the Journal of Biosocial Science carried a paper by a team at the University of Utah which put forward the theory that their exceptionally high average IQ exists because of natural selection. They argued that Ashkenazi Jews had had been selected them for high IQ because historically Jews in Europe were denied many opportunities for employment and they were driven into high IQ occupations such as banking. Rushton Revisted http://www.canada.com/ottawa/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=6c9fe76b-f1

That racial type should be a requirement for inclusion within a “tribe” is unsurprising. All social animals have to have boundaries to know where the group begins and ends. This is because a social animal must operate within a hierarchy and a hierarchy can only exist where there are boundaries. No boundaries, no hierarchy, because no individual could ever know what the dominance/submission situation was within their species or at least within those members of the species with whom they interact.

Where does “must operate within a hierarchy” come from? First the observed facts: all social animals do produce hierarchies – although these vary considerably in form – and human beings always produce hierarchies, whether they are hunter-gatherers or people populating a great modern city.

Why do social animals always form hierarchies? For animals other than Man the answer is I think simple enough: only by forming hierarchies can social groups cohere. This is most probably because animals vary considerably in their physical and mental qualities. Observe any animal, even the simplest single cell organism, and differences between individuals within the species will become apparent. Some are more vigorous than others, some larger, some, more adventurous and so on. Individuals will also vary by age and, in sexually reproducing species, sex.

In a solitary animal the practical consequences of differences between individuals will be decided by direct competition, most commonly by the formation of territories and the attempted monopoly of mates and food within the territory, with the best endowed animals on average being more successful.

When an animal is social, differences in individual quality have to be resolved by something other than the methods used by solitary animals such as scent marking of territory boundaries and serious fighting because the animals have to live in close proximity. Competition for desirable goods still occurs, most notably competition for mates, but normally within behaviours which are not fatal to other members of the group or behaviours which are so disruptive as to threaten the survival of the group. The upshot of this social accommodation is the formation of different social niches into which individuals fit.

Group behaviour is a compromise between the immediate advantage of the individual and the diffuse advantages derived from group activity. The compromise is given structure by hierarchies, whether that be a fixed biological distinction by sex or caste (for example, social bees) or a transient one due to the age of an animal. Hierarchies are built on the differences between individuals and the more rigid the hierarchical structure the greater will be the selective pressures to produce individuals in the right proportions to fill the various social niches within the group.

Consider what would happen if hierarchies did not exist. There would be constant conflict within the group because no individual would have cause to defer to another except from fear of physical harm and such fear is a blunt and very limited instrument of social control, whether it be of humans or animals. It is a strategy more suited to the solitary animal than the social one.

Hierarchies also make sense in terms of the development of social animals. Social animals are ultimately descended from asocial animals. The movement from asocial to social animal is presumably akin to the evolutionary process whereby a parasite is converted to a symbiotic partner. It is a process of gradual behavioural accommodation.

Social animals on the bottom rung of the social animal ladder may do little more than associate together at certain times. The next rung up and the animal frequently associates with others of its kind. One more step and the animal forms more or less permanent groupings. And so on until we reach the ultimate social animal: Man.

The gradual evolution of social behaviour of itself points to the need for hierarchy, because at each stage of the evolution the natural overtly selfish behaviour of the original solitary animal has to be modified. That modification will only come through natural selection working on behavioural traits which favour more complete socialisation.

What about human beings? Are they not capable of breaking the biological bounds which capture animals? Does not their immense intelligence and possession of language place them in another category of being? Could Man not simply decide not to behave in a non-hierarchical manner? The fact that human beings have never done so is of itself sufficient evidence for all but the most ideologically committed nurturist to decide that human beings cannot do it and to conclude that the forming of hierarchies is part of the human template. However, to that fact can be added another, the dominance/submission behaviour which every person witnesses daily not merely in positions of formal dominance and subordination such as the workplace, but in every aspect of social life.


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