Civilization and Evolutionary Progress, or Otherwise

Congenial Times is an interesting, albeit conservative, blog. He’s also gay and a race realist, of all things.
A recent post is on a book by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, The 10,000 Year Explosion. The subtitle of the book is “How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution.”
Much of the book is spent on agriculture and how agriculture has driven human evolution, made us more civilized in a variety of ways compared to hunter-gatherers, etc. Congenial Times accepts this reading, comparing Europeans to Aborigines.
There are some problems with this analysis.
One of the oldest areas on Earth for agriculture is Africa. It probably goes back 8-12,000 years. Ditto with New Guinea. Both populations not only have low impulse control and foresight, but low intelligence.
Further, in both, agriculture has in fact selected for higher testosterone because primitive agriculturalists tend to be polygynous and primitive hunter gatherers tend to be monogamous and lower testosterone. Hence, you get elites with huge harems in both Africa and New Guinea and lots of guys who aren’t getting any.
Also, in Africa, along with the testosterone came large body size and great athletic ability in Blacks. Unfortunately, combined with high testosterone, this large body size is often put to less than social uses. So in this way, agriculture selected for less civilized traits (high testosterone, polygyny, large body size, physical aggression) while hunter gatherers selected for more civilized traits.
So in Africa, the hunter-gatherers remained low testosterone, with more androgynous, less physically exaggerated physiques and increased monogamy. Similar traits in Asian males are tossed out as a reason why Asians are the most highly-evolved race – if that is so, then why is the same not true of the Khoisan?
Monogamy is said to be one of the defining building blocks of civilization. So why do we see it in African hunter-gatherers but not in African agriculturalists?
Ag is not all it is cracked up to be.
The book also claims we are getting smarter. It’s certainly possible, but no one really knows. It’s not entirely clear that we are getting smarter, though it’s possible. Our brains were much bigger 10,000 years ago. One of the largest brains ever seen in modern man is from an extinct race that seems similar to the Khoisan – the Strandwalkers of SW Africa who went probably went extinct for the most part 3,000 years ago.
Congenial Times then riffs on dysgenics, noting that in modern society, the dumber you are, the more kids you have, and the smarter you are, the fewer kids you have. These trends seem obvious to me, at least in the USA (not so sure about Europe and other places). Nevertheless, the much-heralded by the Right Dysgenics Trend has not (yet) occurred.
Not only that, but our IQ’s have been rising at 3 points/decade since 1930. In addition, but there is evidence for genetic selection in both US Blacks and Whites in the last 200 years (Blacks in only the last 100 years) towards a more progressive phenotype and probably higher intelligence. The notion of dysgenics re: IQ is logical theorywise, but it doesn’t seem to be panning out that way in meatspace.

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2 thoughts on “Civilization and Evolutionary Progress, or Otherwise”

  1. Dear Robert
    You wrote that “… our IQs have been rising at 3 points/year since 1930.” You should have written 3 points/decade.
    Dysgenic fertility may not have had negative consequences for average IQ in the past, but that doesn’t mean that the future will be the same. If duller people continue to have more children on average than smarter ones, eventually the average intelligence will go down.
    Another point is that, for purposes of innovation, what matters is the total number of very bright people, not their share of the population. Let’s take 2 populations. Population A consists of 10 million people, of whom 1 in 100 is superbright. Population B has 50 million people, of which only 1 in 200 is superbright. It is still population B that has the largest number of superbright individuals and that can therefore innovate more. The world today has far more individuals who are both superbright and well-educated than in 1950.
    Regards. James

  2. Thx James, I fixed that. You made some good points. I suspect that the Flynn Effect may just be washing out whatever dysgenic fertility is going on for the time being, but the FE is not going to go on forever. It’s already stopped in Scandinavia.

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