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Natural history

Discussion of everything related to the Theory of Evolution.

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Natural history

Postby maharbbal » Sat Mar 24, 2007 2:31 am

Hi folks,

I'm nothing but a poor economist and I need/would like to have your point of view on Gregory Clark's lattest writting.

Just a foreword to start with. Historians (specially) and sociologists have bad memories of the last time they tryed to link Darwin's theory and their field of research (you know, size of the skull=intelligence hence-the-Jews-must-be-turned-into-soap kind of reasoning). So they simply reacted by decreating that more or less there was nothing to be learnt from biology and they went on with their things.

60 years later it appears clearly that this is not an option any more. The economists, anthropologist, archeologists and Co have already integrated the existance of this beared fellow on the £20 notes. Worst, they'd better react fast if they don't want (horror!) the biologists to still their turff, see Jared Diamond for instance.

Ok, so here comes Greg Clark's new book's "Farwell to Alms". The argument is simple: for the period 1200-1800 in England the rich had on average twice more kids than the poor. Thus what ever feature that made them rich could be transmited to their offspring. As the number of rich did not rise, it means that the gene poll of the rich did spread in the population.

These "features" that made individual rich Greg Clark consider that it was:
• Thrift
• Negocition
• Hard work
Prudence
The way he support his points is sometimes a bit dodgy but it generally makes good sense. Besides, Greg Clark is one of the most respected scholar in Economic History departments and not some kind of weirdo.

You can read his stuff here iga.ucdavis.edu/gclark.html (I can't post the url sorry)

What do you think? (if you disagree please don't tell me I'm a racialist wanker, advice me some readings)

Subsidiary questions:
Did Homo Sapiens stopped evolving after the Neolithic Revolution? (did the sharks stopped evolving btw? I know its stupid but they really look like the fossilised ones)
If you needed to support/disprove this theory, how would you do?
Am I outdated and did other historians came up with similar stuff before?

Cheers
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Postby AstusAleator » Sat Mar 24, 2007 6:03 am

I'm not going to try to say humans are or aren't evolving, but keep in mind that for evolution to occur, there needs to be some sort of selective pressure. Do you really see much selective pressure in most cultures today? Perhaps in war-torn areas, but that seems so random...
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Postby maharbbal » Sat Mar 24, 2007 7:13 am

Well nowadays, I guess not much pressure on people under 40 (also I'm quite convinced that the presure exist in the lowest classes of society) but for the period Greg Clakk is interested in (1280-1800) the pressure is very clear. Life expectency at 1yo around 1630 in England was around 30…
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Postby narrowstaircase » Sat Mar 24, 2007 10:06 am

for a very long time now we have been selecting mates for ourselves without unconcious drives or instincts doing it for us. alot of the selection process is focussed on mental state and resulting personality. we can ask ourselves, what affects a persons capacity to be thrifty, a good negociator, a hard worker and prudent? (mental state/personality?)

*method for selection within a conscious species.* imagine this. on the tree of life our species has spread out like a fan but has not broken into branches as far as DNA is concerned. but we have broken into branches as far as behaviour is concerned. we have broken into different branches culturally as well as in other more personal ways. as far as culture goes if major frameworks within the mangement of that culture are detrimental or become outdated the culture will not persist. the people will disperse and probably form new smaller cultures that may grow larger later or not (egypt, south americas). within the family unit behaviours (or ways of doing things) are passed on from parent to child. these 'ways of doing things' effect the mental development as it relates to social-behaviours/happiness/emotional-reactions etc.

thats the body of the process. the rich people during the time of the study had personality traits that (were beneficial that) they passed on to their children, probably their sons as the book says. which could be the reason for more children yet no more rich people. father and son spent more time together than father and daughter, so the culture played a part in who stayed rich. does that make sense? (a very simple and broad explanation). you have to understand though that things change. this was beneficial within the context it occured. rich doesn't equal happiness and it doesn't equal more children. infact the very opposite is occuring now days.

there are further questions relating to this selection process in behaviour but its entirely too much to talk about in depth.
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Postby Darby » Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:27 pm

I'm curious what this means:

...for the period 1200-1800 in England the rich had on average twice more kids than the poor

This makes very little sense without some context. It might be valid if you're picking some target age (..had more children survive to adulthood, for instance), but it certainly doesn't apply to total numbers or probably births. If it did, we would never have had a Malthus trying to rationalize population control of the "dirty people."

The other issue concerns the basic premise, that there is something about wealth that can be discussed in evolutionary terms when a system based upon economics is a handful of generations old. The epigenetics works, to some extent, but the genetics are too short-term to apply. That short a period is also hugely affected by chance, such as the rise of the middle class associated with the Plague.

Another premise seems to be that traits associated with wealth have no other application, which doesn't seem very likely either.
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Postby narrowstaircase » Sat Mar 24, 2007 9:43 pm

i think it only counted children who reached the age of 16 and even included the grandchildren if i recall correctly. so if someone had 2 children, one dies but has 2 children before he dies, the father is counted as having 4 children. i think >.<
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Postby maharbbal » Sun Mar 25, 2007 2:25 am

Yes that's almost it, he addressed "reproductive success" i.e. the number of children reaching the age of sixteen. If one is dead before his dad, but had time to have children himself, he counts for one.

I'm ready to accept the fact that the tree-shaped pattern of human behaviour has cultural and not genetical roots, but I don't understand why.
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Postby megarhyssa » Sun Mar 25, 2007 7:47 pm

AstusAleator wrote:I'm not going to try to say humans are or aren't evolving, but keep in mind that for evolution to occur, there needs to be some sort of selective pressure. Do you really see much selective pressure in most cultures today? Perhaps in war-torn areas, but that seems so random...


I'm not at odds with the general thesis of your argument, but let's clear up one point: evolution does not require "some sort of selective pressure" -- certainly, you may see larger changes in the allele frequencies in a population from one generation to the next with strong selection. However, those changes in allele frequencies may also occur due to drift.

In the general case of the argument being made in the first post (the specifics of which I'm dubious about), if one group of individuals consistently produced more offspring than another group (and there was a heritable basis to the trait(s) that resulted in differential reproductive success), then evolution would occur. Now, mind you, not the vision of evolution the layman typically has in mind (i.e., reptile to mammal) but the outcome would be an increase in the relative proportion of alleles associated with the former group (= evolution).
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