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Thread: Coevolution: the Hajnal Line, NW Euro and the crackpottery of Peter Frost

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    Coevolution: the Hajnal Line, NW Euro and the crackpottery of Peter Frost

    Culture can shape the human gnome. This so called co-evolution idea is interesting. In the 2010 made Kevin Laland e.a. an outline for this kind of research:

    Gene–culture co-evolution also has some practical implications. models of human evolution that fail to consider the role of culture may need to be replaced by models that acknowledge gene–culture associations. Gene-culture co-evolutionary methods too will change, as theoreticians will be able to construct models that explore the evolution of specific identified genes of known frequency. moreover, it is clear that culture can generate non-trivial demographic effect, and researchers would be wise to take account of these. The requisite tools are largely in place to produce these improved models, and it is merely a case of integrating findings from different disciplines. This will allow researchers to make quantitative and qualitative predictions about genetic and phenotypic variation across populations, or to draw inferences about the processes that have led to patterns of gene frequencies. unbiased genome-wide scans will potentially provide theoreticians with a suite of new cases of gene–culture co-evolution to explore. on the negative side, knowledge of actual genes may invalidate some theoretical analyses by revealing their assumptions to be unrealistic, and new kinds of models may need to be developed, but this too will lead to progress in the longer term.
    The anthropologist Peter Frost elaborates this in: Frost, P. (2017). The Hajnal Line and Gene-Culture Coevolution in Northwest Europe. Advances in Anthropology, 7, 154-174.

    His basic idea is that:

    ...at some point in time northwest Europeans became less kinship-oriented and more individualistic, and this new cultural environment favored individuals who were more socially independent, more empathic, more guilt-prone, and more adherent to universal moral rules. At first, the new mindset had no genetic basis. Individuals did the best they could with what they had. If, however, some were more inclined toward independent social orientation, universal rule adherence, affective empathy, and guilt proneness, they would do better than others, not only socially but also reproductively. Conversely, the less inclined would do worse. There was thus selection for these traits, and a steady change to the gene pool over time.

    This supposed coevolutionary phenomenon occurred westwards of the so called Hajnal line:
    The Hajnal line runs approximately from Trieste to St. Petersburg. To the north and west, social relations have long shown a certain pattern:
    − Men and women marry relatively late;
    − Many people never marry;
    − Children usually leave the nuclear family to form new households;
    − Households often have non-kin members (Hajnal, 1965; ICA, 2013; Laslett,
    1977).

    This is the Western European Marriage Pattern (WEMP). Everyone is single
    for at least part of adulthood, many stay single their entire lives, and “a significant proportion of households [have] persons not belonging to the immediate family or even to the kin” (Laslett, 1977: p. 13). In short, the individual is less fettered by the bonds of kinship even within the household.
    Statistical nonsense
    The proof of the pudding is of course in the eating. Frost tries to pinpoint the 5-HTTLPR allele as an 'yardstick to measure the capacity for independent social orientation/affective empathy/guilt process in different human populations'.

    His thesis:
    The geographic incidence of the 5-HTTLPR short allele is consistent with the Hajnal line and the WEMP.


    His foundation is a tabel (p. 165) of data collated by Chiao and Blizinsky (2010), 'this allele has a lower incidence in societies of northwest European descent.'

    But when I compare these data with the data of the component individualism in the dataset of Hofstede cultural dimensions per country the supposed 1:1 correlation between a short allele and less individualism goes wrong.

    5-HTTLPR and Individualism - Blad1.pdf

    No need for a statistical program to see that the supposed strong correlation is not there. For example: the Anglo-Saxon countries (UK, US, Australia) with high individualism score have a moderate postion in short allele. Indeed the Southeast Asians have general more shorter alleles and less individualism scores. But Japan has the highest short alles score but is almost twice as individualistic as Slovenia that is quite low in short alleles. So Frost draws big conclusions based on....

    Roots in the HG?
    Secondly he jumps to a supposed relationship between the NW Euro cultural pattern and the HG cultures around the North Sea and Baltic Sea. ' This mindset had only limited success at first. While it enabled northwest Europeans to resist the spread of farming from the south and provided an alternate means to build larger and more complex societies, these hunter-fisher-gatherers remained confined to the shores of the North Sea and the Baltic.' Besides the fact that the Baltic Sea area is on the edge or just over the edge of the Hajnal line, I see no clear signs of the fact that the HG culture of the North Sea and Baltic Sea were kind of 'individualistic protestants avant la lettre'. I guess they made no exception to the rule every where with HG cultures on the world that they were kind of clannish. And the neolithic Funnelbeaker culture around the North Sea contained a big portion ENF. So no resistance on all fronts!
    If there was some embryonal tendency towards individualism than Corded Ware/Single Grave (what's in a name a fare better candidate (see the dissertation of Sandra Beckerman 2015, passim). A candidate that also delivers about 50% of nowadays NW Euro genes. But yeah the roots of it lay fare outside the NW Euro core (and the Hajnal line)....may be this doesn't fit so well in Frost's assumptions?

    So in the end: it's likely that in the end the NW Euro cultural pattern has in the end a genetic effect. But Frost delivers a bad case when he tries to exemplify this. The evidence is wrong. The link with HG cultures to fare fetched. Indeed: 'knowledge of actual genes may invalidate some theoretical analyses by revealing their assumptions to be unrealistic.' The lasting impression of this article: heavily biased and pseudoscientific crackpottery.
    Last edited by Finn; 05-04-2019 at 02:40 PM.

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