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Thread: Human Biological and Psychological Diversity

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    Blut ist ein ganz besonderer Saft. Juthunge's Avatar
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    Human Biological and Psychological Diversity

    Fig. 1
    Diagram of how human populations can diverge in evolutionary history.
    A human population first splits into two groups in different environments with different ecological and climatological forces. This creates different selective pressures on the populations (which can eventually shape their genomes, altering allele frequencies across groups). The different environments can also lead to different cultural systems, which also create different selective pressures.


    Many evolutionary psychologists have asserted that there is a panhuman nature, a species typical psychological structure that is invariant across human populations. Although many social scientists dispute the basic assumptions of evolutionary psychology, they seem widely to agree with this hypothesis. Psychological differences among human populations (demes, ethnic groups, races) are almost always attributed to cultural and sociological forces in the relevant literatures. However, there are strong reasons to suspect that the hypothesis of a panhuman nature is incorrect.

    Humans migrated out of Africa at least 50,000 years ago and occupied many different ecological and climatological niches. Because of this, they evolved slightly different anatomical and physiological traits. For example, Tibetans evolved various traits that help them cope with the rigors of altitude; similarly, the Inuit evolved various traits that help them cope with the challenges of a very cold environment.

    It is likely that humans also evolved slightly different psychological traits as a response to different selection pressures in different environments and niches. One possible example is the high intelligence of the Ashkenazi Jewish people. Frank discussions of such differences among human groups have provoked strong ethical concerns in the past.
    We understand those ethical concerns and believe that it is important to address them. However, we also believe that the benefits of discussing possible human population differences outweigh the costs.


    Here, we will lay out six basic principles of this new Darwinian paradigm (see also, Boyd and Richerson 1985; Cochran and Harpending 2009; Laland et al. 2010; Lynn 2006; Rushton 1995; Wade 2014).

    1. Variation is the grist for the mill of natural selection and is ubiquitous within and among human populations.

    2. Evolution by natural selection has not stopped acting on human traits and has significantly shaped at least some human traits in the past 50,000 years.

    3. Current hunter-gatherer groups might be slightly different from other modern human populations because of culture and evolution by natural selection acting to influence the relative presence, or absence, of trait-relevant alleles in those groups. Therefore, using extant hunter-gatherers as a template for a panhuman nature is problematic.

    4. It is probably more accurate to say that, while much of human nature is universal, there may have been selective tuning on various aspects of human nature as our species left Africa and settled various regions of the planet (Frost 2011).

    5. The human brain is subject to selective forces in the same way that other organ systems are. Natural selection does not discriminate between genes for the body and genes for the brain (Wade 2014).

    6. The concept of a Pleistocene-based environment of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA) is likely unhelpful (Zuk 2013). Individual traits should be explored phylogenetically and historically. Some human traits were sculpted in the Pleistocene (or before) and have remained substantially unaltered; some, however, have been further shaped in the past 10,000 years, and some probably quite recently (Clark 2007). It remains imperative to describe what selection pressures might have been actively shaping human nature moving forward from the Pleistocene epoch, and how those ecological pressures might have differed for different human populations.

    These principles lead to a number of consequences, some of which are obvious, and some of which are subtler, that are relevant to many disciplines including anthropology, criminology, economics, history, psychology, and sociology. Below, we consider a few of the most important consequences and describe what this Darwinian research program might look like.


    Variation is the rule in nature. No two leaves are the same. No two humans are the same. And no two human populations are the same. Instead of lamenting this, we should celebrate it just as we celebrate the rest of the vast and diverse biological world. Humans are not an exception to, but a part of, that almost endlessly variegated tapestry (Wilson 2010). To conclude, we believe that:

    1. It does not promote the interests of society or of science to deny that human populations vary in biologically meaningful ways simply because it makes some people uncomfortable or anxious.

    2. If some scholars deny the reality of human population variation and slander those who wish to study and discuss it openly, then extremists are likely to monopolize the conversation.

    3. There is no reason why those who promote cultural diversity and tolerance cannot simultaneously embrace the reality of biological diversity.

    4. Both culture-only hypotheses and genetic-based hypotheses can be dangerous when misappropriated by politicians and social theorists (Pinker 2003). Researchers should be cautious about forwarding any hypotheses that have potential social ramifications and should be temperate in rhetoric and humble in practice.

    Seems like we're slowly returning to actual science instead of brainless PC as an end in itself.
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    "And in the shock of battle the men of the North seemed like a sea that cannot be moved. Firmly they stood, one close to another, forming as it were a bulwark of ice, and with great blows of their swords they hewed down the Arabs. Drawn up in a band around their chief, the people of the Austrasians carried all before them. Their tireless hands drove their swords down to the breasts of the foe." - The Mozarabic Chronicle of 754, about the Germanic victory at the Battle of Tours.

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    Senior Member Theunissen's Avatar
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    1. It does not promote the interests of society or of science to deny that human populations vary in biologically meaningful ways simply because it makes some people uncomfortable or anxious.
    Indeed. A sort of false moralism has skewed the tables on science and politics.

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