Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Holocaust was not a Great Lone Evil

And bad things come from pretending it was.

Starved peasants on a street in Kharkiv, 1933. Wikimedia commons.

A friend forwarded me this email:

Never Forget: Holodomor Memorial Day

In 1932 and 1933, 7 Million (estimated) Ukrainians were massacred by genocidal famine ordered by the Bolshevik government. Many were Christians. Students do not learn about the Holodomor in middle school, high school, or even college. There aren’t dozens of major Hollywood films depicting the horrific events that took place. Our politicians aren’t referencing the Holodomor every other day and visiting Holodomor Museums. If you ask any random American on the street about the Holodomor they will have no idea what it is. 
Why is this? 
American students grow up inundated with Holocaust movies, books, and education from grade school on up. American states like Florida even pass laws mandating Holocaust education for our children. So why are we not learning about the Holodomor? 
Perhaps even worse: why is Holodomor Denial allowed while if you question any part of the Holocaust narrative you could land in jail across many European countries. 
In particular why are prominent members of the Jewish community, who know the realities of genocide in the 20th century, among some of the most prominent Holodomor denialists? 
The state of Israel refuses to recognize the Holodomor as a genocide
“The Holodomor “is definitely not a genocide,” said Zuroff, the head of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.” 
About a decade ago Abe Foxman, the former head of the Jewish Anti Defamation League, met with the President of Ukraine to pressure the government into downplaying the Holodomor. 
Maybe Mr. Putin can give us a clue as to why this is. 
Putin: First Soviet Government Was Mostly Jewish: “I thought about something just now: The decision to nationalize this library was made by the first Soviet government, whose composition was 80–85 percent Jewish,” Putin said June 13 during a visit to Moscow’s Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center. Interestingly enough, around the same percentage of Joe Biden’s cabinet is Jewish too
Thankfully unlike the Ukrainian Kulaks, the American Kulaks are armed, but we must also be well versed in history so that it does not repeat itself. 
Christians must never forget the genocide of millions of our Christian brothers and sisters. We must hold to account those who seek to deny, hide, or downplay this atrocity. We must educate our children about the horrors of what happened and we must not be afraid to “offend” people in the process of discussing the truth about these important matters. Objective truth is only offensive to those who hate and wish to hide objective truth. 
Never forget.
So, things to say. Many, many things to say.

The first thing is the history in the email is mostly correct. One can quibble about some of the statistics, but (leaving aside motivation for the moment) the underlying historical facts are essentially correct.

The second thing is to say is that while the facts are mostly correct, the framing of those facts really, really isn’t.

There are three big things going on here. First, yes, Israel and the Jewish lobby has attempted to portray the Holocaust as the Great Lone Evil. Which it is most certainly wasn’t. Not only were other folk targeted along with Jews, the Holocaust is not remotely the only vile megacide of the C20th.

Second, yes, Jews were involved in perpetrating the Holodomor. Something that Israel and the Jewish lobby really, really don’t want to deal with. Especially as it gets even more in the way of treating the Holocaust as the Great Lone Evil.

But the Jewish communists who helped create the Holodomor didn’t do it because they were Jewish, they did it because they were revolutionary Marxists.

Which is the third big thing. The Holodomor is not the only revolutionary Marxist terror-famine of the C20th. It wasn’t even the first terror-famine of the Soviet regime. That was War Communism.

The Ethiopian terror famine. The Chinese Great Leap Forward famine. Cambodia’s Year Zero megacide. The North Korean famines. Soviet mass labour camp slavery. Soviet workplace serfdom.

The history of revolutionary Marxism in power only starts in November 1917, so just over a century ago. Yet it is a history of megacide after megacide, mass oppression after mass oppression.

These ALL get various degrees of the “down the memory hole” treatment. Most of them, no one of Jewish extraction had anything to do with. (Except of course, that they were based on the theories of Karl Marx, who despised his own [ancestral] people, just as he despised his own class.)

Which gets back to the Jews involved in perpetuating the Holodomor didn’t do it because they were Jewish, they did it because they were revolutionary Marxists acting on the right side of history, pushing it towards its glorious liberating completion.

Which is why these megacides and oppressions are so often shoved down the memory hole. Because lots of people in academe and education do not want to have any sort of awkward mirror to their own ambitions shoved in front of them.

Do Israel and the Jewish lobby have a particular reason to memory-hole the Holodomor? Absolutely they do, twice over. First, because it gets in the way of the Holocaust as Great Lone Evil. Second, because it turns out that Jews motivated by a totalising ideology can be every bit as horribly, tyrannically murderous as any anti-Semitic Gentile.

Is it contemptible that they act in this way to protect the lie (for it is a lie) of the Holocaust as Great Lone Evil? Yes, it is absolutely contemptible. And they should be shamed and scared into stopping being so utterly contemptible.

The above email, which was sent out to a great many people, should be a great big warning of what happens when Israel and the Jewish lobby acts in such contemptible ways to preserve the lie of the Holocaust as the Great Lone Evil.

But the email itself is contemptible. It frames (mostly truth) into its own contemptible falsehood. For implying that the Holodomor happened because (some of its) perpetrators were Jews strips the Holodomor itself of understanding, of its motivations, of its significance.

This is what totalising ideologies who believe themselves to be on the right side of history lead to. Have led to, again and again. Those who are most reluctant to look into what the Holodomor tells us are those who most need to do so.

Oh, and other folk should stop using historical facts to so profoundly misrepresent the Holodomor. The starved dead are not grist for your nasty obsessions.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

The niche-creating species

We are the cultural species par excellence, and so the species that creates its own niches.

Beaver dam, Hesse, Germany.

The ecologist Paul Colinvaux, author of the classic text Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare, made an observation in his deeply flawed book The Fates of Nations that is very useful for modelling human social dynamics:
Unlike other animals, we can change our social habits to fit ourselves for new niches … P.42
A niche being:
… all the things the things about a kind of animal the let it live: its way of feeding, what it does to avoid enemies, how it is fitted to the place it must dwell. P.19
How, as he says elsewhere in the book, a species fits into the web of life.

For instance, any theory of elite over-production is a niche theory, being based on the social dynamics of more people seriously aspiring to occupy an elite niche in a society than there are such niches to be filled.

Within the biosphere, species typically have a specific niche that they fill. Even if they are a differentiated species, such as ants and termites, their form still dictates, along with interaction with other species and the world around them, the niche they occupy in the web of life.

That interaction with other organisms and the environment can involve a certain amount of niche construction through impacts their actions have on the environment around them and on other species. Such niche construction can leave an ecological inheritance to their descendants. It can potentially increase the number of niches available for the species, or reduce the variability (and so increase the predictability) of the niche. Such niche construction provides, as part of the purposive (i.e. goal-directed) behaviour of living organisms, an ordering principle within the biosphere.

The population of a species is set by the number of available niches for that species. (Hence, big, fierce animals are indeed rare.) The contest within species is to occupy one of those niches and reproduce more future occupants of those niches. Genetic lineages that successfully do so get to continue and those that don’t disappear. Different species (i.e. different sets of genetic lineages) compete to occupy and sustain niches within the nutrition and reproductive possibilities of the eco-system around them.

All currently existing genetic lineages have genetic ancestries that are much older than their current species. A genetic lineage, in the process of evolution and replication, can pass through existing as, and within, many different species.

Processes of adaptation can be expected to have some sort of search process inherent in them (as evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein has suggested) for ability to search out survival and replication possibilities increases the chances of continuing genetic replication. Replication being the game that genes play. One played via selection for or against traits within subsistence and reproduction strategies. (All one needs for a game, in an analytical sense, is feedback and response in the context of limited resources where some outcome, in this case staying in the game, is a "win": intent is not necessary.)

Such search processes for successful replication possibilities, which includes niche construction, enables the biosphere to have the level of order it does. For random mutation is nowhere near enough to explain the observed level of order in the biosphere, even within geologic time frames. This is especially so given the periodic mass extinction events and the explosions in new species that follow them. It is natural selection acting on strategies, particularly with the genetic recombinations of sexual reproduction, that provide much more opportunities for search-and-discovery of new opportunities. 

A nice example of the interaction between search, niche, niche construction and genetic evolution is provided by the development of lactase persistence in humans. If pastoralists can evolve the capacity to continue to consume milk after weaning, that greatly increases (by around fivefold) the calories they can harvest from a given area of grasslands, dramatically increasing the number of sustainable pastoralist niches. This has happened more than once in human history, with at least four separate versions of such genetic mutation occurring in different pastoralist populations and subsequently rapidly spreading through such populations.

The most widespread such mutation being that which developed among Proto-(or at least every early) Indo-Europeans. Indeed, their particular mutation provides an excellent genetic marker of their pastoralism and the extent of their spread. A spread which, in the case of the Indo-European pastoralists, was almost certainly sustained over such as a breadth of time and space precisely because lactase persistence gave them a biological advantage over other populations that could only be gained by other populations through interbreeding with the Indo-Europeans.

Trade-offs rule

A niche always involves a series of trade-offs. Trade-offs both from pursuing the internal competition for available niches and for sustaining niches. The trade-offs a particular niche involves develop interactively with the energy-and-nutrient possibilities, and threat profiles, the niche occupant has to deal with to sustain itself and reproduce.

What makes Homo sapiens so ecologically distinctive is the extent of our ability to choose new trade-offs, to shift across trade-offs, and so to adapt to, and create, new niches. An ability intimately interwoven with us being the technological ape, the toolmaking ape.

There is no single human niche. There is, for instance, no single forager niche. As can be seen by comparing, say, the Inuit with the Hadza. The human capacity to change interactions with the surrounding environment (and each other) so as to create new niches, even within the nomadic foraging pattern, is how we became the global ape.

Our varied human niches are created and sustained by our cognitive capacity for learning and discovery and our cultural transmission of information and skills. Our niche construction is a manifestation of us being so much the cultural species. Human technologies are sustained via our cultures which in turn are profoundly affected by our technologies.

We Homo sapiens are the niche-creating, indeed niche-multiplying, species. We can adapt to, and create, new niches. Doing so either in addition to, or replacing by, existing niches. Indeed, we can create and occupy multiple niches across and within human societies.

Hence we have not only spread across the planet, becoming the global ape, but have also increased hugely in population. If you can create new niches, you can create new ecological spaces to occupy, with new resources to use.

The human nomadic-forager niche was already more varied than the niches of any other species. Taking up sedentism added a new level of variation. Taking up farming and pastoralism extended that variation even further. As did creating chiefdoms and states. Industrialisation — the Great Enrichment — then increased the number and variety of human niches by further orders of magnitude. It also increased the fluidity of human niches, something information technology has ratcheted up further.

Human niches

Malthusian models, models developed from the population-dynamics insights of the Rev. Thomas Malthus (1766–1834), are models of the limits to population given available resources, including available technology. Niches are the analytical mechanism connecting population size to available resources. Malthusian models should therefore incorporate the insight of ecology that it is available niches that set the limit to a population. Hence Malthusian models should be based on niches.

If this is not done, if people, rather than niches, are the unit of Malthusian models, it becomes much more difficult to deal with trade-offs within niches. Indeed, it becomes easy to operate such models in ways that are blind to such trade-offs.

Conversely, switching to an ecological analysis, making niches the basic unit of the model, makes it possible to consider trade-offs within niches. For there will clearly be a range of trade-offs that are possible within niches that can yet remain viable such that occupants are able to reproduce. For instance, trading off more ready access to energy (calories) for lower long-term access to nutrients.

This ability to shift trade-offs is not only compatible with Homo sapiens having the most biologically expensive children in the biosphere, it is a product of the cooperative cognitive complexity that those long childhoods evolve to sustain.

Quality versus quantity

One of the possible trade-offs within human niches is between quantity of offspring and quality of offspring. The more skills are needed to successfully occupy the targeted niche, the more likely parents are to shift towards quality of offspring over quantity. Conversely, the less skills and learning are needed, the more likely parents are to shift towards quantity of offspring over quality.

Farming is a lower-skill niche than foraging, given that it greatly reduces search costs and concentrates on a very small number of species. Conversely, the productivity of foragers typically peaks around 45 years of age and foraging children typically don’t break even on calorie collection and consumption until they are almost 20. This is why mixed foraging-planting niches could be sustained by sedentary foragers, as they were, for millennia: there was very limited extra skill burden involved in planting some edible plant for later harvesting.

The lower skill burden is also part of how farming lowered the cost of children. Farming (and plant and animal domestication generally) required less time training children, who could become more productive earlier, while sedentary living meant that children were more able to look after each other. The easy (after processing the harvested plants) access to calories from domesticated plants also permitted earlier weaning of infants and so increased fertility, enabling the quantity/quality trade-off to be made. (The energy/nutrient trade-off involved, resulting in worse health outcomes, emphasises that this was a quality/quantity trade-off.)

Connection, pooling and exchange

As intensely social beings, whose survival and reproductive success depends fundamentally on cooperation, humans manage and sustain their niches through processes of pooling (sharing), connection and exchange. With pooling being: the use of common resources and connection being: a continuing series of mutually acknowledged interactions.

We are the only species that regularly displays the behaviour of engaging in “truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another”. While whether Adam Smith was right to call this a propensity or not can be disputed, it is certainly a distinctive, and recurring, human pattern.

A pattern that occurs because we are so much the normative species, a crucial element in us being the cultural species par excellence. It is not that there is no culture at all in other species, nor anything that might reasonably be called normative behaviour. It is just that we display both at a rate orders of magnitude greater than other species. Just as, and not coincidentally, our tool making and use is orders of magnitude greater.

Exchange involves the exchange of property: what was yours becomes mine, what is mine becomes yours. The crucial idea in property not being mine!, any silverback gorilla with a harem can do that, but yours!, the acknowledgment of possession by others and associated rules of rightful transfer from one owner to another. Which is normative.

The need to defend our social space, plus the information associations an owned thing can have, generates an endowment effect (valuing something we own over an identical thing that we do not). The effect on exchange behaviour tends to diminish with market experience in trading such things, as distinct from merely being an experienced trader, for the more the owned thing then becomes something to be traded (i.e., transferred) rather than distinctively ours.

A chimpanzee in a behavioural lab confirms more strongly to the predictions of game theory — i.e. conforms more to the predictions of Homo economicus — than humans do because we Homo sapiens are far more normative than are Pan troglodytes. That far greater normative capacity is part of us being the cultural species and fairly clearly arose out of our highly cooperative subsistence and reproduction strategies.

Being so much cultural species, including being able to marshal exchange as part of socially and technologically constructing new niches, is what has made us the global ape. The discoveries of the anthropogenic sciences undermine both the cultural hegemony model used by many sociologists and anthropologists and the rational self-interest model used by economists and political scientists.

Human history is one of the social and technological construction of niches via the mechanisms of pooling, connection and exchange. For instance, shifting from nomadic foraging to sedentary foraging, and especially to sedentary farming, changes the dominant structure for pooling production and consumption from the multi-family band of shifting membership to (a typically) single-family household with much more stable membership.

Social exchanges are exchanges in the context of connection; so in the context of a continuing series of mutually acknowledged interactions. Commercial exchanges are exchanges that, if they continue across time, include managing connection(s), but are otherwise discrete events involving transfers of resources via goods or services.

Social exchanges are therefore dominated by the norms and expectations of connection. It would be an insult to offer to pay a friend or relative for a meal they have cooked for you.

As commercial exchanges are exchanges where any connection arises from within the context of exchange, they are dominated by the norms and expectations of trading and commerce. It would be theft or fraud to not pay for a commercially-provided meal. (There is a useful discussion of the difference between social and market exchanges in Chapter 4 of Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational.)

Any pooling in the case of social exchanges is based on the pre-existing (or sought) connections. Pooling in the case of commercial exchange results from the exchange itself.

As social exchanges are based on the norms of connection, the level of mutual regard inherent in the social context of the path of interaction typically involve considerable density of information. Commercial exchanges are based on commercial norms that typically involve much lower levels of information, outside the exchange itself and associated patterns of exchange. This allows commercial exchanges to scale up much more than can relying on connection and local pooling. Hence such exchange can expand the size and number of human niches.

Economising on information is much of the advantage of commercial exchange. Sufficiently dense patterns of exchange result in the development of exchange goods: goods held so as to be able to participate in future exchanges. At some point, a medium of account (i.e. full money) may develop, due to its value in economising on information: notably search, negotiation and accounting costs. (A medium of account being something used to both quantify and discharge obligations.) Increasing the scaling-up effect on the size and number of human niches of commercial exchange.

Gifts and favours are investments in connection. An appropriate gift can express the strength of a connection by demonstrating how accurately the giver of the gift “sees” the other person and how important their connection is to the giver. A public gift makes a public display of these things.

In societies with very little exchange, but very dense webs of connection, failure to be able to sustain the pattern of gifting that maintains connections can drive individuals into “gift bankruptcy” and so a form of debt-bondage. Just as with commercial bankruptcy, it represents a terminal inability to meet one's obligations.

Niche size and well-being

Malthusian models for pre-industrial societies that use people as the unit of analysis imply, due to using the person as the unit being modelled rather than the niche, that human well-being will tend to return to a recurring steady-state, as increased resources are eventually matched by increased population. This makes it difficult for Malthusian models using people as the unit of analysis to conform to the strong evidence that farming was less healthy than foraging. But, if the models focus on niche-size instead of human well-being, then different internal trade-offs within niches can be incorporated within the model, even if niche size tends to return to a recurring steady-state for a given level of technology.

As mentioned above, a possible such trade-off is to have more readily available energy but less nutrients, resulting in smaller stature and worse health. As long as the trade-off does not get in the way of successful reproduction, it can be a socially viable trade-off. Indeed, if accepting the trade-off results in increased capacity to generate such niches for your descendants to occupy, it will become a successful, even dominant, trade-off.

Trade-offs between niche size (so niche quality) and niche number (niche quantity) can occur in various forms. Where you are in the spectrum of control of resources determines the consequences of different decisions in intergenerational transfer of assets. Thus, single-heir systems, such as primogeniture, are structured to maintain a certain niche size. Single-heir systems typically involve accepting that one’s other children end up with smaller social niches.

Elite over-production can be de-stabilising for societies precisely because more people are seeking (and having the resources to) compete for elite niches than there are elite niches to sustain them. Such competition, if of sufficient intensity, can be highly destructive to the normative order of a society.

Elite over-production by polygynous hereditary elites is likely to have been a major cause of the transience of steppe empires, for example. Given that the herding productivity of grasslands was an enduring constraint on the number of pastoralist niches.

Some niches need more resources to be sustained and/or are sustained at a higher level of health. Sufficient increase in resources, such as the great enrichment that began with the application of steam-power to transport by the development of railways and steamships, can lead to increases in both quantity and quality of niches and, if the cost of children rises sufficiently, to lower fertility.*

As farming, due to its elimination of most search costs and concentration on a far narrower range of food species, required less skill than foraging, so could be contributed to more with a lower level of skill (i.e. children were more productive earlier in life), there was no pressure to increase the quality of children, but there were likely benefits to having more children. Including more capacity to create kin connections through marriage and more of a buffer against ageing.

The first constraint in the construction of human niches is time. There are only certain amount of hours in a day. The second constraint is sustenance, the need for a certain amount of energy and nutrients to sustain oneself. Energy is more immediately urgent than nutrients, so it is possible to make a choice that provides sufficient energy but involves some deficiency in nutrients. This will have future health implications, but, as noted above, this may not block the continuation and replication of the niche.

If the niche is going to be replicated in the next generation, then time and sustenance has to allocated to reproduction and training. At the core of Homo sapiens being the cultural species is direct or indirect investment in the training of offspring.

Hence the potential trade-off here between quality of offspring and quantity of offspring. As we have seen, it is entirely possible to have a niche that reduces the cost of children, for instance making it easier to feed them and making it less likely to lose them in early infancy, yet also means that their long-term health is poorer. Ironically, a higher rate of infant mortality in a situation of restricted fecundity (due to long weaning periods, for example) may make for more investment in the quality of children. Particularly if there is more nutrient-rich food available to feed them.

One of the changes industrialisation created was to markedly increase the returns to education while reducing the ability of children to contribute to household production. Improved sanitation and increased medical knowledge also markedly reduced infant mortality. This resulted in a dramatic shift away from quantity of children towards quality of children, with large falls in fertility rates.

Thus, the foraging-to-farming shift from quality to quantity of children has been more than reversed. But at, of course, hugely higher population levels.**

Niche-creating species
Humans are members of a species that technologically creates a variety of niches by intensely social and cultural processes. Models of human populations need to be able to incorporate the reality of the creation of varied niches. Assuming a single human niche certainly hugely simplifies modelling, but the analytical accuracy cost in usefully analysing human social dynamics by doing so can become very high, very quickly. Similarly with attempting to model human population dynamics without being able to incorporate the varying trade-offs of human niches.

Thinking of humans as the niche-creating species, and as niches as involving various trade-offs, clarifies human social dynamics.

[An earlier version was posted on Medium.]

End Notes

*Education of women tends to lower fertility because it increases the opportunity cost of children to women and raises the education cost of children. This is especially so in circumstances, such as high returns to human capital, where investing in quality of children is a more successful inter-generational strategy than investing in quantity of children. The higher-returns-to-human-capital effect is also a specific instance of investing in more concentrated asset inheritance by offspring can favour single-spouse marriage over polygyny, if the number of offspring and/or spouses affects the level or persistence of asset concentration. The human capital effect, which was very intense for Brahmins (given the enormous levels of memorisation required to function as Brahmin), probably encouraged their tendency to single-spouse marriages. This investment in maximising household production through in-group marriage is likely the reason for the development of the jati (caste) system, as a way of both maximising household production and generating protective connections. A system whose longevity shows up very clearly in the genetic patterns of South Asia.

**See economist Robin Hanson’s ongoing discussion of contemporary society as a struggle between farmer and forager patterns and ethics.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Out-of Expansions

There have been four major out-of expansions by Homo sapiens.

Source: Jared Diamond, Peter Bellwood, Farmers and Their Languages: The First Expansions, Science, 2003, Vol. 300, Issue 5619, pp. 597–603.

Four great out-of population expansions have widely dispersed Homo sapien populations. The out-of-Africa expansion of foragers; the out-of-the-river-valley expansion of farmers; the out-of-the-steppe expansion of pastoralists; and the out-of-Europe expansion of settler empires and states.

Out of Africa: the expansion of Homo sapiens

Whether an exit from Africa around 100,000 years ago was successful or not is still debated. From around 60-50,000 years ago, there was a sustained exit from Africa. Homo sapiens spread to occupy all continents except Antarctica, absorbing and replacing all other Homo populations. These foragers spread at a rate of about 10km a year, at least in areas without existing Homo populations.(1)

Homo sapiens are more gracile than other Homo, so likely lower in reactive aggression and thus more cooperative. Though the delay in the exit(s) from Africa, and the long period of coterminous occupation of Eurasia (maybe 20,000 years), suggest only a marginal advantage over Neanderthals, although this may have changed over time. This spreading of Homo sapien foragers concluded with the settling of southern regions of South America around 14,600 years ago.

Out of the river valleys: the expansion of farmers

Starting around 11,000 years ago, farming populations expanded across arable land, absorbing and replacing foragers. The process is still going on in Africa, Amazonia and elsewhere. In Oceania, farmers occupied islands without previous human habitation, reaching New Zealand probably around the year 1320.

The transmission from foraging to farming was a lengthy one. While not generally more productive per hour of effort than foraging, farming was able to extract many times more calories from arable land, lowered the cost of child-rearing and created an increased protection problem, encouraging the development of more coercive capacity.(2) Hence the continuing expansion, and dispersal, of farming populations.(3) Farmers and farming generally spread across arable land at a rate of around 1km a year.(4) The development of farming also had significant adverse health consequences, with deteriorations in dental health, loss of height, increased infectious disease and more signs of metabolic stress.(5)

Farmers seem to have traded-off less food-search time (food search being more difficult for child-minding) for more food-processing time (easier for child-minding) and more immediate access to energy (calories) (so quicker weaning of children) for less long-term access to nutrients. 

The flesh of plants are much more likely to be toxic to humans than is the flesh of animals while plant calories and nutrients are often significantly less bio-available than are animal calories and nutrients. Hence the increased need for processing to use plant foods. Hence also the existence of an calorie/nutrient trade-off when shifting from a more animal-based diet (as foraging diets generally have been) to the plant-based diet of farming. (Much of modern food culture has been systematically trading-off taste and calories against nutrient quality.)

With the development of farming and pastoralism, there was a dramatic narrowing in male genetic lineages. The rate of elimination of male lineages varied by region. Overall, only about 1-in-17 male lineages survived this harrowing of male lineages. (Female lineages were almost entirely unaffected.)(6) This harrowing of male lineages was a result of the expansion among agro-pastoral peoples of the (social) technology of aggression against fellow humans.

The development of pastoralism intensified the pattern of elimination of male lineages.(7) The harrowing of male lineages largely came to an end with the development of chiefdoms and states. That is, when the technology of exploitation overtook the technology of aggression — conquered males became providers of tribute and taxes, so were worth protecting. 

The biggest single thing states do after extracting surplus (taxing) is pacify: they don't want their taxpayers killing each other.

Out of the steppes: the Indo-European pastoralist expansion

Pastoralist populations from the Pontic-Caspian steppe domesticated the horse (though the Botai people further east may have domesticated horses earlier) and, from about 5,000ya, and continuing until about 3,000ya, expanded into Europe, the Iranian plateau, the Tarim Basin and Northern India. During these surges of settlement, Indo-Iranians develop the horse-drawn chariot (c.4,000ya).

The steppe-descended pastoralist population eventually expanded across all of Europe, interbreeding with the Neolithic farmers. Though not in the Basque Country and Sardinia.(8)

The original steppe pastoralist population had, like various other pastoralist populations have, developed a mutation for lactase persistence. This enabled much higher metabolic return from post-infancy consumption of milk. Different pastoralist populations in Afro-Eurasia have developed different lactase persistence mutations.(9)

Dairying broadens access to nutrients and enables the extraction of around five times as much calories from grassland as could be done via ruminant meat consumption.(10) This biological advantage likely enabled millennia of expansion, resulting in Indo-European languages, and cultural patterns ultimately derived from steppe pastoralism, covering Europe, the Iranian plateau and Northern India.

After the Indo-Europeans settlement surges had petered out, Indo-Iranian peoples also pioneered horse archers and heavy lancers (c.2,700ya). Later pastoralist peoples continued to periodically ravage, or even conquer, agrarian peoples. Only the Arab and Turkic dispersals resulted in large-scale demographic expansion beyond pastoralist heartlands. In both cases, settlement following imperial conquest.

Out of Europe: the empires-and-settlers expansion

Beginning c.1500 and petering out c.1960, European populations expanded across Siberia, the Americas and the Antipodes.

The combination of competitive jurisdictions, single-spouse marriage, the abolition of kin groups (requiring the development of replacement mechanisms of social cooperation), as well as being able to entrench social and political bargains in law (as law was not based in revelation, unlike Sharia and Brahmin law) meant that Europe had far more variety of political institutions than elsewhere. This gave the selection processes of history far more to work with, resulting in Europe developing more effective states. Christian Europe’s swift adoption of the printing press after 1450 greatly aided the dissemination and development of information and technology while reducing administrative costs.

With gunpowder, the compass, and ocean-going sail technology, Europeans spread out from Europe in a largely maritime out-of expansion. The out-of-Europe expansion included waves of settlement. (The Russian conquest and settling of Siberia did not need the maritime step, though riverine expansion was important in parts of Siberia.)

Settlement generally followed, sometimes preceded, imperial expansion. Both the Russian and American nation-building-through-settlement were also imperial projects, although animated by rather different ideas and institutions.

The Europeans acquired a portmanteau biota of supporting plant and animal species. Where their portmanteau biota became dominant, Europeans became the dominant human population, creating neo-Europes. Where the biota failed to do so, they did not.(11)

Being Eurasian, so resistant to the Eurasian disease pool, gave Europeans a disease advantage in the Americas and the Antipodes. Having much more effective states was their advantage within Afro-Eurasia and allowed them to exploit their disease advantage far more completely and speedily outside it. Their advantage in state (and other cooperative) organisation eventually (albeit temporarily) expanded their control across regions where they were systematically disease-disadvantaged (including Sub-Saharan Africa).

The Homo sapien advantage is non-kin cooperation. Medieval European Christian civilisation put non-kin cooperation “on steroids” and so Europeans equipped with compass, gunpowder, ocean-going maritime technology and the printing press created the Eurosphere across four continents plus Siberia and ended up dominating the planet — until other peoples learnt their tricks.

In general

The expansions have been getting faster: taking at least 35,000 years; 11,000 years; 2,000 years; 500 years.

The, currently underway, fifth great out-of expansion — the out-of-the-countryside movement to the cities — is a series of concentrations, rather than a dispersal.

Each of the out-of dispersals has its specific characteristics, but each represents Homo sapiens behaving like Homo sapiens. Indeed, behaving like any biological population with access to new resources, including new abilities to access resources.

[An earlier version was posted on Medium.]

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  2. Samuel Bowles, ‘Cultivation of cereals by the first farmers was not more productive than foraging,’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 2011, 108 (12) 4760–4765.
  3. Jared Diamond, Peter Bellwood, ‘Farmers and Their Languages: The First Expansions,’ Science, 25 April 2003, Vol. 300, Issue 5619, pp. 597–603.
  4. Joaquin Fort, ‘Demic and cultural diffusion propagated the Neolithic transition across different regions of Europe,’ Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 2015, 12: 20150166.
  5. Katherine J. Latham, ‘Human Health and the Neolithic Revolution: an Overview of Impacts of the Agricultural Transition on Oral Health, Epidemiology, and the Human Body,’ Nebraska Anthropologist, 2013, 187.
  6. Tian Chen Zeng, Alan K. Aw & Marcus W. Feldman, ‘Cultural hitchhiking and competition between patrilineal kin groups explain the post-Neolithic Y-chromosome bottleneck,’ Nature Communications, 9 Article number: 2077 (2018), published 25 May 2018.
  7. Patricia Balaresque, Nicolas Poulet, Sylvain Cussat-Blanc, Patrice Gerard, Lluis Quintana-Murci, Evelyne Heyer & Mark A. Jobling, ‘Y-chromosome descent clusters and male differential reproductive success: Young lineage expansions dominate Asian pastoral nomadic populations,’ European Journal of Human Genetics, January 2015.
  8. Iosif Lazaridis, ‘The evolutionary history of human populations in Europe,’ arXiv 1805.01579, submitted on 4 May 2018.
  9. Hadi Charati, Min-Sheng Peng, Wei Chen, Xing-Yan Yang, Roghayeh Jabbari Ori, Mohsen Aghajanpour-Mir, Ali Esmailizadeh and Ya-Ping Zhang, ‘The evolutionary genetics of lactase persistence in seven ethnic groups across the Iranian plateau,’ Human Genomics, (2019) 13:7. Scholarly discussions of lactase persistence in Europe often pay remarkably little attention to the same specific lactase-persistence mutation occurring in Europe, Iran and Northern India, so must have spread by a pastoralist, not a farming, population.
  10. Latham, op cit. Morton O. Cooper and W. J. Spillman, ‘Human Food from an Acre of Staple Farm Products,’ Farmers’ Bulletin, №877, October 1917, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, The 10,000 year explosion: how civilization accelerated human evolution, Basic Books [2009] (2010) cite the Bulletin for their discussion in Chapter 6 of the Indo-European expansion, including the role of lactase persistence.
  11. Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900–1900, Cambridge University Press, [1986] (1993).