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Friday, 12 June 2015

Typically European Genetic Traits

Were Vikings morally universalist?


I must confess that, given the difficulty of establishing an evolutionary basis for even simple physical genetic traits separating the different races, like skin colour, it seems to me that an evolutionary basis for more complex psychological and moral characteristics like universalism is still more arduous to show.

In the attempt to shed a bit of light on this obscurity, I made a search on why Northern Europeans evolved differently from Eskimos ("Inuit" is the politically correct term in Canada but in Alaska it's the other way around and, anyway, "Eskimo" includes Inuit and other groups like Yupik and Iñupiat, so is more accurate in the context of this article).

I'll try to simplify here a theory which is more composite, but for our purposes can be reduced to this basic element. The hypothesis is that Whites developed individualism (as opposed to the collectivism of other races) and moral universalism (as opposed to the particularism of other races) because they inhabited a cold, harsh environment in North-West Europe, where these traits helped their survival and adaptation.

To test this theory I thought of a conceptual control group. Other populations lived near the Arctic and were subject to the same ecological conditions: the Eskimos for example. Did they develop the same traits? Hence my research.

So far I haven't found an affirmative answer to this question, and prima facie Eskimos don't appear very similar to Whites in cultural terms.

But I found plenty of information on another characteristic of Whites that Eskimos didn't develop and why, a physical one: light skin.

The following is the currently accepted explanation for this variance.

The habitat with little sunlight which ancestral Northern Europeans and Eskimos had in common is responsible for the pale skin of the former because the body needs sunlight to synthesise the necessary vitamin D, and a lighter skin helps in cloudy climates as it absorbs more sunlight.

This circumstance should have made Eskimos evolve a white skin too, but it didn't. The Eskimos' dark skin is thus explained with the fact that Inuit ate lots of fatty fish, a rich source of vitamin D, which made them less dependent on sunlight for this nutrient.

Northern Europeans also ate plenty of fatty fish:
As an example, Scottish, Welsh, Celtic, and Irish people have certain nutritional requirements which are just the opposite of the African Bantu. The ancestral diets of the Scots and Irish and related cultures have always been very high in fatty fish.
That, however, changed when an agricultural economy was brought into Europe from the Middle East, transforming the diet of Europeans in the direction of more grain and farm-animal meat and less fatty fish, with consequent reduction of vitamin D intake.

That could explain the difference between Whites and Eskimos with their darker skin.

But anthropologist Peter Frost doesn't believe in this theory, for various reasons, the main of which is that such an evolution would have required a much longer time frame than the period since human populations started inhabiting Europe:
If we pursue this line of reasoning, Europeans must have turned white almost at the dawn of history. We know that agriculture spread into southeastern Europe from the Middle East around 9,000 years ago. By 7500 BP [Before the Present] it had reached a line stretching from the Netherlands through Central Europe and to the Black Sea. Thus, the extreme skin depigmentation of northern Europeans would have occurred over the last seven millennia or so. Actually, the time frame is even narrower, since white-skinned Europeans appear in ancient Egyptian art from the second millennium B.C.

So we’re left with around 3,000 years, at most. Is this pace of phenotypic change consistent with selection due to weak sunlight? Not according to current opinion. Brace et al. (1999) studied how skin color varies among Amerindians, who have inhabited North and South America for 12,000-15,000 years, and among Aborigines, who have inhabited Australia for some 50,000 years. If latitudinal variation in skin color tracks natural selection due to the intensity of sunlight, calculations show that this kind of selection would have taken over 100,000 years to create the skin-color difference between black Africans and northern Chinese and ~ 200,000 years to create the one between black Africans and northern Europeans.
Frost thinks the reason Europeans developed white skin is the same for which they developed different eye and hair colours from the rest of human groups: sexual selection.

Sexual selection for hair and eye colour varieties is accepted by mainstream anthropology - albeit taking precaution to emphasise that it's not the case that blond hair, red hair, green eyes and blue eyes are more attractive per se, but just because they are rarer.

Sexual selection for skin colour is not accepted - hence the vitamin D/sunlight theory.

Put simply, it cannot be accepted that white skin is more attractive.

Frost concludes his article on the subject by saying that, if we were talking about any other animal species, sexual selection would be the accepted explanation for skin colour variation.

He may be right or not, and so could the other theories on the same topic or on universalism as a biologically evolved trait.

The moral is: evolutionary explanations tend to always be highly speculative and difficult, if not impossible, to test. As one of the greatest philosophers of science of our times, Sir Karl Popper, said, Darwin's theory is not scientific, but a "scientific metaphysics", due to its in-built impossibility to be refuted by empirical controls and evidence.


2 comments:

  1. the Cultural Marxists while claiming that humans are the product of Darwinian natural selection also claim that all tribes or nations are more or less the same at any location on GPS. Just for their utopia fantasy.When we can see all sort of visible differences among tribes of people. Yet PC belief demands that Mendels laws of genetics do not apply to human groups or we have to pretend they do not.
    DNA testing was used to verify the remains of Richard 111 via a female descendant of his sister michrondrial DNA only traceable via the female. For over two decades its been knowing that all living humans on earth are descended from a single female. The so called mitochondrial Eve. See wikpedia. Of course we are told there where other females around in the far off past but only this ones female had surviving descendants some seven billion now who populate the Earth .
    However maybe the person called Eve really was Eve the mother of all living. It even has a more logical explanation for the races, tribes and nations. Adam and Eve might have been real and apemen imaginary . They had the DNA matrix for all people which would be divided among the tribes at Babel. To be continued

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  2. What about the tendency to exogamy/endogamy amongst Inuit? I don't think MacDonald for example bases his theory on Northern European peoples' character trait of open-mindedness on natural selection alone but also on marital practices, especially after the Church's proscription of cousin-marriage.

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