Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Yet more evidence that we are living in WD Hamilton's 'Planetary Hospital'

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I was talking with Michael A Woodley yesterday, and he told me of yet more research evidence in the pipeline to support our hypothesis that modern men are suffering from more than a century's worth of mutation accumulation.

This follows-up on our work of three years ago when we discovered that simple reaction times had slowed substantially since they were first measured in the late 1800s - and that this indicated that general intelligence must therefore also have declined substantially over that period.

http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=reaction+times

This decline could partly be accounted for by the inverse correlation between intelligence and fertility but this mechanism alone was insufficient to account for the magnitude of the reduction in intelligence.

We hypothesized that mutation accumulation might be the other main cause. This is almost certain to have been happening for about 150 years, as child mortality rates have declined from historical levels of a half or more to just a few percent. Hence the primary mechanism for purging the gene pool of spontaneously-occurring mutations - of which there are probably many in each generation - has been all-but eliminated.

Early indications were that this was indeed the case:

http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=mutation+accumulation

Michael has now unearthed confirmatory evidence of mutation accumulation using a completely different measure and in an independent population (paper prepared for submission, but still confidential).

It is becoming hard to avoid the conclusion that we have been, for several generations, living in what WD Hamilton (in Narrow Roads of Gene Land, Volume 2) called the Planetary Hospital - in other words, a world in which almost everyone is suffering from significant genetic damage, and an increasing proportion of the population are suffering from genetic disease.

This raises the possibility that some or much of the social pathology in The West, including the general mainstream attitudes to this social pathology, may be attributable - in part, at least - to the accumulation of endemic genetic damage.

Is this plausible? Against it is the greatly increased Western life expectancy; but in favour of it is the ever reducing fertility - which mostly reflects an ever reducing desire for people (especially women) to have children - with fertility rates well below replacement levels despite unprecedented prosperity. And biological fitness is about reproductive success, not life expectancy.

But superficially, aside from a possible increase in 'autistic spectrum' disorders, there is no obvious epidemic of innate genetic disease among the native Western population. However, there is evidence of behavioural maladaptiveness - behavioural change which would (under ancestral conditions) lead to reduced reproductive success.

The subtlest and most easily-damaged human traits are social and sexual behaviour; and here there are very obvious changes which would tend to be net maladaptive. These might include a reduction in average self-preservation, bravery and ability to deploy violence among men to the extent of a near-suicidal passivity in the face of danger and indifference to the prospect of genetic extinction.

And among women an indifference to having children, rearing children; and the embrace of fashions which signal (according to innate signalling mechanism) sexual promiscuity and the presence of disease (eg deliberate, usually asymmetrical skin lesioning by piercing and tattoos - which mimics pathology).

In terms of sexuality, as well as the widespread embrace of non-reproductive sex in many manifestations, what is perhaps even more striking is the bland social indifference to this.

Indeed, what is most distinctive of all is an inversion of mainstream attitudes concerning sexual pathologies (by 'sexual pathologies' are meant those sexual practices which biologically impair net reproductive success). For perhaps the first time in human history, we are approaching the situation in which non-reproductive sexual practices are becoming the officially-sanctioned 'norm'.

The fact that traditional religion is an effective antidote to these trends indicates that biology is not the whole story by any means - and the abandonment of religion must bear a great deal of responsibility.

However, the abandonment of Christianity in the West may, to some extent, have been driven or more likely facilitated by changes in disposition (in attitudes, motivation etc) that are themselves a consequence of (mostly) sub-clinical genetic pathologies (ie. mostly-subtle impairments to social and sexual behaviours) due to mutation accumulation.

So, the current scenario - unrestrained as it is by the compensatory wisdom of traditional religion - increasingly resembles Hamilton's Planetary Hospital with more-or-less sick people in a majority; to the point of generating an inverted ethic in which sickness is seen as not just normal but good: a world of sick people (in effect) trying to induce as many others as possible to share their sickness (presumably so the sick will not be relatively disadvantaged).

Of course, this situation cannot long persist; not least because the sick need healthy people to look after them. But in the meantime, we have an extraordinary situation of the (indirectly) suicidal policy of promoting sickness.

This is probably unique in world history, because never before have child mortality rates been so low for so long; and never before has mutation accumulation been able to become so advanced - due to the soft, comfortable, prosperous life bequeathed to us by our recent ancestors.

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Note added: According to WD Hamilton, when someone has a large accumulation of deleterious mutations, this will typically reduce the desire to reproduce. This impaired libido will presumably be partly from feeling ill and lacking energy; but also, and importantly, probably as a built-in, evolved, species-benefiting trait which is actually designed to reduce the mutation load in the relevant gene pool. In effect, the individual sacrifices his own reproduction for the benefit of his genetic relatives or group (indeed, this trait may be necessary for the evolution of complex brained species, such as humans, where mutations have exceptionally large scope for causing significant functional damage). This tendency to 'reproductive suicide' of the unfit would normally be a beneficial trait; however, when there is a heavy mutation load spread through the whole population, then this trait will lead to population reduction and eventual extinction; since too many individuals opt not to reproduce.

13 comments:

deconstructingleftism said...

What Woodley is saying may be true; but it seems to me society has changed faster than people can catch up, if they can catch up at all.

For people to have families, society needs to support this. People, or most people, need traditional religion and traditional family life to get married and have children. A man needs a family wage job, and the woman needs to be able to stay in the home with the children. Society now insists men and women actually compete against each other for wage employment, and it is very difficult for a young man to afford a household.

The average young man or woman cannot make a good match on their own. They need help, which was provided in open or subtle ways in the past, but is not now. And they need examples of stable family life from their elders. which they do not have.

Nathaniel said...

It adheres to common sense that mental variations would be the first indicator of mutation accumulation, and also explain why it is largely ignored - entirely unseen to most people.

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That said, my wife has an auto-immune disorder, and there are claims that these sorts of things are on the rise. The immune system actively destroying healthy tissue is rather odd and conforms to the idea of genetic mutations. I imagine historical data is quite lacking though, and most don't seem to get really bad until well after reproductive age.

David said...

So once the world was harsh and made for hardier folk, but it was Good (comparatively); and Good men and women strove to combat disease, infant mortality and technological limitations in agriculture and health care and the rest of it. It was a noble cause and required hard work, dedication and honestly to win the ground our forefathers won for us (and I haven't even mentioned the great wars as well). But it came at a profound cost. The cost of creating a 'soft, comfortable and prosperous life' for 'soft, comfortable and prosperous' albeit genetically damaged denizens of the Brave New World.

What I find remarkable and disturbing in turns is that the net effect of the Virtuous behaviour of our ancestors should have back-fired so spectacularly. I assume when the breakthroughs in medicine and industry were made they were celebrated as significant 'progress' and rarely or never conceptualised as sewing-the-seeds of future disaster. I wonder if these pioneer men and women were here today to see the world created by penicillin, vaccinations, automated industry and agriculture, near zero infant mortality, they would have chosen a different 'work' for their lives. Because it seems to me that there is an inescapable moral quandary here and the best choices were made that could have been made under the circumstances. All of the aforementioned things are surely good things despite the unexpected consequences and it would be brutal/inhuman to suggest we should have deliberately done without any of them when we knew we could create them in the service of humanity. But if we follow the chain of cause and effect of this 'planetary hospital' scenario are we not forced to conclude a case of diminished responsibility on behalf of the patients and/or the doctors? The patients condition was not chosen or self - imposed, rather it is a set of accidental conditions created by the 'good intentions' and humanitarian projects of our ancestors (surely implemented with fullest hope of the good for others to benefit). Can we blame a genetically damaged/low IQ denizen of the modern world for failing to even understand the sin in their political, moral and ethical world-views and the damaging behaviours that follow? (After all as you say the genetics of such things are so complex and thus fragile, prone to damage) If you ask many patients I suspect they would be unable to understand the various tautologies and non - sequiturs contained in their thinking and they won't possess the prerequisite intellect or vocabulary to participate in the discussion. So their behaviour is bad but the sins are a complete mystery to the patients so wherein lies the responsibility? Or Is the Sin more fully resting at the feet of more cognizant and capable progenitors of the basic set-up of the modern world, the pioneers, the geniuses, the 'well-intentioned' trailblazers and reformers on the path to an entirely unexpected modern hell and not the Utopia that was ideologically yearned for? I don't pretend to understand the full implications all of this (perhaps because I too am likely to be a genetic victim/mutant, and I used to be in several important respects just like all the other patients i.e. leftist, atheist, and I know their mistaken ideas intimately and how they are reinforced with brutal pressure by societal norms.) So whilst repentance is desirable of course and we are clearly getting almost everything wrong nowadays, I do feel very sorry for the patients and the doctors and that great merciful statement "forgive them father for they know not what they do" seems profoundly relevant to our modern times.

Nathaniel said...

Military service ineligibility might be interesting to look at. On the surface it corresponds to the idea. The Pentagon claims 75% of youth are ineligible for service, whereas historically I understand almost all young males of age were eligible. That is - most young men used to be eligible for something that was very physically difficult, whereas now most young men are ineligible for something that has become much easier.

"Mission: Readiness, will release a report that draws on Pentagon data showing that 75 percent of the nation's 17- to 24-year-olds are ineligible for service for a variety of reasons."

http://archive.armytimes.com/article/20091103/NEWS/911030311/Most-U-S-youths-unfit-serve-data-show

Bruce Charlton said...

@dl - True - and I also tend to think that spiritual malaise is primary - and I certainly believe (*know*) that a Christian Great Awakening is the only hope, the only way forward.

That said I am constantly surprised by the lack of what would seem like basic biological common sense/ realism. A lot is no doubt due to the mass media, but the unopposed dominance of the mass media is itself one of the phenomena that needs explaining.

Likely, it is some kind of 'perfect storm' of multiple factors coming together to produce gross yet bland maladaptiveness.

Bruce Charlton said...

@N - Autoimmune disorders are indeed a puzzle - most people have one or another (I have hay fever and a mild tendency to eczema and asthma; and some kind of systemic enthesopathy - tendon sheath inflammation).

Overall, I would myself make a good Poster Child for mutation accumulation!

I have previously speculated that some cases of endogenous depression may have an autoimmune origin - at least, the timescale and blood chemistry suggest that may be going-on.

The probable answer is that the immune system is, on the one hand, vital to humans - since infectious diseases are a major cause of disease and death; while, on the other hand, our immune system is incredibly complex, with vast potential to go wrong.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Nat - It may be significant, but the military only became aware of the problem of recruiting poor quality troops in the mid twentieth century - that they cost more trouble than they are worth (need to repeat training multiple times or fail it, cause accidents, cannot be trusted with weapons, require constant supervision etc). A modern army, in peace time, tends to be small and high quality. The modern infantry recruits, for example, have to be able to carry - and operate, an astonishing weight of equipment.

@David, From a Christian perspective, the amount of sin due to weakness of will, bad environment etc. does not matter to salvation so long as it is repented - the big problem nowadays is advocating sin; and this is mainly done by the ruling classes. The point to bear in mind (which is difficult!) is that this mortal earthly life is not the whole thing, but a kind of educational experience - a matter of trying and failing, repenting and trying again. The big worry is if people are not trying.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Nat - It may be significant, but the military only became aware of the problem of recruiting poor quality troops in the mid twentieth century - that they cost more trouble than they are worth (need to repeat training multiple times or fail it, cause accidents, cannot be trusted with weapons, require constant supervision etc). A modern army, in peace time, tends to be small and high quality. The modern infantry recruits, for example, have to be able to carry - and operate, an astonishing weight of equipment.

@David, From a Christian perspective, the amount of sin due to weakness of will, bad environment etc. does not matter to salvation so long as it is repented - the big problem nowadays is advocating sin; and this is mainly done by the ruling classes. The point to bear in mind (which is difficult!) is that this mortal earthly life is not the whole thing, but a kind of educational experience - a matter of trying and failing, repenting and trying again. The big worry is if people are not trying.

August said...

A mitigation strategy:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4033319/

The author suggests drugs, but what he describes can be done with diet and exercise, which he knows perfectly well- but he also knows funding is unlikely. As it is, he is probably not going to get funding through normal channels.

Laeeth said...

How do you distinguish between epigenetics, the loss of Grace, and mutations ?

If the mutation theory is true, then you should expect a pattern of differential maladaptiveness between areas that brought down child mortality at different rates.

Is Ireland better or worse than England, for example ?

Crosbie said...

Dr. Charlton,

Have you considered eyesight? It would seem eyesight defects would have been almost literally fatal for most of history - they are now widespread of course, and as I understand it, somewhat heritable.

Thordaddy said...

Dr. Charlton...

How come the individual human desire for self-annihilation does not falsify modern evolutionary theory?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Th - Well, in the first place evolutionary theory cannot be falsified; it is a metaphysical theory.

But what I am describing is actually a consequence of evolutionary thinking, which is why WD Hamilton was so aware of it.

Much of natural selection is concerned with the generation by generation task of weeding-out new spontaneous mutations, which would otherwise accumulate to produce a 'mutational meltdown' - the noise would overwhelm the signal.

This is a 'red queen' phenomenon - running to stay in the same place; a lot of selection is done just for organisms to stay the same.

What has happened to us, in modernity, is that this primary mechanism has been very much weakened.

Some of the mutations are lethal, and eliminate themselves - others are deleterious to varying degrees - but not enough to prevent reproduction - so the main problem would be an accumulation of multiple mildly harmful mutations, until whole population is affected, and the cumulative effect becomes severe.

In the wild this may lead to population shrinkage, and finally extinction.

The result of mutation accumulation is therefore NOT a kind of adaptation to modern conditions (adaptation increases 'fitness') but the opposite - a kind of pathology (pathology impairs fitness).