Saturday 9 August 2014

Modernity is a lethal disease - therefore the human species is under harsh selection for *resistance* to Modernity

That Modernity is a lethal disease can be seen from the grossly abnormal behaviour of the most thoroughly-modern people in the most modern societies - in particular that the reproductive success (average number of viable offspring person) of modern people in modern societies is substantially below replacement levels (this being the objective, biological measure of a disease - or a pathology).


So Modernity is perhaps the major selection pressure operating on mankind now and for the past several generations. What is being selected-for is heritable resistance to Modernity -  immunity-against modernity.


Some people seem to be naturally immune to having their fertility suppressed. They just do not respond to the societal signals and controls which encourage everybody else not to have children, to delay having children, and to have as few as possible. They just carry on having more than two kids, and 'society' makes sure that however many they have, they will be raised up to a sexually viable maturity.

IF the reasons that these people carry on having more-than-two children is heritable - THEN this is natural selection; because the proportion of Modernity-immune people will increase in each generation.


What sorts of thing that resist modernity are heritable?

Individual features such as low intelligence, or a short-termist and impulsive personality, and group features such as exhibited by some religions.

Some modernity-resisting religions are heritable - on average, offspring are retained above-replacement fertility is maintained - and group selection will tend to make the proportion of people in these religions expand with each generation.

And this is what we find.



Adam G. said...

Bruce C.,
that distills a great deal of insight into a memorable phrase.
Another way of putting it is that modernity is a harsh environment. Which I suppose is the point of the mouse utopia experiment.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam - The funny thing is that modernity is an extraordinarily harsh selective environment in the sense that it leads to 'voluntary' reproductive self-suppression - which usually happens only to animals under extreme stress.

In another sense, the child/ premature mortality rate is so low that the populations with the highest child mortality rates are in fact the fastest growing populations (in absolute numbers and as a proportion of the world population) - e.g Australian Aborigines, Sub-Saharan Africans, the poorest parts of the Middle East. And of course the world population has been adding a billion people every generation or less.

GFC said...

Dr. Charlton,

Excellent insight. It seems to me that at some point, the conditions of modernity have been intentionally exacerbated so as to deliberately breed reliable, moral, capable people out of the population forever leaving a forever dependent and helpless mass behind.

Bruce Charlton said...

@GFC - This comment I left at Dennis Mangan's blog amplifies the nature of current selection:

But also adding that I said 'religion'. And many, perhaps most, of these fertile religious people are not Christian (nor even self-identified Christians).

As things stand, only a very small proportion of self-described Christians in smaller denominations are above replacement fertility.

As things stand, the religious groups undergoing group selection for fertility are mostly not Christian.

That is the future - a world of:

1. A minority of mostly non-Christian devoutly religious groups (containing some reasonably intelligent and conscientious people) - plus

2. A majority of people who are too low in intelligence, too impulsive and reckless and lacking in long-termism to be able to control their own fertility.

So, in this kind of world, the fertile religious groups will form the minority elite.

If the fertile religious can cooperate sufficiently and be long-termist in planning, this will enable them to reduce their own mortality rates, while the mortality rates of the majority will be near 100%.

If the religious groups can be sufficiently communal/ altruistic (which attributes they are currently being selected for), they will be able to rule the rest.

ajb said...

There seems to be a natural desire to *have kids* among certain (many?) people, beyond the desire to have sexual intercourse.

My anecdotal evidence supports an at least partially genetic contribution - it seems these people's desire is intuitive, innate, and (nowadays) often works against the signals being sent by significant parts of the popular culture.

So, instead of having 0-1 kids, these people have 2-3 kids, say.

However, this seems distributed among the population, so it isn't a discrete group like 'the Amish' or even 'Mormons'. As such, in terms of the typical demographic blocks, it isn't obvious - it doesn't pop out.

Yet, if things keep going as they are, this group (assuming it is genetic) would keep growing as a proportion of the population, until they dominated and people started to primarily be selected for in terms of a desire to have kids instead of just to have sexual intercourse.

Of course, the other elements you note above may swamp this factor.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - I'm sure you are right about this - although I haven't seen any analysis.

The key is women, of course.

Personality affects child bearing and personality is substantially heritable, so those women who have resisted the effect of modernity and had three plus children will surely (on average) have transmitted this trait to their offspring for the past several generations.

The overall numbers suggest that there were not a very high proportion of such women - i.e. women intrinsically motivated to have three plus children by choice; but however small a proportion there were to begin with, it would be expected that there are now more of them than there used to be.