Saturday, March 28, 2015

In the wrong place at the wrong time?

Dick Turpin was convicted of robbery but had also been guilty of a string of murders (Wikicommons)

In each generation from 1500 to 1750, between 1 and 2% of all English men were executed either by court order or extra-judicially (at the scene of the crime or while in prison). This was the height of a moral crusade by Church and State to punish the wicked so that the good may live in peace.

Meanwhile, the homicide rate fell ten-fold. Were the two trends related? In a recent paper, Henry Harpending and I argued that a little over half of the homicide decline could be explained by the high execution rate, and its steady removal of violent males from the gene pool. The rest could be partly explained by Clark-Unz selection—violent males lost out reproductively because they were increasingly marginalized in society and on the marriage market. Finally, this decline was also due to a strengthening of controls on male violence: judicial punishment (policing, penitentiaries); quasi-judicial punishment (in schools, at church, and in workplaces); and stigmatization of personal violence in popular culture.

These controls drove the decline in the homicide rate, but they also tended over time to hardwire the new behavior pattern, by hindering the ability of violent males to survive and reproduce. The last half-century has seen a dramatic relaxation of these controls but only a modest rise in the homicide rate among young men of native English origin.

The above argument has been criticized on two grounds:

1. Executed offenders were not the worst of the worst. They were often people caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

2. Executed offenders may have had children who survived to adulthood.

This week's column will address the first criticism. Did execution remove the most violent men? Or did it randomly remove individuals from, say, the most violent third?

Many genetic factors influence our propensity for personal violence: impulse control; violence ideation; pleasure from inflicting pain; etc. Regardless of how strong or weak these factors may be, the propensity itself should be normally distributed within the male population—it should follow a bell curve. If we move right or left from the population mean, the number of men should initially decline very little, with the result that over two-thirds of the men can be found within one standard deviation of the mean.

We really have to go one standard deviation to the right before the men begin to seem abnormally violent, but the remaining right-hand “tail” leaves us only 16% of the male population. What if we’re looking for a man who’s at least twice as violent as the normal two-thirds? He’s in the far right 1%. In a single gene pool, violent men stand out not just because they are noticeably abnormal but also because they are much less common.

Identifying the most violent men. But how?

Were these men the ones that the English justice system executed between 1500 and 1750? Murder is violence taken to its logical extreme, yet most murder cases went unsolved in early modern England. The crime was difficult to prove for want of witnesses, either because none wished to come forward or because they had likewise been murdered. There were no police, no forensic laboratories, and much less of the investigative infrastructure that we have today. If you committed a one-time murder, your chances of not getting caught were good.

The criminal justice system in the eighteenth century [...] therefore operated on a rationale very different from that of a modern state, with its professional police forces, social services and a fully bureaucratised law-enforcement system. In the early eighteenth century at least, the enforcement of law and order depended largely on unpaid amateur officials, the justices of the peace and the parish constables and other local officers. (Sharpe, 2010, p. 92)

This is not to say that the justice system gave murder a lower priority. Rather, with the limited resources available, judges and juries engaged in "profiling." They scrutinized not only the offence but also the accused—his character and demeanor, his behavior during the crime and in the courtroom, and his previous offences. Juries could be lenient in cases of first-time offences for theft, but this leniency disappeared if the accused had a criminal history.

The justice system thus looked for signs that the accused had already committed worse crimes or would go on to do so. Ironically, our current system is the one that tends to catch people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, i.e., inexperienced one-time murderers.

Hanged for robbery but guilty of murder

This may be seen in a book, published in London in 1735, that told the life stories of 198 executed criminals. Of the 198, only 34 (17%) had been sentenced to death for murder. A much larger number, 111 (56%), were charged with robbery, being described as highwaymen, footpads, robbers, and street robbers. Finally, another 37 (19%) were executed simply for theft (Hayward, 2012; see note). Robbery was punished more severely than simple theft because it threatened both life and property, especially if the victim failed to cooperate sufficiently or seemed to recognize the robber.

Robbery is the taking away violently and feloniously the goods or money from the person of a man, putting him in fear [...]. Yea, where there is a gang of several persons, only one of which robs, they are all guilty as to the circumstance of putting in fear, wherever a person attacks another with circumstances of terror [...] And in respect of punishment, though judgment of death cannot be given in any larceny whatsoever, unless the goods taken exceed twelve pence in value, yet in robbery such judgment is given, let the value of the goods be ever so small. (Hayward, 2013, p. 27)

Sooner or later, a robber ended up killing. We see this in the life story of Dick Turpin, who was hanged for cattle theft, even though he had committed worse crimes:

The process of reconstruction may not tell us much about Turpin's personality, but it does give us the opportunity to put together a remarkable criminal biography, a tale of violent robberies, of murder, and, eventually, of the horse-thefts that led to his execution. (Sharpe, 2010, p. 8)

Allegations of murder came up in trials of robbers, but typically remained unproven because no witnesses could be produced. Nonetheless, the accused would sometimes confess to murder, either to clear his conscience or, in the wake of a death sentence, because he had nothing left to lose, like this man convicted for highway robbery: "This Reading had been concerned in abundance of robberies, and, as he himself owned, in some which were attended with murder" (Hayward, 2013, p. 91). A member of another gang, when caught, confessed to a long string of murders:

[...] he, without any equivocation, began to confess all the crimes of his life. He said that it was true they all of them deserved death, and he was content to suffer; he said, moreover, that in the course of his life he had murdered upwards of three-score with his own hands. He also carried the officers to an island in the river, which was the usual place of the execution of those innocents who fell into the hands of their gang [...] (Hayward,2013, p. 1014)

In most cases, however, the accused would deny involvement in murders even after being condemned to death:

There has been great suspicions that he murdered the old husband to this woman, who was found dead in a barn or outhouse not far from Hornsey; but Wigley, though he confessed an unlawful correspondence with the woman, yet constantly averred his innocency of that fact, and always asserted that though the old man's death was sudden, yet it was natural. (Hayward, 2013, pp. 92-93)

At the place of execution he behaved with great composure and said that as he had heard he was accused in the world of having robbed and murdered a woman in Hyde Park, he judged it proper to discharge his conscience by declaring that he knew nothing of the murder, but said nothing as to the robbery. (Hayward, 2013, p.96)

In the wrong place at the wrong time?

If we look at executed criminals, their profile is not that of unfortunates caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most were young men who had done their work in the company of likeminded young men. Those who operated alone were atypical, like this highwayman:

Though this malefactor had committed a multitude of robberies, yet he generally chose to go on such expeditions alone, having always great aversion for those confederacies in villainy which we call gangs, in which he always affirmed there was little safety, notwithstanding any oaths, by which they might bind themselves to secrecy. (Hayward, 2013, p. 93)

For most, long-term safety was a secondary concern. Their behavioral profile—fast life history, disregard for the future, desire to be with other young men and impress them with acts of bravado and violence—stood in contrast to the ascendant culture of early modern England. One example is this robber:

[...] when he returned to liberty he returned to his old practices. His companions were several young men of the same stamp with himself, who placed all their delight in the sensual and brutal pleasures of drinking, gaming, whoring and idling about, without betaking themselves to any business. Natt, who was a young fellow naturally sprightly and of good parts, from thence became very acceptable to these sort of people, and committed abundance of robberies in a very small space of time. The natural fire of his temper made him behave with great boldness on such occasions, and gave him no small reputation amongst the gang. [...] He particularly affected the company of Richard James, and with him robbed very much on the Oxford Road, whereon it was common for both these persons not only to take away the money from passengers, but also to treat them with great inhumanity [...] (Hayward, 2013, pp. 108-109)

This sort of description comes up repeatedly. Most condemned men struck observers as very atypical, and not merely among the worst third of society. In 1741, an observer described a hanging and the interactions between the condemned men and a crowd composed largely of their friends:

The criminals were five in number. I was much disappointed at the unconcern and carelessness that appeared in the faces of three of the unhappy wretches; the countenance of the other two were spread with that horror and despair which is not to be wondered at in men whose period of life is so near [...]

[...] the three thoughtless young men, who at first seemed not enough concerned, grew most shamefully wanton and daring, behaving themselves in a manner that would have been ridiculous in men in any circumstances whatever. They swore, laughed, and talked obscenely, and wished their wicked companions good luck with as much assurance as if their employment had been the most lawful.

At the place of execution the scene grew still more shocking, and the clergyman who attended was more the subject of ridicule than of their serious attention. The Psalm was sung amidst the curses and quarrelling of hundreds of the most abandoned and profligate of mankind, upon them (so stupid are they to any sense of decency) all the preparation of the unhappy wretches seems to serve only for subject of a barbarous kind of mirth, altogether inconsistent with humanity. And as soon as the poor creatures were half dead, I was much surprised to see the populace fall to hauling and pulling the carcasses with so much earnestness as to occasion several warm rencounters and broken heads. These, I was told, were the friends of the persons executed, or such as, for the sake of tumult, chose to appear so; as well as some persons sent by private surgeons to obtain bodies for dissection. The contests between these were fierce and bloody, and frightful to look at [...] The face of every one spoke a kind of mirth, as if the spectacle they beheld had afforded pleasure instead of pain, which I am wholly unable to account for. (Hayward, 2013, pp. 8-10)

The situation in early modern England was akin to a low-grade war, and it was not for nothing that its justice system seems to us so barbaric. The judges and juries were dealing with barbarians: gangs of young men who led a predatory lifestyle that made life miserable for people who ventured beyond the safety of their own homes.


We are still left with the original question: Were these criminals the most violent 1 to 2% or a random sample of a much larger proportion? In general, they behaved quite unlike most people, especially if they belonged to gangs, which seem to have been responsible for most homicides. It is hard to see how such people could correspond even to the most violent 16%—a range of individuals that begins one standard deviation to the right of the mean, at which point behavior just begins to seem "abnormal."

In all likelihood, execution removed individuals who were more than one standard deviation to the right of the mean, with a strong skew toward people more than two standard deviations to the right—in other words, something less than the most violent 16% with a strong skew toward the most violent 1%.

These assumptions differ from those of our model, which assumes that execution removed the most violent 1 to 2%. On the other hand, our model also assumes that each executed criminal would, in the absence of execution, have killed only one person over a normal lifetime. Clearly, many people among the executed were already serial murderers, not so much among the convicted murderers as among the convicted robbers. It is difficult to say whether the two sources of error would balance each other out, since we need more information on (1) just how abnormal the executed were in terms of behavior and (2) how many people they would have otherwise killed over a normal lifetime.

Executed criminals were probably a heterogeneous group. A quarter of them (mostly the thieves) would have likely killed 0 to 1 people on average if allowed to live out their lives. Another quarter may have averaged 1 to 2 murders. Finally, the remaining half may have had an ever higher score. Within this last group, we can be sure that a hard core of individuals would have each gone on to kill dozens of people, if they had not already done so.


The other executed criminals were identified as 8 housebreakers, 7 forgers, 4 pirates, 2 incendiaries, 1 threatening letter writer, 1 ravisher, 1 thief-taker, and 1 releaser of prisoners. Wherever a single individual was charged with more than one crime, I classified him or her under the most serious offence, i.e., murder took precedence over robbery, and robbery took precedence over theft.

Of the 198 executed criminals, 10 were women. The book actually tells the life stories of 201 criminals, but three of them were not executed. I excluded the life stories in the appendix (7 murderers and 4 thieves) because they came from a much earlier time period and may have been less representative.


Frost, P. and H. Harpending. (2015). Western Europe, state formation, and genetic pacification, Evolutionary Psychology, 13, 230-243.   

Hayward, A.L. (2013[1735]). Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals - who Have Been Condemned and Executed for Murder, the Highway, Housebreaking, Street Robberies, Coining Or Other Offences, Routledge.

Sharpe, J. (2010). Dick Turpin: The Myth of the English Highwayman, Profile Books. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Coming home

Photo by Shawn

Dear readers,

I have returned to my old website, after being expelled from The Unz Review. The immediate cause was my decision to close commenting on my last column. A catfight was developing between myself and Ron Unz in the comments, and I wanted to give the two of us time to cool off. I also needed time to write my next column, which would have replied in detail to two of his criticisms. Ron felt I was violating his freedom of speech and promptly blocked access to my author's account.

This may be all for the best. In the heat of anger, people say certain things they had previously kept quiet about. Ron was still resentful over my criticisms of his article "Race, IQ, and Wealth," which he had published some three years ago (Unz, 2012; Frost, 2012a, 2012b, 2012c). I thought his thinking had evolved since then, particularly with the latest findings by Piffer (2013, see also Frost, 2014). Apparently not. 

It's important not to lose sight of the big picture. The Unz Review is still doing good work by assisting writers like Steve Sailer and Razib Khan, and others may join them in the future. But it is very unlikely that I will return there.


I don't wish to be drawn into a tedious argument over "I say, he says." For what it's worth, I did not delete any comments that Ron made in reply to my criticisms of his 2012 article. He may be thinking of an email exchange between the two of us, which was partly reproduced in Frost (2012b). In the time I've known him, I've only deleted one of his comments, and that was the one he left after I had closed commenting on my last column.


Frost, P. (2012a). Ron Unz on Race, IQ, and Wealth, Evo and Proud, July 21, 

Frost, P. (2012b). More on Race, IQ, and Wealth, Evo and Proud, July 28 

Frost, P. (2012c). He who pays the piper, Evo and Proud, August 18 

Frost, P. (2014). Population differences in intellectual capacity: a new polygenic analysis, Evo and Proud, March 8 

Piffer, D. (2013). Factor analysis of population allele frequencies as a simple, novel method of detecting signals of recent polygenic selection: The example of educational attainment and IQ, Interdisciplinary Bio Central, provisional manuscript 

Unz, R. (2012). Race, IQ, and Wealth, The American Conservative, July 18.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Moving on ...

Dear readers,

I've decided to complete my move to The Unz Review (, so there will be no further blogging at this site. I'm doing this partly to reduce my workload of supervising two websites and partly to gain more control over my posts at TUR (commenting, correction of errors in the post, etc.). Thanks to Ron, my exposure on the Internet has greatly increased and my audience now includes a silent readership of mainstream journalists and, perhaps, newspaper editors.

Early last year, I had thoughts of closing up shop. I had the feeling of making the same points over and over again. I still have that feeling, but it no longer troubles me so much. For one thing, the same point can have many different applications in real life. For another, a lot of people have short memories, and it doesn't hurt to repeat a point I may have made two or three years ago.

Thank you for your loyalty! This isn't the end; it's just a move onward and upward.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

French lesson

A burning car during the 2005 riots. (Wikicommons: Strologoff)


The gruesome attack on Charlie Hebdo has earned condemnation around the world. It has been called "cowardly" and "evil" by Barack Obama, "a barbaric act" by Stephen Harper, and an "infamy" by François Hollande.

Yes, violence is serious. It's a crime when done by an individual and war when done by a country. It's a grave breach of the rules that govern our society. Whatever differences we may have, they are to be settled peacefully, through the courts if need be. Violence is just not to be done.

Except it increasingly is. The attack on Charlie Hebdo is not an isolated incident. It's part of a worsening trend of violence by people described as jeunes [youths] or simply not described at all. That was not the case in the recent attack; the victims were too well known. But it is generally the case, and this conspiracy of silence has become something of a social norm, particularly in the media.

Yet statistics do exist, notably those compiled by the Gendarmerie. According to French criminologist Xavier Raufer:

The criminality we are talking about is the kind that is making life unbearable for the population: burglaries, thefts of all sorts, assaults, violent thefts without firearms, etc. In these specific cases, 7 out of 10 of these crimes are committed by people who in one way or another have an immigrant background, either directly (first generation on French territory, with or without a residence permit) or indirectly (second generation). (Chevrier and Raufer, 2014)

The word "immigrant" is misleading. Many if not most are French-born, and they tend to come much more from some immigrant groups than from others. In general, they are young men of North African or sub-Saharan African background, plus smaller numbers of Roma and Albanians. 

This criminality, when not being denied, is usually put down to social marginalization and lack of integration. Yet the reverse is closer to the truth. The typical French person is an individual in a sea of individuals, whereas immigrant communities enjoy strong social networks and a keen sense of solidarity. This is one of the reasons given why the targets of the crime wave are so often Français de souche [old-stock French]. "Whites don't stick up for each other."

Personal violence in human societies

In France, as in other Western countries, personal violence is criminalized and even pathologized. The young violent male is said to be "sick." Or "deprived." He has not had a chance to get a good job and lead a nice quiet life.

Yet this is not how young violent males perceive themselves or, for that matter, how most human societies have perceived them down through the ages. Indeed, early societies accepted the legitimacy of personal violence. Each adult male had the right to defend himself and his kin with whatever violence he deemed necessary. The term "self-defence" is used loosely here—a man could react violently to a lack of respect or to slurs on his honor or the honor of his ancestors. There were courts to arbitrate this sort of dispute but they typically had no power, enforcement of court rulings being left to the aggrieved party and his male kin. In general, violence was a socially approved way to prove one’s manhood, attract potential mates, and gain respect from other men.

Things changed as human societies developed. The State grew in power and increasingly monopolized the legitimate use of violence, thus knocking down the violent young male from hero to zero. This course of action was zealously pursued in Northwest Europe from the 11th century onward (Carbasse, 2011, pp. 36-56). There were two reasons. First, the end of the Dark Ages brought a strengthening of State power, a resumption of trade and, hence, a growing need and ability by the authorities to pacify social relations. Second, the main obstacle to criminalization of personal violence—kin-based morality and the desire to avenge wrongs committed against kin—seems to have been weaker in Northwest Europe than elsewhere. There was correspondingly a greater susceptibility to more universal and less kin-based forms of morality, such as the Christian ban on murder in almost all circumstances. 

Murder was increasingly punished not only by the ultimate penalty but also by exemplary forms of execution, e.g., burning at the stake, drawing and quartering, and breaking on the wheel (Carbasse, 2011, pp. 52-53). This "war on murder" reached a peak from the 16th to 18th centuries when, out of every two hundred men, one or two would end up being executed (Taccoen, 1982, p. 52). A comparable number of murderers would die either at the scene of the crime or in prison while awaiting trial (Ireland, 1987).

Gene-culture co-evolution?

The cultural norm thus shifted toward nonviolence. There was now strong selection against people who could not or would not lead peaceful lives, their removal from society being abrupt, via the hangman's noose, or more gradual, through ostracism by one's peers and rejection on the marriage market. As a result, the homicide rate fell from between 20 and 40 homicides per 100,000 in the late Middle Ages to between 0.5 and 1 per 100,000 in the mid-20th century (Eisner, 2001, pp. 628-629).

Was this decline due solely to legal and cultural restraints on personal violence? Or were there also changes to the gene pool? Was there a process of gene-culture co-evolution whereby Church and State created a culture of nonviolence, which in turn favored some genotypes over others? We know that aggressive/antisocial behavior is moderately to highly heritable. In the latest twin study, heritability was 40% when the twins had different evaluators and 69% when they had the same one (Barker et al., 2009). The actual neural basis is still unsure. Perhaps a predisposition to violence is due to stronger impulsiveness and weaker internal controls on behavior (Niv et al., 2012). Perhaps the threshold for expression of violence is lower. Perhaps ideation comes easier (van der Dennen, 2006). Or perhaps the sight and smell of blood is more pleasurable (vanden Bergh and Kelly, 1964).

It was probably a mix of cultural and genetic factors that caused the homicide rate to decline in Western societies. Even if culture alone were responsible, we would still be facing the same problem. Different societies view male violence differently:

In Algerian society for example, children are raised according to their sex. A boy usually receives an authoritarian and severe type of upbringing that will prepare him to become aware of the responsibilities that await him in adulthood, notably responsibility for his family and for the elderly. This is why a mother will allow her son to fight in the street and will scarcely be alarmed if the boy has a fall or if she sees a bruise. The boy of an Algerian family is accustomed from an early age to being hit hard without whimpering too much. People orient him more toward combat sports and group games in order to arm him with courage and endurance—virtues deemed to be manly. (Assous, 2005)

In Algeria and similar societies, a shaky equilibrium contains the worst excesses of male violence. Men think twice before acting violently, for fear of retaliation from the victim's brothers and other kinsmen. Of course, this "balance of terror" does not deter violence against those who have few kinsmen to count on.

Problems really begin, however, when a culture that legitimizes male violence coexists with one that delegitimizes it. This is France’s situation. Les jeunes perceive violence as a legitimate way to advance personal interests, and they eagerly pursue this goal with other young men. Conversely, les Français de souche perceive such violence as illegitimate and will not organize collectively for self-defence. The outcome is predictable. The first group will focus their attacks on members of the second group—not out of hate but because the latter are soft targets who cannot fight back or get support from others. 

But what about the obviously Islamist motives of the Charlie Hebdo attackers? Such motives can certainly channel violent tendencies, but those tendencies would exist regardless. Even if we completely eradicated radical Islam, les jeunes would still be present and still engaging in the same kind of behavior that is becoming almost routine. At best, there would be fewer high-profile attacks—the kind that make the police pull out all stops to find and kill the perps. It is this "high end" that attracts the extremists, since they are the least deterred by the risks incurred. The “low end” tends to attract devotees of American hip hop. Keep in mind that less than two-thirds of France's Afro/Arab/Roma population is even nominally Muslim.


Modern France is founded on Western principles of equality, human betterment, and universal morality. Anyone anywhere can become French. That view, the official one, seems more and more disconnected from reality. Many people living in France have no wish to become French in any meaningful sense. By "French" I don't mean having a passport, paying taxes, or agreeing to a set of abstract propositions. I mean behaving in certain concrete ways and sharing a common culture and history.

This reality is sinking in, and with it a loss of faith in the official view of France. Faith can be restored, on the condition that outrageous incidents stop happening. But they will continue to happen. And they will matter a lot more than the much more numerous incidents tout court—the rising tide of thefts, assaults, and home invasions that are spreading deeper and deeper into areas that were safe a few years ago. The attack on Charlie Hebdo matters more because it cannot be hidden from public view and public acknowledgment. How does one explain the disappearance of an entire newspaper and the mass execution of its editorial board? 

The Front national will be the beneficiary, of course. It may already have one third of the electorate, but that's still not enough to take power, especially with all of the other parties from the right to the left combining to keep the FN out. Meanwhile, the Great Replacement proceeds apace, regardless of whether the government is "left-wing" or "right-wing."


Assous, A. (2005). L'impact de l'éducation parentale sur le développement de l'enfant, Hawwa, 3(3), 354-369. 

Barker, E.D., H. Larsson, E. Viding, B. Maughan, F. Rijsdijk, N. Fontaine, and R. Plomin. (2009). Common genetic but specific environmental influences for aggressive and deceitful behaviors in preadolescent males, Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 31, 299-308.  

Chevrier, G. and X. Raufer. (2014). Aucun lien entre immigration et délinquance ? Une France peu généreuse avec ses immigrés ? Radiographie de quelques clichés "bien pensants" à la peau dure, Atlantico, November 26  

Eisner, M. (2001). Modernization, self-control and lethal violence. The long-term dynamics of European homicide rates in theoretical perspective, British Journal of Criminology, 41, 618-638.

Ireland, R.W. (1987). Theory and practice within the medieval English prison, The American Journal of Legal History, 31, 56-67. 

Niv, S., C. Tuvblad, A. Raine, P. Wang, and L.A. Baker. (2012). Heritability and longitudinal stability of impulsivity in adolescence, Behavior Genetics, 42, 378-392.

Taccoen, L. (1982). L'Occident est nu, Paris: Flammarion. 

Vanden Bergh, R.L., and J.F. Kelly. (1964). Vampirism. A review with new observations. Archives of General Psychiatry, 11, 543-547.  

Van der Dennen, J.M.G. (2006). Review essay: The murderer next door: Why the mind is designed to kill, Homicide Studies, 10, 320-335.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Sometimes the consensus is phony

Migrants arriving on the island of Lampedusa (Wikicommons). The NATO-led invasion of Libya has opened a huge breach in Europe's defences.


A synthesis has been forming in the field of human biodiversity. It may be summarized as follows: 

1. Human evolution did not end in the Pleistocene or even slow down. In fact, it speeded up with the advent of agriculture 10,000 years ago, when the pace of genetic change rose over a hundred-fold. Humans were no longer adapting to relatively static natural environments but rather to faster-changing cultural environments of their own making. Our ancestors thus directed their own evolution. They created new ways of life, which in turn influenced who would survive and who wouldn't.

2. When life or death depends on your ability to follow a certain way of life, you are necessarily being selected for certain heritable characteristics. Some of these are dietary—an ability to digest milk or certain foods. Others, however, are mental and behavioral, things like aptitudes, personality type, and behavioral predispositions. This is because a way of life involves thinking and behaving in specific ways. Keep in mind, too, that most mental and behavioral traits have moderate to high heritability.

3. This gene-culture co-evolution began when humans had already spread over the whole world, from the equator to the arctic. So it followed trajectories that differed from one geographic population to another. Even when these populations had to adapt to similar ways of life, they may have done so differently, thus opening up (or closing off) different possibilities for further gene-culture co-evolution. Therefore, on theoretical grounds alone, human populations should differ in the genetic adaptations they have acquired. The differences should generally be small and statistical, being noticeable only when one compares large numbers of individuals. Nonetheless, even small differences, when added up over many individuals and many generations, can greatly influence the way a society grows and develops.

4. Humans have thus altered their environment via culture, and this man-made environment has altered humans via natural selection. This is probably the farthest we can go in formulating a unified theory of human biodiversity. For Gregory Clark, the key factor was the rise of settled, pacified societies, where people could get ahead through work and trade, rather than through violence and plunder. For Henry Harpending and Greg Cochrane, it was the advent of agriculture and, later, civilization. For J. Philippe Rushton and Ed Miller, it was the entry of humans into cold northern environments, which increased selection for more parental investment, slower life history, and higher cognitive performance. Each of these authors has identified part of the big picture, but the picture itself is too big to reduce to a single factor.

5. Antiracist scholars have argued against the significance of human biodiversity, but their arguments typically reflect a lack of evolutionary thinking. Yes, human populations are open to gene flow and are thus not sharply defined (if they were, they would be species). It doesn't follow, however, that the only legitimate objects of study are sharply defined ones. Few things in this world would pass that test.

Yes, genes vary much more within human populations than between them, but these two kinds of genetic variation are not comparable. A population boundary typically coincides with a geographic or ecological barrier, such as a change from one vegetation zone to another or, in humans, a change from one way of life to another. It thus separates not only different populations but also differing pressures of natural selection. This is why genetic variation within a population differs qualitatively from genetic variation between populations. The first kind cannot be ironed out by similar selection pressures and thus tends to involve genes of little or no selective value. The second kind occurs across population boundaries, which tend to separate different ecosystems, different vegetation zones, different ways of life ... and different selection pressures. So the genes matter a lot more.

This isn't just theory. We see the same genetic overlap between many sibling species that are nonetheless distinct anatomically and behaviorally. Because such species have arisen over a relatively short span of time, like human populations, they have been made different primarily by natural selection, so the genetic differences between them are more likely to have adaptive, functional consequences ... as opposed to "junk variability" that slowly accumulates over time.

Why is the above so controversial?

The above synthesis should not be controversial. Yet it is. In fact, it scarcely resembles acceptable thinking within academia and even less so within society at large. There are two main reasons.

The war on racism 

In the debate over nature versus nurture, the weight of opinion shifted toward the latter during the 20th century. This shift began during the mid-1910s and was initially a reaction against the extreme claims being made for genetic determinism. In reading the literature of the time, one is struck by the restraint of early proponents of environmental determinism, especially when they argue against race differences in mental makeup. An example appears in The Clash of Colour (1925), whose author condemned America's Jim Crow laws and the hypocrisy of proclaiming the rights of Europeans to self-determination while ignoring those of Africans and Asians. Nonetheless, like the young Franz Boas, he was reluctant to deny the existence of mental differences:

I would submit the principle that, although differences of racial mental qualities are relatively small, so small as to be indistinguishable with certainty in individuals, they are yet of great importance for the life of nations, because they exert throughout many generations a constant bias upon the development of their culture and their institutions. (Mathews, 1925, p. 151)

That was enlightened thinking in the 1920s. The early 1930s brought a radical turn with Hitler's arrival to power and a growing sense of urgency that led many Jewish and non-Jewish scholars to declare war on "racism." The word itself was initially a synonym for Nazism, and even today Nazi Germany still holds a central place in antiracist discourse.

Why didn't the war on racism end when the Second World War ended? For one thing, many people, feared a third global conflict in which anti-Semitism would play a dominant role. For another, antiracism took on a life of its own during the Cold War, when the two superpowers were vying for influence over the emerging countries of Asia and Africa.


The end of the Cold War might have brought an end to the war on racism, or at least a winding down, had it not replaced socialism with an even more radical project: globalism. This is the hallmark of "late capitalism," a stage of historical development when the elites no longer feel restrained by national identity and are thus freer to enrich themselves at their host society's expense, mainly by outsourcing jobs to low-wage countries and by insourcing low-wage labor for jobs that cannot be relocated, such as those in construction and services. That's globalism in a nutshell.

This two-way movement redistributes wealth from owners of labor to owners of capital. Businesses get not only a cheaper workforce but also weaker labor and environmental standards. To stay competitive, workers in high-wage countries have to accept lower pay and a return to working conditions of another age. The top 10% are thus pulling farther and farther ahead of everyone else throughout the developed world. They're getting richer ... not by making a better product but by making the same product with cheaper and less troublesome inputs of labor. This is not a win-win situation, and the potential for revolutionary unrest is high.

To stave off unrest, economic systems require legitimacy, and legitimacy is made possible by ideology: a vision of a better future; how we can get there from here; and why we're not getting there despite the best efforts. Economic systems don't create ideology, but they do create conditions that favor some ideologies over others. With the collapse of the old left in the late 1980s, and the rise of market globalization, antiracism found a new purpose ... as a source of legitimacy for the globalist project.

I saw this up close in an antiracist organization during the mid to late 1980s. Truth be told, we mostly did things like marching in the May Day parade, agitating for a higher minimum wage, denouncing the U.S. intervention in Panama, organizing talks about Salvador Allende and what went wrong in Chile ... you get the drift. Antiracism was subservient to the political left. This was not a natural state of affairs, since the antiracist movement—like the Left in general—is a coalition of ethnic/religious factions that prefer to pursue their own narrow interests. This weakness was known to the political right, many of whom tried to exploit it by supporting Muslim fundamentalists in Afghanistan and elsewhere and black nationalists in Africa, Haiti, and the U.S. Yes, politics makes strange bedfellows.

With the onset of the 1990s, no one seemed to believe in socialism anymore and we wanted to tap into corporate sources of funding. So we reoriented. Leftist rhetoric was out and slick marketing in. Our educational materials looked glossier but now featured crude "Archie Bunker" caricatures of working people, and the language seemed increasingly anti-white. I remember feeling upset, even angry. So I left.

Looking back, I realize things had to happen that way. With the disintegration of the old socialist left, antiracists were freer to follow their natural inclinations, first by replacing class politics with identity politics, and second by making common cause with the political right, especially for the project of creating a globalized economy. Antiracism became a means to a new end.

This is the context that now frames the war on racism. For people in a position to influence public policy, antiracism is not only a moral imperative but also an economic one. It makes the difference between a sluggish return on investment of only 2 to 3% (which is typical in a mature economy) and a much higher one.

What to do?

Normally, I would advise caution. People need time to change their minds, especially on a topic as emotional as this one. When tempers flare, it's usually better to let the matter drop and return later. That's not cowardice; it's just a recognition of human limitations. Also, the other side may prove to be right. So, in a normal world, debate should run its course, and the policy implications discussed only when almost everyone has been convinced one way or the other.

Unfortunately, our world is far from normal. A lot of money is being spent to push a phony political consensus against any controls on immigration. This isn't being done in the dark by a few conspirators. It's being done in the full light of day by all kinds of people: agribusiness, Tyson Foods, Mark Zuckerberg, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and small-time operations ranging from landscapers to fast-food joints. They all want cheaper labor because they're competing against others who likewise want cheaper labor. It's that simple ... and stupid.

This phony consensus is also being pushed at a time when the demographic cauldron of the Third World is boiling over. This is particularly so in sub-Saharan Africa, where the decline in fertility has stalled and actually reversed in some countries. The resulting population overflow is now following the path of least resistance—northward, especially with the chaos due to the NATO-led invasion of Libya. In the current context, immigration controls should be strengthened, and yet there is lobbying to make them even weaker. The idiocy is beyond belief.

For these reasons, we cannot wait until even the most hardboiled skeptics are convinced. We must act now to bring anti-globalist parties to power: the UKIP in Britain, the Front national in France, the Partij voor de Vrijheid in the Netherlands, the Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, and the Sverigedemokraterna in Sweden. How, you may ask? It's not too complicated. Just go into the voting booth and vote. You don't even have to talk about your dirty deed afterwards. 

It looks like such parties will emerge in Canada and the United States only when people have seen what can be done in Europe. Until then, the tail must wag the dog. We in North America can nonetheless prepare the way by learning to speak up and stand up, and by recognizing that the "Right" is just as problematic as the "Left."


Clark, G. (2007). A Farewell to Alms. A Brief Economic History of the World, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford. 

Clark, G. (2009a). The indicted and the wealthy: surnames, reproductive success, genetic selection and social class in pre-industrial England, 

Clark, G. (2009b). The domestication of Man: The social implications of Darwin, ArtefaCTos, 2(1), 64-80. 

Clark, G. (2010). Regression to mediocrity? Surnames and social mobility in England, 1200-2009

Cochran, G. and H. Harpending. (2010). The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution, New York: Basic Books. 

Frost, P. (2011a). Human nature or human natures? Futures, 43, 740-748.  

Frost, P. (2011b). Rethinking intelligence and human geographic variation, Evo and Proud, February 11 

Harpending, H., and G. Cochran. (2002). In our genes, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A., 99, 10-12.  

Hawks, J., E.T. Wang, G.M. Cochran, H.C. Harpending, and R.K. Moyzis. (2007). Recent acceleration of human adaptive evolution, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A., 104, 20753-20758.

Mathews, B. (1925). The Clash of Colour. A Study in the Problem of Race, London: Edinburgh House Press. 

Miller, E. (1994). Paternal provisioning versus mate seeking in human populations, Personality and Individual Differences, 17, 227-255.  

Rushton, J. P. (2000). Race, Evolution, and Behavior, 3rd ed., Charles Darwin Research Institute.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wishing you a merry ... something

Yale was founded by English Congregationalist ministers. Today, only 22% of its student body has a Christian European background of any sort.


Last year, around this time, friends and acquaintances offered me all sorts of religiously neutral salutations: Seasons Greetings! Happy Holidays! Joyeuses fêtes! Meilleurs vœux! Only two people wished me Merry Christmas.

One was Muslim, the other was Jewish.

They meant well. After all, isn't that the culturally correct greeting? In theory, yes. In practice, most Christians feel uncomfortable affirming their identity. And this self-abnegation gets worse the closer you are to the cultural core of Anglo-America. Immigrants of Christian background enjoy being wished Merry Christmas. Black people likewise. Catholics seem to split half and half, depending on how traditional or nominal they are.

But the WASPs. Oh, the WASPs! With them, those two words are a faux pas. The response is usually polite but firm: "And a very happy holiday season to you!"

Things weren’t always that way. The situation calls to mind a Star Trek episode where Capt. Kirk persuades an alien robot to destroy itself. "That which excludes is evil. If you affirm your identity, you are excluding those who don't share your identity. You are therefore evil."

I could question this logic. What about other cultural groups? Why single out just one? But I’ve heard the answer already. WASPs and their culture dominate North America. The path to power, or simply a better life, runs through their institutions. Minorities can affirm their own identities without restricting the life choices of others, but the same does not hold true for WASPs. Their identity affects everyone and must belong to everyone.

I’m still not convinced. Yes, WASPs did create the institutions of Anglo-America, but their influence in them is now nominal at best. The U.S. Supreme Court used to be a very WASPy place. Now, there's not a single White Protestant on it. That's a huge underrepresentation for a group that is still close to 40% of the population. We see the same thing at the Ivy League universities, which originally trained Protestant clergy for the English colonists. Today, how many of their students have any kind of Christian European background? The proportions are estimated to be 20% at Harvard, 22% at Yale, and 15% at Columbia (Unz, 2012).

Sometimes reality is not what is commonly believed.  WASPs are not at all privileged. In fact, they have been largely pushed aside in a country that was once theirs.

Whenever this ethnic displacement comes up for discussion (it usually doesn't), it gets put down to meritocracy. In the past, WASPs were the best people for the job of running the country. Now it's a mix of Jews, Asians, and other high-performing groups. A cynic might ask whether merit is the only factor ... and whether the U.S. is better run today than it was a half-century ago. Indeed, the latest Supreme Court appointee had little experience as a solicitor general and a scanty record of academic scholarship.

Merit isn't the whole story. There is also networking. In most parts of the world, an individual gets ahead in life by forming bonds of reciprocal assistance with family and kinfolk. "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." That's how most of the world works.

But not all of the world. Northwest Europeans have diverged the most from this pattern, at least since the 12th century (Macfarlane, 1978a - 2012). Their kinship ties have been weaker and their sense of individualism correspondingly stronger. As a result, their cultural evolution has to a large degree been emancipated from the restraints of kinship, and this emancipation has facilitated other ways of organizing social relations: the nation-state, ideology, the market economy ... not to mention the strange idea of personal advancement through personal merit alone. This model of society has succeeded economically, militarily, and geopolitically, but it's vulnerable to people who don't play by the rules, since the threat of kin retaliation is insufficient to keep them in line. Societal survival is possible only to the extent that rule-breakers are ostracized and immigration restricted from cultures that play by other rules. 

This brings us to the dark side of traditional WASP culture: the busybodiness, the judgmentalism, the distrust of foreigners no matter how nice or refined they may seem. That mentality still exists, but it has been turned against itself. The people to be excluded are now those who exclude. The cultural programming for survival has been turned into a self-destruct mechanism ... as in that Star Trek episode.

Even if we could somehow abort this self-destruct sequence, it's hard to see how WASPs can survive on the current playing field. WASPs believe in getting ahead through rugged individualism. Most of the other groups believe in using family and ethnic connections. Guess who wins.

Anyway, I wish all of you a merry end of 2014! Far be it for me to exclude anyone from the merriment.


Unz, R. (2012). The myth of American meritocracy, The American Conservative, November 28 

Macfarlane, A. (2012). The invention of the modern world. Chapter 8: Family, friendship and population, The Fortnightly Review, Spring-Summer serial 

Macfarlane, A. (1992). On individualism, Proceedings of the British Academy, 82, 171-199. 

Macfarlane, A. (1978a). The origins of English individualism: Some surprises, Theory and society: renewal and critique in social theory, 6, 255-277.

Macfarlane, A. (1978b). The Origins of English Individualism: The Family, Property and Social Transition, Oxford: Blackwell.