Strength by outbreeding

I am reading Robert Trivers’s The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life. I will review in the next few days, but these passages on the benefits of outbreeding are particularly interesting:

US history has many virtues, among which is the fact that the US population is reconstituted every generation through a roughly 10 percent admixture by external immigration from throughout the world. Although in its history rules of immigration have favored some groups over others, all have had some opportunity. And with illegal immigration, such opportunities are sometimes greatly enhanced. From a biological standpoint, the resulting outbreeding (insofar as it takes place, as it inevitably must) will tend to be genetically beneficial. The US population is perpetually heterogeneous, about to be infused with 10 percent more genes from around the world. …

The later history of African Americans was in some ways more dreadful than under slavery, since not counting as property they could be hanged or “lynched” by the thousands as a form of social control. Nevertheless, the subpopulation had become strong enough by the middle of the twentieth century to begin a political and social movement that led to eventual legal liberation, and with this yoke lifted, the intrinsic benefits of strong outbreeding associated with strong selection has produced a vibrant and powerful subgroup. African Americans are the melting-pot population par excellence in the United States, genetically roughly 25 percent European in origin, 70 percent African, and the remainder Amerindian and Chinese. At the same time, social policies such as the war on drugs amount to a war on lower-class African Americans, greatly increasing incarceration rates, with destructive effects on their communities. So the racist attack continues, but in the long run it can only strengthen the biological power of its target.

5 comments

  1. trivers said:  “From a biological standpoint, the resulting outbreeding (insofar as it takes place, as it inevitably must) will tend to be genetically beneficial. The US population is perpetually heterogeneous, about to be infused with 10 percent more genes from around the world. …”

    outbreeding is good a lot of the time, but inbreeding can have merits, too (think of the evolution of ashkenazi iq, for instance).

    one problem with too much outbreeding is that it can loosen the genetic ties within the population to such an extent that the frequencies of “genes for altruism” (whatever they might be), both in number and in type, may be changed and, so, the amount and type of altruistic behavior in the society will be altered.

    this is not, necessarily, a problem in and of itself — but it does mean that, with the introduction of new types of altruism genes, your society will change.

    mind you, too much inbreeding is not good either with respect to atruism genes.  makes you tribal.

  2. http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2012/01/trivers-on-genes-and-mental-traits.html?showComment=1327936769647#c7944648364862147294

    “Trivers’ book is largely a reaction to the paper “The Evolution of Eusociality” which he condemned. Trivers also condemned Hamilton’s “Innate Social Aptitudes of Man”, calling it “fascist”. In both cases I believe he was attempting to avoid light being thrown on the dysgenics of civilization and the eugenics of natural environments. Hamilton’s ISAOM, in particular, was “evil” because he talked explicitly about how civilization “probably” slowly decreases cultural creativity at the genetic level.

    Trivers’ emphasis on deception as the origin of intelligence is perfectly aligned with his identification with civilization, promoting it as eugenic. Deception, you see, is the “fair contest”, the winners of which are the vanguard of creative evolution.

    What is Trivers’ ethnic background?”

  3. Jason,

     This is a very interesting post, though I’m wary of supporting a policy I view as an epic failure in its implementation so far. But I guess it is one of those glass half full half empty types of things.

  4. It does amaze me sometimes that smart folks can–and often do–cough up nonsense worthy of an utter and complete bozo.

    Yes, those African Americans are just a showpiece of the “intrinsic benefits of strong outbreeding”.   They are beating the crap outta the inbred Jews (or WASPy Yankees).

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