Where HBD Chick’s Hypothesis Works
HBD Chick’s hypothesis – that long-term mating patterns – specifically, the degree of cousin marriage historically practiced by people influences the selective pressures those people experience, pushing them, over time, towards either clannishness (in the case of long-term inbreeding) or individualism and civic-minded (in the case of long-term outbreeding) – explains a great many things. It explains why democracy thrives in certain parts of the world, and why some countries maintain strong civic institutions based on individual responsibility and trust. It explains why other parts of the world do not support working democracies and have societies based on dictatorial rule and where clan loyalties reign and trust is low. HBD Chick’s hypothesis explains why rule of law and above-board practices prevails in some areas, while in other corruption is the rule. She has marshaled massive evidence for her hypothesis, neatly summed up in these posts:
These explain a great deal of why you see a pattern like this:
However, for all HBD Chick’s hypothesis’s explanatory power, does it work as well everywhere? Given the information we have at current, not exactly.
This is a map (drawn by me) of how well HBD Chick’s hypothesis explains the characteristics of each of these (pre-European colonial expansion) populations across the world.
As we see, from what we know of historic mating patterns and behavior of people today, HBD Chick’s hypothesis works excellently across much of the world. This is especially true across Europe, the Middle East, and much of the Muslim world, and in China.
There are however a couple of places that don’t seem to fit as well. Most poignant of these is sub-Saharan Africa. HBD Chick’s hypothesis doesn’t cover much of Africa, especially the non-Muslim parts. It’s unclear if the historic mating among non-Muslim Blacks was particularly consanguineous (though it was, and remains in many places, polygynous). However, as we clearly know, sub-Saharans do behave like considerably clannish people in some ways, yet a lot more like typical outbreeders in other ways.
However, farther south in Africa are the San hunter-gatherers (the Bushmen), who were intentional outbreeders, with marriage occurring across tribes. However, overall rates of violence among them are comparable to those found in their Bantu neighbors.
Muslim Central Asia (including the Uyghur province) hasn’t been directly looked at by HBD Chick. But presumably mating patterns there have been similar to the rest of the Muslim world, which would seem to explain the levels of clannishness and corruption there.
India and Southeast Asia also haven’t been discussed much by HBD Chick, either. Some of her references mention that – like most of the world – mother’s brother’s daughter marriage was preferred here. If so, the clannishness/corruption/undemocratic nature of these areas follow fairly well. The Muslim sections of Southeast Asia fit the pattern seen with the core Muslim world, it would seem. And the Papuan people of New Guinea are famous for being the most tribal people in the world, with the island hosting over 1,000 different languages! Also, in Malaysia, there are the Semai people, which are known to be one of the few outbreeding groups outside of Northwestern Europe. They also, accordingly, have the characteristics of an outbred population, and hence fit squarely into HBD Chick’s hypothesis.
The Americas and their indigenous people have not been extensively analyzed by HBD Chick, but she has explored their mating patterns. Most Native North Americans apparently practiced some degree of close marriage, and hence varied accordingly in their degree of clannish and aggressive behavior. See historic mating patterns of native north americans | hbd* chick, the kato | hbd* chick, mating patterns in colonial mexico: the mayans | hbd* chick. She has also noted that, to varying degrees, modern Mexicans do appear to be more clannish than NW Europeans. Of course, it’s unclear to what degree that can be attributed to their Native American component versus their Iberian component, or to more recent selective pressures. And of course, the Yanaomano of South America, an inbreeding population, fits the pattern as tribal warriors.
Returning to Europe, the vast majority of the continent is well explained by HBD Chick’s ideas. A few somewhat outlying areas remain. Scandinavia for example – at least Denmark, Norway, and Sweden – began outbreeding much later than the other western nations, yet they are today non-clannish and non-corrupt. This may seem to be a slightly less of a fit. But even more curious are Iceland and Finland. The historic mating patterns of these nations are unclear – indeed, much of Finland was outside the late marriage pattern found in the West. Yet, Finland was ranked as the least corrupt country in the world, and is a functioning democracy. However, unlike the outbred Northwestern European countries, Finland and Iceland retain stronger ethnic identities, and haven’t opened themselves up to foreign migrants as the “core” European countries all have. It has been suggested that these nations are “inbetweeners”, being intermediate between clannish and non-clannish.
And in that vein, East Asia presents similar paradoxes. While mainland China neatly fits into HBD Chick’s theory, Korea and especially Japan do not fit quite as seamlessly. Japan has had a history of cousin marriage, and the situation in Korea is unclear. Yet neither country is fractured into mutually distrustful clans as is China. Indeed, Japan has a functioning “commonweal” society. However, it is not necessarily like the outbred Northwest Europeans either, possessing some characteristics of a clannish society. It is possible that these countries, like Finland & Iceland in Europe, are also “inbetweeners” of sorts, and possess a distinct hybrid between clannish and non-clannish, as was the topic of my post Finland & Japan. These societies demonstrate that the distribution of close marriage may be important, as I’ve noted previously. Taiwan, and for that matter, Singapore and Hong Kong, present similar challenges for HBD Chick’s theory. These areas are populated largely by ethnic Chinese, yet managed to keep corruption more or less in check (although democracy is a bit questionable in all these places). Assortative migration might explain some of the difference, but that is unclear at this point.
Several areas remain largely undiscussed, however. These include pre-European Australia, the Himalayas, Mongolia, and much of indigenous Siberia. HBD Chick has said little about the mating patterns of the Sami of Lapland. She has also not covered the Philippines, but I suspect they likely resemble mainland Southeast Asia in these respects.
Overall, however, we can see that HBD Chick’s hypothesis is a very good fit for much of the world, especially Eurasia. But there are some areas that don’t fit as well. Much of these are likely wanting for more data. But other incongruities indicate another likelihood: there is more to the story than the effect of inbreeding vs. outbreeding on selective pressures.
One pattern appears to be that pre-state peoples, especially hunter-gatherers, don’t quite fit as well into the clannish/non-clannish dichotomy. It is possible that what we regard as “non-clannish” traits, high trust, civic-mindedness, individualism, etc, may be more a possibility within the framework of a settled state. Perhaps the selective pressures imposed by strong states are key ingredients in the evolution of these traits. Relative pacification especially would seem to depend on selection occurring in strong states. Docility is generally unfavorable in a more tribal environment, where contact with outsiders – often hostile ones – is frequent. Perhaps this explains what we see with non-Muslim sub-Saharan Africans.
But if so, what about the Semai?
The other possible ingredient could be this: local conditions – often imposed by the State or other local powers – may affect the course of evolution of a people despite the local frequencies of inbreeding/outbreeding. We see this to an extent in China, where considerable genetic pacification – under the direction of the State – served to reduce aggressiveness of the Chinese people despite their considerable clannishness. Perhaps this explains what we see in Japan. Perhaps selection for commonweal-oriented, civic-minded individuals (or a functional facsimile thereof) – perhaps imposed by the State – directed the evolution of the Japanese (and perhaps similarly in Korea, etc). Singapore and the anti-corruption measures enacted there may be a window into this process. If corruption and clannishness no longer “pay”, then selection will favor less corrupt, less clannish individuals despite high levels of cousin marriage. Over time, you may turn a Chinese-like population into the Japanese, and perhaps this is what happened.
And broadly, tribalism and clannishness may be disfavored by Gregory Clark/Ron Unz-esque selection in cold-weather farming societies, at least to an extent (cf. China).
As well, of course, the initial characteristics of the people in each of these areas may have some bearing on their outcomes today, as these traits may affect the precise course of evolution in these places.
Despite these incongruities, none of which are glaring, HBD Chick’s theory explains a great many hitherto unexplained things about the world. It explains why transparency and democracy flourish in some places while corruption and autocracy reign in others. It explains why the successes of post-World War II Germany and Japan were not replicated in Afghanistan or Iraq. It explains why (contra David Frum) Russia is not a democracy, and is not likely to be one any time soon. There is undoubtedly much more to discover about what’s behind these features of people and societies, but HBD Chick’s ideas are no doubt a huge piece of the puzzle.