Gene-culture coevolution


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"The Fall of the Roman Empire Can Be Explained By Biology":


A pioneering new study of the fate of the Romans and other great civilisations such as the Ancient Greeks pins their collapse not on economic decline or war, as is traditionally held, but on biological causes. Historian and social theorist Dr Jim Penman suggests that the real cause of Rome’s fall in the 5th Century AD can be explained by a mass behavioural change in the population, driven by epigenetics.

Dr Penman has dubbed his new theory, which sees human social and economic behavior as grounded in biology, ‘biohistory’.

It is detailed in a new book Biohistory: Decline and Fall of the West, released internationally this week through Cambridge Scholars Publishing.


I also found similar patterns of behaviour in cross-cultural anthropology, and then, finally, in physiology and animal behaviour. From this I concluded that the key to history and the boom-bust cycle of civilisations wasn’t to do with economics or politics, which are actually symptoms rather than causes, but biology.”


A unique aspect of this theory is that it leads to hypotheses that can be tested in the laboratory. In a seven-year study, researchers at leading Melbourne universities tested how rats behave under mild food restriction, in order to ascertain whether this had any effect on the animals’ offspring. They found a dramatic improvement in maternal behaviour and marked changes in the offspring. These included epigenetic effects, meaning that the function of certain genes was permanently changed. The findings have been published in 10 scientific journals to date, including the respected Behavioral Brain Research, and Physiology and Behavior.

The research was commissioned by Dr Penman. Though the researchers lacked knowledge of the wider theory and its broader implications, their findings were consistent with the assertions and hypotheses that relate to biohistory. The findings of the research are incorporated in the book and support his theory that the fate of civilisations is determined by epigenetics.


“The character of the Roman people changed during the late Republic and early Empire, becoming less disciplined and hard-working, less innovative and forward-thinking, increasingly averse to military service, and less attached to the institutions of the Republic. These changes were epigenetic in origin and were influenced by greater prosperity, declining respect for authority and religion, and less strict childrearing.

“From a biological and psychological perspective, the Romans became weak. And though an influx of people from the provinces shored up the Empire for many centuries, they too were affected epigenetically. It was this that led eventually led to the fall of their civilisation and the rise of a Dark Age.”

Most disturbingly, Dr Penman sees exactly the same process as taking place in our own age, but at a “far more accelerated rate” because of the West’s greater prosperity. The effects are already being seen in economic stagnation, a growing gap between rich and poor, and a collapsing birth-rate. This provides a note of urgency to the biohistory research, since he believes that only science has the potential to affect this process.
Very interesting indeed.


Another confirmation of the gene-culture coevolution theory:

"Genetic and genomic analyses reveal pre-existing cultural differences leading to Neolithization":

"Surprisingly, in all regions, food producers had larger effective population sizes (Ne) than foragers already 20 k years ago, well before the Neolithic revolution. As expected, this difference further increased ~12–10 k years ago, around or just before the onset of food production. Using paleoclimate reconstructions, we show that the early difference in Ne cannot be explained by food producers inhabiting more favorable regions. A number of mechanisms, including ancestral differences in census size, sedentism, exploitation of the natural resources, social stratification or connectivity between groups, might have led to the early differences in Ne detected in our analyses. Irrespective of the specific mechanisms involved, our results provide further evidence that long term cultural differences among populations of Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers are likely to have played an important role in the later Neolithization process."


This is important (as it contradicts what Jared Diamond claimed):

"Using paleoclimate reconstructions, we show that the early difference in Ne (effective population sizes) cannot be explained by food producers inhabiting more favorable regions."
Interesting videos. I am not religious, but I have a typical C temperament (like Gibbons) like Neolithic farmers, early Romans, and modern egalitarian and democratic civilisations.

The Proto-Indo-Europeans had the opposite V temperament (like Baboons), being very patriarchal, polygamous, early breeders but don't invest much in the children's education, quite aggressive and prone to migrations. The video explains that this kind of temperament helps them deal with dangerous and unstable environments.

They explain that dangerous environments cause epigenetic changes that turn people into V temperaments. Government types express the majority of temperaments in the country, which is why some countries have very difficult to become democratic, egalitarian and enjoy low corruption levels.
The lemming cycle theory applied to human populations (in episode 4) is really fascinating and well worth researching more.
I have news for you, Tomenable, we're not going to go back to living our whole lives barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. Sorry if that's threatening. You'll have to deal with the competition.

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