Gene Expression

The Audacious Epigone crunches the Pew Religion Survey and comes up with some more insights….


  1. #1 John J Emerson
    February 28, 2008

    I was struck by this:

    The two variables inversely correlate at a firm .44. That is, by religious affiliation, as income increases, the number of children decreases.

    That’s a pretty succinct expression of the fact that economic competition and biological competition (competition of genes) are not only two different things, but that there’s a big tension between them.

    The genotype wants one thing, but the revealed preferences of many phenotypes is for something else. And economic competition is “culture” rather than “nature”, even though there must be some genetic substrate making the choice of economic competition instead of genetic competition possible. This in turn lends plausibility at least to ideas of some sort of group or two-level selection.

    A natalist cultural conservative will argue that low fertility shows that our culture is decadent and will die a horrible death do to depopulation. There’s a lot wrong with this, though. The “culture” here is not pornography, homosexuality, and free love, but education and ambition. A sexually conservative family which chooses to raise one or two kids and educate them well, or a puritanical man who chooses to be childless while he accumulates billions of dollars, both would be cases of culture dominating nature.

    Natalist (gene-maximizing) cultures are both a cause and an effect of the Malthusian trap. My guess is that Bangla Desh, Egypt, and Bali have strong family values and fertile women, but they are enormous losers in the cultural / economic / political competition.

    This should give market conservatives a lot to think about. For them competition is a prime value and hierarchy formed by fair competition is a good thing. But sometimes they assimilate one kind of competition to the other, essentially unaware that the two kinds of competition are not only distinguishable, but significantly in conflict.

    (Also posted at Classic GNXP.)

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