Culture Is Far More Powerful Than You Think

Jim writes: The problem with cultural explanations is that the behavioral genetic studies on identical twins show very minor effect of “shared environment”. Culture would presumably fall within shared environment. Most human behavior is mostly due to a combination of genetic factors and something not very well understood today called “non-shared environment”.

Surely culture is held constant in almost all of these identical twin studies because all of the twins are growing up in the same culture.

Also what may not matter a lot as a whole is individual shared environments among the same culture. But culture is different from individual micro-environments within a society. Culture is indeed or has the potential to be a super-environment. Culture is “the great molder.” Culture itself is a “super-environment.”

How then does one explain the absolutely incredible changes in Blacks from Africa to the US over centuries? It is almost like we are talking about different species or the transformation of nonhuman animals into humans. The change was that dramatic.

Human behavior does indeed differ dramatically around the world as culture changes, does it not?

Are you familiar with the stories of the Moiriori versus the Maori? No doubt genetically they were quite similar, or if anything, the Maoris, who acted much worse, may have even been more advanced genetically.

Furthermore the Moiriori had behaved in a typical Maori fashion for centuries after coming to Chatham Island, until at some point, they realized that if they kept being so savage, they were going to all kill each other and go extinct. At this point, a charismatic leader rose up against them and preached radical nonviolence as the only salvation of the Moiriori. This caught on and soon enough the Moiriori were some of the peaceful people on Earth who were such pacifists that they would hardly even fight back if attacked. They stayed like this for a few hundred years until the Maori invasion and their subsequent extermination.

How could the Maori and the Moiriori have been so different, especially as the Moiriori had been Maori when they colonized the island? How could the Moiriori themselves have made such dramatic changes from as savage as you can get to as peaceful as you can get?

Culture. Culture culture culture culture culture. In the first case, two different cultures and in the second case, culture change among a group.

How did the Germans and Japanese change from the most vicious and savage people on Earth to some of the most peaceful on Earth, in both cases so pacifistic that it is almost pathological?

Culture. Culture culture culture culture. In both cases, there were dramatic changes from the most savage people around to some of the most peaceful people around very rapidly, within a matter of decades. This was a case of rapid culture change among a group.

In Venezuela, there is a tribe called the Yanonamo who are some of the vicious people on Earth. They live in a state of constant violence. They are always at war with surrounding tribes, and in addition, there are high levels of violence even among their own community. They beat their wives, and both sexes beat the children. There is also a lot of feuding-type violence among the men. By age 40, 100% of Yanonamo men have committed a homicide. 

Not extremely far away, also in the Venezuelan Amazon rainforest, is a tribe that is fascinating for being one of the most pacifistic peoples on Earth. Their behavior is so different that they draw anthropologists from all over to study them. They may be called the Pemon, but I am not sure. I very much doubt if their genes are much different than the Yanonamo.

What’s the difference?

Culture. Two different cultures.




Filed under Amerindians, Anthropology, Cultural, Culture, Maori, Moriori, Oceanians, Pacific, Polynesia, Polynesians, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, South America, Venezuela

5 responses to “Culture Is Far More Powerful Than You Think

  1. Jim

    But in the US people often attribute differences in the educational or economic achievements of say Jews, Asian-Americans, southern whites, northern whites, Hispanics, etc. to cultural factors such as how much parents read to their children or how much different cultures value learning. The behavioral genetic studies suggest that in the US the considerable differencees between the educational and economic success of say Jews vs. gentile whites has probalby very little to do with reading the Talmud or observing Sabbath on Saturday. Rather the differences in achievement between Jews and gentiles in the US are probably almost totally genetic.

    • He;s not talking about that, he pretty much set on IQ and economic achievement. What he’s talking about is behavior.

    • TRASH

      JIM You’ll see some pretty frequent ugly pathological traits come out in poorer New York boroughs like violence, wife-beating, alcoholism, vicious loan-sharking, merciless conning, addiction with vast concentrations of non-Gentiles. David Berkowitz, Joel Rifkin, Gelman are examples.

      Polynesian or black or white you will find a few willing to fight.

      For such a much-vaunted group, money is fairly scarce. Something like 40% of the non-Gentiles in New York live under the poverty line.

      I’m not sure they are richer than Irish-Americans or other white groups in these East Coast cities.

      Culturally speaking, arriving groups of White Christians into the Northeast cities of Boston, New York, Detroit, Philly had to put an emphasis on hard work and education to see his kids rise up the social ladder.

      Multiple groups trying to fight for crumbs in urban surroundings seem to sharpen up regardless of where they are from.

      French-Canadian communities in Boston are much different than Cajuns of Louisiana but they are genetically from the same Breton stock.

  2. Ed

    Re the Yanonamo. its worth remembering with these examples that about 90% of anthropology is completely made up. Its not like someone is going to check. What is most likely is that there probably isn’t a tribe called the “Yanonamo”, or if there is, they don’t behave any differently from other tribes of people living far from cities. Its best to approach these things as fables.

  3. In the case of African americans it’s still worth noting

    A.) Admixture
    B.) how culture can change genetics.

    If a culture of one population is presented and enforced in another one it would likely increase the frequency of types of people who would more or less adapt to the environment with their behavioral genetics.

    These people could come those who did or didn’t succeed in the previous one depending on how different the previous was.

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