Changelings, Infanticide and Northwest European Guilt Culture

And he is always hungry...

And he is always hungry…

Guilt and Shame Cultures

On his blog Evo and Proud, anthropologist Peter Frost recently wrote a highly interesting two-part article entitled The origins of Northwestern European guilt culture. In guilt cultures, social control is regulated more by guilt than by shame, as is the case in shame cultures that exist in most parts of the world. A crucial difference between these types of cultures is that while shame cultures require other people to shame the wrongdoer, guilt cultures do not. Instead, he or she will shame themselves by feeling guilty. This, according to Frost, is also linked to a stronger sense of empathy with others, not just with relatives but people in general.

The advantages of guilt over shame are many. People can go about their business without being supervised by others, and they can cooperate with people they’re not related to as long as both parties have the same view on right and wrong. And with this personal freedom come individualism, innovation and other forms of creativity as well as ideas of universal human rights etc. You could argue, as Frost appears to, that the increased sense of guilt in Northwestern Europe (NWE) is a major factor behind Western Civilization. While this sounds fairly plausible (in my ears at least), a fundamental question is whether there really is more guilt in the NWE sphere than elsewhere.

How to Measure Guilt

The idea of NWE countries as guilt cultures may seem obvious to some and dubious to others. The Protestant tradition is surely one indication of this, but some anthropologists argue that other cultures have other forms of guilt, not as easily recognized by Western scholars. For instance, Andrew Beatty mentions that the Javanese have no word for either shame or guilt but report uneasiness and a sense of haunting regarding certain political murders they’ve committed. So maybe they have just as much guilt as NWE Protestants?

This is one of the problems with soft science – you can argue about the meaning of terms and concepts back and forth until hell freezes over without coming to any useful conclusion. One way around this is to find some robust metric that most people would agree indicates guilt. One such measure, I believe, would be murder rate. If people in different cultures vary in the guilt they feel for committing murder, then this should hold them back and show up as a variation in the murder rate. I will here take the NWE region to mean the British Isles, the Nordic countries (excluding Finland), Germany, France and Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Australia, New Zealand and Canada for a total of 14 countries. According to UNODC/Wikipedia, the average murder rate in the NWE countries is exactly 1.0 murder per 100K inhabitants. To put this in perspective, only 20 other countries (and territories) of 207 listed are below this level and 70 percent of them have twice the murder rate or more.

Still, criminals are after all not a very representative group having more of the dark traits (psychopathy, narcissism, machiavellism) than the rest of the population. Corruption, on the other hand, as I’ve argued in an earlier post, seems relatively unrelated to regular personality traits, so it should tap into the mainstream population. Corruption is often about minor transgressions that many people engage in knowing that they can usually get away with it. They will not be shamed because no one will know about it and many will not care since it’s so common, but some will feel guilty and refrain from it.  Looking at the Corruptions Perceptions Index for 2013, the NWE countries are very dominant at the top of the ranking (meaning they lack corruption). There are seven NWEs in the top ten and two additional bordering countries (Finland and Switzerland).  The entire NWE region is within the top 24, of a 177 countries and territories.

But as I’ve argued before here, corruption appears to be linked to clannishness and tribalism (traits rarely discussed in psychology) and it’s reasonable to assume that it is a causal factor. How does this all add up? Well, the clannish and tribal cultures that I broadly refer to as traditional cultures are all based on the premise that the family, tribe or similar ingroup is that which should be everyone’s first concern. So while a member of a traditional culture may have personal feelings of guilt, this means little compared to the collective dislike – the shame – from the family or tribe. At the same time traditional cultures are indifferent or hostile towards other groups so if your corruption serves the family or tribe there will be no shame in it, the others will more likely praise you for being clever.

(In this context it’s also interesting to note that people who shame others often do this by expressing disgust, an emotion linked to a traditional dislike for various outgroups, such as homosexuals or people of other races. So disgust, which psychologist Jonathan Haidt connects with the moral foundation of sanctity/degradation, is perhaps equally important to the foundation loyalty/ingroup.)

When Did Modernity Begin?

One important question is whether this distinction between modern and traditional is to what extent it’s a matter of nature or nurture. There is evidence that it is caused by inbreeding and the accumulation of genes for familial altruism (that’s to say a concern for relatives and a corresponding dislike for non-relatives). Since studies on this are non-existent as far as I know – no doubt for political reasons – another form of evidence could be found in tracing this distinction back in time. The further we can do this, the more likely it’s a matter of genes rather than culture. And the better we can identify populations that are innately modern the better we can understanding the function and origin of this trait. Frost argues that guilt culture can be found as early as the Anglo-Saxon period (550-1066), based thing like the existence of looser family structures with a relatively late age of marriage and the notion of a shame before the spirits or God, which can be construed as guilt. This made me wonder if there is any similar historical evidence for NWE guilt that is old enough to make the case for this to be an inherited behavior (or at least the capacity for guilt-motivated behavior). And that’s how I came up with the changeling,

The Changeling

As Jung has argued, there is a striking similarity between myths and traditional storytelling over the world. People who have never been in contact with each other have certain recurring structures in their narratives, and, as I’ve argued before here, even modern people adhere to these unspoken rules of storytelling – the archetypes. The only reasonable explanation for archetypes is that they are a reflection of how humans are wired. But if archetypal stories reveal a universal human nature, what about stories found in some places but not in others? In some cases they may reflect differences in things like climate or geography, but if no such environmental explanation can be found I believe that the variation may be a case of human biodiversity.

I believe one such variation relevant to guilt culture is the genre of changeling tales. These folktales are invariably about how otherworldly creatures like fairies abduct newborn children and replace them with something in their likeness, a changeling. The changeling is sometimes a fairy, sometimes just an enchanted piece of wood that has been made to look like a child. It’s typically very hungry but sickly and fails to thrive. A woman who suspected that she had a changeling on her hands could find out by beating the changeling, throwing it in the water, leaving it in the woods overnight and so on. According to the folktales, this would prompt the fairies or whoever was responsible for the exchange to come to rescue their child and also return the child they had taken.

Infanticide Made Easy

Most scholars agree that the changeling tales was a way to justify killing sickly and deformed children. According to American folklorist D. L. Ashliman at the University of Pittsburgh, people firmly believed in changelings and did as the tales instructed,

There is ample evidence that these legendary accounts do not misrepresent or exaggerate the actual abuse of suspected changelings. Court records between about 1850 and 1900 in Germany, Scandinavia, Great Britain, and Ireland reveal numerous proceedings against defendants accused of torturing and murdering suspected changelings.

This all sounds pretty grisly but before modern medicine and social welfare institutions, a child of this kind was a disaster. Up until the 1900s, children were supposed to be relatively self-sufficient and help out around the house. A child that needed constant supervision without any prospect of ever being able contribute anything to the household was more than a burden; it jeopardized the future of the entire family.

Still, there is probably no stronger bond between two people than that between a mother and her newborn child. So how could a woman not feel guilty for killing her own child? Because it must be guilt we’re talking about here – you would never be shamed for doing it since it was according to custom. The belief in changelings expressed in the folktales gave the women (and men) a way out of this dilemma. (Ironically, Martin Luther, the icon of guilt culture, dismissed all the popular superstitions of his fellow countrymen with the sole exception of changelings which he firmly believed in.) Thus, the main purpose of these tales seems to have been to alleviate guilt.

Geography

If this is true then changeling stories should be more common in the NWE region than elsewhere, which also seems to be the case. There are numerous changeling tales found on the British Isles, in Scandinavia, Germany and France. It can be found elsewhere in Europe as well, in the Basque region and among Slavic people and even as far as North Africa, but at least according to folklorists I’ve found discussing these tales, they are imported from the NWE region. And if we look beyond regions bordering to Europe changelings seem to be virtually non-existent. Some folklorists have suggested that for instance the Nigerian Ogbanje can be thought of as a changeling, although at a closer inspection the similarity is very superficial. The Ogbanje is reborn into the same family over and over and to break the curse families consult medicine men after the child has died. When they consult a medicine man when the child is still alive it is for the purpose of severing the child’s connection to the spirit world and make it normal. So the belief in the Ogbanje never justifies infanticide. Another contender is the Filipino Aswang which is a creature that will attack children as well as adults and is never takes the place of a child but is more like a vampire. So it’s safe to say that the changeling belief is firmly rooted in the NWE region at least back to medieval times and perhaps earlier too.

Before There Were Changelings, There Was Exposure

Given how infanticide is such a good candidate for measuring guilt, we could go back further in time, before any evidence of changelings and look at potential differences in attitudes towards this act.

I doing so I think we can find, if not NWE guilt, so at least Western ditto. According this Wikipedia article, the ancient Greeks and Romans as well as Germanic tribes, killed infants by exposure rather than through a direct act. Here is a quote on the practice in Greece,

Babies would often be rejected if they were illegitimate, unhealthy or deformed, the wrong sex, or too great a burden on the family. These babies would not be directly killed, but put in a clay pot or jar and deserted outside the front door or on the roadway. In ancient Greek religion, this practice took the responsibility away from the parents because the child would die of natural causes, for example hunger, asphyxiation or exposure to the elements.

And the Archeology and Classical Research Magazine Roman Times quotes several classical sources suggesting that exposure was controversial even back then,

Isocrates (436–338 BCE)  includes the exposure of infants in his catalog of horrendous crimes practiced in some  cities (other than Athens) in his work Panathenaicus.

I also found this excerpt from the play Ion by Euripides, written at the end of the 400s BC. In it Kreusa talks with an old servant about having exposed an unwanted child,

Old Servant: Who cast him forth? – Not thou – O never thou!

Kreusa: Even I. My vesture darkling swaddled him.

Old Servant: Nor any knew the exposing of the child?

Kreusa: None – Misery and Secrecy alone.

Old Servant: How couldst thou leave they babe within the cave?

Kreusa: Ah how? – O pitiful farewells I moaned!

It seems to me that this play, by one of the most prominent playwrights of his time, would not make much sense to the audience unless exposure was something that weighed on many people’s hearts.

Compare this with historical accounts from other cultures, taken from the Wikipedia article mentioned above,

Some authors believe that there is little evidence that infanticide was prevalent in pre-Islamic Arabia or early Muslim history, except for the case of the Tamim tribe, who practiced it during severe famine. Others state that “female infanticide was common all over Arabia during this period of time” (pre-Islamic Arabia), especially by burying alive a female newborn.

In Kamchatka, babies were killed and thrown to the dogs.

The Svans (a Georgian people) killed the newborn females by filling their mouths with hot ashes.

A typical method in Japan was smothering through wet paper on the baby’s mouth and nose. Mabiki persisted in the 19th century and early 20th century.

Female infanticide of newborn girls was systematic in feudatory Rajputs in South Asia for illegitimate female children during the Middle Ages. According to Firishta, as soon as the illegitimate female child was born she was held “in one hand, and a knife in the other, that any person who wanted a wife might take her now, otherwise she was immediately put to death”

Polar Inuit (Inughuit) killed the child by throwing him or her into the sea. There is even a legend in Inuit mythology, “The Unwanted Child”, where a mother throws her child into the fjord.

It seems that while people in ancient Greece practiced exposure, something many were troubled by, the active killing was common in the rest of the world and persists to this day in many places. While people in other cultures may or may not feel guilt it doesn’t seem to affect them as much, and it’s sometimes even trumped by shame as psychiatrist Steven Pitts and clinical psychologist Erin Bale write in an article in The Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law regarding the practice of drowning unwanted girls,

In China, the birth of a daughter has traditionally been accompanied by disappointment and even shame.

To summarize, the changeling lore provides evidence of a NWE guilt culture dating back at least to medieval times, and the practice and attitude towards exposure suggests that ancient Greece had an emerging guilt culture as early as the 400s BC which enabled a similar individualism and intellectual development that we’ve seen in the NWE in recent centuries. I’m not sure exactly how genetically related these populations are, but the geographical proximity makes it hard to ignore the possibility of gene variants for guilt proneness in Europe responsible for guilt cultures both in ancient Greece and the NWE region. Some branch of Indo-Europeans perhaps?

Update 2014-03-01:

Assistant Village Idiot wrote an interesting post on HBD/folklore regarding gender issues, http://assistantvillageidiot.blogspot.se/2014/02/fairy-tales.html

83 Responses to Changelings, Infanticide and Northwest European Guilt Culture

  1. JayMan says:

    Very interesting, and kudos on the unconventional and creative ways to seek metrics of behaviors of past peoples.

    Though this is a very good stab at the matter, needless to say this is very preliminary and far from definitive.

    A couple of slightly unrelated things:

    “Still, criminals are after all not a very representative group having more of the dark traits (psychopathy, narcissism, machiavellism) than the rest of the population. Corruption, on the other hand, as I’ve argued in an earlier post, seems relatively unrelated to regular personality traits, so it should tap into the mainstream population.”

    The key problem, I think, is the failure of most psychologists to use the HEXACO instead of the Big Five. While it is still likely flawed (e.g., its Openness factor sounds like it has similar problems to the Big Five’s that you discussed previously), by being more inclusive, it is superior to the Big Five in every way.

    Much of modern research that includes inventory of personality still use the Big Five, which unfortunately, I believe, limits our understanding of the things they investigate.

    Of course, as Heartiste noted, even the Dark Triad might really be the “Dark Tetrad”, since the personality trait of sadism is appears to be distinct from the other three of three Triad.

    One wonders what other socially relevant personality traits remain to be identified.

    Great post, will tweet!

    • Staffan says:

      Thanks,

      The HEXACO is certainly an improvement but all of personality will probably never be fitted neatly into one model. It may be that sadism is a new addition. Although it seems hard for it to be completely unrelated to psychopathy and its subfactor lack of empathy. I’ll access the full study in a few days and hopefully that will clarify things.

      • JayMan says:

        I’d imagine that it is probably related to the other Dark traits (like personality traits in a dimension are related), but it is it’s own trait at least as much as the other Dark ones are. That’s my guess.

  2. JayMan says:

    Also, you have a typo in the title (“Nortwest” should be “Northwest”). (Feel free to delete this comment afterwards).

  3. It is precisely because infanticide was viewed with disdain as in Greece that tales of ‘mabiki’ are exaggerated. Though though is no doubt that outright infanticide (not just exposure) was sometimes practice’s everywhere, there is no evidence it was anywhere near as common in places like India, Japan or China as modernised sources often claim – sources reliant upon folklore as though it is a primary source, and contrasting a westernised present against a ‘barbaric’ or ‘backwards’ past. In the case of Japan, infanticide was never accepted nor practiced as often as has been claimed, folklore having been vastly exaggerated by pro-western Japanese especially feminists to defame the autherntic Japanese culture parallel to their counterparts in the west. Exaggerated stories of mabiki cruelty should be compared to European or North American distortions and deceptions about the Christian past or Christian defamations against the traditional folk religions of Europe.

  4. As a point, please consider the ‘gynocide’ in India and China. We are supposed to believe that traditional values towards baby girls result in a gender imbalance in those countries, yet the bioarchaeological record supports no such gender imbalance in historic times. Regardless of whether or not the modern gender imbalance turns out due to purposeful gender selection before or after birth, modern events show that the past becomes wrongfully blamed as a scapegoat. This is not a new phenomenon – in Japan the horrors of rare infanticide mabiki during the Edo period became a weapon against Japanese tradition, and eventually an argument for feminism (ironically including abortion rights in Japan – Japanese feminism is imitative of western feminism.)

    • Staffan says:

      Thanks for you comments,

      The sources seem to agree that exposure was a Western phenomenon, less common elsewhere. This isn’t just folklore but writers of ancient Greece, like Isocrates, Aristotle writing commenting on the legislation of Greek cities and Euripides a famous playwright depicting the heroine as feeling horrible about having exposed a child. Are there any historic Japanese counterparts to this? This is centuries before the birth of Christ. Edo is 1600s to late 1800s when contacts with the West became more common. According to Wikipedia’s source, Mabiki was practiced into modern times – and there was even a special word for it. This suggests that it was an established practice.

      You criticize folklore as a source but the changeling tales correspond to a practice of exposure found in court records well into the 1800s. So there is a very clear connection between the lore and actual human behavior.

      As for the bioarchaeological records, even if they provide good evidence (no links) they say nothing of how the children died, which is the issue here.

      • You can’t cite Greek sources to demonstrate that exposure was particularly European because they did not include a contrast of their own culture with distant societies such as India or China. Though for what its worth Classical sources considered the Egyptians as having the strongest taboo against not just infanticide but also infant exposure as well.

        There was actually no special word for infanticide in Japan, the Wikipedia uses tinged sources. The euphemism ‘mabiki’ is a reference to the thinning out of rice shoots that became a euphamism for population control in a land with limited resources – that a euphamism be used at all should tell you something. Most of the “evidence” for widespread infanticide in pre-Meiji Japan actually comes from horror stories that were intended as chilling to a Japanese audience, yet the notion of hidden, widespread ‘mabiki’ murders – and notice that they were always undetectable and concealed! – was first created at around the time of the Meiji reforms, abusing folklore as propaganda against traditional Japanese attitudes about population and family. There is no existing, unbiased evidence from primary sources that infanticide was ever an established practice in Japan, any more than it was in Europe.

        This is what I mean when I criticise the concept of widespread infanticide in Japan based upon folklore, when the whole groundless notion depends upon the abuse of folkloric data. It had nothing to do with the attitudes shown towards the changelings displayed in the European tales, collected as primary source directly at the time, and there might well be a local and meaningful difference between European and other changeling traditions as you have suggested.

      • Staffan says:

        I can cite classical sources because they are there and there seems to be an absense of sources to the effect that this was morally questionable, no Japanese Euripides, Aristotle or Isocrates. The fact that they didn’t discuss this, as far as I can tell, suggests that they didn’t feel it was a big deal. There may be exceptions, like Egypt, but the bigger picture seems pretty clear.

        The word “mabiki” whether a euphemism or not, is a word used synonomously with infanticide. So that’s a word for it, which implies that killing actively was something that happened regularly. And if they thought of it as murder they would probably have used a word like “murder.” The euphemism seems more likely as a way of bagatellizing something that you are mildly uneasy about.

        How widespread it was is uncertain. I’ve provided links to sources here but you have yet to do that. Am I just going to take your word for it? You claim the folkloric data is flawed and then you used it to “prove” that is was just propaganda. It seems to be legit when it serves your purposes. And again, if you have some sources, do share it with the rest of us.

  5. Sister Y says:

    I loved the Peter Frost piece, and I think you make a great connection here.

    A phenomenon that seems related is the practice of witchcraft accusations against children in Africa. This practice (see, e.g., http://www.unicef.org/wcaro/wcaro_children-accused-of-witchcraft-in-Africa.pdf ) primarily affects the same kinds of children who would be affected by infanticide – orphans, disabled children, etc. I am not sure what it proves, but it does seem to be more shame-assuaging than guilt-assuaging, as accusing a child of witchcraft seems to be more of a way to get out of a costly social burden rather than a way of dealing with personal feelings of guilt.

    I wonder if you have seen the excellent game Yearwalk, dealing with Scandinavian dead baby mythology (in part).

    • Staffan says:

      Thanks, I’m admittedly more speculative than Frost but I hope it adds a little something.

      Yes, the act of accusation is very similar to shaming. The rightful child in the changeling situation is never accused of anything since it’s assumed to be absent.

      It’s also worth mentioning that witches were common in Europe too. It’s never a matter of pure guilt or pure shame but of proportions.

  6. gwern says:

    > If people in different cultures vary in the guilt they feel for committing murder, then this should hold them back and show up as a variation in the murder rate.

    Really? You don’t think that this would be utterly swamped by scores of other factors, ranging from economic development to style and centralization of government to religion to clans to lead-levels to agricultural harvests to…?

    • Staffan says:

      It’s an imperfect measure and other factors no doubt weigh in, but I find it striking that Northwesterners have so little murder. America, which in regard to the factors you mention is very similar to this region, has a much higher murder rate. Finland, also similar and highly developed, has more than twice the murder rate. Same goes for South Korea. Also, many of the factors you mention are intertwined with guilt, most obviously religion.

      But no doubt corruption is a better measure and the pattern of Northwesterners as the least corrupt is even more striking than the pattern on murder rates.

      • gwern says:

        > I find it striking that Northwesterners have so little murder.

        I find it striking that they’re such rich and peaceful and non-corrupt countries. See how that works? The good countries are good in all sorts of ways, the bad countries are bad in all sorts of ways.

        > America, which in regard to the factors you mention is very similar to this region, has a much higher murder rate.

        And also varies on many more salient factors like gun ownership.

        > Same goes for South Korea.

        Which South Korea, the South Korea of the Choson/Yi dynasty, the South Korea that was torn by colonization and devastating warfare and was poorer than subsaharan Africa, or the modern South Korea which has become one of the wealthiest states in the world? (You see what I mean by variation?)

        > Also, many of the factors you mention are intertwined with guilt, most obviously religion.

        So even if we somehow were able to detect a faint correlation after controlling for scores of factors, you’d face multicollinearity, and then you’d face the fact that the correlation might be causally explained by any of the interwined factors rather than ‘guilt’.

        This post would be stronger if you deleted the murder claim entirely. It’s so weak and doubtful as to be ridiculous mentioning at all, much less at the start.

  7. hbd chick says:

    thank you for such an interesting post and a creative way of looking for feelings of guilt in historic populations! very cool! i love it! (^_^) as jayman pointed out, this is obviously not definitive (yet!), but definitely excellent food for thought!

    you said: “To summarize, the changeling lore provides evidence of a NWE guilt culture dating back at least to medieval times, and the practice and attitude towards exposure suggests that ancient Greece had an emerging guilt culture as early as the 400s BC which enabled a similar individualism and intellectual development that we’ve seen in the NWE in recent centuries. I’m not sure exactly how genetically related these populations are, but the geographical proximity makes it hard to ignore the possibility of gene variants for guilt proneness in Europe responsible for guilt cultures both in ancient Greece and the NWE region. Some branch of Indo-Europeans perhaps?”

    wrt ancient greece, i’ve come across some hints that outbreeding may (may) have been common in archaic greece, the ca. 400 years or so preceding classical greece, so perhaps they experienced the same sort of push towards individualism, guilt, etc., that nw europeans did in the medieval period? mind you, the evidence i posted is very slight, so it’s all still guesswork at this point. note that once classical greece got going (the heydays of athens, for instance), inbreeding increased. this is very different from nw europe, of course, where outbreeding has continued over the course of ca. 1000 years, and is still ongoing.

    on a completely different note, there’s been some speculation [pdf] that the notion of changelings might be related to cases of autism. autistic children often develop normally (or seemingly normally) up until the age of one or two (iirc), but then “change” and become withdrawn, etc., etc. another interesting idea, imho.

    (^_^)

    • Staffan says:

      Glad you liked it.

      It may be as you suggest, a matter of two cases of outbreeding rather than some common ancestor behind these two developments. Both theories could use genetic evidence, if DNA can be extracted from bones. The later inbreeding might be a problem depending on the time it takes for change to kick in. I’m guessing it takes more than one or two generations.

      Regarding autism, yes I think this is part of it. It would be interesting to see if this is more common on islands or other isolated areas. I’ve read a study showing that islanders are more introverted and conscientious, typically autistic traits. This would be in analogy to how Silicon Valley attracts geeky techies who then have children with more serious autism.

      • Gottlieb says:

        Political correctness seems completely aspie to me. I see the same rationalism, obsession and extreme attention to detail. It would work perfectly only in societies where individuals live, ie composed exclusively of libertarians and associated.
        Liberalism is the cultural event of the autism spectrum and Williams syndrome. Most mutants of mankind seem to be moving inexorably to emphasize the individual.
        I termed this as anthropomorphic evolution, anti natural evolution, where the human being ceases to be an animal with pants and philosophically becomes a complete human being, independent and self sufficient. What happens today in the West is a war against nature and its contextual oppression, everyone wants to be what you want.
        I do not think they are wrong, just think so much of humanity is not so mutant like them.

      • Staffan says:

        I don’t think aspies are PC liberals more than the rest. You will find them in other ideologies too. Ayn Rand seems like an aspie, and many Marxist academics too. The key thing is that they look for some order to orient themselves with whereas most people accept that life is chaotic. A lot look to science and they are far from PC, insisting to tell the truth. Those are the nobility of the aspies in my opinion.

  8. Staffan says:

    Sure, countries are good and bad in many ways but Northwest Europe isn’t the only place that has rich developed countries, as I’ve mentioned.

    America has more gun owners but there is no clear pattern between guns and murder. In the top ten gun owning states according to FBI stats published by The Daily you find Montana, the Dakotas, Oklahoma, Alaska, Wisconsin, Wyoming, New Hampshire etc. Most of them seem to have lower than average rates of murder.

    When I mention a country I mean in present time. Let’s not compare medieval Korea with present day Denmark. Regardless of its history it is today a rich and developed country with a significantly higher murder rate than the Northwest European average.

    “So even if we somehow were able to detect a faint correlation after controlling for scores of factors, you’d face multicollinearity, and then you’d face the fact that the correlation might be causally explained by any of the interwined factors rather than ‘guilt’.”

    Only if there was a credible way to establish these other factors would cause guilt rather than the other way around. And as we can see in East Asia, you can be very rich with no guilt culture. As we can see Scandinavia just a century ago, you can be very poor and still have a guilt culture. What factor would cause guilt?

    • gwern says:

      > In the top ten gun owning states according to FBI stats published by The Daily you find Montana, the Dakotas, Oklahoma, Alaska, Wisconsin, Wyoming, New Hampshire etc. Most of them seem to have lower than average rates of murder.

      And note the population sizes of these countries. You are making the same fallacy that small-school proponents made: small states, by sheer random variation (even excluding the scores of relevant factors one would want to control for), will always be at the top and bottom of any ranking you choose. I am troubled that you are glossing over these huge and fatal problems with your glib comparisons.

      > When I mention a country I mean in present time. Let’s not compare medieval Korea with present day Denmark.

      Why? If ‘guilt’ or the absence of ‘guilt’ has any causal effects, surely they would have an effect in medieval Korea just as much as present day Denmark. Assuming the data can support any interpretation…

      The reason I brought up South Korea was because it is a case-study in how massively countries are affected by non-guilt factors like being colonized, invaded, and shattering a millennium old social order as part of the Westernizing & industrializing process. (Are you familiar with Durkheim? You should be.)

      > Only if there was a credible way to establish these other factors would cause guilt rather than the other way around.

      Burden of proof does not work that way. You don’t get to make up a vague psychological factor which you cannot give any objective operationalization for and which could very easily be caused by other factors, state that all the other factors are in fact caused by *it*, and everyone else has to prove you wrong. You’re the one proposing this new paradigm, you defend it! With something better than bogus statistics and obscure fairytales (literally), one would hope.

      • Staffan says:

        “And note the population sizes of these countries. You are making the same fallacy that small-school proponents made: small states, by sheer random variation (even excluding the scores of relevant factors one would want to control for), will always be at the top and bottom of any ranking you choose. I am troubled that you are glossing over these huge and fatal problems with your glib comparisons.”

        Are they so small that they are subject to random fluctuations though? Wisconsin (which is not a country by the way) has almost six million inhabitants. It’s not very small. And if it was as you say then they would be at the top sometimes and the bottom sometimes. But you find the same states (Louisiana, Alabama etc) at the top year after year, and the same at the bottom (New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont etc). There is nothing random about that.

        Me earlier: When I mention a country I mean in present time. Let’s not compare medieval Korea with present day Denmark.

        “Why ? If ‘guilt’ or the absence of ‘guilt’ has any causal effects, surely they would have an effect in medieval Korea just as much as present day Denmark. Assuming the data can support any interpretation…”

        Because when you look at the effect of one variable you want to keep as many other variables as possible constant in order to see the effect.

        Me earlier: Only if there was a credible way to establish these other factors would cause guilt rather than the other way around.

        “Burden of proof does not work that way. You don’t get to make up a vague psychological factor which you cannot give any objective operationalization for and which could very easily be caused by other factors, state that all the other factors are in fact caused by *it*, and everyone else has to prove you wrong. You’re the one proposing this new paradigm, you defend it! With something better than bogus statistics and obscure fairytales (literally), one would hope.”

        Not really since the moment you suggested that other factors might be affecting this you made a claim of your own. The way you did when you claimed the murder rates were random variation – which was clearly wrong. Also, I never stated that all other factors were the cause of guilt. You simply made that up.

        And I should point out that this blog is moderated. You started out in a relatively polite tone, but now you’re beginning to sound less so. Most people have seen this pattern before: first get your opponent invested in the discussion and then slowly turn it into mud wrestling. That’s not going to happen here.

  9. graham says:

    Regarding South Korea’s murder rate, which data are you using?

    The following ranking places South Korea with a higher murder rate than most of Europe and the Middle East:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate#By_country

    But 2 notes to South Korea’s ranking indicate that the statistics for South Korea included “attempted murder, aiding and abetting of murder, murder conspiracy and others” and that “The number of actual deaths by those crimes is only 184…equivalent to 0.38 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants”. A murder rate of 0.38 would place South Korea with lower murder than all the European countries in this ranking save Iceland.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate#cite_note-8

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate#cite_note-9

  10. No, Staffan. I am not criticising the use of folklore as evidence. The raw material collected by folklorists or recorded by a folk thermselves in their daily lives, is obviously an important resource.

    What I am criticising the repetition of non-primary sources about folk beliefs and attitudes that, if you look at the history of that culture, became ‘spun’ for political ends during the past two centuries. Anyone who has traced the belief in Japanese mass infanticide will be reminded of fantasies about ‘gynocides’ of female witches in the Middle Ages.

    Perhaps you would like yourself to provide evidence that Japanese attitudes towards pregnancy or to neonates were greatly different from those in pre-modern Europe?

    Bear in mind that child exposure was commonly practiced in Christian Europe, but less so infanticide, though primary sources naturally show an awareness that infanticide existed. And that the word ‘mabiki’ refers to the motivation of population control and not necessarily direct infanticide. Japanese Buddhism recognises the same distinction between killing and exposure as did Greek and Roman ethics and one would expect this to be reflected in individual decision making.

    Are you aware of any records demonstrating that the direct killing of neonates was ever as widespread in Japan as was claimed by the Meiji era reformers?

    Anyway, returning to the changeling stories.

    Some northeastern Europeans are also reckoned as shame rather than guilt cultures, like the Irish among whom changeling stories are famously widespread. Among the Irish the Pavee have a particularly strong honour/shame culture and represent in this regard an older, pre-Anglo form of Gaelic society due to centuries of divergence – making them close to the social setting in which such Celtic changeling stories would first have emerged. Yet you are basically connecting the changeling stories with guilt culture, before the Irish had shifted to becoming more of a guilt culture later than the divergence of the Travellers.

  11. Staffan says:

    But if the sources I link to are politicized or based on politicized information, then you must surely have some evidence of this. We can only compare sources if you share yours, as I’ve requested before.

    “Perhaps you would like yourself to provide evidence that Japanese attitudes towards pregnancy or to neonates were greatly different from those in pre-modern Europe?”

    I’ve done so in the form of changeling tales and classical records that indicate that people were avoiding the active killing and even convinced themselves that it wasn’t their child at all. The sources on Japanese customs suggest that active killing was common and the this was not a big issue, no Japanese counterpart to Aristotle, Isocrates or Euripides as far as I can tell. But again, if you have some source that says otherwise, I’m all ears.

    If guilt culture emerged in northwest Europe then it could have spread more easily in parts where shame culture was weak and slower in other parts. And neighbors import stories too. So that’s not a very compelling argument. Keep in mind that practically all behavioral traits are dimensional so a culture based on such traits should be dimensional too.

    And if you’re going to comment any further then you really need some sources rather than just your personal recollections.

  12. Matt says:

    Murder rates show medium term fluctuations.

    Korea has a high murder rate today, but it might not in a few years.

    This probably won’t be because their levels of guilt changes.

    Americans didn’t transition from being more guilt free 30 years ago to more guilty today. Measures of trait narcissism and psychopathy among children, if anything, say the opposite, with increases.

    Murder rate is far too noisy to use as any kind of signal.

    Why not use the international rape rates? This sounds like a case of picking data to fit a theory.

    • Staffan says:

      I used murder because it’s more robust than for instance rape (which is affected by false accusations) but I forgot how fascinated everyone is with murder so I should have dropped it altogether. Like I said earlier, corruption is no doubt a better measure, but less attention grabbing.

      Also, rape is probably affected by both guilt and shame. Guilt obviously because it’s related to empathy; shame because in a shame culture it may affect the whole family so they control their women more to protect family honor.

  13. Gottlieb says:

    Staffan,
    As you said, many renowned Marxists were, or are on the autism spectrum or greater spectrum of mental disorders. When we talked of greatness, inexorably we are dealing with this kind of person. We are governed, we believe in religious beliefs and lives cultures created by the descendants of the shamans. And these are the variations of schizophrenia, psychopathy, autism and bipolar disorder.
    The analytical form of political correctness is completely autistic body format.
    According to informal surveys conducted in the Wrong Planet website, most autistic people are liberal or leftist political tendencies. As it should not be, after all, the left embraces diversity, while conservatism does not.
    Of course, as we have most Jews as politically correct liberals, no matter for what reasons, many of them are enthusiasts hbd movement. (among the most energetic, as could not be otherwise, when we are talking about Jews)
    You will not find dissence in an evangelical church. Liberalism itself is a revolt against the conservative stablishment. All revolutions come from the same source, where we have ”genetic diversity” (mutations) that makes us feel different animals.
    The difference of the human being in relation to the animal is the first consciously rebels when they feel that their evolutionary path is threatened, among animals revolt called environmental changes.

    • Staffan says:

      Aspies tend to be liberals but this, I believe, is because the order they prefer the most is that of science. You can see this in how Marxists imagine themselves as scientific and some religious people are into intelligent design. If conservatism was more rational – the Republican party in America is little more than a travelling circus – they would have more appeal. In fact, if you look at aspies personal life they are conservative: they don’t like a lot of changes, they stick to certain interests, many don’t even go on holidays because they don’t like to leave their home environment. But politically, they can be just about anywhere.

      I’m beginning to wonder if aspies represent some hypermodern version of humanity who is low on both guilt/empathy and shame and who are all about principals instead. Finland could possibly be a country of this type. But that sounds like another post…

      • Gottlieb says:

        Well, there was a specific search, site Wrong Planet they were more likely to vote in the” socially liberal, politically conservative” option.
        I think more because of the huge lack of understanding and communication between neurotypical and aspies than by bio-cultural reasons, that aspies tend to choose a conservative lifestyle. But my idea of” conservatism” religion appears as a fundamentally important and characteristic component. The vast majority of Aspies are atheist or irreligious.
        Maybe we’re really dealing with neuro-discrepant people, in other words, our ways of socio-cultural categorization in the same style will not work for them. This without taking into account the problems that we cause them to despise their specific demands.
        The fact that they do not like changes do not necessarily mean that because of that they are conservative. Remember, liberals are also a tribe, they do not like change your world for a bias, more conservative or less liberal, they have been quite intolerant of changes that are not consistent with their dogmatic beliefs.

        About Aspies and their possible symbolism of how humanity could look psychologically in the future , I wrote a text talking about anthropomorphic human tendency to become an individual. To that individuality can be felt by someone , it is necessary that this one is (be) very sensitive to the environment . We know that aspies exhibit high sensory sensitivity . Probably one of the ways for you to see the truth of all systemically or at least get it is through the enhancement of touch . You can only wonder how the texture of a stone to touch it .
        Aspies are objective . They are a mixture of conservatism and liberalism. We hbd enthusiasts , we are also (some less than others of course ) . We summarize the two most significant dogmatic divisions of west of the beginning of this century , we are the answer .
        Aspies tend to be liberal , first because they are biologically predisposed to become independent minds or (real) individuals and non- tribal and second, because liberalism , despite its blatant subjectivity , is also very rationalistic . Aspies however , are also objectivist , that liberals are not usually . Liberals are chaotic, creative right brain , live day to day (yes , I continue to believe that there are fundamentally important differences between the sides of the brain , there are already several proofs , at least 4 decades ago , showing it ) .
        Aspies like to have a problem to solve, liberals often let the changes happen, they believe that all changes to the liberal project are natural . Therefore , they despise the problems .
        What makes Aspies , biologically predisposed to liberalism , is the independence of mind and predisposition to individualism , both extremes . As a result , you will have a brainiac with objectivist tendencies of thought , but with the fundamental ideal of individualism , which is free will , that liberal pseudo – scientists in popular magazines like to call ” environmental factors ” .
        Environmental factor = free will

      • Staffan says:

        Thank, a lot to take in. I’ll have a look at Wrong Planet.

        As for liberalism and conservatism, I think the dimensional distinction of nerds and geeks might explain some of the variety. Nerds seem to be the most modern human, many are probably libertarians, at least that’s my guess. Geeks have a more conservative nature. They seem more interested in history and traditions. While nerds are cerebral it’s my working hypothesis that geeks are more sensitive.

        I don’t agree that environment is free will. It’s just another determinant. If there is free will it’s due to some fundamentally different factor that goes beyond everything we currently know.

  14. Gottlieb says:

    No ”dissence” (some new french word???), Dissidence (or dissídaanse), whatever.

  15. Gottlieb says:

    Google trans??
    Portuguese of Portugal or correct speaking brazilian portuguese tend to be a beautiful language.

    ”Yes, yes, yes or this could mean an not, who know what don’t know, couldn’t to see what don’t exist”

    More or less…

  16. Gottlieb says:

    Free will according to the liberals would be rather more like environmental factors. I think they see the two with the same meaning. Why are so desperate to prove that the environment is magnanimous in relation to genetics.

    • Staffan says:

      Well, social reform becomes futile without it. But they seem oblivious to the fact that environment can be prenatal hormones, mutations, viruses etc. They do think of it as freedom.

      • Gottlieb says:

        The diversity of human behavior and therefore the essence of humanity can be explained just by the presence of mental disorders . When you inherit both genes (or epigenetic tendencies ) , the result is clearly pathological. However , when you inherit a gene , a number of advantages can happen . I read that asperger syndrome is up to 80 % genetic and classical autism is predominantly epigenetic . The same can happen for example with schizotypy in relation to schizophrenia.
        I believe, and I may be completely wrong, that our genes are nothing more than viruses and bacteria cooperative , based on the idea that they are a manifestation of elementary simple life . There are infectious agents that are not common in our body and similar agents . In nature , the defects are eliminated quickly , so we have the real impression that it is perfect , because in fact it is. What I have said and even have a theory about what makes us human , is precisely our shortcomings .
        The idea of individuality is just another part of the shared ”madness” between humans .

      • Staffan says:

        I’m not sure what you mean when you say genes are viruses and bacteria – is this a metaphor?

        But I think we have some agreement on the notion of mental disorders. Although I would say this is all personality and that some extreme personalities come with extreme problems.

  17. szopeno says:

    I tend to remember the interview with Napoleon Chap… The guy who researched Yanomani. He commented that the Yanomani kill their babies sometimes, but the mothers feel guilty and sad about that even years after the fact.

    • Staffan says:

      Thanks,

      There are no doubt feelings of guilt outside Northwestern Europe too. And I’m not ruling out that there are other guilt cultures. But I haven’t seen any others in which guilt makes a clear mark on the culture. It may be a rare thing because of how easy it is to exploit, as seen in recent time.

  18. […] Changelings, Infanticide and Northwest European Guilt Culture – “To summarize, the changeling lore provides evidence of a NWE guilt culture dating back at least to medieval times, and the practice and attitude towards exposure suggests that ancient Greece had an emerging guilt culture as early as the 400s BC which enabled a similar individualism and intellectual development that we’ve seen in the NWE in recent centuries.” – from staffan. […]

  19. Phil says:

    Isn’t guilt simply a mechanism independent of specific moral content? A person could feel guilty about not killing a weak child if he believed the weakness would lead to suffering and a less happy and fulfilling life. A person could feel guilty about not killing someone if he believed killing that person was a good thing. Etc.

    • Staffan says:

      What you feel guilty about is dependent on your morals obviously. Although there seems to be some universals involved. Stealing, at least from your own, is a bad thing in most cultures. And you could feel guilt for both killing the baby or not doing it. Not quite sure where you’re going with this.

      • Phil says:

        I’m saying that if guilt is a mechanism of behavioral enforcement independent of specific moral content, then people’s moral evaluations would be the product of their moral indoctrination rather than guilt. The same population which under, say, heavy pro-life Christian indoctrination regards abortion and infanticide as supreme evils, could under the indoctrination of some sort of ideologically eugenicist moral regime, regard abortion and infanticide as good, virtuous, etc.

      • JayMan says:

        @Phil:

        Where does “moral indoctrination” come from?

        Moral doctrines are an expression of the people who embrace them, as with all things.

      • Phil says:

        Moral indoctrination by definition comes from outside the person being indoctrinated.

        That’s beside the point anyway. If guilt is a mechanism of behavioral enforcement independent of specific moral content, then whether or not someone regards a specific act as morally “good” or “bad” would not be a function of guilt.

  20. Staffan says:

    Ok, I see. It would depend on what kind of indoctrination we talk of. I don’t think there is any good research on attitudes in totalitarian regimes (for obvious reasons) but anecdotally, people from Eastern Europe seem unrattled by the fall of communism and they generally explain this with that they never bought the propaganda but just played along.

    Under less extrem circumstances, this idea would mean that attitudes on things like abortion would have very low heritabilities, but there is research showing this not to be the case. Attitudes and moral judgments seem to be expressions of personality which is also highly heritable. Although there is a significant environmental factor as well but since that is mostly non-shared environment and indoctrination is probably usually shared.

    • Phil says:

      I think attitudes on things like abortion and gay marriage have changed too much recently to suggest that they’re significantly heritable.

      But if moral judgments are simply heritable personality traits, then how could they be measures of guilt? What would be the purpose of guilt if moral judgments are heritable reflexes?

      • Staffan says:

        Heritability is a measure of how much of the variance in something that can be explained by genes. So attitudes can change while maintaining heritability. Attitudes do sometimes change but the new attitudes like the old will express the same underlying personality with it’s typical patterns of emotional reactions and so on.

        The purpose of guilt is social control. A group using guilt will function more effectively than a group using shame. But as I said before, guilt can be exploited although that seems like a recent development.

      • Phil says:

        In that case we wouldn’t say the specific attitude is heritable. We would say the underlying personality that correlates with variance in genes is heritable.

        If guilt is just a mechanism of social control enforcement, then specific moral judgments would be independent of guilt and presumably be the product of whoever or whatever holds the reins of social control or possesses moral authority.

        But if specific moral judgments are simply genetically heritable personality traits, then that raises the question of why guilt as social control mechanism would be necessary or arise in the first place. Such external mechanisms aren’t necessary or present for genetically coded traits. For example, having 2 big toes is genetically coded. There’s no social control mechanism that claims to ensure that people have 2 big toes.

      • Staffan says:

        No, plenty of specific attitudes are heritable (as defined above) and related to personality. This has been clearly demonstrated.

        Guilt is mechanism for social control but specific moral judgments are hardly independent of guilt. Like I talked about before, moral indoctrination is common in totalitarian regimes but they don’t transform people. The reason they play along is because they’ll be punished if they don’t.

        The trait of linking moral judgments with guilt itself is not external – the external part is what happens between people as a result of this trait. The reason for this trait to evolve is that it solves adaptive problems, like how to get along in a group, how to get hold of resources etc.

      • Phil says:

        I never said specific attitudes weren’t heritable. If a specific attitude varies without variance in genes while some other phenotype such as a certain personality trait does correlate with variance in genes, then we would say that that specific attitude isn’t heritable while the certain personality trait is.

        If guilt is just a mechanism of social control, it should be independent of specific moral judgments. A totalitarian regime that relies purely on punishment would not necessarily be employing guilt as a mechanism of social control.

        If specific moral judgments are simply genetically heritable personality traits, then that begs the question of why guilt as social control would exist in the first place. The adaptive problems should already be solved at the genetic level; people would already be genetically coded to hold certain moral judgments, get along in a group, etc.

      • Staffan says:

        “I never said specific attitudes weren’t heritable.”

        You kind of did,

        “I think attitudes on things like abortion and gay marriage have changed too much recently to suggest that they’re significantly heritable.”

        “If guilt is just a mechanism of social control, it should be independent of specific moral judgments.”

        No, there is no reason why that should be. An evolved trait solves specific problems so it would be unlikely that it would be independent of specific moral judgments. More likely it would be dependent on judgments relevant to those problems.

        “The adaptive problems should already be solved at the genetic level; people would already be genetically coded to hold certain moral judgments, get along in a group, etc.”

        Moral judgments are acts and not traits, but the inclination to make certain judgments based on certain emotions, like guilt, are no doubt largely inherited. But the problems will probably never be solved since our social environment changes all the time. The old solution was shame and it’s still in place in most parts of the world. Guilt is a recent improvement. Then perhaps something else comes along.

      • JayMan says:

        @Phil:

        “I never said specific attitudes weren’t heritable. If a specific attitude varies without variance in genes while some other phenotype such as a certain personality trait does correlate with variance in genes, then we would say that that specific attitude isn’t heritable while the certain personality trait is.”

        The trouble is the only way to note this is population-wide, via secular changes. Which leads to an often misunderstood concept about heredity and the environment that I will address in an upcoming post (when I get a chance to write it, that is).

      • Phil says:

        I said “attitudes on things like abortion and gay marriage have changed too much recently to suggest that they’re significantly heritable.” I didn’t mean all specific attitudes aren’t heritable. I imagine there are specific attitudes that are heritable, and those that are not.

        If guilt is a mechanism of social control that evolved to solve a specific problem, what problem would that be? Presumably the problem of social control. But like I said, if moral judgments are simply genetically heritable personality traits, then the adaptive problems should already be solved at the genetic level; people would already be genetically coded to hold certain moral judgments, get along in a group, etc.

        “Moral judgments are acts and not traits”

        Behavioral traits are defined by acts. We say someone is extroverted because a set of his acts is characterized by extroversion.

      • Staffan says:

        “I said “attitudes on things like abortion and gay marriage have changed too much recently to suggest that they’re significantly heritable.” I didn’t mean all specific attitudes aren’t heritable. I imagine there are specific attitudes that are heritable, and those that are not.”

        Ok, thanks for clarifying. But the fact that a trait or quality changes does still not mean that it’s environmental. And, incidentally, views on gays and abortion have substantial heritibability.

        “If guilt is a mechanism of social control that evolved to solve a specific problem, what problem would that be? Presumably the problem of social control. But like I said, if moral judgments are simply genetically heritable personality traits, then the adaptive problems should already be solved at the genetic level; people would already be genetically coded to hold certain moral judgments, get along in a group, etc.”

        You already said this, almost verbatim,

        “The adaptive problems should already be solved at the genetic level; people would already be genetically coded to hold certain moral judgments, get along in a group, etc.”

        And I answered this,

        Moral judgments are acts and not traits, but the inclination to make certain judgments based on certain emotions, like guilt, are no doubt largely inherited. But the problems will probably never be solved since our social environment changes all the time. The old solution was shame and it’s still in place in most parts of the world. Guilt is a recent improvement. Then perhaps something else comes along.

        “Behavioral traits are defined by acts. We say someone is extroverted because a set of his acts is characterized by extroversion.”

        Yes, but this doesn’t not make them the same. His specific behavior can change while he remains extraverted, just like moral judgments of someone can change while the underlying personality remains the same.

      • Phil says:

        JayMan,

        I don’t see why that’s necessarily a problem. We can infer some things from population-wide, secular changes. At any rate, I don’t think population-wide, secular changes are the only way to note things like this. We can note them in smaller samples in shorter time scales, like an individual within his own life.

      • JayMan says:

        @Phil:

        “I said ‘attitudes on things like abortion and gay marriage have changed too much recently to suggest that they’re significantly heritable.’ I didn’t mean all specific attitudes aren’t heritable. I imagine there are specific attitudes that are heritable, and those that are not.”

        All Human Behavioral Traits are Heritable. Which part of that do you not understand?

        Changeability is not a statement on heritability.

        “I don’t see why that’s necessarily a problem. We can infer some things from population-wide, secular changes.”

        Not many, and not well. Read my link, and think of section on crops. You may get your answer.

      • Phil says:

        To the extent that something specifically defined does change with environment and not genes, we can say that it is more environmental and less genetic.

        Something like “views on gays” is so vague that it can be construed in various ways depending on how you measure hence define it. You could decide to measure people’s “views on gays” as positive or negative by asking them, for example, whether gays should all be killed or not. Or you could decide to measure it by asking them whether they are pro-gay marriage or not. You will get different answers to the question of heritability depending on how you measure “views on gays.” The same individual or population group may vary in its answer to the question of gay marriage while always consistently answering no to the question of whether gays should all be killed or not. These kind of results would suggest that something like views on gay marriage are less heritable and more environmental than views on whether or not gays should be killed.

        Like I said, behavioral traits are defined by observable acts. The preponderance of acts must be in accordance with trait X for us to claim that someone has trait X. There’s no basis for insisting someone is, say, extroverted if they never or rarely behave in an extroverted fashion. When we say that a man remains extroverted despite behaving in an introverted fashion, what we are saying is that the preponderance of his future acts will be characterized by extroversion.

        An “inclination to make certain judgments based on certain emotions” seems to be another way of saying that moral judgments are simply the product of genetically heritable personality traits, in which case guilt would not be an independent mechanism of social control but simply identified with or something that correlates with certain moral judgments.

      • Staffan says:

        “To the extent that something specifically defined does change with environment and not genes, we can say that it is more environmental and less genetic.”

        If the variance can be explained more in terms of environment, yes, but you clearly said, “attitudes on things like abortion and gay marriage have changed too much recently to suggest that they’re significantly heritable.” This kind of change says nothing about heritability. You can easily change a trait by environmental influence without changing its heritability. Height, for instance has increased dramatically in Scandinavia in recent decades but the heritability of height remains very high. Most likely it has increased since social reforms have given the children of the poorest better nutrition. You can also have a changing population (like an influx of socially conservative Catholics) that changes the attitudes without affecting the heritability of the attitudes.

        “Something like “views on gays” is so vague that it can be construed in various ways depending on how you measure hence define it. You could decide to measure people’s “views on gays” as positive or negative by asking them, for example, whether gays should all be killed or not. Or you could decide to measure it by asking them whether they are pro-gay marriage or not. You will get different answers to the question of heritability depending on how you measure “views on gays.” The same individual or population group may vary in its answer to the question of gay marriage while always consistently answering no to the question of whether gays should all be killed or not. These kind of results would suggest that something like views on gay marriage are less heritable and more environmental than views on whether or not gays should be killed.”

        There is plenty of evidence to support a strong heritability of negative attitudes towards homosexuals. You will probably get slightly different estimates with varying measures, but there is nothing to suggest that you’d get rid of the heritability by asking extreme questions. Like Jayman says, all behavioral traits are heritable. If anything, such extreme measures would probably yield even higher heritabilities since extreme behavior tends to have the highest heritabilities.

        Both I and Jayman have tried to explain what heritability is and basic research findings relating to it, but you gladly ignore these facts. I’m not sure you’re trolling or not, but either way it’s not an acceptable behavior, not on this blog. Feel free to take a crash course – http://jaymans.wordpress.com/hbd-fundamentals/#BHG – and if you come back and make some sense I will gladly approve future comments.

      • Phil says:

        JayMan,

        Yes, if you define traits as heritable, then all traits are heritable. It’s a tautology.

        If a specific attitude, such as views on gay marriage, changes without genetic change, then we can say that that specific attitude is not significantly heritable.

        Changeability is fundamental to heritability. It’s how we determine things are heritable.

        Whether or not we can infer many things well from population-wide, secular changes is subjective. If you’re not interested in the kinds of things that can be inferred from them or don’t find them significant, then obviously you’re going to think there’s not much that can be inferred from them. I may think changes in views on gay marriage are interesting and significant. While you may think that they’re not or that views on gays construed in some other fashion that you are more interested in haven’t.

  21. Gottlieb says:

    ”I’m not sure what you mean when you say genes are viruses and bacteria – is this a metaphor?
    But I think we have some agreement on the notion of mental disorders. Although I would say this is all personality and that some extreme personalities come with extreme problems.”

    Are viruses and bacteria, in the same way as with the operation of virus released by dead vaccines. We are an accumulation of virus ” dead ” . Our immune system as well as the most complex species are basically like the nucleus of a cell.
    Delivery of the idea that the origins of all the complex lives are given in simple life like bacteria , unicellular organisms , then we summarize the accumulation of these organisms , but in are in a coma .
    I do not smoke crack ok ?

    I have another dumb theory for autism .
    You know that the evolution of brain size and the human head was much faster than the increase of the width of the vaginal cavity . As a result , unlike many animal species , usually the deliveries of the human female usually very painful and difficult . Autism tend to have larger brains . Autistic COULD be the result of stress during labor , caused by the friction of the fetal head on the mother’s vaginal cavity .
    Funny that two days ago , my playful this theory seemed to make more sense now lost half its value .
    What if all the candidates mothers to have an autistic child , do a cesarean ?
    Or, what is much more logical and less fussy to say that if the increase in testosterone during pregnancy results in larger brains and autistic tend to have larger brains ( and probably those related to the autistic , as INPJ ) , then a door to a faster evolution opens .
    The cost would be high however. I recently read what was already noted, if you increase the brain, increase their metabolic needs, resulting in decreasing the balanced distribution of the same in relation to the peripheries of the body. This relates to the presence of allergies in gifted people.
    The style (pseudo) childish of autistics could indicate the role of the chronological development of the human life, where the ripening process would occur during the life of the same. In other words, some people be born” incomplete” and part of the maturation process, which usually occurs during uterine life, ends up happening during life. This relates to the development process half of the autistic population in their brains continue to grow over the average during their childhood.
    Humans would move to extend its life, at least perceptual, increasing childhood. I saw long ago that adolescence was a revolutionary event that transformed and greatly shaped humanity. We know that several epigenetic reasons, mostly unknown to me (the one that I imagine would be selecting predisposed types or mutants), adolescence is virtually nonexistent among non-human species.

    View story at Medium.com

    I j’adore this theory.

  22. Gottlieb says:

    ”Are viruses and bacteria, in the same way as with the operation of virus released by dead vaccines”

    No,no,no,no… …..operation of dead virus by vaccines”

  23. Phil says:

    Hanna Reitsch, the “German aviator and the only woman awarded the Iron Cross First Class and the Luftwaffe Pilot/Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds during World War II” in her last interview:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanna_Reitsch#Last_interview

    Reitsch was interviewed and photographed several times in the 1970s, toward the end of her life, by US photo-journalist Ron Laytner. His report on her last interview suggests a lack of contrition on her part about her Nazi involvement. In her closing remarks she is quoted as saying:

    And what have we now in Germany? A land of bankers and car-makers. Even our great army has gone soft. Soldiers wear beards and question orders. I am not ashamed to say I believed in National Socialism. I still wear the Iron Cross with diamonds Hitler gave me. But today in all Germany you can’t find a single person who voted Adolf Hitler into power… Many Germans feel guilty about the war. But they don’t explain the real guilt we share – that we lost.

    • Staffan says:

      I think that reflects how she needed to think about the war rather than how Germans in general feel. I rather suspect WW2 was caused largely by exploiting the German guilt culture to the bursting point. Let’s hope we’re not heading to something similar with today’s immigration from shame cultures,

      http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=bc9_1345793600

      • Phil says:

        Right, the point isn’t that she was necessarily correct about how Germans in general felt but that she felt guilt guilty that they lost. That is moral judgment was independent of guilt. We couldn’t simply infer that because she thought the Nazis were good, she did not have guilt. She may have as she said felt genuinely guilty.

  24. Jeffrey Kraus says:

    In Africa the idea of a spirit child was developed to allow parents to dispose of sick children, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25065051

    > So-called spirit children are typically born with physical disabilities

    • Staffan says:

      Thanks for your comment.

      I’m not sure “Africa” is the right word. It seems centered around one town called Sirigu,

      “To locals, the town has become synonymous with infanticide. However, the killing of spirit children is an established practice across the Kasena-Nankana district of Ghana’s Upper East region.”

      There is also the fact that these children are blamed for other misfortunes as well, making it more akin to witchcraft. Nothing in the article suggests that they think they can get their children back, which is an important aspect of the changeling belief and its connection to guilt culture. Those who hurt or kill the changeling thought they were helping their real child.

      But I wouldn’t rule out that there are guilt cultures outside Northwestern Europe. It’s probably a dimensional trait and is likely to vary across cultures.

  25. […] is also culture at work. Staffan had an article at his blog recently where he was discussing the changeling myth of Western Europe. Here is an excerpt from Staffan’s write up on the subject, emphasis […]

  26. Sister Y says:

    Frost’s piece is fascinating, and I enjoyed your post and its extension of Frost’s work.

    However, there is anthropological evidence that “changelings” are a widespread belief among even hunter-gatherer cultures. Daly & Wilson note that it is common and given an example from an indigenous South American culture.

    I am very interested in behavioral indications of different kinds of consciousness, but this does not appear to be one, unless a further distinction can be found that I haven’t thought of.

    • Sister Y says:

      (In addition, the !Kung San and Ayoreo women discussed in Chapter 3 of the book linked above certainly appear to feel lifelong shame about their infanticides and to regard it as a “major personal tragedy.”)

    • Staffan says:

      Thanks,

      I can’t find any clear folktales depicted in the source you mention. It states that women give birth to supernatural and evil children that are killed. This isn’t exactly the same as a changeling, which as the name suggest is when the real child is replaced. In dealing with the changeling the woman is thought of as trying to save her child. This, in my view, alleviates guilt. This is different from simply giving birth to a demonic creature and killing it.

  27. […] (that is, low-latitude dwellers) are simply less likely to commit suicide. This is beyond the guilt/shame dichotomy that seems to exist between non-clannish/clannish societies (since, globally speaking, suicide is […]

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