Nine things that make things happen Part 2:
Then consider conflict.  Conflict kills people, so there is an obvious relationship with population size there.  And population can induce conflict.  If the population is falling, whether by inbreeding depression or outbreeding depression, that population is a sitting duck.  Expect it to be attacked.  Currently the rich world is being attacked by populations whose numbers are absurdly inadequate to the task with resources to match.  And they are inherently fragmented.  Watch how they fight each other.  Yet they attack.  Somehow they smell blood.  The rich world is in demographic decline, and if they keep up the campaign they must surely win.  But they are also in decline, just a bit behind the rich world, so the victory will be hollow. 

Conflict discourages the large social pool, so it tends to increase inbreeding depression with all its woes.  Conflict also tends to decrease outbreeding depression, and this is probably why humans have developed the propensity.  But it is now utterly dysfunctional.  It occurs on scales and generally mobilizes numbers far beyond the point of equilibrium with outbreeding depression.  At one point I had evidence that more soldiers died of the emotional horror of combat after returning home than actually died in combat.  Similarly, since modern nations when they get into fights look for local allies with which to form alliances, and that involves making deals that include allowing some of them to immigrate.  From an outbreeding depression standpoint, that is bad both for the migrants and the hosts.  A case could be made that more babies are lost because of the resulting perturbations of the gene pools than lost in combat and secondary loss to post combat distress combined. 

Cooperation is good.  Nay cooperation is vital.  A man named Richard Dawkins made a big splash with his book The Selfish Gene.  He takes the position that a gene’s only function is to reproduce itself, and anything that looks superficially like cooperation is only there because it helps the gene make more of itself.  On the other hand, looking at the complexity of life, cooperation of the parts is the overwhelming observation.  Call it all selfish if you like, but in fact that is just playing with words.  The concept of selection embodies everything of interest under the heading of genetic selfishness. 

Of course people have the option of cooperating rather than coming into conflict.  A large social pool invites cooperation on a large scale.  On the face of it this should be a nifty way to avoid the horrors of war.  But the price is unendurable.  In the absence of understanding outbreeding depression the cooperative society is doomed. 

The relationship between conflict and cooperation at first blush would be that they are opposites, but as pointed out, modern conflict induces cooperation on a vast scale.

Consider wealth and population size.  (Bear in mind I mean social pool.)  They are mutually supportive.  Affluent people get around more, increasing social contacts.  And by making those contacts people are able to avail themselves of economic opportunities.  So many see it as a virtuous cycle: more wealth means more social contact means more wealth. 

Then consider inbreeding depression.  Once again wealth looks like a good thing.  Giving people more gives them the opportunity to extend their social horizon and not just marry a near cousin.  And if perchance some local difficulty arises from that inbreeding, wealth can alleviate it.  All well and good.  And the inbred society is likely to be poor, lacking the technologies that have been producing enormous wealth ever since the Industrial revolution. 

But when you come to outbreeding depression the picture is not so rosy.  First, the richest and most capable and risk tolerant people will embrace the widest social pool.  So you selectively lose the ones that make wealth possible.  To an extent that is ameliorated by economies of scale.  There was a time when we were just about all primary providers.  We fished, farmed, herded, hunted or gathered in the wild, and it was just about all we could do to keep ourselves fed.  Each of those operations requires a lot of effort and also a lot of thinking.  Experience must be accumulated over generations for it to work reliably. And all that thinking benefits nobody outside the immediate community. 

But now a handful of engineers can do a tweak on cell phone technology and the benefits can be felt by millions.  We just don’t need as many bright minds as we used to.  But we are still going to need a lot just to keep the technology we have.  One day it must unravel. 

That is because the rich society will be subject to outbreeding depression.  Until we grasp the situation we are like the man the poet described:

Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.

Wealth increases outbreeding depression.  Outbreeding depression will destroy wealth.

There have been 102 visitors over the past month.

Home page