Some time recently I met some friends of ancient times. Of course I could not bear but to steer the conversation in the direction I always go here. I wrote three of them, but have not received an answer. Ordinarily when I write someone using publicly available contact information I include that information. However these were friends, and in the absence of permission I shall withhold addresses.

On the quest for peace:

This is an attempt to reconstruct what I was saying at the reunion.  This is going to require me re-thinking what I have been doing from another perspective, which is something I do a lot.

Evolution is all about competition and is in that sense a “race.” 
Suitable mutations must arise and selection must be swift but not to the point of extinction.  I think we can agree on that.

Sexual evolution has an advantage over clone evolution because any predator or disease is more likely to extinguish a population of identical individuals than a varied population.  (Divided We Stand ECONOMIST vol. 411 no. 8888 May 24, 2014 page 74)

Speciation precedes evolution.
That ought to be a gimme; who could deny it?  In fact it is the old existentialist mantra “existence precedes essence,” but let me formalize it. 

Consider a settled environment containing a species “A” exploiting niche “a,” and species B exploiting niche “b.”  With regards to these niches we do not expect a new speciation event.  A new speciation must await a new niche.  (Arne O. Moores Supply and Demand, NATURE vol. 509 no. 7499 May 8, 2014 page 171 and Trevor Price et al. Niche Filling Slows the Diversification of Himalayan Songbirds page 222 in the same issue.)   So our system will remain stable with Aa and Bb. 

Now a new niche “c” arises.  To a degree both A and B are able to exploit it.  The system is now Aa, Ac, Bb and Bc.  But selection promoting Ac will change A so that it is less efficient at strategy Aa.  It is in danger of being replaced with some species C coming from somewhere with the strategy Ca.  Our system is now Ca, Bc, Bb and Bc.  But Bc will no longer work, because C will out compete b for niche b.  So the system will be Aa, Bb and Cc.  If niche c turns out to be temporary, Cc is lost and we are back where we started from.

But perhaps the newcomer takes strategy Ca.   Now the system is Ca, Ac and Bb.  Now if the new niche closes A is lost and the system is Ca and Bb.  A has been lost even though its niche never changed.  The same threat applies to B. 

Now suppose B can undergo speciation into B1 and B2.  Now B2 can exploit c and the system is Aa, B1b and B2c.  If the new niche closes, B is unharmed.  Even if one of the old niches closes, B goes on.  Clearly rapid speciation is an advantage to B.

This contrasts with the only sentence in Darwin’s Origin of Species that was actually about the origin of species (in the version I read.)  “As for the origin of species it is happenstance as hybrid infertility never did any species any good.”  Alfred Russel Wallace did understand the principle.  Because he was rich and could publish his own book before Wallace, Darwin got the fame and the truth was lost for a time.

And speciation does occur quickly.  There is no Egyptian hieroglyph for “camel” but there is a Hebrew letter for it.  Somewhere in between the origin of those two ancient languages the camel was introduced and has since evolved into the Egyptian dromedary as well as the Asian Bactrian.  I once asked the head of the biology department of the United Arab Emirates what the generation time of the camel is.  He said that traditionally a camel is milked after having a calf and this suppresses ovulation to the point where generation time is about seven years.

It has been found that mice in the Canary Islands and rabbits in the Azores were only introduced after Columbus.  So I make my best guess two thousand as the number of generations it takes for speciation to develop among mammals.  This is obviously approximate and presumably variable, but for the next step we shall assume that it is hard and fast.

Prompt speciation comes at a cost.
Consider rabbits in a valley.  A rabbit P1 passes a critical chromosome to two offspring in generation F1.  These are as closely related as chromosomes get to be.  One rabbit hops across the valley, and a glacier comes through and divides the valley for 2,000 rabbit generations.  The glacier melts and a rabbit from generation F2,000 hops over and meets a rabbit from the other side.  They cannot have fertile offspring.  The two chromosomes can’t work together.  This is true for every piece of every chromosome.

Now let us simply say that the population in the valley is 1,000.  So there are two thousand copies in circulation, ignoring the fact that some will be lost and others will increase in number.  It will now take 2,000 generations for descendants of our original two chromosomes to get back together on average.  Chromosomes don’t know anything about glaciers.  All they “know” is they can’t do business together.  Since this is true for every part of every chromosome the whole population dies out.

As the computer remarked in the first make of “War Games,”  “This is a dumb game, professor.  Everybody winds up dead.”  Two thousand generations is a long time.  Local populations are going to leak into each other.  We should all be dead.

Since we aren’t dead, evolution must have put in a fix.  The fix is epigenetic rather than genetic.  That’s sort of technical and I go into it in my paper published in Africa.  Superficial evidence of the fix is visible everywhere.  Animals are territorial.  Birds flock together.  Diatoms in the ocean maintain local populations.  Coral larvae do not stray far from there ancestral reef.  But there is a more formal way to address the issue.

Here is a graph of kinship vs. fertility in Iceland. 
An Association between Kinship and Fertility of Human Couples Agnar Helgason et al. SCIENCE vol. 329 no. 5864 February 8, 2008 page 813 – 816
The same relationship (barring inbreeding depression at very close kinship levels) also occurs in the next generation.  A study in Sweden carries it on to great grandchildren.  (Assuming rich people travel more than poor.)  (Fertility increases descendant socioeconomic position but reduces long-term fitness in a modern post-industrial society Proc. R. Soc. B 2012 279, 4342-4351 first published online 29 August 2012 Anna Goodman, Ilona Koupil and David W. Lawson)

The identical pattern has been found in Denmark (Human Fertility Increases with marital radius. Rodrigo Labouriau and António Amorim.  GENETICS volume 178 January 2008 page 603 and Comment on “An Association Between the Kinship and Fertility of Human Couples,” Rodrigo Labouriau and António Amorim SCIENCE vol. 322, page 1634b December 12, 2008) and in a compilation of more than a thousand serial field counts in wild animals. (On the Regulation of Populations of Mammals, Birds, Fish and Insects, Richard M. Sibly, Daniel Barker, Michael C. Denham, Jim Hope and Mark Pagel SCIENCE vol. 309 July 22, 2005 page 609)

If you look for it in history, you can find it.  It takes an elite to hold a civilization together.  If they die, the society collapses.  This happens with depressing, not to say terrifying, regularity.  Here is the history of southern Mesopotamia. 

Information taken from R. H. Carling THE WORLD HISTORY CHART International Timeline Inc. Vienna, VA 1985.  The experience of Southern Mesopotamia.  The vertical axis is The chance of an empire of any age continuing to rule locally for another 50 years.  The horizontal axis is the ages of the empires. 
There cannot be more than two mechanisms bringing down empires.  Otherwise the line would not be so clean.  If empires fell from anything outside of the population, the line would be horizontal.  Meteor impacts are unrelated to the age of your society.  If empires fell from anything inside the population, selection would mean that the line went up.  (Sorry, Darwin and your evil ilk, you blew it again.  History is not governed by the same mechanism that determines speciation.)  The line goes neither direction, nor is it somewhere in between.  It goes down.  The only cause (or causes) must be from the very fact of a large cooperating population. 

Marry kin or die out.

Many years ago I ran across numbers indicating for every American war in the 20th century how many fought, how many died and how many veterans survived.  When I crunched the numbers, using any realistic actuarial death rate, there were a lot of missing people.  In fact in the face of it, it looked like the death rate in excess of expectation of returning veterans meant that more were dying because they were in combat than died in combat. 

When I learned that this was unknown I mounted a campaign to spread the word.  After two years a study was done confirming my conviction.  (The numbers were not so bad as they had at first seemed, but horrendous all the same.  I don’t know whether the study was done because of my efforts or not.) 

I can rationalize the effect because of the side effects of indoctrination; soldiers must be indoctrinated, which happens under supervision.  Upon return they do not have the same supervision to turn them back into peaceful citizens.  This has been addressed, but clearly it is not the whole story.  In my heart I believe that it is simply forming the intent to kill another human being that corrodes the human soul.

For instance humans have eyes with white sclera that telegraph their direction of gaze and thus their attention and intentions.  Most other animals do not, since they deal with predators and pray who should not be so informed.  But for humans one is more likely to be helped by another human than to be harmed by a predator or lose a meal. 

When Desert Storm began I was thunderstruck.  I thought that now that people knew how bad war was even for the victors we had seen an end to it.  I thought long and hard and decided that there must be an evolutionary cause, and it had to be babies.  Somehow the willingness to dislike outsiders meant more babies.  I soon did the Mesopotamia analysis, which confirmed the idea.  Spreading the word has become my life.  My most recent compilation of the evidence is at

The result does not speak badly of humans.  If xenophobia, dislike of strangers leading to highly fertile mating with kin, has such an advantage, it is amazing that there is any rest.  People still long for peace.  And I think we can have it.  If people of good will understand that they are harming their children and acting in the disservice of their own ideals if they let their love of humanity lead them to choosing unpromising mates, that xenophobia loses its ancient advantage.  It should decline as the relative number of children of tolerant people increases.

On the down side, if ignorance persists, then our most tolerant and peaceful people will remain at a reproductive advantage.  One possible case is Germany.  You probably know better than I, but my impression is that Germany in the 1800’s was the most liberal and accepting country in the world.  If that is true, then the logic is inescapable.  Those who bred out died out relatively speaking, and those who were left were capable of inflicting a tragedy we still pay for.  Not the least of those costs, of course, is a conviction that anything but the most extravagant outbreeding is inherently evil.  This seems to be setting us up for another cycle. 

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