Saturday, April 12, 2014

Compliance with moral norms: a partly heritable trait?

Election poster from the 1930s for Sweden’s Social Democratic Party (source). Is the welfare state more workable if the population is more predisposed to obey moral norms?

Do we differ genetically in our ability, or willingness, to comply with moral norms? Please note: I'm talking about compliance. The norms themselves can vary greatly from one historical period to another and from one society to another.

Apparently some people are more norm-compliant than others. This is the conclusion of a recent twin study from Sweden (Loewen et al., 2013). A total of 2,273 individuals from twin pairs were queried about the acceptability of four dishonest behaviors: claiming sick benefits while healthy (1.4% thought it totally or fairly acceptable), avoiding paying for public transit (2.8%), avoiding paying taxes (9.7%), and accepting bribes on the job (6.4%).

How heritable were the responses to the above questions? The heritabilities were as follows: 

Claiming sick benefits while healthy - 42.5%
Avoiding paying for public transit - 42.3%
Avoiding paying taxes - 26.3%
Accepting bribes on the job - 39.7%

Do these results indicate a specific predisposition to obey moral norms? Or is the genetic influence something more general, like religiosity or risk-taking, both of which are known to be partly heritable? To answer this question, the authors ran correlations with other factors:

Significant correlations were exhibited for age (r=.10, p=.00), sex (r=.12, p=.00), religiosity (r=.06, p=.00), preferences for risk (r=-.09, p=.00) and fairness (r=-.10, p=.00), locus of control (r=-.03, p=.01), and charitable giving (r=.09, p=.00). However, these significant correlations were relatively weak, suggesting that our measure is not merely standing in for these demographic and psychological differences between individuals. There were no significant correlations with behavioral inhibition (r=-.00, p=.81) or volunteering (r=.01, p=.29). (Loewen et al., 2013)

The jury is still out, but it looks like compliance with moral norms has a specific heritable component.

Population differences

Does this heritable component vary from one population to another, just as it seems to vary from one individual to another? The authors have little to say, other than the following:

Replication in other countries should occur, as the exact role and extent of genetic and common environment-influence could change in different national and cultural contexts. Such a multi-country approach could thus offer some clues on the generalizability of our findings. (Loewen et al., 2013)

Swedes seem to be better than most people at obeying moral norms. Only 1.4% think it acceptable to claim sick benefits while healthy! Maybe that's why they've been so successful at creating a welfare state. So few of them want to be free riders on the gravy train:

Gunnar and Alva Myrdal were the intellectual parents of the Swedish welfare state. In the 1930s they came to believe that Sweden was the ideal candidate for a cradle-to-grave welfare state. First of all, the Swedish population was small and homogeneous, with high levels of trust in one another and the government. Because Sweden never had a feudal period and the government always allowed some sort of popular representation, the land-owning farmers got used to seeing authorities and the government more as part of their own people and society than as external enemies. Second, the civil service was efficient and free from corruption. Third, a Protestant work-ethic—and strong social pressures from family, friends and neighbors to conform to that ethic—meant that people would work hard, even as taxes rose and social assistance expanded. Finally, that work would be very productive, given Sweden´s well-educated population and strong export sector. (Norberg, 2006)

This is not how most of the world works. While studying in Russia, I noticed that the typical Russian feels a strong sense of moral responsibility toward immediate family and longstanding friends, more so than we in the West. Beyond that charmed circle, however, the general feeling seems to be distrust, wariness, or indifference. There was little of the spontaneous willingness to help strangers that I had taken for granted back home. People had the same sense of right and wrong, but this moral universe was strongly centered on their own families.

In sociology, the term is amoral familialism. Family is everything and society is nothing, or almost nothing. It was coined by American sociologist Edward Banfield:

In 1958, Banfield, with the assistance of his wife, Laura, published The Moral Basis of a Backward Society, in which they explained why a region in southern Italy was poor. The reason, they said, was not government neglect or poor education, but culture. People in this area were reluctant to cooperate outside of their families. This kind of "amoral familialism," as they called it, was the result of a high death rate, a defective system of owning land, and the absence of extended families. By contrast, in an equally forbidding part of southern Utah, the residents were engaged in a variety of associations, each busily involved in improving the life of the community. In southern Italy, people did not cooperate; in southern Utah, they scarcely did anything else. (Banfield, 2003, p. viii)

Where did Western societies get this desire to treat family and non-family the same way? To some extent, it seems to be a longstanding trait. English historian Alan Macfarlane sees a tendency toward weaker kinship ties that goes back at least to the 13th century. Children had no automatic rights to the family property. Parents could leave their property to whomever they liked and disinherit their children if they so wished (Macfarlane, 2012).

Indeed, Macfarlane argues that "Weber's de-familization of society" was already well advanced in Anglo-Saxon times (Macfarlane, 1992, pp. 173-174). This picture of relatively weak kinship ties is consistent with the Western European marriage pattern. If we look at European societies west of a line running from Trieste to St. Petersburg, we find that certain cultural traits predominate:

- relatively late marriage for men and women
- many people who never marry
- neolocality (children leave the family household to form new households)
- high circulation of non-kin among different households (typically young people sent out as servants) (Hajnal, 1965; see also hbd* chick)

Again, these characteristics go back at least to the 13th century and perhaps much farther back (Seccombe, 1992, p. 94).

Historians associate this model of society with the rise of the market economy. In other words, reciprocal kinship obligations were replaced with monetized economic obligations, and this process in turn led to a broader-based morality that applied to everyone equally. In reality, the arrow of causation seems to have been the reverse. Certain societies, notably those of northwestern Europe, were pre-adapted to the market economy and thus better able to exploit its possibilities when it began to take off in the late Middle Ages. The expansion of the market economy and, later, that of the welfare state were thus made possible by certain pre-existing cultural and possibly genetic characteristics, i.e., weaker kinship ties and a corresponding extension of morality from the familial level to the societal level.


Banfield, E.C. (2003). Political Influence, New Brunswick (N.J.): Transaction Pub.

Hajnal, John (1965). European marriage pattern in historical perspective. In D.V. Glass and D.E.C. Eversley. Population in History. Arnold, London. 

Loewen, P.J., C.T. Dawes, N. Mazar, M. Johannesson, P. Keollinger, and P.K.E. Magnusson. (2013). The heritability of moral standards for everyday dishonesty, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 93, 363-366.  

Macfarlane, A. (1992). On individualism, Proceedings of the British Academy, 82, 171-199.  

Macfarlane, A. (2012). The invention of the modern world. Chapter 8: Family, friendship and population, The Fortnightly Review, Spring-Summer serial  

Norberg, J. (2006). Swedish Models, June 1, The National Interest.  

Seccombe, W. (1992). A Millennium of Family Change. Feudalism to Capitalism in Northwestern Europe, London: Verso.



Sean said...

The external threat a country faces is going to be a big factor in how its society works (eg Sparta, Prussia).

There were communist revolutions in Russia and China, which were preceded by similar peasant uprisings, how explain them on the basis of family-first social systems?

In the modern era, Sweden has been a freeloader that did well out of the world wars. It's welfare state is coming apart rather quickly; the absentee problem playing a part. Monitoring and enforcing compliance is probably no less necessary in Sweden than elsewhere, perhaps more so. Sweden does not have a drugs problem because of the enforcement in the country, suggesting moralising enforcement not innate morality is their strong point. Indeed, I would say Swedes tend to be sanctimonious, Gunnar and Alva Myrdal certainly were about the US. But then everyone could see what they were doing and they got praised (their children didn't praise them).

The Kantian way, which is to be moral against personal considerations or inclination, or do your duty simply because you ought rather than because you might get caught, is likely instinctively practiced in Germany more than any other country. That is why it is the most effective society in the world. Twice they fought the whole world and nearly won. Switzerland and Denmark have the lowest crime rates in Europe. I always find Denmark instructive.

Certain bloggers think outbreeding explains everything. No one seems to have told Jane Austen or the Darwin - Wedgewoods that the economically successful English middle classes were not marrying in.

Anonymous said...

Do we differ genetically in our ability, or willingness, to comply with moral norms? Please note: I'm talking about compliance. The norms themselves can vary greatly from one historical period to another and from one society to another.

Genetic determinism would imply that everything, including this capacity for moral compliance, is subject to genetic influence. And the data you point to in the post seems to support this. Furthermore, such a capacity would imply that the morals or norms to be complied with are subject to extra-genetic influence, inheritance, and transmission. Otherwise there'd be no grounds for such a capacity for compliance. If the morals and norms themselves were wholly genetically determined and transferred, there'd be no compliance taking place.

The naive determinists you find online among certain amateur HBD bloggers don't seem to understand any of this. They in effect deny that any such capacity for moral compliance could ever exist and assert that every moral or norm is wholly genetically determined and inherited vertically.

Anonymous I said...

"The jury is still out, but it looks like compliance with moral norms has a specific heritable component."


No, the jury isn't still out.

Peter, if you're going to talk about human traits, you need to understand _trait theory_. For the benefit of your readers, it's worth browsing around a little on several key topics.

* The Lexical hypothesis:

* Factor Analysis:

* HEXACO Personality Model:

* H-factor of the HEXACO:

Note that factor H, or "Honesty-Humility," has well-known heritability, as explored in multiple studies, for instance:

* Veselka (2010) "A Behavioral Genetic Study of Relationships Between Humor Styles And The Six HEXACO Personality Factors."

* Devreis (2008) "The Dutch HEXACO Personality Inventory: Psychometric Properties, Self–Other Agreement, and Relations With Psychopathy Among Low and High Acquaintanceship Dyads."

* Ashton (2012) "The maladaptive personality traits of the personality inventory for DSM-5 (PID-5) in relation to the HEXACO personality factors"

The heritability for Honesty-Humility is established between 40% and 60%. There is absolutely no need to go looking at the heritability of specific items like "claiming sick benefits while healthy" or "accepting bribes." All such individual Machiavellian behaviors and attitudes are already known to cluster together in one broad trait with moderate heritability; welcome to the 21st century.

Peter Fros_ said...


Yes, the Swedish welfare state is in trouble, largely because the cultural and demographic preconditions that made it possible are disappearing.

Compliance with moral norms is both internal and external, i.e., people internalize the norms and they also make sure that others comply as well. This is less and less possible because of the growing individualims and anonymity of Swedish society and also because a growing proportion of the population is made up of people who don't identify as Swedish and feel no strong obligation to make Swedish society work.


I agree. Our notions of morality, particularly in the realm of sexuality, have radically changed, yet the urge to internalize and enforce norm compliance is still there.


No, honesty isn't the same thing as willingness to comply with moral norms (although the two overlap to some extent). Another detail I left out is that norm compliance also involves monitoring of other people's behavior.

Peter Fros_ said...

To follow up on my last comment, there seems to be a specific mental algorithm that predisposes people to these tasks:

1. Identify the moral norms of one's local group.

2. Internalize them and enforce them in one's own behavior.

3. Monitor other members of the local group to make sure that they likewise comply with these norms.

4. Exclude noncomplying members (ostracism, shaming, physical expulsion, etc.)

Sean said...

To ostracism, shaming and physical expulsion I would add what is perhaps the most important one: ridicule.

Sweden is the world's most overrated country, even if they have slightly higher IQs (like the Chinese) they are conformists at heart with pitifully few innovations to their credit. The Swedes extremely high opinion of themeselves is tied up with Myndal's ideology: Swedish sex education. Sex education in the land of strong women; it looks like like a cartoon version of US commercial porn (in which that sex race combination is extremely common). Nothing should surprise us about a land that legalised child pornography. In Germany and Britain 'progressives' were no better. For them, if morality is not about rights, it's just stultifying tradition, and any argument against such represents pure rationality.

Animals do kin selection, humans can do symbolic community as well, so at the level of a tribal grouping humans have already lost inclusive fitness as the prime directive. In a modern state the symbolic community can't be monitored as in a tribe of 150 members, so legal enforcement becomes more important. Hence liberal legalism whereby contentious issues are removed from politics via 'rights' legislation.

The symbolic community of the left has a proven record of suddenly espousing, en masse, previously inconceivable positions as self evident moral certainties. Being mainly upper middle class, the progressives have strong hereditary compliance with whatever norm is flavour of the week. Rationalism is a symbolic community with strong genes.

subpatre said...

In past societies there would be strong pressure to propagate conformal tendencies. Everything from ostracism and shunning all the way up to execution would reduce genetic non-conformal traits.

On a slightly different tact, I have politically wondered about the amount of heritable reaction to alpha-members. This is a measurable trait in animals, though the tendency varies widely. Sheep will follow while deer will not, but there is considerable variation within a species. In dogs it can be (and has been) specifically bred for.

If heritable, people long under autocratic or despotic rule would tend to 'conform' to that social order. When displaced or moved out of that order, these people would look for alpha-members to follow.

Sean said...

According to Gigenrenzer, moral decisions are made by means of heuristics contingent on the social environment; behavior is like cutting, with heuristics and social environment each one blade of the scissors. The main decision rules are

1. Do what everyone else does
2. Imitate succesful people.

In various societies the genetically rooted propesities are family (which goes with a more general concern with hierarchy), symbolic community (tribe), or the individual. Any one can be emphasised. The emphasised root is non negotiable, irrespective of the consequences. So it's Kantian in that respect, and it not achieving goals will not be taken as a refutation

I don't think the trouble Sweden runs into will matter, they won't change.

Luke Lea said...

From the article: "This kind of "amoral familialism," as they called it, was the result of a high death rate, a defective system of owning land, and the absence of extended families."

That last part threw me. I thought the presence of extended families (aka clans) was at the root of amoral familialism. Isn't southern Italy clannish?

Sean said...

"People in this area were reluctant to cooperate outside of their families."
That would be cooperating with the competition. However I don't think a certain level of group selection, such as the family, is where the action is for a particular people irrespective of the external threat,. Although when there are hostile families to compete with people look to their own families and freinds, when the main threat is a group abouve the family level, people are willing to share the fate of a larger group.

"To the sound of the bells messengers ran through the city calling on the men of Palermo to rise against the oppressor. At once the streets were filled with angry armed men, crying "Death to the French" Every Frenchman they met was struck down. They poured into the inns frequented by the French and the houses where they dwelt, sparing neither man, woman nor child. Sicilian girls who had married Frenchmen perished with their husbands. The rioters broke into the Dominican Order and Franciscan convents; and all the foreign friars were dragged out and told to pronounce the word ' ''ciciri'' ', whose sound the French tongue could never accurately reproduce. Anyone who failed the test was slain… By the next morning some two thousand French men and women lay dead; and the rebels were in complete control of the city."

During WW2 Russians were probably more helpful to stangers, as long as they were Russians. Russians are banding together again, because they're under pressure. Concern with Ottoman success was an important factor in the Reformation. It made for a more cohesive society, with common people having a patriotic sense of identity as Germans rather than seeing themselves as various subjects of princes and bishops; especially true of the south west Holy Roman Empire, which takes in the most prosperous parts of Europe today such as Switzerland. I think the dismantling of nation states that is going on now may be something similar to the Reformation. The elite want to be running a superpower.

Ian said...

Sean: your statement about Sweden having some historical role as a 'freeloader' doesn't hold water.

The opposite is the case. Sweden transformed itself in quite a short space of time from a predominantly agrarian economy to an industrialised one. Today it has a competitive export-led economy and a high standard of living.

The kind of nutty libertinism on porn which you're describing is on the wane. Sweden also has relatively tough laws by European standards on drugs and prostitution.

Ben10 said...

Hi Peter,

Have you seen these recent papers about epigenetic?

Already, what is shown here is pure Lamarckism in action.
But in addition, if it turns out that 'information' from organs of the somatic body can reach the DNA in the germen to target specific genes, the boost in evolutionary speed would be enormous over classical Darwinism.

The exact nature and transport mechanism of this information is still investigated, but right now
they consider likely the possibility that stress hormones circulating in the blood can trigger epigenetic changes in the germen, and the male germen for that matter. That's quite revolutionary already but there are other indications that point to circulating microRNAs. That's even more incredible, given the RNA extreme fragility, to imagine these molecules in the blood stream. Perhaps they could travel double stranded and coupled to RNAse inhibitors, so they could survive the trip in the blood stream to the sperm cells.
Now an 'acceleration of evolution' becomes a possible concept, whereas if you still rely entirely on Darwinism, you have to postulate that the rate of mutation is never a limiting factor over the intensity of the selection force.
To finish, since they mention epigenetic transmission of 'stress sensitivity', I 'd like to remind that the conditions of life in Europe have been particularly stressful for the European men these last 300 years.
Some facts of life that are personal to me, but that were probably not so rare at this time, can prove this: in Northern France around ~1900 and after WWI, food was so scarce that some people report that dead babies were eaten among the poorest. Of course, you could see the 'gueules cassees' everywhere, male soldiers survivors that were amputated, disfigured, gazed in the trenches, nevertheless trying to father the next generation of young men, aka 'meat for the guns'.
If That is not stress, what is it?

It is during that time that my grand father lived, sent to work on the potato field with one potato for food in his entire day. His mom died of the Spanish flu when he was 5. He married young and his wife died of disease soon after she gave birth. Then during WWII he was taken prisoner along with many other French soldiers. (BTW, 80 000 died in combat...not sure it is what to expect from surrendering monkeys and what 'History Channel' wants you to believe).
Alright, so now try to imagine the amount of stress hormones in the bloodstream of these Frenchmen and the resulting epigenetic legacy.
Perhaps the behavior of several generation was changed forever. Perhaps those who complain of the present amorphous temper of the European white male and his lack of reaction in front of the decay of his world, including the decline in morality, should not be so surprised.

Anonymous said...

The heritability for Honesty-Humility is established between 40% and 60%. There is absolutely no need to go looking at the heritability of specific items like "claiming sick benefits while healthy" or "accepting bribes." All such individual Machiavellian behaviors and attitudes are already known to cluster together in one broad trait with moderate heritability; welcome to the 21st century.

I don't think you really understand trait theory if you think there is good evidence that either all the heritable part of the variance moral traits or all the variance on moral traits is well explained through the H construct (and its heritability).

It does better than the rest of the HEXACO (or the Big 5, and has certain strengths the Dark Triad doesn't), but that's not saying that much. This isn't like g we're talking about here.

Sean said...

Sweden is rich and sees itself as an egalitarian society. And their Myrdian norms preclude an underclass, particularly of immigrants. So something has to give. And that sex education is very instructive; those racial gender roles are not liberal or libertarian. They are the predominant ones in mainstream media, to some extent in commercial porn, and even in supposedly black culture.

Ben, I think the idea is good mothering (in rats that translates to mothers grooming their young a lot) works epigenetically to make individuals better able to cope with stress in adulthood.

Ben10 said...

"... I think the idea is good mothering (in rats that translates to mothers grooming their young a lot) works epigenetically to make individuals better able to cope with stress in adulthood..."

By the way, what is the latest theory to explain the inheritance of complex behavior?

Sean said...

There are two schools of thought Gigerenzer says, if you go by the explanation for behaviour that we can come up with after the fact (as justification) behaviour is complex. But like an ant making its way around over and through obstacles, complex behaviour is often just simple heuristics applied to the environment, because that works better. Applied to moral reasoning this predicts a gut feeling rather than multi factoral calculation of consequences. Kahneman thinks that amounts to cognitive bias.

I read the other day that women like certain types of trees: ones with characteristics that objectively would make them a good refuge from predators, and girls are more keen on the monkey bars in playgrounds; because ancestral females back in Africa climbed trees to sleep in.

Anonymous said...

Do we differ genetically in our ability, or willingness, to comply with moral norms? Please note: I'm talking about compliance. The norms themselves can vary greatly from one historical period to another and from one society to another.

Yes, with the ability for norm compliance, the norms themselves can vary and control over the influence and dissemination of norms becomes critical.

Speaking of Sweden, Peter Wolodarski, the Jewish Editor-in-Chief of Dagens Nyheter, the newspaper with the biggest circulation in Sweden, is calling for bombing Syria and bringing more Syrian refugees and immigrants generally into Sweden and Europe, citing the authority of George Soros:

The Dagens Nyheter newspaper, incidentally, is owned by the Jewish Bonnier family, which dominates much of the media in Sweden as well as having extensive international holdings.

Gottlieb said...

As I think the genetics of human being is micro - mutant throughout his life, that is to say , is always prepared to adapt to their environment , I believe that certain cultures may fit perfectly with certain phenotypes of personality and behavior, more than others. Also appears to be important to see how has been the social , economic and meritocratic structure of Sweden , since it seems that the emphasis on certain cognitive attributes for a long time , can have significant effects as in the case of China .
I see , as I said in the blog Hbd Chick , geographical cognitive specialization of Europe as the microclimates present ( caused by heat islands ) in large modern cities .
It may be that the modern state has existed in China long before the Avis dynasty able to unify the Portuguese territories . A lack of central government , can have an effect on cognitive diversification of regional specialties and it can even be observed through multiple European cultural events , pre - multi - silliness .

JayMan said...

I should have posted this here earlier, but this is extremely relevant to this post, especially the section where we talk about the heritability of the Honest-humility dimension of the HEXACO (the Dark Triad/Tetrad):

More Behavioral Genetic Facts | JayMan's Blog

It is my suspicion that the H dimension will be generally higher in clannish peoples in lower in non-clannish peoples. As with many other major aspects of personality that should vary from culture to culture, if we had a reliable way of measuring them cross-nationally.

JayMan said...

Anonymous: 12 April 2014 19:12:00:

Do you have a reference for the higher heritability of Honesty-humility? My sources seemed to cap it out at about 45% (I'd imagine that they'd be a huge amount of noise in measurements of this though). If so, please share.

Sean said...

Sweden is a conceited freeloader that thinks it is the world's most moral country and they really are not influenceable. Sweden built military facilities for Iraq, though they didn't supply as much military related equipment as Britain and France.

"In August 2009, a diplomatic row erupted after the publication of an article in the Swedish daily Aftonbladet that claimed the Israel Defense Forces had engaged in organ harvesting from dead Palestinians. Israel called on the Swedish government to condemn the article, which it described as a "manifestation of antisemitism" and a modern "blood libel".[9] The Swedish government refused, citing freedom of the press and the country's constitution."

Anyway Sweden is not part of NATO and won't have any influence. Israel does not want the US involved in Syria just yet because that would stymie the attack on Iran.

Finland has some new stamps. Now if Finlandization was still in full swing in Finland they wouldn't have have done that, obviously they are becoming worried about Russia and so the moral 'certainties' are suddenly different. Read the first comment above.

Steve Sailer said...

One objective metric for this is UN diplomat parking tickets in NYC: the Swedish diplomatic corps pays all its parking tickets, while some other countries not only use their diplomatic immunity to never pay, but park with impunity.

Sean said...

You can't get life insurance in Nigeria, because a doctor authenticated death certificate is available for a price there.

Is that genetic? Yes a bit, but behaviour can spread. It has also been shown that the (Nigerian) diplomats behaviour infected other countries' diplomats, who had originally been law abiding.

It isn't the case that people act a certain way whether it is not it is ecologically rational to do so; they are influenced by what others are doing. People pay attention to outcomes, their own and others. And that is why non compliance with moral norms (about falsely claiming sickness benefits ect) is increasing among the Swedes so rapidly it is making their welfare model untenable. Swedes are infected by the ignoring of Swedish norms by the incomers. The immigrants are going to have a powerful transformative effecton on European societies, and it will happen much faster that the immigrant's numbers might suggest, because of this influencing effect. But the JayMans of this world will never understand that.

Sean said...

Swedish drug policy has been mentioned. A Swedish psychiatrist, Bejerot, identified drug use as a "behavioral epidemic, spreading from person to person by new users, like a communicable disease. [...] the level of drug use in a community, in a nation, and in the world as a whole, is largely determined not by brain biology, but by the social reactions to drugs". See here.

Like many western countries, Sweden has a welfare system so specialised that there is no flexibility to cope with the irruption of freeloading attitudes.

Ben10 said...

Peter's question is too complex and must be reduced to smaller questions. Technically though, it is a genetic question.

But first, before we can explain the inheritance of a complex behavior, we have to define the way it happens, the algorithm that produces it.

For example, compliance to moral norms could be the contingent result of a cognitive faculty to 'imagine the future consequences of our acts' or said otherwise, a propensity to think ahead constantly.
Thinking ahead too much, as we all know, can inhibit impulsive and fast reactions, perhaps increasing a 'wait and see' behavior that could be the root of an apparent compliance with the norm.
Or the algorithm could be different. It could be the result of a gene/culture neoteny: with longer parental investment and longer childhood compliance to education that could persist in adulthood in the form of compliance to the moral norms.
Or the algorithm could be different again, like a direct encoding in the brain of the behavior.
There may be other ways to obtain this behavior, but in any case we can make different hypothesis on the part that are actually inheritable.

Once we've found the algorithm that produces the behavior and the parts of it that are possibly inheritable, we can look for associated genes or molecules for these parts.

Let's take the hardest case: the behavior is directly inherited in the brain, like an instinct for animals. I'll take again the example of my 2 dogs. One is a hunter/pointer/retriever type, he lift its right leg to point, and then retrieve by swimming if necessary. The other dog is a herder's type, he bites the other dog to the legs to 'bring him back home', exactly like for a sheep.
Nobody ever showed them or taught them their behavior, they displayed it spontaneously upon the appropriate stimulus.
Now as far as we know, a complex behavior has to be the result of a neuronal circuitry or network activity. So the question becomes: 'how can you inherit a preset neural network that could be different otherwise'?
Assuming it was just molecules, could we, by injection in the fertilized egg by transgenesis, create a 'retriever' dog with the spontaneous instinctive behavior of a herder, and vice versa?
Another possibility: If ONLY the maternal egg carries the putative molecules that influence the wiring of the neural network, then, transferring the nucleus of one dog type into the enucleated Oocyte of another dog type could possibly transfer the behavior as well. Also, if that was true, it should be observable that this complex behavior is inherited by the female only.
That should be relatively easy to verify here: is compliance to moral norm inherited through the mother only?

Of course, if the wiring of brain is influenced through other epigenetic mechanisms involving also the males, it will be harder to prove.

Anonymous said...

Barbara Lerner Spectre is head of Paideia, The European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden. She was born in the US and moved to Israel and then Sweden.

Here she speaks on Europe and multiculturalism:

"I think there is a resurgence of anti-Semitism because at this point in time Europe has not yet learned how to be multicultural. And I think we are going to be part of the throes of that transformation, which must take place. Europe is not going to be the monolithic societies they once were in the last century. Jews are going to be at the centre of that. It’s a huge transformation for Europe to make. They are now going into a multicultural mode and Jews will be resented because of our leading role. But without that leading role and without that transformation, Europe will not survive."

Bones and Behaviours said...

"Amoral" familiarism seems the best inoculation against the bad consequences created by modern, western pathological altruism and antinatalist attitudes.

Anonymous said...

No wonder MacDonald ended up closing all comments at the OO.

Sean said...

Barbara is a Brocken Spectre who is mainly fooling herself, and a few others. Her statements were already discussed here; how many more times?

Anonymous said...

No wonder MacDonald ended up closing all comments at the OO.

This doesn't follow and it's completely irrelevant. The only reason you said it is because you want to shame people from showing things that you don't want shown.

Anonymous said...

It's funny how this epigenetics nonsense only arose as the blank slate nonsense started to crumble.

"The heritability for Honesty-Humility is established between 40% and 60%."

Among all populations or just WEIRD ones? Anecdotal only but I'd say the heritability of "dishonesty is fine if it helps the family" is heritable at the same levels among clannish populations in almost direct proportion to how clannish they are.

Anonymous said...

"But first, before we can explain the inheritance of a complex behavior, we have to define the way it happens, the algorithm that produces it."

All you need is random mutations and probability.

Randomly occurring traits don't have to be specifically selected for in environment A to increase in frequency compared to environment B; they only need to *selected against less* in environment A compared to B.

panafancypants said...

"There were communist revolutions in Russia and China, which were preceded by similar peasant uprisings, how explain them on the basis of family-first social systems?"

I could be wrong about this, but I don't think the Russian Revolution was the result of organic peasant uprising. Typically, its leaders and agitators tended to be at least partly not-Slav and entirely urban (think Lenin). It did attract some disenfranchised peasantry, but it's an old trope: a movement glorifying manual laborers was made up of city people with little to no idea what they're doing, and screwed over more people than it ever helped.

Anonymous said...

Heritability doesn't mean what most people think it means. It isn't the same thing as genetic inheritance. Those are two separate scientific concepts.

Unknown said...

Being family oriented doesn't necessarily mean you're a good citizen and a moral person. How I wish the rest of the world are like the Swedes. But, I think the rest of the world should have loose family ties first...

Malcolm Smith said...

I'm surprised that Swedes are 4½ times more likely to approve of bribery than claiming sick benefits when healthy.
In any case, for the latter, 1.4% of 2,273 equals 39. That's a small sample size on which to base a discussion of heritability, let alone separating out confounding factors.
With regard to confounding factors, there was a question about whether moral compliance was due to religiosity. It might be possible that part of the heritability of religiosity is due to moral compliance. In other words, do you do to church or stay home because of some "spiritual" factor in your makeup, or lack of it, or is your behaviour based on whether your friends or your authority figures go to church or stay away?