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Mapping the end of incest and dawn of individualism

Discussion in 'Religious News' started by Vouthon, Dec 9, 2019.

  1. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    How the early Christian church gave birth to today’s WEIRD Europeans | Science | AAAS

    In September 506 C.E., the fathers of what would later become the Roman Catholic Church gathered in southern France to draw up dozens of new laws. Some forbade clergy from visiting unrelated women. Others forbade Christians from marrying anyone more closely related than their third cousin. The authors of a sweeping new study say that last, seemingly trivial prohibition may have given birth to Western civilization as we know it.

    “If the authors are right, or even in the vicinity of being right, it couldn’t be bigger,” says Stephen Stich, a philosopher and cognitive scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, who wasn’t involved in the work. “What they are offering to explain is the emergence of democratic institutions, of individualism in the West.”

    The church’s early ban on incest and cousin marriage, the researchers say, weakened the tight kinship structures that had previously defined European populations, fostering new streaks of independence, nonconformity, and a willingness to work with strangers. And as the church’s influence spread, those qualities blossomed into a suite of psychological traits common today across Western industrialized nations, they argue.

    “They’re looking at what created the modern Western world,” Stich says.

    Centuries living under these restrictions fundamentally reshaped European societies’ kinship structure—and their psychology, the authors say. Traditional kin networks stressed the moral value of obeying one’s elders, for example. But when the church forced people to marry outside this network, traditional values broke down, allowing new ones to pop up: individualism, nonconformity, and less bias toward one’s in-group.

    “These are things that don’t come to mind when you think about the influence of the Catholic Church,” Stich says, which may explain why nobody had previously connected the church’s influence with the emergence Western psychology.


    A fascinating article from last month, published in physics.org (a science news website) and sciencemag.org about the results of a new study published in Science journal by Joseph Henrich, chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology of Harvard University, and a team of collaborators. (Full study here: https://henrich.fas.harvard.edu/files/henrich/files/sciencefull.pdf)

    Its findings relate to a topic I've discussed many times before on this forum (see here: Call No Man Your Father, here: Reason is the Most Important Driver of Human Moral Progress?) that the medieval Catholic Church engaged in what many scholars regard to be history's largest-scale social engineering experiment / "negative eugenics".

    Basically put, the medieval Church destroyed tribalism and heavily penalised its main vehicle - c
    ousin marriage - through the strictest reproductive, consanguinity laws ever imposed on a population in the entirety of human history (I think it makes China's old 'one-child' policy look tame by comparison) and a new emphasis on marriage as consensual rather than arranged. This had very big ramifications as a form of social engineering, quite apart from removing some of the undesirable genetic traits that arise from inbreeding: namely, helping to lead to an unprecedentedly individualist, non-conformist society here in the West compared to other cultures.

    I'm glad this area of study has got fresh research plugged into it:


    https://phys.org/news/2019-11-incest-dawn-individualism.html

    Western Individualism May Have Roots In The Medieval Church's Obsession With Incest

    How the Medieval Catholic Church triggered rise of individualistic Western societies

    Mapping the end of incest and dawn of individualism

    [​IMG]

    If you're from a Western society, chances are you value individuality, independence, analytical thinking, and an openness to strangers and new ideas.

    And the surprising reason for all that may very well have to do with the early Roman Catholic Church and its campaign against marriage within families, according to new research published in Science by Joseph Henrich, chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, and a team of collaborators.

    "If you're going to ask the rise-of-the-West question," said Henrich, an author of the paper, "there's this big unmentioned thing called psychology that's got to be part of the story."

    About a decade ago Henrich coined the acronym WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic) to describe the characteristics of cultures that embrace individualism. And those groups were weird, which is to say unusual within the rest of the modern world's substantial psychological variation [...]

    Henrich and his collaborators decided to look at how social groups mold the psychology and values of members, the most important and fundamental being the family.

    "There's good evidence that Europe's kinship structure was not much different from the rest of the world," said Jonathan Schulz, an assistant professor of economics at George Mason University and another author of the paper. But then, from the Middle Ages to 1500 A.D., the Western Church (later known as the Roman Catholic Church) started banning marriages to cousins, step-relatives, in-laws, and even spiritual-kin, better known as godparents.

    [​IMG]

    Why the church grew obsessed with incest is still unknown. [...] Whatever the reasons, one thing seems clear: The Western Church's crusade coincides with a significant loosening in Europe's kin-based institutions.

    Comparing exposure to the Western Church with their "kinship intensity index," which includes data on cousin marriage rates, polygyny (where a man takes multiple wives), co-residence of extended families, and other historical anthropological measures, the team identified a direct connection between the religious ban and the growth of independent, monogamous marriages among nonrelatives. According to the study, each additional 500 years under the Western Church is associated with a 91 percent further reduction in marriage rates between cousins.

    "Meanwhile in Iran, in Persia, Zoroastrianism was not only promoting cousin marriage but promoting marriage between siblings," Henrich said. Although Islam outlawed polygyny extending beyond four wives, and the Eastern Orthodox Church adopted policies against incest, no institution came close to the strict, widespread policies of the Western Church.

    Those policies first altered family structures and then the psychologies of members. Henrich and his colleagues think that individuals adapt cognition, emotions, perceptions, thinking styles, and motivations to fit their social networks. Kin-based institutions reward conformity, tradition, nepotism, and obedience to authority, traits that help protect assets—such as farms—from outsiders. But once familial barriers crumble, the team predicted that individualistic traits like independence, creativity, cooperation, and fairness with strangers would increase.

    Using 24 psychological variables collected in surveys, experiments, and observations, they measured the global prevalence of traits that correspond or conflict with individualism. To test for willingness to help strangers, for example, they collected data on blood-donation rates across Italy, finding a correlation between high donation rates and low cousin-marriage rates. With their kinship intensity index, Schutz said, they can also predict which diplomats in New York City will or will not pay parking tickets: Those from countries with higher rates of cousin marriages are more likely to get a ticket and less likely to pay one.

    And, although willingness to trust strangers, as opposed to family or neighbors, is associated with higher levels of innovation, greater national wealth, and faster economic growth, which factor causes which is not yet known.

    "We're not saying that less-intensive kin-based institutions are better," said Beauchamp. "Far from it. There are trade-offs." Tight families, for example, come with inborn financial safety nets.

     
    #1 Vouthon, Dec 9, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2019
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  2. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Veteran Member
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    They can use cousin marriage rates to actually predict psychological characteristics? That is very memorable.

    Top of my head if I had to guess for a reason why the RC made this move its probably that it affected the royals. Maybe it was for medical reasons, or maybe it was for political reasons. Perhaps the goal was to keep the royals from going to war or to keep them from ganging up against the church.

    What do you suspect is the reason?
     
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  3. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    Persuasive suggestions!

    Obviously, its difficult to answer this question definitively - the researchers themselves refrain from speculating, as its more a matter for a medievalist scholar than a team of evolutionary biologists / psychologists - but my own personal research into this would lead me to a number of underlying reasons, ranging from the eugenical/medical to the theological and self-interest.

    I'll set the reasons, as I see them, out in a couple of posts:


    1. Eugenical / Medical

    The earliest text from a pontiff I can find dealing with this issue, at any great length, is a letter from Pope Gregory the Great (540 – 604) to an Englishman - Augustine the first Bishop of Canterbury - in the sixth century AD, in the wake of the Council of Agde (canon 30, beginning: "Incestuous unions are in no wise to be pardoned before they are again sundered...").

    This western synod had pronounced against cousin marriage primarily, it seems, for health reasons (i.e. genetic fitness of the offspring) and secondarily for moralistic/theological ones:


    Eugenics - Wikipedia


    The first formal negative eugenics, that is a legal provision against the birth of allegedly inferior human beings, was promulgated in Western European culture by the Christian Council of Agde in 506, which forbade marriage between cousins.[15]​


    (Note: this took place in a Christian social order that believed in the fundamental human equality of status and soul, irrespective of hereditary illness or impairment (which is why the church had outlawed infanticide of disabled children in the Roman Empire and other positive eugenic policies of the classical world). There was no desire to 'eliminate' or leave to their fate the children of 'incestuous' unions, or to stigmatize them. The intention was simply to prevent more people with such medical conditions from being born in the future. So, it was 'negatively' eugenical.)

    Gregory I appeared to use the same rationale church's in opposition to marriage within the extended kin group as follows:


    CHURCH FATHERS: Registrum Epistolarum, Book XI, Letter 64 (Gregory the Great)


    Answer of the blessed pope Gregory: A certain earthly law in the Roman republic allows the son and daughter, whether of a brother and sister, or of two brothers, or of two sisters, to marry together. But we have learned by experience that the progeny of such marriages cannot thrive. And the sacred law forbids to uncover the nakedness of kindred. Whence it follows that only the third or fourth generations of believers may be lawfully joined together [...]

    But, since there are many in the nation of the Angli [English] who while they were yet in unbelief are said to have been associated in such unholy marriages, they should be admonished, when they come to the faith, to abstain from each other, and be made to understand that this is a grievous sin.


    The scholar William Durham has noted that this statement is evidence that the church prohibition was originally based on some recognition of the physical abnormalities and health problems that come from cousin inbreeding.

    Today, it remains a huge social problem among people of certain nationalities because of traditional cultures like the Germanic one that the church changed (through its social engineering consanguinity laws):

    First cousin marriages in Pakistani communities leading to 'appalling' disabilities among children

    But Gregory then relied on theological reasoning to extend the ban to cover 'kin' (i.e. stepparents and stepbrothers/sisters) that were not blood related beyond the level of first cousins. Why?


    2. Anthropological/social


    From Jack Goody’s “The Development of the Family and Marriage in Europe” [pgs. 56-8]:


    “What were the grounds for these extensive prohibitions on consanguineous marriages? The ‘Dictionnaire de Droit Canonique’ (1949) gives three general reasons that have been proposed:

    “1. The moral reason, that marriage would threaten the respect and shame due to near ones.

    “2. The social reason, that distant marriages enlarge the range of social relations. This common ‘anthropological’ notion was put forward by those great theologians, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, who recognised that out-marriage multiplied the ties of kinship and thus prevented villages from becoming ‘closed communities’, that is, solidary ones.

    “3. The physiological reason, that the fertility of the mother or the health of the children might be endangered.


    “The statements of Thomas Aquinas, which appeared in his ‘Summa Theologica‘ and was highly influential during the Middle Ages, raised a number of possible objections to consanguineous marriage…. (2 above)….


    All three reasons were stressed by St. Thomas Aquinas in his 13th century Summa Theologica.

    In the medieval period, marriage was prohibited by the Church at the Lateran Council of 1215 within the fourth degree of a consanguineous relationship, that is between third cousins or any anything closer, the strictest incest law in the entirety of human history.


    3. Exegetical: Jesus' anti-family stance

    The next reason I would propose is exegetical: the Jesus of the gospels was presented by the evangelists as being strongly anti-family/anti-kinship group (contrary to what the modern Republican Party in the US might want us to believe! :D). The Western Church took him literally - or at least more literally than the Byzantines.

    There is a discernible 'revolt' against the primacy of blood relations and the patriarchal, extended kinship group in the New Testament, in favour of a "pro-social" universalistic ethic that encourages Christians - despite not being closely genetically related - to see each other as 'brothers and sisters' (rather than strangers), in a new family unit not derived from blood relations but from faith

    As you will no doubt know, at church we would refer to each as "brother" wouldn't we? But we're brothers from another 'mother' (not blood related, merely sharing the same religion):


    Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

    (Mark 3:31-34)​


    This spiritual family was to be radically inclusive: "foreigners" like Samaritans, Barbarians and Gentiles could join the 'family' / 'household', as could anyone of any social class (including slaves), if they simply 'did the will of God'. Once baptised everyone was a 'brother / sister':


    "You are all brothers. Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven"

    (Matthew 23:8-9)

    "But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12)​

    "there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all." (Colossians 3:10-11)​


    Jesus encouraged his followers to abandon their extended 'blood' families and join this new one of strangers: "Many people were traveling with Jesus. He said to them, “If you come to me but will not leave your family, you cannot be my follower."" (Luke 14:25). So emphatic was he on this point that he told younger relatives to declare their independence from the hierarchical authority of their elders:


    "I have come not to unite, but to separate, for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three...father will turn against son, daughter against mother...your worst enemies will be the members of your own family" (Luke 12:51-53)​


    In any culture disrespecting one's own parents is regarded as a negative quality but in ancient Judea among devout Jews, it was deemed to be even more offensive because parental authority was held to be sacrosanct. The Torah could not have been blunter about the criminality of this breach of the law: "He who insults his father or his mother shall be put to death" (Ex. 21:17).

    And in the surrounding Greco-Roman culture, the sacred office of the family patriarch was perhaps even more important again. As the historian Proessor Larry Siedentop explained in his 2014 book entitled Inventing the Individual:


    The [Roman] paterfamilias (father) was originally both the family’s magistrate and high priest, with his wife, daughters and younger sons having a radically inferior status.

    Inequality remained the hallmark of the ancient patriarchal family. “Society” was understood as an association of families rather than of individuals.


    Some scholars consider fathers to represent patriarchy, the old society in which the man alone ruled and decided. In the new family of Jesus into which the disciples are to grow there can no longer be anyone who dominates others.” (Gerhard Lohfink 2014).


    I don't think its hard to envisage that a culture shaped by such ethics - under the teaching authority of a church that regarded itself as the divine organ tasked with implementing it on earth - would promote super-exogamy and strongly discourage endogamy / kinship marriage / blood relative sex.

    This is a religion in which 'blood' is not thicker than 'water' (namely the water of baptism!).

    (continued...)
     
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  4. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    4. Subjective, individual natural rights (in canon law)

    These anti-family teachings had a tangible impact on extended family relations even in the early church. They fostered a sense of individual agency, apart from and in opposition to clan, kin and collective.

    As noted, both male and female children were under the patria potestas of a paterfamilias, that is, under the control of a male head of a household. Women of all ages in Roman society were always under the guardianship of a man.

    In the Passio Sanctarum Martyrum Perpetuae et Felicitatis (The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity), the diary of a young Roman noblewoman in 3rd century North Africa, we find that the martyr-woman subverts these societal norms:


    Passion of Saint Perpetua, Saint Felicitas, and their Companions - Wikipedia


    It survives in both Latin and Greek forms, and contains a first person prison diary of the young mother and martyr Perpetua. Scholars generally believe that it is authentic...

    Christians challenging the traditions of the family within the text

    In the Passion, Christian faith motivates the martyrs to reject family loyalties and acknowledge a higher authority.[20] In the text, Perpetua's relationship with her father is the most prominently featured of all her familial ties, and she directly interacts with him four times (iii, v, vi, and ix).[21] Perpetua herself may have deemed this relationship to be her most important, given what is known about its importance within Roman society.[22] Fathers expected that their daughters would care for them, honor them, and enhance their family reputation through marriage

    Perpetua belonged to an aristocratic family with Roman citizenship, as indicated by her name Vibia Perpetua.[26] Perpetua's execution alongside slaves demonstrated Christianity's ability to transcend social distinctions, in contrast to the inequality that pervaded Roman religion and society.[27] As Perpetua and Felicity were equal in martyrdom despite differences in class, they made the dramatic statement that Christianity transcended social structure.[28]


    Perpetua


    “So can I not call myself by any other name than what I am.”

    Early 3rd century writer and martyr, she defied father and the state due to her faith.

    Vibia Perpetua was a young, twenty-one-year-old woman who was executed in Carthage (or present-day North Africa) on March, 7 in 203 AD with her dear friend and servant, Felicitas, and the servant’s husband Revocatus, along with friends Saturninus and Secundulus (Farmer). The group of friends was arrested months earlier in their small town just outside of Carthage, which was then under the control of the Roman Empire, when they were caught practicing Christianity [...]

    Perpetua was born in the year 182 into a prominent and wealthy family and was married to someone of equally high social standing (Cooper 685) [...] The woman’s husband quickly abandoned her, her nursing child was taken away from her and she was ultimately unable to mend her relationship with her parents (686).

    Perpetua wrote of her father visiting her in prison, urging her to deny her belief in the Christian faith that her charges might be dropped. Perpetua adamantly refused her father’s wishes, however.

    Below is an excerpt from Perpetua’s diary including dialogue between her and her father regarding her religious beliefs:

    “While we were still with the persecutors, and my father, for the sake of his affection for me, was persisting in seeking to turn me away, and to cast me down from the faith: ‘Father,’ said I, ‘do you see, let us say, this vessel lying here to be a little pitcher, or something else?’ And he said, ‘I see it to be so.’ And I replied to him, ‘Can it be called by any other name than what it is?’ And he said, ‘No.’ ‘Neither can I call myself anything else than what I am, a Christian.’ Then my father, provoked at this saying, threw himself upon me, as if he would tear my eyes out. But he only distressed me, and went away overcome by the devil’s arguments."

    Perpetua’s father’s visits were perhaps intended to be consoling, were perhaps meant to find a solution to their problem, to find a way to free Perpetua from her trial, but a power struggle quickly emerged between the father and daughter (Ronsse).

    Because Perpetua was such a strong and faithful Christian, she refused to stand down and respect her father’s wishes that she deny her affiliation with the religion, even if it cost the woman her freedom. Perpetua not only defied her father, but also the present social structures of a patriarchal society and its inherent power structures regarding religio

    St. Perpetua refuses to obey her father, her legal guardian and her state. She asserts her independent individuality, volition and agency: "Neither can I call myself anything else than what I am". In other words, she follows Jesus' instruction in the gospels to the word, setting herself against her father and kin. What's more, she embraces her father's slave - Felicity - as her "sister" in Christ and dies side-by-side with the slave-girl as an equal.

    (continued...)
     
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  5. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    5. Marriage as consensual rather than arranged

    Wedded to this theological ideal of individual agency-in-faith against clan, the medieval church came to develop a uniquely consensual, sacramental doctrine of marriage that prioritized individual rights. As Professor Kevin MacDonald argues in his new study (out this year), Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition: Evolutionary Origins, History, and Prospects for the Future:

    Can Church Influence Explain Western Individualism? Comment on “The Church, Intensive Kinship, and Global Psychological Variation,” by Jonathan F. Schulz et al. – The Occidental Observer

    Church policies directed against the power of secular elites focused on marriage as an essential battleground, including, besides rules on incestuous marriage, developing ideologies and enforcing social controls supporting monogamy.

    Particularly important was enforcing consent as the basis of marriage. Consent in marriage promotes individualist marriage choice based on the characteristics of spouse rather than family strategizing in which one’s spouse is determined by parents, with the result that “the family, the tribe, the clan, were subordinated to the individual. If one wanted to marry enough, one could choose one’s own mate and the Church would vindicate one’s choice
    .[15]

    The Church also developed ideologies of moral egalitarianism and moral universalism that undermined the ideology of natural hierarchy typical of the ancient world, and often encouraged the emerging cities as independent power centers opposed to the interests of feudal lords. Regarding the ideology of moral egalitarianism:


    Canon law … had a strongly egalitarian tenor—status, which had been central to ancient law—was irrelevant. Ecclesiastical ideology thus facilitated the Western liberal tradition. Aristocrats and commoners had the same moral standing. Moreover, canon law was recruited to lessen the power of kinship groups by also rejecting the privileged status of testimony from family and friends (which had led to more powerful families getting favorable judgments). [From Chapter 5, 188; emphasis in original]


    From another historian:

    Law, Person, and Community: Philosophical, Theological, and Comparative ... - John J. Coughlin - Google Books

    "...The twelfth-century canonists without exception insisted that in order for consent to marriage to be valid, the consent could not be coerced or forced...[Gratian] held that consummation of a marriage that was forced rendered a marriage invalid. This led to the teaching that...the consummation must be freely willed by each of the spouses. For Gratian rape (raptus) was the abduction of a woman or intercourse with her against her will. A woman who engaged in sexual contact with a man through force was not guilty of either fornication or adultery since she had not willingly participated, but was a victim of molestation...The principle that the marriage contract requires the free consent of the parties became a fundamental element of the church's understanding of marriage in contrast to then prevalent societal views. The focus on consent reflected Huguccio's insight that located the origin of natural law in the human person..."

    This doctrine, to be effective, required the "family" to be pushed out of marital decisions so that the individual could choose themselves. The church approved of 'elopement' - idealized in Shakespeare's drama of Romeo and Juliet, whose families didn't want them to be together but their individual passion tried to override this.

    The underlying impetus for this legal change is explained by the legal historian Tierney as stemming from the emerging concept of individual rights in medieval corporation law. He argues that between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, canonists and decretalists “worked out a series of definitions of ius naturale (natural law) as subjective right”.

    The family, extended kinship, stood as an obstacle to this doctrine.
     
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  6. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    6. Self-interest / power

    Can Church Influence Explain Western Individualism? Comment on “The Church, Intensive Kinship, and Global Psychological Variation,” by Jonathan F. Schulz et al. – The Occidental Observer


    I discuss other Church policies that facilitated individualism, most importantly creating an image of reproductive altruism by enforcing clerical celibacy and ending corruption as a result of the Papal Revolution beginning in the tenth century and completed by the High Middle Ages. This image was a necessary development for producing the intense religious fervor and popular loyalty of the period, thus enabling the Church to have significant power over secular elites fearful of being excommunicated and thus losing legitimacy in the eyes of their people.

    Along with the acceptance of celibacy and asceticism, there was a concern to extend the power of the church—“a powerful movement to gain command of all life in society and organize it according to monastic views.”[14] It is this drive to increase its own power at the expense of other potential sources of power—kings and the aristocracy, extended kinship groups—that best explains the behavior of the medieval Church. This desire for power is a human universal entirely congruent with evolutionary thinking, except that in this case, it was not accompanied by the usual accouterments of power [typically seen in clan-based cultures]: reproductive success and control over women. [from Chapter 5, 186]


    The Church was “the most influential and important governmental institution [of Europe] during the medieval period,” and a major aspect of this power over the secular aristocracy involved the regulation of sex and reproduction.[18] [From Chapter 5, 176–177]

     
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  7. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    Another article on this study, from the UK Telegraph:


    How the Medieval Catholic Church triggered rise of individualistic Western societies


    The Catholic Church has a reputation for strict unbending theology, but it may have inadvertently triggered the non-conformist and individual culture of today’s western societies, researchers believe.

    Academics now believe that rules enshrined in canon law in the 9th century, which limited the marriage of relatives to prevent incest, fundamentally changed the culture of Europe, breaking apart old clans and ushering in a new era of cooperation.

    Western societies are generally viewed as quite odd by sociologists because they tend to view individuals as more important than the group, they conform less to a central ideal and they have a far greater trust of strangers.

    In contrast, older more traditional societies tend to comprise tight-knit tribes where members show fierce loyalty, obedience, adherence to tradition and a general mistrust of outsiders.

    Until now, academics had been puzzled as to what caused the transition, but they have now discovered that areas that were early adopters the Medieval Catholic Church marriage rules transitioned into modern western societies.

    The rules forced communities to cast their net wider for marriage partners, splitting apart tight networks and opening up a new pattern for society in which outsiders and new alliances were embraced.

    Professor Joseph Heinrich, chair of human evolutionary biology, at Harvard University, said: “The Western Church in Europe, the branch of Christianity that eventually evolved in the Roman Catholic Church had transformed human society from the grassroots by dismantling the intensive kin-based institutions, leaving much of Europe with monogamous nuclear families.

    “And monogamous families are vanishingly rare outside of Europe in an anthropological perspective.

    “The longer the duration under the church will predict greater the individualism, less conformity, obedience and more cooperation and trust with strangers.”

    Until the medieval period, the church restricted marriages to very close relatives such as parents, siblings and first cousins.

    But by the 9th century it has widened its scope up to sixth cousins and even non-related spiritual kin like godparents, leaving communities to search for marriage partners far outside their families.

    Dr Jonathan Shultz, assistant professor of economics at George Mason University, one of the authors of the new research, added: “I was surpised just how preoccupied medieval Europe was with the fear of incest. Historians also talk about an obsession with incest.

    “This fear was not only about incest with close relatives but included an ever-exapnding circle of cousins, in laws, spirtial kin such as godparents and godchildren.

    “There is good evidence that Europe’s kinship structure was not much different from the rest of the world before the church instituted its marriage prohibitions.”

    The team studied records kept by the Catholic Church throughout Europe which showed it’s growing influence from the Medieval period. They also looked at Vatican archives recording the number of cousin marriages in the regions.

    They also measured psychological trends, such as kindness to strangers by looking at blood donation records. They found that in areas such as southern Italy, where the church held sway for a shorter period, and cousin marriage was higher, blood donation was lower, in comparison to the North.

    Today in non-Christian countries that do not share western principles, such as Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan the rate of cousin marriage is still between 30 and 60 per cent.

    Iranian born Duman Bahrami-Rad, a post-doctoral researcher from Harvard, who helped with the study added: “When I moved to Canada to do my PhD there, I was so surprised to discover Canadians don’t marry their cousins. I thought it was weird that westerners don’t fall in love with their cousin.”

    Sociologists dub Western populations as ‘Weird’ which stands for western, educated, industrialised, rich and democratic, because they are so strikingly different to traditional societies.

    The research was published in the journal Science.
     
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  8. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    One thing this makes me think of is how Christianity was born out of a Judaism that suddenly lost its mooring in tribal orientation. The message of Christianity, through Paul, seemed to tear loose of that mooring and then establish itself with all sorts of focus on the individual as separate from family and whatnot. Could part of this be a response to the domination of a more or less mutli-cultural empire (the Greek then Roman empire) which brought a certain safety and stability even if it required a certain conformity (taxation) and restrictions? Where the days of Israel being traded off between competing empires to the north and south now over in favor of a long standing order even if not ideal?

    Was there, in other words, a real temptation for Jews like Paul, to cut loose from family ties and find a way to make it in this New World Order that the Roman's had introduced?

    Ironically, there were very hard times ahead for Christians in that regard but the promise was obviously still there even as the persecutions threatened. To be free, ultimately of all political associations was of such a temptation that even familial ties were abandoned in favor of participating in this potential great union of brothers and sisters writ large.

    So in a sense running away from the age old problem of association with "a people" who were never going to get their final independence and in to a more cosmopolitan and larger community of those who were now free to focus on trade and not war was a long standing desire and hope. Having a portable faith to bring with you and share in that endeavor, one that perhaps mirrored the pioneering and industrious nature of those who were ready to leave their old world behind and forge themselves a new life and new identity helped, then to unconsciously shape the attitude of the community of Christians who then began to organize and finally achieve political power, in the end.

    Perhaps we should read the wandering Paul and his contact with a diaspora of Jewish communities across the Roman empire as evidencing this great dissolving of a people out into a larger world and being ready to be a pioneer in more than just economic opportunity but also in spiritual outlook. Chrisitianity then was the religion for Jews who wanted to "get away".

    Now to loop this back in...those Jews who self-selected to adopt Christianity were also those who had that independent spirit, that wanted to make a fresh start among a different people, who were ready to trust that in all humans is the possibility of God's wisdom.
     
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  9. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    Another article online on this study:


    Why the West is WEIRD

    The origins of WEIRD psychology - Marginal REVOLUTION


    Why is the West different? Why did democracy spring from Western nations? Why did science develop in the West? Why did capitalism develop in the West? Why did tolerance begin in the West? Why did the welfare state originate in the West?

    Western exceptionalism is one of the fiercest battlegrounds of contemporary history. And far from being a purely academic argument, it has immediate repercussions on today’s culture wars.

    That’s why a recent article in the leading journal Science is being treated as an exceptionally important diagnosis of the distinctive features of Western culture. Economist Tyler Cowan says that “there is some chance that this is one of the half dozen most important social science and/or history papers ever written”.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And the evidence is extraordinary. Instead of being found in philosophy or theology tomes or dusty chronicles, it was in canon law, the Catholic Church's internal regulations. The authors, from Harvard University and George Mason University, argue that it is mediaeval laws on marriage. These decisively shaped what they term WEIRD societies – Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. The heightened individualism, lower conformity and greater trust in strangers in these populations are at least in part due to the mediaeval Church’s strict prohibition of incest and intermarriage.

    They contend that in the Early Middle Ages, for reasons which are now obscure, the Church expanded the circle of relatives whom Catholics (and nearly everyone was Catholic) were forbidden to marry. This eventually extended not only to distant cousins but also step-relatives, in-laws, and spiritual kin.

    Incredibly, early in the second millennium, the ban went as far as sixth cousins. At the same time, the Church promoted marriage “by choice” (no arranged marriages) and often required newly married couples to set up independent households. The Church also brought an end to polygamy and concubinage.

    The result of these marriage laws was that lineages died out due to a lack of legitimate heirs and that kings and nobility had to search further and further to find potential spouses who were not within the forbidden circle. For example, in 987 Hugh Capet, the French king, was so desperate to find a wife for his son Robert that he asked the Byzantine Emperor if he had any suitable brides. "There is," said Hugh, "no one equal to [Robert] whom we can give him in marriage, because of our kinship with neighbouring kings.”

    Generations of marrying out of the kinship circle because of Church laws, the authors argue, weakened ties amongst relatives and drastically altered human psychology. The usual pattern of kinship around the world is an emphasis on in-group loyalty, obedience, and conformity. The mediaeval Church’s marriage code shattered that and created one which is more individualistic, more accepting of strangers, and less conforming.

    In support of their paradigm-busting theory, the researchers mapped kinship around the world. The results were striking. The longer a region had been exposed to mediaeval Catholic marriage laws and weaker kinship intensity, the more individualistic, independent-minded, and more “pro-social” they were with strangers. The results were replicated across 440 regions in 36 European countries: Longer exposure was associated with the same WEIRD psychological shifts, even when controlling for alternate explanations.

    The data analysis even predicts whether or not UN diplomats in New York City will pay their parking tickets. Those who come from countries with higher rates of cousin marriages are more likely to get a ticket (less law-abiding) and less likely to pay one (less trust in institutions).

    In other words, the number of generations that your ancestors lived under the medieval Catholic Church can predict things like social trust, creativity and even willingness to donate blood — and they correlate negatively with features such as nepotism.

    “If the authors are right, or even in the vicinity of being right, it couldn’t be bigger,” says Stephen Stich, a philosopher and cognitive scientist of Rutgers University. “What they are offering to explain is the emergence of democratic institutions, of individualism in the West.”
     
    #9 Vouthon, Dec 10, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2019
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