Critical Points In The Evolution of Individuality

This graph has been in the back of my mind for a long time. The thing that finally made me sit down and get it done is Henrich’s specious myopia in “The WEIRDest People in the World”. There is a lot to flesh out here but “individualism” isn’t just some “cultural construct”.

In order from most myopic to most farsighted:

Clark basically conflates genes for private sector rent-seeking with genes for individualism but he at least shifts the Overton Window such that fans of Ayn Rand who might otherwise be in denial about heritable population differences, can consider some of the rest of what follows that provide historic context.

Henrich gets that “The Western Church” succeeded in preserving important aspects of individuality but he does so at the expense of the deeper history of Western peoples to which western institutions have had to adapt in a continual tug-of-war in the cycle of civilization between complex states and simple households. The biggest failing is, perhaps, forgivable in the sense that “attested” aspects of pre-civil cultures are hard to come by, and he’s in an environment that, like Clark’s, has to genuflect to the civil authorities and despise the founding peoples in order to so much as budge the Overton Window. (In this regard it may be worth reading MacDonald’s reaction to Henrich.)

MacDonald (aside from being “canceled” even by Musk from takes on the most troubling aspect of Western Civilization: The vulnerability of heritably individualistic populations to conquest-by-fraud by heritably collectivist populations. He does so going back to the dawn of Western Civilization and a bit beyond in the prehistory of ecologically imposed monogamy. His main “myopia” is in conflating all hunter gatherers as more collectivist, ignoring to a large extent the ecological pressures that drove hunting packs to lower calorie requirements (see “Bowery” below).

Bowery (yours truly) discusses with Myth of the 20th Century some aspects of “Everyman a Sovereign” arising from the domestication of wolves – which is another key aspect of the evolution of individuality that arose with northern hunter gatherers.

Wrangham’s insight into cooking as technological caloric power for human brain evolution is an exceedingly important critical point as it corresponds both to greater capacity for the evolution of gang cohesion (henceforth “conspiracy”) and greater capacity for individuals to expand the ecological range to escape from conspiracy.

Wilson’s insight that the primate brain’s increasing complexity yielded the ability to engage in conspiracy – with the Chimpanzee Human Last Common Ancestor – indicates how deeply embeded the evil of war is in the human line.

Herculano-Houzel’s measurement of neuronal density in primates points to a critical point in the evolution of primates, in general, that changed the scaling law of primate brains in a manner that might be thought of as the cognitive equivalent of Moore’s Law.

Gorham’s work hinges on the idea that we have no word for sex – not really – and that individuality is inextricably linked to the completion of sex as an evolutionary platform at the dawn of The Cambrian Explosion. The reason we have no world for sex may be seen in the fact that we have no human society founded on individual male intrasexual selection – as that was the missing piece of “sex” that, when it fell into place, caused the Cambrain Explosion of biodiversity.

Although Gorham doesn’t explicitly call out the restriction in gene flow between demes caused by individual male combat as a demic multiplier, it is not too difficult to see the link with the Cambrian Explosion once one accepts his timeline since restricted gene flow is accepted as the primary cause of speciation.