Culture can be more powerful than biology

An interview with the author of I Should Have Honor: A Memoir of Hope and Pride in Pakistan. It’s a difficult listen. Basically illustrates how in some “traditional” cultures women are treated like disposable and fungible property.

As a geneticist and a father, one thing about “honor killing” that always strikes me is that it illustrates the power of environmental and cultural pressures in comparison to biology and genetics. When a father, or a brother, kills a daughter or a sister, they kill a part of themselves. Additionally, I don’t think the love and affection that fathers have toward their children is a culturally learned artifact, though some fathers are quite busy, with large broods, and distant.

And yet despite the reality of fatherly or brotherly affection, because of the cultural conditioning and incentive structures in extended family kinship networks, they still murder their daughters and sisters.

Human plasticity trumps biology!

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125 Replies to “Culture can be more powerful than biology”

  1. On honor (or honour in Queens English) violence, see:
    http://www.brownpundits.com/2017/12/01/why-nonmuslims-treat-muslims-so-badly/
    Look forward to listening to this interview on Fresh Air.

    Razib, to understand the question you raise, someone needs to understand Jihadi Islamism. The answer is partly related to the brain and nervous system. The brothers, fathers and uncles love the person they kill. They genuinely believe she is benefiting from her passing.

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    1. bro, honor killing is found among hindus. it’s found among middle eastern christians. it was found among classical greeks & romans. so i don’t think to understand it i need to understand jihadi islamism.

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      1. Did honor killing take place among Hindus pre Islam? Honor killing is as forbidden as anything can be in eastern scripture and philosophy, with the caveat that Eastern philosophy greatly value freedom, not telling people what to do; and keeping the state and society out of people’s lives.

        Middle East Christians? Hmm. Were there honor killings among Christians pre Islam? Among Jews? I don’t know the answer.

        ++++++++++++
        As a complete aside, Eastern philosophy has viewed LBGTQ very differently before the birth of Christ. However the influence of Islam changed that. Similarly eastern woman to my knowledge didn’t wear blouses or have the modesty dress culture pre Islam either. Islam greatly transformed and changed the world.

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        1. Among Jews? I don’t know.

          you don’t need to read the hebrew bible if you don’t want to, but it’s quite common within it.

          Honor killing is as forbidden as anything can be in eastern scripture and philosophy

          i don’t think there’s something called ‘eastern scripture and philosophy.’ that’s a eurocentric viewpoint. there are lots of views. was there no punishment for high caste girls to pairing up with outcastes?

          anyway, one of the most famous stories in the old testament:

          Judah and Tamar, Horace Vernet
          After Shelah had grown up, Judah became a widower. After Judah mourned the death of his wife, he planned on going to Timnah to shear his sheep. Upon hearing this news, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and immediately went to Enaim which was en route to Judah’s destination. Upon arriving at Enaim, Judah saw the woman but did not recognize her as Tamar because of the veil she wore over her face. Thinking she was a prostitute, he requested her services. Tamar’s plan was to become pregnant by this ruse so that she might bear a child in Judah’s line, since Judah had not given her to his son Shelah. So she played the part of a prostitute and struck a bargain with Judah for a goat, secured by his staff, seal, and cord. When Judah was able to have a goat sent to Enaim, in order to collect his staff and seal, the woman was nowhere to be found and no one knew of any prostitute in Enaim. (Genesis 38:12–23)

          Three months later, Tamar was accused of prostitution on account of her pregnancy. Upon hearing this news, Judah ordered that she be burned to death. Tamar sent the staff, seal, and cord to Judah with a message declaring that the owner of these items was the man who had made her pregnant. Upon recognizing these items as his security, Judah released Tamar from her sentence. Tamar, having thus secured her place in the family as well as Judah’s posterity, gave birth to twins, Perez and Zerah. Their birth is reminiscent of the birth of Rebekah’s twin sons. The midwife marks Zerah’s hand with a scarlet cord when he emerges first from the womb, though Perez is born first.[4] Perez is identified in the Book of Ruth as the ancestor of King David. (Ruth 4:18–22) The Genesis narrative also makes a note that Judah did not have further sexual relations with Tamar. (Genesis 38:24–30)

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          1. I don’t know any branch of eastern philosophy that would allow for honor violence. Yes Eastern philosophy means something different from what Eurocentric viewpoints think.

            “was there no punishment for high caste girls to pairing up with outcastes”
            Violence in such situations is strictly forbidden in Manu Smriti, Dharma Shastra, Anushasana Parva of the Mahabharata, Kautilya’s Artha Shastra and every Purana or other eastern text I have read.

            I was given a bible in elementary school and remember reading the story of Judah and Tamar with great interest. In my tradition we are suppose to respect all religions and masters as holy and potentially true, including atheist ones 🙂 So I assumed that there was great meaning, symbolism and relevancy to this story. Although to date I have not figured it out. As an aside as a kid I was bored with how addicted so many people were to metaphor and symbolism. I thought maybe things just are; and are not so complex.

            It has been a long time since I read Leviticus in the Old Testament. I was able to find:

            “Lev 21:9 And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.”
            Wowzers! But does this apply if she marries an evil purpose and doesn’t have physical relations out of wedlock?

            “And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death. (Exodus 21:17)”
            “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him. (Leviticus 20:9)”
            Does this mean that ancient Jews use to carry out honor killings against boys and men? Very interesting.

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        2. ‘Did honor killing take place among Hindus pre Islam?’

          The traditional punishment for marrying out of line was ex-communication and abandonment for women. Out of sight, out of mind with the added benefit of not incurring the sin of killing women. Theoretically, the girl could survive I guess. But more often than not I would imagine this meant death in some horrid fashion (eaten by wild animals perhaps?).

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          1. This is extremely different from capital punishment. Capital punishment for physical relationships is forbidden based on everything I have read.

            If someone leaves the community, then they knowingly choose to leave. However, if such a son or daughter returns; under traditional eastern thought, the family might have an obligation to provide some limited support, although less than if they had not left their community.

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      2. Exactly. In India, women are killed for marrying out of their own caste (or sometimes just for marrying for love). “Honor killings” have much more to do with patriarchy and social control than with any particular religion.

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        1. i agree. also, they tend to occur in societies with wealth stratification and variance in power/wealth of clan lineages (there is something “at risk” with dishonor).

          re: honor killings, it seems that pakistan+cow belt are very similar. it’s not as much of an issue in south or northeast india.

          in a south asian context honor killings are given a religious tincture, cuz south asian cultures are religious/communal. but there are legislations from 18th century china which allow for honor killing and they aren’t in a religious context at all.

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          1. Yes, it does seem to have something to do with North Indian culture. Haryana seems to be particularly bad in this regard. Sex-selected abortions are also a big thing there.

            As you point out, this is not really an Islamic issue per se.

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        2. Kabir, do you know any examples of woman being killed for marrying outside their caste. This is as illegal as anything can be in eastern thought.

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          1. Razib, there are the 10 Darshanas and associated philosophies and their derivatives (such as Sikhism). This is what I mean by Eastern thought in this context.

            Kabir, what does abortion have to do with this topic? Eastern philosophy is ambiguous on the question of abortion which means that the east has long had abortion.

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          2. Sex-selected abortions means that the fetus is aborted upon learning that it is female. This explains a lot of the “missing women” in Haryana.

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          3. Kabir you are free to share your views on eastern thought. But if you choose to do so, shouldn’t you be slightly curious about Eastern thought?

            The Haryana story is an example of what is seen as incest. Incest is taboo. But there is no scriptural justification of killing people for marrying in incest. This is someone going solo outside their faith or some other non faith related issue.

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          4. I really don’t care one way or another about “eastern thought”.

            You asked for an example of “honor killings” in Haryana so I gave you one. You can google “khap panchayats” for more.

            My only issue is your tendency to blame “Jihadi Islamism” and deflect from the ills of your own community. This kind of thing happens in North India among people who have nothing to do with Islam.

            I’m not that interested in this topic, so I’m done here.

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  2. though this post/book focuses on honor killings at a ‘fine grain’ (on that of the clan), mass suicides like at ancient meggido and commonly practiced by jews who were being persecuted, or in the case of rajputs who were about to be defeated by muslims, are clearly instances where the killing was motivated by preservation of honor.

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    1. Mass suicide happened in part because people feared what Islamists might do to them if they were taken prisoner.

      In ancient epics and literature, mass suicides were discouraged.

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      1. yes. they’d be raped or murdered or abused. so it’s not entirely irrational. otoh, rape by outsiders is not considered so negatively by all cultures. this is one major difference between indo-fijians and native fijians that came up in ways police in that country respond to rape. there’s far less familial shunning or objection for native fijian women than for indo-fijian women, so police have to respond differently.

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  3. Razib, there are the 10 Darshanas and associated philosophies and their derivatives (such as Sikhism). This is what I mean by Eastern thought in this context.

    say *indian thought* or *dharmic thought*

    the chinese have their own indigenous intellectual traditions, and they are obviously ‘eastern.’ bracketing chinese & indian philosophy together is eurocentric, and to some extent even abrahamic-centric (muslims were vague on the differences between “idolators” on many occasions).

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    1. I use to write Sanathana Dharma, but Kabir seemed to freak out at the mention. So I switched to eastern thought to avoid a crapshoot with Kabir. Maybe I should go back to using the hated phrase?

      There are deep eerie similarities between the 10 Darshanas and Taosim. Hindus revere Loa Tsu and consider him a Shaivite Yogi Siddha Nath of the highest stature.

      When I say Eastern I add Taoism to the 10 Darshanas. You are giving me a lot of links. Will take me a while to go through all of them.

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      1. There are deep eerie similarities between the 10 Darshanas and Taosim. Hindus revere Loa Tsu and consider him a Shaivite Yogi Siddha Nath of the highest stature.

        the monistic elements of indian thought converge with the monism that is dominant in china.

        monism used to be dominant in the west with platonism, but the rise of christianity and later islam marginalized that viewpoint. so it’s a historical artifact that this resemblence occurs.


        I use to write Sanathana Dharma, but Kabir seemed to freak out at the mention.

        why would someone have a problem with this unless they were an asshole?

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        1. When “sanathana dharma” or “eastern philosophy” is brought up every five minutes, regardless of the context, it becomes a bit annoying.

          But I really don’t care. Use whatever words you like. I am not interested in discussing Hindu issues in any case.

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  4. I think the crux of the issue is that there was a prohibition against killing women in India. The maximum legally permissible punishment was disfigurement (cutting of nose and ears). This was considered equivalent to capital punishment for males. To drive home the equivalency the opposite was true as well. Disfigurement of women meant death for the guy (which was also the punishment for murder). Neither adultery nor sexual relationships out of line were considered worthy of disfigurement (the worst punishment) for the woman but depending on the case a man could be sentenced to death for the same – non-arya man with arya woman meant death for the guy by Arthashastra but pratiloma affairs milder than that did not. But in every case both men and women were ex-communicated from their castes and this probably meant exile as well. This is not to say there weren’t other ways women were killed – pressuring them to jump into a fire comes to mind. So to sum up neither the Chinese honor killing law nor Hammurabi’s death by drowning for adulterous women would have passed legal scrutiny in a traditional context in India.

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  5. I am still listening to Khalida Brohi’s interview. Very moving. Hard not to cry.

    Razib, I might use the phrase “sanathana dharma” again. I try to avoid fighting with Kabir.

    “the monistic elements of indian thought converge with the monism that is dominant in china.
    monism used to be dominant in the west with platonism, but the rise of christianity and later islam marginalized that viewpoint. so it’s a historical artifact that this resemblence occurs.”
    This will take a couple long form articles to respond to. Might do so eventually. I am of the view that ancient China and ancient India had contact with each other and this contact caused some similarities. But this will take many articles to flesh out.

    On the question of Jihadi Islamism, this isn’t my understanding of Islam (let alone atheistic Islam, let alone ex muslim Islam), which is why I separate Jihadi Islamism from Islam. Sadly Jihadi Islam has had a devastating affect on other cultures and civilizations around the world that copy barberic practices. For example:
    –honor violence
    –female ideas of dressing modesty (wearing blouses)
    –male ideas of modesty
    –LBGTQ
    –justifying mass murder to establish global utopianism from a desire to do good
    –slavery, including sexual slavery

    One of the reasons we need to engage Islamism and Jihadism concepts is to keep nonmuslims from copying them.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Don’t want to get diverted and side tracked; but here are some observations about Sanathana Dharma (10 Darshanas + related and derivative philosophies such as Sikhism) “law books”. First these are guidelines and various legal jurisdicitions are free to customize based on their local circumstances. In fact they are asked to customize. Sanathana Dharma legal jurisprudence regards itself living institution that needs to keep being updated over time as societies evolve. They are far lower on the “authority” bandwagon than Sruthi and even other Smrithis . . . that help inspire changes in legal jurisprudence over time.

    —-In ancient history Manu Smrithi and Dharma Shastra were used
    —-During the time of the Mahabharata, Bhagavatam, Hari Vamsha, life of Krishna, the Manu Smrithi and Dharma Shastra were regarded as obsolete and for a prior time. Bhishma composed a new set of legal jurisprudence relevant to his time, which are described in the Anushasana Parva of the Mahabharata
    —-By the time of Kautilya the Anushana Parva of the Mahabharata was regarded as obsolete and invalid. They new legal system for that time is described in Artha Shastra
    —-By the time of the Islamist Jihadi invasion Artha Shastra was no longer relevant and a new legal system was likely in place

    Having put Bharatiya legal systems in context; I vaguely remember reading sections in Dharma Shastra related to property rights inheritance. An adulterous wife still has inheritance rights, albeit less than she would if she were faithful. Similarly heirs (generally grandchildren, children, nephews, nieces, younger siblings) who have physical relations out of wedlock or adulterous relations or marry a bad person also can have inheritance rights under some circumstances, albeit reduced. Much of Dharma Shastra seemed to relate to business law and inheritance rights. The section on inheritance was “MASSIVE”. There were many degrations of inheritance rights depending on the type of weirdness potential heirs had engaged in. [I was a kid when reading this, so I marveled that such weird bizzare circumstances could exist in real life.]

    However I don’t remember reading any basis for the legal system to sanction someone for adultery, physical relations out of wedlock or marrying bad or inappropriate persons. Neither can I remember any legal basis for not severely punishing private citizens who engaged in extra-legal punishment of said persons. In fact there are many legal cases where people are punished for harming a kinsman or kinswoman for adulteries, out of wedlock affairs, marrying inappropriate persons. The state strongly disapproved and discouraged this sort of activity (extra-judicial punishment). The only legally allowed sanction under these circumstances were two:
    —-inheritance rights (and in some cases the legal system would still require partial inheritance rights)
    —-freedom of association (kinsman and kinswoman can choose not to associate or interact with the offending party)

    D, I didn’t read Artha Shastra as much. Found it less interesting, less inspiring and less spiritual than the older stuff. But I would agree that men are punished more than woman for most crimes including affairs and marrying wrong persons. This is yet another reason I am such a huge fan of Me Too. I think Me Too is bringing back older values and finally stopping the rampant problems of same gender and female on male sexual harassment. Until now many males were scared to stop other males or females from forcibly hugging them. It was a kind of harassment. Finally that has stopped. Plus when I was a kid I thought a lot of boys and men were creeps and predators in the way they treated females. Even looking at them made me feel nauseous.

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  6. Razib, I might use the phrase “sanathana dharma” again. I try to avoid fighting with Kabir.

    don’t let him intimidate you into changing your language.

    On the question of Jihadi Islamism, this isn’t my understanding of Islam (let alone atheistic Islam, let alone ex muslim Islam)

    there is no such thing as atheistic islam or ex muslim islam. i mean, if you believe in positive integers below zero, mebee there are….

    –honor violence
    –female ideas of dressing modesty (wearing blouses)
    –male ideas of modesty
    –LBGTQ
    –justifying mass murder to establish global utopianism from a desire to do good
    –slavery, including sexual slavery

    One of the reasons we need to engage Islamism and Jihadism concepts is to keep nonmuslims from copying them.

    right. but you know none of these are unique to islam, right? islam adopted preexistent attitudes or modified them. in fact one of the things islam seems to have done is take elite urban attitudes to stuff like gender relations and just spread them. veils were common in ancient greece and the near east for elite women. even in modern islamic societies it is the elites who engaged in purdah, since their women were not economic producers.

    i can’t speak to the indian framework. honesty don’t know much about those laws.

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    1. Very interesting and informative as always.

      Would it be more accurate to say that we need to engage with Abrahamic theologies to keep nonmuslims from adopting them? I have thought about this and am conflicted. Christianity and Judaism have mostly reformed and moved beyond their equivalents of Islamism. To the degree they haven’t, it does make more sense to say Abrahamic. But even then; why imply that these are reasonable interpretations for Abrahamism? Doesn’t this just help the extremists? Maybe say Islamist Jihadi theology and extreme irrational interpretations of Christianity? This too makes me feel uncomfortable because I don’t like criticizing Christianity or implying that extremists plausibly might be reasonably interpreting Christianity. Christianity doesn’t have a word such as Jihadi Islamism. If Christianity did, I would use that.

      I try to avoid using the phrase Islam and instead use “Islamism” or “Jihadism” as much as possible for these reasons.

      Now to get to some more interesting stuff. Where did Judaism get some of their more extremist stuff from?

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      1. Would it be more accurate to say that we need to engage with Abrahamic theologies to keep nonmuslims from adopting them?

        that’s a reasonable position. i think it is extremely defensible to argue that hinduism and buddhism in south and east asia have responded to the influence of islam & christianity in particular ways that are not for the better (see the theravada reformation in sri lanka in 19th century, which was stimulated by protestantism). though not sure that it’s possible to reverse some things, as muslim ideas about modesty seem totally internalized by even self-described ‘hindu nationalists.’

        This too makes me feel uncomfortable because I don’t like criticizing Christianity or implying that extremists plausibly might be reasonably interpreting Christianity. Christianity doesn’t have a word such as Jihadi Islamism. If Christianity did, I would use that.

        i think ‘muscular christianity’ used to be something like this. though christianity is pretty flaccid, thank god, today 😉

        Now to get to some more interesting stuff. Where did Judaism get some of their more extremist stuff from?

        it’s in the hebrew bible and the talmud. there is a long history in judaism of dehumanizing non-jews in various ways. this can take extreme interpretations:

        https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-why-more-u-s-jews-will-walk-off-birthright-this-summer-1.6269655

        “One Jewish Life Is Worth More Than 10,000 non-Jews”

        the reformed judaism that is common in the USA is not a major factor in israel, where jews are either secular or orthodox. within orthodoxy there is a deep strain of dehumanization of the other that has sanction within jewish law. christianity and islam took this up in their own way, though allowed for conversion of the nonbeliever (the last pagans in europe lived in lithuania, and were kept in a state of slavery not allowed elsewhere because they are pagan).

        if you read the hebrew bible you note there are scenes of extermination of the enemies of god. define someone as an enemy of god, and presto!

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      1. These are sophisticated beautiful colorful fashions 🙂

        Ideas of modesty of dress were very different in Bharat. However each subgroup was given great latitude to do as they wish. However the influence of Islam changed many things.

        Read the way people dressed in the Itihaasas and Puranas!

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    2. Razib,
      Thank you. I am tired of saying that “atheist Muslim” is an oxymoron. You either believe there is no god or you believe in Allah and His prophet.

      Honor killings are not unique to Islam. This tendency to identify all evils of the world with “Islam” or “Jihadism” and deflect from the misogyny and casteism present in “Sanathana Dharma” is very problematic.

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  7. Just finished listening to Khalida Brohi. Incredibly moving and powerful and I am at a loss for what to write about it.

    Some thoughts:
    —powerful older woman are very much part of the honor violence system and often instigators and perpetrators
    —it is the family (woman and men) that is dishonored versus men
    —boys and girls can bring dishonor (why would girls bring more dishonor than boys?)
    —this system is heavily driven by the six hadiths (including Sahiih Bukhari), Sura, other Islamic scripture and Islamic jurisprudence traditions
    —without Islamic legitimacy families (because older woman are guilty too) won’t kill their girls and boys, who they love deeply
    —(extended) families feel they have to kill their beloved children because if they don’t they will be disobeying Allah, be bad, appear bad in front of the broader community (virtue signaling), suffer the sensor of the broader community

    I am not saying that this is an accurate interpretation of Islam because I don’t think it is. But it is an Islamist interpretation of Islam shared by hundreds of millions of people around the world (albeit one opposed by three quarters of muslims worldwide based on my estimates and the estimates of Maajid)

    The perception that Allah wants us to kill our beloved light of the world (girl or boy) is hard to resist for families because prayer and listening to the holy Koran’s recitation results causes flashes of meditation and mystical experience that many muslims have not experienced in other ways.

    Planning a series of articles on meditation brain therapy, sound brain therapy (which listening to the holy Koran might replicate) and how they affect the brain, nervous system, heart beat, breathing and awareness. They correlate with a nonsexual organism that flows through the nervous system and brain. They correlate with the glands secreting endorphins and psychedelic chemicals. They correlate with measurable phenomenon in the Vagus nerve, parasympathetic nervous system, autonomic nervous system, experiences of peace, love, bliss and observation. Peak experiences that are indescribably greater than all known worldly materialistic pleasures.

    If the only way someone experiences anything like this is through Islam, then many humans assume that Allah and the holy Koran are real and they have no choice but to obey the will of Allah (which the Islamists Jihadis claim to channel).

    If however a muslim learns that they can experience mysticism in many other ways and that “Allah” might not be what they think; new possibilities open up. Then maybe Allah does not want them to do such as such. Then maybe they don’t have to do what the Islamists say they should. Maybe they can have self confidence and trust their own judgement on what they should do.

    I think this has to be a large part of the answer to the many challenges posed by Islamist Jihadi theology, including honor violence.

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  8. Ex muslims choose not to be identified as muslims. But atheists should be free to decide whether they wish to remain part of Islamic communities or not. I like the phrase “Atheistic muslims” because they:
    —can study and interpret Islamic scripture and faith as they choose;
    —have as valid an interpretation of Islamic scripture and faith as more traditional schools of Islamic thought;
    —can’t be subject to apostasy laws since they as authentically muslim as any other;
    —can choose to be many religions and many things at once, and break the concept of exclusivity
    —give ex muslims an out should Jihadis ever capture them. They can claim to belong to a legitimate and respected school of atheistic Islamic jurisprudence with great Islamic scholars. Once the Jihadis let them go, they can go back to being ex-Muslims;

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  9. . I like the phrase “Atheistic muslims” because they:

    an atheistic muslim is a contradiction in terms. muslim means “submitter to god”. if you don’t believe in god you aren’t submitting to anything. one converts to islam through the profession of faith. it is a community of *faith* if you lack faith you are not a muslim.

    there is a tradition of islam as being defined by your father’s status as a muslim. but if you apostatize in public you are subject to capital punishment usually.

    They can claim to belong to a legitimate and respected school of atheistic Islamic jurisprudence with great Islamic scholars.

    islamic jurisprudence is derived from interpreting god’s law. if you don’t believe in god, this makes no sense.

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    1. Razib, Islamic scholars are trying to challenge these ideas. Should we undermine liberal Islamic scholars by accepting more conservative interpretations of Islamic doctrine as legitimate?

      muslim means “submitter to god”. This I completely agree with. What does surrender mean? Meditation is to surrender or submit. When we let go our mind and just relax . . . well words fail to describe.

      What is God? God can be interpreted in an atheist way. There are many atheist Christians and atheist Jews; partly for this reason.

      “one converts to islam through the profession of faith”
      Faith can mean surrendering to the sweetness of love. The beautiful flow. The deafening roar of silence. The mystical crooked tiny path Kabir sweetly sang about and Jesus mentioned in the sermon on the mount.

      “there is a tradition of islam as being defined by your father’s status as a muslim. but if you apostatize in public you are subject to capital punishment usually.” Many great Islamic scholars are bravely fighting this unsophisticated pre-school interpretation, including Shaykh Shabbir Ally {I like him 🙂
      }:

      http://www.brownpundits.com/2018/08/15/why-do-nonmuslims-treat-muslims-so-badly-c/

      “islamic jurisprudence is derived from interpreting god’s law. if you don’t believe in god, this makes no sense.”
      I would phrase it as interpreting “God” differently. Someone doesn’t have to read the holy Koran or know about it or follow it to be muslim. There was no holy Koran when Mohammed pbuh was in Medina and there were muslims. A muslim can love the holy Koran and Mohammed pbuh the way they love Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Wagner, Brahms, beauty and nature.

      I am well aware of the issues you bring up with Jewish scripture and have discussed them with Jewish scholars. I would rather not discuss it here unless a Jewish scholar is part of the conversation. My question is where did Abraham come up with this stuff? Where did Noah come up with this stuff? I have my thoughts. But I would be curious to learn the thoughts of others.

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      1. What is God? God can be interpreted in an atheist way. There are many atheist Christians and atheist Jews; partly for this reason.

        LOL. bro. this is hilarious.

        but to bite, there are two issues here.

        1) most jews accept that their religion is also a nation and a tribe. technically, that means that anyone born jewish is always jewish, no matter their professed religion. operationally though in the west and elsewhere people are irreligious tend to be accepted more as jews than those who professor other religions (especially xtianity and islam in the USA; jew-buddhists tend to be more accepted)

        2) but the second issue is that there are ‘cultural’ jews and christians, because these are social groups where belief is not always necessary to participate in the rituals. the same occurs among some muslims and many hindus, who lack any orthodox belief. some of these people who are ‘cultural muslims’ are indeed atheists.

        but, there is no atheistic intellectual religious tradition in islam, judaism, and christianity. (perhaps with the exception of reconstructionist judaism, but that’s a very small movement). this is contrast with dharmic and chinese tradition, where some atheists exist within the living religio-philosophical tradition.

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      2. My question is where did Abraham come up with this stuff? Where did Noah come up with this stuff?

        both probably did not exist.

        and noah is clearly a composite that emerges out a common near eastern tradition, which also bled into greek mythology.

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        1. Nope. There is Manu or Manusha in Indian tradition who is the exact parallel of the Abrahamic Noah.

          https://www.britannica.com/topic/Manu

          Manu or Manusha also has a cognate in Germanic Mannus who is also a great patriarch in their tradition.

          So it’s presence in Greek mythology may have IE roots.

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    2. Yes. If you don’t believe in God, then God’s law has no meaning for you. Anan seems to be missing this basic point and stretching words in a way that makes no sense.

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  10. I saw a BBC program on Qandeel Baloch, who was killed by brother on incitement from a mullah , with whom she was (once) on friendly terms.

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    1. The Qandeel case was very sad though I do not think she was some liberal feminist icon. However, there is no excuse for violence. She did shame her family but the appropriate response would have been to have decided to have nothing further to do with her.

      Even in more liberal societies such as the West, most families would not be super proud of a daughter who does striptease shows on webcam. Shame is a much bigger deal in a conservative Muslim society like Pakistan.

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        1. bro, this is brownpundits, kabir sahib is the arbiter of what is, and isn’t, offensive.

          using the word “illegal immigrants”, offensive (except to the right-wing, who don’t count because their opinions don’t matter).

          implying that sexual behavior brings “shame”, not offensive to kabir. so OK (when kabir and the right-wing are probably in alignment, that’s OK!)

          😉

          (my own view is neutral about usage of #1, i’ll use whatever term makes ppl happy within reason, and mildly distasteful in relation to the implicit acceptance of slut-shaming on the latter, but i am not offended as such. people have different boundaries and i try not to make it a habit to harrass people when their boundaries are not mine, like some commenters on this weblog)

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          1. I don’t think it is “slut shaming” to point out the obvious fact that most South Asian families would not be pleased if their daughter were making money by exposing her naked body to strange men. I don’t even think most families in the West would be quite gung-ho about that.

            The bottom line for me is that what she was doing was immoral but she didn’t deserve to die for it. I find it very sad that she felt that the only thing she could sell was her body and not her intellect or skill. Of course, for some people in Pakistan, her murder turned her into a feminist icon. I feel that the middle ground is more sensible. Her murder was wrong, but she is not a heroine. I would not want my daughter to follow her example.

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        2. Most South Asian families would not be proud that their daughter is posing naked on webcam. I don’t see why you would take offense at a recognition of that fact.

          The point is that even if your child or sibling is doing something that you consider reprehensible,violence is never acceptable. You can disassociate yourself from them, but that is pretty much it.

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  11. Human plasticity trumps biology!

    Indeed. And not just biology, but geology too.
    https://www.economist.com/briefing/2011/05/26/a-man-made-world

    Moral ills like honour killing (or climate change) are an unfortunate side-effect of humans magnifying their tinkering with their environment through positive feedback through the culture of “badly made” assumptions.

    E.g. we can show that in a population with pure son preference, i.e. having kids until you have a son, we will end up with equal numbers of men and women nonetheless. (It is fairly straight-forward to model this as a Markov chain with an “optimal” stopping time)

    Losing girls therefore is a result of more than plain son preference, but actively choosing to kill daughters. The social penalty of having a daughter must be terribly severe for parents to go through with it. Obviously earlier people in N India simply buried their newborn daughters, and now they abort them. So daughters can be removed at a faster rate.

    I think this social penalty was originally probably more than plain lack of inheritance rights of the girl – something that plagued medieval Europe too (cf Bennets in Pride & Prejudice), yet we did not see this ever end up in daughter-killing at the level it was/is endemic in N India. And also why not South India (they have a dowry problem too)? is Islam implicated in any way?

    One possible reason (not sure how true) could be the political and economic tumult faced by N India (esp Punjab and N Indian Gangetic plains) from the time of early Arab and Turkic Muslim invasions and the rise of the feudal Rajput confederacies throughout N India, which faced a heavy rate of male attrition. Yet pure son preference models won’t work because it will still end up creating equal numbers of women and men (cf Markov model above), and the economic cost of raising a daughter in an environment where men were needed to fight and earn must have been high.

    Obviously India had faced invasions deep into Indo-gangetic heartland before Muslims too. Kushans did it. So did Scythians, White Huns et al. All absorbed into Indic (Hindu-Buddhist) culture. If we can show evidence of this cultural penalty (i.e. over an above son preference) in the pre-Islamic period too, then truly the arrival of Islam had nothing to do with it. It is just us Indians always being dumb arseholes.

    (Apologies for the long comment)

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    1. In pre-Islamic Arabia, daughters were apparently buried alive at birth. This is one of the first things that the Prophet of God (peace be upon him) put a stop to.

      Islam actually was a progressive religion for its time and gave women the right to divorce etc. It is a different matter that it doesn’t seem very progressive from a secular 21st century viewpoint, but then neither do many of the other major religions.

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    2. I think there was a lancet study, can’t dig it up now, which said that most female foeticides were done on a second pregnancy when the first child was already a girl. If so, it looks likely that two-child-policy coming from Malthusian bogey (which was promoted in one of the threads here earlier) may be one of the culprits, though I don’t know how to determine the extent of its effect.

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      1. @froginthewell

        Did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation using the optimal stopping rule of aborting girls modulo a girl child (or else carrying on) on Markov chains.

        So, turns out, that the equilibrium gender ratio across the population will be f(n) = [2 – (1/2)^(n-2)] / (1+n), where n is the total number of children per couple (on average). Obviously, not all couples/parents will follow the above macabre stopping rule. But given the female:male gender ratio, GR, of the population (and some other statistical assumptions I won’t go into in this comment), we can imply the fraction of people who do this as:

        fraction of girl-child murdering arseholes = (1 – GR) / [1 – f(n)]

        So, if we take Delhi for example, where the gender ratio is something like 85% and the parents tend to have 2 kids on average (n=2) and use the above macabre stopping rule (assuming Lancet study is correct), we have around 45% of all couples doing it. That is a LOT of Delhite arseholes!

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        1. Thanks. First, I am saying from memory, so could well be misremembering Lancet.

          That said, what is GR – Girls/Boys? I am puzzled because f(n) seems to be close to zero for large n, which seems counter-intuitive.

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        2. Thanks. Should warn my memory can fail, so could be mischaracterizing lancet.

          That said, I am puzzled that f(n) is close to zero for large n – shouldn’t large n give you better gender ratios?

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          1. Not really, n = total number of children per couple. Can think of it as the Malthusian boundary (of sorts).

            Every couple will settle for n children on average (or are forced to, as in China). Since they kill girls to have boys, they will kill all girls beyond 1 girl until they fill the quota of n. So higher n means more and more boys per girl and more skewed gender ratios.

            Obviously, not everyone in the society just keeps on killing girls to satisfy the Malthusian boundary (or communist regulation). Only a fraction do. So societies with higher n, will have a smaller proportion of people killing girls given a fixed gender ratio.

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          2. Okay, I was thinking of “wanting at least one boy”, not “wanting at most one girl”. But for n = 2, they are the same. To make sure our notations/assumptions are consistent – why (1 – GR)/(1 – f(n))? I would have thought “x/(1 -x), with x such that

            x (f(n)/(1 + f(n)) + (1 – x)(1/2) = GR/(1 + GR)”,

            which seems to be different. What am I missing?

            You are assuming that ass-hole populations and non-ass-hole populations are non-interbreeding? Of course I see you are ignoring migrants, sex-ratio-at-birth not being 1, etc.

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          3. @froginthewell

            Yes, but that’s not what the lancet study you quoted (albeit by memory) says:

            “most female foeticides were done on a second pregnancy when the first child was already a girl”

            Model assumes:

            a) Arseholes and non-arseholes respect limit on their total children (i.e. Malthusian boundary is arseholery agnostic)
            b) Arseholes will not tolerate any more than 1 girl, and if n=1 they will not tolerate any girl (so at least 1 boy, as you mention at that boundary)
            c) Not all couples are arseholes, and latter are distributed uniformly in the population
            d) Non-arseholes do not kill any children and show no gender preference (i.e. girl preference does not exist in the population)
            e) Not including migration explicitly, but result will hold if migrants aren’t gender biased – both boys and girls enter the population and are an order-of-magnitude smaller in population (i.e. 2nd order noise)
            f) There are large sample sizes in both groups for equilibrium averages to hold

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          4. “most female foeticides were done on a second pregnancy when the first child was already a girl” conveyed to me that the parents already planned to have only two children and wanted at least a boy, hence aborted the second. Because traditionally people often used to have children until they got one boy. In contrast, I am skeptical people decide to have =n-1 boys.

            While I didn’t manage to find the lancet link, I did find this which refers to a lancet link (may or may not be the same one): https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Disturbing-finding-When-first-born-is-female-sex-ratio-of-second-child-falls/articleshow/45655384.cms

            Thanks for the assumptions, will need to brush up on Markov chains as I don’t feel like trying it from scratch.

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          5. the parents already planned to have only two children and wanted at least a boy, hence aborted the second

            Sure, that is exactly what the n = 2 case models. I kept the formulation generic with n, so that I could see it made sense at different n.

            Markov chains – with transition probabilities – are a very handy tool in formulating such games 🙂 [And this makes a nice interview question actually]

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          6. Bro, if you look earlier in the thread, you will find that I myself have said the two models give the same results for n=2. There was a reason I wanted to emphasize the difference for general n even when your computation was only meant for n=2: I happen to think Malthusianism is probably criminally implicated, whereas having this particular model for larger n would suggest Malthusianism improves the sex ratio. So just wanted to put that out.

            But thanks for the summary of computations. Will need to get some time to myself before I can work those out (basically to figure out how to set up the sample space, the random variables etc.)

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          7. @froginthewell

            whereas having this particular model for larger n would suggest Malthusianism improves the sex ratio

            No. In this model, large n would skew the sex ratio, i.e. too many men.

            Basically, in a girl killing culture, richer people will have more sons and fewer daughters in this model. That sounds about right to me.

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          8. Malthusianism = lower n

            Precisely, which is why I said the following:

            in a girl killing culture, richer people will have more sons and fewer daughters in this model. That is, relaxed Malthusian constraints means more sons. Makes more sense in the regime where there is a pure cultural premium on more sons (divorced of any economic benefit). Richer N Indian states indeed have more skewed gender ratios, because cultural thumb rule “more sons” trumps utility.

            You seem to be suggesting that richness has the opposite effect. I do not disagree with it (though this needs to be caveated*), but that is not what this toy model is designed for. The way to do what you want is to make the stopping rule a (weak) function of n. Currently it isn’t.

            ~

            [*]Use of Malthusian utilitarianism in understanding this cultural feature is over-simplifying human societies a bit. Our popular culture – including religion – develops rules of thumb that may have had utilitarian logic at some point, but they quickly evolve to have a life of their own, totally divorced from their original moorings. Knee-jerk cultural relativism in Western society or community-based thinking in India are examples of rules of thumb that have accreted into unwritten gospels that few question.

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          9. Okay I think our miscommunication arises from what each of us meant to designate by the word Malthusianism. For you Malthusianism meant Malthusian constraint, while for me it meant the belief that we (society) need to reduce population (remember someone on BP comments once suggested India needs to reduce its population and you attacked the Malthusian bogey). So I was not referring to an individual acting out of her financial constraints but to the government sponsored family planning programs, and how that leads to skewing of sex ratio (based on the “at least one son” model, as opposed to your “at most one daughter” or “as many sons as possible with at most one daughter” model). For instance, the one-child policy in China (which is an example of what I mean by “Malthusian”) is implicated in the skewed sex ratio there, rather than its increasing richness etc. (though increasing richness can be theoretically implicated in a different way – richness makes you more constrained as you need to spend a larger share of your income on children since now you need to educate them, parent more intensively etc.).

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    1. TN gender ratio was 996 females per 1000 males (2011 census). Compare to Haryana at 879, Punjab 895, UP 912 (also 2011 census).

      So you are cherry-picking statistically insignificant evidence.

      I know things have actually improved in N India since 2011. There is a cultural penalty on aborting females now across much of N Indian middle class. Yet that is an aspect of globalisation and cosmopolitan modernity – whereas what I was describing above was traditional attitude to girl children and how it may have evolved until 20th century.

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      1. I am not too sure but I do think TN became better after a lot of effort at social reform- the kind now happening in north india.

        “So you are cherry-picking statistically insignificant evidence.

        I know things have actually improved in N India since 2011.”

        And unfortunately they have been getting worse in TN.

        “The more recent Civil Registration Survey puts Tamil Nadu among the bottom five states with 853 as sex ratio at birth …”

        Read more at:
        http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/55903804.cms?from=mdr&utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

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        1. This is not correct, as newspapers quote from conflicting data. There is no NVSS-type system in India.

          There are three records of births in India that provide conflicting information:
          1. National family health survey (NFHS)
          2. Sample registration system (SRS)
          3. civil registration system (CRS)

          The added confusion is that the %live births registered is not 100% yet.

          Consider the records up to 2014 in:
          http://www.cps.iitb.ac.in/en/system/files/Update%20on%20Trends%20in%20Sex%20Ratio%20at%20Birth%20in%20India_0.pdf

          No conclusion regarding time series can be obtained re: sex ratio at birth in TN , except we need better data.

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  12. Actually society with high imbalance of male-female ratio with lopsided male predominance will lead to lot of internal violence , much of which can be traced to too many young men chasing too few females. On the top of it ,if monogamy is not the rule , chaos can be even more.

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  13. Great article as always, Razib

    As discussed in this thread, I don’t believe that Islam is a factor contributing to honour killings. Case in point – The more backward and repressed bits of N India where such things are seen. I’m not sure about Pakistan, but there are the odd cases of honour killings in the Pakistani community in the UK so I’m guessing it’s not exactly rare back there. Similar cases come up in Muslim immigrant communities in France (Maghreb) and Germany (Turk).

    It’s a theory of mine, borne out of being the keen observer of human nature that I am (lol!) that Eurasia and N. Africa between the tropic of cancer and about 40 N, covering the hot and arid regions of the Maghreb, Levant, Arabia, Turkey, Persia, C. Asia and Pak/N. India have a common culture of male hotheadness and excess importance to shame / honour / community / caste – the toxic conditions for this sort of thing to happen. Maybe it’s an Islam/Aryan thing, but the more tropical regions of S India, the East Indies, etc. don’t have this issue. Am I reading too much into anecdotal evidence? Or is there really a correlation to geography?

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    1. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/12/men-at-work-hoes-ploughs-and-steel

      i think a lot of it has to do with the role of women in controlling and engaging in primary means of production.

      eg the mongols were and are a highly patriarchal society. but, women’s labor is important in tending to the home and hearth while men are on the range. so the sort of sexism you see in urban muslim societies is not feasible. in islam the extreme sex segregation is probably a feature of urban arabs, not the bedouins, who had a more liberated role for women. bedouins may even have practiced polyandry, and women were poets and leaders in some cases.

      re: islam. i think it had an amplifying effect by disseminating and hardening the norms of urban males of a particular milieu. the urban elites of the eastern Mediterranean and near east tended to be rather patriarchal by the 6th century. greek women, unlikely roman women, at the elite level veiled themselves, and did not participate in public life, or socialize with men.

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  14. re: sex ratio. there are lots of theories with varied levels of support. see trivers-willard arguments. seem to hold in medieval europe…elite lineages killed girls, non-elite killed boys.

    “bare branches” predicts sex ratio skew to males => violence.

    that being said i’ve seen a lot of theoretical and empirical evidence that we need to be really careful citing research, since it’s a lot more tentative and less robust than people like to think. by and large we just follow our intuition and then find the research most congenial.

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    1. Razib

      Has Willard-trivers models have been compared to human sexual ratios? Would not the culture triumphs biology quickly confuse those results independent of the age period?

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      1. it has been compared. in medieval europe and rural tanzania high status groups prefer boys, low status groups prefer girls. the spread of ‘boy preference’ is argued as a spread of elite norms and prosperity.

        re: culture vs. biology. in the long run biology does win. if culture keeps enforcing a particular pressure, biology adapts, amplifying/fixing it, or, counteracting it if the two are in conflict (multi-level selection theory).

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  15. Couple of articles from Aakar Patel. He lists out the orientation of society has to do with honor killings too. Martial castes(Jats,Rajputs) who value chivalry etc do honor killing while trading castes (Gujratis)mostly ostracize or do abortions. So even though the sex ratio of Gujarat is also comparable to Haryana, you strictly dont have honor killing.

    https://www.livemint.com/Leisure/LwSsO1Ju0slsSbU6figZIM/Why-the-honour-killing-Bill-won8217t-work.html

    https://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/aakarvani/blame-caste-for-pakistans-violent-streak-not-faith/

    “The Brahmin does not feel honour, nor does the merchant. Two communities feel honour in India, the peasant and the warrior. ”

    “In our peasant cultures, family honour is reposed in the body of the woman. This is because she is seen as a possession, though not necessarily an asset. Honour is lost when the girl is taken away, and gained when we kill her and take it back.”

    “Unlike the Jat, however, the Patel does not do honour killing. The reason is that the Patel belongs to a wider mercantile culture imposed on Gujarat by the Jains. This culture stresses compromise and self-interest and pragmatism. There is no premium on ‘honour’ through violence.”

    Some views on Pakistan
    “My view is that it does so because Pakistani Punjab, which is 60% of the country’s population and from where 80% of its army is recruited, does not have internal restraint. Those Punjabis — Khatris, Banias, Aroras — who might have counselled pragmatism and self-interest over honour are gone. What remains is a warlike peasant community that is Jat-dominated in its thinking and insufficiently modern to escape its caste culture.”

    Also on Kabir’s point of pre -islamic Arabia, i am always amused by this theory of buring daughters in sand. I feel it has to with the wider meta narrative of Pagan Arabia’s”era of darkness” vs “The age of Islam”. Its similar to how Buddhist texts showed Ashoka more cruel than he probably was before he was Buddhist as to contrast him once he converted.

    Some points also on Turkic invasion in N-India and its effects. While its true that we had Sati in parts of N-India going back even to Alexander’s time. It was still a martial only thing and not a wider phenomena. But Jauhar or mass self immolation is a very medieval thing which was a direct effect of the N-Indian Turkic invasions. We sometimes mix this.

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    1. That quote from Aakar Patel about Pakistani Punjabis sounds kind of racist. “Insufficiently modern” as opposed to Khatris and Aroras.

      The point about pre-Islamic Arabia was that Islam was a progressive religion considering the 7th century Arabian context. I have no way of knowing whether the Arabs actually did practice female infanticide, but I was told by my grandmother that the coming of Islam stopped such practices.

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      1. in light of what we know about ethical monotheism more generally and its effect on the ancient mediterranean and near east, i do think this folklore in early islam is correct. islam increased the status of women from the “floor” (e.g., no infanticide), but also constrained its ceiling (e.g., the decline of female poets and independent military leaders like zenobia among the arabs after islam). somewhat the same happened in northern europe after the arrival of xtianity.

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        1. I do agree with the overall theory. Its just that buring in sand feels a bit stretched. Probably its just me. Also a parallel to your “floor” is monogamy after introduction of Christianity in Europe which helped women develop some stake vis-v paganism. The TV show Vikings does talk about your “ceiling” things which monotheism curbed.

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      2. Kabir- “I have no way of knowing whether the Arabs actually did practice female infanticide, but I was told by my grandmother that the coming of Islam stopped such practices.”

        BP should charge people to view the Daily Kabir Show.

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          1. No, no.. Its much simpler than that. I meant that people would pay to read Kabir’s comments daily. I confess that reading him is one of my guilty pleasures. I log in several times just to see if he has commented. I am particularly addicted to the daily Kabir-AnAn brawl. Its like watching that Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore movie’ 50 First Dates’ in real life.

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  16. Of course not as violent, but I feel the psychology behind the Christian practice of ‘shunning’ can be compared to honour killings, in the way ideology/culture trumps biology. Amish, Mennonites, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other devout communities will have very ordinary and loving members that will never again associate with or talk to their own children and siblings if they leave the church or live a life of unrepentant sin. Despite the pain they experience of losing a child or sibling to ‘the world’, they still choose to never talk to them again and act as if they’re dead.

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    1. Yes. This type of behavior is common in conservative communities where individual behavior is seen to reflect on the family/group. Obedience to God’s law takes precedence over family bonds. South Asian societies generally consider family/clan honor to be more important than in the West, where the society is structured around individual freedoms.

      It is legitimate to disassociate from someone whose behavior or morality you find distasteful. However, in a society that operates under the rule of law, murder/violence is never justified.

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      1. shunning/exile is ubiquitous in small-scale societies for taboo violation. it is also almost always a de facto death sentence.

        the practice is a generality. the way it’s leveraged can be specific (e.g., many, but not all, small-scale societies don’t prioritize sexual behavior in the same way as eurasian societies of the last 5,000 years).

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  17. “Human plasticity trumps biology!” That’s a great line, but don’t think it quite captures it.

    As you know, gene-cultural evolution (think Henrich or Boyd&Richardson or Kevin Laland) has selected for human biology to have an innate drive to follow the cultural norms of their ingroup. Cultural plasticity *is* human biology.

    That said, agree it is fascinating and odd when the trait for cultural plasticity/norms is able to overwhelm the trait for kin selection. But I’d argue they are both selected for biology. (also, pretty sure you don’t disagree to be clear, just saying that this nuance is the heart of the matter).

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    1. Cultural plasticity *is* human biology

      This is of course genetic over-determinism BS.

      How does biology “select for” genetic engineering of the crops consumed by humans? Do we have genes that encode the tinkering of other genes of specific plant varieties? What if we start genetic engineering our own selves? Have genes selected for that knowledge too?

      Genes have the information (at a very fine-grained level) to bring about intelligence. What intelligence – cultural, aesthetic, moral, mathematical – does genes have no bloody clue about. That knowledge is created by sentient beings and transmitted culturally. Initially word-of-mouth, then writing, now digitized.

      It is fairly obvious now that our intelligence is governed by the Church-Turing computational universality and therefore substrate independent. We can embody intelligence in non-biological systems and this is an active area of research.

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      1. How does biology “select for” genetic engineering of the crops consumed by humans? Do we have genes that encode the tinkering of other genes of specific plant varieties?

        most of the easy to detect adaptation in the last 10,000 years deals with digestion. so yeah. modern populations almost certainly have the resilience to high starch diets. groups without ag backgrounds have REALLY high morbidity on this stuff (though they do like carbs).

        researchers working in the area of cultural evolution haven’t explored gene-culture stuff much, partly cuz human genomics is pretty recent, but they have in a few cases. though something like the emergence of lactose tolerance doesn’t even need a formal model, it’s pretty straightforward.

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        1. Sure, but that is not a biological limitation of culture, just the initial condition or circumstance of our specific evolution. We weren’t selected to outrun cheetahs, but even the fattest chap can do that in an average car…

          Our genes say literally nothing about the limit to which we can engineer – via our technological culture – out of that corner we were put in by sheer accident of birth.

          We are going to grow meat in labs, literally engineered to how we want it. Or grow meat tissue on plants. Or even photosynthesize directly. No physical law prevents that. These are very very hard but solvable engineering problems.

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  18. We are going to grow meat in labs, literally engineered to how we want it. Or grow meat tissue on plants. Or even photosynthesize directly. No physical law prevents that. These are very very hard but solvable engineering problems.

    i think the issue here is that in genomic science we are in the “read” decade.

    the 2020s CRISPR decade will be about “write.”

    so the two points kind of merge.

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  19. something that i haven’t said, but i guess i should be explicit: a fixation on female sexual behavior and jealous ‘mate-guarding’ tends to be a feature of highly stratified societies where patrilineal descent groups control the means of production.

    to give a contrasting example, looser forms of polygyny are common in much of africa, where men have multiple wive. but, they are far less fixated on female fidelity because women run their own households as primary economic producers. matrifocal units in these societies are important, so one’s legitimacy through the paternal lineage isn’t as important.

    in many egalitarian ‘small-scale’ societies there isn’t as much at stake in a child’s paternity. there aren’t many resources to horde and transmit down the generations, and the ‘band unit’ doesn’t scale enough to create stratified and competiting descent groups.

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    1. With the right ‘permissions’ in his/her head , any person can become a killer. Alqueda or ISI recruit drug addicts on the street an give them meaning of their life in terms of their version of Islam in which dying in ordinary battle , and if need be ‘higher purpose’ of suicide bombing in which ‘kuffars’ get killed indiscriminately , the group gives them ‘permission’ for driving vans into crowds or suicide bombing or shoe bombing in an airplane , etc and motivates them to do so. Basically any crime can be committed with “right conscience” i.e. convince yourself that you are serving a higher purpose .

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      1. not ANY person. but your general point is correct.

        american troops have committed a lot of atrocities that are covered up in iraq & afghanistan. we learned our lesson with too much access/candor in vietnam.

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        1. Commissars who were in charge of Kolyma or Baikal Amur Mainline were convinced they were serving a higher historical purpose by running gulags and that was okay by Marxism -as interpreted by Stalin. . Those in charge of Auschwitz or Birkenau were convinced they were serving a racial purpose by killing off untermench, because the Fuhrer had told them so. Secular philosophies can be as lethal in murderous rationalizations as religious or traditional ones likes Kari karo.

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    1. I knew you wouldn’t get the reference because you are not into pop movies, TV. 50 First Dates is just a Rom Com where the girl suffers a brain damge and thereby loses capacity to retain short term memory. She can only remember what happened during the day but her brain completey erases the day’s memory during night sleep. She starts every day not remembering anything of yesterday.
      Adam Sandler is a kind of Lawrence Olivier of silly comedy movies.

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  20. To understand the psychology behind honor killing and investigating various implications stemming from religions and cultures, a deeper understanding behind killing in itself needs to be spelled out.

    Many soldiers for example are known for being very tight lipped about their war experience and although society affords them honor, many sometimes know they are murderers at the end of the day. Another thing is many people that eat meat are incapable of killing an animal with their own hands.

    A certain level of conditioning is actually needed to build a pre meditated killer, at whatever scale. In subcontinent for example, many Muslims pride themselves over korbani, like doing so is an act of proving imaan. For us Shakta Hindus also similar conditioning is there that sacrificing the animal is an act of worship. I suppose at an anthropological level one will call this conditioning process as culture. A warrior culture will glorify war so a killer from a Rajput or Gurkha or ancient Sparta has sufficient padding in their constitution to truly internalize their killing acts as a glorious deed whereas a general sucker that joined the military to get some financial benefits is not able to handle the gravity of their actions.

    To a person incapable of killing a chicken, killing own sister might seem insane. I’m personally somewhere on a spectrum on here because I can personally kill and eat animals but never killed a human. Yet I noticed for example when that Syrian baby picture showed up face down on the beach, while whole world was going gaga over the human tragedy I found literally nothing inside me that felt any feelings either way. I guess I can see both the honor killing side and the ones that find it unfathomable.

    One might think honor killing is nurture trumping nature but really it isn’t so. Without said honor killing the whole family suffers a social downward movement, so it is more like a sacrifice in that way. From a Dharmic pov yes the human physical form is a temple in itself and multitudes of memories inbuilt into every cell. But we (and by we I mean a specific conditioning and context) also have the capacity to be very unsentimental about it and treat a particular physical body as a walking corpse not worthy of human considerations.

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      1. No Bengalis don’t have any honor killings, but the excommunication etc was there. Sati was also tied to honor concepts and was at epidemic proportions by the time of colonial rule.

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        1. Santhals are what I consider the adi-Bangali or proto Bengalis. They definitely have their own khap panchayat style sentencing.

          https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-25855325

          Police said the latest incident on Monday night was prompted by the relationship between a woman belonging to the Santhal tribal group and a non-tribal man from a nearby village in Birbhum district.

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          1. i dont think Santhalas are bengalis , they are tribals. its like calling the Bhils of Rajasthan proto Rajput

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  21. In my opinion, culture opens doors, closes doors for our biology. It is a tool & a deterrent. Nothing we do is unatural. Everything we do, takes its power out of what is in our biology. But, culture can direct that biology in many ways.

    We don’t robotically react to . “If, I see female blood relative I love her unconditionally.”

    Humans are biologically made to be friends with each other, to respect each other. But we are also biological drawn to destroy each other. How culture opens & closes doors to these instincts can create drastic differences in how two different cultures treat the same people (including female relatives).

    Culture isn’t the only thing that closes/opens door. Culture is one thing that affects circumstance. Completely non-social circumstances can change circumstance and have the same effect.

    90% of the time, you’ll be in the right circumstance with female relatives for the doors to open up to certain biological instincts (love) instead of others (murder). Still, you can have people who grew up together, believe their family & blood bond means something, then stil kill each other because the door opened up for murder. This shouldn’t be a suprise.

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  22. Bharotshontan,
    “One might think honor killing is nurture trumping nature but really it isn’t so”

    It’s one part of nature trumping over a different part of nature because the circumstance people are in created by the culture closed the door for the former and opened the door for the later.

    Usually, the circumstance female & male relatives are in together prevents honor killings. But, if culture changes the circumstance enough, it can open the door to honor killings.

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  23. i dont think Santhalas are bengalis , they are tribals. its like calling the Bhils of Rajasthan proto Rajput

    no, it’s way more different than that. santhals speak a munda language. culturally and stuff there is a much bigger gap than btwn bhils and non-bhils in the area (bhils speak indo-aryan language).

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    1. I thought bhils are ethnically mundas only , only their interaction with non tribals have been more than other munda folks, that might be reason why culturally they are more non tribals. Is it wrong?

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      1. they are tribal. they speak an indo-aryan language. their AASI fraction is REALLY high, but, it’s high like south indian tribals or gonds. NOT like mundas.

        mundas are very distinctive genetically because

        1) munda men carry a Y chromosome that is obviously east asian, and generally found in very high freq. in austroasiatic groups

        2) genome-wide they all have substantial east asian ancestry, including markers such as the derived variant of EDAR

        to my knowledge bhils are not in that category. the bhils are more like pulliyars, an ancient ASI tribe. so part of the ‘normal’ range of south asian variation.

        i’ve read a bit about munda mythology and what not. it’s very different. they know they are culturally weird. more than >50% of their ancestry is south asian (mostly AASI, but some iranian farmer stuff too), but their culture is pretty alien.

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        1. I studied with both gonds and mundas , could really never make out the difference . All along i felt they were same. Now when you say it it does strike me that the gonds were a bit non tribal than the mundas. But i always felt that it had to more with the Gonds sort of being in more contact with the non tribals.

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          1. there is a reason you felt this way. i checked the scientific lit:

            https://www.nature.com/articles/ejhg2016198

            the gonds clearly have munda admixture. look at figure 1. you see the gonds are more ‘cosmopolitan’ if that makes sense than munda. so they have east asian. but they have other stuff munda don’t have.

            so gonds are culturally dravidian. genetically they assimilated some munda.

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          2. Is there a reason why genetic studies are not called as “North Indian bias”,”casteist”, “Aryan conspiracy”? 😛

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          3. Santosh

            There is a 15 volume encyclopedia mundarica by a gentleman jean baptiste Hoffman which covers every aspect of the culture. The second or third volume talks extensively about East Asian origins and relation to sandals and boils.

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  24. A question if I might. Is Munda or Munda mythology the same as Adivasi? If so, Adivasis have long played a major role in Arya culture. Many of the greatest saints and masters of Arya texts are Adivasis:
    http://www.hindupedia.com/en/%C4%80div%C4%81si_Hindu_saints
    In the Valmiki Ramayana, three jump to mind for me:
    —Valmiki
    —Sabari or Shabari
    —Sabari’s Guru Matanga

    Adivasi have long played a huge role in Arya culture, philosophy and civilization. Adivasis have their own stories too. But these stories are not perceived to be outside the Arya family. When people discuss Munda mythology, are they discussing?:
    —Sarnaism
    —Sanamahism

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