Article on Church influence and Western Individualism

I have a paper that was just published in Mankind Quarterly:

Can Western Church Influence Explain Western Individualism? Comment on “The Church, Intensive Kinship, and Global Psychological Variation” by Jonathan F. Schulz et al., Mankind Quarterly 61, no. 2 (2020): 371-391.

This paper is a critique of a paper by Jonathan Schulz that appeared in 2019 in Science and got quite a bit of publicity. A co-author and likely inspiration for the project is Joseph Henrich, professor and chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard and thus is well acquainted with evolutionary perspectives. However, while he acknowledges evolved, genetic influences on human behavior and that cultural changes may result in genetic changes (the classic example is the evolution of genes for lactose tolerance in some populations consequent to utilizing milk from domesticated cattle), he argues that the prime mover of human evolution is culture. In this scenario, there was nothing special or unique about Western populations prior to the Middle Ages, and that indeed, European populations in the year 1000 AD were markedly less advanced than Muslim societies and China. However, around this time the Catholic Church succeeded in imposing its marriage and family policy which essentially “demolished” intensive kinship relations (i.e., kinship deeply embedded within closely related groups, e.g., clans and kindreds with a distinct hierarchy and based on degree of genetic relatedness) commonly found in agricultural societies. Freed of the ties to intensive kinship groups, individuals gradually gravitated to voluntary associations based on common interests, ranging from merchant guilds to religious sects and scientific societies that ultimately gave birth to the modern world. In 2020 Henrich published The WEIRDest People in the World which is based fundamentally on the research presented in the 2019 Science article.

As I note in the abstract, this contrasts with my recently published book Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition: Evolutionary Origins, History, and Prospects for the Future, which proposes that Western individualism, as expressed in the characteristic European marriage system and in a plethora of other cultural expressions, is ultimately the outcome of selection in the ancestral environments of northern Europe and northern Eurasia more widely. This commentary highlights the historical evidence bearing on these alternative explanations for European exceptionalism. The main conclusion is that European individualism, as expressed in kinship structure and social organization, was firmly established before the advent of Christianity.  My paper has 4 sections:

1. Primordial Tendencies toward Western Individualism: the key issue is signs of individualism in the Indo-Europeans and Northern Hunter-Gatherers that make up the core populations of Western Europe.

2. Sources and Targets of Church Power, where the key issue is whether the Western European tradition of monogamy predated Church influence.

3. How Widespread Was Compliance with the Church’s Rules on Incestuous Marriage? A basic claim of Shulz et al. is that the Church eradicated widespread cousin marriage. I present the case that cousin marriage and clan-type social organization were never characteristic of the West.

4. The Geography of Church Influence. I show that Western individualism does not at all map onto the research on Western family history which shows that some areas of Western Europe long under Church influence (e.g., southern France) retained collectivist family patterns, while some areas of Western Europe that were Christianized late are the most individualistic (Scandinavia).


16 replies
  1. James Bowery
    James Bowery says:


    mixing collectivist peoples with individualist peoples, without providing individualist peoples an effective way of individually taking on collectivist individuals in a (culturally sanctioned) fair contest exterminates individualist peoples, and since
    this extermination provides resources to collectivist peoples

    …there are enormous incentives for collectivist peoples to suppress understanding of heritable individualism.

    These incentives express in wide-spread, protean attacks on scientific understanding of individualism. Because it is incentivized this attack can be highly successful even without conscious collaboration of collectivist peoples toward this end. Sure, there will be occasional deliberation toward this end — some quite open — but the structure of the attack is emergent — founded on the natural incentives.

    One class of attacks is that the genetic level isn’t required to explain Western individualism. Thankfully, that mendacity is on the retreat.

    Attempts to explain heritable individualism in terms of the post-Christianization era are designed to consolidate gains by collectivists peoples achieved during that era by denying the evolution of eusociality — evolution favoring collectivist peoples — that has obtained in the Christian era.

    I wasn’t aware of Jonathan Schulz, but there are others, including Gregory Clark.
    Clark puts the selection as recently as the modern era. This is related to the lesser-known attack on individualistic peoples by Curt Doolittle’s notion of the “domestication” of Europeans during the Christian era.

    Kevin’s book blows those attacks out of the water of course, which is why everyone is tip-toeing around the arguments made in “Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition”.

    There are further layers of evolutionary history here that are harder to document — layers at the frontiers of paleoanthropology — where the deeper history goes back to the Early European Modern Humans (Cromagnon). One such layer that I’ve been interested in is EEMH-wolf coevolution. There are already attempts by the collectivist paleoanthropologists to derail this in the form of not just papers but entire books on the subject. The common theme of this attack is that this coevolution was driven primarily by the adoption of canids by human hunting groups — totally eliding an obvious dynamic that evolves individualism starting as early as 40kybp:

    Adolescent male individuals being ejected by the human hunting group coming into contention with wolf packs while scavenging the leavings of human hunting groups.

    It is clear why the collectivist paleoanthropologists want to have the co-evolution be one-way: No impact on the human genome means one less threat from the human biodiversity community.

    But the ejected adolescent male is a much deeper phenomenon than even EEMH-wolf coevolution. This dynamic in the evolution of individualism — young male individuals being ejected from hunting groups to fend for themselves — is an obvious path toward the evolution of individualism that would have been going on since the Chimpanzee-Human Last Common Ancestor, that eliding it in paleoanthropology seems a form of Crimestop.

    • jbw
      jbw says:

      “Chimpanzee-Human Last Common Ancestor” is not accessible to human consciousness at any level other than the imagination. I am having a hard time following your logic of personal identity (which is developmental and thus relating to evolutionary psychology and social biology) forget Physical Anthropology. Racial consciousness in the Jungian sense, does exist, O.K? I think!
      But is there some other physical-not-mental feature at a bio/intuitional (racial) pre-conscious level (a mental artifact?) that can be shown to pre-exist in our brains other than the physical artifacts of group and individual identity that relate to coping mechanisms developed prior to Christianity? Who gives a flying fig?
      Epi-genetics may be the answer to questions regarding nature and nurture that do not lend themselves to physical observation; and less dogmatically scientific, which is what the world needs in this particularly unstable period of history.
      Technological or synthetic pathways have are not infinite nor produce reliable histrionics.
      My question is, in what sense is in the current context of white survival in the face of technological capture by the ongoing psychotic program being carried out in the context of subject group theory of contextual identity by aggrieved agents of Cultural Zionism? Am I of base here, about the ontology?

  2. Jody Vorhees
    Jody Vorhees says:

    The churches have been part and parcel of our approaching extinction. Abandon them and shun them. Like America’s founding documents, they were never intended to be instruments facilitating national death.

  3. Larry Z B
    Larry Z B says:

    The late comparative mythologist, Joseph Campbell (American, 1904-1987), also traced Western individualism back to Neolithic times long before the Christianizing of Europe.

  4. Aldon
    Aldon says:

    The “individualistic” Westerners are dying out regardless of your praise for them. The Selfish Gene isn’t real.

    • moneytalks
      moneytalks says:

      “” The “individualistic” Westerners are dying out “”…

      In particular ,
      White Christians are being covertly and slowly
      genocided out of existence .

      Individualistic Whites ( the largest Westernworld ethnic group ) , whom are by far at least nominal Christians

      ( where Christianity is a sheeple-oriented religion of
      self-enslavement to the chosenhite jewmasterss )

      cannot prevail against their aggressive collectivist jewmasterss
      ( i.e. , cannot prevail against Judaic gangsterism ) — with or without a White genetic subversive factor and with or without a White religious subversive factor .

    • Kevin MacDonald
      Kevin MacDonald says:

      I don’t praise individualism. The point of my book is to understand why individualism is maladaptive in the current environment dominated by a hostile media and academic elite.

      • Aldon
        Aldon says:

        Calling it “Individualism” and the other “collectivism” is a poor choice of words. Absent of contact with universalist theology/philosophy, European men prior to modernity had no notion of an “individual.” The Indo-European warrior had no notion he carries an atom of a”soul” that or that he had some propositional identity. The Ancient City speaks well of this, concluding men served their states.

  5. Jody Vorhees
    Jody Vorhees says:

    The Selfish Gene does not need to be real. “Selfishness” is a primary trait of the survival instinct. If you don’t have that, you won’t be around to pass your genetic material forward.

    • Aldon
      Aldon says:

      >The Selfish Gene does not need to be real.

      It kinda does for its narrative of history (effectively just liberalism applied to Darwinism) to hold. Dawkins’ spin on the issue was just applying liberal history (“social contracts formed by lone atoms for defense” “slippers on necks until spontaneous revolutions happened”) to how evolution happens (where the “individual” is the “source of selection”).

      >“Selfishness” is a primary trait of the survival instinct.
      >If you don’t have that, you won’t be around to pass your genetic material forward.

      You say such, and yet I’d argue that we’re living in the most selfish era in history yet countries like Japan to America’s White population are breeding below replacement. Hmmm then.

      • Jody Vorhees
        Jody Vorhees says:

        In regard to your last point, yes and no. It is an era of great selfishness, in some regards, yet also an era of monstrous conformity, in which “the self” and “selfishness” take a back seat to “the needs of the many” and “political correctness.” This process is occurring not just on the individual level, but on national scales. Exhibit A: The dissolution of Western nation-states and their cultures, to accommodate the breeding and migration habits of Third Worlders. Such an accommodation is, ultimately, self-sacrificing madness.

  6. Aldon
    Aldon says:

    > Exhibit A: The dissolution of Western nation-states and their cultures, to accommodate the breeding and migration habits of Third Worlders.

    Except that’s not actuality a case of “muh rugged selfishness getting subverted by dastardly collectivism” like one of the Kike’s novels (Atlas Shrugged for one). The ones actively supporting such are either knowingly in on it since they benefit in one way or another (coomers/sex tourists/incels who want to fuck the foreign women, cheap labor users) or don’t place duty on maintaining their volk (which is ultimately a wider form of family) since they were convinced of such (White Guilt, manchildism/consoomerism that sees children as cribbing on your overgrown child habits, females encouraged to act on their worse instincts with the relief of abortion/contraception, etc.). All men are programmed to expire. Since we were formed as tools to perpuate and strengthen and maintain and ensure domiance of an ancestry (the nation, the clan, the tribe, the family), any talk of the “individual” is merely a fantasy like “human rights” or Wakanda or lolbertarianism being relevant.

    • moneytalks
      moneytalks says:

      ” > Exhibit A: The dissolution of Western nation-states and their cultures, to accommodate the breeding and migration habits of Third Worlders.”

      The dissolution of the Westphalian nation-state system , by the NWO ILLuminati Global Ruling Oligarchs ( such as Rothschild , Queen Liz , Pope Francis , et al ) , is for the purpose of accumulating/monopolizing all political powers at the top of the world populations control pyramid ; since nation-states are an impediment to accumulating/monopolizing political powers at the top of the global pyramid of political power .

      The accommodation of “the breeding and migration habits of Third Worlders” is a consequence of the dissolution .

      Those top ruling oligarchs do not appear to believe that geo-political powers can be hueristicly treated as discrete entities that can and should be at least in principle formally “bell curve” distributed ( aka [ Gaussian distribution ] / [ Universal Law of Distribution ] / [ God’s Law of Distribution ] ) since political control implies resource control and vice versa ; and where many resources are in fact frequently and at least approximately Guassian distributed .

      In other words , one major objective of a despotic monopolization/accumulation/concentration of political power is to be able to persuasively answer any legitimate/justifiable subject’s question of [ why ? ] , regarding an order by official authority , with the simple and implicit threat of “Because I said so” ; which is to the subjected person a profoundly undemocratic and unsatisfying justification for an order .

      The ancient and worldwide extant notion that all political power , which implies/infers resource control , must ultimately be monopolized by a top ruling despot needs to be expunged from the mind of humanity — before it is too late .

  7. pterodactyl
    pterodactyl says:

    (the classic example is the evolution of genes for lactose tolerance in some populations consequent to utilizing milk from domesticated cattle)

    – this is not the emergence of new genes, which is a prerequisite of full evolution, as the lactose tolerance is already present in human infants (they drink milk!) What we have here is modifications of existing genes, not new genes emerging. Variations of the already-existing sets of genes in a population can lead to rapid changes in just a few hundred years, and we see this happening as the many dog breeds emerged over the last century, all from the pre-existing gene pool. So dogs and other domesticated animals can change rapidly solely by variations in frequencies of genes that are already present in the gene pool, but they can go only so far with this method and then no further. With full evolution (meaning new, useful genes emerging), if this is possible (and some suggest it is not, including some non-religious), then dogs would eventually talk, as humans select them to be clever and like themselves. This occurring (dogs talking) is actually a prediction of full evolution, as we intensively select dogs to be more like humans.

    The way humans change can be just as fast as domesticated animals, but once a large population is established, it can hardly change any more except in exceptional circumstances such as a plague killing off the half that lacks immunity, or by migration of subgroups to new territories, or population merges. Natural selection cannot even get rid of tooth decay and difficult births in female humans – both taking a major toll on fertility until recently.

    Once way to facilitate human migration (and the preservation of the white race) would be to designate some parts of the country (the ones that are to become non-white) as ‘free stuff zones’ – free stuff for life for those who migrate there out of the main white populations. This would cause significant migration out of the main white gene pool of those with the worst genes, the criminals and the anti-social, and would vastly improve the stock of the remaining population, and so would be worth the financial cost. But before this can happen, a different subsection of the population would have to take over to implement this process, as the current subset in charge wants the opposite to happen – they want (a) races with inferior genes to come from the third world and merge with white populations, and they want (b) the whites with the poorest quality genes (the underclass) to breed the most, which is why they pay them per child produced via benefits, and they also discourage the intelligent white females from breeding by persuading them to ‘have a career’ instead of raising a family.

    When domesticated dogs are released into the wild after a natural disaster, they interbreed and the separate breeds soon disappear and they all end up as a sort of wolf-like dog. The same is now happening to humans – a merging together of different ‘breeds’ to use the dog-term. However, it is possible to re-breed the dalmation and all the other breeds all over again if you really wanted to, from the mongrel population.

    Although a large population is ‘stuck’ with its gene pool (apart from migration effects), it is still possible for natural selection to remove the entire population, for example if it has genes that cause it to antagonise other populations. The Jews exhibit hostility to other races, in particular towards those that are friendly to them. There is no way that this trait can be gradually removed by natural selection (the most hostile ones do not have fewer children), however, one day the entire population could get wiped out if, like the bully, they cause trouble once too often.

    So once populations become established, there is little change in the genes of the population, but natural selection still applies to the ENTIRE population which can thrive or perish.

    The reason small populations can change whereas large ones cannot is that mechanisms of rapid change apply small populations much more readily. These are: (a) migration of subgroups to form new colonies, and (b) the effects of war, in which the victors take females from the losing side, and not just randomly, only certain types are taken, eg fair-skinned ones, in particular by the top alpha males who in turn will confer advantage to their offspring. But once a population becomes established, the *entire population* is selected for or against, not the individuals.

    To give an example of how natural selection does NOT apply within an established population, a child in a modern white country who has poor social interaction, low intelligence, who is lazy and also a psychopath – such a child can thrive have several children in modern white societies, and therefore spread his genes, and this is possible because the society protects him, or the parents do. Either way, his bad genes do not reduce his ability to reproduce. Quite the reverse in modern white societies, as THE STATE is the main contributor to facilitating the poor quality individuals to breed the most, via welfare, whereas until recently the family and the qualities of individual mattered more. So in the past there was perhaps some slow improvement of the gene quality, but today there is deterioration occurring in white societies. However, migration could quite easily remove the lower types – the anti social, criminal and Antifa-types.

    In white English-speaking societies, the left runs the state and the state now pays the underclass to reproduce, as this is the sub group that the left always favours. This affinity for the lower types is what defines the left, and such an urge can exist in those who are clever and successful as well as the underclass. The state pays the underclass to breed and imports 3rd world genes – this demonstrates that white societies must be currently making their gene pool worse. This proves that natural selection cannot be ‘slowly improving us’, as clearly we are deteriorating. The natural systems have broken down due to the culture being guided and led by a small subsection – the left – that has taken control, as wealth and technology allow a small number of the committed to have influence that is far out of proportion to their numbers.

    There are a couple of harmful gene that are, however, rapidly removing themselves from white society – the genes that cause the characteristics of (a) wanting to be barren or childless, and (b) the characteristic in women of being too fussy in their choice of male, and aiming too high and waiting for Mr Right to appear, then ending up with nothing. In the past, both types would have had marriages arranged for them by the group, but today the individual can choose and so these traits can now become significant.

    Article: “The main conclusion is that European individualism, as expressed in kinship structure and social organization, was firmly established before the advent of Christianity.”

    And if human populations that are established cannot change much (except by war and migration and disease and merging with other populations), this suggests that we cannot change from being individualistic. And neither can the Indians in India remove their genes that make them over-value kinship to the extent that their children are now significantly inbred and therefore of poor genetic quality. And neither can the Jews change their feature that makes them hostile to other races. However, perhaps one hope for whites is migration whereby whites who want to survive end up migrating to be with similar ones. Language is the main barrier to this, as English speaking whites can move around more easily, but at present there is no English-speaking white nation that we can flee to as they are all committing national suicide.

    Article: “and clan-type social organization were never characteristic of the West.”
    This individuality-characteristic (valuing the person not the blood-ties) is how the whites were able to improve their own genes rapidly, when applied in the past in conjunction with migration of subgroups, and in an environment that was harsh when untamed. Contrast this with the other races that preferred their own relatives and would not absorb quality outsiders. However, even clan-type societies made an exception – capturing white women as slaves by arab slavers, which might explain how white and western many Syrians and Iranians are in appearance today.

    Article: Catholic Church succeeded in imposing its marriage and family policy
    Their policies also served to stop the most intelligent males in many families from passing on their genes due to the celibacy of the priesthood, as the most intelligent son was chosen for the church and the others for the farm. The nuns also made being barren a state of virtue to aim for in females, as they married Jesus instead of a real man with whom they could pass on their genes, and the nunneries might include a higher proportion of the moral and thoughtful types, thus blocking them from passing on their more quality genes.

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