Re: Genes say: When Rich, have Fewer Kids

Robert Schrader (
Thu, 6 Mar 1997 19:42:22 -0800 (PST)

On Thu, 6 Mar 1997, Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:

> > I'm suspicious of this leap from correlation of social behavior to genetics.
> > Our genetic structure evolved over eons, and in the vast majority of that
> > time there was no such thing as 'money', 'wealth', or 'richness'. Are
> > they saying that it is possible to encode such a concept as 'rich' in DNA?
> I have to disagree; yes, there always was "wealth" throughout all of
> human history, just as there is in aboriginal societies today. It's
> likely to be measured in plots of land, cattle, wives, social status,
> or whatever else the particular society valued. "Money" is just a
> convenient form of measurement for wealth that we have created in
> recent times to simplify the act of trade, but the concept itself is
> a much more fundamental one.
No disagreement here, really. The time period that I was referring to
starts pre-cambrian. Human history is only a tiny part of it.
Human genes are greatly the result of the evolution of pre-human critters.
The vast majority of that time there was no wealth, unless clams got money.

The point that I was trying to make was that, if we treat DNA as a
language, there are no words in the human genome for 'rich', and
probably insufficient syntax to talk about riches.

Please consider a parallel example. If I observe the following evolution:
? -> B -> BCPL -> C -> C++ , I can conclude that C++ probably has a
grammar fit for talking to computers, and is not fit for writing love
poems or dicussing aesthetics.

> And yes, anything that affects behavior can be "encoded in DNA".
> { snip articulate supporting arguments - none of which I disagree with }

True, but not sufficient. Yes, behaviors can be encoded. However wealth
is not a behavioral concept. It is a social construction, and there is
no definite connection between behavior and wealth. Wealth-recognizing
or wealth-producing behavior in one society doesn't always work in another.
( Howard Stern's behavior makes him wealthy in this society, it would
get him shot in mainland China. )

The very fact that the correlation between wealth and family size is
cross-cultural is therefore proof that it isn't genetic. QED.

> I would tend to suspect other social causes for the effect...
Me too.

Robert Schrader