Friday, 14 September 2012

Evolution of Creative Genius in European populations


Why did the European population develop such a high concentration of Creative Geniuses growing and peaking sometime late-ish in the span between 1000 and 2000 AD?


Creative genius requires:

1. High general intelligence

2. High creativity - which is correlated with the personality trait of Psychoticism
(as described by HJ Eysenck).


There is a selection pressure for higher general intelligence in various overlapping situations: agricultural societies, complex societies (with specialization of labour and other functions), high latitude societies (with the problem of surviving through winter).


There is a selection pressure for lower Psychoticism in various situations which overlap with the selection factors for high intelligence.

High Psychoticism is in bold font; Low Psychoticism is normal font.

1. Cold - versus warm, charming
2. Aggressive - versus submissive
3. Egocentric - versus follows groups expectations
4. Unempathic - versus sympathetic, feels the emotions of others
5. Tough-minded (i.e. impervious to events) - versus tender-minded, strongly affected by experience
6. Antisocial - versus gregarious, needs other people
7. Impersonal - versus life consists of intense, direct relationships
8. Impulsive (behaviour dominated by current emotions) - versus behaviour dominated by predictions or weaker emotions.
9. Creative - versus applies peer-approved, learned rules and traditions

High trait Psychoticism supports creative genius; low Psychoticism makes a person more assimilable to large scale, complex human society.


Thus, a relatively complex agricultural society will - over time - tend to Increase Intelligence and reduce Psychoticism.

In other words, complex agrarian societies will tend towards a Smart and Tame population.


(In animal terms, perhaps a group of high-P types could be compared with a wild hunting pack of carnivores such as wolves; while a group of low-P types is somewhat like a herd of domesticated herbivores such as cattle; bearing in mind that when coordinated - e.g. in a stampede - cattle can kill a pack of wolves.)


Creative Genius requires both Intelligence and Psychoticism to be high - so eventually a complex agricultural society will become Smart but Tame - highly intelligent but uncreative.

However, it is possible that the selection pressure for increasing intelligence may (under certain circumstances) be stronger than the selection pressure for reducing Psychoticism: thus the smartening may happen faster than taming.

In such a situation, there would be a temporary period when the population was both intelligence and also creative.

This is the 'sweet spot' for Creative Genius.


On this basis, it is plausible that the European population underwent selection both for Higher Intelligence and lower Psychoticism during the medieval period; but that Intelligence increased faster than Psychoticism reduced, and led to a few centuries of Western Creative Genius, before the taming selection reduced creativity.

Other parts of the world had different experiences: for example, East Asia had a much longer history of complex (and peaceful) agrarian society - thus the population became, after many generations, much lower in Psychoticism as well as higher in Intelligence: to generate the Smart and Tame type of population. Presumably, at an earlier period than in Western Europe  (after, presumably, a much earlier era when the more rapid selection for Intelligence led them to they hit the 'sweet spot' for Creative Genius).


And then, from about 1800, selection began to work against high intelligence due to a combination of declining child mortality rates differentially affecting most the less intelligent and declining fertility initially and most strongly among the most intelligent.

Probably, from about 1800, in Europe average Intelligence began to fall, and average Psychoticism to rise - and Creative Genius dwindled quickly (to become very rare by the mid-twentieth century). 


The Creative Intelligence combination of high Intelligence and high Psychoticism has probably not happened in many populations in the history of the world; and seems likely to be an unstable and transitional state passed-through in moving between the more stable combinations of creative, chaotic, individualistic low-I/ high-P societies on the one hand; and stereotypical, ordered, communalistic high-I/ low-P societies on the other hand.



Bill said...

A plot of the ratio P/I over century?

Jonathan said...

I just don't buy the idea that the genetic component of psychoticism and creativity dropped dramatically enough to explain the drop in man's creative output from 1850 to 1950. I think there are still plenty of psychotics around, and their inability to produce anything of value must have primarily sociological causes. I think your writings on the fall of science, and Father Seraphim Rose's book on Nihilism, give better explanations than the eugenic account.

bgc said...

@Jonathan - but that's not really what I am saying...

Anonymous said...


This is really off topic, but I just got through your thought prison article and could think of no other way of getting in contact. I loved the article and agree with it nearly in full. I just wanted to talk about a few things.

In your passage on "Disinterested altruism and moral superiority" you state three kinds of altruism in the PC mindset.

1) Altruism as long term selfishness strategy.
2) Altruism as misfiring kinship genetic strategy (it really does make you happy even if it doesn't "get you anything" in the long run).
3) Selfless (unhappy altruism).

I think #1 and #2 have their place but its foolish to end things there. The problem with #3 isn't that "true" selfless altruism is false or inherently unhappy. Simply put if done properly it requires god and can be quite happy. God loves all people, and we should try to love all people as well. There are competing drives in us, some of them evil (original sin), and it is up to us to strengthen the right drives and reject the wrong ones.

This third kind of altruism is harder then the first two because it has fewer natural mechanisms reinforcing our will. PC can only respond to this reality by assuming that the will to exercise this virtue must come from them and them alone. This reinforces a toxic pride that damages the soul in and act that should lift it up. Rather then allowing one to be filled with Gods grace in order to rise to this virtue the PC is left to assume the emptiness he feels is the correct method of achieving this virtue and not the absence of him since he kept him out in his own pride.

As believers, we can ask God for strength, and we can be filled with him when we practice unselfishness. Let us not conclude that because these poor souls practice this virtue incorrectly that it is not a virtue.

"In reality, voluntary charity is usually more effective and coercive altruism may not be more dependable – but for PC the facts are irrelevant: the superiority of coercive altruism is moral and intrinsic, therefore not a matter for empirical evaluation."

This depends on issue to issue. There are probably coercions you believe are empirically good and better then voluntary charity. Perhaps something like when we had the draft to defeat the Nazis. The draft sure is coercive, but it was probably a net good.

If our government was smaller and not so evil you might even look on paying taxes with some pride towards common good rather then malice. I still find it crazy I don't get a thank you letter back from the IRS every year (I suppose they don't do it because they would have to face what a terrible job they do with the money). Once again just because wayward souls practice a virtue poorly we should not assume it is not a virtue.

I kind of notice this thing a lot in the essay. PC is merely a twisted form of something that could be, exercised in his service, a virtue. The worst sins almost always have a warped spiritual component. I'd rather just state that then go down the examples. We should not throw away virtues because PC has twisted them in a desperate attempt to avoid acknowledging God.

I think you largely understand the pride issue based on the second half of the essay.

bgc said...

@DA - For future reference, I can be emailed - the address is supplied in the sidebar.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, just saw it. 3am made me a little unawares.

emile said...

I got a question. I understand that the average Intelligence is going to fall because dysgenetic causes stated. But how is it that psychoticism is going to rise in our modern western society.

Bruce Charlton said...

If you search 'psychoticism' on this blog you will see why.