Author Topic: The Marriage and Family Program  (Read 2969 times)

dubsartur

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The Marriage and Family Program
« on: April 29, 2023, 02:13:30 AM »
Over on the monthly meetup, someone mentioned that he had found someone with a RationalWiki entry pushing a theory that western Europeans were bred for individuality by Catholic marriage laws.  Unfortunately, this comes from an actual paper by Joseph Henrich in Science (sigh), if you see history archaeology or linguistics in Nature or Science be prepared for disappointment) https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aau5141 summarized here

I think most of the criticism was on corporate social media where its hard to find again or may be deleted or hidden (double sigh) but it included things like "nobody in western Europe in the early Middle Ages had the power to control marriage across a wide area" and "the British upper class had a lot of cousin marriages in the 18th and 19th century."  And many people are highly motivated to reason why Catholic and Protestant Europeans were forordained to dominate the world.  I don't know of anyone who has looked into the authors or their footnotes.

Even in the second half of the Middle Ages, the western Church struggled to enforce the rule against clerics marrying.  When it stopped them from marrying in a church, it found a lot of clerks with friendly housemaids and neighbours-with-benefits.

So at first glance it seems like a thing which could have happened, but when you look at the history of similar theories and who gets excited by them, you realize you should be very careful.  Eg. the pioneering sociologist Max Weber decided that north-west Europe was rich in 1910 because Protestantism, then France and southern Germany got rich too, then Japan and South Korea, and the idea that the Protestant Ethic is the Spirit of Capitalism got hard to swallow.

Edit: its also worth saying that the authors and the people willing to speak kindly about this project come from disciplines such as business, economics, psychology, anthropology, human evolutionary biology (a whole department at Harvard!)

The ancient Greeks and Romans were very strong on monogamy: whoever people got naked with, they could have one and only one spouse at a time, and if powerful men such as kings tried to marry more than one person at a time that was a mark of the barbarian.  AFAIK the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians were basically monogamous too.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2023, 05:30:48 AM by dubsartur »

dubsartur

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Re: The Marriage and Family Program
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2023, 09:07:57 PM »
A poster on the SlateStarCodex (warning!) subreddit (warning warning!) pointed to the theory of the Hajnal Line https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajnal_line

Quote
In 1965, John Hajnal posited that Europe could be divided into two areas characterized by a different patterns of nuptiality.  To the west of the line, which extends approximately between Saint Petersburg, Russia, and Trieste, Italy, marriage rates and thus fertility were comparatively low and a significant minority of women married late or remained single and most families were nuclear; to the east of the line and in the Mediterranean and particular regions of Northwestern Europe, early marriage and extended family homes were the norm and high fertility was countered by high mortality. ... In the 20th century, Hajnal's observations were assumed as valid by a wide variety of sociologists. However, since the early 21st century, his theory has been routinely criticized and rejected by scholars. Hajnal and other researchers did not have access to, or underplayed nuptiality research from behind the Iron Curtain which contradict their observations on central and eastern Europeans. ... Although John Hajnal himself was stridently anti-fascist and a survivor of the Jewish holocaust, his theory has been warmly received and heavily promoted by Neo-Nazis, and the alt-right.

Not all criticism of this kind of research is disinterested but the Wikipedia page gives some strings to pull.  People on the SlateStarCodex comments and subreddit know a lot about weird race theories.

Conservative commentator T. Greer points to some gripes about the paper on twitter.  Because what sells on twitter is confidence, emotional intensity, and partisanship those criticisms may not be the best criticisms.  Often, people with PhDs or successful professional careers go on TV or on the Internet and criticize things they have not read or just skimmed.

https://scholars-stage.org/historians-fear-not-the-psychologists/

Someone in the white supremacist journal Mankind Quarterly criticizes the paper for not being racist enough at http://www.kevinmacdonald.net/SchulzComment.pdf
« Last Edit: April 29, 2023, 09:15:35 PM by dubsartur »