From WEIRD Culture to Weird Science?

Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
A new book proposes that what made Western Civilization rather unique was unwitting(?) created by seemingly arbitrary Roman Catholic restrictions on marriage, beyond merely eliminating polygamy that is. It is also interesting that this occurred at about the time that John Bartram asserts that 'pagan Chrestianity' became orthodox 'Christianity'.

Joseph Henrich asserts that this cultural change asserted itself behaviorally in forcing people to dissociate themselves more from their families, clans, and tribes to that of individuality and making social ties to otherwise previously strangers via a variety of secular and other groups. This led to changes in analytical approaches that drove all manner of things that we cherish about Western Civilization and conversely that detractors despise.

Henrich further posits that the Reformation and the Protestants further accelerated this trend, of which it seems to me that both phases do not depend upon invoking the so-called Jewish Synagogue of Satan, but rather that this was all organic, once the 'evil' Roman Church wrought its hands.

"WEIRD" then is an acronym for Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, and Democratic. Of course, we Postflavians have long argued that Western Democracy is nominal and rigged, and that only it's 'true believers' can think in superficially 'democratic' terms, albeit we wish that it was not rigged and rather run by a truly educated and not heavily propagandized polity. But in psychological terms, many times perception is indeed reality.

Around 597 a.d., Pope Gregory I dispatched an expedition to England to convert the Anglo-Saxon king of Kent and his subjects. The leader of the mission, a monk named Augustine, had orders to shoehorn the new Christians into Church-sanctioned marriages. That meant quashing pagan practices such as polygamy, arranged marriages (Christian matrimony was notionally consensual, hence the formula “I do”), and above all, marriages between relatives, which the Church was redefining as incest. Augustine wasn’t sure who counted as a relative, so he wrote to Rome for clarification. A second cousin? A third cousin? Could a man marry his widowed stepmother?
He could not. Pope Gregory wrote back to rule out stepmothers and other close kin not related by blood—another example was brothers’ widows. He was lax about second and third cousins; only the children of aunts and uncles were off-limits. By the 11th century, however, you couldn’t get engaged until you’d counted back seven generations, lest you marry a sixth cousin. The taboo against consanguineous family had expanded to include “spiritual kin,” who were, mostly, godparents. (It went without saying that you had to marry a Christian.) Pope Gregory and Augustine’s letters document a moment in a prolonged process—begun in the fourth century—in which the Church clamped down, and intermittently loosened up, on who could marry whom. Not until 1983 did Pope John Paul II allow second cousins to wed.
You might assume that this curious story of how the Church narrowed the criteria for marriageability would be relegated to a footnote—a very interesting footnote, to be sure—but Joseph Henrich puts the tale at the center of his ambitious theory-of-everything book, The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous. Consider this the latest addition to the Big History category, popularized by best sellers such as Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. The outstanding feature of the genre is that it wrangles all of human existence into a volume or two, starting with the first hominids to rise up on their hind legs and concluding with us, cyborg-ish occupants of a networked globe. Big History asks Big Questions and offers quasi-monocausal answers. Why and how did humans conquer the world? Harari asks. Cooperation. What explains differences and inequalities among civilizations? Diamond asks. Environment, which is to say, geography, climate, flora and fauna. Henrich also wants to explain variation among societies, in particular to account for the Western, prosperous kind.
Henrich’s first cause is culture, a word meant to be taken very broadly rather than as referring to, say, opera. Henrich, who directs Harvard’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, is a cultural evolutionary theorist, which means that he gives cultural inheritance the same weight that traditional biologists give to genetic inheritance. Parents bequeath their DNA to their offspring, but they—along with other influential role models—also transmit skills, knowledge, values, tools, habits. Our genius as a species is that we learn and accumulate culture over time. Genes alone don’t determine whether a group survives or disappears. So do practices and beliefs. Human beings are not “the genetically evolved hardware of a computational machine,” he writes. They are conduits of the spirit, habits, and psychological patterns of their civilization, “the ghosts of past institutions.”
One culture, however, is different from the others, and that’s modern WEIRD (“Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic”) culture. ...

Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
For some comic relief that blurs the lines between Weird Culture and Weird Science, it's WeirDass (aka Stephanie Weir, aka Kay Pruitt):

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Well-Known Member
Hmmm, wonder if she shares "Dragon" DNA with Nicholas de Vere, whose real surname was Weir, and whom also in a way could also be said to blur the lines between Weird Culture and Weird Science.