God of r, the God of K
Population Biology of the Bible
"And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly,
and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled
God of the Old Testament was inordinately concerned about human birth
rates. This was odd, since he not only had a very dark view of human
nature, he also wasn't above wiping out the whole human race to prove
it. Based on God's diatribes against mankind, he should have been the
leading proponent of abortion and homosexuality.
But the Old Testament God's intervention in the lives of humans had
an unusually persistent theme--the reproduction and emigration of the
Hebrews into new territory, that is, the promised land.
godly preoccupation with Hebrew reproduction, the promised land,
and emigration was not so coincidental, as among both human and non-human
species, dispersal into new territories is the primary response to increasing
Mobile human populations occupying foreign territories have a very strong
tendency to coordinate behaviors and beliefs. This mirrors the behaviors
of other migrating social animals quite well. The increased cooperation,
mutual defense, and altruism among the emigrants of other species improves
both group and individual survival in new habitats.
have evolved with individual predispositions for the extremes of migratory
social organization and social behavior in dense urban populations.
These social behaviors are quite different, and their neurological origins
can be traced to the monoamine neurotransmitter systems of dopamine,
norepinephrine, and serotonin, which have a significant degree of behavioral,
cognitive, and anatomical specificity.
monotheistic religions, Judaism and Islam, share a common economic foundation:
pastoralism. The pervasive Biblical references to God as shepherd
and humans as sheep is an echo of the interesting relationship
between pastoral societies, warfare, semi-arid climates, animal-product
diets, human emigration, and monotheistic religions.
societies are highly mobile, patrilineal, male dominated, highly organized,
militant, and the most likely to develop and propagate distinctly monotheistic
gods of the male gender. Both hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies
have higher propensities for polytheism, and provided a problem for
the spread of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, the latter of which
would adopt many solar rituals to improve conversion rates.
involves frequent conflict with farmers, hunters, foragers, and other
nomads. Competition and conflict is exacerbated by the wide rainfall
variations of the semi-arid regions that pastoralism typically inhabits,
and changes the usual migration routes in search of grazable rangelands,
increasing conflict with indigenous populations. This is the foundation
of militance and male dominance among pastoral-nomads. This pastoral
mobility also provides an excellent mechanism for propagating religious
beliefs over large territories.
pastoral-nomadism was just one type of migratory behavior during Biblical
times. Along with the normal cycle of growth and dispersal of pastoral,
agricultural, and urban populations, periodic droughts in the semi-arid
regions of the Arabian peninsula and Egypt would drive displaced populations
towards the Nile delta.
God of r
Genesis, a great famine in the promised land of Canaan resulted
in the Hebrew emigration to Egypt. According to Exodus, the Hebrews
were enslaved by the Egyptians, but still reproduced rapidly, which
is contrary to the more typical inverse relationship between reproductive
rates and enslavement. Some theories propose that these events were
actually based on the occupation of Canaan by the Egyptians.
the account of Exodus, the rapidly expanding Hebrew population was expelled
from Egypt, as it posed a threat to the power of the Pharaoh. During
their emigration out of Egypt, God intervened to provide both food and
water, and took an unusual dislike for a group of nomads that repeatedly
attacked the Hebrews, called the Amalekites. The Hebrew war against
the Amalekites was a vicious one, and with a little prodding from God,
the Hebrews killed them all.
a period of emigration, starvation, warfare, and the intervention of
Yahweh on behalf of the Hebrews, there was still a lot of resistance
to the adoption of the single God theory of Moses. Baal was a
rival god of the landowning aristocrats of Canaan, and the pastoral
Hebrews were naturally resentful for not being able to graze on their
private lands, which were protected by the believers of Baal.
Therefore, there was no other God than Yahweh, the one true God. The
socioeconomic structure promoted by the Hebrews would ultimately vanquish
Baal, as organized religious practices are not so much about religion
as they are about the survival of populations in stressed habitats.
population biology, as we discussed in last
month's edition, the variable r is the intrinsic rate
of population growth, and is simply the difference between birth and
death rates. r selection is the propensity of a habitat
to favor species that reproduce rapidly. r strategists were
species that found new habitats quickly, reproduced rapidly, and dispersed
quickly as these habitats were depleted.
strategists were typically small, closely knit populations that
engaged in mutual altruistic behaviors such as cooperative nest building
and mutual defense. Among humans, emigrating religious groups most closely
resemble the behaviors of r strategists, with their higher birth
rates and propensity for altruistic behaviors towards other religious
of the Old Testament involves reproduction, migration, famine, warfare,
altruism, heredity, ethics, genetic restrictions in reproduction, monotheism,
and an often angry and vengeful God to facilitate it all--the God of
God of K
the Old Testament, there were many signs of a softening of God's approach
to humans, as he spares cities from destruction, shows tolerance towards
the Gentiles, promotes peaceful resolutions to disputes with non-Jews,
and speaks more about "love".
contrast to both Moses and Mohammed, who both spent time as shepherds,
the Biblical Jesus lived a predominately cosmopolitan life. His home
town, Nazareth, was a popular caravan stop along the trading routes
of the eastern Mediterranean, and a melting pot of Hebrew, Babylonian,
and Hellenistic cultures. The district of Galilee had transitioned towards
urban life, was heavily engaged in trade, and had a corresponding diversity
of culture and genetics.
father was a carpenter, and the young Jesus was caught up in the Galilee
building boom, and traveled to many cities to help in his father's construction
projects. According to some accounts of his life, Jesus was exposed
to both the Egyptian city of Alexandria and the Greek city of Scythopolis.
The purported influence of western culture on Jesus was part of a rather
broad and liberal education, as he supposedly learned to read and write
Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.
Biblical Jesus is the most well documented liberal in history. In his
studies of the Old Testament, he had a rather unconventional objection,
which wasn't too out of line with the prevailing attitudes in the liberal
city of Nazareth--why was God so angry and vengeful? This didn't make
theological sense. Surely, much of the Old Testament had missed the
According to some accounts of his life, Jesus, an accomplished musician,
a performer of the forerunner to the electric guitar (the harp), had
quite the scientific mind, and was fascinated by such ungodly things
as the different states of matter--gaseous, liquid, and solid. He pondered
over the changes in weather patterns, dabbled in astronomy, and studied
higher mathematics. He was, in modern terminology, a geek. He
refused to defend himself in altercations. The sight of blood made him
ill. He was a far cry from the hardened Moses and Mohammed.
like your average modern-day Liberal, Jesus disliked commercialism,
promoted environmentalism, railed against animal sacrifice, promoted
women's rights, and fostered brotherhood among all peoples. While several
of the Hebrew prophets would precede Jesus in the promotion of a more
loving and just version of God, the empathetic nature of this intellectual
carpenter was obvious in his tolerance for genetic and cultural variation,
and intolerance of earthly reward-seeking and selfishness.
Isaiah and Jeremiah before him, the chosen people of the Old
Testament were a theoretical problem to Jesus. Why would God choose
the Hebrews over other people? This was a common idea in Nazareth, as
it simply reflected the genetic and religious diversity of urban populations,
along with the calming influence of economic development and trade upon
But a major theme of the Old Testament, so focused on the reproduction
and emigration, i.e., the promised land of the Jews, was noticeably
absent from the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was much more interested in
transferring earthly selfishness and reward-seeking into
heavenly reward-seeking, and genetics didn't matter one bit.
restrictive inclusive fitness model of the Old Testament, centered
on the Hebrews, was suddenly expanded to the entire human population.
This was the God of K.
population biology, the variable K denotes the maximum
population that can be sustained by a given habitat. K strategists
are stable species, and are able to maintain populations at
or near the carrying capacity of their habitats over a long period of
time. They are able to modulate their reproductive rates to match the
available energy supply. They typically live longer, reproduce at a
later age, and are much more specialized in the way they extract energy
from the habitat. They are specialists. In humans, urban environments
promote the same general behaviors seen in the K strategists
of other species.
New Testament's focus on altruism and the transference of earthly reward-seeking
into heavenly was perfect for the problems created by dense populations,
as it addressed the competitiveness and mutual indifference that plague
God of r, the God of K
Bible presents two distinctly different Gods, one focused on reproduction,
warfare, morality, and emigration, and one focused on love, altruism,
and heavenly reward-seeking. The modern-day followers of Jesus
have a remarkably wide spectrum of beliefs, from the Fundamentalists,
who maintain high reproductive rates and literally interpret the Bible,
to the urbanistic Unitarians, who maintain low reproductive rates and
do not even enforce a belief in Jesus.
who is God?
A great angry thunderer demolishing the enemies of the righteous, or
a kind, loving, and confused conglomeration of father, son, and holy
ghost? Oddly enough, it really doesn't matter. The Bible is not so much
about God and the origin of the universe as it is about the evolution
of the human nervous system over a long period of reproduction, emigration,
warfare, and r and K selection events. It
is the greatest story of population biology ever told.
have previously reported, in our September
2005 edition, that Liberals reported higher levels of mental focus
in the evening hours than did Conservatives, who reported better mental
focus in the morning. This trend was not as pronounced with females
as it was with males.
our most recent survey, we asked the 3,501 respondents what time
at night did you go to sleep? The results are in the graph below.
What time do you go to sleep at night? (VL=Very Liberal, L=Liberal,
M=Moderate, M=Moderate, C=Conservative, VC=Very Conservative) (F=Female,
above data is in 24 hour notation, i.e., military time. There are several
notable trends. First, males stay up later than females. Second, the
more liberal one is, regardless of gender, the later they go to bed.
We initially suspected that the presence of children was causing this
trend, however, Liberals with the same number of children as Conservatives
still go to sleep later. This is also true when controlling for age.
The question is, why? The biochemical chain of events that result in
the sleep-wake cycle is extremely complex, and starts with the suprachiasmatic
nuclei of the hypothalamus, which communicate with the pineal gland
in order to regulate melatonin production, which modulates the sleep-wake
cycle. The complex cascade of events is still not well understood, but
it is clear that it involves the modulation of hormones, neuropeptides,
and neurotransmitters to create the phenomena of both sleep and the
restorative, growth, and disease-fighting functions it supports.
have long proposed the elevated activity of the dopaminergic system
in Conservative behavior. This proposal was due to a number of cognitive
clues that we have collected over the last few years (see Conservative
Left Brain, Liberal Right Brain). This may be a clue as to why the
Conservatives may be on an accelerated sleep clock at night. It appears
that dopamine has a role in the synthesis of melatonin.
fact that the hour of sleep is a negative function of political affiliation,
as one goes from left to right on the political scale, is certainly
suspicious. The propensity for Conservatives to go to sleep earlier
than Liberals is probably a marker of their neurological variations.
It is also interesting that females, on average, go to sleep earlier