A possie in Aussie

April 4, 2009

Migrants, refugees, asylum seekers: they make us strong!

Peter J. Richerson & Robert Boyd write in Nature that

“As cultural evolutionists interested in how societies change over the long term, we have thought a lot about migration, but only recently tumbled to an obvious idea: migration has a profound effect on how societies evolve culturally because it is selective. People move to societies that provide a more attractive way of life and, all other things being equal, this process spreads ideas and institutions that promote economic efficiency, social order and equality”.

John Hawks (paleoanthropology, genetics, and evolution webolog) claims that there are at least two weaknesses with the biological analogy. You can read about them in his post.

John Hawks also quotes Peter Turchin Historical Dynamic: Why states rise and fall, reporting that he theorises that  societies that develop common feeling and solidarity tend to persist, and that immigration is one of several forces that weakens a society because difference diminishes common feeling and solidarity.

The development of any characteristic, however, comes in cycles of destabilisation of the old, evolution of the new, and a new stability. Both common feeling and solidarity are tested by new comers, and, if the receiving group is open to change, both are likely to increase.

The mistake is to think of ‘common feeling’ and ‘solidarity’ as immutable, where change must mean destruction.


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