Mutual Biological Social Evolution, Genetic Diversity and Social Change: The Case of Alcohol and European Colonization

24 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2014

See all articles by Andrey Shcherbak

Andrey Shcherbak

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Date Written: July 4, 2014

Abstract

The research project aims to find link between genetic diversity and social change. Although some studies associate certain genes with prosocial behavior, it is hardly to say that any genetic polymorphisms are responsible for social change. We assume that some existing differences in particular genotypes could be explained by extent of ancient urbanization, change in population density and historic pathogen prevalence. The pathogen load might have led to some genetic mutations that in their turn might have caused difference in some allele frequency among regions and populations.

Our case study is the use of strong alcohol as factor of European colonization in America, Africa and Eurasia. Historically, alcohol was one of the major trade items between Europeans and indigenous populations. I argue that there is a positive correlation between probability of being colonized by Europeans and particular allele frequency responsible for metabolism of alcohol. The risk of colonization by European powers is higher for indigenous populations which had genotype with lower allele frequencies which could ’protect’ them against alcohol abuse. I test this hypothesis using binary logistic regression. The dependent variable is the binomial variable which is coded colonization1900 of a given native population by Europeans from the 1500s to 1900. The unit of analysis is not a state, but a population. Independent variable is allele frequencies of Arg48His polymorphism among 56 populations from Africa, Asia and America. The suggested causal mechanism is uneven trade: the exchange of alcohol for local goods was unfavorable for indigenous populations. Economic dependence was followed by colonization.

Keywords: genetic diversity, colonization, alcohol, urbanization

JEL Classification: I15

Suggested Citation

Shcherbak, Andrey, Mutual Biological Social Evolution, Genetic Diversity and Social Change: The Case of Alcohol and European Colonization (July 4, 2014). Higher School of Economics Research Paper No. WP BRP 45/SOC/2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2462527 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2462527

Andrey Shcherbak (Contact Author)

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017
Russia

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