Coming Apart in 2012: A Review

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Murray, Charles (2012) Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. NY: Random House.

it seems to me far more important to stress that the organisms find, invent and reorganize their environments in the course of their search for a better world.” (Popper, 1989/1994, p. viii)

“…the Washington of the permanent political class…” Sarah Palin, CPAC, 2012

Murray describes two Americas – “Belmont” and “Fishtown” – as defined by education, employment, crime, religion, income … one side (the lower middle) has all the bad numbers and seems resigned to them. He finds, no surprise, that intelligent, well-educated people like to live close to each other, work hard, attend church, manage their marriages, and send their children to school with similar children from other people.

Murray identifies industriousness, honesty, marriage, and religion as essential traits for a community to amass both self-respect and social capital (Putnam. 2000). These four traits are “American essentials” that thrive in the residents of Belmont and similar neighborhoods that develop mostly near Washington, New York, Boston, and San Francisco. These affluent, educated, creative communities arise because “elite” colleges recruit elite students who dwell at the top percentile of mathematical and literary talent. Those elite students, because of mutual similarity, befriend and marry each other. Every Chip searches for his Muffy.

Belmonters and other Americans are, by tradition and probably genetics, hard-workers, generally truthful, defenders of marriage, and regularly seen in church. The change that Murray finds is that Fishtown residents have, in forty years, abandoned all four of these virtues.

Murray’s solution: The residents of Belmont should “preach what they practice” to the residents of Fishtown.

Murray writes well, he writes about my favorite things, and he writes carefully. For example, excluding blacks from the opening studies meant that he avoided lots of “racism” charges that he endured after writing The Bell Curve with Richard Herrnstein. And it was a trivial chore to introduce “black” data late in the book and find there are no differences – aside from crime – between his findings for whites and his findings for all of us.

I admire his ability to incorporate behavior genetics into his sociology but that same behavior  genetics appears to make lectures a hopeless tactic.

1)      Stephen Strogatz (2003) described the manifestations of self-chosen partnership in his book, Sync. Things – pendulums, neurons, friendships, and marriages – that vibrate in similar ways also move into self-perpetuating partnerships. Yoshiki Kuramoto even wrote difficult math that describes the synchronies that emerge even within fields of a hundred or more oscillators. The startling transition is that of thinking yourself and your beer or wine partners as “oscillators”!

2)      Each creature makes its environment. This process was mentioned by Karl Popper (1984/1992), elaborated by Odling-Smee and others, measured in coral, worms, spiders, and crickets – all with limited grammar, by Scott Turner, and applied to human societies by Phil Rushton and his associates. Cossack villages and Shtetls resulted from masses of bottom-up, individual events as did outcomes from the four temperaments that settled the early America (Fischer, 1989). Will there ever be partnership between half of Jerusalem that has an IQ of about 120 and half of Jerusalem that is impulsive and has an IQ of about 75? And WILL the brighter half’s favorite lever, lectures, make peace?

3)      Conservatism and collectivism (and religiosity) appear to have a heritable basis (Martin et al, 1986; Alford, Funk, & Hibbing, 2005/2006). There Is even a page in Wikipedia  for Genopolitics! (

4)      Conservatism and collectivism … including the traits of impulsiveness and verbal skills … are influenced by in utero battles between the same genes donated by mother or by father (Burt & Trivers, 2006; Haig, 2009; Keverne et al, 1996) The number of combatants started at twelve and ranges upwards to 1300 (Zjang, et al, 2010) and they can enhance lateral awareness and a sense of the future.

5)      The mathematics that applies to Bose-Einstein gas near absolute zero also applies even in human societies to four phases in network development (Barabasi, 2002; Bianconi, 2002). The sequence of chaos, selective recruiting, winner-take-all, and collapse build resilient forms, often so resilient that they cannot adapt to dramatic changes induced by disease, toxins, meteors, earthquakes, climate changes, and EMP attacks.

My respect for Charles Murray is endless…

I will soon be seventy but I have a collectivist president who enrages me. As Murray predicted, Obama erodes my deep satisfactions that once came because I had fulfilled my “responsibility for just about the most important things that human beings do.” Obama lies and cheats and buys votes with mortgages, government-financed vehicles, tuition subsidies, food stamps, free cell phones, “clean” energy, legal services, voter fraud, health care, day care, public school, and fifty million dead babies. It could, therefore, be argued that Fishtown gets not lectures but rewards for impulsiveness, family abandonment, drug abuse, conniving and sloth. And the lectures flow from Fishtown to Belmont about how you can give up your self esteem but live better. After all, you deserve it and everyone else does it.

In contrast, we need freedom to act and responsibility for the outcomes from our choices. You can find the reasons in certain Greeks, to Smith and Burke, Hayek and Popper, or Plomin, Rowe, Scarr, Bouchard, and that maltreated scholar, Phil Rushton. The will to make our environment is in genes that, even in Fishtown, we share with spiders, crickets, worms, and coral.

Thus, our society may be also a eugenics war in which average wins…

Alfred Lotka put it well: “… the drama of life is like a puppet show in which stage, scenery, actors and all are made of the same stuff. The players, indeed, ‘have their exits and their entrances,’ but the exit is by way of translation into the substance of the stage; and each entrance is a transformation scene. So stage and players are bound together in the close partnership of an intimate comedy; and if we would catch the spirit of the piece, our attention must not all be absorbed in the characters alone, but must be extended also to the scene, of which they are born, or on which they play their part, and with which, in a little while, they merge again.” (Lotka, 1925/1956, 183–184)

See also, Murray, Charles (2012) Five Myths about White People. Washington Post, February 10, 2012.


World-Changer: Watts, D. & Strogatz, S. (1998) Collective dynamics of ‘small-world’ networks. Nature. 393: 440-442.


Alford J, Funk C, & Hibbing JR (2005) Are political orientations genetically transmitted? American Political Science Review. 99(2): 153-167.

Barabási, A-L (2002) Linked: The New Science of Networks. NY: Perseus. (Easy, interesting, fundamental)

Barabási, A-L (2010) Bursts: The Hidden Pattern behind Everything that We Do. New York: Dutton.

Bianconi, Ginestra & A-L Barabási, (2000) Bose-Einstein condensation in complex networks. arXiv:cond-mat/0011224 v1 13 Nov 2000.

Bianconi, Ginestra (2002) Quantum statistics in complex networks. ArXiv cond-mat/0206433 v2 13 Sep 2002.

Brooks, David (2000) Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How they Got There. NY: Simon & Schuster.

Burt, Austin, & Trivers, Robert (2006) Genes in Conflict: The Biology of Selfish Genetic Elements. Cambridge, MA: Belknap-Harvard. (Especially Chapter 4)

Carey, Benedict (2005) Political leanings may be genetic. New York Times.

Codevilla, Angelo (2010) America’s ruling class and the perils of revolution. American Spectator.

Csermely, Peter (2006) Weak Links: Stabilizers of Complex Systems from Proteins to Social Networks. NY: Springer. (Good follow-up to Linked)

Fischer, David Hackett (1989) Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. NY: Oxford.

Genopolitics. Wikipedia.  (16 references)

Haig, David (2009) Transfers and transitions: Parent–offspring conflict, genomic imprinting, and the evolution of human life history. Proceedings National Academy of Science. 107: 1731-1735.

Keverne, B., Fundele, R., Narasimha, M., Barton, S., & Surani, M. (1996) Genomic imprinting and the differential roles of parental genomes in brain development. Developmental Brain Research. 92, 91-100.

Kirk, Katherine M, Eaves, L. J., & Martin, N. (1999) Self-transcendence as a measure of spirituality in a sample of older Australian twins. Twin Research. 2:81-87.

Lotka, Alfred (1924/1956) Elements of Mathematical Biology. NY: Dover. (Original title: Elements of Physical Biology.)

Martin, Nick G., Eaves, Lindon J., Heath, A. C., Jardine, R., Feingold, L.M., & Eysenck, Hans J. (1986) Transmission of social attitudes. Proceedings National Academy of Science, 83: 4364-4368.

Odling-Smee FJ, Laland KN & Feldman MW 1996. ‘Niche Construction’. American Naturalist 147(4): 641-648

Popper, Karl (1984/1992) In Search of a Better World. Lectures & Essays from Thirty Years. London: Routledge.

Putnam, Robert (2000) Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. NY: Simon & Schuster.

Rushton, JP, Littlefield, CH, & Lumsden, CJ (1986) Gene-culture co-evolution of complex social behavior: human altruism and mate choice. Proceedings National Academy Science. 83: 7340-7343.

Rushton, JP (2005) Ethnic nationalism, evolutionary psychology, and Genetic Similarity Theory. Nations & Nationalism. 11(4), 489-507.

Strogatz, Steven. (2003) Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order. NY: Hyperion.

Turner, J. Scott (2000) The Extended Organism: The Physiology of Animal-Built Structures. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Turner, J Scott (2007) The Tinkerer’s Accomplice: How Design Emerges from Life Itself. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Zhang, Jiangwen, Brandon Weissbourd, Gary P. Schroth, David Haig, Catherine Dulac*  (2010) High-resolution analysis of parent-of-origin allelic expression in the mouse brain. , 329(5992):643-8. (*equal authors )

Zhang, Jiangwen, James E. Butler, David Haig, Catherine Dulac (2010) Sex-specific parent-of-origin allelic expression in the mouse brain.  329(5992):682-5. (Highlighted in Science (2010) 329(5992):636-7, Nature (2010) 466(7308):823-4, and Neuron (2010) 67(3):359-62.)

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