Joe Henrich is a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and is the author of the book The WEIRDest People in the World.
During our conversation, Joe talks about his interest in human nature, how cultures change people biologically, how the mating laws of the Roman Catholic Church and the literacy imperatives of Protestantism changed Western civilization, cultural limitations on the Big 5 Personality traits, monogamy and polygyny, modern dating, objective truth, right and wrong, and what UN parking ticket data tells us about different countries in the world.
WEIRD stands for "Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic," and if you're listening to this episode, you likely fall in that category. Joe is an encyclopedia of information about human beings, who we are, how we're different, and how we got this way. He offers advice for struggling young men, political leaders contemplating foreign intervention, and on how to think clearly about ethics and moral relativism.
(03:04) Interest in evolutionary biology and human culture
(04:50) The effect of culture on humans
(08:04) Culture changes people biologically
(11:21) WEIRD vs. non-WEIRD people
(13:34) How the structure of the family effects Han Chinese
(14:26) The effect of the Catholic Church in Germany
(15:08) Scotch-Irish segmentary lineage culture
(18:56) How the Catholic Church's rules unwittingly fueled Europe's rise
(21:53) How Protestantism's work and word ethic drove Europe's prosperity
(25:20) What a kin-based society looked like before the Catholic Church
(27:49) Ways that culture changes people's brains
(32:26) Testosterone does not go down post-fatherhood for men in polygynous cultures
(39:01) Failing young men, dating technology, and modern dating
(41:48) What can go wrong in polygynous societies?
(43:56) How can we help young men prosper?
(47:36) The Big 5 personality traits may be culturally-specific to WEIRD people
(51:54) Making sense of human nature
(54:16) Evolutionary psychology and human culture
(56:46) The future of dating and mating in the West
(59:46) Different cultures and American foreign policy mistakes
(1:02:56) Joe's advice on American foreign policy
(1:04:36) China's male gender imbalance and future societal problems
(1:06:28) Advice for struggling young men
(1:09:46) United Nations parking tickets and cultures of corruption
(1:13:51) Moral relativism and Ayaan Hirsi Ali
(1:19:41) Truth and science colliding with postmodernism
(1:22:26) What's next for Joe: innovation and the evolution of thinking