Is the Muslim World’s “Backwardness” Its Strength? Non-Muslim Biohistorian on Islam

Jim Penman is a famed British-born Australian entrepreneur who also happens to be a PhD in history, his specialization being the emerging field of “biohistory.”

Biohistory is to basically look at macro-history through not politics or economics, as it’s often done in the liberal and the Marxist traditions respectively, but through biology, or in other words, the very being of the peoples themselves.

More specifically, he analyzes history through “epigenetics,” that rising field within biology which says that environmental and behavioral factors have an influence on how our body reads a DNA sequence (even if the genome itself remains unchanged).

In his main book, Biohistory: Decline and Fall of the West, released in 2015, Penman himself gives a telling example: An individual who has been neglected in childhood will grow to become an anxious and depressed adult, as the “chained” methyl groups would repress the expression of certain genes, while the same individual, if he had caring parents, would be a confident and relaxed individual as methyl groups would be “detached,” thus allowing the free expression of the genes involved in such emotions.

As he says, genes are switched on or off as a response to external circumstances.

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So, epigenetics looks at how brain activity and behavior have been affected by change in environmental conditions. Penman generalizes all of this to talk of civilizations as a whole.

It’s all complex, as the book is full of scientific terminology and research despite being for the general public. And of course it has its critics, who say that he puts too much emphasis on caloric restriction, that the framework is too deterministic, mainly when it comes to genes, and so on.

But even if he touches upon many points, for instance the decline of the West as the title suggests, here we’ll just look at his opinions about Islam.

While reading, keep in mind that what he calls the “C factor” is “civilization,” which includes rationality, self-restraint, and so on, and the “V factor” for “vigor,” which includes patriarchy, war-like culture, etc.

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To give a practical example, in terms of biology and epigenetics, a society with a too strong C factor would see a drop in general testosterone levels, the modern West having seen a phenomenal decrease there, while a society with a too strong V factor would thus naturally see the opposite.

As per Penman, general testosterone levels themselves are indicators of a society’s virility, self-confidence, hope in the future, place of religion, morals values, and so on. Penman takes an openly conservative position on all these matters. He also happens to be an Evangelical Christian.

Let’s now go into what he says about Islam.

All the following excerpts are taken from pp. 225-230 of Biohistory: Decline and Fall of the West.

Gender Segregation

V-promoters continued to strengthen, as indicated by the growing subjection of women. Repression of women limits their sexual activity, and also makes them chronically anxious, both of which support V. This is first evident in Babylonian times around 2000 BC, when women were expected to cover their bodies and faces and be chaperoned in public. The Assyrians took this further by insisting they stay home most of the time, concealed behind curtains, a custom also adopted by the Persians.

The subjugation of women is not only inhumane but expensive. It takes a lot of effort to seclude women and reduces their contribution to agriculture, industry and the economy in general. But the military success of the Assyrians and Persians was ample reward for the cost involved in segregating their women. In the long term, biological and cultural success is based not on wealth or even happiness but on the number of surviving children and the status they hold. Military prowess, in both offense and defense, is an effective way to achieve such success.

All these trends culminated in the culture associated with Islam, which arose in the harshest and most inhospitable environment of all—the deserts of Arabia.

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According to Islamic tradition Muhammad accepted the Jewish scriptures, recognized Jesus as a prophet, and established Ramadan as a pillar of the new Muslim faith. Non-Muslims would suggest he was influenced by the Lenten fast of Christianity, but gave it a far more rigorous form by forbidding food and drink during daylight hours. Unlike shorter-term and more frequent fasting which would tend to support C, Ramadan has the physiological impact of an occasional famine and is thus a uniquely powerful V-promoter.

RELATED: Why Muslims Shouldn’t Lead A Sedentary Lifestyle

Islam… The Ultimate Testosterone-Boosting Religion?

Psychologically, the Islamic stress on absolute submission to Allah suits a temperament which has high child V and a great deal of stress as a result of severe punishments in childhood. It is thus receptive to powerful authority. The word “Islam” means “submission”, though of course in the sense of submission to God. Taking on such an attitude probably also increases V, given the effect feedback cycle, whereby any behavior resulting from C or V tends to increase C or V. Combined with exceptionally high V from a harsh desert environment, this helped make Islam the ultimate high-V religion. V-promoters are key elements of Christianity and Judaism, but to a lesser extent.

There is far more to the Islamic way of life than fasting and segregating women, of course. Praying five times a day acts to increase C, as does avoiding alcohol. The custom of eating with the right hand, leaving the left for ablutions, is an effective hygiene measure in a culture without modern sanitation. And this is only one of many health measures associated with Islam, such as ritual washing. Then there is the Qur’an itself and the sonorous power of the Arabic language, with an attractive system of ethics including a focus on alms-giving and the equality of believers. Putting all this together created a powerful religious technology which made its followers more aggressive, confident, united and with a higher birth rate than any competing civilization.

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Why Did the World’s Oldest Civilizations Embrace Islam?

Arabs, Persians, Afghans and the other Muslim ethnic groups of the Middle East and Central Asia are epigenetically primed by centuries of cultural evolution for personal loyalties rather than impersonal institutions. High child V and stress makes them amenable to harsh authority and inclines them to rebel against rulers they perceive as weak. It also makes them rigidly conservative, so that education of women, seen by Westerners as an unalloyed good, is seen by many fundamentalist Muslims (quite correctly) as a threat to their culture and way of life.
People in the West see the traditional culture of the Muslim Middle East as primitive and “backward,” and there are constant calls for modernization. In fact, as had been seen, Islamic culture is anything but backward. Civilization first arose in Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley in what is now Pakistan. It is no coincidence that these lands, with the longest experience of civilization, are now strongly and fervently Muslim. Long experience of civilization has bred a high-S genotype and culture

Islam: The Survival of the Fittest

Such countries tend to be poor (if we leave out the anomalous effects of oil wealth), since their peoples lack the temperament for industrialization. But wealth at that level is of no benefit in the long-term struggle for survival and success. To paraphrase Christian scripture, what does it benefit a civilization if it gains wealth but loses its strength and vigor? The advantages of Islam can be clearly seen in countries with mixed populations. Lebanon once had a Christian majority but is now 54% Muslim. In Communist Yugoslavia the provinces with Muslim populations grew much faster and received tax revenue from the wealthier Christian states. The population of Kosovo, the spiritual homeland of Christian Serbia, grew from 733,000 in 1948 to over two million in 1994, with the Muslim component surging from 68% to 90%, and lately going even higher.
This means that on current trends Europe will become an Islamic continent in a century or so. The 1,400-year struggle between Islam and the West is coming to end.

So, as per the opinion of this conservative “biohistorian,” Islam is indeed the “based” religion.

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I dont like this


I downvoted since you didn’t provide any rationale.


Well said, too many effeminate men these days


One point to mention Islam didn’t inherit it’s behaviours from the assyrians and Persians, but from allah


Typical orientalist likes to say Islam has its origins to other civilization, but little do they know that a long string of Prophets have been sent with the same message, long before Nabi salallahu alayhi wasalam.

If there’s any good in these civilizations such as Assyria and Persia, then it has come from Allah’s teachings taught by the Prophets, alahim asalaam.


Also it makes no sense, so women’s clothing was inherited but language and say, Oneness of Allah was not inherited?

They’ll believe anything other than Allah and His messenger, salallahu ‘alayhi wasalam.

They’ll even believe in super-aliens creating the universe before Allah. Or some multiverse virtual reality


This is the type of article I enjoy immensely. Offers genuine non-mainstream thought. Especially, quoting, “But wealth at that level is of no benefit in the long-term struggle for survival and success.”


The problem is that Penman relies too much on evolutionary biology. Some of what he says is true, some false and some contradictory. From his wording you also can see his slight bias against Islam (presumably because of his evangelist background).

  1. Women become anxious when there is too much freedom not the opposite. Maximizing freedom necessitates individualism and the weakening of familial and social bonds. Women are the quintessential social beings. This causes anxiety.

2.the Islamic lifestyle encourages discipline and the delaying of gratification. This would make Islam both C en V.
3. How can you lack temperament for industralization and be high in vigor?
4. Western wealth is largely based on debt and credit. Basically a huge facade a Potemkin village on macro level if you will. Most Westerners are reliant on some sort of government handout to get by.


But wealth at that level is of no benefit in the long-term struggle for survival and success.”

Indeed. Quite the opposite in fact. Too much wealth makes people attached to the dunya and less religiously practising. The men become effeminate and start to occupy themselves with fashion, the decorating of the home and child rearing. The women become more masculine and start to demand public visibility and office…they want to compete with the men. Time is filled with music, dance and food…


Western wealth, in the first degree, then, maybe along with debt and credit, was based to a huge degree on theft of other nation’s wealth through colonization. Search the internet for ‘How Britian stole $45 Trillion from India”


I was referring to the economic system today. Britain was already rich before taking India. That loot definitely did help. India did make it even richer than it already was.

Ibrahim Ihsan

I consider this observation to be slightly faulty and unnecessary. Islam is not about being ‘based'(a slang used by conservatives against many leftist demands) but about justice and fairness and playing your roles as servants of Allah. Not making humans macho. A woman is a woman and a man is a man but the true goal is submission to Allah. It will condemn based people when they go wrong and woke people when they go wrong. I suggest avoiding language mostly used by Western conservatives.

Last edited 11 months ago by Ibrahim Ihsan

It’s an iffy view.

Recall that 100 eyars ago Westerners were calling Muslims “effeminate” and weakling.

So this is just a kind of (slightly) positive Orientalism. But utlimately the same thing: “They are the opposite of us”.

Still interesting! Thanks for posting.