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40517[evol-psych] Re: Human Female Courtship Behavior

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  • steve moxon
    Feb 1, 2006
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      Re Robert's comment:
      That is an important clarification, I agree, and one that had simply not occurred to me.
      I did not state but certainly implied that there is a genetic basis for the distal motivation of reproduction, and as you rightly say there is evidence only of the proximal motivations that serve reproduction, such as sexual desire and (in males) status seeking, and a genetic basis of an overall motivation to reproduce would be superfluous given that it is inherent in natural selection.
      So I need to qualify accordingly when I talk about why we cannot 'transcend our genes'.
      Steve Moxon
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Wednesday, February 01, 2006 7:02 AM
      Subject: Re: [evol-psych] Re: Human Female Courtship Behavior

      > Hi Elaine.
      > I refer you to a post I made earlier re 'transcending our genes'. As I
      > explained there, we can do no such thing.
      > You say: "We are not walking about in a state of post-hypnotic suggestion,
      > unaware that we are meekly doing its "bidding" without even realising it. A
      > fish may be doing that. We are not."
      > Oh yes we are. We are entirely unaware of the most fundamental (distal)
      > motivation to reproduce, and only aware of the proximal motivation to have
      > sex. We certainly feel that. That's what emotions do: they make individual
      > human beings not just aware of motivations but to be even painfully aware
      > that they may not be putting in the effort sufficiently to fully act
      > accordingly.
      > Contraception does not mean that "the genes' 'aims' are frustrated, but the
      > opposite: contraception means we can have more sex, and more well provided
      > for -- and therefore more high quality viable -- children (as opposed to
      > many poorly provisioned children).
      > Of course it does not make sense to look at the the level of every
      > individual decision, because all kinds of factors can come into play, but it
      > is a non-starter of an agument to question that at root all we do is
      > concerned directly or indirectly with reproduction. Most clearly it is.
      > There is no rationale for us to have evolved to behave in any other way.
      > Not only is it that everything we do has something to do with reproduction,
      > but this is more so than for any other known animal, because we are more
      > nuanced at using the environment in concert with our motivational set.
      > Steve Moxon
      There is no evidence, that I am aware of, that the distal motivation you mention actually exists in genetic form or as an underlying predisposition.
      One might interpret a set a genetically mediated predispositions as having a particular utility, and may even identify that utility as the selective agent that guides the evolution of the proximate behavioural predisposition, but the distal motivation need not exist in genetic or motivational form for this to be true.
      It is the human mind that 'sees' the need to hypothesize a branching tree of predisposition with some ultimate goal at the root, but there is no evidence that such a tree actually exists.  For instance, if some new behaviour were to appear today, a genetically mediated behaviour that was a mutation of an existing behaviour entirely unrelated to reproduction, increased the likelihood that an individual would have children and raise them to adulthood, then natural selection would favour that predisposition and it would slowly spread in the population.  But it would not have sprung from the distal reproduction behaviour.
      As natural selection itself is the distal mediator of reproductive behaviour, there is no need for each individual to also have that form of guidance written into their DNA.  Only the proximal causes need to be carried and remembered genetically by the individual.
      One might compare predispositions that improve survivability.  A predisposition that results in the avoidance of poisonous substances may well improve survivability, but that does not necessarily mean that it branches from a distal urge to survive.  There is an innate fear of spiders and snakes, for instance, which is not related to any predisposition to avoid dangerous things.  We have to learn to avoid the far more dangerous traffic and electrical wires, for instance, even though these kill far more people than spiders and snakes. 
      We rarely develop a fear of cars and electricity even when we become aware of their danger.  If there was a branching tree of survival predisposition then a fear of cars and electricity would develop as soon as we realised that these were as dangerous as spiders and snakes, the fear branching from the same common root to which the fear of spiders and snakes springs.  But no such root exists, unless it be fear in general.  Even so, there is no evidence that fear branches into specific genetically mediated phobias, innate or otherwise.
      One can use contraception to control and so enhance reproduction, or to avoid it completely.  This indicates that only the proximal predisposition exists, the distal only emerging over time and only via natural selection, which will see fewer contraceptive users over (enough) time.  Evolution is parsimonious - there is no need to double up with superfluous genetically mediated predispositions.
      Kind Regards
      Robert Karl Stonjek
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