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Re: [evol-psych] Re:News: Sexual practice of polygyny skews genetic variability

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  • Steve Moxon
    [I m replying at the start here, but also, for those wishing to see the to-and-fro more clearly, inserting in the exchange below.] Jeremy continues to
    Message 1 of 56 , Oct 2, 2008
      [I'm replying at the start here, but also, for those wishing to see the to-and-fro more clearly, inserting in the exchange below.]
       
      Jeremy continues to completely fail to understand selection in his resort to his usual delusion about "teleology".
      He does not understand the sexes.
      That there is always the situation where males are more in competition with each other for sex than are females is because of the distinctly different roles of the sexes -- and note, I am using the term 'role' in a biological sense: it is not restricted to a sociological sense, as one or two on the human ethology forum insist.
      Male and female mating type originated through the inevitability of anisogamy, which led to intra-genomic conflict and the partitioning between (in the female) a high-redundancy mechanism to prevent build-up of deleterious gene replication error in cytoplasmic and nuclear genes controlling mitochondria, and (in the male) a far less expensive 'genetic filter' mechanism re all the rest of the nuclear genes that control everything else. To this end, males are 'strung out' through testing under metabolic stress in some way, and this is translated into corresponding differential reproductive success (most obviously by female mate-choice). The most obvious manifestation of this is the male dominance hierarchy.
      This is what happened, whether or not Jeremy reckons it to be parsimonious. Jeremy needs to get a new razor.
       
      Fierce male intra-sexual competition indeed is fully evident in looking at us in contemporary Western culture; and regarding manifestation as very high rate of homicide, this is evident in extant hunter-gather societies; not in an imaginary past.
      The null hypothesis is that this is what also applied ancestrally. So if Jeremy disputes this, then the burden of proof lies with him. Has he got a theory to explain his position?!
      It appears that Jeremy uses his jibe about "Engels-type ideology" to characterise any disagreement with his position, whatever it may be.
       
      It is curious that Jeremy states that he is not interested in looking from evolutionary principles to see what these would predict re mating systems. It is always useful to do this, because if there is some anomally between what evolutionary principles would predict and what pertains, then we know to look more closely at a phenomenon in order to explain it.
      Re what 'is': Jeremy must be ignoring sub-Saharan African ethnic minorities in Western countries that originated in this area (as I will discuss below).
       
      What we call mating systems that are more complex than they first seem is the issue.
       
      Humans, as all animals most certainly do cooperate re reproduction. In particular, humans cooperate re childcare. In extant hunter-gatherer societies (and therefore by simple inference, all humans ancestrally -- unless Jeremy can come up with a new hypothesis to challenge this?) care for children communally in extended family groups that are nested within the community as a whole. If Jeremy thinks this is some "lesbian feminist-sociologis t creation myth fantasy" then he urgently needs to read some elementary ethology, anthropology, EP -- well, any basic text that addresses how humans behave. And here he gets on his usual wicket of "Engels-type" baloney yet again.
       
      Where I do fully agree with Jeremy is that there is very clear evidence -- jealousy, as Jeremy points out -- that humans form very strong pair-bonds. But why not just use this term instead of 'monogamy'?
      Instead of simply saying that humans have a monogamous mating system, why not say that humans flexibly pair-bond? If the pair-bond is in reality actually only for months or a couple of years, and that even during this time (albeit more likely after this period, when 'romantic love' has disappeared) there may be extra-pair sex; then to characterise humans universally as monogamous is too restrictive. I would not take issue with characterising certain cultures as monogamous, notwithstanding that predilection to extra-pair sex is universal; but I do quibble with such characterisation in respect of all humanity. How does Jeremy explain the mating system typical of sub-Saharan Africa -- that has been replicated within Western cultures, as in Britain with our Afro-Caribbean ethnic minority? What we term 'family breakdown' is ubiquitous in this community -- it rarely forms in the first place. Nuclear family as we know it simply is not the norm here. What we have instead is the hunter-gatherer community transplanted into English cities. Women are together in raising children, with men on the periphery.
       
      Steve Moxon (author of The Woman Racket: The new science explaining how the sexes relate at work, at play and in society. Now in paperback. Details/extracts at http://www.imprint- academic/ moxon)
       
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Wednesday, October 01, 2008 3:36 PM
      Subject: [evol-psych] Re:News: Sexual practice of polygyny skews genetic variability

      Steve wrote:

      > That's a strange use of the term 'polygynous' ;

      It's less strange than your own usage right here:

      > Taken all of this into account, do we call this
      > system 'monogamy', 'clandestine polygyny' or
      > (admit that really it's) 'polygyny'?

      Evidently you use the word loosely too. But in any case, neither of us
      is pretending to use the term as a sociologist might. I used it in the
      context of explaining the variability of the X-chromosome and its
      relation to the proportion of female/male forbears.

      > but anyway, that fewer males than females
      > reproduce indeed is a general principle --
      > stemming from the role of the male as 'genetic
      > filter'.

      We agree that almost universally, fewer males than females reproduce.
      But we don't have to postulate any special "role" or grand
      teleological purpose for males to explain that fact. A male gets more
      of his genes into future generations if he impregnates as many females
      as possible, and makes sure that other males impregnate as few females
      as possible. That is quite enough to explain why males of many species
      try to monopolize sex, through combat, etc., and why some are quite
      successful at it. Occam's Razor tells us to stop right there, because
      that's as far as we need go to explain it.

      STEVE MOXON:
      Jeremy continues to completely fail to understand selection in his resort to his usual delusion about "teleology".
      He does not understand the sexes.
      That there is always the situation where males are more in competition with each other for sex than are females is because of the distinctly different roles of the sexes -- and note, I am using the term 'role' in a biological sense: it is not restricted to a sociological sense, as one or two on the human ethology forum insist.
      Male and female mating type originated through the inevitability of anisogamy, which led to intra-genomic conflict and the partitioning between (in the female) a high-redundancy mechanism to prevent build-up of deletrious gene replication error in cytoplasmic and nuclear genes controlling mitochondria, and (in the male) a far less expensive 'genetic filter' mechanism re all the rest of the nuclear genes that control everything else. To this end, males are 'strung out' through testing under metabolic stress in some way, and this is translated into corresponding differential reproductive success (most obviously by female mate-choice). The most obvious manifestation of this is the male dominance hierarchy.
      This is what happened, whether or not Jeremy reckons it to be parsimonious. Jeremy needs to get a new razor.

      > In humans ancestrally and in extant
      > hunter-gatherer groups usually there is huge
      > attrition of males through violent male
      > intra-sexual (especially inter-group) conflict,

      I avoid drawing conclusions about what we actually are like from what
      imaginary people would have been like. To find out what we are like, I
      simply look at us. It's a methodological constraint to avoid Engels-
      type ideology. If you want to make a speculative claim (i.e. a
      hypothesis) about human nature, please make a prediction that can be
      tested.
       
      STEVE MOXON:
      Fierce male intra-sexual competition indeed is fully evident in looking at us in contemporary Western culture; and regarding manifestation as very high rate of homicide, this is evident in extant hunter-gather societies; not in an imaginary past.
      The null hypothesis is that this is what also applied ancestrally. So if Jeremy disputes this, then the burden of proof lies with him. Has he got a theory to explain his position?!
      It appears that Jeremy uses his jibe about "Engels-type ideology" to characterise any disagreement with his position, whatever it may be.

      > does this tell us anything about what the human
      > mating-system should be?

      I'm not interested in what the human mating system "should" be, but in
      what it actually is, across cultures -- with a few minor exceptions
      here and there, as with all mating systems in all species.
       
      STEVE MOXON:
      It is curious that Jeremy states that he is not interested in looking from evolutionary principles to see what these would predict re mating systems. It is always useful to do this, because if there is some anomaly between what evolutionary principles would predict and what pertains, then we know to look more closely at a phenomenon in order to explain it.
      Re what 'is': Jeremy must be ignoring sub-Saharan African ethnic minorities in Western countries that originated in this area (as I will discuss below).

      > Surely it is that is should be polygyny.
      > But it's monogamy, supposedly.
      >
      > Well clearly, this can't be anything like strict,
      > because males who have survived male intra-sexual
      > competition and are not excluded by low status
      > from being sexually chosen by any woman,
      > certainly are not going to forgo the opportunity
      > to impregnate unpaired fertile females.

      But that applies to ALL species that we unhesitatingly call
      monogamous, such as most flying birds. It simply doesn't undermine the
      claim that they are monogamous. People call these species monogamous
      because it helps to explain such phenomena as pair-bonding, joint
      parenting, and so on -- they're not called monogamous because there
      are no extra-pair matings. (Analogously, we call the Earth round
      because it explains why if you go West and keep going, you end up
      where you started from. We don't call it round because we think it's
      perfectly spherical. Boy, I feel like I have to repeat this crucial
      point till I'm blue in the face!)
      STEVE MOXON:
      What we call mating systems that are more complex than they first seem is the issue.

      > as we know in extant hunter-gather communities --
      > and therefore presumably ancestrally -- childcare
      > was communal

      Humans cooperate for work, but not for reproduction. But as I said
      above -- I'm not going to discuss a lesbian feminist-sociologis t
      creation myth fantasy. If you can make a prediction, go ahead and make
      a prediction, and we'll test it. If not, please hold the Engels-type
      stuff!
       
      STEVE MOXON:

      Humans, as all animals most certainly do cooperate re reproduction. In particular, humans cooperate re childcare. In extant hunter-gatherer societies (and therefore by simple inference, all humans ancestrally -- unless Jeremy can come up with a new hypothesis to challenge this?) care for children communally in extended family groups that are nested within the community as a whole. If Jeremy thinks this is some "lesbian feminist-sociologis t creation myth fantasy" then he urgently needs to read some elementary ethology, anthropology, EP -- well, any basic text that addresses how humans behave. And here he gets on his usual wicket of "Engels-type" baloney yet again.

      > So are talking about just 'polygyny' or also
      > 'polyandry'? And would this not be better termed
      > a 'multi-male/ multi-female' mating system?

      If humans didn't universally exhibit jealousy and romantic attachment,
      that might be reasonable. But human do exhibit these powerful
      emotions, and the associated behavior, everywhere from wealthy hippie
      communes to impoverished mud huts. Marriage (or the non-legal
      equivalent) is undertaken almost everywhere, in almost all cases with
      the full sincerity of both sexes, and divorce (or equivalent) is
      generally considered a catastrophe, by both sexes, everywhere. Even
      homosexuals -- of both sexes -- seem to have a yearning to marry.

      In reality, many or perhaps most human pair-bonds fail. But many do
      not, and dissolution of the bond is almost always considered a
      failure. Following that failure, most humans eventually form a new
      pair-bond -- just like monogamous birds.

      STEVE MOXON:

      Where I do fully agree with Jeremy is that there is very clear evidence -- jealousy, as Jeremy points out -- that humans form very strong pair-bonds. But why not just use this term instead of 'monogamy'?

      Instead of simply saying that humans have a monogamous mating system, why not say that humans flexibly pair-bond? If the pair-bond is in reality actually only for months or a couple of years, and that even during this time (albeit more likely after this period, when 'romantic love' has disappeared) there may be extra-pair sex; then to characterise humans universally as monogamous is too restrictive. I would not take issue with characterising certain cultures as monogamous, notswithstanding that predilection to extra-pair sex is universal; but I do quibble with such characterisation in respect of all humanity. How does Jeremy explain the mating system typical of sub-Saharan Africa -- that has been replicated within Western cultures, as in Britain with our Afro-Caribbean ethnic minority? What we term 'family breakdown' is ubiquitous in this community. Nuclear family as we know it simply is not the norm here -- it rarely forms in the first place. What we have instead is the hunter-gatherer community transplanted into English cities. Women are together in raising children, with men on the periphery.

      > So the boot is on the other foot: why is it that
      > our social psychology translates as cultural code
      > into (at least ostensibly) a monogamous mating
      > system?

      I don't follow this question. Would you mind re-phrasing it?
       

      STEVE MOXON:

      The question is clear enough.

      > More generally, is there any clear phylogenetic
      > development from 'polygyny' to 'monogamy' in view
      > of these sorts of complications?

      I don't know what the word 'phylogenetic' means in this context, but
      there is a clear cut-off point between 'monogamous' and 'polygynous'
      species, caused by a sharp difference in the role of males. When
      offspring require both parents, male parental investment is much
      higher than when they require just one parent. That unusual similarity
      between the roles of male and female is what causes a species to be
      monogamous. Flying birds with their problematic flight feathers are
      nearly all monogamous, and so are humans with our very large,
      metabolically expensive brains and helpless children. (As you know, I
      think "communal childcare" is a hippie-sociologist' s myth. People need
      to go out to work, so they leave their children with other adults --
      briefly, for money, and with considerable suspicion. That's not
      communal childcare.)
       

      STEVE MOXON:

      I've already addressed the supposed need for two parents in humans, and that indeed child-rearing has a strong communal dimension in extant hunter-gatherer societies. Males most certainly are needed to provision, but it is well documented that the proceeds of hunting are split equitably -- and not just amongst the extended family group of any man deemed to have been mainly responsible for a kill, but across the whole community of nested extended family groups.

      > Any answers, Jeremy?

      How about a prediction? Can we agree that gibbons are monogamous, and
      that their monogamy isn't a "cultural add-on"? If so, I predict that
      the X-chromosomes of gibbons will exhibit the increased variation
      associated with (what we are loosely calling) "polygyny". And it will
      imply nothing about gibbons beyond the fact that they are descended
      from polygynous apes.

      STEVE MOXON:

      That's not an answer to my points, other than that it addresses one question about general evolutionary development; and though I'm not disputing the monogamy of gibbons, I don't know what to make of the point about genetic variation associated with polygyny.

      Jeremy Bowman

    • Kathryn Coe
      One tires of the daily, no many times daily, dog and pony show of rantings from people with what is apparently way too much free time on their hands--too much
      Message 56 of 56 , Oct 7, 2008
        One tires of the daily, no many times daily, dog and pony show of rantings from people with what is apparently way too much free time on their hands--too much time and obvious axes to grind. Others have spent time trying to get some sense into this particular mind; I do not have time to continue the argument as I am grading midterm exams. However, if you are so confident you are right, get your arguments into the more formal academic format and let's see how you fare.

        -----Original Message-----
        From: "bowmanthebard" <bowman@...>
        To: "evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com" <evolutionary-psychology@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: 10/7/08 1:18 AM
        Subject: [evol-psych] Re:News: Sexual practice of polygyny skews genetic variability


        Jeremy:
        > > Whales are descended from creatures like bears.
        > > But you don't observe bears to find out about
        > > whales, you look directly at whales.

        Kathryn:
        > One flaw in your logic is that they are not talking
        > about the lifestyle or even subsistence patterns of
        > some distant ancestor of modern humans, even more
        > distant than Australopithecus. They are talking
        > about modern humans and their diet, patterns of
        > physical activity, etc.

        Then why don't they study all modern humans instead of the small
        minority that are hunter-gatherers? If they're interested in culture,
        then there are lots of different cultures to study, not just those of
        hunter-gatherers.

        On the other hand, if they're interested in the underlying genetic
        nature of humans, this is shared by all humans -- it does not find
        expression only in hunter-gatherers.

        The psychologists who think modern hunter-gatherers are closer to
        "uncultured, pre-nurture" humans believe (a) that "nurture works
        against nature" (a blank slate assumption) and (b) that hunter-
        gatherers have less culture (rather than a different culture). That is
        what many would call a racist assumption. I wouldn't call it racist
        myself, but it is a mistaken assumption. The supposed anti-nature
        effects of culture do not increase with the advance of technology.

        > Another flaw in your logic is that whales did not
        > descend from modern bears.

        And we did not descend from modern hunter-gatherers. The flaw?

        Jeremy Bowman
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