Unique social structure of hunter-gatherers explained

May 22, 2015

By Science Daily

Sex equality in residential decision-making explains the unique social structure of hunter-gatherers, a new UCL study reveals.

Previous research has noted the low level of relatedness in hunter-gatherer bands. This is surprising because humans depend on close kin to raise offspring, so generally exhibit a strong preference for living close to parents, siblings and grandparents.

The new study, published today in Science and funded by the Leverhulme Trust, is the first to demonstrate the relationship between sex equality in residential decision-making and group composition.

In work conducted over two years, researchers from the Hunter-Gatherer Resilience Project in UCL Anthropology lived among populations of hunter-gatherers in Congo and the Philippines. They collected genealogical data on kinship relations, between-camp mobility and residence patterns by interviewing hundreds of people.


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167 comments on “Unique social structure of hunter-gatherers explained

  • Fascinating, absolutely fascinating.
    Also, since hunter-gatherers we have been for the vast majority of our history, very eye-opening -to those who still have them shut when it comes to parity of genders.

    Perhaps this is simplistic but… it does seem quite a good thing to live in a context with the fewest kins possible, when looking for a mate. It seems to point to a higher genetic variety… which is favored from an evolutionary point of view.



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  • There maybe something I don’t understand but, as best I can tell, clicking on the Facebook link forces me to post to my Facebook page but doesn’t give me access to the article.



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  • Great to read an article that actually acknowledges women had a role in evolution of human beings that goes beyond the usual boring evolved to look good for men. Kick in the eye for all those using – sorry misusing – ‘evolution’ to replace religion in telling women what they can and can’t do and what they should think and what their role should be.

    Common sense would dictate that women played an equal part in our long evolution because both the hunter and the gatherer are necessary when living on the edge of starvation and trying to rear helpless young!



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  • 5
    Pinball1970 says:

    “Common sense would dictate that women played an equal part in our long evolution because both the hunter and the gatherer are necessary when living on the edge of starvation and trying to rear helpless young!”
    Science does not always work on intuition and common sense, if it did quantum mechanics would not have been formulated.
    Nor the theory evolution for that matter.
    “Great to read an article that actually acknowledges women had a role in evolution of human beings.”
    Why? The science should be enough surely? Another piece in the jigsaw?



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  • Not to burst anyones bubble but the study only addressed sex equality in residential decision-making.

    Best to save the ideological conclusions for sociology class and attend to the actual study done here. Also good use of the term ” sex ” instead of that overworked, hijacked grammatical term ” gender! ”



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  • Kick in the eye for all those using – sorry misusing – ‘evolution’ to replace religion in telling women what they can and can’t do and what they should think and what their role should be.

    There is a distinction between “Telling women what they can and can’t do”. Something that I am opposed to. And the left over byproducts of millions of years of evolution that differentiate between the sexes. Nature doesn’t care what you think, say or do. I will join with you to oppose those trying to use “Evolution” as some social determinant tool, but I will rebut you if you claim that the science that indicates difference, is wrong because it contradicts a political position.

    I can recall a study of Australian Aborigines that indicated that the bulk of the calories for the tribe came from the activities of the gatherers, not the hunters. If I read this article correctly, it appears as if the “the low level of relatedness in hunter-gatherer bands” relates to individual camps, but that if a group of camps is assessed, there would be a greater relatedness. The greater tribe in a regional area would all be related. Fascinating.



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  • I agree Pinnall1970 and when the science is high quality and free from observer and experimental bias I accept it fully whatever it shows. It’s just that in this particular area of study that is rare. It’s often rife with speculation and that our ancestors lived like 1980s male university professors.

    Truth is that a lot of studies are flawed by preconceptions, are overly simplistic and ignore lots of factors. It is not yet a robust science!

    What will be interesting will be to see how many men on this site come out and shout about this study being flawed. Or shout about this study being over simplified or just relying on one factor. It’ll be interesting to see how many of those males are the same ones that accept gender difference studies without questioning. Because I recall another recent study suggesting that cave paintings could have been done by women due to the size of handprints. By about the third or fourth comment some men here were suggesting men had forced those smaller handprints to the wall or that they were signs of male ownership of the women.



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  • The left over by products of evolution are largely unknown and difficult to test. The one left over by product we are 100% certain of is that we evolved to learn and adapt to changing situations. Very little of our behaviour is instinctive. Fairly good research suggests that is not due to some trade off between hip diameter and large brain but something more specifically naturally selected for.

    The differences are there but how significant are they exactly?. You say there is a difference between telling women what to do and the by products of evolution. But if half the things studied were by products of evolution nobody would need to tell me what to do. It’d be instinct. You don’t see female walruses arguing for equality do you. Or male praying mantises asking for a bit of affection after sex!

    If my 21st century female and your 21st century male behaviour is so determined by evolution then why have women fought so hard to change it? And why has it changed so dramatically?

    Attitudes change. Look at the recent vote on gay marriage in Ireland. Gender roles change. Even when sexists scream about them you can see a different evolutionary by product in play – protection of privileged status. My appendix hasn’t changed. My recurrent laryngeal nerve hasn’t changed. My opinions and role I take in society has. Explain that as an evolutionary by product.

    Truth is some studies have been so badly done and so based on limited preferences that they tell us about as much as market research does.



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  • I wonder would you have said the same thing if the study had shown men took the lead and made the decisions? This is one of the few studies that looked at the way we lived for the vast majority of our evolution as hominids.

    If we’re really looking for evolutionary by products then the very fact women fight so hard for equality, that men and women live together as relative equals in good relationships and that all behaviours that go against that (rape, burkhas, exclusion from certain roles) are usually the result of force or coercion or subtle learning of roles suggests that for a lot of out evolution we were more equal.

    So I’d see this study as quite a significant piece in a jigsaw that has very many pieces and is incredibly complex and has previously been done by people who thought they already knew what it should say before looking. I’d also see it as perhaps changing some preconceptions and moving the research on a bit.



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  • Perfect sense.

    Bettany Hughes created a series for Chanel 4 “The Seven Ages of Briton” in 2003. Episode 4 was about the Anglo Saxons, 450 to 1066CE. Her premise was that Anglo-Saxon society was in no sense a patriarchy and it appeared (at least at the start) to be quite bilateral in the share of power between the sexes. The worm in the bud came from 645CE with the arrival of Christianity.

    I have often wondered if, at the editing and plain fabrications of the gospels at the Councils of Nicea etc., when forming the bedrock of the RCC Magisterium, this in any way recognised , at least in some quarters, Chistianity would constitute a power grab from women (the not to be trusted seducers and cause of the Fall) and the sop, the tokenism of a Virgin Mary on a pedestal might be a sufficient distraction. “You’ll be safe there”, they implied.

    Once you see the Councils of Nicea as the first Ad Agency brainstorming sessions, the more you can see the concerns of some of the men about the risks deifying a Virgin woman being assuaged by the reminder that they had already put in the “Go forth and multiply” injunction.



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  • So what if it were? It is not an “ideological conclusion” as per Neo’s concern.

    Alice produced two perfectly formed scientific hypotheses. Such hypotheses often arise from hunches or intuitions.



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  • I think this obsession women have with absolute equality is an expression of envy. The desire that women have to obliterate the differences between the sexes springs from hatred of their fathers and the suppressed conviction that they are incapable of genius and true originality.

    Women should have equal rights. Intellectual and artistic equality is not a right. Nor can it ever be a reality.

    “All humans are composed of both the male and female substance. The female is passive, unproductive, unconscious and amoral. The male is active, productive, conscious and moral. Female life is consumed with the sexual prerogative.” -Otto Weininger

    (I may or may not agree with the statements above. That isn’t the point. The point is this: I am sick to death of the infernal word “gender.” It’s everywhere. Gender this and gender that. And I am sick of people being afraid to express opposing viewpoints. No political correctness on this site! If I want to say I think men are superior that is my prerogative, my right.)

    Women probably did rule back in the days of hunter gatherers. But do we want to return to a matriarchy? Do we want to go backwards?

    “Political correctness is a toxic to American freedom. Over the last 20 years, it has certainly leeched out much of the initiative and integrity of the Democratic Party. I would go so far as to say that political correctness is totalitarian. It violates the old American liberty that you can make up your own mind, and then, even better, proceed to change it. That freedom is worth more to a good many of us than being told what we can say and not say. So, the Republicans, despite their endless catalog of evasions and hypocrisies, have profited from the ideological dead weight that liberals have taken on.” -Mailer



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  • 15
    Pinball1970 says:

    If my 21st century female and your 21st century male behaviour is so
    determined by evolution then why have women fought so hard to change
    it? And why has it changed so dramatically?

    Biological versus social evolution?
    Biological evolution has ensured that I am fast, strong and have decent peripheral vision.
    For women a nurturing social networking nest building would have been more important in nascent societies.
    A few 100,000 years of social evolution is top trumped by millions of years of biological evolution.



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  • Alice. There is little I disagree with you on the social / political side. There is now a standard of behaviour required from every Homo Sapiens on the planet that has been worked out through intellectual rigour, not body mass. Nothing in our past lets anyone tell a woman what they can do, or a man for that matter. We now have accepted behavioural norms that have nothing to do with religion or evolution. But I disagree with you on this:-

    The left over by products of evolution are largely unknown and difficult to test.

    And this:-

    Very little of our behaviour is instinctive.

    There are myriad “Left Over by Products of Evolution.” I will highlight but a few.

    Every animal on the planet displays. From tiny insects to the largest animals. Mountain sheep butt heads. The magpies outside my window have just begun their spectacular aerial displays prior to mating. Just about every animal documentary I’ve ever seen features display by animals. Do Homo Sapiens display. Why would we be exempt. We’re just another great ape. Young men decorate their cars for the very same reason that young Masai warriors decorate their shields and stand in circles jumping as high as they can in front of the village girls.

    Alice you display. See over the next week if you can catch yourself participating in behaviour that says, “Look at Me.” Essays. Speeches. Clothes. Bling. Work or social behaviour. The instinctive evolutionary reasons are obvious. LOOK AT ME.

    Female Chimps, Bonobos, Gorilla’s and Orangutans all have estrus displays. Glowing red swollen rumps for chimps. But something happened a few millions years ago that forced a change for Homo Sapiens. We stood upright. Estrus display became hidden. Did our display just stop then or did our behaviour change. Evolve?

    Thinking evolutionary, why do all of the great apes, including us have roughly the same size mammary glands. Why. But why do female humans have so much extra padding, mostly fatty tissue. Display. perchance? There are hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary instinct in females to display breasts and equally there are hundreds of thousands of years in males to look. Roll on to modern times. Cleavage. Why cleavage. What’s the point or value, but cleavage is universal. Women display. Men look. Same thing. Look for cleavage in the next week and try and find an explanation that is not evolutionary instinct. LOOK AT ME.

    See if you can find an excellent David Attenborough documentary where they follow a 100 plus troop of Ethiopian baboons in the highlands. You will see behaviours in the troop that you still see in your office, family or pub today. Alliances. Back stabbing. Office politics. Who’s on the rise. Who’s on the fall. Brilliant evolutionary survival strategy 30,000 years ago but a very destructive behaviour today. Throw in another strong evolutionary instinct to belong to groups and tribes and you end up with politics, nationalism, racism and soccer supporters. Pure instinct on display.

    Why is the general bell curve for women’s peripheral vision better than mens. Why in the general bell curve is mens ability to rotate three dimensionally greater than womens. Not a lot, but statistically significant. What behaviour did I undertake as a hunter gather that would have this trait as an advantage. What behaviour did a female have in a hunter gather tribe that advantaged better peripheral vision. It’s evolutionary and its still here today. Why can’t men see the margarine in the fridge if it’s not right in front of them. Do you have the expression where you live. “Having a Boy look.” Poor peripheral vision.

    So while I have no argument with you about how we should behave, as a result of intellectual reasoning in a modern world, I think you are wrong that we are not just another animal with all of the evolutionary baggage that that entails. I cringe when I hear a feminist trying to make a social political point but denying the science of these evolutionary differences. Acknowledge the science and march together on the intellect.



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  • LOL..

    Now that is manly ideology!

    More seriously on topic about the influence of kin

    http://phys.org/news/2010-04-grandparents-favor-genetically-grandchildren.html

    Note also, as in most such studies, that at no stage does it seem they consider that they are studying a particular culture, and that some/part/ the whole of their findings could also have a specific cultural component, or indeed how one could distinguish between cultural or evolutionary components.



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  • The problem with political correctness is that once in the seventies it was spectacularly successful in changing, within half a generation, how people spoke and therefore thought about issues of race and sex. Since then it has been co-opted by lesser thinkers to less clear tasks.

    I’m against hate speech legislation and should Weininger express his views now, I would defend his right to spout his sexist and racist musings.

    But, what on earth are you on about? What PC has happened here?

    And surely you have better more informed sources than Weininger? ( In the Jew and the woman, good and evil are not distinct from one another.)



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  • David R Allen
    May 24, 2015 at 5:35 am

    Do Homo Sapiens display. Why would we be exempt. We’re just another great ape. Young men decorate their cars for the very same reason that young Masai warriors decorate their shields and stand in circles jumping as high as they can in front of the village girls.

    I think the cosmetics industry, tattoo parlours, hairdressers, fashion industries, and cosmetic surgery industries, would have gibbering fits, if people stopped displaying!!



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  • Of course you’re right, Phil. I just saw the word gender again and had a reaction. That word really bugs me. And I haven’t noticed any political correctness on this site. I just felt like posting that just in case there were. Weininger’s views on women and Jews were pretty awful. However, I did read his book Sex and Character, and I have to say: the chapter on “talent and memory” blew my mind. (Have you read it?) The book is shot through with occasional brilliance.
    Political correctness started in the nineties (I think) and was never good. The concept is repugnant in itself. Think about it: political correctness. Correctness. Correctness. Correctness. Have I made myself clear?
    I apologize for my outburst.



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  • phil rimmer
    May 24, 2015 at 5:02 am

    I have often wondered if, at the editing and plain fabrications of the gospels at the Councils of Nicea etc., when forming the bedrock of the RCC Magisterium, this in any way recognised , at least in some quarters, Chistianity would constitute a power grab from women (the not to be trusted seducers and cause of the Fall) and the sop, the tokenism of a Virgin Mary on a pedestal might be a sufficient distraction. “You’ll be safe there”, they implied.

    The established Xtian churches have a long history of manipulating marriage towards monogamy, with wives servile to, and in the service of, their husbands, and with all sorts of restrictions and penalties on divorce or remarriage. – This is in sharp contrast to many of the earlier Jewish, early Xtian, and other polygamous more relaxed cultures.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygamy_in_Christianity#Middle_Ages

    Once monogamy was tied to inheritance in England, with “bastards” disinherited, the system has been locked into the theocratic and political establishment for hundreds of years.



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  • Tattoos. Thank you Alan. An extreme example of display behaviour. Given the half life of a tattoo’s cool is around 18 months, the wearer does look pretty stupid in the their 40’s attending a parent teacher interview with a picture of Tweety and Sylvester on the back of their hands.

    Every atom in your body is doing its thing because of evolution. Every chemical reaction. Every cell structure. Every enzyme and hormone. Every body part and joint. Every thing about everything in our body is the way it is because of some evolutionary event in our past. Our defective spines and the laryngeal nerve loop around the aorta. Its the same for every other animal on the planet.

    The activities of every animal on the planet feature evolutionary instincts, traits and displays. Every behavioural aspect of every animal has its original in evolution. Why would Homo Sapiens be exempt. Why wouldn’t we have residual behaviours and traits that can be linked back to some evolutionary cause. Like display. The only people who argue we are not the product of evolution are the extreme religious. So I think we need to climb down from our pedestals and understand why we do what we do. We are just another animal. Why can most of the population of the planet only cope with thinking about a week in advance and the last week, instead of the next 100 years. Why do we still participate in nationalist behaviour right up to wars and massacres to scratch some old evolutionary itch, when we should think of ourselves as citizens of planet earth.

    Darwin saw this and along with other reasons, was terrified by his own discovery and sat on it for years. The genes of the slime bacteria that spawned us still live on in our DNA. I just got a flash of that old T-Rex Marc Bolen song, The Children of the Evolution.



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  • 23
    Pinball1970 says:

    Do you really think there is some sort of conspiracy in this area Alice?
    Have you read the works of Raymond Dart, the Leakeys, Donald Johansson or Chris Stringer?
    It’s a beautiful story and it is the pieces that are important, anyone who interested in science and the story of human kind.
    Women’s rights are a fairly new concept, gay rights even newer (You see the Ireland vote?) society has some catching up to do especially in Islamic cultures.
    I don’t think those things should not muddy the water regarding story of humans, the data is the data.
    Can you give me an example where a paper has been criticised on this basis?



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  • “Having a Boy look.”

    I use the phrase “Male pattern blindness”.

    These things though have as much to do with culture and saliency of and familiarity with the objects as much as an underlying difference in cognising.

    I can spot the margerine and the one with plant sterols. My daughter will find the angle grinder in the shed.

    I think a lot of what we see is the result of a cultural amplifying and fixing of rather small differences.

    And those differences are often about saliency and motivation. When young, maths abilities between the sexes are indistinguishable, yet far fewer women pursue a maths career. The ability has not been cultivated because saliencies are shifted. We have to recognise where differences come from. What teens give a damn about, therefore, is absolutely key to this. Culture is a primary engine to to influence saliency. The need to breed is not so innate either. There is a tribe who don’t care for it. They take a neighbouring tribe’s surplus for its own continuance.

    Like urging the religious not to indocrinate kids, we need to be sure of what we might inadvertently close off or add in. Genes may underwrite our cultural behaviours our extended phenotype, but we have evolved to evolve here. Rapid adaptability is our big trick as a species, the neotenous underdeveloped brain, open to indoctrination and turn on a dime changes to exploit every niche and survive catastrophe, grants us an extended phenotype pretty much a life of its own.

    Gender differences, anthropologists will tell you, are remarkably variable through place and time. This can only come about if the various behavioural bell curves are close enough together.

    After starting out with the idea of blank sheet brains I quickly learned of the bell curve behavioural offsets and felt that these were facts that underwrote an essentialism that explained our current cultural arrangements. My commune living, decidedly experimental lifestyle of the seventies, demonstrated very simply that in a different cultural context, male and female interests could be very closely aligned indeed. Then Dawkins again changed things with a view of cultural evolution that was hugely powerful. Then, further, the insights into un-wired neotenous brains restored more than a little of the blank slate potential (albeit without non-cortical flexibility) at least as far as the one off programming of culture is concerned and I have executed something of a loop in my thinking. There are some modest essential differences in the genders (this similarity I believe we may have evolved towards for enhanced phenotype expression) that can, nevertheless, be amplified by cultures but can as easily be diminished or possibly reversed.



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  • Political correctness started in the nineties (I think) and was never good.

    As wiki points out “politically correct” speech has its roots in the sixties. The self deprecating term itself came later when a lot of its good work had been done.



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  • Political correctness in fact was first applied in the twenties and thirties to distinguish between “political correct” Stalanist views and “reactionary” or Trotskyist views it was a literal term.. It is still used in this sense by the warring and aging remnants of the various communist ideological factions.

    The term was later adopted in the 60’s by the left firstly as a ironic self depreciating take on there own views illustrating the dangers of political dogma, and later developed its main usage as term calling to arms to combat the continuation of social and cultural inequality by linguistic prescription. It was also being used in a sociological context and sense by writers such as Foucault.

    Later in the 90’s the term was adopted and distorted by the right wing into its current pejorative usage, as they are now attempting to do with ” human rights”.

    Aside from the rabid knee jerk reactionism of the right the term it is not commonly considered pejorative, needing to be applied to a specific example with a a qualifier such as ” gone mad” for it to be considered pejorative.

    In right wing usage it is now merely applied to things they do not like, and has lost any explanatory value , instead merely being used as a childish and nonsense term of insult .



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  • Of course I would have said that and your implication is as off as you conclusions about this study.

    ” Common sense would dictate that women played an equal part in our long evolution because both the hunter and the gatherer are necessary when living on the edge of starvation and trying to rear helpless young! ”

    Stick to the science presented and keep common sense out of it.

    I also see a lot of confusion on this thread between ultimate and proximate modes of behavior.

    ” Very little of our behaviour is instinctive. ”

    And that it is a mistake to oppose learning and instinct. A social constructionist misapprehension of reality.



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  • As like every other creature we have evolved it makes sense to say that all our behaviour is in some sense ” evolutionary” , but that in itself also tells us nothing at all significant apart from reasserting that evolution is true.

    If every behaviour has evolved then to say behaviours X or Y are “evolutionary” is telling us nothing significant as all behaviours have evolved, neither does it distinguish such behaviors from other behaviours as again all behaviours have evolved.

    To say that humans have certain common behavioural traits or predispositions ( e.g Display) makes more explanatory sense, but only if we study them within the specific historic social and cultural contexts in which they are expressed, and in which they can be evidentially observed i.e there is no such ” evolutionary thing or object” which we can call “Display”, which we can refer to or study as a human or evolutionary “norm”, we can only study “Display ” as it occurs and is expressed in different cultures.

    To say “Display” etc is evolutionary, or that biological differences are evolutionary, or that having two arms and one head is evolutionary, although all these things are sensible and true propositions they are of little explanatory value on their own, and to elevate such statements to some all purpose explanatory “norm” is dubious.e.g to explain social and cultural sex inequalities as evolutionary



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  • IMO it is a mistake to think that the role of women in hunter gatherer tribes should have any impact on how modern women perceive themselves. That is a version of the ethical naturalistic fallacy, to think that because something is natural it is necessarily good or better than some other alternative that doesn’t appear in nature. However, if you really do care about such things I also think its a mistake to think that women were just about looking good for men.

    On the contrary, I think you can make a pretty strong case that women play a bigger role in making human culture collaborative and unselfish based on their evolutionary role. A human male maximizes his reproductive success by impregnating as many women as possible. A human female can only birth one child every nine months and then has to nurse it if it is going to survive. As a result human females in hunter gatherer tribes tend to place far more value on collaboration, working together to help raise the children as opposed to just creating them as men do.



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  • I think it a mistake to use the word natural at all here. To have a word “nature” that has meaning beyond, say, material, we have to go a step further than Sartre who would have it that all that man[kind] does is unnatural.

    If a sabre tooth tiger attacks, it would be natural, spear in hand, to attempt to kill it. Unnatural would bethe more risky route of trying to scare it off out of some kind of sentiment. Possessing a neocortex with a capacity for rich introspection and with a theory of mind creates behaviours never before seen on the planet. Those behaviours might reasonably be held to be unnatural. Much that distinguishes the behaviour of a tribe from a troupe might be deemed unnatural.



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  • Pinball,

    Nascent societies? I presume your Western society being the teleological purpose for which those mythical “”nascent” societies had the potential, and your cultural norms being the gold standard by which to evaluate other societies. As many have observed the behaviour of these postulated “nascent” societies curiously mirror and confirm the ideological perspectives of modern Western academics.

    To say things like ” a naturing social networking nest building society would have been more important to women” is just to tell an ideological “just so” story. Even if it were significantly meaningful the fact that women also tend to have, I am informed, male babies means this this purported nest building society would have been just as important to Males!

    As no human has ever reared themselves in solitude and all have lived within specific cultures and societies, (you cannot point to or study a biological evolved being outside of culture), then to give explanatory fables of human society and behaviour in terms of ” evolutionary norms” is rather dubious. What is the criteria for deciding which ” just so” narrative is historically correct? It is not the historic record.

    Again although it is perfectly sensible, dependent on context, to speak seperately of biological evolution as distinct from social evolution this should not lead us to think this is a natural binary opposition, the two are intertwined . Humans are social animals whose evolution has been driven by biological variation and natural selection, societal and cultural factors being part of the complex process of natural selection.

    BTW,

    Women’s rights is not a modern issue, it has been been a topic throughout recorded history e.g the Bible is full of historic negative prescriptions about women’s ( lack of) rights, Roman law has lots to say about Women’s (lesser) rights etc



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  • To the consternation of Alice, I’m going to offer my views on the weaknesses of this study and the bias shaping its conclusion.

    The authors never tell us the numbers comprising the hunter-gatherer groups they studied. A serious omission. We all know such groups were “small” but how small (or large) makes a crucial difference. Bands of 50, 100, 200 people will tend to develop significantly different socio-political organization based on membership size.

    Social units comprised of, say 50 to 100 individuals can dispense with many of the requirements necessary for operating larger societies, say 1,000 or more members. Larger populations suffer from anonymity, and inter-group conflicts requiring administrative hierarchy with executive authority (the chief), legislative and judicial authority (the council of elders), and police powers ( royal guards-warriors) to enforce compliance, organize and manage division of labor and multiple projects, provide law and order for internal threats and military protection(or conquest) for external threats. Even so, social cohesion and cooperative endeavors easily break down into chaotic strife and rebellion because of inevitable sub-tribal “ethnic” splintering.

    By contrast the 50 members comprising the hunter-gatherer unit know each other personally. Communal solidarity is built in, so to speak. Men and women alike intuitively understand their labor-intensive interdependency. Kinship relations like any exclusionary relationship, remain important but collective arrangements for gathering and distributing food, caring for children, building shelters, scouting for new territories are paramount for obvious reasons. No one accumulates “discretionary wealth” so no one has the luxury of dropping out of daily group tasks to relax with siblings, children and mates. Not surprisingly, contingencies of a subsistence lifestyle impinging on several score people would encourage, if not mandate, that everyone not only work cooperatively but also interact cooperatively with something closer to gender flexibility and equality of decision making than what we see in societies which have grown beyond the size of a ballroom dancing club. The conclusion of the study seems not only contrived but irrelevant. All we’re looking at is a small bunch of survivalists on a prolonged camping trip in the woods.



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  • “All we are looking at is a small bunch of survivalists on a prolonged camping trip in the woods”

    Did you not read the article?

    It was a study of real live human beings still living in hunter gatherer societies, which is not as you condescendingly and imperialistically state equivalent in any way to a study of Westerners on a camping trip.

    That in a study of hunter gatherers the society being studied is that of hunter gatherers is not a weakness or a sign of bias, and to think so is somewhat bizarre.

    Such societies are probably the nearest approximation to the organisation of ancient societies as we can get, and their anthropological study is useful in inferring the behaviour patterns of these ancient societies. Again no weakness or bias of the study

    I have no idea of what you think is the scientific or historic basis of your imaginative account of social development and group size, I fear it is just your own notion.

    Nothing you say shows the study has any scientific or anthropological weakness or bias, unless by bias you mean disagreeing with your own notions.



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  • There is a difference between what we are, and what we aspire to be. I am not a scientist and don’t know the subtle nuances of the definitions of technical words so I use them at the “Street” level so in these forums I am an easy target.

    When I hear an argument being mounted on what we aspire to be, that denies what we are, I think that needs to be called out. You can’t deny science you disagree with, at the social / political level. Puts you in the same camp as global warming deniers.

    And before the knees jerk, my aspiration for society in relation to the position of women would be in lock step with Alice. Just before I retired, I was declared by the women I work with, to be “An Honorary Women” for the efforts I made to advance women in my organization and my defense of women subject to attacks from club wielding cave men, some of whom were in charge. The photo at my right shoulder as I type is of all of those women and me. Very proud.

    So in summary, I support the aspirations of the women’s movement, but I think it detracts from your political credibility to make statements that deny our evolution (Defined at the street level meaning)



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  • Please allow me to continue: However, group relatedness is much lower when both men and women have influence — as is the case among many hunter-gatherer societies, where families tend to alternate between moving to camps where husbands have close kin and camps where wives have close kin.

    The authors use the term “camp” once more without indicating either the total population of the society or the population of the sub-camps that the society is broken down into. The societies comprise hunter-gatherers but what foods they gather and what game they hunt is not specified. Located in the Philippines and the distant Congo, their diets must be quite divergent, especially game. Small birds, wild boar, monkeys, antelope. What?

    The claim that these societies reliably reflect the prehistoric past is not credible because of contamination by contact with modern societies. Have the children been inoculated against disease, do members have access to medical care, hospitals, cell phone communication? Have members acquired clothing, cookware, tools, etc. manufactured with steel, plastics and fabrics from the outside world? How much contact have they had with European anthropologists and other researchers? Has there been photography and audio- video recording, exchanges of gifts, the transfer of technology, languages, cultural knowledge, and electronic digital communication? The reader has no comprehensive picture of the society that is being investigated. The methodology fails to reveal how homo Sapiens actually lived in the conditions of primordial hunter-gatherer societies other than showing how men and women probably had mutual “influence” in residential decision making when they lived on the fragile margins of survival in tiny groups. The researchers over-reach to postulate gender equality as an essential feature of primordial human nature from these piddling observations.



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  • From the article that is linked to above:

    Previous research has noted the low level of relatedness in hunter-gatherer bands.

    Do we have a reference? I don’t see any reference to this claim on the Science Daily site full article. I’m probably looking right over it because who would just say such a thing with no citation?

    This is surprising because humans depend on close kin to raise offspring, so generally exhibit a strong preference for living close to parents, siblings and grandparents.

    Surprising? It’s very damn surprising to me! So I need to know just how unrelated these groups really are and how this is working for elder care and child care, etc.

    Melvin says:

    The claim that these societies reliably reflect the prehistoric past is not credible because of contamination by contact with modern societies.

    I’m also worried about this and I agree that there is inadequate detail on sample size.

    They collected genealogical data on kinship relations, between-camp mobility and residence patterns by interviewing hundreds of people.

    Hundreds of people – 200 or 900, big difference.

    From Melvin’s first comment above time stamp 3:46pm (christ’s sake, can we get some comment numbers please!)

    By contrast the 50 members comprising the hunter-gatherer unit know each other personally. Communal solidarity is built in, so to speak. Men and women alike intuitively understand their labor-intensive interdependency. Kinship relations like any exclusionary relationship, remain important but collective arrangements for gathering and distributing food, caring for children, building shelters, scouting for new territories are paramount for obvious reasons. No one accumulates “discretionary wealth” so no one has the luxury of dropping out of daily group tasks to relax with siblings, children and mates. Not surprisingly, contingencies of a subsistence lifestyle impinging on several score people would encourage, if not mandate, that everyone not only work cooperatively but also interact cooperatively with something closer to gender flexibility and equality of decision making than what we see in societies which have grown beyond the size of a ballroom dancing club. The conclusion of the study seems not only contrived but irrelevant.

    Except for his last sentence, which I’ll leave off here, his description is straight out of an Anthropology text. He’s right about that. I have my textbook here, by Ember and Ember and everything in his paragraph contains description of general defining characteristics of H-G groups.
    Even in my Anthropology 101 textbook, (Ember and Ember) H-G groups are listed as egalitarian societies. Here is a description from Wiki:

    Characteristics[edit]
    Bands have a loose organization. Their power structure is often egalitarian and has informal leadership; the older members of the band generally are looked to for guidance and advice, and decisions are often made on a consensus basis,[2] but there are no written laws and none of the specialised coercive roles (e.g., police) typically seen in more complex societies. Bands’ customs are almost always transmitted orally. Formal social institutions are few or non-existent. Religion is generally based on family tradition, individual experience, or counsel from a shaman. All known band societies hunt and gather to obtain their subsistence.

    What is generally accepted about H-G bands is that members moved to other bands when they had reason to do so. Women moved to other bands when they didn’t like their treatment and men moved to other bands to avoid disputes with men in their current group. Ridicule, criticism, and disobedience are common tactics to thwart a member’s efforts to dominate another.

    Having the freedom to get up and walk out is powerful for women, even now. It’s why feminists strongly advocate for girls and young women to go as far as possible in their education and then get the best career they can and earn a decent paycheck. It’s the money that buys them the freedom to leave if they want or need to. Also note that keeping girls out of school is a priority for fundamentalists in their goal of reducing us to a slave class.

    Another conclusion that has come to light is that women contribute a great deal of gathered food for the band and provide the dependable daily food in contrast to the hit or miss food contribution of hunters in the band. This trashed the “Flintstone” model of the women sitting around waiting for their hunter husband heroes to return to the fire pit with a big bloody beast for dinner. Contributions for a large percentage of food to the band speaks volumes about the role and status of women in H-G bands. No one who reads Anthropology has doubts about the status of women in H-G bands being basically equal to men.

    Source:
    Ember and Ember, Cultural Anthropology, twelfth edition, 2007,



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  • and later developed its main usage as term calling to arms to combat the continuation of social and cultural inequality by linguistic prescription. It was also being used in a sociological context and sense by writers such as Foucault.

    I find it objectionable. I don’t care how it was or who used it or why. It is a loathsome conception in itself. I hate it!

    The fact remains that there is a “politically correct” attitude which is quite pervasive, is rampant in the universities. It was not merely appropriated by the right-wing. The left has totalitarian tendencies. There are many leftists who are totalitarian to the core, with whom no peace is possible so long as any idea or will other than their own is allowed to prevail.

    Political correctness (or whatever you choose to call it) is alive and well. Take a class in gender theory if you want to be depressed. The death of human liberty may come from the left. What makes this all the more possible is the hesitation that many people on the left have to express criticism of groups that claim to be (and indeed have been) oppressed.

    Why are we defending political correctness? I will tell you why: we are being politically correct! And we don’t even know it!

    (Look at Alice and Laurie fulminating.)



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  • I described you (and someone named Alice) as “fulminating.” I offer you my apology. I’ve been under a great strain.

    That aside, I think you should go down to Arkansas or Texas if you want to see what sexism looks like. It varies from place to place, state to state, country to country, epoch to epoch. Don’t lose your sense of proportion; that would be unscientific and irresponsible. You have a hell of a lot more freedom and opportunities now. My twenty-one year old niece is graduating soon. She is going to be a doctor. And guess what? Nothing is standing in her way! She is not atypical either. (In other parts of the word, in other environments, it would be atypical, of course. So there is still massive work to be done.)



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  • Nothing you say shows the study has any scientific or anthropological weakness or bias, unless by bias you mean disagreeing with your own notions.

    I haven’t read the article carefully. Nor do I wish to comment on it. But I do have an opinion regarding the sentence pasted above:

    Beautifully put. This is a huge problem in American life. People use the word “biased” to undermine the integrity of ideas, philosophies, perspectives, orientations, etc. It is a tactic, a language-weapon, if you will. And that is precisely the kind of thing I had in mind when I referred to the problem of “political correctness.” But this tactic is perpetrated by the worst elements within the right and the left. They all shoot out the word biased when they cannot come up with substantive arguments to support their own bias, their own agendas!

    I think I’ll read the article now.



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  • 44
    aroundtown says:

    It would be my contention that perceived speculated truths being put forward on these hunter-gatherers in the Congo and the Philippines as being accurate as applied to other groups, is painting the hunter-gatherer populations of a present or bygone age with a broad brush interpretation. The truth is we can only suggest what the actions might have been of ancient people because it is essentially unknowable in actual fact. The views we have of living populations today have other challenges as well. Being born in the United States the early view offered via television was that of movie stars like John Wayne knocking the shit out of those nasty sneaky savages who needed to be rubbed-out, they were basically viewed as evil people, and unfortunately/disturbingly this was a main stream view. This might be a troubling picture I’ve painted but I offer it for a reason – we generally run our prospectives through the established norms of the cultures in which we live, so the prism is skewed to match our perspectives. We are usually unable to remove bias from our perspective in my opinion. Cultural Anthropology seeks to define differences and similarities but I have always taken the view that corruption of the perceptions are clouded by inherent cultural differences of those assessing any said populace.

    The other consideration that should be taken into account would be this – 10,000 years ago the world population was considered to be roughly 10 million world wide, and within the last two hundred years we have gone from a population below 1 billion people to a world populace today of roughly 7.2 Billion. The parameters for available resources of the earlier populace in pre-industial times was a significantly different world so you can multiply that by orders of magnitude when it comes to primitive man and his/her surrounds. They didn’t have any of the prejudices that we wade through today so that bygone age would have been very difficult for us to comprehend today. I will include a link for effect on population as related to health and prosperity from just a short time ago. You can look at the video and then take a minute to consider the changing landscape of these societies that would have been in play – the changes were coming extremely fast so the earlier cultural conditions were cast to the wayside pretty fast as well I would think.

    http://www.gapminder.org/videos/200-years-that-changed-the-world/



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  • David,

    Are you referring to Laurie’s post or mine? I assume you mean hers. Perhaps we should address each other when replying. In any case, I liked your comment (posted at 7:03). And I’ve read your other comments on other pages. I like your approach. One silly question: what does the acronym OP stand for?

    I am new to the site. (Love Dawkins!) I’ve never joined a website before. It’s kind of weird. We’re all talking to each other, but it’s not really talking, is it? Nor is it really doing anything, is it? I mean how is Laurie’s post going to help bring about change? I am not so sure whether a website like this serves any real purpose other than raising money for the foundation. I asked the following question somewhere else, and I think it’s a good one:

    How do we extend the concept of a website such as this and turn it into a “place to go” in a physical (non-virtual) sense? Unless we are actually interacting with each other and not with ourselves, as it were, there is not much chance of anything worthwhile arising from these discussions.



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  • 46
    aroundtown says:

    As an aside, have others ever wondered about the documentaries on Early Man or Neanderthals that weave a story of their day to day life showing how they lived? It has always stuck me that the views are the grandest of speculation since we only have bones and a few artifacts of their existence. I would very much like to think they are somewhat accurate but the lives of these people, and how they lived, will never be known with certainty. Do we conceive of them what we want to see?



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  • Psychology?!?
    Evolutionary psychology?!?
    Cultural anthropology?!?
    (I hope there is no sociology here!! )

    All social science and all incoherent!

    http://www.unl.edu/rhames/ms/behavioral-ecology-hames.pdf

    A paper on human behavioral ecology. Look and you can find the work of human ethologists ( ethologist studying humans! ) Neurology, neurobiology. At least go no lower than physical anthropology!

    This is what I mean by following the science and eschewing the ideology. Now the above work on sexual equality in residential decision making may be a solid conclusion, but it is one paper and one piece of a large puzzle that needs to be addressed scientifically and not ideologically ( ideology which is all over the board here ) or by unfettered social science. The fetters being strict adherence to the scientific method, something social science has a great deal of trouble with in all of its subdisciplines. Hence, incoherent.
    This is a SCIENCE and reason site, isn’t it?



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  • serves any real purpose..

    The web page serves a purpose and I guess the Web Page Wrangler may have some stats on Hits the page receives. It also serves the purpose of fund raising, which I would encourage. As for physical interaction, with planet earth the size it is that will have to be local by local. There are the occasional conference and guest speaker events that may pass nearby. I’m lucky in that I have a group of grumpy old retired but intellectual astute men I get together with and solve the problems of the world. And yes I was referring to Laurie’s post.



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  • I didn’t express myself too well. I should have used the phrase engagement with others as opposed to just (physical, non-virtual) interaction with like-minded people (which has its place.) Just because within the confines of one’s own argument one is undoubtedly right, does not mean that there is social force behind what one is saying. Being right about one thing within a limited ambit of engagements is the easiest thing to do.

    Check out the article on Bangladesh. It’s one of the news items on this site. You’ll see why I question the efficacy of these discussions. (Although who knows: maybe ideas can be generated, in addition to raising funds – which is useful.)

    I just read the article everyone is talking about. Much ado about nothing. It sounds like the writer has an agenda. Sounded like she spends all of her time digging around looking for studies that might be used to propagate her political propaganda. If you look hard enough you’ll find it.

    Why is it that in Dawkins’ writings there is no mention of “gender”? I’ll tell you why: he is a serious scientist and a man of truth. And he has no agenda (as a science educator).

    I am in a foul mood, need to eat. (TMI?)

    Take care, squire.



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  • Great! Let’s all travel in a time machine or to a remote village in some God forsaken place and be hunter-gatherers. Then we will all have the same status (regardless of the profound and innate differences that most definitely exist between us) and be as equal as two berries. (Who profits from that?)

    Here is something refreshing, written by a man who was not exactly a buffoon:

    “To blunder over the fundamental problem of “man and woman,” to deny here the most abysmal antagonism and the necessity of an eternally hostile tension, perhaps to dream here of equal rights, equal education, equal claims and duties: this is a typical sign of shallow-mindedness; and a thinker who has proved himself shallow at this dangerous spot—shallow in instinct!—may be regarded as suspect in general, more, as betrayed, as found out: he will probably be too “short” for all the fundamental questions of life, those of life in the future too, incapable of any depth[…]

    “Injustice never lies in unequal rights. It lies in the claim of equal rights. . . What is bad? But I have already answered: all that proceeds from weakness, from envy, from revenge. . .” -Nietzsche



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  • Injustice never lies in unequal rights. It lies in the claim of equal rights.

    Okay, Nietzsche went a little too far with that one – but no one’s perfect.



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  • H-G groups are listed as egalitarian societies.

    But Nietzsche held that a society that would promote such a principle – allowing everyone “equal rights” with no regard of how much or how little they contribute to that society – degrades itself by failing to recognize individuals with exceptional abilities.



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  • 54
    Pinball1970 says:

    I presume your Western society being the teleological purpose for
    which those mythical “”nascent” societies had the potential,

    They are not mythical they existed and I did not mention the west and I am not saying we know all the details.
    I was talking about biology and the degree of dimorphism affecting behaviours.
    My other point is women’s rights, children’s rights, ethic and sexual equality are modern in terms of when these rights were acquired. Some of these are yet to be acquired in certain counties/cultures.
    The Roman Empire (you mentioned “lack of” which emphasised my point) was recent compared to the nascent societies I was referring to.
    Societies that first used Burial, use of fire, tools, cave paintings communicating ideas concepts, possible religions etc



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  • The philosophising about the deservedness of equality of rights and treatment is rendered irrelevant by the facts that societies thrive better, are wealthier, healthier, more robust, less unhappy places when equality (eg as expressed by the gini index) is greater.

    The fantasy of the libertarian and the self styled ubermensch is that his (so often) achievements are by his hand alone. All achievements, though, are cultural achievements. Entrepreneurs need wealthy and engaged customers. Robust societies need increasingly educated and politically satisfied populations, happy to make increasingly long-term investments.

    In the insanely complex interplay of individuals and the societies which manufacture them, it is not Nietstche or Marx or Rand that is needed but the powerfully informed, empirical and pragmatic approach exemplified by the engineer.



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  • Dan,

    As a “native” who was born in a remote village in a ” god forsaken” place literally in a jungle, as a member of ( in that country) a ethnic minority, in a country, Malaysia, which was under colonial rule and in which a long war of liberation for equality and political freedom was underway, I profoundly disagree with your, and that maniac Nietzsche , comments about equality, whether equality is gender equality or any other kind of equality.

    All your comments about the natural inequality between men and women exactly mirrors the imperialist discourse about the “profound and innate” differences between the civilised colonialists and the uncivilised god forsaken natives. Well, my parents generation took up arms ( you would call them terrorists) to prove that notion wrong. Best of luck to women trying to do the same.

    Differences between people, innate or not, real or not, are not excuses or justifications for discriminatory practices. To say that because women have different genes etc from men it is Ok to pay them less for doing the same job etc is just nonsense.

    Equality has nothing to do with biology, on the other hand Inequality uses biology as a false justification for its social oppressions.



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  • Reason ,and hopefully science, should say that equality and inequality are not biological terms but terms denoting social relationships with societies.

    To say inequality is a natural result of biological differences is neither a scientific explanation nor an neutral description of inevitable biological processes being worked out , it is a ideological justification for inequality.

    Equality has nothing to do with biology, inequality has.



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  • The speculations made about behaviours are always evidenced though as you suggest can only be tentative. Within the various disciplines this is widely understood and upending earlier speculations based on new evidence is very common and none too surprising. What goes into a Discovery Channel program is quite another matter..

    (This view is based on a fairly thorough researching of a little corner of hypothesised Aurignacean behaviours once.)



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  • Steve
    May 25, 2015 at 4:56 am

    Differences between people, innate or not, real or not, are not excuses or justifications for discriminatory practices. To say that because women have different genes etc from men it is Ok to pay them less for doing the same job etc is just nonsense.

    While there is considerable diversity in human populations, and stereotyping should be avoided, there is no equality of productive capability in relation to pay.
    Some people are more capable at some types of jobs.

    Equality has nothing to do with biology, on the other hand Inequality uses biology as a false justification for its social oppressions.

    Biology dictates that there is no equality of aptitude or capability. Stereotyped “oppressions”, should not be confused with “politically correct”, denials of gender differences in aptitudes and capabilities.

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hope-relationships/201402/brain-differences-between-genders
    It’s no secret that boys and girls are different—very different. The differences between genders, however, extend beyond what the eye can see. Research reveals major distinguishers between male and female brains.

    Scientists generally study four primary areas of difference in male and female brains: processing, chemistry, structure, and activity. The differences between male and female brains in these areas show up all over the world, but scientists also have discovered exceptions to every so-called gender rule. You may know some boys who are very sensitive, immensely talkative about feelings, and just generally don’t seem to fit the “boy” way of doing things. As with all gender differences, no one way of doing things is better or worse. The differences listed below are simply generalized differences in typical brain functioning, and it is important to remember that all differences have advantages and disadvantages.

    Male brains utilize nearly seven times more gray matter for activity while female brains utilize nearly ten times more white matter. What does this mean?

    Gray matter areas of the brain are localized. They are information- and action-processing centers in specific splotches in a specific area of the brain. This can translate to a kind of tunnel vision when they are doing something. Once they are deeply engaged in a task or game, they may not demonstrate much sensitivity to other people or their surroundings.

    White matter is the networking grid that connects the brain’s gray matter and other processing centers with one another. This profound brain-processing difference is probably one reason you may have noticed that girls tend to more quickly transition between tasks than boys do. The gray-white matter difference may explain why, in adulthood, females are great multi-taskers, while men excel in highly task-focused projects.

    Male and female brains process the same neurochemicals but to different degrees and through gender-specific body-brain connections. Some dominant neurochemicals are serotonin, which, among other things, helps us sit still; testosterone, our sex and aggression chemical; estrogen, a female growth and reproductive chemical; and oxytocin, a bonding-relationship chemical.

    In part, because of differences in processing these chemicals, males on average tend to be less inclined to sit still for as long as females and tend to be more physically impulsive and aggressive. Additionally, males process less of the bonding chemical oxytocin than females. Overall, a major takeaway of chemistry differences is to realize that our boys at times need different strategies for stress release than our girls.

    A number of structural elements in the human brain differ between males and females. “Structural” refers to actual parts of the brain and the way they are built, including their size and/or mass.

    Females often have a larger hippocampus, our human memory center. Females also often have a higher density of neural connections into the hippocampus. As a result, girls and women tend to input or absorb more sensorial and emotive information than males do.

    It is well known, that in higher education courses, some subjects such as engineering are filled with male students, while in subjects such as languages, females predominate due to relative aptitudes in these subjects.



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  • Alan, this is one of the key papers on the sexual dimorphism of the connectome.

    A really great introduction to the “Connectome” is Sebastian Seung’s book of the same name.

    As we know the neotenous brains of the extensively incompetent human infant are substantially (comparatively speaking) unwired. There is far more room within human cultures for affecting the wiring. The physical differences are measurable as are some of the behaviour outcomes (though the causal connections between them are here conjectural and unexamined), but the real question is how culturally susceptible/alterable are these dimorphic manifestations? Even more interesting is the question of cortical over-ride. Can reason and training master instinct? How condemned are we to using our wiring in a particular way?

    I’ve argued many times before that cortical over-ride is the big trick we manage thanks to spindle cells and an ability to be introspective, hypothesis and model making, models even of minds, our own and others.That a Chinese women can function without her cerebellum and a French man without much except a brain stem and cortex is strongly suggestive of the potential for plasticity of cortical control.

    Our other big trick (which is probably the same big trick but at a higher level) is, as a species, our unique cultural plasticity…

    Ah, I need a bigger post than I have time for here. Work, sadly, beckons. I’ll be back…



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  • Ah, I need a bigger post than I have time for here. Work, sadly, beckons. I’ll be back…

    My sympathies Phil! – I finished 3 weeks of work sessions last week, and (again) reverted into retired mode until about August!



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  • It is not a simple question of some people being better at some jobs.

    Women in many instances are paid less for doing EXACTLY the same job as men. This is pure discrimination.

    Again I repeat I am not denying biological differences between men and women. To repeat yet again I am not denying biological and genetic differences between men and women or indeed between blacks and whites or short and tall people. Giving a list of biological differences between people is not addressing my point at all. To repeat, I am not denying these differences. E.g Men are on average do better on strength tests than women, Chinese people do better on I Q tests than white people etc.

    My point is that inequality is a social phenomenon, not a biological one. Social inequality is not the same as biological difference, nor can it be simply reduced to such.

    Biological differences do not invariantly determine social inequalities, as the abolition of slavery and colonialism and the progress of civil rights and womens rights show. We can change the power, monetary and social relationships of a society without carrying out mass gender changing operations!

    For women to obtain equal pay or rights does not entail them changing their gender, it involves a change in the way they are paid or discriminated against. A simple social change, not a biological one.

    To give an example of the logic of justifying social inequalities on the basis of genetic differences. I am Chinese and we do far better on IQ tests than Caucasians so , presuming you are Caucasian, as I am Chinese I am biologically more likely to be more intelligent than you, and consequently my opinions carry far more weight than your biologically less intelligent opinions. Therefore in a social forum like this my opinion is far more socially valuable and worthy than your biologically unequal views. Do you think that is fair to socially discriminate in this fashion against biologically inferior Caucasian males?



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  • Steve
    May 25, 2015 at 9:04 am

    It is not a simple question of some people being better at some jobs.

    That is correct. It is a combination of many factors.

    Women in many instances are paid less for doing EXACTLY the same job as men. This is pure discrimination.

    It can be to certain extent, but there can be a temperament factor.
    I have seen situations where a predominantly male workforce stands up to an exploitative employer to win better pay, while a comparable female workforce acquiesces, does not want conflict, and accepts lower pay.
    I have also seen situations where having accepted lower pay, (either initially to under-cut competing male candidates, or in union disputes) the female workforce then puts in a parity claim for equality with equivalent male workers, who fought for better standards.

    I did say that equality of opportunity should be the legal position, but equality for those who do not take their opportunities, is not going to happen in the real world, regardless of ideologies.

    My point is that inequality is a social phenomenon, not a biological one.

    This is simply a false dichotomy. The two are not mutually exclusive, and in reality, have a combined effect.

    Social inequality is not the same as biological difference, nor can it be simply reduced to such.

    They are indeed different constraints on particular groups, but both act together on types of individuals.
    You cannot separate the interacting biology and evolution of populations, from social factors.
    Without including all the parts, systems do not function and understandings are distorted.

    Those who hand over cash for the item they fancy in the first shop they come to, usually pay more than those who shop around for the best deal!
    Gaining monetary benefits, usually requires some thinking and effort from the individuals or the groups concerned.
    It is a competitive world.



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  • From the Anthropology text that I mentioned above, Ember and Ember, here is a section from chapter 8, page 127:

    Egalitarian societies can be found not only among foragers such as the !Kung, Mbuti, Australian aborigines, Inuit and Ache, but also among horticulturalists such as the Yanomamo and pastoralists such as the Lapps. An important point to keep in mind is that egalitarian does not mean that all people within such societies are the same. There will always be differences among individuals in age and gender and in such abilities or traits as hunting skill, perception, health, creativity, physical prowess, attractiveness and intelligence. According to Morton Fried, egalitarian means that within a given society “there are as many positions of prestige in any given age/sex grade as there are persons capable of filling them”

    There are, of course, differences in position and prestige arising out of differences in ability. Even in an egalitarian society, differential prestige exists. But, although some persons may be better hunters or more skilled artists than others, there is still equal access to status positions for people of the same ability. Any prestige gained by achieving high status as a great hunter, for instance, is neither transferable nor inheritable. Because a man is a great hunter it is not assumed that his sons are also great hunters. There also may be individuals with more influence but it cannot be inherited and there are no groups with appreciably more influence over time. An egalitarian society keeps inequality at a minimal level

    As Steve says above:

    My point is that inequality is a social phenomenon, not a biological one. Social inequality is not the same as biological difference, nor can it be simply reduced to such.



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  • It might be a competive world, but it is also an unequal opportunity world by dictate, accepted practise and naked force.

    Women do not get less pay for doing the same job because of “temperament”, they get less because of gender discrimination.

    It is not a question of seperating out ( from what?) biological and social factorrs, it is not a question of theory. To say there is a distinction between biological difference and social inequality is not a false dichotomy.

    Your point about biological factors being involved in social equality is of course true, that is the very thing that I and others are complaining about! To say as you do that this is ” natural” is simply to say you have no problem with it. It is not ” natural”.

    Social, political, economic etc inequalities are not inevitiable consequences of biological differences.

    The Westen economic model or indeed any economic model is not universal either in time or space , so to think that the current practices of this economic and social model is a Universal correctly reflecting biological differences is delusional. The fact that biological differences are mirrored in some societies by social inequalities is not inevitable, blacks are not genetically slaves, women are not genetically entitled to be paid less.

    Remember that as I am Chinese biology naturally dictates that I am correct and you are not.



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  • Social and economic Inequalities of individuals or groups with biological differences from the dominant group is a social phenomenen not a biological one.

    Social and economic equality takes no note of biological differences.



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  • Steve
    May 25, 2015 at 5:27 am

    Reason ,and hopefully science, should say that equality and inequality are not biological terms but terms denoting social relationships with societies.

    Social relationships are biological mechanisms of interacting living creatures showing differences and inequalities.

    To say inequality is a natural result of biological differences is neither a scientific explanation

    An assertion denying this solidly evidenced science, does nothing to refute the evidence that individuals have biological differences making the performances of various tasks unequal. –
    That is in no way denying, that social mechanisms, beyond the level of individuals, can add to, or exaggerate inequalities, but these are group biological interactions.

    Equality has nothing to do with biology, inequality has.

    That is correct.
    Natural selection by means of survival of the fittest, has nothing to do with “equality”!
    Attempts at social engineering, are up against evolved basic biological tendencies and laws of nature, when they move from equality of opportunity, to the “politically correct” manipulated equality of outcome – (such as pretending that percentages of particular groups in particular professions, should match the percentages of those groups within the general population, irrespective of aptitude or competence.).



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  • LaurieB
    May 25, 2015 at 10:27 am

    As Steve says above: My point is that inequality is a social phenomenon, not a biological one.

    All social interactions between living organisms, are “biological”!

    (Inanimate objects don’t have “social interactions”.)

    Steve appears to be in conflict with your quote which lists individual differences in egalitarian societies.



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  • David R Allen – Cleavage? Part and parcel of concealed ovulation I’d imagine.

    But tell me why you concentrate on women display their bodies men look! Men ALSO display their bodies and looks, women ALSO look. Likewise women also display their possessions and intellectual qualities for men. That difference isn’t that great! So tell me why you only mention the men looking?

    That is not a gender difference that’s a product of the evolution of sexual reproduction. But culturally you feel the need to tell me what I already know, straight men like breasts.



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  • My point is that inequality is a social phenomenon, not a biological one. Social inequality is not the same as biological difference, nor can it be simply reduced to such.

    Steve makes an astute observation. “Inequality” affects men as well as women.

    Nonetheless we are missing the crucial role that biological differences between the sexes played in shaping societies and cultures throughout our species evolution. The error lies in equating “egalitarian” with a monolithic modern concept of political aspiration for civil society. Archaic societies in general and hunter-gatherer societies in particular practiced “egalitarianism” not as an aspiration to affirm the rights and dignity of persons regardless of gender, but as a contingent social arrangement for facilitating survival of small groups of a species teetering on the edge. Simply put, we are expropriating the term, specifically with respect to contemporary women’s rights movements, in order to attribute primordial human virtues that never existed. This is the fallacy of “The Noble Savage .”

    Traditional human societies, both prehistoric and historical, developed gender roles under pressures embodied in biological differences. Women procreated children from their precious supply of eggs fertilized with promiscuous male sperm. Her fertility was the fountainhead for the survival of the species. In practice, because of high infant/childhood mortality women had to produce on average about 6 live births. Each newborn must suckle at her breast for at least a year and child care through infancy and toddler-hood demanded time and energy. Many women had 10, 12, 14 children as a matter of course and unprotected sex.

    As we know, men evolved literally “above” women with increased height, weight, muscle mass and upper body strength. Because the only form of human energy was muscle power until recent millennia, man became the “natural”leader and by extension the “naturally superior” sex. To be sure, women were expected to work as hard -sometimes harder than men to accomplish the daily tasks of living, but “work” for women (and most men) didn’t mean studying at medical school then performing brain surgery. Work was menial, exhausting manual labor.

    A paradoxical ethic gradually became codified in customs and laws governing populous and complex social organization. Women with notable exceptions were discouraged from participating in leadership roles and decision making. They were expected to obey and serve men as wives and concubines and suffer masculine displeasure or punishment. Sexual purity in the form of virginity and chastity represented her ideal virtue, an abstraction in service of maintaining the integrity of the patriarchal family line. On the other hand, men also evolved to protect and love the women they bonded with and the children who were the products of that relationship. In the eyes of men, women were at once slaves and whores and chaste goddesses whose beauty, virtue and companionship were to be cherished beyond everything.

    But let’s get back to the topic of archaic hunter-gatherer societies, and the stipulated definitions of how they actually functioned through egalitarian kinship-non-kinship relationships, division of labor, and decision making embedded in gender equality. The vision concocted so far leaves out one crucial variable of the cheery equation. TESTOSTERONE. Men evolved with a short fuse for aggression both physical and sexual. Assorted frustrations could result in brutal fights with other men, sometimes over individual altercations and sometimes involving militarized conflicts. And sometimes frustrations resulted in physical and sexual assaults on women, strangers and loved ones alike.

    Cutting to the chase, I believe we need to modify our rosy vision of gender equality in primordial hunter-gatherer societies. Whatever practices and arrangements appear to excite our modern sympathies, it seems reasonable that these interludes were evolving toward the patriarchal authoritarian societies that current women’s rights advocates excoriate. Though customs, empathetic morality, caring, love and affection and social cohesion mitigated the sobering, appalling reality -I’ll be blunt- Men beat up women far more frequently than we would like to imagine. Enraged or even irritated, Men grabbed women, men shook women violently, men slapped and punched them, men threw them against hard objects or on the floor, Men raped women, Men broke bones and at extremes murdered. Only developments of modern times over several centuries and decades have seen the groundswell of social consciousness reversing this shameful trend.



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  • David R Allen whilst a statistically significant difference in peripheral vision and object rotation is interesting without knowing how far apart the two bell curves are in each case, and how close they are in shape (e.g. is one flatter that the other) and the averages and standard deviations it’s difficult to judge how great that significant difference is. I’m guessing there is overlap and that it is a quantitative rather than qualitative difference. Therefore you will probably be able to find the marge in the fridge, or tasty berries, better than a woman at the extreme of the curve.

    Likewise some women will be better at rotating objects than some men. The are not absolute differences.

    Overlay culture and learning onto that and you further complicate things. My daughters are both better at reading maps than I am purely because they’ve had earlier exposure to reading them with their dad. So we come down to how great is that difference between the two groups? Is it as great as differences within each group?

    I agree there are throwbacks to evolved behaviours which can be gleaned from studying our cousins. Social hierarchies being one of them. But in the 7 odd million years since we started to diverge away several significant things have happened that have made using them to judge sex difference a bit problematic.

    We have concealed ovulation. That changes my display behaviour significantly given I don’t clearly know when I’m fertile and neither do you. There are some pointers but they’re small. The result of that has got to be greater cooperation and time spent together. We could longer rely on finding the opposite sex at the right time to mate. That has got to decrease differences.

    Then there is the form of display. Tattoos were mentioned. Attractive now but not attractive a few years ago nor probably a few years hence. The attractiveness of the clothing I display my body in, my hairstyle even the best body shape to have all change with fashion. There are a range of male and female body shapes that are attractive. The bonobos bottom remains the same. There is no cultural overlay in its childhood to shape its preferences. There is no range of bonobos bottoms that all attract the opposite sex.

    Prolonged adolescence also happened. Unique to humans I think. Clearly some kind of evolutionary throwback given that girls can get pregnant but the outcomes for both her and her offspring are poor. So poor that they effect survival. I’d say the difference between the feelings about sex of a teenage girl and an adult woman are greater than the differences between an adult woman and man.

    Prolonged childhood also increased beyond that of out cousins. Probably alongside a decrease in specialisation to a particular niche and an increase in adaptability. Humans share care of their young with their partners far more than other species. That makes reproduction expensive for you as well as me. That makes you have to choose a mate for far more than just superficial reasons. It means you have to invest in someone who is capable of rearing your child. In no other species is reproduction that costly for males but I can’t help thinking that closeness reduces differences.

    I don’t deny what science there is. What I quibble with is some of the wilder speculations and the over emphasising differences at the expense of huge similarities. New research suggests that males are far more likely to choose females for intelligence. That is more logical when survival is tough. Also more heartening.



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  • I believe the early church was a huge leap forward for women. I was under the impression that one of the reasons it became so popular was that it frowned on the infanticide of baby girls in Rome that had led to a shortage of women. In short roman men converted because that is where the women were. The tiny bit of the bible with Jesus in it seems quite forward looking for its dat

    I was under the impression that the seductress virgin/ whore dichotomy came much later on as Christianity adopted some of the celibacy notions of earlier sects. And I think women really got knocked down when St Augustine found that celibacy a bit hard (pun not intended) to stick to so blamed women. I’m not sure that’s a particularly Christian thing either.



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  • Alan4discussion,

    Now you are just trying to piddle around with semantics. Everyone in this thread is fully aware of the obvious distinction between social relationships and genetic or biological differences and what we are all talking about.

    Social relationships are not biological , it is the people who are having the social relationships who are biological entities. Social interactions have neither genes or bodies etc.

    If you wish to expand the sense of the term biological to include everything inanimate objects do not do, or wish to expand the term to include everything animate things do do, then all you are in fact doing, apart from attempting to muddle the debate, is granting yourself enough semantic empty space to enable you to make meaningless and senseless pseudo- generalisations such as ” social relationships are biological” which is as useful as saying ” football is biological” or “driving a car is biological etc”

    And I have no conflict with LaurieB’s quote.
    To correctly say people are better or worse at doing specific tasks and subsequently might get rewarded differently has nothing to do with the subject at hand which is inequality , the social, political, legal, economic discrimination against people because of their genetic make up.



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  • Actually Red Dog that is an outdated and not very logical idea. You do not pass on your genes unless your offspring survives to reproduce. Our offspring are helpless for a long period of time. Our childbirth is risky on the extreme and often resulted in maternal death. The woman that risked the serial shagger in the past was literally risking her life or the loss of her potential genes. The man that didn’t stay around was risking losing his contribution to the gene pool. So neither set of genes survive your scenario.

    Our cultures require long periods of learning from both sexes. And lots of input from both sexes. Impregnating a lot of women does not result in quality offspring that survive. It also requires input from both hunters and gatherers. Successful human reproduction is costly for males as well as females.

    The fatal flaw in your argument is that both men and women have evolved love, jealousy, fidelity, pair bonding, companionship,etc. Both men and women do turn down attractive offers of sex when in relationships and do have sex with people freely when not.

    Take the risk of pregnancy and violence out of he equation and sexual behaviours do not differ very much at all. Both men and women choose sexual partners on similar traits depending on whether they want to have a relationship or a fling. For looks for a fling. For brains for reproduction.



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  • Human males love and nurture their young. Human males have to network to hunt successfully.

    Human females have to be strong and compete with others for food for their young. Especially when it’s limited. Nest building alone does not keep a child fed.

    Both sexes are driven to ensure their offspring survive. That involves both in building nests and teaching the young. And both out competing for food. And both in networking to maximise success.

    As for science – it suggests that the most psychologically healthy people are those who can adapt so called gender behaviours to situation rather than adopting fixed roles.

    It suggests that males select mates for intelligence rather than looks because that maximises survival.

    And you seem to be the one taking issue with this particular piece of science!!



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  • Political correctness is institutionalised politeness and respect for others. As far as I can see it allows so,done to criticise my opinions but not what I am. That is only right.



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  • Melvin under what conditions are you assuming we evolved? Most of our 150,000 years on the earth as modern humans is likely to have been in small hunter gatherer groups. Agriculture is only about 10,000 years old.

    Prior to the introduction of agriculture we seemed to be spending a lot of time on the brink of extinction. So I’d guess a small bunch of survivalists on a prolonged camping trip is exactly what we were.

    And before we were modern humans a guess there were a fair few years when we were also hunter gatherers. And given we’re the only ones of our hominid group to make it I’d guess we were also spending a lot of time on the brink of extinction.

    Have you heard the latest bit of research? Men value intelligence in their partners over everything else. Mainly because it is the best way to ensure the survival of the young.



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  • Dan,

    I think you should go down to Arkansas or Texas if you want to see what sexism looks like.

    haha! That’s funny because I lived in North Africa for three years and they make Arkansas and Texas look like a gender equality heaven on earth! ooops! There goes that word “gender” again.



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  • Your 21 year old niece is going to be a doctor only because feminists in the past fought hard for that right. Nothing is standing in her way because somebody else removed those barriers. People like Laurie B. She clearly as capable as the men that applied otherwise she’d not have gotten not the course.

    And it is, and should be, a continual fight for equality because nobody benefits from inequality and being confined to narrow roles in life. Not women and not men. Equal societies are healthier societies. Men don’t benefit from limiting gender roles either. Look at their suicide rates for example.

    Like Laurie B I tell my daughters that earning enough to support themselves is the most important factor in any happy relationship. And I agree totally that the thing fundamentalists fear more than anything is women getting an education because it’ll give them that right.

    If women have/had economic freedom in hunter gatherer societies than they had equality.

    I dint know where you’ve called me fulminating or why.



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  • 83
    aroundtown says:

    It strikes me as odd that we often miss the very nature of our being, that we are animals having inherent behaviors just like other animals. We are at base level primates so it is no surprise that we band together in social groups in a tribe, troop, or community. When you boil it down to minimal base level the interactions of everyone in a group is centered around resources and the resulting interactions fan out from there really. I am quite sure that early people maintained the same practices that we see today as pertains to wants/needs, and that would concern your ability to convince someone to give you what you want.

    Charles Darwin saw some of this in his speculation/postulation – “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

    As relates to his assessment, Humans evolved a dual edged sword in that our introspective brains can achieve gains beyond the scope of basic need, but it also has a significant requirement for calorie sustenance. Being large individuals we need sufficient resources to maintain our lives and that creates additional pressures in a group. One can achieve needs/desires through all of the time tested methods at hand and some of the basics are generally (sexual – ability to persuade an individual to provide your needs), (physical – strength to take what you want), (tradition – adherence to rules within the group, established by family ties requiring your cooperation), the list goes on and on. These are certainly social behaviors but the base level objective is sustaining life as a group, as is or condition generally.

    To use an analogy – you can put many different colors on a car to dress it up and impress, but at the end to the day it is still just a car. Doesn’t matter if it is criminal or nobel, we see mankind using everything within the two to achieve their wants.



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  • I don’t know where you’ve called me fulminating or why.

    Because I have very, very poor judgment at times. I offer you and everyone who read that my heartfelt apology. I agree (not that you need my agreement) with everything you just said 100 percent.

    And of course we shouldn’t define the roles of others. People should define their own roles. (I heard a feminist author make an excellent point on TV the other day: women may think they are defining themselves, but even our internal decisions and judgments are a product of our environment; real mental freedom requires a lot of introspection, rigorous self-examination. She said it better. I am paraphrasing.)

    I do think, however, that there is a tendency out there to want to somehow obliterate all differences between human beings. This doesn’t apply to you, but I’ve met any number of people who will say that everything is of equal value. There are forms of egalitarianism that have that leveling effect. That can be educationally pernicious and perhaps harmful in other ways.

    I took a course on Melville’s Moby Dick in the 90’s. The professor was a postmodernist. I asked her what she thought of F.O. Mathiessen’s famous essay. She said she didn’t care much for it. I asked her what she thought the novel was about. “Animal cruelty,” she replied. And that interpretation was of “equal value.” (That was a joke. Just making a point.)



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  • I wasn’t saying that I agree with Nietzsche’s comment. Nor am I a libertarian. I just think that egalitarianism can be destructive. There are forms of egalitarianism that have that leveling effect. That can be educationally pernicious and perhaps harmful in other ways.

    Nietzsche was not a maniac, by the way. Yes, he went insane, and yes the Nazis appropriated some of his ideas, but he said a lot, had a great many valuable things to say. That’s a blanket statement.



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  • Uh-oh. 😀

    Anatomy is NOT destiny, but it IS half of it. Does that bother you? Why?

    Einstein’s brain is biologically different than someone else’s. It is unequal to other brains in a literal sense. Will you all just stop being so defensive. It’s not a class thing, or about race…

    or sex (necessarily).



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  • Like Laurie B I tell my daughters that earning enough to support themselves is the most important factor in any happy relationship.

    In Australia there is an enquiry into domestic violence. They have received compelling evidence that economic abuse is a form of violence, subjugating the women to a subordinate level. While different from physical violence, it takes a toll in other psychological areas.

    My own daughter worked on a check out while studying. She said this was a great motivation to study hard and achieve a high standard. She ran nearly straight distinctions over four years of study. She is now independent for life. He has found a wonderful soul mate for a partner so is lucky, but she has the ticket to independence. My wife, back in the early 80’s, just as the power of the women’s movement was starting to filter down into the greater society, decided to study while looking after small children. At school, she was in the D Class and was never encouraged to do anything apart from being a housewife and a mother. Her studies were a tour de force. Straight distinctions. Academic prize. She had no idea she could excel at academic study. Highly respected professional in here field. Very proud or her and my daughter.

    So economic independence is a must. Sets you free for life in the society that we live in.



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  • Steve
    May 25, 2015 at 11:06 am
    Social, political, economic etc inequalities are not inevitiable consequences of biological differences.

    Seeking and absence “inevitable outliers”, does nothing to refute the more usual common place situations.

    Women do not get less pay for doing the same job because of “temperament”, they get less because of gender discrimination.

    It is not a question of seperating out ( from what?) biological and social factorrs, it is not a question of theory. To say there is a distinction between biological difference and social inequality is not a false dichotomy.

    Sorry! But all social interactions are biology regardless of the level of biological interaction – (individual, group, nation, world) – As I said earlier, inanimate objects do not have social interactions or “social inequality”!

    Your point about biological factors being involved in social equality is of course true, that is the very thing that I and others are complaining about!

    To complain about scientific facts is a bit pointless!

    To say as you do that this is ” natural” is simply to say you have no problem with it. It is not ” natural”.

    This is simply confused thinking. I do have a problem with unjustified discrimination, but that does not mean that I do not recognise natural tendencies and natural causes.

    Social, political, economic etc inequalities are not inevitiable consequences of biological differences.

    Very few issues inthe world, are “inevitable”, but many are extremely likely!

    You seem to be further illustrating your failure to recognise wide variations within populations which prevent such conclusions from generalities being valid!



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  • There is natural inequality. We shouldn’t overlook that.

    There shouldn’t be social inequality. But there are incalculable differences between individuals. These differences in intellect, giftedness, etc, have a physiological component. A “society” is an aggregate of individuals. Therefore, if enough individuals within a given society are smarter or better at something (for whatever reasons) you would have a situation where biology was indeed a social reality or phenomenon – to some extent at least. Again, I am just talking about individuals, as opposed to races or classes. I am just trying to present a rational, logical argument: I am just trying to draw a rudimentary distinction between the individual and the society, a distinction that has eluded some of you.

    An egalitarian society keeps inequality at a minimal level

    What precisely does that mean? We should somehow prevent individuals from advancing themselves in that society (based on their superiority at something), and distinguishing themselves as individuals? Should such advancement be inhibited or discouraged? That would be to the detriment of the society.



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  • Steve
    May 25, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Alan4discussion,

    Everyone in this thread is fully aware of the obvious distinction between social relationships and genetic or biological differences and what we are all talking about.

    Psychological Projection is the psychological phenomenon where someone denies some aspect of their behavior or attitudes and assumes instead that others are doing or thinking so. Projection can also extend to philosophy and knowledge. This occurs when a person or small group of people assume that everyone else is working with the same ideas and/or information that they are. A telltale sign of this is when a speaker says that “Everybody knows that...

    Social relationships are not biological ,

    All interactions of living organisms are biological. The biology and neuroscience is complex and not fully understood, but it is nevertheless biology.

    it is the people who are having the social relationships who are biological entities.

    People are biological organisms engaged in biological activity.

    Social interactions have neither genes or bodies etc.

    They are the expressions of genes and the actions of bodies.

    If you wish to expand the sense of the term biological to include everything inanimate objects do not do,

    That is simply a strawman!

    or wish to expand the term to include everything animate things do do,

    There is no need to expand anything! Biological activity of living beings is biological activity, regardless of if you recognise it or not!
    If you wish to dispute this, please give your alternative explanation of social interactions which do not involve biological reactions.

    then all you are in fact doing, apart from attempting to muddle the debate,

    See Psychological Projection above!
    My explanation is quite clear.

    The psychology of human interactions is neuroscience, which is biological electrochemical processes. They cumulatively produce group interactions within populations.



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  • But, although some persons may be better hunters or more skilled artists than others, there is still equal access to status positions for people of the same ability.

    This is a crucial and important point. Equal access is what we need. No discrimination. And we should have the freedom to distinguish ourselves as individuals. A society that keeps its individuals down is as bad as an elite group of individuals keeping a society stratified (which is happening here in the U.S. and elsewhere). I for one have nothing more to say. Had I read what I pasted above and the other posts more thoroughly I wouldn’t have posted my superfluous remarks. Steve, Laurie, all of you: I think we agree, at bottom, about all of this. And if we don’t that is okay: we can agree to disagree. After all, we are not extremists; we are men and women of reason.



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  • Steve
    May 25, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Social and economic equality takes no note of biological differences.

    That sort of “equality” is an ideological notion which does not exist in the populations of the material world.
    Human populations recognise individual talents, differences, inabilities, and disabilities.

    While some hunter gatherer groups show mutual support for their members, regardless of individual diversity, all social groups have some sort of hierarchical structure.



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  • Steve
    May 25, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    To correctly say people are better or worse at doing specific tasks and subsequently might get rewarded differently has nothing to do with the subject at hand which is inequality ,

    You seem fixated on some ideological notion of “inequality/equality”!

    the social, political, legal, economic discrimination against people because of their genetic make up.

    Airlines discriminate against blind people applying for jobs as pilots – The blindness can be a genetic birth defect.
    This has nothing to do with bigoted discrimination, and everything to do with capability.



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  • You seem fixated on some ideological notion of “inequality/equality”!

    Alan, your post cheered me up. I have been laboring—not just on this page but on the site in general—to make the same point. It is hard to do that without offending people. I am also a provocateur, which doesn’t help. But thanks for putting it so succinctly.

    I pasted a quote by Nietzsche last night. (I revere the man but that quote was awful: he said that equal rights were desired by the week and envious).—I quoted him out of frustration.



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  • Dan,

    The uh-oh was because I was posting comments on the fly while trying to get tasks done around here. I may have lost track of who was saying what (including myself!) and I think I ran off the rails and Alan caught me. I need to read back through the whole thread when I have more quiet time and sort it out.



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  • PLEASE disregard some of my earlier posts, Laurie. I was just being a provocateur. If you read through all of the posts (and I don’t know why you would but if you do) you will see that I do redeem myself, or tried to.



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  • So a study has related gender relations to small band size? This is just an observation that there is gender equality and small band size together and that things aren’t exploding or breaking down. But what is this study based on since there have been no pure hunter gatherers in Namibia or Botswana since 1955?



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  • I lived in North Africa.

    You obviously do have a sense of proportion. I wasn’t really addressing you personally, BTW. And I was in a foul mood when I wrote that. (TMI?)

    (You seem like a cool person. Are you a professor or something? You don’t have to answer that if it’s too personal.)



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  • @Alice

    But tell me why you concentrate on women display their bodies men look! Men ALSO display their bodies and looks, women ALSO look.

    Agreed. No reason. Editorial brevity in a forum where anything more that a few paragraphs doesn’t get read.

    That is not a gender difference that’s a product of the evolution of sexual reproduction. But culturally you feel the need to tell me what I already know, straight men like breasts.

    All animals display. All animals look. This comes from evolution. We’re animals.

    On the periphery vision trait, the research I read speculated that a female gatherer was more successful with better periphery vision. It also let her keep track of offspring while remaining productive. The 3D trait of a man allowed for better attack. A kangaroo bounding across the path of a running man who had to calculate where to through the spear. (Short editorial version.)

    From here “Overlay culture and learning” to here, “costly for males but I can’t help thinking that closeness reduces differences.. Do not disagree.

    What I quibble with is some of the wilder speculations and the over emphasising differences at the expense of huge similarities.

    Agree. I cringe when some no neck male tries to draw some long bows based on a bit of work like this article. But I also cringe when a feminist tries to make a case for equality through denial of our evolutionary past. We are intelligent enough to decide how I society should be despite our evolutionary hangovers, structured with equality being a cornerstone. Sadly, not that many homo sapiens have the intellectual discipline to override those evolutionary traits and see this. “I’m bigger and stronger. I rule.” To the barricades….. again.



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  • Political correctness is institutionalised politeness and respect for others. As far as I can see it allows so,done to criticise my opinions but not what I am. That is only right.

    I had trouble comprehending this. Not sure if you’re for or against it. In any case, wouldn’t you want to be able to tell a sexist asshole precisely what you think of him without being called politically “incorrect”? Moreover, respect and politeness should never be requirements. “You must respect me or else.” Come on. I will not respect or be polite to someone whose ideas are detestable. Should I be polite to a goddamned bigot or spit in his f***ing face? The former would be unnatural. And you have the right to criticize someone for what they are. We ARE a sum total of what think, say and do. Our opinions constitute part of what we are. You as a person deeply committed to women’s equality should understand what I’m saying: if everyone throughout our history had been going around being correct nothing would have been accomplished, no changes would have been made.



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  • I believe the early church was a huge leap forward for women.

    My understanding from the likes of Bettany Hughes, that in Anglo Saxon cultures this was not at all the case. My further understanding is that it took a full six hundred years to maximally shackle them, creating exemplary, separated roles.

    I think religions were the first to alight on the genius idea of “safe spaces for women”, that were rather simply licenses for men and male authority.



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  • Successful human reproduction is costly for males as well as females.

    In thriving cultures this is exactly the case. Thriving cultures require heavy investment in offspring.

    Both men and women choose sexual partners on similar traits depending on whether they want to have a relationship or a fling. For looks for a fling. For brains for reproduction.

    In thriving cultures, with adolesence extended into the twenties or the early parenting divorced, this is palpably so.



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  • But I’m not denying our evolutionary past I’m trying to make sense of it. There has been a lot of poor quality research, or more usually research that offers good conclusions then chucks in a sexist comment. From both sides. There is a lot do cultural bias. If I’m honest my argument isn’t so much with the science but the way it’s often reported and interpreted to fit a stereotype!

    The very fact you tell me men look at women is evidence because actually straight people look at the opposite sex and find various traits in them attractive.
    I’ve just read a study suggesting man select women for brains rather than any physical trait. The reporter then had to dig up previous studies that suggested why they liked boobs. Totally irrelevant to the study in question and yet again one sided. Why not state women like men’s bums? Why add that bit at all? What was threatening about that study?

    Then I read another study with the headline what is the point of men. When I read it the conclusion it was actually what is the point of sexual reproduction and separation into sperm and egg, but it started with feminists have long wondered what the point of men was. No they haven’t. They live with men. Love men. Work with men. Give birth to men. I’ve yet to meet a feminist that hates men. Yet another good study with good conclusions spoiled by some idiot looking to promote old stereotypes.

    Liking the opposite sex is purely because our evolutionary past dictated sexual reproduction is better than asexual. That is very ancient evolution. Since then it’s been overlaid with facing all sorts of struggles to survive. So our behaviour is a little bit more complex than liking women’s tits or men’s bottoms. And this study at least attempts to look at the conditions we did most of our evolving



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  • Dan,

    You should not fall in the muddle of equating or conflating social equality with biological difference.

    Those who are fighting to stop “inequalities ” are in fact ” different” e.g gays, women, blacks etc.. They to not seek to abolish difference, in fact they celebrate it and merely ask to be treated equally.



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  • Alan4discussion,

    Ok, to clarify.

    I mistakingly thought it was fairly clear my use of the term “difference” applied to the biological sphere and my use of the terms ” equality, inequality” applied to the social sphere.

    Replace my mention of “inequality” with social, cultural, legal, economic etc ” discrimination”,

    Replace any mention of ” biological” with reference to the particular genomes ( those of women or blacks etc) being discriminated against.

    And to think that it is wrong that people should be discriminated against merely because of their genome is not a “fixation ” on equality.

    If I wanted to continue your attempt to muddle the argument by your confusing and conflating different conceptual levels of explanation….

    “Social relationships are biological, the expressions of genes.
    The psychology of human interactions is neuroscience, which is biological electrochemical processes. ”

    Why do you stop there and not follow your logic?

    Genes are composed of particles, electrochemical processes are interactions of particles so therefore social relationships are relationships between particles.

    Particles are arrangements of quantum fields, so social relationships are expressions of Quantum fields.

    Try telling the next black person you meet that the social relationships that comprised slavery were just expressions of Quantum fields interacting, or worse still were just biological!



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  • Alice. Try this observation if you get a chance. My wife likes to shop when we travel around the world. (could collecting fridge magnets be considered as Gathering) I don’t. So I’ve spent a lot of time all around the world waiting outside shops. I actually like this because I like to watch the streetscapes move. I try to infer from what I am watching the nature of the interactions of the people on the street.

    I’ve noticed that with a couple, a man will often walk in front of the women. Not all the time, but enough that I noticed. In some cultures, this is a norm. I wonder at times if this might be an evolutionary throw back to a time when a defensive position of a warrior leading the more vulnerable was a survival advantage. No science. I can think of other explanations too… Just and observation. See if you see it on your street.

    I figure every living thing on the planet is the product of evolution. Every chemical reaction in our body ditto. Enzymes. Hormones. Even our emotions are as a result of a chemical molecule bonding with a neuron in a certain way. That’s why the noradrenaline serotonin re-uptake inhibitors are so good with depression. They keep the levels of serotonin high to make you feel better. The above applies to evolutionary behaviour as well. Animals do certain things because their lineage obtained an advantage.

    We are animals. I know we’ve divorced ourselves as a species somewhat from evolution due to our technology, (30,000 years) but there must be residual evolutionary behaviours present even today, that have a basis in evolution. They may not be pronounced. They may not be obvious. But it would be irrational to think that our evolutionary history has been sterilized from our species.

    E.G. The desire to form tribes or cliches for mutual protection is one I ponder. It seems that we like to belong. We like to claim, “I am xxxx” We like to wear club colours, uniforms, tattoos. I hypothesise that this evolutionary tribal drive is behind nationalism and racism. “My tribe, Australia, is better than your tribe” “Those people I can see on the ridge looking down on my valley are “Others” and so are a threat.” Racism. Every war that’s ever been fought. Every soccer supporter. It seems to explain a lot.

    This drive to belong to a group was a brilliant survival strategy for hundreds of thousands of years. Today, it is a curse on the planet. We need to stop fighting. We’ve only got one planet. We are all one tribe. That would be better. But we won’t and can’t.

    Just thinking.



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  • Dan,

    At times we have confused ourselves by not always making it clear in our arguments the difference between social inequalities or discriminations, and biological or genetic differences or aptitudes.



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  • Still short of time, I’ll cut to my conclusions.

    First natural/unnatural. The word has its primary value when defining those new kind of acts that were made possible with the arrival of humans (more or less). Actions that follow from introspection and model making and those instinctive actions deferred in like manner, deserve the term unnatural. This new-in-nature-generator-of-actions term is surely the primary intention. Using “natural” for the habits of a culture is surely problematic. There is a spurious authority given to the habit.

    My thesis is that our capacity for a wide ranging adaptability granted by the likes of a Pre Frontal Cortex of some clout , spindle cells and prodigious infant mirror neurons, would be far less adaptable with high psychological dimorphism. My contention is that the successful “strategy” of adaptability would create a selective pressure to reduce sexual dimorphism and enhance motivated and mutual multi-tasking. I further contend this is part of what happened from about 4 million BCE onwards. Physical dimorphism fell from the Australopithicenes to our current lowish level of 15%.

    The pressure to converge will vanish rapidly before convergence, for reproduction to work, but the bulk of the job of convergence is done once the behavioural bell curves substantially overlap (as is the case) and gender indifferent multitasking is facilitated. I think one of the further outcomes of this is a sexual fluidity unparalleled in other species.



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  • Ideologies are not bad because they are ideologies. Ideologies are like everything else: they vary. Some are useful and advantageous. Some are pernicious. I don’t know what the word ideology means to you.



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  • 112
    Lorenzo says:

    Thank you for this comment, Laurie: it helped me contextualize and consider in a more critical way the reported article… Which I probably read a bit too fast.

    I do find fascinating the substantial social equality in hunter-gatherer societies: because that’s probably what congregation of members of the species in the genus Homo looked like for almost all of the evolutionary history of the genus itself -and are aspects of a society that we are trying to reintroduce in the very different context of continental communities, encompassing millions of individuals.



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  • An ideology is a one size fits all solution on the prowl for problems.

    Always ass backwards. The valid case for its opposite can always be made under certain circumstances.

    Ideology is dogma. Philosophy, likewise, once valuable, is mostly unrooted, untested hypotheses. (The latest batch of evidenced philosophers like the Churchlands and Dan Dennett rehabilitate the discipline rather from its life as mental callisthenics.)

    Celebrate rather successful processes of problem solving. Pragma. Topical evidence and reason.



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  • Alan4discussion I’m not sure it’s Christianity that has pushed monogamy so much as it being the preferred choice of most people! Even it is serial monogamy. Where polygamy exists it often looks like it is forced and kept in place by an element of social or religious coercion. When religion disappears most people still tend towards monogamy.

    Both sexes have evolved emotions like jealousy which is very difficult to explain without monogamy. And both sexes freely enter into exclusive relationships long before they consider religion sanctioned, culturally defined marriage. Long before they consider issues of hereditary or children. That is also difficult to explain without monogamy.

    Those relationships automatically involve an expectation of loyalty and fidelity for their duration, whether that is measured in months or years. and are considered different to shorter term flings or one night stands.

    When partners do stray the language we use is of cheating on a partner or betrayal of trust. The guilt felt is because of the notion of betrayal and hurting someone else. Religion with its weird emphasis on sex as a sin would suggest the guilt should come from the sex not the betrayal.

    And in the total absence of religion people still choose to marry. My husband is an atheist. He wanted to be married far more than I did, yet I carried all the religious baggage. Our children who’ve had no religious programming expect their boyfriends to be faithful to them and vice versa.

    In my leftish past I recall the notion of open relationships being pushed. I only knew one couple that chose it and it looked like one of them was just having her cake and eating it whilst he was the object of our sympathy.

    Richard Dawkins is married. Nobody can say that was a religiously motivated decision. It was the human emotion of love – simples.



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  • An ideology is an argument in the absence of evidence. Create the ideology first. Then try and shoe horn it onto the world. Communism is a classic. Fascism. Capitalism. All tell you what to think and what to do, BEFORE, the question arises. I prefer no ideology. I would think it more rational to take each decision as it comes, on the merits of the available evidence. If you belong to an ideology, you can’t change your mind, even if the evidence changes. If you belong to some ideologies, you would be shot if you did. You are locked it. It’s all be predetermined by the author of the ideology.



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  • That’s interesting Phil Rimmer. And that’s certainly true of the later Christian churches post Nicea. But I’m not so sure how true it was of the early Christian church as opposed before it became formalised.

    There have been a couple of interesting programmes on sex and Christianity and women in Christianity. Both suggest that it started off as far more equitable than what preceded it. But like all religion, it evolved and took on some of the earlier ideas, including the celibacy one.



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  • The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.

    This is Revelations 17:4. I’ve read scholarly articles on this and the interpretation I favour is that at this time in the very early Christian church, a women was claiming priesthood. To wear “Scarlet and Purple”, and have a “Golden cup in hand” indicates a priest. The faction writing this verse are likely to be the descendants of the Jesus Essene faction, who were big on celibacy and Men rule the roost. Hence the references to “Abominable things and the filth of her adulteries” Nothing like a bit of media spin. They ended up the winners at the Council of Nicea.

    It would have been a wonderful world if the faction supporting the Women in Scarlet had prevailed. We might have had a Pope Alice the 7th by now.



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  • It strikes me as odd that we often miss the very nature of our being, that we are animals having inherent behaviors just like other animals.

    I think it is more than this. It took until the early second half of the twentieth century until our “special postion” as humans was properly brought into check by the likes of Desmond Morris and “The Naked Ape” and genetics based (and still nascent) Evo-Psychologists. I think that has been with us for quite a few decades now, though I can imagine less voiced in places like the US. For me though there is a third wave of understanding that may yet re-assert, at least, a differentiated position for us and perhaps drag trailing along a few species into the bargain. Cultural Evolutionism, once the elements to create a fully formal hypothesis-generating science of it and some suitable analytical tools and to identify how it is developed, transfered and sustained in brains, will complete (for the time being) the means of fully studying Sapiens.

    (These two terms (Evo-Psych and Cultural Evolution) are used widely to mean different things and the same. I intend the former to concern vertical genetic transmissions and the latter lateral and vertical via non-genetic transmissions.)



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  • Steve
    May 26, 2015 at 4:52 am

    Alan4discussion,

    Ok, to clarify.

    I mistakingly thought it was fairly clear my use of the term “difference” applied to the biological sphere and my use of the terms ” equality, inequality” applied to the social sphere.

    You do not seem to have grasped that the social sphere is a biological sphere at a group or ecological level.
    All life is within “the biological sphere”!
    The study of it operates at different levels within that sphere, in a range from mechanisms in individual viruses and cells – right through to planet-wide ecosystems.

    Replace my mention of “inequality” with social, cultural, legal, economic etc ” discrimination”,

    I have already made the point, that bigoted discrimination should not be confused with recognition of individual or cultural aptitudes, talents, or disabilities.

    Replace any mention of ” biological” with reference to the particular genomes ( those of women or blacks etc) being discriminated against.

    The error you are making is the fixation on the individual when biological activities also encompass groups.

    Richard Dawkins has made the point in various books, that evolution adjusts levels of altruism/selfishness in competing populations.
    There are all “in-groups” and “out-groups” in cultures, religions and other memes, which are built into evolved psychology.

    And to think that it is wrong that people should be discriminated against merely because of their genome is not a “fixation ” on equality.

    Such bigotry is wrong in a civilised society, IF that is the only basis for discrimination, . . . . . . but that does not justify the fixation on ignoring or denying all the other biological factors, or the need to discriminate in selecting and matching talents, aptitudes, and temperaments, to individual jobs.
    It is well known that some will misuse the “politically correct” racist, religious discrimination, or gender card”, when they are out competed for some placement they seek in modern complex societies.

    Particles are arrangements of quantum fields, so social relationships are expressions of Quantum fields.

    It may well turn out that the chemistry and electrical impulses in neuro-transmitters are influenced by quantum fields, but it is a big leap of credulity, to suggest that individual electrons etc. in individual neurons, have a probability of having a significant influence on social decisions in population dynamics.

    You are still arguing remote outliers and inappropriate levels of observation, against the general properties of groups at operational levels.



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  • @OP In work conducted over two years, researchers from the Hunter-Gatherer Resilience Project in UCL Anthropology lived among populations of hunter-gatherers in Congo and the Philippines.

    The obvious difference from modern monetarist societies, is that hunter-gatherers engaged in production, are either the same people, or in close contact with the consumers of the results of those efforts.
    As such they need to preserve teamwork, cooperation, and close relationships with each other.
    In such circumstances, reciprocal altruism is the order of the day, with rapid feed-back in response to benefits or failures. The input from individuals is recognised and valued.



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  • 121
    aroundtown says:

    I love your postulations and style Phil. Much appreciated that you tear at the fabric to expose the core of the object. I wonder this? – will modern man 100 years from now see us as primitive, lacking in our disposition relative to the greater truths we should have attained? I would like to think we will be given some measure of latitude considering the parameters of our sphere we inherited, but I am prone to think we will be judged somewhat harshly. What do you think of that proposition?



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  • 122
    aroundtown says:

    Just a disclaimer/clarifier. I wouldn’t want you to consider my inquiry as facetious or snide. I try to grow at any opportunity and your input pushes me to question my basic premises. Wanted to make that clear before I exited for the day. I completely understand an ignorable stance on your part regarding a question you might deem unworthy of comment. Just wanted to be clear on that point. Thanks Phil.



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  • Dan
    May 25, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    You seem fixated on some ideological notion of “inequality/equality”!

    Alan, your post cheered me up. I have been laboring—not just on this page but on the site in general—to make the same point. It is hard to do that without offending people. I am also a provocateur, which doesn’t help. But thanks for putting it so succinctly.

    One of the problems for legislators, in combating bigoted discrimination, is the potential for “politically correct” misuse by people (and their associates), disappointed with their perceptions about their lack of success in competitive situations, because of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

    The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude. Conversely, highly skilled individuals tend to underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect



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  • Alan Steve,

    I don’t believe that though culture is a product of biology,( it is part of our genes’ extended phenotype), that biology has at all many of the right tools to analyse and understand it.

    Dawkins is right to identify the root of eusociality in kin selection and though he offers a few little hints about its extrapolation and dangled the carrot of memes, there is no real substance as yet to the workings of those heuristics we actually use in our everyday and highly sophisticated eusociality. Nor is it biology that will furnish most of the tools in understanding it. Just as QE stands in too remote a place, so too might biology. (Incidentally I read of a great tribe in western (just) sub-Saharan Africa that survived whilst being pathologically mistrustful of each other. Misanthropy is sustainable as a model….We knew from religion that at least half that worked for the 15% bigger half.)

    I read, also, an excellent paper about evolving to evolve (and mutation rates in RNA, my best guess as an analog for cultural evolution). The mathematics modeling in this was fascinating showing how mutation rates (super critical for survival) could respond to changing kinds of threat environment (they evolved to be able to evolve better). Also how complex associations with virus like entities stabilised the otherwise unstable poorly copied memes, I mean RNA. Symbionts like memplexes were predicted.

    Firmwiring kids (from cultural and environmental inputs) as an evolved output to more responsively evolve, really does suggest a discipline discontinuity from biology is reasonable.

    It is neither biology nor sociology (which has even fewer analytical tools of any pertinence) but a new third discipline we need to make to understand this. I also believe mathematicians will do well out of it.



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  • I love reading about thinkers and scientists and artists in history. I am only ever gobsmacked at their achievements and their degree of insight into problems. People who know will not judge us harshly if we simply stick to evidence and reason and retain our passion for finding problems and finding the right questions…and perservering.

    facetious

    Never. Good questions all.



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  • The quantum fields bit was a joke, to illustrate that confusing and conflating different conceptual explanatory levels leads to explanatory meaningless and useless propositions .

    It is not a wrong generalisation to say that social relations are part of the “biological sphere”, so is playing Cricket, but to say that the social relationships which comprised, say, slavery are “biological” is a useless proposition in trying to understand and comprehend how slavery arose and operated..

    And yet againto protest against discrimination based on genetic makeup is not to deny genetic differences or differences in aptitudes caused by these differences. ( as I repeated numerous times in a previous post , obviously I did not repeat it enough times so again, genetic differences can obvious result in different capabilities. I have no idea why you think I am denying this commonplace or that I am saying ridiculous things like job selection should not be based on a person’s aptitude for the job.

    Perhaps as a ethnic and ex-colonised minority I approach these matters from a different perspective. Next time my grandaughter comes crying home from school because bullies have been calling her a “chink” i will reassure her that that it is fine because it is all part of the biological sphere, and all they are doing is expressing their genes through neurological activity resulting in group bilogical action.. I am sure such an explanation of the social behaviour and relationships of racism will do much to reassure her. If she is still upset I will tell her is is suffering from Dunning-Kruger.



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  • Its not an out dated idea for biologists or people trying to do actual science in the social sciences. It is a simple fact, a man, and actually this really applies to virtually all male mammals can maximize his reproductive success by procreating with as many females as possible. Its why male predators (some species of Bears, Lions, Tigers) often kill the children of their mates if those mates had children from a previous male.

    It is actually a core concept behind a lot of successful work in that field. I suggest you read up on Robert Trivers or for a less technical overview read Steven Pinker. When you talk about things like “our culture” you are venturing beyond the point I was trying to make. I’m talking about what our genes predispose us to do. In no sense do I imply that that is moral or what our current society should encourage. Actually, you might want to try reading The Selfish Gene as a starting point — sigh why is it that so often I have to suggest to people on the Richard Dawkins site that they read The Selfish Gene — anyway you should read that because Dawkins makes the same point very explicitly: our genes predispose us to do certain behaviors, that in no sense mean those behaviors are inevitable, moral, or can’t be over ridden by cultural norms or the morality of an individual.



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  • The fatal flaw in your argument is that both men and women have evolved love, jealousy, fidelity, pair bonding, companionship,etc. Both men and women do turn down attractive offers of sex when in relationships and do have sex with people freely when not.

    That isn’t a “flaw in my argument” at all. It is completely consistent with the point I have been making from the start: our genes are not us and we can rise above the behaviors that we would engage in if we were totally driven by our genes. I mean there are much simpler examples of that, for once I’m going to reference Sam Harris and not to laugh at him, he made the point in his book the Moral Landscape that if modern men were strictly adhering to maximize our reproductive success we would all spend as much time as possible donating to sperm banks and we would never wear condoms or have sex just for pleasure.



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  • When you talk about things like “our culture” you are venturing beyond the point I was trying to make.

    But I think we now have to to see Trivers in a context of culture.

    Your point about Trivers is well taken and one of the key takeaways for me in 1976 when I got my first copy of The Selfish Gene sporting its Desmond Morris painting. But maximising genetic heritage for an alpha male may be best achieved, in an energy poor culture, through the creation of a robust dynasty comprising extended family, which within the confines and strictures of a culture may favour a more monogamous approach with its ability to retain wealth/energy than a scattershot er seeding amongst “lower born” women. This is a good ploy for women also, and given the notable fact that only humans allow non-kin to bring up family, we can see a strategy that can play forward into thriving communities, energy rich, where every man and woman can adopted the winning strategy of “dynasty founding” with extended families.

    Robust dynasties can multyply up quite quickly. Low born scatter shot has high risk and is I contend potentially second best.



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  • Phil

    My old philosophy tutor, who had studied with Wittgenstein ( whether this is good or bad I leave to you), always reminded us that any explanation was itself also in need of an explanation in a infinite regress and that the only criteria for stopping explaining explanations was when one reached an explanation which gave one a “warm” feeling of satisfaction, consequently he concluded the most eloquent and succinct explanation was a simple description of the facts.



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  • Steve
    May 26, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Perhaps as a ethnic and ex-colonised minority I approach these matters from a different perspective. Next time my grandaughter comes crying home from school because bullies have been calling her a “chink” i will reassure her that that it is fine because it is all part of the biological sphere, and all they are doing is expressing their genes through neurological activity resulting in group bilogical action.. I am sure such an explanation of the social behaviour and relationships of racism will do much to reassure her.

    You are once again, confusing moral judgements with biological mechanisms. Explaining the mechanism is not endorsing the actions.



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  • he concluded the most eloquent and succinct explanation was a simple description of the facts.

    The trouble is hypotheses aren’t blessed with too many of those at the start.

    I’ll gladly translate. I get over compact at times. I worry about teaching grandmothers to suck eggs……erm?



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  • Alan4: **The obvious difference from modern monetarist societies, is that hunter-gatherers engaged in production, are either the same people, or in close contact with the consumers of the results of those efforts.
    As such they need to preserve teamwork, cooperation, and close relationships with each other.
    In such circumstances, reciprocal altruism is the order of the day, with rapid feed-back in response to benefits or failures. The input from individuals is recognised and valued.****

    Spot on. This commonsense observation exposes the ideological pretense of the title as grandiose and gratuitous: “SEX EQUALITY IN RESIDENTIAL DECISION-MAKING EXPLAINS THE UNIQUE SOCIAL STRUCTURE OF HUNTER-GATHERERS, A NEW UCL STUDY REVEALS”
    No. All we’re observing is the first iterations of cooperative human societies spending their days gathering food and feeding themselves -the human animal gathering edible plants berries, fruits, roots and sometimes killing animals for protein. Take away, the cognitive complexity specific to Homo sapiens expressed in small group social organization and flexible divisions of labor to achieve subsistence with a few simple tools in a natural environment, and all that remains is another animal foraging in the forest or on the savanna.



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  • To say racism is a biological mechanism is not explaining racism anymore than saying playing cricket is a biological activity explains anything about cricket other than the obvious fact both are human activities.

    As I keep repeating it is not the fact that the statements are untrue but that they are piss useless in explaining either racism or cricket..



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  • Actually my grandmother was very fond of crocodile eggs, whose slightly larger size and denser consistancy makes , I imagine, them more difficult to suck. Strangely they do not have a yolk .

    And yes for conservationists out there we did used to steal them fron wild crocodile nests, our equivalent of scrumping . Nowadays they are produced commercially in crocodile farms.



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  • Steve
    May 26, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    To say racism is a biological mechanism is not explaining racism

    It is a manifestation of evolved tribalism which is exhibited in animal as well as human populations!

    anymore than saying playing cricket is a biological activity explains anything about cricket other than the obvious fact both are human activities.

    Biology explains a great deal about cricket!
    Like many sports or games, the teams are psychological proxies for competing tribes or tribal wars, with individuals seeking acclamation for personal prowess or tactics and strategies!
    Like football (hooligans), followers sometimes revert to more open forms of inter-tribal warfare!

    As I keep repeating it is not the fact that the statements are untrue but that they are piss useless in explaining either racism or cricket..

    Your lack of understanding, or personal incredulity, does nothing to invalidate the socio/biological explanations.
    “It’s untrue because I can’t understand it”, is not a rational argument.

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/61709-sports-fan-psychology-its-more-than-just-a-game
    Sports allow fans to escape their normal daily life, as well as social inhibitions and express themselves freely by cheering from their teams/athletes, as well as lashing out at rivals.

    .One theory traces the roots of fan psychology to a primitive time when human beings lived in small tribes, and warriors fighting to protect tribes were true genetic representatives of their people, psychologists claim.

    In a modern society, athletes play a similar role for a city in the stylized war on a playing field—as the theory goes. The athlete’s exploits helps reconnect the fans with those intense emotions that tribal warfare did for their ancestors, which the modern society codes and conduct doesn’t allow them.



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  • Actually the title of the paper is not….

    “SEX EQUALITY IN RESIDENTIAL DECISION-MAKING EXPLAINS THE UNIQUE SOCIAL STRUCTURE OF HUNTER-GATHERERS, ”

    That is probably the work of a sub- editor on the newspaper.

    The actual title of the paper was the somewhat more tentative….

    “Sex equality can explain the unique social structure of hunter- gatherers bands”

    Note the use of “can”, and within the abstract the usages of “may” and “possibly” to indicate they are presenting a hypothesis, not stating a fact or making a ideological rant.

    To further clarify what the study was actually presenting, rather that what you seem to think it was doing why not actually read what they say they were doing. From their abstract……

    “Evolutionary theory stresses the importance of living with kin, not least because they share some of our genes. Nevertheless, a large-scale assessment of contemporary hunter-gatherer societies has established a consistent pattern of unrelated individuals living together. Dyble et al. used a modeling approach to suggest that a possible answer to this conundrum is that cohabitation choices are being governed equally by men and women.

    The social organization of mobile hunter-gatherers has several derived features, including low within-camp relatedness and fluid meta-groups. Although these features have been proposed to have provided the selective context for the evolution of human hypercooperation and cumulative culture, how such a distinctive social system may have emerged remains unclear. We present an agent-based model suggesting that, even if all individuals in a community seek to live with as many kin as possible, within-camp relatedness is reduced if men and women have equal influence in selecting camp members. Our model closely approximates observed patterns of co-residence among Agta and Mbendjele BaYaka hunter-gatherers. Our results suggest that pair-bonding and increased sex egalitarianism in human evolutionary history may have had a transformative effect on human social organization.”

    Yep, obviously the people writing this paper were just having a gratuitous ideological rant!



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  • David R Allen the reply buttons seem to have run out so I hope this ends up somewhere relevant to your last comment.

    I don’t disagree with us being the product of evolution! There are very obvious behaviours that would be fine in small hunter gatherer groups that are odd today. Stress response for example, excellent for running from predators, unhealthy when worrying about balancing the books. What I’m trying to understand is how evolution has shaped sex differences and similarities and have failed to be impressed with what I’ve seen so far. Can you explain and weed out what important from the following?

    Our behaviour is largely governed by our brain with some inputs from our endocrine system. Our brain is a mess of new parts evolving on top of of old. Evolution doesn’t recreate from scratch it has to make do and amend whats here. So in terms of something complex like relationships and roles in society in a species with an over evolved brain you will have contributions from lots of layers.

    There’s going to be the fossils of the very reptilian drive to have sex cos you’re only going to dig a hole, dump offspring in hole and walk away. Cost of reproduction cheap. Only problem is finding something that is obviously the same species and obviously the opposite sex. Requires some physical differentiation or might waste precious wooing time in your narrow ovulation window.

    Move on a few million years and you have to add on emotions and maternal instinct to care for young briefly. Problem is to select male mate that will provide best genes as reproduction becomes more costly to female. As becomes more costly to female it becomes more costly to male who has to up the ante to compete. Again require differentiation.

    Move on a few more million years and you face a challenge to survive in a rapidly changing environment but you’ve started to evolve down the expensive big brain route and there is no way back so evolve the ability to rely on learning more and instinct less. But that involves helpless infants needing more intensive care for far longer. Involves increasingly complex language and social learning. Needs a brain with greater plasticity. Starts to require input from both parents. Becomes costly to males as well as females.

    So evolve more complex emotions that favour pair bonding to cope with living together and ensure fidelity. Evolve concealed ovulation possibly to keep male and female together and attached even when mating is futile. Evolve hormonal responses to sex that increase emotional attachment such as the release of oxytocin to prevent straying. Start to face challenges together and cooperate and be companions as well as just sexual partners. Differences in roles evolve for efficiency, but also similarities to allow living together comfortably.

    So what I want to know is why so much emphasis on how we differ and so little on how we don’t. Because a hell of a lot of science suggest the similarities are very important. We select mates of similar IQs, educational levels, backgrounds, opinions and so on. How much of that is explained by a more cooperative past? How much by simple tribal behaviour?



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  • I’d be interested to know where you noticed the tendency for females to walk behind because I’ve noticed it but only in very specific groups.

    To my knowledge it is from cultures where the male is considered superior and the female walks behind to acknowledge that. In the UK I’ve noticed it in elderly immigrants from India and Pakistan but not in the younger generations who’d be their children. I’ve also seen it in London with wealthy immigrants whose attire suggests they’re from the Middle East. But I’ve never noticed it in elderly Brits/Europeans who tend to toddle along together where they can. So I think that might be a cultural thing from unequal societies rather than an evolved trait.

    Now you’ve mentioned it I might look out for it in groups from other more sexist countries. We have an influx of rich Russians around, I’d be interested in seeing if it happens with them.



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  • Actually the title of the paper is not….
    “SEX EQUALITY IN RESIDENTIAL DECISION-MAKING EXPLAINS THE UNIQUE SOCIAL STRUCTURE OF HUNTER-GATHERERS, ”
    That is probably the work of a sub- editor on the newspaper.
    The actual title of the paper was the somewhat more tentative….
    “Sex equality can explain the unique social structure of hunter- gatherers bands”

    It is the editor’s job to state the title of the paper verbatim or to state the title in terms of equivalent meaning satisfactory to the authors. The reader can only read the bold face type to mean what it says. If the authors feel their “actual’ conclusions have been misrepresented they should insist on a disclaimer.

    Yes, the researchers are exploring a hypothesis and making educated speculations: The social organization of mobile hunter-gatherers has several derived features, including low within-camp relatedness and fluid meta-groups. Although these features have been proposed to have provided the selective context for the evolution of human hypercooperation and cumulative culture, how such a distinctive social system may have emerged remains unclear. “Remains unclear” is the reason we’re having a discussion by approaching the limited evidence from diverse points of view.

    From my view, hunter-gatherer groups had to form communal organizations that worked cooperatively to gather food and distribute it from common receptacles. The claim that men and women cooperated to make decisions about kinship and non-kinship camp composition is not remarkable. The authors point out that not everyone could work with a parent, child, a brother or sister, an aunt or uncle without the small band disintegrating. The motivation was to organize small parties to maximize foraging yields. Divisions of labor had to be kept to a minimum and flexible so that nearly everyone, men and women alike, kin or not, could focus on the single vital task of bringing home the feed bag.

    Ideological distortion emerges when the authors use neologisms like “sex egalitarianism” with contemporary connotations of respect for the rights and dignity of women as equals within a feminist frame of reference. Among many questions the article failed to address was that of conflict resolution in hunter-gatherer societies. How frequently did men physically (or sexually) abuse women? Did men psychologically intimidate and control women with the explicit or implicit threat of violence? Or was the ethic of “sex egalitarianism” so deeply internalized by these noble savages that knocking the little lady around a bit never crossed their minds?



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  • Alan4discussion,

    “It is a manifestation of evolved tribalism which is exhibited in animal as well as human populations! ”

    A tribe is a unit of social organisation and as such is a sociological and political term and grouping not a biological term or grouping. ( unless of course you wish to deem every term referring to living organisms and their activities as biological and wish to subsume history and all the social sciences into biology).

    I have no idea what you mean by evolved tribalism ( as distinct from ” unevolved” tribalism?) unless you are referring to the modern pop cultural usage of the term to refer , not to ethnically distinct social groups, but to cultural groupings or conformity to specific cultural (ab) norms e.g ” tribal football supporters” or “tribal motor bike gangs”. This is an extension in the meaning of the term “tribal”, not the evolution of an biological entity or agent called “tribalism”

    Again my granddaughter will be greatly illuminated by my explaining to her racism is ” evolved tribalism”

    “”””Biology explains a great deal about cricket!
    Like many sports or games, the teams are psychological proxies for competing tribes or tribal wars, with individuals seeking acclamation for personal prowess or tactics and strategies!”””””

    If you have no knowledge of cricket whatsoever your explanation gives one no idea or conception of what a game of cricket actually involves, how it is played or what it consists of . Similarly saying racism is ” evolved tribalism” or is a ” expression of genes through neurological activity or whatever” explains and tells us diddly squat about what racism actually is about.

    Plus your statement is a pop psychology generalisation about the nature of sport, not a genuine scientific biological proposition ( unless ……every term is biological)

    “”””It’s untrue because I can’t understand it”, is not a rational argument.””””

    Hmmm, to repeat yet again for the umpteenth umpteenth time ,I was not saying anything was untrue or that I cannot understand it . I am saying they are of little or no explanatory value. Perhaps now is the time to accuse me of suffering from Dunning-Kruger!

    The rest of your post is just second hand pop psychological as regurgitated in a newspaper article. Not valid scientific biological statements or propositions.

    And by the way most tribes ,although certainly not pacifists , have lived more or less in harmony with each other, with exogamy the common practice and complex social protocols, such as gift giving , being in place to maintain harmony.

    The idea of tribal society as being primarily savage and warlike, or its continual derogatory use as a metaphor for hooliganism or unthinking violence, is nothing but another fine and shining example of Western cultural imperialism and racism,



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  • If you’re trying to do science Red Dog you need to look a bit more closely at how you actually pass your genes on. And explain why we actually choose to pair bond and have significant evolved emotions and responses to favour that pair bonding.

    To maximise passing on your genes your offspring have to survive. Simple basic fact of life. Maximising impregnation does not maximise surviving offspring.

    If you impregnate 100 women but do not input into the survival of the resulting progeny all you’ve got is 100 embryos awaiting a risky birth in a harsh environment that will require more care than one person can give and long periods of learning to not only successfully survive to adult but attract a mate and breed themselves.

    Moreover the female that has risked pregnancy with you and all that entailed in our dangerous past is not going to have been the brightest of the bunch and therefore is less likely to provide for your child alone.

    Sam Harris is missing several points. Firstly that women play a significant part in reproduction. So you can contribute to as many sperm banks as you like but reproductive success require women to want that sperm.

    Secondly that impregnation is the easiest part of human reproduction. Young that live long enough to reproduce requires more than sperm donation.

    Thirdly it’s evolution that has made a huge effort to favour pair bonding rather than impregnating lots of individuals. Not cultural choice. Evolution is the arbiter of what maximises reproductive success not Sam Harris. Evolution has given us concealed ovulation that keeps couples together even when mating is futile thru to the release of the bonding hormone oxytocin during sex thru to evolved emotional responses in both sexes like jealousy and string emotional attachments. They would not have evolved if impregnating as many women as possible were a better reproductive strategy.



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  • 144
    aroundtown says:

    Thanks Phil,

    People who know will not judge us harshly if we simply stick to evidence and reason and retain our passion for finding problems and finding the right questions…and perservering.

    Here I am on a reason and science web-site and I missed the most obvious answer to my question – reasonable men and women in an age to come would hold no prejudice to those who came before them, just as we hold no grudge against scientists of a bygone age and judge the work but not the man. How could I miss that?

    I feel a little ignorant for not catching it, but I appreciate your helping me out once again. The only stupid question is the one that is never asked, that will have to be my comfort. I was right in my presumption that you would push me on my basic premises though.

    I guess if I am hoping for anything in a new age it would be the expansion of reasonable proposition and science generally. The dividend is obvious to me now. Thanks



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  • So what I want to know is why so much emphasis on how we differ and so little on how we don’t. Because a hell of a lot of science suggest the similarities are very important. We select mates of similar IQs, educational levels, backgrounds, opinions and so on. How much of that is explained by a more cooperative past? How much by simple tribal behaviour?

    Excellent summary post. I can’t answer your questions. I guess social agendas for those who focus on differences between the sexes. Social agendas on lots of issues are prone to being selective in what they quote. How much each input, “cooperative past” / ‘tribal behaviour” and I would throw in pure biology has an effect I don’t know. I would suspect that each and all have an effect, but what percentage may vary from individual to individual or from tribe / culture. We have a tendency to seek “The One Answer” to questions. I don’t think there will be one answer on this one. We are a million year old jigsaw of ill fitting pieces. Evolution is not a precise engineer. Sorry.



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  • Alice
    May 26, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    They would not have evolved if impregnating as many women as possible were a better reproductive strategy.

    That kind of depends on the circumstances!

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/08/1-in-200-men-direct-descendants-of-genghis-khan/#.VWT1zlJHpVk
    In more quantitative terms, ~10% of the men who reside within the borders of the Mongol Empire as it was at the death of Genghis Khan may carry his Y chromosome, and so ~0.5% of men in the world, about 16 million individuals alive today, do so. Since 2003 there have been other cases of “super-Y” lineages. For example the Manchu lineage and the Uí Néill lineage.



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  • Melvin,

    The concept of sexual egalitarianism is neither a modern concept nor is it a concept which is the property of strident feminists .

    The actual wording again is in common usage and is not the property of strident feminists.

    If you do not want scientists to use modern linguistic terms then how far back in time does this prohibition in time go before a term is acceptable? Should they still be writing in latin?

    The paper, , like all scientific papers, was a focussed study on a specific topic. To complain that it did not study other matters such as conflict resolution is like going to a football match and complaining they are not playing cricket.

    And pray tell what is wrong with ” respect for the rights and dignity of women as equals”?

    BTW,

    I grew up in what you would call a tribal society, my grandfathers ( hunters) being fishermen with my grandmothers ( gatherers) tending small gardens and gathering fruit etc from the surrounding forest.

    Does this make me a noble savage? Should I send my photo to your National Geographic?



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  • Reproduction is not sex .

    The majority of human sex throughout history has been for pleasure not for intentional reproduction.

    The wish or urge to have children is also ” instinctive” but it is not the same as the urge for sex. They are of course closely related and intertwined.

    Genghis Khan and others used sex and consequent reproduction as a tool and exhibition of social dominance.



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  • My reference to “noble savage” was a reference to the “myth of the noble savage” put forward by the French philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau, in the 18th century.: (Quote) Men in a state of nature do not know good and evil, but their independence, along with “the peacefulness of their passions, and their ignorance of vice”, keep them from doing ill The meme still wields abiding appeal to the modern imagination. All humans are descendants of members of hunter-gatherer societies, you and me alike.

    We attribute virtues to people living in some mythic state of nature in an Edenic past that never existed. The hunter-gatherer societies that emerged throughout our evolutionary history were grim, brutal niches of Homo sapiens struggling on the edge of starvation and extinction.

    The first known use of “egalitarian” was in 1885. “Equality” was a principle of the French revolution about 225 years ago. Concern for the “rights and dignity of women” framed by Mary Wollstonecraft date from the late 18th century. Suffragettes achieved the right to vote in the U.S. 95 years ago. The modern feminist movement has its roots in the mid-sixties about 50 years ago. I stand by my claim that “Sex egalitarianism” is a modern term especially heavy with the conceptual baggage of the current women’s rights movement, long overdue but certainly off the radar screen of human consciousness even in the recent historical past.

    In my view, the authors are poisoning the well with ideological implications in support of progressive agendas, however currently justified, which do not belong to social organization in our evolutionary past. My interest in “conflict resolution” in hunter-gatherer societies, specifically between men and women, seeks a true picture of how “sex egalitarianism” was violated by male abuse, domination and oppression outside the indisputable process of some decision-making cooperation.

    I welcome your response but I have to leave the conversation here. Regards.



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  • Alan4discission you’re referring to a specific set of circumstances where one male is imposing his will on a group of women. So you are specifically describing a situation of rape and control by one powerful male with the resources to keep a lot of offspring alve.

    Harems and sex slavery do exist as does rape as a war crime and we have the modern day Genghis Khans in IS to prove it. But it doesn’t explain some of the very specific things we’ve evolved that suggest that behaviour is fairly aberant. Nor does it explain behaviour in times of stability.



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  • Steve
    May 26, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Alan4discussion,

    “It is a manifestation of evolved tribalism which is exhibited in animal as well as human populations!

    A tribe is a unit of social organisation and as such is a sociological and political term and grouping not a biological term or grouping.

    The two, as I explained earlier, are not mutually exclusive!

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/evolution-explains-why-politics-tribal/

    I have no idea what you mean by evolved tribalism (as distinct from ” unevolved” tribalism?)

    There is no such thing as ”unevolved” tribalism.

    unless you are referring to the modern pop cultural usage of the term to refer , not to ethnically distinct social groups, but to cultural groupings or conformity to specific cultural (ab) norms e.g ” tribal football supporters” or “tribal motor bike gangs”. This is an extension in the meaning of the term “tribal”,

    There are both genetically transmitted inherited trends, and memetically transmitted trends. Both are evolved socio-biological features.

    not the evolution of an biological entity or agent called “tribalism”

    Asserted denial of science is evidence of nothing!

    I am saying they are of little or no explanatory value.

    Clearly you have neither read, nor understood, the published science on the subject.

    Perhaps now is the time to accuse me of suffering from Dunning-Kruger!

    You do seem to be confidently denying scientific evidence which you do not understand.

    The rest of your post is just second hand pop psychological as regurgitated in a newspaper article.

    . . . . .. In your insufficiently humble opinion.
    My earlier link gives a simple explanation of well evidence research, available to those who study more complex documents.

    https://static1.squarespace.com/static/54238bf2e4b068090a9b54bb/t/543424cce4b0e4aae11b316b/1412703436362/Cikara+%2526+VanBavel%252C+2014+-+PopS.pdf
    Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA; and
    2 Department of Psychology, New York University

    Abstract
    We review emerging research on the psychological and biological factors that underlie social group formation, cooperation, and conflict in humans. Our aim is to integrate the intergroup neuroscience literature with classic theories of group processes and intergroup relations in an effort to move beyond merely describing the effects of specific social out-groups on the brain and behavior. Instead, we emphasize the underlying psychological processes that govern intergroup interactions more generally: forming and updating our representations of “us” and “them” via social identification and functional relations between groups. This approach highlights the dynamic nature of social identity and the context-dependent nature of intergroup relations. We argue that this theoretical integration can help reconcile seemingly discrepant findings in the literature, provide organizational principles for understanding the core elements of intergroup dynamics, and highlight several exciting directions for future research at the interface of intergroup relations and neuroscience.

    Not valid scientific biological statements or propositions.

    In the mistaken unevidenced assertions, of those who have not studied the available scientific reports.



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  • Alice
    May 24, 2015 at 4:35 am

    I wonder would you have said the same thing if the study had shown men took the lead and made the decisions? This is one of the few studies that looked at the way we lived for the vast majority of our evolution as hominids.

    If we look to our nearest primate relative hunter-gatherers, chimp groups are male dominated, while bonobos are female dominated.



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  • Issues of equality or egalatarianism are not modern ideas or concepts, or concepts restricted to modern western societies, and have been discussed throughout recorded history. They are not ” progressive” ideas. History did not begin with the colonisation of America, or the rise of European democracy.

    Just a few examples , Herodotus in the 5th century marvelled at the sexual equality, compared to Greece, of Eygpt, Thucydides proudly boasted a slave could become a Senator, equality or egalitarianism is one of the main topics of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Plato examined and rejected it in The Republic, a central plank of Confucius is the paradoxical notion of vertical equalities, Christine de Pizan was pioneering notions of sexual egalitarianism in the 14th century etc etc



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  • Response to Alice’s comments above.

    If you’re trying to do science Red Dog you need to look a bit more closely at how you actually pass your genes on. And explain why we actually choose to pair bond and have significant evolved emotions and responses to favour that pair bonding.

    No, I don’t need to do that actually. I mean if I claimed that what I said above was a complete explanation for how human males choose their mates then I would need to explain all those things but I never claimed that. Of course it is more complicated for men — even hunter gatherer men — than just going out and schtuping as many women as possible. Perhaps I wasn’t clear, we may not disagree all that much, I was trying not to leave a thousand word comment, all I was trying to say is that there is clearly a difference for hunter gatherer men vs. women. The women must devote more time to raising children. Are you seriously arguing with that? The man can get his pair bonded woman pregnant and then go out and look for other women as well while he’s doing the hunting and gathering and the wife is stuck with a kid growing in her womb and then stuck nursing it after. If the woman doesn’t do those things, if she doesn’t nurse the child then the child dies and she has lost nine months of time, at least that were invested in reproduction with no result.

    There is all kinds of evidence to back up that this plays a role, note plays a role, is one among many factors, in how men choose mates vs. women. Again, read Pinker, there is very strong evidence from social science research that men focus more on how women look and that (contrary to what people who claim it is all a question of culture claim) that preference is very strong for a certain body type across ALL cultures and that body type is the type that is most likely to never have been pregnant before (ameliorating the risk of the man raising another man’s child) and a body that is healthy and well suited to delivering and raising a healthy child. Where as women focus much more on things like status.

    To maximise passing on your genes your offspring have to survive. Simple basic fact of life. Maximising impregnation does not maximise surviving offspring.

    Sam Harris is missing several points. Firstly that women play a significant part in reproduction. So you can contribute to as many sperm banks as you like but reproductive success require women to want that sperm.

    First of all I’m not sure why you are arguing with Harris as he is essentially defending what I thought was your position. The whole point he was making and that I agree with is that obviously for modern men there is more to life than maximizing reproductive success. You can do a simple thought experiment. Imagine you have a Harvard MBA investment banker who has made several millions of dollars and also won the nobel prize. There is I would submit no doubt that many women are going to want HIS sperm right? Is it conceivable that he is then going to spend the rest of his life filling up sperm banks? Again if it was all about reproductive success that is what he would do, he would never care about actual sex because it would be so much more effective from a pure reproductive success standpoint to spank it into a test tube. He wouldn’t do that I think we would all agree which demonstrates that there is more to modern men than reproductive success.

    Secondly that impregnation is the easiest part of human reproduction. Young that live long enough to reproduce requires more than sperm donation.

    But the point is that from the man’s perspective the way to maximize success would be the sperm bank. I think there are even sperm banks that focus on high end clients… Have to end here for now, perhaps more later.



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  • Clarification: We tend to polarize our positions more and more as the thread moves on. I never intended to imply that all men throughout pre-history, ancient history and modern history (popularly designated as 1500 to the present) did not contingently love and respect- even venerate their wives- and the mothers of their children. Women have wielded remarkable power throughout the centuries and millennia, usually by virtue of relationships with powerful husbands. Acting as rulers they made vital decisions in consultation with men or at their own discretion. Statistically these occasions were few in number compared to those dominated by male power. I also concede that the concept of “sex egalitarianism” has always been entertained by a handful of thinkers and put into rare experimental practice. Plato allowed that a specially gifted woman could attain to the status of a philosopher Queen in The Republic. (He was very ambivalent about this prospect.) Appreciate that citing these exceptional cases does not obviate the intellectual mainstream view that women were inherently inferior to men in reason, judgement and morality. (Aristotle et. al.).

    I believe their are two main bio-structural reasons for the subjugation of women until recent developments freed them from perennial constraints. Women had to bear, nurse, and care for children about 6 on average to keep the species from extinction because of high infant/childhood and general mortality rates. Reproductive preoccupation kept most females (with exceptions) out of the corridors of power, and the masculine world of “free time” necessary for the pursuit of politics, philosophy, science and technology. Secondly men were endowed physiologically with greater height, weight, upper body strength; and, because of testosterone, a shorter temper prone to igniting aggression and violence. What we call “domestic violence” down through the ages was widely practiced in the absence of internal or external constraints. If a woman escaped physical injury she nonetheless played a subservient role to her man, kept in line by intimidation and custom.

    Any description of archaic hunter-gatherer societies that emphasizes sex egalitarianism as the guiding ethic should not omit the factor of male domination and violence-against-women outside structural patterns of cooperative decision making. Anthropologists owe us a transparent comprehensive picture of male-female relationships. Not reductionism.



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  • @Red

    No.

    The simple cultural version of the mating strategy you propose isn’t the only one that might maximise genetic leagacy. In energetically poor environments with high infant mortality rates through the generations, robust (kleptocratic) extended family dynasties may well better deliver on longterm genetic outcomes. These require substantial male investment. There simply isn’t a single model to follow. Indeed, the varieties of scores on the Sociosexual Orientation Index hint at a wide variety of mating strategies, short and long term, inherited from this or that historical circumstance. Amongst many other deep historical factors like energy poverty are STD risk and inheritance, tribal threat and immediate-generation resource overload versus longer-term displacement of others descendants, etc.

    Also it is wrong to suggest that young new mothers will have more reliable birthing outcomes. The risk to a first time fifteen year old and her child in Africa is 5 times greater than for African mothers in general.



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  • Throughout history few people have held the view that producing as many children as possible is their goal in life.

    The fact that within this culture certain body shapes are deemed more attractive than others has little connection with reproduction. Short, tall, ugly, intelligent, fat, slim, pretty, one armed etc people all have similar amounts of children. In fact the main factor I believe in family size differentials is socio- economic.

    In real life people generally do not have a “mating strategy” , never mind one to maximise their genetic legacy. Leaving aside accidental reproduction ( and not forgetting contraception, abortion and infanticide are common to all cultures) the decision to have children is usually mutual, so it is an agreement and consensus between the sexes, and is a decision dependent on the particular contingent socio-economic factors the pair find themselves in. It is a socially determined decision, not a decision made by a desire to maximize genetic legacy. As Phil points out there is no one optimum “mating stratergy”, the decision to reproduce is primarily socially determined. ( and no Alan4discussion I am not denying the biological imperatives to have both sex and children, but saying that in humans this is mediated by the social. hah!)

    To decide what is a succesful “mating strategy” can only be determined statistically AFTER the facts. As such, and as it seems to be used in these posts, ” sucessful mating stratergy” it is in fact nothing but a theoretical measurement construct within the Dawkensian gene replication paradigm, rather than any real ” thing” or “action ” or “plan” which living people actual do or follow. Basically it is a theoretical construct.

    So to find the answer put all the parameters you think make up your theoretical ” mating strategies” and correlate to the surviving DNA.

    If you do it for a specific culture you should then also, accidently as you were actually looking for a mythical Acme universal mating strategy, find the social determinants for reproduction within that culture. If you do it for all cultures the results will tend towards the social determinants of the most populous societies and cultures.,



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  • To decide what is a succesful “mating strategy” can only be determined statistically AFTER the facts.

    But thats the point to genetic “strategies” (and I would claim even in prosaic ways, culturally). The “strategies” evolve through the generations to become increasingly successful, genetically expressed or culturally re-adopted.

    (Nor are they really strategies, just selected behaviours, without any necessary need of conscious understanding of their consequences.)



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  • Exactly. “Strategy” is a misnomer apt to fool us into thinking these are conscious acts of planning, rather than just socialised behavioural patterns..

    Not sure in what sense these actual socialised behaviours themselves can be said to evolve, as both the variations of these behaviours and the selection of these behaviours are primarily social not biological, and have been since the emergence of human culture, before that emergence I would totally agree they did evolve… .e.g Genghis Khan’s ” mating strategy” was highly succesful genetically and hence evolutionary , but his particular behaviour patterns or strategy, , serial rape, is not practised by his descendants, nor can his strategy of serial rape be said to have evolved into the normal behaviour of his descendants..

    Biological evolution is pure science, cultural evolution although a sensible and useful concept is not so scientifically rigorous (yet? ) and , to me, a tad metaphorical.



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  • EAlan4discussion,

    <<<<<<<<A tribe is a unit of social organisation and as such is a sociological and political term and grouping not a biological term or grouping.

    The two, as I explained earlier, are not mutually exclusive! https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/evolution-explains-why-politics-tribal/ >>>>>>

    The article hypothesises that aspects of social groupings ,( using the culturally imperialistic and derogatory colloquialism tribal for effect) are casual consequences of biological or psychological factors. It explains the social in terms of the biological, it does not equate the two.

    Again I do not deny the science ,but to explain X in terms of Y , does not imply X is Y, explanation of something as a consequence of something else is not a statement of identity, a causal relationship is not identity. The opposite in fact, otherwise there cannot be a claim of cause and effect.

    <<<<<<“There are both genetically transmitted inherited trends, and memetically transmitted trends. Both are evolved socio-biological features.””>>>>>>

    The concept of the meme is not science , but a imprecise metaphor. ( lets just agree to disagree on this one!)

    <<<<“You do seem to be confidently denying scientific evidence which you do not understand.>>>>>>

    For the billionth time I am not denying any scientific evidence. I was denying , in the specific cases of racism or social discrimination and in the specific context of what was being said in this thread above, the efficacy of using a different conceptual level of explanation, that of biology , to understand these phenomena rather than understanding and explaining them on the same conceptual level by use of socio- economic, political and historic factors etc.

    Racism and genetic based discrimination, the original topic in hand ,will not be overcome ( they might but not in a reasonable time frame) by changes to our genes , but by socio- political changes and actions , hence socio-political explanations, in THIS context, are more meaningful and significant.

    Nor are Racism and genetic based discriminations invariant totally biological and unavoidable absolutely determined consequences of the workings of our biology, so again socio -political explanations have efficacy in this context.

    Your new citation is indeed science and for the billionth billionth time I am not denying any of the science you for some reason you keep posting at me . My point is about the efficacy of different conceptual levels of explanation in specific contexts.

    Unless of course you believe that racism etc are biologically determined and hence perfectly natural and not a problem ( which I don’t believe you do, but some Do)



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  • And your new citation is of more relevence as it seems to take a more psychological approach, as they say …

    ” in an effort to move beyond merely describing the effects of specific social out-groups on the brain and behavior. Instead, we emphasize the underlying psychological processes that govern intergroup interactions more generally: forming and updating our representations of “us” and “them” via social identification and functional relations between groups”

    Which seems to me they agree with myself on the limitations of a purely biological or neuroscientific explanation of social phenomena..



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  • Steve
    May 27, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Genghis Khan’s ” mating strategy” was highly succesful genetically and hence evolutionary , but his particular behaviour patterns or strategy, , serial rape, is not practised by his descendants, nor can his strategy of serial rape be said to have evolved into the normal behaviour of his descendants..

    It did persist in his descendants for several generations, which is why his genes are so widely spread.

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/02/0214_030214_genghis.html
    Khan’s empire at the time of his death extended across Asia, from the Pacific Ocean to the Caspian Sea. His military conquests were frequently characterized by the wholesale slaughter of the vanquished. His descendants extended the empire and maintained power in the region for several hundred years, in civilizations in which harems and concubines were the norm. And the males were markedly prolific.

    Khan’s eldest son, Tushi, is reported to have had 40 sons. Documents written during or just after Khan’s reign say that after a conquest, looting, pillaging, and rape were the spoils of war for all soldiers, but that Khan got first pick of the beautiful women. His grandson, Kubilai Khan, who established the Yuan Dynasty in China, had 22 legitimate sons, and was reported to have added 30 virgins to his harem each year.



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  • As you the article correctly points out the behaviour persisted in those of his decendents whilst they retained SOCIAL power and domination.

    Did the behaviour persist in near descendants who had lost SOCIAL power? No.
    It this behaviour present in his current descendants ? No.

    The evidence clear shows the behaviour itself was not heritable, but social domination persisted in some of the primary lineages for a while during which, and only during which, the behaviour also persisted as a ruling class social norm..

    Thank you for providing further evidence to confirm and clarify my point.



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  • Steve
    May 28, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    As you the article correctly points out the behaviour persisted in those of his decendents whilst they retained SOCIAL power and domination.

    Did the behaviour persist in near descendants who had lost SOCIAL power? No.

    No! The biological selection process picked out the dominant genetic traits to give those with them power to continue the meme.

    It this behaviour present in his current descendants ? No.

    We would have to carry out a study of his genetic descendants to establish facts about that.

    The evidence clear shows the behaviour itself was not heritable,

    Not at all. the genetic trends in some individuals, to dominate populations combined with the cultural memes (definition 1a.), allowed that culture to persist for hundreds of years and many generations.

    but social domination persisted in some of the primary lineages for a while during which, and only during which, the behaviour also persisted as a ruling class social norm..

    The genetics were substantial factors in selecting “primary lineages of the ruling class”. In warrior cultures the weak do not become leaders.



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  • What studies show serial rape is heritable?
    What studies show pillage is heritable?
    What studies show there is a genetic trend to dominate poulations?



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