Re: Are we "special"?

John Waters (
5 Dec 1996 20:53:50 GMT

Paul Crowley <> wrote in article
> In article
> "John Waters" writes:
> > In fact, the human
> > species is the only species of mammal to rear multi-age
> > broods of infants to maturity.
> I can't see what's remarkable about this.

JW: Things don't have to be remarkable to be defined and
catorgorised by science. The difference between a Crow and
a Rook may not be remarkable, but the differences are still
defined by science. (The Rook has a bare face patch at the
base of its beak, and its thigh feathers have a baggy

There are two remarkable things about the human multi-age
brood phenomena. The first is the fact that professional
science has failed to define and distinguish this
characteristic from the Anthropoid Ape single-age broods.
Prior to 1970, this was reasonable, as long term
ethological studies of the Great Apes had not been
published. But certainly after 1975, the single-age brood
characteristic of the Apes was clearly defined in all
relevant scientific literature.

The second relates to the multi-age brood itself. The
rearing of such broods is not easy. It is surely no
accident that only the Human species rears such broods. It
would require a very high level of infant rearing ability,
and the nursing females would require extra food from some
source. This, coupled with the transportation difficulties
of carrying two infants, would appear to require a degree
of social organization unknown in Ape species.

As you know, the HBT postulates two kinds of multi-age
broods. The LBI (Long Birth Interval) brood is typical of
that found in current HG tribes, where the nursing female
breast-feeds on demand. The SBI (Short Birth Interval)
brood is typical of current agrarian and industrial
societies, where breast feeding is structured, or replaced
by bottle feeding.

According to the HBT, the LBI brood evolved about 1.5 Mya.
(This view has been supported by some calculations made on
this NG). The LBI brood led to social sharing, a change in
RSC leading to a change in group behaviour - including
unified teamwork, and an S & L capability.

The SBI brood evolved much more recently, about 5 to 6 kya.
According to the HBT it could only have evolved through a
combination of sedentary agriculture and wet-nursing. When
SBI broods are reared in privacy, the elder children
undergo a psychological change which encourages them to
improve their environment. This leads to a civilizing

Of course, the HBT postulations may be utter rubbish.
However, until science recognizes the Multi-age brood
characteristic of the human species, and distinguishes it
from the Single-age broods of the Apes, no progress is
likely to be made.

The difference may not be remarkable, but it's evolutionary
effects may have been.