Re: Social evolution of hominids
12 Jan 1997 07:56:14 +0200 wrote:

> I'm not sure I know what you mean by "tight pairs". If you mean
> monogamous, then gibbons are the *only* monogamous ape in the sense
> of a lifelong pairbond between a male and a female.

I apologize for my terminology. Yes, just lifelong pairbond is what
I mean, since there are some birds which pair in good time before
nesting and are definitely monogamous for this time. Next year they
may have a new partner.

Are gibbon females continuously receptive? Do the males feed the
young, or do something else for them?

> I'm a little uncomfortable with your comments on the !kung san and
> sub-Saharan Africa in general. The !kung, we should keep in mind,
> are *not* a representative of the behaviour or anything else of early
> humankind; they are a group of modern people. We must be *extremely*
> careful with our use of analogy.

Just because they *are* modern people, I think they may be
representative. Do you think, that if children from any other
people were raised in a !kung san society, they would seek
permanent or longer pair bonds than their step mothers? What I
see around, makes me think that !kung san differ mainly in having
retained an old-fashioned *culture*.

I'm not so much seeking an analogy, but trying to show, that the
'monogamy' which most cultures try to support, is not yet a basic
behaviour of modern man. It has been the most succesful strategy
for a length of time, and if practised long enough, will select
for personal traits which fix the behaviour at genetic level, too.
This has not really happened, so this strategy can't be old, in
the paleontological sense, I mean.

> As to sub Saharan Africa, my husband
> in-laws would probably dispute your characterization of "free sex": wh
> I agree that polygamy is probably the normal condition of the human ma
> system, sex in those cultures is probably less "free" than we Westerne
> characterize ourselves. A woman with more than one husband is polyand
> Rare, but known.

Just what I have read about AIDS spreading in African populations.

> >I find it difficult to imagine, how the mere hanging around of a
> >certain man would specially enhance the care of the children. Since
> >the number of men and women is equal, there would always be a man
> >hanging around, anyway. And since other women are receptive, too,
> >continuous sex would be available for him anywhere.
> Yeah, but if he doesn't think the kid is his, what would motivate
> him to help look after it? If he thinks it *might* be his, he
> may be more inclined to stick around.

Yes of course, and the more he invests in children in general, the
more interest he should show in their descent. What I opposed (and
not very succesfully indeed) was that continuous sex *alone* would
have initiated pair bonding in a group of hominids. Life long
monogamy may appear where sex is once a year, and promiscuity, where
sex is continuous, so these two do not follow directly from each

> Deb

Aila Korhonen in Finland