Re: Social evolution of hominids
17 Jan 1997 22:08:27 +0200 wrote:

> I think (and you will correct me if I'm wrong, of course) that you
> seem to be confusing *polygamy* with *promiscuity*. They are two
> entirely different things. The term "promiscuous" is culturally-loade
> and really has no meaning in this kind of discussion. A person can
> be considered promiscuous in either the monogamous or polygamous marri
> pattern, if this person breaks the socially-constituted, generally
> understood rules of proper sexual activity. It depends upon how the
> *culture* defines the concept. Therefore it also is meaningless when
> to bonobos or any non-human creature.

I certainly get the terminology wrong. And in fact, it is difficult
to define 'monogamy', other than just the genetically fixed lifelong
behaviour of some birds and maybe gibbons. Among birds, there is that
pair forming which lasts about a year, from autumn to nesting to the
next autumn. What should these be called?

What I meant with 'promiscuous' societies, pre-cultural and later,
was the lack of lasting pairs, if genetically or culturally based.
When just occasional matings or more or less continuous 'love
affairs' without any other binding but just sexual, are the rule. If
I meant to do science, I'd gone through the material of modern
native cultures, but that would mean respective education.

There is, of course, no scientific interest in such speculations
(though a good speculation brightens the day :), but there are all
reasons to think over these things, as far as aliens and Atlantis
are left away. People often wait from their marriage something
which is not possible. They assume, that 'fall in love' will do
for whole life and save them from other 'falls in love'. They do
not beware, and they are in trouble. Or they think that because the
fall in love is over, it is the fault of their mate, and they must
seek for the 'right' mate, who will do better. They think there is
really something like eternal love, which falls on them, when they
find the right one. The 'know yourself' needs some interest in
questions like 'Why?'.

> In this sense, my own opinion is that (whatever a "ceramic" culture is
> lots of cultures made ceramics) because the dominant marriage pattern
> in existence today is polygamy, it may well have been the dominant pat
> in the past. Monogamy wasn't common, and i don't know what you mean b
> "successful".

Yes, you have right, of course. It is male polygamy which is the
most commonly accepted form - successful in that sense (or is it
monogamy today, when the chinese seem to profit it?). But what
happened to all those men, who were left without a wife? What part of
the male population had no progeny at all? Well, this is not the
right newsgroup for that.

Now I have to reconstruct my tree of social evolution.

The *common* ancestor of apes, uhhuh, *gibbons* are the most distant
apes, I think, and they are monogamous, and there's not even
great dimorphism between the genders! And *gorillas* are the next
distant, with considerable dimorphism and male dominance. Just find
a common ancestor for these *two*! Then come *chimps*, lesser
dimorphism again, less dominant males, and *bonobos*, which are
continuously receptive. (Wonder, what kinds of love affairs they may

Yep, apes are as variant as are humans, who may have more or less
free sex, male polygamy, female polygamy, and different trials of
monogamy. In the main line, we seem to have drifted to the gorilla
strategy again - not that men are that big, yet.

> I don't think that the mating patterns of extant apes
> can help us much in this reconstruction, because they all seem to do
> something different.

No help for the ways we have come here, but just by doing something
different, they show how many possibilites there are to do it. There
is not the only one way: *nature has never designed woman/man/human
to do this/that*. 'Nature' has done this and that, just after local
needs. Knowing this, it is much on our own consideration today, what
we want to do with our lives.

There is another aspect. Since the extant apes, which can be
considered kind of dead ends in intelligence compared to us, show
practically all forms of sexual relations, and we ourselves do the
same in all our smartness, we can not blame this or that form of
society for enhancing or stopping the increase of intelligence. It
is very difficult to find any direction, indeed. These social
relations seem to largely depend on local circumstances and economy,
and be changed with considerable ease.

We can not show, either, that there is one or other social structure
which is definitive better than some other, at some general level.
Here, of course, we must consider, what is 'better'.

The increase of intelligence is obvious from the monkey to the ape
level to us, in spite of the mating strategies. The monkeys, in
fact, are very intelligent animals already. So I would not recommend
this topic for a student of sociology... and at least leave the
dolphins away from the survey.

What else this discussion has taught: to find out the most basic
information, at least, if you are going to argue. But it just
began as my trial to turn upside down Gould's clitoris-argument,
by proving that this organ actually is responsible for us being so
cultural. <g>

> But this is only my opinion, because there ain't a whole lot of hard
> evidence for this kind of behaviour...(-:

What I would like to know, is how long the 'fall in love' lasts among
!kung san. But since that's rather soft evidence, I don't believe it
has been asked. :)

I have enjoyed the conversation.

> Deb

Aila Korhonen in Finland