Re: homo species

J. Moore (
Tue, 18 Jul 95 10:28:00 -0500

Rl> Pete Vincent wonders about sexual attractiveness and cues, and
Rl> speculates about the possibility that at the level of genetics, H.s.s.
Rl> and H.s. n could exchange genes but may simply have not "wanted" to, for
Rl> a combination of hard-wired and culturally determined reasons. There has
Rl> been some research during the past year or two that impinges on the
Rl> question on "attractiveness", mostly reported in NATURE, as I recall.
Rl> It's simply too complex to unravel in terms of biology vs. culture, and
Rl> is clearly some inextricable mixture of the two.

Virtually all, but not quite all, the stuff I've seen done on
universality of preferences or emotions has had some fairly
simplistic assumptions attached. (One exception was a paper on
basic, simple emotions where they only said one "Really Dumb
Thing", and it wasn't, to my mind, a fatal "RDT".) I don't think
the problem can even be said to be just "too complex to unravel in
terms of biology and culture", but that such an unraveling is
simply impossible, unless you find humans without culture. In
other words, the problem is not just a complexity that precludes
this unraveling, but that the way we all grow up and develop our
preferences is not a tightly wound rope that could conceiveably be
undone, showing the strands, but instead... (looking for a
metaphor that might explain this)...

Perhaps if we think of the result (us) as like a steel wire, where
a pliable mass which has innate properties but which doesn't (and
cannot) exist in this primal state in the world outside is pushed
through a shaping form with pressure (both of which vary from
individual to individual), which results in a product (like us)
that varies internally due to both the initial product mix and
the forces that shaped in while forming, and which also changes
over time due to the effects of both simple passage of time and
resultant ageing, and to the twisting and bending forces of the
environment in which the product exists after forming. The
forces which produce the resultant product, however, are not
separate strands. (This metaphor also has the benefit of bringing
to mind my favorite Gordon Lightfoot song, "My Mind is an Endless
Wire". ;-)

Rl> That said, I hope this thread doesn't degenerate into a series of
Rl> personal preferences. The NATURE article I seem to recall showed that
Rl> compositie faces built using computer images varying ratios of facial
Rl> features, such as face braedth to height, etc, were tested on both Asian
Rl> and Western males and the agreements were pretty strong. One question
Rl> is, of course, given cultural paradigms and rules regarding social
Rl> units, marriage, and offspring, does the hard-wired aspect have any real
Rl> impact on gene exchange and flow? Will we ever know?
Rl> Ralph Holloway

Notice that things to watch out for in these types of tests are
the ideas that people don't watch TV, read magazines, etc., and so
don't form their preferences in the context of a larger world.
Pretty much everybody does, but some (I wouldn't say all) of these
studies contain mucho "RDTs": my all-time favorite (so far) was a
ref used to support the statment of a universal male desire for an
exaggerated "hourglass figure"; when I looked up the study, it was
of several classes of USA male pysch undergrads, who apparently stood
in for every male on the planet. I mean, I wouldn't say the
statement couldn't be true, but that was *not* support for it.

These studies are interesting, but just watch out real carefully
for simplistic reasoning, a general downplaying of cultural export
and cross-cultural "pollination" and its effects, and saying "RDTs".

On the subject of cultural factors in speciation, I think this has had
a lot to do with our past. Not just in perhaps the more ephemeral
but still quite possible "attractiveness" factor, but also in
groups just not being around in the same places at the same times,
due to differing habits and diets. I think this was a major
factor in australopithecines remaining two separate groups, for
instance. My view on australopithecines and the speciation to
habilis are also tied in with this, but are not at all the
conventional view. This also gets into the problem of "lumping
and splitting", so maybe I should write something about this as a
separate message...

Jim Moore (

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