Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?

Bryant (
5 Sep 1996 15:47:03 -0600

In article <50na4j$>, Susan <> wrote:
>>> (Bryant) wrote:

>>I mean, short of a molecular geneticist pin-pointing the exact loci in
>>question, how would one demonstrate genetic "bases" of traits that are
>>fixed (invariant, like the number of limbs) in a species??
>True it's difficult. But there's an epistemological problem with simply
>assuming that traits, particularly complex behavioral ones, are genetic.

Every trait in an organism has a genetic component. You can't just split
up a critter between what's "genetic" and what's "environmental." It's
the epigenetic interaction that gives rise to every biological trait I
can think of.

I'm not trying to be frustraiting, here; I really think clearing up this
sort of thing would facilitate the discussion.

>For example, violence may or may not be more genetic or
>more cultural in origin. But "explaining" it is different if it's more
>genetic than if it is more cultual.

How violence is expressed almost certainly depends on the social
environment a given human critter finds himself in. Because there are
evaluations of costs going on in the evolved brain of a fellow before he
acts on his emotional motivators. So, the suppression of violent
tendencies could be called "cultural" because it varies between
societies. But it is an evolved brain evaluating the costs, etc.

>But,as we've discussed before, it often has those implications outside of
>professional circles.

Agreed. So we should both be writing letters to the editors denouncing
abuses of such hypotheses by those with political agendas.

The naturalistic fallacy should be familiar to kids by second grade, as
should the differences between well tested theories, hypotheses, and

>I have never read the Thornhills so I can't
>comment on their presentation. But I do understand the fear that such
>theories can generate, whether or not they intended it. By describing
>something as a viable strategy, it makes it normal rather than

Social pathology has nothing whatsoever to do with ultimate, evolutionary
causation. Murder and infanticide are (or were) also "viable" behaviors,
when one is speaking about genetic fitness. But they are morally
reprehensible. Scientists need to start harping on that issue.

>Well, we can disagree about that one. IMO, behavior may be understood in
>Darwinian terms, but it doesn't explain why people do it.

There are different levels of analysis. The vernacular in evolutionary
circles is to treat environmental cues, emotional motivators, and
hormonal influences and other physiological "hows" as "proximate" causes of
behavior, and the evolutionary "why's" (why genes building brains apt to
do x, y, or z were retained in the population) as "ultimate" causation.

Sometimes, understanding the latter provides insight into the former, or

>When a mother
>decides to abort her female fetus, it isn't because of Darwinian
>adaptation, it's because her culture has taught her that there are
>different implications in having boys versus girls, and she has decided
>to not get involved in raising a girl. Stopping her from doing it is not
>a matter of explaining Darwin, it's a matter of changing her cultural

Changing behaviors isn't going to often be about explaining Darwin. It
will be about knowing what environmental cues are likely to lead to a
given behavior, and countering them. For instance, in the paper I sent
to you about postpartum depression, in which I argue that PPD is a
psychological adaptation for withdrawing investment in non-viable
offspring, I conclude that increased social support, perhaps even
exaggerated displays as are common in other cultures after a woman gives
birth, could reduce the incidence of postpartum depression in the West.

If I had only addressed the proximal hormonal issues of PPD, I'd probably
never have thought about the importance of social support in countering PPD.

>>This notion that the evolutionary term "adaptive" has some kind of positive
>>meaning has got to be confronted and erased from the public psyche!
>Along with such misunderstood words as "genetic" and "evolution!"

I'm not clear on what you mean, exactly.

>>>>Ah, Earth First! meets the sufferagettes?
>>I forgot about ecofeminism. Are they neo-Luddites? :)
>Or "neo-Luddettes".....?

Ouch! Enough already. Sufferagists, sufferagists. :)