Re: Evolution, "adaptation", and what's currently adaptive

Len Piotrowski (
Thu, 5 Sep 1996 14:00:59 GMT

In article <50l33h$> (Bryant) writes:


>In article <>,
>Len Piotrowski <> wrote:
>>>>It's a central problem to your thesis of a functional adaptationist
>>>>explanation for a human behavior. Do babies in your family display
>>>What's your point, Lenny? They're not sex-seeking either.

>>Didn't contemplate your "jealousy" urges on the same plane as "sex urges." So
>>why don't you lay out for us your entire theory about "jealousy" so that we
>>may evaluate it without any hidden caveats.

>I was trying to get at your hidden assumptions, Lenny. Were you arguing
>or implying that innate tendencies should be evident in infants? That's
>what I understood you to be arguing.

Not quite what I was driving at. The problem of "jealousy" as a Darwinian
trait has been the subject. My initial reaction to your position was this: if
you believe the lack of manifestation of the purported "jealousy urge" in
juveniles is due to their lack of maturation (sexual or "jealousy" (?)), then
how do you account for such manifestation of supposed acts of "jealousy" among
certain juvenile sib groups?

>>Let me put it to you this way, Bryant. I doubt the efficacy of your "jealousy
>>trait." If a sib is jealous of their mom paying inordinate attention to her
>>newborn, is that affected by your "not sex-seeking" argument?

>My "non-sex seeking" "argument," insomuch as that question was an
>argument, was simply asked to make the point that not everything designed
>by selection is manifest in juvenile organisms.

Just so! You're proof of design by selection for the "jealousy trait" is
missing. I remember something you vaguely articulated about laws against
domestic violence, but wonder as to how you imagine this all to work. If I
mention that non-human primates apparently express no such "jealousy trait"
how does this jive with your 'pre-laws against domestic violence' argument? If
I point out that apparently less than 10% of known cultures have laws
proscribing marriage and it's relationship, does this not imply that the
"jealousy trait" should be more prevalent than is evident from cross-cultural
studies? Is the notion of "domestic violence" really akin to jealousy, or more
related to dominance, power, and control?

It is a well known fact that most recorded cultures (if not all, given the
nature of the definition, see below) have marriage customs. A large number of
them are either monogamous or polygynous. These rules establish conjugal
rights to the partners, proscribed by society. I am unaware of a similar set
of universal cultural rules applying to a "jealousy urge."

Polygyny defines a marriage custom whereby a male can have several wives at
one time, which on the surface seems homologous with a Darwinian view of
male fitness. However, the expression of this custom takes on a variety of
forms that not only belie the efficacy of a "jealousy trait" but contradict a
shared view of the Darwinian fitness motives among it's participants. For
instance, in New Guinea, wives are apparently acquired for economic reasons
and are paid for in money (bride-price). Wives encourage their husbands to
acquire more wealth to obtain more wives, despite any selfish Darwinian
fitness urges they may have. In fact, wives can apparently divorce their
husbands if they fail to reach this ideal.

Amongst matrilineal societies, offspring of a marriage are not considered to
be the father's at all! For instance, children of the Trobriand Islanders
belong to the female lineal group, with all the rights and privileges defined
by that ancestral relation. The mother's eldest brother acts as the
disciplinarian and authority figure, while the biological father assumes a
minor role of friend or companion.

An interesting custom of sexual access is practiced by the Nayar of southwest
India. Group property is held by "corporations" of kin related through the
female line, who live together in a single, large household, with the eldest
male serving as manager. The custom of sexual access in Nayar society could
only be called "marriage" if we relax the necessity for a continuous claim to
conjugal privilege. "Marriages" as such are temporary and determined by the
female's household, and involve the exchange of gifts over proscribed periods
of time. At least three such transactions are established in her lifetime.
None of these gift transactions result in a lineal claim of the father to the
offspring, even though one of the men involved in the transactions must
formally acknowledge paternity accompanied by obligatory gift giving. Though
the man may have a continuing interest in the child, he has no further
indebtedness beyond this, and may not even know if it is his child or not.

>You have yet to offer a sound rationale for rejecting emotions (or, more
>precisely, the behaviors they motivate) as being subject to natural

I think you've got it backwards. You have yet to offer convincing proof of the
Darwinian efficacy of "sugar craving" and the "jealousy urge." From my
vantage point it appears that this functionalist adaptationist method focuses
on a currently defined and meaningful behavior in our society, and explains
it's presence as a result of it's purported adaptive function in the past.
In my opinion, such an understanding ignores the ethnocentric and relative
nature of isolating these "traits" as subjects, and the rationale accounting
for the emergence of these "traits" in the past makes it impossible to
identify them in the prehistoric record.