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

Gerold Firl (
6 Sep 1996 20:11:45 GMT

In article <>, (Len Piotrowski) writes:

|> 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?

The hamadryas baboon manifests behavior which looks an awful lot like

successful adult males will generally maintain a harem of about 4
females, and if one of them strays too far, particularly if other
males are around, he will viciously attack her. Sound familiar?

Another interesting aspect of the hamadryas social interaction
("meaningful behavior", in your parlance) is the reaction of the
females while they are being subjected to "domestic violence"; as their
male is biting and pummeling them, they move closer towards him, which
eventually placates him. Sound familiar?

This "meaningful social interaction", as distasteful as it sounds to
modern ears, is entirely adaptive and functional. It serves to
increase the fitness of the individuals concerned: that is, it
increases the probability that their genes will be be propagated.

The resemblance to human behavior is just too close for comfort - at,
least, for some of us.

|> 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.

Here is a testible hypothesis, based on an evolutionary/adaptationist
anthropological perspective: in matrilineal societies, there is a
lower correlation between the identity of the legal and biological
father than in patrilineal societies. This elementary reality has
profound implications for the fundamental structure and function of

|> 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.

Exactly. The nayar are probably the best example of the effect I
described above; nowhere is the correlation between matrilineality and
lack of paternity confidence as clearly seen as among the nayar.

|> 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.

Why are hamadryas baboons "jealous"? Is it a cultural thing? %^)

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf