Re: culture as gene-flow regulator: the arunta

Gerold Firl (
25 Sep 1996 19:35:24 GMT

In article <>, (Len Piotrowski) writes:

|> In article <529gma$> (Gerold Firl) writes:

|> >Population density determines how far a person must travel to find a
|> >suitible mate, and the arunta custom of widespread sexual activity at
|> >ritual gatherings is consistant with such a constraint.

|> This doesn't happen and has never been documented. There is no evidence of
|> this event as an Arunta (or any other aboriginal group) "social strategy."
|> However, what evidence there is of Arunta social strategy proscribes against
|> "widespread sexual activity," which directly contradicts your claim.

Service lists the sources he used to compile his ethnographic survey; I
got the impression that spencer and gillen were the primaries. You seem
to be claiming that service is wrong when he says that "sexual licence"
was "encouraged" at the large gatherings of the arunta; on what basis
do you make this claim? You say that promiscuous sexual activity "has
never been documented" for the arunta "or any other aboriginal group",
and yet spencer and gillen traveled among the arunta in the 19th
century, and according to them that is exactly what happened.

Forgive me if I don't place too much credibility in your
pronouncements; I'd like to see some evidence. You've made so many
bogus claims that your presumption of authority in the face of standard
anthropological sources is less than convincing.

|> > I don't recall
|> >if service mentioned anything concerning the walkabout among the
|> >arunta, but again, such a custom would be consistant with a cultural
|> >adaptation for increased gene flow rates: hence my prediction that
|> >they get laid a lot.

|> Service provides for no such "walkabout" class, act, or custom, and
|> therefore it is not evidence of any Arunta "social strategy." Thus your
|> prediction based on this imaginary process is simply groundless and
|> contradicted by documented aboriginal social strategies of exogamous local
|> kin groups with cross-cousin marriage and particular lineal residence
|> rules.

Why? The arunta may not practice the walkabout, but apparently some
australian groups did (or do). I explained what a *prediction* was to
you already, lenny. A prediction uses a model to forecast the behavior
of a system in areas where current data is lacking. My *prediction*,
based on the hypothesis that aboriginal culture shows adaptations for
increasing the rate of gene flow, is that men on walkabout would
impregnate women along the way. The fact that I don't have data to
support the prediction should not be taken to indicate that the
hypothesis is incorrect; it's cheating to make predictions where you
already have data.

|> Therefore, low population doesn't correspond with social strategies to
|> increase gene flow in the Arunta case. Your hypothesis lacks any supporting
|> evidence and is falsified by known social characteristics of the central
|> desert aboriginals.

Tsk tsk lenny. So dismissive. Surely you're aware that aboriginal
culture has been disrupted by disease, missionary meddling, and land
appropriation by whites? The reason that the early sources such as
spencer and gillen are so valuable is because they saw the arunta while
the aboriginal lifestyle was still fairly pristine. If you're taking
current aboriginal lifestyles as your guide to traditional culture, you
need to make some adjustments. And if you're talking about pre-contact
arunta culture, you'd better have some solid reasons for dismissing the
testimony of the eyewitness observers.

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