Re: "Family"

Dwight W. Read (dread@ANTHRO.UCLA.EDU)
Thu, 18 Jul 1996 20:32:45 -0700

O'dea replies:

>Perhaps I have misunderstood this [selection for male parenting linked to
certainty of paternity], but simply because absolute certainty
>about paternity is not available one cannot argue that natural selection
>cannot select for male parenting.

I did not mean to imply that there is a qualitative, all or nothing,
relationship, only that selection for male parenting presumes linkage
between male and offspring. As long as there is some knowledge of
paternity, there is the possibility for some amount of paternity to be
introduced via natural selection.

>If one takes the case of birds, there is quite a lot of cuckolding going on
>(as evidenced by DNA tests of offspring I think) but there is also male
>parenting surely. What the male strategy seems to be is twofold a) try to
>ensure you really are the daddy and b) try to ensure that the kids survive.
>Hanging around being a father might be a good strategy from both points of

No. "Hanging around being a father" will be a good strategy ONLY to the
extent that (a) can be realized. If I, as a male, cannot direct my
parenting behavior to my offspring more often than would simply occur by
chance via random parenting behavior, then I am not increasing my fitness
vis a vis the offspring of other males, hence there is no selective
advantage for alleles that would "cause" me to exhibit parenting behavior.
But even if I hang around the female with whom I have had sexual relations,
if she is 100% promiscuous and has mated with all available male while in
estrous (so that all males have an equally likely chance of impregnating
her), then parenting behaviro does not increase my fitness since the
offspring towards whom I direct my parenting behavior are just as likely to
be those of a given male other than myself.

>The fact is that, as I can personally attest, men can parent pretty well in
>most respects. I was very struck by the descriptions of the behaviour of
>Yanomamo fathers in a work on human ethology by Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfelt.
>These fierce, "macho" warriors are very affectionate towards their
>children. This sort of observation makes me doubt if there is anything at
>all "secondary" about paternal interest in children.

When we consider humans, the matter becomes much more complex because of a
cultural overlay which (a) can serve to ensure that paternity is known and
(b) its ability to elicit behaviors whose origin need not have a biological
basis, hence need not have their origin via natural selection. While there
is paternal interest in children, recall one of the motivations for the
million man march on Washington--it was billed as a way to address what was
being perceived as the failure of black males to take the responsibility for
the children for whom they were the source of the semen.

D. Read