Re: "Family"

Julian O'Dea (jodea@MAILHOST.DPIE.GOV.AU)
Fri, 19 Jul 1996 14:15:53 +1000

Dwight Read wrote in reply to me:

>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.

OK. But what I was saying is that "father birds" *do* frequently invest
effort in bringing up the chicks. What often happens is that a male bird
attempts to monopolise a female. He may fail, but he obviously succeeds
often enough for it to be worth his while to try, and to spend effort in
bringing up the young.

Promiscuity in female birds occurs, but it is clearly not so pervasive as
to make the paternal investment strategy non-viable.

The point I am making is that there is no reason to assume that paternal
parenting strategies could not have evolved in birds, mammals and perhaps

>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

I think your last point is a good one. However one could equally argue
that the lack of interest by these men in their children is a cultural
overlay (resulting from the Government acting as a surrogate "father")
which displaces the "natural" parenting behaviour. If one were a strict
sociobiologist (which I'm not) one could argue that these men are behaving
in a tactically clever way. If one can impregnate women and not have to
put resources in, maybe moving onto further women, this is a "smart"
strategy in a biological sense. (Julian O'Dea)