Animals as decision makers

Consider the general problems faced by an individual organism in making its way in the world. Focus further on a member of a resource-limited species, whose life is long (relatively), whose time must be divided between reproduction, including the prolonged task of rearing and protecting offspring, feeding, including the securing of resources, and avoiding the fate of becoming someone else's dinner. Life is an extended series of choices between a large number of alternative behaviors whether to...

Epilogue Concerning Biological Reductionism

It has become fashionable to dismiss evolutionary thinking as biological reductionism (see, for example, the quotation from Marvin Harris in the previous chapter). The underlying premise is that cultural anthropology and sociology deal with complex levels of organization that exhibit emergent properties, and the concepts appropriate for description and analysis at lower levels are inadequate when applied to the social sciences. Attributing behavior to genes is therefore seen as an inappropriate...

Contents

The Dual Nature of Causation in Biology, 3 Proximate and ultimate cause and the nature 2. Some Fallacies and Misconceptions, 12 3. Evolutionary Theory Since Darwin, 23 Natural variation and its sources, 24 Forces of evolutionary change, 29 The sometimes elusive concepts of heritability, adaptation, and fitness, 31 Some recent contributions to evolutionary theory particularly relevant for the study of behavior, 39 4. Reasoning about Ultimate Causes of Behavior, 46 What is the meaning of sex , 47...

The Dual Nature of Causation in Biology

Natural selection has built us, and it is natural selection we must understand if we are to comprehend our own identities. . Whole industries have grown up in the social sciences dedicated to the construction of a pre-Darwinian and pre-Men-delian view of the social and psychological world In short, Darwinian social theory gives us a glimpse of an underlying symmetry and logic in social relationships which, when more fully comprehended by ourselves, should revitalize our political understanding...

Timothy H Goldsmith

Mellon Professor of Biology Yale University New York Oxford OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS Oxford New York Toronto Delhi Bombay Calcutta Madras Karachi Kuala Lumpur Singapore Hong Kong Tokyo Nairobi Dar es Salaam Cape Town Melbourne Auckland Madrid and associated companies in Berlin Ibadan Copyright 1991 by Oxford University Press First published in 1991 by Oxford University Press 200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016 First issued as an Oxford University Press paperback in 1994 Oxford...

The sometimes elusive concepts of heritability adaptation and fitness

These words are used freely by biologists and non-biologists, usually without precise definition and frequently ambiguously. So a bit of effort exploring these thickets now should make our subsequent journey easier. Heritable and heritability the pitfall of population thinking. In common usage, heritable means passed from parents to offspring, as with a heritable title in English aristocracy in a biological context, a genetic basis is causally implied. For example, natural selection requires...

Forces of evolutionary change

Evolution is change over time in the genetic composition of natural populations. What factors are responsible for these changes The conventional approach to this problem is to extrapolate from microevolutionary processes, which can be observed either in the laboratory or in natural populations. In this view, which is held by many evolutionary biologists, profound macroevolutionary changes have arisen as a result of an accumulation of smaller, observable microevolutionary changes. Something may...

Coevolution of biology and culture the leash effect

Although culture has traditionally been viewed by many anthropologists as a uniquely human attribute, recent work in animal behavior has demonstrated a number of examples of behaviors that appear to be learned by imitation and to be localized to separate populations. A famous example is the habit of separating grains of wheat from sand that was invented by Imo, the young female Japanese macaque that passed on the trick to other members of the troop. The monkeys were provided with wheat grains...

Mating systems

The concept of differential parental investment holds the key to understanding various mating systems monogamous, polygynous, and more rarely, polyandrous. What has been described to this point as the basis for sexual selection is a polygynous system, in which one male mates with a number of females. Characteristically, in polygynous systems of birds and mammals, most of the females of reproductive age become inseminated and attempt to reproduce. Their reproductive success is determined more by...

Reasoning about Ultimate Causes of Behavior

But as men are most capable of distinguishing merit in women, so the ladies often form the truest judgements upon us. The two sexes seem placed as spies upon each other, and are furnished with different abilities, adapted for mutual inspection. The Vicar of Wakefield Oliver Goldsmith (1776) We cannot fight for love, as men may do We should be wooed, and were not made to woo. A Midsummer Night's Dream (II,i) William Shakespeare In the last chapter we saw that during the previous twenty-five...

Evolutionary Theory Since Darwin

No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. Our understanding of evolution is built on a Darwinian tripod of three fundamental observations (1) living organisms are units of organization that reproduce (2) individuals differ from one another, and some of...

Culture Anthropology and Evolution

The great flood which had covered the earth for so long had at last receded and even the thin strip of sand stretching north from Naikun lay dry. The Raven had flown there to gorge himself upon the delicacies left by the falling water, and so for a change wasn't hungry. But his other appetites, lust, curiosity, the unquenchable desire to interfere and change things, to play tricks on the world and its creatures, these remained unsatisfied. From the Haida legend of the Raven and the first...

Sociobiology and cultural materialism

Among the various theories invoked by anthropologists to provide a guiding framework for their discipline, cultural materialism, as expounded by Marvin Harris,10 has some appealing features for a biologist. At the same time, however, it provides another example of my contention that evolutionary biologists have not managed to communicate their message with sufficient clarity to colleagues in related disciplines. I have included the following brief section on cultural materialism in response to...

The case of Tibetan fraternal polyandry

Polyandry, the marriage of more than one man to an individual woman, is a relatively rare practice in human populations. In fact, as we saw in Chapter 4, it is an uncommon mating system among all animals. When it occurs in human populations it usually takes the form of fraternal polyandry, in which the men involved are brothers. Fraternal polyandry in a Tibetan population in Nepal has been the object of close study by anthropologists who have used their analysis to reject what they believe to...