Evolution, stature, nutrition...

Matt D. afn02065 at freenet.ufl.edu
Tue Jul 11 18:40:40 MDT 1995

Wow!  Never thought I'd see this post again...

Lisa writes:

[interesting reflections on ice-ages, Mayans, and more snipped]

>But now let me leave Matt D. with a few questions about his
>question about "social selection".  Well, first, I'm not sure what you
>mean by "runaway feedback mechanisms".  Then, it's not entirely
>clear what you mean by "social selection".

R.F.M. a term used in the post I was responding to.  The qualifier "aside"
was meant to indicate the confusion I share with you as to its meaning or
lack thereof.

>I think you combine two or more seperable concepts: 1. Is "natural
>selection" acting presently among humans?  2. and if not, "then
>does natural selection really have any meaning at the level of the
>individual human  organism"?


>But I don't think of SS as opposed or even distinct from
>"natural" selection.  Rather, I'd put selection in general, or NS, or
>call it Darwinian Selection, as the most inclusive category, and
>everything else as diversity within that unity.
>Some anthros and others would have been happy to make this post
>shorter by saying of course there is no NS anymore on humans, but
>they usually do that by separating "social" effects from "natural",
>as in the assertion that "humans have changed their own
>environment" so nothing is natural anymore.  I can't do that.
>Instead, I am using a way of thinking that cuts across those
>traditional categories.

Hmm.  I guess the difference I was thinking of was the old fashioned idea
that "nature" is something that we can't (even potentially) really do much
about, whereas "social" can (conceivably) be brought under the (increasingly
conscious) control of humanity.  As society progresses (forgive the
problematic word just for the moment) the domain of the natural shrinks, and
that of the social (or "historical") expands.

Why is it useful to "cut across these categories"?

>As for "anyone can survive and reproduce", I beg to differ!  Right
>here in US there is a nearly two-fold difference in life expectancy
>between different neighborhoods [data on Chicago] not even
>counting homicide!  Infant mortality rates vary up to 5-fold
>between different neighborhoods here in Salt Lake City, and every
>other large city.  Men have a high variance in number of
>descendants, higher than women.

Right, but there are no neighborhoods where nobody has offspring.  There are
placesin the world even worse (!) than SLC (which I've heard is very lovely,
BTW?) where nonetheless folks keep on reproducing, and in fact where the
population is increasing rapidly.

>Even if it were true that everyone "can survive and reproduce", it
>is differential reproduction that is the name of the game.  More
>descendants are always 'better', as it increases one's genetic
>contribution to future generations.

So its not just the persistence of one's genetic information, but that it
persists in a lot of folks?  Why is one surviving offspring worse than ten,
when there is no limiting factor in the environment that makes that one
likely to be sqeezed out?  Please forgive my ignorance, I'm sure these are
elementary questions of evolutionary theory... I'm just trying to get a
handle on it.

>Even if we all had equal
>reproduction now, that would not prevent us each from trying to
>get ahead more.  This includes efforts to get offspring into good
>positions for further production of descendants.

But almost any position is sufficient for the further production of
descendents.  This is what I was getting at before.  To my knowledge, there
is not a substantial difference between the number of kids in poor families
and rich families in the U.S.  Is this false?

-- Matt D.

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