Lisa on anthro -Reply to Adrien

Lisa Rogers eqwq.lrogers at
Thu Nov 9 11:10:28 MST 1995

Adrien's summary of early history of anthro, on Boas in particular,
looks good to me, [shortened and appended below] my memories of this
stuff are being revived.
The concept of the evolution of society has been used in 2-3
different ways.  One is to assert the similarity of all people and
the functional equivalence of different types of cultures/societies.
All cultures are still "culture" and they are all designed to solve
the same problems of life [which can be viewed psychologically or
more materially].  This can be coupled with the idea that "societal
evolution is progressive and inevitable."
But the question arises, why are some societies "more advanced", at
least in technology?  [And allegedly morally, etc.]  One of the
answers to this is racist in various ways.  The other is materialist.

On to Adrien's questions:

AV: I remenber a text from a psychologist who explain the behavior of
man and woman about conjugal fidelity on Darwinian grounds (Darwinian
theory). He say that womans have interest in good fathers and one
father especially because there reproduction of genes (genetic) ask a
great investment, thats the reason that womans tends to monogamie.
Man, on the other hand, have interest in polygamie because this gives
them the chance to scatter their seeds (I mean, of course, scattering
in the Darwenian mean of genetic reproduction).

LR:  This is familiar, common thinking, and in some ways I do not
reject it entirely, but it is tied up with some bad ideas.  It
assumes that, even primordially, women are incapable of raising
children without a mate.  In contrast to all other primates, the
human line somehow came to require a man to support her children.
Frankly, I think the male support of offspring looks fairly rare in
the world, for something that is claimed to be a turning point or an
essential aspect of the biological definition of human ancestry.

Further, it assumes that if mom needs help, the only source is her
sex partner, and that _she_ must be monogamous or else he will cease
to support her and her offspring.

Instead, I tend to agree with Sarah Hrdy, who wrote in _The Woman
that Never Evolved_ that such a helpless female could hardly be a
result of natural selection to begin with.  Primate [including human]
societies frequently feature prominent associations between related
females, or blood-related males and females, with males as sex
partners that are relatively peripheral to the business of being and
begetting, social relations and raising offspring.

While it is true that individual male reproduction in general is
limited by the number of fertilizations he can get [especially if
paternal care makes little or no difference to offspring
survivorship], and it is true that individual female reproduction is
limited not by sperm supply but by things like food to feed the kids,
that does not mean that her allegiance to one man is always the only,
best or most reliable way to secure food and housing, etc.  This is a
modern myth about ourselves and our past.  A look at the diversity of
cultures and the variety of ways in which kids get fed is enough to
dispel some of that notion about primordial "pair-bonds" and such.

AV:...Meanwhile, can you explain you're sentance:
Non-mean-rate-maximaing (mating and nutrient).

For any given time that one spends foraging [=acquiring or harvesting
wild foods] let us expect and assume that foragers are likely to
choose those items that will yield the biggest returns in terms of
calories per hour.  Whatever you get, this is the return _rate_.
This basic assumption is that you will try to _maximize_ the return
rate, to get the most food possible for your time [all other things
being equal; ceteris paribus (sp?)].

This is calculated as an average [_mean_] because the acquisition
rate varies from one minute, one orange, one armadillo to the next.
A mean is denoted in statistics by an x with a bar just above it, it
is the sum of the numerical values of n terms, divided by n.

Given the good theoretical basis for the assumption of
mean-rate-maximizing, and the quantity of evidence of the validity of
this assumption in many cases, it is considered a puzzle when we see
that sometimes, in specific ways, people are _not_ doing so.  Hence,
non-mean-rate-maximization.  And then the question is how and why
exactly does this work?

Why use a strategy that increases the risk of getting nothing most of
the time [big-game]?  Is meat and fat "worth more" so that explains
it?  Are men getting some other incentive to concentrate on game?
And how and why?  This is the direction of some current research.

Lisa Rogers

>>> Adrien Verlee <Adrien.Verlee at>  11/6/95, 02:23pm >>>
[snip] In 1886, Boas began fieldwork among the KWAKIUTL and other
Indians of the northwest Pacific coast. ... became (1899) Columbia
University's first professor of anthropology... on physical
anthropology, linguistics, and North American archaeology and
ethnology. He trained some of America's best-known anthropologists,
including Ruth BENEDICT, Alfred L. KROEBER, Robert H. LOWIE, and
Margaret MEAD...  Opposed to the armchair theorizing that had
previously dominated the field, Boas encouraged an empirical approach
to ethnology based on meticulous observation...
Initial  was the notion 'culture' within the German tradition used as
an idicate for the general civilisation process where (as ???)
humankind several phases pass through, from low-development to
Little by little grows by the Germans the awareness that culture a
general quality of humankind is...
...speculations about the general evolution of a culture, taking into
account they see diferent phases.

... the notion that the ways of livings of other peoples are
equivalence at the own people.

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