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Old 04-02-2011, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by detritus View Post
I'm not koifish, but I'll throw one out there. I have a BA degree in evolutionary biology, and found that although the authors have a lot of interesting ideas so far (I'm only just beginning the book) they make a couple common mistakes in their understanding of the mechanisms behind natural selection.

One that rubbed me the wrong way is on page 54, refuting the common argument for male preoccupation with paternity. In the bullet points, they say that the theory presumes that a man must know which children are biologically his--that he must understand sex leads to babies and that his partner was faithful. Nonsense. There needs not be a conscience understanding of the mechanisms at play. Men who just happened to be sexually monogamous and expect the same of their partners would "waste" less of their time and resources on children who were not biologically theirs than men who were promiscuous.

However, I would still agree that the theory presumes pair bonding and a culture organized around biologically related families (not necessarily nuclear in my opinion--grandparents have a stake in their grandchildren's evolutionary success). If ancient humans lived in tribes where all resources were shared evenly among the group, there is little evolutionary pressure for enforced monogamy and male's preoccupation with paternity. However, it is very, very rare for resources to be so evenly split unless the group is evenly related (bees, ants, and naked mole rats are a few examples of this type of relation pattern).

Also, on the page before they take offense at defining "productive" as producing offspring who survive to reproduce, that this is somehow a religious/political tinged word. In the evolutionary sense, that IS the only definition of success. It has nothing to do with politics at all. It's simply the mathematical foundation of all natural selection.

So...I'm sticking with the book. It's an interesting read so far and I hope that they come up with more facts to defend the theories. However, as of page 55 the authors are making a lot of common mistakes around their understanding of the mechanics of evolution and I'd feel a lot more hopeful about the book if one of the authors had a degree in biology.
I think your mixing things up a bit. While working towards a Ph.D. in psychology (unfinished) David Buss was a star in the department. I spent a lot of time with the evolutionary psych folks partly because I had some intellectual interest in the subject matter. But, admittedly, also because David had the hottest grad students in the department (even the males were hot). Anyway, back to our topic.

In the passage you take issue with, Ryan and Jetha are talking about the evolutionary psychology theory of parternity certainty. As they explain, it hypothesizes that selection would favor men who acted to invest in their own children versus others because that investment is costly. It does not actively presume that this is a conscious psychological process that the more casual description in the book may seem suggest. Instead, evolutionary psych proposes that men evolved solutions to the problem of paternity certainty when they're engaged in long term mating strategies. Specifically, men were "evolved" to desire chastity, sexual fidelity, and abhorence for promiscuity in a long term mate. These long term "mating strategies" are hypothesized to be an evolved mechanism in men who have the challenge of paternity certainty.

Consciuos behavior, pre-conscious or unconscious desires are all involved here. Assuming that something has to be conscious to be driving behavior is a mis-understanding of psychological science.

They were simply describing the hypothesis around paternity certainty which is certaintly a cornerstone of theory of Evolutionary Psychology. Which is an area of research populated by both psychologists and biologists. With that further explanation, are you still convinced that they are misunderstanding natural selection?
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