May 5, 2010

Sexual selection in the Sudan

Some of the tallest peoples in the world are also some of the most oppressed: the black Dinka and Nuer tribes of the South Sudan, who fought a long civil war against the brown Arab-speaking government in Khartoum. Charles Darwin's theory of sexual selection driving racial differentiation appears to be at work here. From the LA Times:
The man in the orange sunglasses and a fur hat with earflaps seemed more like a jazz musician on a cigarette break than a tribal chief, but as soon as he spoke, village men gathered for a lesson on brides, poor boys and cattle.

The shade was just right. John Modi Jubek crossed his legs, striking as regal a pose as a chief can when he's sitting in a plastic chair. It was odd to him that a stranger didn't know the Mundari tribe smiles more upon tall women than on short ones. A father may love his diminutive daughters, but affection does not bring longhorns and riches.

"Tall girls fetch more cattle because their daughters will quickly grow and can be married off to fetch even more cattle," said the chief, shooing a stubborn fly. "A tall girl can command 60 to 100 cattle from a suitor. A short girl may get 20 head, and, sometimes, short girls overstay their welcome in the father's home and end up fetching only five cattle. By then, a tall girl has already borne five children."

The chief paused, letting daughter-cattle ratios sink in. The men shook their heads at his calculations.

The chief was wise, cool in the late morning heat, watching sunflower-high women brush beneath the branches of a big tree with jugs and food sacks balanced on their heads. They strode past a man selling padlocks and Jesus calendars; they glided beyond a short sister wobbling in the sunlight with a numb smile and alcohol on her breath.

"Things get competitive for a tall girl," said the chief. "Once she reaches 12 years of age, men come to the father and promise many cattle. Of course, a suitor with no cattle will never marry. Our laws forbid that. He is single for life. If he sleeps with someone's daughter or gets her pregnant, he'll be killed."

What do tall women think about marriage and cattle?

The chief bit his lip, bafflement drifting across his face.

"Women have no say," he said.

40 comments:

David said...

The Hutu-Tutsi conflict is related.

Capt. Obvious said...

Best quote from the article:

"Women have no say."

Nicholas said...

Seems like an interesting case of people consciously choosing a trait that doesn't actually have any survival value. In fact, given the tendency of very tall people to be oppressed that you mentioned, it seems to be a hindrance to survival, if anything. If you're very tall, then you're easier to spot, and easier to hit with a projectile weapon, and it's harder for your subgroup to blend in with everyone else and hide.

Makes you wonder - why is it that humans consider excess height to be attractive?

Richard Hoste said...

The guy all the way to the left in the picture looks like an African Larry David.

ricpic said...

"Women have no say."

Sounds like paradise.

rob said...

I've wondered why men on the whole are pretty indifferent to women's height. Sexy son theory predicts that we should be. On average, taller women will have taller sons, who will clean up on the poon.

Even if men never cared, women like tall so much that there would have been strong directional selection on the whole populaton. There must be some advantages for short women. Short women hit puberty earlier, so their generation times would be shorter. They need to eat less, so they can devote more of their resources to reproduction.

Then again, maybe average men don't go for tall women because tall women want even taller dudes. Could be high status or otherwise very desirable men prefer tall women.

l said...

I wonder how many of the 'Lost Boys' who ended up in the US are just Dinka society losers who had no cattle, and thus no reason to hang around in Sudan.

Jim O'Sullivan said...

So who says human evolution stopped 50,000 years ago?

Harry Baldwin said...

Of course, a suitor with no cattle will never marry. Our laws forbid that. He is single for life. If he sleeps with someone's daughter or gets her pregnant, he'll be killed.

Women have no say.


Can we get this guy over here and make him our next black president? I think he could solve about half our social problems if we put his program into effect.

SGOTI said...

You can close the comments section now- ricpic has won. ;-)

Eric said...

Seems like an interesting case of people consciously choosing a trait that doesn't actually have any survival value.

The way I read it tall women are popular because they reach sexual maturity earlier. If that's really true then it does seem like a survival advantage.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I'd be interested in your take on something I've wondered about ever since I married my Chinese wife. Why is it that in places like Sudan and China, grooms essentially have to buy brides from their families, while in the West (or at least US) the custom is for the bride's family to provide a dowry to the groom or at least pay for the wedding. Presumably it's related to the women in the former society doing more work, and the Western tradition of chivalry and better treatment of women.

Enoch Powell Was Right said...

The picture looks like the folks I used to buy drugs off of in Trenton, NJ, complete with plastic lawn chairs – you could just photoshop a dilapidated 80 year old row house into the background for authenticity.
Anyway, iSteve readers, is belief in the theory of evolution necessary to the belief that traits are heritable? Forgive me for my ignorance, but wasn’t animal husbandry including selective breeding practiced long before Darwin’s theory became accepted? This is not my area of expertise to put it mildly, so please don’t clobber me too hard.
Thanks.

coldequation6 said...

From this paper:

Based on time trends, more recent birth cohorts have their menarche earlier and grow
taller. However, women with earlier menarche reach a shorter adult height compared with women who have
menarche at a later age.

Anonymous said...

evolutionary 'thereorizing' has reached freudian-nonsense level.

catperson said...

Sexual selection seems like almost a redundant concept to me because natural selection causes women to be sexually attracted to men who have traits that have survival value so usually sexual selection is still about natural selection.

I think tall and scrawny people have long been favored by natural selection (and to some extent sexual selection) because this combination allows you to have both the advantages of being big (i.e. long reach for fighting, high jump, long stride for walking and running, a head so high few people can hit it) combined with the advantages of being small (low calorie requirements, speed). I suspect a major reason why Neanderthals went extinct is because they had the opposite body build (short and bulky) and thus had both the disadvantages of being big (high calorie requirements, slow movement) and the disadvantages of being small (i.e. short reach for fighting, limited jumping ability, short stride etc).

Anonymous said...

"The way I read it tall women are popular because they reach sexual maturity earlier. If that's really true then it does seem like a survival advantage."

Actually, taller stature is correlated with later puberty (because later puberty allows for a longer prepubescent growth period). Also, because prepubertal growth is relatively greater in the limbs and the pubertal growth spurt is proportionatley greater in the torso, later puberty tends to result not just in taller stature, but a slender, "elongated" physique with a relatively short body and long limbs and a lower ponderal index (i.e., weight for height).

Also, Nilotics aren't as tall as people think. In fact, apart from a few tribes at the very core territory of Sudan, they are rather shorter than modern Westerners (though taller than medieval and early modern Westerners). According to Evelyth & Tanner’s “Worldwide Variation in Human Growth”, here are the heights and weights (cm/kg) of various Nilotic peoples.
Sudan: Dinka (m. 181.6/58.2), Shilluk (m. 178.6/58.1), Nilo-Hamites (m. 177.7)
Rwanda: Tutsi (m. 176.5/57.4; f. 161.8/52.8); Hutu (non-Nilotics) (m. 167.1/57.5; f. 155.9/52.1)
Kenya: Samburu (m. 175.3/54); Bantus (m. 164.2)
Congo: Tutsi (m. 173.5/55.7); Congolese (m. 167.8/59.1)
Chad: Sara – urban (m. 176.2), rural (m. 173.5/66.8; f. 163.9/58.1)

From Rassengeschichte der Menschheit:
Sudan: Nuer (m. 184.9)
Rawanda: Tutsu (m. 176.5)
Kenya: Masai (m. 172.7)
Ethiopia: Galla (m. 171)
Somalia: Somali (m. 168.7)

Most of the above data was collected in the 1950s through 1970s, but nutritional standards in Africa probably haven’t improved much if at all since then.

Here’s a more recent study by Chali from the current decade on Nilotic refugees from the Sudan in Ethiopia. They are even shorter than those from a few decades ago:

50.8% Dinkas, 43.8% Nuers, 3.4% Anuaks and 2.0% Shilluks - m. 176/59.7; f. 169/54.0
Dinka: m. 176.4
Nuer: m. 175.7
Shilluk; m. 172.6
Anuak: m. 171.7

Legions of Short, Fat, Stocky, Illegal Aliens said...

I think tall and scrawny people have long been favored by natural selection... I suspect a major reason why Neanderthals went extinct is because they had the opposite body build...

Sí, señor, check out our índice de fertilidad total.

Dutch Boy said...

Then again, Alexander the Great was only about 5' 7" and he kicked some hindquarters back in the day.

BamaGirl said...

"Women have no say.

Sounds like paradise."

Sureeee. That must be why societies who oppress their women have such high standards of living compared to those which don't.
One of the wonderful aspects of Western Civilization is the fact that historically Western women have enjoyed higher status than women elsewhere in the world. Its no coincidence that Western civilization has also exerted the most influence on the modern world. Disenfranchising/disregarding half the population isn't exactly a recipe for societal stability, as evidenced by the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Felix said...

The West is being carried along on inertia it built up before the emancipation of women. What we had going for us back in the day was an agressive dynamism, fighting skills, and the ability to create handy things like fire-arms, steam engines and electric motors. None of this had much to do with women's rights which in fact were not too much better than world average for most of Western ascendancy. If anything

stari_momak said...

Geez, those pictures. They really are blue.

stari_momak said...

Rassengeschichte der Menschheit...

Somethings just are meant to be expressed auf Deutsch.

Anonymous said...

@BamaGirl

Sureeee. That must be why societies who oppress their women have such high standards of living compared to those which don't.

Yep, this one is an ever-favorite modern feminist tactic to bully men into matriarchy: the Taliban suck at higher civilization building because they oppress women. (They also oppress men, in case you haven't noticed; you become a religious apostate, they execute you.)

And the reason why Isaac Newton or Faraday or Darwin produced such fascinating science is because, well, the West invented feminism. Yes sirree bob. The historical records from Newton's time telling us about the bar scenes where girls slut it up for the biggest hunks in the room are an infinite source for discovering the intricacies of differential calculus.

One of the wonderful aspects of Western Civilization is the fact that historically Western women have enjoyed higher status than women elsewhere in the world. Its no coincidence that Western civilization has also exerted the most influence on the modern world.

Actually, it's no coincidence that the moment the West stopped being a Patriarchy, it started to decline.

Disenfranchising/disregarding half the population isn't exactly a recipe for societal stability, as evidenced by the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Again, disenfranchising half the population may be one of the key features for sane governance.

Let me spell it out for ya, in case you missed one of the most critical insights found on this site: the Taliban is what it is because they've survived in an environment where the only other creatures that managed to do the same are mountain goats, rattle snakes, scorpions and that's pretty much it. Their IQ average is most probably 75 (with an SD of say 13), and if they're still around today, far from showing that Patriarchy is a failure, it shows that even with such dismally low cognitive gifts, a society still manages to keep its act together and survive thanks to it.

But, you being a girl, this will fall on deaf ears since you will keep on selectively picking primitive societies where Patriarchy is the norm (as it is, and has been, in pretty much in every society that managed to survive millennial hardship), and, using guilt-by-association, you will create the impression that they failed to invent calculus because their women are not receiving sex education on how to give blow jobs.

Go ahead, start shrieking.


JT

rob said...

ricpic said...
"Women have no say."

Sounds like paradise.


Depends on how you feel about living in a town where running water is a luxury, where the most powerful man sits around in a plastic lawn chair. They're a people who can't even keep Arabs from hunting them for sport. But hey, shit ain't all bad. They don't have to listen to Teh bichtez.

John Mansfield said...

The "buy a tall wife so you can sell lots of tall daughters" plan sounds a bit like our housing bubble. I wonder if they go through cycles of overinvestment in tall women producing large supplies of tall girls who can't be sold for as much as originally thought.

Anonymous said...

ricpic said...
"Women have no say."

Sounds like paradise.
---
Right. Because a Third World nomadic society is s-o-o-o much more attractive to live in than a modern Western technologically advanced society, right? I bet you'll be packing your bags tomorrow, huh? Sure.

Reminds me why I stopped reading this blog. The woman-hating loser crowd just got too over-the-top.

josh said...

"Women have no say." A wise chief,indeed!

Whiskey said...

Actually, contemporaneous evidence (Bernard Lewis, "the Muslim Discovery of Europe") shows Muslims from both the Baghdad Abbasid Caliphate and the Ottoman Sultanate aghast at the good treatment of European women. The latter were appalled when the Emperor himself let women, courteously, across the street before proceeding, even doffing his hat. Hardened and brutal Crusaders, thugs in chain mail, found the treatment of Arab women in the Holy Land disgusting.

Europe hit the sweet spot -- little social resources spent restricting/controlling women, women (who have the MOST important job in the world -- raising children, not a job for low IQ dummies) having a mostly free choice in mates and mostly free life. With men incentivized to have their own family, making a broad and deep resource in the society. Destroy the elites (as in the Black Death, or sacking of a capital city) in a Western society and a new elite from everyone else will simply spring up. Because there is a vast yeoman/middling class that can produce it -- and die by the hundreds of thousands and STILL fight.

The Greeks, and Romans, who fought en-masse, in disciplined spearmen ranks or Legion "maniples" were mostly small, compared to their tall, muscular, and very different enemies: Wild, tall Celts, Numidians (North African proto-Berbers), Persians, and so on.

Who had a more polygamous setting -- a few men getting most of the women, emphasis on individual not group combat, ambush rather than shock battle, and the like.

If your society is based on ambush, you want height because that's an advantage. If your society is based on shock battle, discipline, order, group cohesion, and smaller size (less of a target) is the value that will be expressed in sexual selection, as the entire Roman Army was basically a giant stabbing machine.

Anonymous said...

"One of the wonderful aspects of Western Civilization is the fact that historically Western women have enjoyed higher status than women elsewhere in the world. Its no coincidence that Western civilization has also exerted the most influence on the modern world."

No, it's not a coincidence. But you've got the cause and effect reversed.

BamaGirl said...

"Yep, this one is an ever-favorite modern feminist tactic to bully men into matriarchy: the Taliban suck at higher civilization building because they oppress women. (They also oppress men, in case you haven't noticed; you become a religious apostate, they execute you.)

And the reason why Isaac Newton or Faraday or Darwin produced such fascinating science is because, well, the West invented feminism. Yes sirree bob. The historical records from Newton's time telling us about the bar scenes where girls slut it up for the biggest hunks in the room are an infinite source for discovering the intricacies of differential calculus."

First off, I'm not trying to bully anyone into a matriarchy, you're attacking a straw-woman with that one. I don't even agree with the majority of modern feminists considering most of them are of the "hate whitey" post-modern post-colonialists variety and would be more than happy to throw women under the bus as part of some scheme for greater social justice (hence their defense of misogynistic Muslim practices in the name of cultural relativism). Women "slutting it up for the biggest hunks in the room" is honestly an exaggerated phenomenon that is restricted to the most attractive females anyways. Is it really a surprise that 80 percent of extremely attractive young females in big cities go for similarly empty-headed extremely attractive males? This isn't even a modern development either...I'm sure you would find a similar scenario in ancient Rome or 17th century France. Basically, the undertone I'm inferring from your post is that you hate feminism because you somehow blame it for depriving you of access to the hottest women.

Btw, addressing the rest of your post: I did not claim that the West never was a patriarchy. But it was in fact a soft patriarchy (particularly in Northwestern Europe) compared to other civilizations, and this was the case pretty much since the indo-european tribes pushed into Europe. Women in China had were hobbled by foot-binding and yet were also still expected to perform the majority of agricultural work...And the treatment of women was often even worse in the Islamic world and India.

I'm not saying feminism alone is the sole factor that leads to prosperity or high standards of living. But stability generally does lead to those things, and any society which treats half its members like slaves and deprives them of education, freedom of movement, etc is by nature going to be less stable.

Richard Hoste said...

To all the feminists:

Correlation does not mean causation!

Come on, we're sounding like Huffington Post commentators today!

Anonymous said...

To "all" the feminists*? What, all one of them in this thread? I could probably search the comments archive at HuffPo for the next year and not find any posts agreeing with the idea that women having no say is a good idea.

*in the context of this thread, a feminist is merely someone who does not think that denying access to education, property rights, and self-determination to the female half of a population is the recipe for a successful society. Not exactly the radical Marxist HERstory academic blah blah blah concept of feminism.

adsfasdfsaf said...

"Women have no say." A wise chief,indeed!

Actually the real key to male power was 'women have no pay'.

Anonymous said...

Whiskey said:

“The Greeks, and Romans, who fought en-masse, in disciplined spearmen ranks or Legion "maniples" were mostly small, compared to their tall, muscular, and very different enemies: Wild, tall Celts, Numidians (North African proto-Berbers), Persians, and so on.

Who had a more polygamous setting -- a few men getting most of the women, emphasis on individual not group combat, ambush rather than shock battle, and the like.

If your society is based on ambush, you want height because that's an advantage. If your society is based on shock battle, discipline, order, group cohesion, and smaller size (less of a target) is the value that will be expressed in sexual selection, as the entire Roman Army was basically a giant stabbing machine.”

Do you ever actually do any research before making assertions? Sure, the Greeks fought shoulder to shoulder as spearmen (later pikemen) in a phalanx 8 to 16 ranks deep. The Roman manipular formation was abandoned by the 1st C. B.C. in favor of the cohort based formation, which was similar to the manipular legion, but the units were bigger. In both types of formations the Romans fought in fairly open order (about 6’ frontage per man as opposed to ca. 3’ in a phalanx) so they had room to use their weapons; they were NOT spearmen. A Roman attack consisted of a volley of pila (javelins), followed by a charge to close quarters where the legionary wielded his gladius (short stabbing sword) from behind his large body shield (scutum). The 6’ frontage gave him the requisite room to throw his pilum and then wield his gladius as an individual swordsman, as well as allowing for the rear ranks to come forward and replace tired soldiers in the 1st rows.

Also, archaeological remains show that the Greeks and Romans weren’t particularly short. If you actually look at the evidence, the differences in height between ancient peoples generally amount to no more than a couple of cm and only the Germans are significantly taller than other peoples. Looking at the literature (Koepke & Baten, Angel, Bisel, Steckel, Murphy), Ancient Western Mediterraneans (Italians and Iberians) appear to have averaged around 1.68m. Celts (Gauls and Britains), despite the comments about their extreme height, were only about 1.7m. The Classical Greeks were about 1.7m. Hellenistic Greeks about 1.72m. In Roman times they were about 1.69m, as were the Egyptians and the populations of Asia Minor and the Levant. The Germans appear to have averaged about 1.72 or 1.73m. The Scytho-Sarmatian Steppe peoples were around 1.69m.

Anonymous said...

Getting into a relatively tight formation (whether it's a three foot or six foot frontage) isn't as novel as some would have you believe. It's natural to want to draw closer to your fellow man* when in a dangerous situation.

* This is something that has to be trained out of modern soldiers to some degree. You need to be close enough to your mates to make communication easy and to lend support to each other, but far enough apart to limit the damage that can be dealt by any one explosion.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Capt. Obvious said...

Best quote from the article:

"Women have no say."

And you obviously have no woman in your bed.

Anonymous said...

You know I used to like reading the comments but I've noticed a strong presence of racist and sexist idiocy. I will no longer be reading your crap.

psychohistory said...

"One of the wonderful aspects of Western Civilization is the fact that historically Western women have enjoyed higher status than women elsewhere in the world. Its no coincidence that Western civilization has also exerted the most influence on the modern world."

"No, it's not a coincidence. But you've got the cause and effect reversed."

how do you know? What kind of mother becomes a little girl whose birth is barely tolerated and though loved to some degree, is still considered a lesser being good only for making making babies and "bed business." She'd become a pretty overwhelming mother, I should think. The goddess Kali comes to mind. The European Madonna at least has a generally benign aspect. So did the Chinese goddess.
While I am not a huge fan of psychohistory, Lloyd de Mause's theory that certain cultures, particularly northwestern Europe and particularly Britain, advancing because they afforded rights not only to women, but to children, rarely available no where else in the world. People who talk blithely about how paradisical various tribal or non-western cultures were because of the social controls, do not investigate the desperation in which most people live(d). When the missionaries and Papuan government finally convinced the warriors to cease and desist in their endless cannibal wars, the men (and women) were glad and relieved. They just couldn't find a way to do until someone came in and did it for them. Now if only westerners would follow their own advice....
As for the women "have no say" -- well, I don't know about the Sudan since the racial composition is different there, but there's a reason suicide, often by self-immolation, is the most frequent cause of death in the Muslim world for females under 40. But come to think of it, the men didn't act as if they lived in any paradise either.

rebelliousvanilla said...

Actually, a civilization is built by constraining sexual choice from women to ensure an even distribution of them among the male population so that they don't compete among them for the women, but gear their efforts to build something useful. So the fact that civilizations where women don't have a say are worse off is irrelevant, actually. Anyone who says that women getting the vote, for example, was a good idea considering the utter trash women vote for is fooling himself. In the same time, the Sudanese aren't doing it right either. The early to mid 19th century was the best spot and it's sad for me to say this, as a woman.

And disenfranchising most of the people is the way to have a stable, productive society. The fact that the US became the greatest power in the 20th century is the result of Americans doing the right thing before that and the fact that America will stop being a first world power has to do with what it did in the 20th century. Feminism isn't the cause of Western success, but it will be one of the causes for it's failures. Obviously, treating women in a pathological way is counter-productive though.

The funny thing I don't get is why men still believe the provide and protect thing. It should be the pump and dump nowadays. Provide and protect are male virtues that are traded for female virtues - chastity and nurturing. If the later don't exist, only a fool does the former. If a woman is a self-absorbed slag, the pump and dump is the way to go.