March 11, 2011

Monkey math

Nicholas Wade reports in the NYT:
New View of How Humans Moved Away From Apes
Anthropologists studying living hunter-gatherers have radically revised their view of how early human societies were structured, a shift that yields new insights into how humans evolved away from apes.

Early human groups, according to the new view, would have been more cooperative and willing to learn from one another than the chimpanzees from which human ancestors split about five million years ago. The advantages of cooperation and social learning then propelled the incipient human groups along a different evolutionary path.

Anthropologists have assumed until now that hunter-gatherer bands consist of people fairly closely related to one another, much as chimpanzee groups do, and that kinship is a main motive for cooperation within the group. Natural selection, which usually promotes only selfish behavior, can reward this kind of cooperative behavior, called kin selection, because relatives contain many of the same genes.

A team of anthropologists led by Kim S. Hill of Arizona State University and Robert S. Walker of the University of Missouri analyzed data from 32 living hunter-gatherer peoples and found that the members of a band are not highly related. Fewer than 10 percent of people in a typical band are close relatives, meaning parents, children or siblings, they report in Friday’s issue of Science.

Michael Tomasello, a psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, said the survey provided a strong foundation for the view that cooperative behavior, as distinct from the fierce aggression between chimp groups, was the turning point that shaped human evolution. If kin selection was much weaker than thought, Dr. Tomasello said, “then other factors like reciprocity and safeguarding one’s reputation have to be stronger to make cooperation work.”

The finding corroborates an influential new view of early human origins advanced by Bernard Chapais, a primatologist at the University of Montreal, in his book “Primeval Kinship” (2008). Dr. Chapais showed how a simple development, the emergence of a pair bond between male and female, would have allowed people to recognize their relatives, something chimps can do only to a limited extent. When family members dispersed to other bands, they would be recognized and neighboring bands would cooperate instead of fighting to the death as chimp groups do. 

So, the evolution of pair-bonding or higher intelligence or whatever allowed our ancestors to remember who their kin were, even if they had gone off to other tribes. After awhile, we could, no doubt, recognize more distant kin, and even our in-laws, too, and then the kin of our in-laws and other refinements. And then, as we got even smarter, we'd start paying attention to people who might be, say, our children's future in-laws.

So, would kin selection be more or less powerful under these conditions than among a bunch of chimps?


Anonymous said...

Off topic Steve, but any thoughts on the huge earthquake off of the coast of Japan?

Anonymous said...

Interesting and timely. I saw a program on the Science channel last night about the evolution of the earth. They mentioned that the raising of the mountains in Eastern Africa (which created the semi-arid savannah environment) was the biggest factor in causing humans to evolve from apes. Taking that a step further, the harsher environment of East Africa would have caused the Pre-Humans to cooperate more with each other, thus differentiating them from the Chimps, who lived in a more comfortable environment.

Karen Thom said...

Good to see that this isn't yet another article on monkey weiners that have been popular in the MSM recently.

Cedric Yates said...

Whenever I read one of these studies using living hunter-gatherer groups to infer about distant past HG groups, I'm inclined to wonder how reliable the information is. After all, something must be quite different among these current HG groups to have never propelled themselves forward along the path to modern life as our own ancestors. If the difference is merely due to something such as our own ancestors being conquered by agriculturalists, which apparently never happened to the current HGs, then perhaps it is informative, if not then I have to wonder.

Anonymous said...

Human males not having spines on their penises might have something to do with this:

Matt Parrott said...

There is no environmental explanation for why a substantial subset of humans are intelligent enough to understand calculus and build rockets. There will never be one. If intelligence were as environmentally beneficial as the overwhelming majority of anthropologists presume, then the natural world would be like a Disney film, with sentient critters arguing and singing in chorus as one strolled through the park.

Besides, intelligence and memory are not even necessarily synonymous. When I'm at large family reunions, I can't remember half the names of the in-laws and younger children. I can, however, hide in a back room and bicker about anthropology on my laptop.

Why? Because this hypothesis is bunk.

Grumpy Old Man said...

Anthro 101--the incest taboo compels out-marriage, which creates links between local groups.

dearieme said...

All extant hunter gatherer groups are the unsuccessful ones. The successful ones went on to write Shakespeare and so on.

DavidB said...

The statement that fewer than 10 per cent of the members are close relatives, meaning parents, children or siblings, is either false or misleading. In any hunter-gatherer band not on the verge of extinction, at least a third of the members will be children. Most of the adults wil have at least one child, and most of the children will have at least one living parent. Therefore most members will have close relatives within the group.

Perhaps what the quoted statement is intended to mean is that, on average, fewer than 10 per cent of the members of a band are close relatives of any given member. But this is hardly surprising, given the very narrow definition of 'close relative', and it does not justify claims about the relative unimportance of kin selection. Suppose that in a band of 40 individuals an average member has one sibling, two children, a nephew, an uncle, and a couple of first cousins within the same band. This would give ample scope for kin selection to be important, yet it would be consistent with the 'fewer than 10 per cent' statistic on the more plausible interpretation.

spacehabitats said...

I seem to recall an episode of Nova years ago in which there was a description of an anthropological study of the hunter gatherer tribes of Borneo. Once a village reached a population of around 250, arguments would increase and then the village would split in two.

Interestingly, the schism would occur along lines of consanguinity, forming two villages in which relatedness was maximized.

This would seem to contradict the results of your study. I think I would want to see larger studies done in groups from different geographical areas before drawing too many general conclusion about human evolution.

Jack Grant said...

Another day, another evolutionary breakthrough. Jack

Penseur said...

Steve, your posts in the last few days have closely paralleled, literally day by day, the shifts in my own thiking on similar topics. Eerie!

My understanding of kin selection in humans comes mainly from the work of Tooby and Cosmides. They have produced evidence of mental modules specialized for detecting and emotianlly directing nepotistic kin relations. The problem here is that no one has ever demonstrated significant nepotistic behavior toward relatives beyond fist cousins, at the very most. If you think about it, this is a reductio ad absurdum. Even if humans were able to detect every kin relation to the minutes percentages, it cannot possibly be fitness enhancing to infintely divide our nepotistic behaviour into tinier and tinier portions.

This incidentally is one reason why Salter's theory of ethnic genetic interests may be fundamentally flawed or at least incomplete.

Discussed here:

Wade's article seems to support Tooby and Cosmides recent paper "Groups In Mind - War and Morality" suggesting that humans evolved a psyhological mechanism to detect and respond to coalitions (with members being closely related or not).

Neither the kin regulation module or the coalitional regulation module are by themselves sufficient to explain the widespread data of durable intergenerational ethnic affiliation and conflict. Most people love their race and want them to be fruitful and multiply. These are undoubtedly phenomena crying out for an integrative theory.

One hypothesis I've been chewing on recently is that ethnic affiliation and the corresponding suspicion of other ethnic groups is actully a cultural phenomenon, albeit universal in all ethnic groups. Humans in the EEA almost never ecountered member of other ethnic groups so it seems impossible for it to be a adaptation in it's own right.

Instead, some kind of interaction between the two modules of kin regulation and coalition regulatuion is activated when observing the different average phyisical appearances, behaviors and languages of ethnic out-groups in comparison to one's own. Perhaps the kin regulation mechanism "expects" only a narrow range of diference and is thus shocked into sending an especially strong "unrelated" signal. This in turn activates the coalitional mechanism.

Combining this with the "like attracts like" principle of human assortative behaviour may be sufficient to explain the mystery.

Disclaimer: This is only a hypothesis. I honestly don't know enough the gritty details of how these mechanisms work to be certain this model can be supported. Maybe no one does yet. If any of you have any constructive criticism or ideas, feel free to thrown them around.

I'll be starting up a blog soon with essays on this and other topics that I'll e-mail you once I have padded them out to my satisfaction, heh.

Anonymous said...

there is an interesting bit in the trojan war story where diomedes goes up to square up against the best trojan warrior in a duel to the death and, as was the tradition, they spelled out their provenance before battling (ma father was the great warrior xyz and his father was the great warrior abc"...) In doing so, his opponent recognized that Diomedes was a relative and so didn't fight him. both dio. and his opponent left the battlefield.
seemed to tie in nicely with the discovery posted. having your relatives all in greece can lead to war, but having some in greece and some in troy is actually a safer proposition (war minimization technique)

Anonymous said...

I could subscribe to The New York Times directly on my Kindle, but lately this blog provides me with all the NYT I think I need.

I think you should not rely on them for story leads too much. This is called "setting the agenda". Maybe you should read Science yourself rather than have the NYT science writers point you to what they think is important.

I know that is asking a lot for what I pay (essentially nothing) but there it is. I'd like to see more original topics. Or you could get topic ideas from people you know like Greg Cochran, Henry Harpending, or Razib.

Maybe I'm just being a paranoid right winger but all these topic sources from the NYT makes me a little nervous.


Anonymous said...

I'm missing something here. It sounds like the finding is that early human groups acted like humans. I don't see how this is an explanation of anything.

Anonymous said...

It certainly seemed that these guys know kin from non-kin ...

Whiskey said...

The scientific explanation for intelligence is technology: specifically fire and stone / wood tools. Which allowed big brains (protein) without massive resources for teeth, jaws, claws, and digestion. Fire allows COOKING which not only kills bacteria (need less robust immune/digestive system) but also allows easier digestion of protein to support big brains.

All that protein seems to have jump-started humanoid big brains. Cooperation also being a key for big-brained, technology using life forms that need division of skills and such to fully exploit protein-based resources via fire, stone/wood tools, and so on.

P Coderch said...

This doesen't make any sense. If intelligence evolved due to the need to recognize faces of friends/foes and perceive their intentions, then why are the most intelligent people usually invariably those who have the lowest of this ability? The number of physics nobelists and Fields' Medal winners who have difficulty telling people's emotions and even understanding jokes that involve perceiving nunances in language and emotions is staggering. As Isaac Asimov's A.Is in many of his novels would say:

Something. Does Not. Compute.

Anonymous said...

What is meant by social cooperation? Is it distinct from social herding? Many herbivores are social animals and herd together: yaks, wildebeests, wapiti(American elk), sheep, etc. Yet, they are pretty dumb.
Most cat species are solitary--with lions being the major exception--but they are very smart. Bears are solitary animals but among the most intelligent beasks, even more so than social wolves and dogs.

Humans are certainly social animals, and human intelligence go far within the social setting, but is there a law that say social grouping necessarily leads to higher IQ among animals? After all, crocodiles also flock together and sometimes even work together, but they are dumb.
To be sure, dolphins, killer whales, pigs, and elephants are very smart and are social animals.
But foxes are not social animals but pretty smart.

Maybe the key is really higher IQ than social cooperation. Maybe some apes got smarter and were able to gain power over other groups. It was less a case of cooperation than of domination. Certain groups became so dominant that other groups figured it's better to go along than resist.

Also, with higher IQ and greater recognition of other groups as more or less related, the dominant group was willing to go easier on the less powerful groups than totally vanquish it. A bunch of chimps may wanna wipe out another bunch of chimps, but maybe the dominant proto-ape had the ability to recognize weaker groups as 'kinda related, therefore kinda okay'.
It's like among the mafia: the weaker clans work with/for the sronger clans. This has less to do with the spirit of mutual cooperation than a case of 'it's better to get a slice of the pie by playing the game than get nothing or get killed by the stronger clan by challenging its authority'.
Also, among the smarter proto-humans, maybe there arose a realization that it's advantageous for the most powerful group to 'live and let live' with weaker clans as long as the weaker groups kissed your butt. If the strongest clan tries to fight and destroy every other clan, it will exhaust itself and fall too. So, a kind of instinctive game theory might have come into play.
Even in politics, it's generally preferable for the most powerful group to form alliances with weaker clans/groups/forces that are willing to make a deal. Tokugawas didn't go for total power. They allowed loyal clans to survive. And Chiang Kai-shek sought alliances with local chieftains than complete control. Mao was able to gain total control of China--and Stalin over USSR--but that kind of power tends to be rare. Nazi Germany was at its height when it made deals with weaker nations. It fell when it sought to gain total power over all of Europe by fighting everyone.
Roman Empire also understood that for it to be 'hyperpower', it had to make a deal with lesser powers that were willing to kiss Roman butt. Of course, Romans were still committed to totally kicking the asses of those who challenged Roman rule. But Romans didn't feel they have to crush and kill everyone in order to rule and be top dog. No need to ass-kick the ass-kissers.

Anonymous said...

It's possible that proto-man instinctively came to feel that it's better to spare weaker groups, clans, etc as long as they were killing to kiss butt. And weaker clans may have came to the instinctive realization that's it's better to submit to the top clan than keep fighting. Thus, it led to the rise of alpha-beta dynamic.
Among most animals, all males try to be alpha. Even if they lose and run, they still wanna be alpha and can't imagine being a beta. Grizzly bears and tigers are like this.
But within a wolf pack, some wolves will accept beta role in the pack while the alpha wolf will tolerate lesser males as long as they understand who's boss. Wolves don't understand game theory intellectually but they feel it instinctively or 'personality-wise'. And lions have a similar tempermant, which makes lion prides possible. But tigers and bears don't. They may be just as smart--or even smarter--, but they think in terms of alpha-maledom. Even when they take flight from the bigger male, they are not accepting a beta role. It's a case of a weaker alpha running from a stronger alpha.

In nature, male and female make a natural pair cuz male is stronger than the female and there is mutual attraction. Male is the natural alpha and female is the natural beta. But it's generally not natural for male and male to get along since both are alphas. So, for social cooperation to develop, males need to develop beta-femininistic qualities. It is because some wolf males are willing to play the bitch to the top male that wolf packs are possible. Grizzly bear packs are not possible cuz each male bear cannot swallow its alpha male pride. In a way, Asians may be more cooperative cuz many males have feminine qualties, while blacks have a more difficult time forming larger stable communties cuz too many males think in terms of 'I'm the only badass around here!'

Anyway, what happened at the individual level within a chimp clan or wolf pack may have expanded to the groupistic level with the proto-man. If a chimp male within the clan is willing to play the beta role--pledge his loyalty to the stronger male in exchange for protection--, maybe proto-man developed this mindset on a wider/higher conceptual level. Instead of beta individual bowing down to alpha male within the group, maybe a beta group came to pledge loyalty to the alpha group. With higher IQ, the beta-feeling-or-personality was conceptualized from a feeling to an intution and then into an idea.

Anonymous said...

It's worthwhile for Steve to pick leads from the NYT when they give news that can be used to support our side; then you can discuss it without being questioned suspiciously as to where you learned such "hate facts".
Robert Hume

Henry Harpending said...

This is a nice article but, as several have pointed out, the journalism leaves something to be desired. Funny, since Wade is no NYT nutcake but a solid journalist.

For example anthropologists have not thought that forager groups were like Chimp troops for forty years. The first round of forager studies, e.g. the Harvard group in the Kalahari, Cavalli in the Congo, BJ Williams in India, etc, showed that foragers were much more outbred than gardeners. Barry Hewlett of Washington State wrote an excellent review of mating distances a few years ago.

A glaring uniqueness of humans is that we are able to live in groups of pair bonds, hence have some form of bilateral kinship. This is again Anthro 101 standard stuff. A clear statement of this is an article several years ago by Richard Wrangham, Lars Rodseth, maybe some others in Current Anthropology.

This is it seems to me all interesting enough without bogus claims that this overturns anything in anthropology.

Henry Harpending

Anonymous said...

Maybe something called elder-ism or lore-ism played a role in the development of proto-man or mape(man ape)into man.
In the most basic sense, power in nature is raw strength. Whichever beast has the most raw power at any moment is the top male of the herd or pack. This is true among American elk. Males fight, and top male is the leader based on strength. Even so, there is an aura surrounding the status gained by the top male. If males fight and if one beats the others, other males will recognize the winner as the top male for a duration even without continuous fighting. The top male has gained the aura of victory and masterfulness. So, even if other males might be able to defeat it few days later, most males will not dare since the the top male carries the aura around him--'he's not to mess with'.

Among simpler animals, this aura may not last long. But among more complex animals--with higher intelligence and emotions--, it might lead to a different concept of power. A power not only of raw strength and aggression but of mythic dimension, of mysterious qualities. In a human community, there is the warrior-hunter but also the elder-wiseman and the medicine man. Warrior-hunter exhibits raw power whereas the elder wiseman or medicine man possesses higher power. In the beginning, the first elder wisemen may have been the top warrior-hunters who aged and maintained respect within the community even as stronger younger males appeared on the scene. Among chimps, the older top male is pushed aside by the younger challenger, and that's that. But among humans, power isn't just about fear or awe of the toughest but about respect, reverence, and affection for the one with a record of experience, knowledge, memory, wisdom. So, proto-man may have come to realize that there is another kind of power. Even when the top warrior-hunter aged and became weaker than the younger males, members of the community may have supported the aging warrior out of gratitude for his long glory. Also, as parents and children grew closer together, the son found it less palatable to commit patricide. Instead of being shunted aside, the aging warrior might have been given a role such as 'village elder'. Or he might have been elevated to clan chieftain. Not because he was physically strongest but because he'd gained the most aura, which members of the community sensed and remembered. With greater memory and higher intelligence(than those of chimps), members of the community would value his 'lifetime of service'. He would have gained a mythic status within the community--like Kurtz in APOCALPYSE NOW. Or Vito Corleone in THE GODFATHER. Michael and others know that the don is slipping in his final yrs, but he's a legendary figure, the elder statesman and wiseman of the mafia clan; so, he is revered. In a way, this may also have paved the way toward religion. Man came to realize a power beyond the physical. Man came to favor the elder wiseman(who could lead, advise, and reflect) over the merely brawny young warrior who could only shout and fight. But of course, all men die, even wise elders. So, to keep the mythic elders alive indefinitely, man had to create gods who were immortal. Though there are all kinds of pagan gods, the highest gods tend to be elder gods. Zeus over Ares, Odin over Thor. Elder-patriarch gods are generally more respected than youthful warrior-gods. In Greek mythology, most of the brawny guys are heroes or half-gods. God rely less on brawn for power since they got the magic and wisdom and time(immortality).
In the film SEVEN SAMURAI, the other samurai follow the elder samurai, not because the guy is the toughest but because there is an aura of experience and wisdom about him. And villagers go to their village elder for advice. This elderization or patriarchization of community made it possible for more stable societies since rules were governed by older men of experience and memory than by younger man of brash balls.

Anonymous said...

(To be sure, this got corrupted over time, with old farts rigging the system to keep all the power for themselves. So, for further progress, younger and newer voices had to challenge the authority of the corrupt elders of the old-boys-network. Elders may know more, but they may lack the spontaneity of youth that can provide the necessary spark. Indeed, in SEVEN SAMURAI, the younger wild guy played by Toshiro Mifune is often wrong but sometimes right and invaluable in his own way. But then, the 60s took the anti-patriarchism too far, and the effect was especially damaging in the black community where young strong punks began to beat up teachers and show no respect to elders. If youths wanna challenge elder power, they should have good moral reason for doing so. Otherwise, patriarchy is replaced by thugarchy. Too much elderism constipates a society, as with Old and even Current Asia. Lack of elderism leads to social diarrhea, as with the black community. West is best cuz it found the balance between excessive elderism and excessive punkism).
John Wayne's latter career in Western movies is a case of elderism. In TRUE GRIT, we knew he wasn't the fastest or toughest guy in the West, but we loved him cuz he's paid his dues and gained the mythic aura as the American Movie Hero. And we side with the elders in RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY too.

To be sure, even animals have the desire to revere righteous and higher power than merely raw power. A big strong dog wants to respect his master, even if he's an old man. Dog doesn't just want to a master to fear and obey but one to love and respect. Dogs cannot intellectualize their emotions, but it's a not only about fighting and domination. And it may be true with chimps as well. But the life of animals in the wild is so brutal that they can't spare much time for sentiment or higher affection. But proto-men somehow were able to formulate, implement, and practice a higher form of power. The top dude in the community was no longer the guy who could beat up all the others but the one would command the respect of most of the others. As a result, most members of the community could unite with the elder against the unruly young punks who thinks primarily in an animal-thug way. And if the young punk was a real troublemaker, he could be killed by the community led by the elder, and thus the genes of excessive punks would be weeded out.
Higher capacity for memory and intelligence filled one's perception of the world with lores and legend. A great warrior-hunter wasn't just tough but became a mythic figure. So, even as he grew old and weak, the mythic aura continued to surround him. It was a revolution in the concept of power in the psyche of proto-man.
This capacity for aura-ic emotions was an advance in psychology as it conceived of power as something other than 'I got muscles'. But smarter ones manipulated the aura-ic emotions of others to amass ever greater power. Thus, the next progress in psychological evolution required the capacity for critical reasoning which could challenge hocus-pocus aura-cism. Aura-cism conceived of a higher concept of power, and criticalism allowed a higher concept of truth, which was to be the new basis of power. It was called anti-clericalism and rationalism.

Anonymous said...

Okay, here's a crackpot theory of the origin of man, but it aint half-bad for sci-fi 'quest of fire' sort of theorizing.
I call it the Exile Theory.

Rise of proto-man was the product of forced exile of the dopey apes by the thuggy or crazy mean apes. Suppose there were a whole bunch of apes, and most of them were mean and crazy. They were busying making noise and fighting all the time. But there were some dopey apes that got beat up left and right. Generally, dopey apes got killed by other apes, but suppose a bunch of dopey apes either excaped or got exiled from the main crazy badass community. And following them were the dopey she-apes. By some luck, they moved into an area safe from the other apes, the mean crazy ones. In the new environment, their dopeyness was a kind of advantage. Since the male apes were dopey, they fought less with one another. They made more dependable hubby-apes and papa-apes. Being dopey and beta-ish, they had more affection for others in the group. This dopeyness made for a nurturing community, and in time, dopey apes had a lot of surviving members since their offsprings were also likely to be dopey. Being dopey, they were more likely to be cooperative and mutually helpful. Though one-on-one, a dopey ape was no match for a crazy mean ape, the dopey ape community over time produced far more apes while the crazy mean apes produced fewer apes since they were too busy fighting one another and creating havoc. So, over time, the dopey apes came to outnumber the crazy mean apes by 20 to 1. Dopey apes win. Similarly, a Japanese male is no match for a black guy in a face-to-face confrontation, but Japanese as a group is far more formidable than a bunch of black guys chasing eachother with machetes and rap-battling one another. Dopey Japanese guys work togther, badass black guys fight one another.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough, the theme of exile is one of the most fundamental mythic and historical psycho-narrative archetypes. One could say Out-of-Africa is a kind of exile theme too. Often in the exile narrative, the powerful or powermad figure of authority forces exile on the weak, young, and/or vulnerable who, in time, returns to take righteous power from the evil mad lord. In Greek mythology, Cronus the Titan tries to devour his children, but they escape via exiledom, only to return as Olympians to take power from the Titans. There are many stories in Greek mythology of the crazy paranoid patriarch who tries to have a young boy killed... who returns to take his righteous revenge. There is the story of the Jewish exile--more than one in fact. In these narratives, Jews are a weak helpless people kicked about by big evil forces. But in exile, Jews find refuge and time/opportunity to regroup, multiply, connect with the Lord, gain more inspiration and laws, and eventually to take back what they've lost(just like the dopey apes found strength in exile, grew in number, and returned to take power from the crazy apes). There's Jewish exile from Egypt, the Babylonian exile, the Roman exile, and the narrative of Jews returning to take back the Holy Land in 1948. David was exiled by Saul. Though whites were late arrivals in the Americans, Mormon history makes the arrival of whites as a kind of righteous return from exile. There's the exile story in Jesus. How His parents had to free from Herod's wrath to another land, from which Jesus returns to 'conquer', in His own fashion, the land of His people and more. There is the exile theme in Genghis Khan. Young boy driven to slavery and hellhole, yet he grows up to become a strong man who wins the respect of other men and teaches them to work together for greater Mongol glory than fight one another for scrapes while Chinese play divide-and-rule with the barbarians. And of course, McCarthur was big with his 'I shall return' schtick.

Could the exile theme be a psychic carry-over from the dopey ape stage of development? Or is it grounded in the realization that growing up is a kind of exile. We are born into the kangaroo pouch comfort of family, but parents must one day expel the kids from home so they can grow independent and become full adults; instead of returning to the family that spawned them, they must 'return' to the family of their own.

In CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and BATTLE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, Caesar is an exceptional ape since he's kinda like an alpha-dopey ape. He's clearly intelligent and has leadership qualities, but he's also very sensitive and not without conscience(dopey). In BATTLE, he faces off against the crazy mean gorilla who killed his son. Though the thugorilla is bigger and stronger, Caesar the sympathetic chimpanzee--a sympanzee--gains the upperhand cuz he has the respect of other apes. He comes up with the mother of all apes laws: APE SHALL NOT KILL APE. (And of course, his parents were exiled from the Planet of the Apes--or the future).

DavidB said...

This is the abstract of the original article:

"Contemporary humans exhibit spectacular biological success derived from cumulative culture and cooperation. The origins of these traits may be related to our ancestral group structure. Because humans lived as foragers for 95% of our species’ history, we analyzed co-residence patterns among 32 present-day foraging societies (total n = 5067 individuals, mean experienced band size = 28.2 adults). We found that hunter-gatherers display a unique social structure where (i) either sex may disperse or remain in their natal group, (ii) adult brothers and sisters often co-reside, and (iii) most individuals in residential groups are genetically unrelated. These patterns produce large interaction networks of unrelated adults and suggest that inclusive fitness cannot explain extensive cooperation in hunter-gatherer bands. However, large social networks may help to explain why humans evolved capacities for social learning that resulted in cumulative culture."

Note that 'adult brothers and sisters often coreside', but 'most individuals in residential groups are genetically unrelated'. To avoid blatant inconsistency, this must mean merely that each individual is unrelated to most other individuals in the group. But if 'related' means 'closely related' (as in the NYT article), this is hardly surprising, as I pointed out in an earlier comment. And I doubt that it really differentiates humans from other social primates, like chimps. In Jane Goodall's Gombe group, individual chimps may have a parent or sibling in the the same group (usually half-brothers, as mating is promiscuous, so there are few full siblings, and females do not stay in their natal group), but they will not be 'close relatives' of most other adults, if this means just siblings, parents, or offspring.

I will read the full paper when I can get it at a Library, but from the Abstract I don't find the claims either new new or compelling.

DavidB said...

A quick update (Steve: this should go after the comment I made earlier today). I have found a copy of the full article (freely available) at Robert S. Walker's webpage.

I can confirm Henry Harpending's comment that the authors seem out of date in their claims about prevailing views on hunter gatherer group structure. They cite only two old (1960s) studies to support the claim that groups are usually believed to contain mainly close relatives.

They do give some attention to relatives more distant than parents, offspring, or siblings, but are hampered by lack of adequate data for most h-g societies (after 100 years of academic anthropology!) For the two societies where adequate data is available, close and more distant kin (down to relatedness of .03215, which is somewhere between first and second cousin) of an adult individual may include 25% of the adult population of a group, and kin of the husband or wife could bring it up to 40%. They estimate average relatedness between individuals (by Hamilton's r) to be 'only' .054, which is about that of a half-first-cousin. This is not small potatoes.

As it happens, I tend to agree with the authors that kin selection does not suffice to explain the extent of cooperation among humans; not because human groups do not contain enough relatives, but because there are plenty of animal societies with similar or greater average relatedness, but not much cooperation.

Incidentally, the paper makes no comparisons at all with other primates, so there is no basis for claims that human social organisation is at all 'special' or unusual. Maybe it is, but this paper doesn't prove it.

ben tillman said...

The statement that fewer than 10 per cent of the members are close relatives, meaning parents, children or siblings, is either false or misleading.

It's unintelligible, like Lewontin's 85/15 statement.

ben tillman said...

My understanding of kin selection in humans comes mainly from the work of Tooby and Cosmides. They have produced evidence of mental modules specialized for detecting and emotianlly directing nepotistic kin relations. The problem here is that no one has ever demonstrated significant nepotistic behavior toward relatives beyond fist cousins, at the very most.

You're out of your mind. Ethnic nepotism favoring a relative of indefinite closeness happens ALL THE TIME.

ben tillman said...

This incidentally is one reason why Salter's theory of ethnic genetic interests may be fundamentally flawed or at least incomplete.

You have no idea what Salter even wrote about EGI. It can't be flawed. It is simple mathematics, demonstrable with with mathematical certainty.

TGGP said...

Whiskey, on cooking you might like Richard Wrangham's book "Catching Fire".

Anonymous said...

Maybe the rise of proto-man has something to do with increase in communicative skills. Indeed, why are dogs such sociable creatures? They have a wide range of emotional expressiveness. A dog can growl, bare its teeth, and bark rabidly/aggressively, or it can whimper and act cuddly/apologetic/remorseful/
pitiable. As such, dogs can survive under different kinds of social environments. It can survive as top dog, middle dog, or bottom dog. It can growl angrily or whimper softly. This range of expressiveness allows dogs and wolves to form packs which has a mix of winners, middlers, and even loser-hanger-ons. And dogs can live with humans cuz they are emotionally wide-ranging. Wolves too have a wide range of emotions, but they are more aggressive than dogs, thus less likely to work well with humans. But dogs can do lots of stuff with humans. Dogs can serve as aggressive attack dogs, hunter dogs, family dogs, cuddly dogs. Also, we are more able to forgive dogs when they do wrong cuz they can put on the 'I am so sorry act'. When a dog does something 'wrong', it really looks sorry, and our hearts melt and anger fades. We are close to cats too, but cats are pretty useless--except for farmers with rat problem. We like cats cuz they are stylish, beautiful, graceful, etc. Their emotional range is much narrower than that of dogs. Even so, cats possess enough of an emotional range that makes them fascinatingly sociable. They can be awful proud and independent(and even fierce)but also soft, gentle, and needy. But it wouldn't make much sense trying to raise a wolverine which is pretty vicious all the time.

Apes too can form large social groupings cuz of wide range of emotions. There is room for top males, old males, young males, middle males, loser males, etc. Chimps, at least within the same pack, can play the winner or loser. They can act aggressive and commanding or sorry and pitiable. A strong male may be more willing to forgive or tolerate a remorseful or loyal-cowering male.
This is possible because of the wide range of emotional communicativeness among apes. Chimp packs may be bigger than gorilla packs cuz chimps are emotionally more wide-ranging, which allows more males to get along within the group. Gorilla males may be emotionally more rigid-aggressive, thus it might be more difficult for a large number of males to stand one another. A chimp can go Ah-ah to mean "I can kick your ass" but also eeh-eeh to mean "You can kick my ass, so don't beat me up." Similarly, a dog can go bow-wow to mean "I can bite off your head" but it can also go whimper-whimper to mean "you're my master and I'm your loyal servant". So, the widening of emotional expressiveness and flexibility in communicativeness allowed for larger social groupings.

Anonymous said...

Even so, before the rise of language, communication happened emotionally. Dog sounds give warning or express feelings but they have no linguistic or symbolic meaning. Same is true of apes. At some point, proto-man came closer to using communication via symbolism. Thus, sounds weren't merely emotionally expressive but conceptually meaningful. This made it possible for greater understanding and peace among different groups.
Suppose there was a group of proto-man which broke off into two groups and went separate ways. Suppose they confronted one another 10 yrs later without ability for conceptual language; suppose they could only communicate emotionally. One side would go wah-wah, emotionally meaning 'look, an hostile tribe!!!', and the other side would go 'woo-woo', emotionally meaning, 'let's kick their ass'. The chance of war is nearly 100%. But, imagine a scenario where proto-man have some crude form of conceptual communication or lingustics. Suppose a group breaks off into two groups but then confront each other 10 yrs later. Both sides are full of anxiety and fear, but the leader of one side goes 'wog uga ugh kawa ooh', meaning "don't I know you from somewhere?" and the leader of the other side goes 'waga laga gungu wu', meaning, "by golly, your sister married my brother long ago.". This way, instead of a 100% chance of a war, there's only 50% of chance of war. They may fight or they may decide to come together again. Shared language brings people together. Greeks often fought one another, but they also cooperated in Olympics and to fight the Persians cuz they shared the same language. Hebrew is the unifying link between various Jews of different groups in Israel. In the Bible, God destroys the Tower of Babel and creats a babble of different language cuz He realizes that common language unites the people against Him. Language is like fire. It spreads and unites a community and communities. When people can understand one another and communicate, they have a chance of forming stronger bonds. Of course, common language can lead to division and anger too. Indeed, PC control of language is to try to defuse tensions and hatred among groups by 'misuse' of language--which is rather funny given multi-culturalism also promotes bi- or multi-lingualism and MORE divisive diversity. With lesser racial and cultural homogeneity, the left tries to compensate with ideological homogeneity via control of language. No wonder Chomsky is a linguist.

Anonymous said...

My friend used to own gerbils long ago. They multiplied to such number that she separated them into two different cages. After several months, she got a much bigger cage and tried to put them all back together. Though originally of the same family, the two sides began to fight one another viciously, and so they had to be separated again. Now, suppose gerbils had the use of conceptual language. Suppose the leader of one group of gerbil was able to say to the leader of the other group, 'I could swear we know eachother', and the other gerbil said, 'yeah, we were related before the stupid girl put us in separate cages'. There would be less chance of fighting. But due to limited memory of gerbils and lack of communicative skills, the two sides fought as bitter enemies.
The power of language to procure peace can be seen in the movie APOCALYPTO. There's a scene where a strange tribe is fleeing through the jungle and encounteres the main tribe of the movie. The men of both sides are on the edge. They are getting ready to fight. There's a great deal of distrust, but what lessens the tension is the common language. They can understand one another. So, slowly, the tension is defused. Of course, animals too can decide not to fight. Two bear males might growl and growl and then just back off without fighting. Even so, the only communication between the two is the emotional meaning of 'I can fuc* you up real bad, so don't even try'. There is no chance of cooperation between the bears. But the two tribes in APOCALYPTO don't just back off from a fight. They back off in relative peace and even good will cuz they can communicate. They also trade some goods, which goes to show the importance of the trade economy in the cooperative power of early man. Maybe the first trade happened accidentally, like the discovery of fire. Suppose there was the banana-apple war. One tribe owned a tree that grew apples. Another tribe owned a tree that grew bananas. One day, there was a war, a kind of food fight. Apple tribe threw apples at the banana tribe, and the banana tribe threw bananas as the apple tribe. After awhile, the apple tribe got to thinking, 'these bananas are pretty good' and the banana tribe got to thinking, 'these apples are pretty good'. So, they came to realize that it's better to trade apples for bananas than fight another by throwing shit at one another. So, tribes that had the fish traded with the tribes that had the gophers. Once this trading thing got offhand, early man maybe decided to trade women and children as well, which accidentally ended up forming stronger bonds between tribes. Call it the Poon Theory. Suppose the leader of one tribe traded his daughter for the sister of the chief of the other tribe. Their goal was initially nothing more than to 'trade pussy', but eventually, the two tribes became closer in bloodline which drew them closer together, and then there was more trading of sons and daughters for intermating between the tribes. Throughout history, even civilzed noblemen carried out this practice, with the marriage of their children serving as a means to forge stronger ties with other political powers,and this indeed kept much of the peace among European kingdoms. This was broken only with the rise of populist nationalism. Even today, Poon Theory still operates in some form. Top Jews marry Top wasps, as with Chelsea Clinton marrying the son of Marc Rich. I don't see too many rich Jewish guys marrying off their daughters to Mexican janitors making minimum wage. We see power-marriages among the rich-dynasty families.
Today, free market libertarians insist that more trading ensures greater world peace since trading leads to mutual dependence among all men around the world. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Chinese, Japanese, Brazilians, Mexicans, etc, etc, may not like one another, but it's their mutual interest to trade with one another, so they maintain the peace.

Anonymous said...

Trade is made possible through language. Language makes it possible to haggle, to deal, to bargain, to compromise, etc. Without language, each side is more likely to just attack and plunder. But with language, each side can forgo violence and agree to 'give this for that'. Of course, those with superior language skills have the upperhand. And so, white man made the Indians give up lots of land for stuff like mirrors and bean necklaces. And Jews are good at verbal business skills; they can talk us into anything.

Anonymous said...

To better understand the rise of man, we need to take into account the Convergence Theory. Too often, there is a tendency to focus one set of details or findings over all others. But there was surely no single magic bullet. Rather, it was a convergence of various factors that all came together at a moment in time to create something new and 'miraculous'. Convergence Theory is also connected to Flexibility Theory. It was not because proto-man was ONLY-THIS or ONLY-THAT that he developed into modern man. Rather, it was his ability to use a widening range of flexible expressions, actions, and practices which made him rise among other animals. Leftist scientists emphasize communalism and cooperative-ism cuz it goes well with their univeralist ideology, and rightist scientists emphaize tribalism and kinshipism cuz it conforms to their view of nationalism or particularism. But the rise of man owed to his ability to use both modes depending on the situation. If proto-man was ONLY tribal, he would never have risen above clan-loyalty; he never would have formed larger social orders. If proto-man was ONLY trusting & cooperative & peaceful, he would have gotten destroyed by hostile ruthless tribes all around. Proto-man needed both the ability to make peace and make war. In the modern world, US rose to a great power cuz it knew when to make peace and when to make war. It fought Japan but then made peace after the war. (It is ridiculous for white man to feel guilty for his warring past since all civilizations were created by both war and peace). Jews also use both modes. They are nationalists in Israel where they are the majority and universalists where they are the minority. It's like the Ecclesiastes says: there is a time for this, a time for that, time for etc, etc, etc, and everything under the sun. It was this rise of flexibility which made man more formidable than other animals. And it is this flexiblity in dogs which makes it the man's best friend. In the movie WHITE DOG, we see the full range of the dog from attack-animal to gentle friend. Man found the dog useful cuz it could help man as a hunting companion, guarder of home, friend to children, etc. Dog would have been far less useful if it could ONLY be nice or if could ONLY be mean. It could be both nice and mean, depending on the situation. It is among the most man-like of animals. And dogs, in their own way, are very communicative, so much so that people even talk to them in the way that they don't with other animals.
So the rise of proto-man requires a kind of gestaltic thinking, that the whole is larger is than the sum of its parts. This tendency by social scientists to look at only one part and say, THIS explains the whole picture is to confuse the tree as the forest.

Anonymous said...

When we wonder why life developed on Earth, there is no single magic theory. There was a convergence of factors. The sun in our solar system was not too big or hot. Earth was positioned not too far, not to close. Jupiter and Saturn served as magnets of asteroids and comets which otherwise may have hit the Earth. Moon served to control the tides of Earth oceans. Earth has certain compounds which could turn into life. and etc. There was no single reason for the development of the miracle of life on Earth.

Similarly, there is no single theory that can explain the rise of the West. Some say it was Christianity, some say it was the white race, some way it was Greco-Roman influence, some say it was the geography, some say it was the domestication of cows, etc. It was most likely the convergence of all these factors at the right time/right place in history.

It's like the miracle of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE or THE WILD BUNCH. Why are they such great miraculous films? Because of Capra or Peckinpah? But, though Capra and Peckinpah made other notable films, WONDERFUL LIFE and WILD BUNCH really stand out from their other films Was it the actors? But the same actors were in some movies which weren't so good. Great writers? But Walon Green, the writer for THE WILD BUNCH did a lot of hackwork later on. Music? Jerry Fielding composed some forgettable scores for other movies. It was a convergence of just the right ideas, right people, right money, right zeitgeist, right talent, etc that made THE WILD BUNCH possible. We wouldn't have it any other way. There is no single bullet that explains the miracle of WILD BUNCH. Such films are rare, but they change the evolution of film history forever. BLADE RUNNER was also a masterpiece of convergence. All the right money, creative talent, and vision coming together at just the right moment, and it too has changed the history of films.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the change of physiology affected the mind of man. Look at most animals and what protrudes physically are their sharp teeth and/or claws while their genitalis are hidden. This is true especially of four-legged critters but even most primates are like this. Baboons and apes usually move around on four limbs and their teeth are the most frontal parts of their physique. But as apes began to stand up and turn into proto-man, the thing that protruded out most among males was their genitals instead of their jaws. Among women, it was their breasts. Maybe this led proto-man to think more in terms of love than war.
Most animals are into fighting and eating first and having sex second, and physically designed for this. Proto-man may have begun to think more about sex and love cuz what was most visible among men and women were sexual organs. In this way, proto-man went from will to make war to will to make love. Of course, animals fight for the right to mate, but proto-man may have found more peaceful ways to find mate since sex than fighting was more on their minds.

Also, proto-man might have lost his keen sense of smell, and this led to less animalistic way of thinking. Smell means a lot to animals. Even apes smell stuff all the time. Chimps sniff at anything that comes into their hands. Humans are not smell-centric. Smell is a wet sense. It is primal and primordial, very animal. Vision is a dry sense. It is more conceptual, spatial, distance-centric. When we smell something, distance fades between the object and us. It is in us. But when we see stuff, it is spatially separated from us. Dry senses allow for more conceptual thinking. And the ability to see color made proto-man think beyond stark terms of black and white.
So, when proto-man smelled less and saw more, he might have grown less primordial and more conceptual.

Anonymous said...

Maybe something like a SEPARATION PARADOX came into play among proto-man which made different tribes form stronger bonds. Maybe this was due to the development of a certain sentimentality, a kind of longing in the heart of proto-man.

Generally, we think in terms of closeness and rootedness creating strong bonds vs. separation and movement creating loosening of bonds. But, what if separation and movement paradoxically lead to greater emotional longing for unity(or reunification)and rootedness(or nostalgia for home)?
Parents and kids argue a lot under the same roof and even come to hate one another. After the kids leave the house, you'd think parents and kids would drift further apart. Sometimes, this is true. But in many cases, it is the separation that emotionally brings them together(even if or precisely because they are physically apart). After all, friends who haven't seen each other for many yrs get so excited when they meet up again. And though a dog greets its master with much love on a daily basis, after a separation of many months, the dog is totally crazy-mad-happy to greet its master again. Separation and distance in many cases strengthens bonds among creatures of higher/deeper emotions, and of course, humans are the emotionally the most complex and deepest of all creatures--though dogs aren't far behind.
In a musical play in GODFATHER II, some Italian actors sings of his 'mama, mamma mia' back home.
This longing for attachment or re-attachment could essentially be rooted in parent-child emotions. As animals grew more complex, this emotion may have broadened to include not just longing for lost mother but for lost 'homeland' of one's original tribe. So, it could be that among proto-man, separation among tribes sometimes led to greater affection and longing to rejoin together. And when members of one tribe visited another tribe, it was the separation that made the reunion all the more sweet and welcome--like 10 yr highschool reunions.

We can see some of this in Greek Mythology and history of Jews. Odysseus is the greatest adventurer in Greek mythology but he longs to return home. And home--and wife and son--are ever more dear to him because he was separated from them for so long. For Odysseus, home isn't just home but a mythic place of love and security.
And though we associate Jews with rootlessness, one of the major themes of Jewish history is the desire to return home to the Holy Land. And since Jewish God is in Heaven, there is sense that Jews, no matter where they are, are rooted to the God in Heaven(than to pagan soil of any single territory).

Anonymous said...

We can see separation paradox among urban youths. If two sets of youths don't know each other, they might get into gang fights in a 'us vs them' manner. But suppose some guy in gang A and some guy in gang B went to middle school together. Two gangs face off against each other, but the two old friends recognize eachother and shake hands and then they try to convince the other members of the gang that "it's all cool and shit." Through the reunion of two 'lost friends', both gangs might come together in peace.

And maybe peace between tribes also resulted from kidnapping. Suppose one tribe raided another tribe and took off with the kids. The kids grow up as members of the tribe that abducted them but still feel a longing for their original tribe. If the kids grow up to become leaders of the tribe(that abducted them), they may work to forge a bond(and peace)between their adoptive tribe and original tribe. An act of war leading to act of peace.
And though blacks were brought to US as slaves, some never lost a kind of sentimental attachment to Africa, and some American blacks have served as bridges between the white world and the black world.

Penseur said...

ben tillman said:

Ethnic nepotism favoring a relative of indefinite closeness happens ALL THE TIME.

I should have more clearly defined what I meant by "significant nepotistic behavior". Something like paying to send your kid through college. Or risking your life to save a sibling. Of course even in less extreme situations (like employment) people will still favor a fellow ethnic over a non-member assuming all else is (close to) equal. The mathematics of allele frequencies is likely behind this, as you indicated. But is it totally proportionate?

You have no idea what Salter even wrote about EGI. It can't be flawed. It is simple mathematics, demonstrable with with mathematical certainty.

People do act AS IF they intuitively understand the mathematics. I get it. My point is merely that there is not yet a detailed psychological understanding of how our minds are able to accurately estimate and act on these subtle mathematical realities. Our Pleistocene ancestors almost never encountered members of other ethnic groups. Does it seem likely that a cognitive adaptation for estimating genetic relatedness would continue to work well beyond a certain distance? Maybe, maybe not. And kin selection (as in SIGNIFICANT nepotism, the basis of inclusive fitness) fades fast after the first cousin or so; yet we appear more concerned about co-ethnics anyway. Does evolution actually reward us in proportion to what we are observed doing based on the mathematics of EGI? Again, maybe, maybe not. Most of us Steveosphere types generally agree on what the data basically is. Naturally we will approach it in different ways. If you have an equally detailed take on this, fire away. Peer review is part of the essence of progress.

Anonymous said...

"But within a wolf pack, some wolves will accept beta role in the pack while the alpha wolf will tolerate lesser males as long as they understand who's boss. Wolves don't understand game theory intellectually but they feel it instinctively or 'personality-wise'.

Actually wolf packs in the wild are families, the alpha pair are (usually) the mother and father.

"And lions have a similar tempermant, which makes lion prides possible"

Nope, Lion prides are mostly female and the males are a small group of alpha males (usually brothers) who violently resist challengers.

"But tigers and bears don't. They may be just as smart--or even smarter--, but they think in terms of alpha-maledom."

The term alpha describes social relationships and doesn't really apply to essentially solitary beasts like tigers and bears. For their to be alpha there must be omega.

Anonymous said...

"Actually wolf packs in the wild are families, the alpha pair are (usually) the mother and father."

That's prolly true but among the off-springs, I'll bet the stronger brother is alpha over the weaker brother.

"Nope, Lion prides are mostly female and the males are a small group of alpha males (usually brothers) who violently resist challengers."

Prolly, but I'll bet 'not all alphas are equal'.