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Evolutionary psychology

BBC: Your evolution fix on why bullying pays

From Brit tax TV: All the other chimps feared Frodo, which helped his rise to the top. He even pushed himself on his own mother, and fathered a sickly infant with her, who would not survive for long. “He was aggressive towards all of the other chimps,” says anthropologist Michael Wilson of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who first met Frodo in 2001. “A lot of the other males had a bare patch of fur on their lower back side from where Frodo would bite them.” Many other primates show similar behaviour to Frodo’s. His actions hint at something rather dark about our shared ancestry with chimpanzees. They suggest that bullying your way to the top has a long Read More ›

Orca evolution driven by culture?

Amazing! Human evolution is driven by Darwinism, right? Well, maybe not. From Colin Barras at New Scientist: Essentially, a few individuals can colonise new habitats and ecological niches thanks to their behavioural flexibility. Group culture then transmits the know-how of surviving on new resources and sets the group on a separate evolutionary track. “This is an extremely important piece of research,” says Hal Whitehead at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. “The results are fascinating. We now see how in killer whales, as in humans, culture is not only an important factor in the lives of the whales, but also [helps drive] genetic evolution.” “One of the main conclusions is that variation within killer whales, humans and likely many other species arises Read More ›

This is a case study in Darwinism beyond ridiculous

On monogamy and sibling co-operation, from ScienceDaily: In their paper, Professor David Westneat and his graduate student Jacqueline Dillard–both at the University of Kentucky–present three alternative explanations: Monogamy and sibling cooperation co-evolved, so that one trait increased the benefits of the other. Ecological pressures selected for both monogamy and sibling cooperation simultaneously, so that one trait does not depend on the other. The evolution of monogamy created new physiological and behavioral adaptations that may also be useful in sibling cooperation. “This is a case study demonstrating the importance of not boiling organisms down to simple traits,” says Dillard, who studies a socially monogamous group of Bess Beetles. She notes that the classic monogamy hypothesis considers a single link between the Read More ›

How men evolved to wear cufflinks

Further to “Men probably evolved beards for intimidation … ”* at Real Clear Science philosopher and photographer Laszlo Bencze fills us in on the breakiest story in evo psych: The Cornull University “Evolution in Action” study group headed by Dr. Davidson Petney has just released an abstract of their latest results. They have discovered a gene-linked trait in certain men of Eastern European descent which causes them to prefer cuff links over cuff buttons. This trait has been demonstrated to result in a reproductive advantage because women of wealth and discernment are more attracted to cuff link wearing men than those who rely upon buttons. The typical woman who is drawn to cuff link men is described as “a Bette Davis/Greta Garbo Read More ›

STDs + Stone Age = monogamy!!

Got that? You’re sure to graduate in evolutionary psychology: From a computer model from the University of Waterloo: The study, by Professor Bauch and Richard McElreath from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, found that when population sizes become large, the presence of STIs decreases fertility rates more among males with multiple partners, therefore changing which mating behaviour proves to be most beneficial to individuals and groups. Reality: The only consistent enforcer of monogamy has been the relatively equal number of boys and girls born. In early hunter-gatherer populations, it was common for a few males to monopolize mating with multiple females in order to increase their number of offspring. In these small societies where there is a maximum Read More ›

Evo psych weighs in on the migration crisis

New Scientist advises us that “evolution” can help us understand the migration crisis in Europe. But of course. Provided we believes what they believe, “evolution” can by definition enable us to understand anything. Just find a peg on which to hang whatever is happening. Migration is, we are told, “a characteristic of our species,” “evolution made us xenophobes,” and “we’re a stay-at-home species.” Or that “rich countries need immigrants.” And “Only a new international body can cut through the bluster on the emotive but much misunderstood migration ‘crisis.’” Contradiction’s no problem; we haven’t evolved so as to understand how to deal with it properly. If you can stand all the enlightenment, sign up and pay. Note: It would be nice Read More ›

If culture shapes the evolution of cognition …?

From PNAS: Significance: A central debate in cognitive science concerns the nativist hypothesis: the proposal that universal human behaviors are underpinned by strong, domain-specific, innate constraints on cognition. We use a general model of the processes that shape human behavior—learning, culture, and biological evolution—to test the evolutionary plausibility of this hypothesis. A series of analyses shows that culture radically alters the relationship between natural selection and cognition. Culture facilitates rapid biological adaptation yet rules out nativism: Behavioral universals arise that are underpinned by weak biases rather than strong innate constraints. We therefore expect culture to have dramatically shaped the evolution of the human mind, giving us innate predispositions that only weakly constrain our behavior. (public access) More. It’s sometimes hard Read More ›

The selfish gene: Stay in bed if you have a cold

If you have a cold. From ScienceDaily: Research suggests that our selfish genes are behind the aches, fever The symptoms that accompany illness appear to negatively affect one’s chance of survival and reproduction. So why would this phenomenon persist? Symptoms, say the scientists, are not an adaptation that works on the level of the individual. Rather, they suggest, evolution is functioning on the level of the “selfish gene.” Even though the individual organism may not survive the illness, isolating itself from its social environment will reduce the overall rate of infection in the group. “From the point of view of the individual, this behavior may seem overly altruistic,” says Dr. Keren Shakhar, “but from the perspective of the gene, its Read More ›

Menopause caused by guys staying home?

With your coffee … With human evolution studies, we sometimes get valuable, though elusive clues (the role of Neanderthals in the human heritage), and then other times we get “‘Stay-at-home’ males fueled menopause evolution“: One of the most popular explanations put forward for the menopause is the ‘grandmother hypothesis’, which suggests that women live long past reproductive age in order to help successfully raise their grandchildren, thereby strengthening the likelihood that their own genes are passed on. Others argue that the menopause offers no selective advantage and is an evolutionary fluke or ‘mismatch’ which arose because humans were designed for shorter lifespans but now live much longer. “Designed” for shorter lifespans? Yes, that is what it says. Someone, call Darwin 9-11. Read More ›

Evolution, we are told, makes us gullible

From an interview in The Atlantic on why people fall for frauds: Can You Spot a Liar? Khazan: You talk about how it’s hard to spot a fraudster or liar in person, but also that microexpressions might be a clue. Why is it so hard to detect lying, and is there anything you can do to make yourself better at rooting it out? Konnikova: It’s really difficult to do it because it’s actually not evolutionarily adaptive. We are better placed if we trust people than if we don’t trust anyone. I talk about infants and young children who need to trust that adults are going to take care of them. It makes us feel better when we accept people’s little Read More ›

Will Dawkins’ selfish gene concept die as its proponents retire?

From The Atlantic: The strangeness of the geology and fossil evidence behind the theory of continental drift helped drive a half-century of resistance to the idea. Siddhartha Mukherjee documented in his book The Emperor of All Maladies how a fixation on the cure for a misconceived disease inhibited recognition of the complexity of cancer for a generation. It took decades before physicists came to grips with experiments that showed that the speed of light was constant for every observer—and even then, only the very young Einstein took that observation seriously enough to produce his first relativity theory. In the long run, it’s true: Reality imposes a final and authoritative judgment on the rights and wrongs of any idea. In the Read More ›

Some scientists really do love Darwin, hate common sense

They don’t get it, but what else is new? From Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek, “Why Physics is Beautiful”: The beauty of physical law is too impressive to be accidental. It has led people throughout history to believe that some tasteful higher being created us, and that we inhabit a consciously designed world, like our notional Super Mario. But this is an extravagant hypothesis, which goes far beyond the facts it is meant to explain. Before adopting it, we should explore more economical alternatives. The answer likely lies within us. Beautiful things are those in which we find pleasure and seek out. They are, in neurobiological terms, things that stimulate our reward system. That explains why parents tend to find their Read More ›

Jonathan Marks on why “evolutionary” “psychology” is neither

At the Evolution Institute, UNC Charlotte biological anthropologist Jonathan Marks, who blogs on the cultural significance of Darwinism at Anthropomics, writes, ”Evolutionary Psychology Is Neither”: … It’s presumably better than creationist psychology, but nobody practices creationist psychology – so presumably the word “evolutionary” is doing a bit more work here than it may seem at first blush. Indeed, the word seems to encode, in this context, a series of propositions that most people actually working in human evolution believe to be false, if not ridiculous. Foundationally, where students of human evolution have generally emphasized the adaptability of the human mind, evolutionary psychologists have rather attempted to call attention to the adaptedness of the human mind. From these opposed starting points, Read More ›

Science changes its mind often? So do flighty shoppers!

The last time we heard from evolutionary psychologist David Barash, he was fronting an anti-ID theory. You’d think he’d have enough trouble at home. In a world where social sciences are racing to the bottom, evolutionary psychology is leading the race. Look, there is a world of science out there, and if these guys would rather spin Tales from the Savannah, what are we supposed to do about it? Too bad if the Large Hadron Collider and the Pluto flyby got in their way. Now we learn from Barash at Aeon: Many scientific findings run counter to common sense and challenge our deepest assumptions about reality: the fact that even the most solid objects are composed at the subatomic level of mostly Read More ›

Evo psych on the Pope’s visit

LiveScience: The Origins of Religion: How Supernatural Beliefs Evolved … But not everyone agrees that religious thinking is just a byproduct of evolution — in other words, something that came about as a result of nonreligious, cognitive faculties. Some scientists see religion as more of an adaptation — a trait that stuck around because the people who possessed it were better able to survive and pass on their genes. Robin Dunbar is an evolutionary psychologist and anthropologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom whose work focuses mostly on the behavior of primates, including nonhuman primates like baboons. Dunbar thinks religion may have evolved as what he calls a “group-level adaptation.” More. The first thing that strikes a Read More ›