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Premenstrual syndrome exists to break up infertile relationships?

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File:A small cup of coffee.JPG Just when we thought we were running out of fun topics at the site coffee hour, we ran into “Epigenetics is oppressive to women?” — and wondered what we were going to do for our next snack bite. Until this Darwinian explanation of premenstrual syndrome:

Imagine that a woman was pair bonded with a sterile or infertile male. Then, even in the past, they would have had regular cycles. If women in these relationships exhibited PMS and this increased the likelihood of the pair bond dissolving, this would be a huge reproductive advantage.

Rubbish. From periods for which we have evidence – infertility was usually blamed first on the woman. She might end up divorced if she didn’t conceive, but it isn’t clear that she would benefit much from being divorced. Quite the opposite. The divorced woman was an image of scorn, shame, poverty, and neglect.

All above assumes that not conceiving was even viewed as a problem. Yes for sure … sometimes. But in many generally monogamous cultures, a man was allowed a late-life second wife. And if he already had several grown sons by his first wife, the fact that his second wife never had children might be a solution, not a problem. Especially with respect to contestable estate issues, like how much to leave to each one.

But why is it assumed so breezily that women who were hard to live with, due to PMS, could usually just change their mates?

Okay, so men don’t talk much. But … about stuff like that?

Hey, Darwin is hard at work with your tax dollars.

Watch for my upcoming series on what happens when Darwin goes to work on the mind.

Meanwhile, the Science Fictions series at your fingertips (human evolution)

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4 Replies to “Premenstrual syndrome exists to break up infertile relationships?

  1. 1
    nightlight says:

    PMS does provide selective advantage by motivating women to get pregnant by punishing them for not getting pregnant in the previous fertile cycle. The only problem with the speculation in the article is that it picks one particular strand out of the entire web of effects.

    This mechanism is in the same category as hunger, longing, lonesomeness, guilt, shame,… or generally like any emotional or physical pain or discomfort, aiming to provide quick negative feedback in order to discourage particular behavioral patterns.

  2. 2
    News says:

    Including all the disadvantages of being pregnant at that time.

  3. 3
    nightlight says:

    Including all the disadvantages of being pregnant at that time.

    The immediacy of the negative feedback of PMS (within days from missed fertile period) vs the pain of birth giving 9 months later, gives it advantage as the driver of the behavior. The birthing pains, which are magnified in humans compared to most animals, may be merely a transient maladaptation (which will get smoothed out eventually), to overly rapid evolution of human brain and skull size.

    The pregnancy itself wasn’t perceived as any major disadvantage until recently, mostly in industrialized world, where sickness industry figured it make another buck out pregnancy by treating it as a disease that requires compulsory treatment (with or without “patient” consent or expressed need, with help of state enforcers).

    Note that in both cases there is also a strong positive feedback (maximized sexual gratification during female’s fertile phase and later, joy of getting a newborn, then nursing, etc) also driving behavior toward more desirable behavioral patterns (those that yield more offspring).

    It is a bit mysterious why is ID proponent “News” arguing against observations of phenomena showing finely tuned optimizations of live organisms, human or any other. After all, it takes more intelligence to make a highly optimized design than a sloppy, unoptimized one. Recognizing and pointing such optimizations, which are everywhere anyway, doesn’t imply acceptance of neo-Darwinian aimless random mutation as their designer.

  4. 4
    mahuna says:

    Um, again this is nonsense. Marriage (pair-bonding) is quite modern, since early humans didn’t understand the importance of the male in producing babies.

    Also, humans began producing offspring as soon as that was biologically possible, perhaps when females were 14 or so. There is a documented case from Africa in which a king/chief impregnated one of his slaves when she was 6 and then impregnated that girl’s daughter when SHE was 6. So there were 3 generations within 13 years or so. Forget about EVERYTHING that is customary in modern society.

    At the other end, women were dead by the time they were 25 or so. And men were dead by 30. There are still many place in the world where life expectance is 30-ish. Longer life is ENTIRELY dependent on agriculture to produce enough food and modern sanitation and medicine to reduce disease.

    Any woman who lived long enough to experience menopause would have been considered an Elder, and probably Magical. Her inability to produce more children would have been the LEAST significant thing about her. Her experience and wisdom would have been MUCH more important to the man pack.

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