“Evolutionarily,” one might almost say, Darwinism dies hard. It rolls off the tongue of a TED talk type. One can construct any kind of story about nature without the benefit of having ever lived with very much of it because it is a laid-on, one-size-fits-all theory. For example, there is the “grandmother” hypothesis, which attempts to account satisfactorily for the fact that kids have grandmas and weasels don’t (At neast not in the emotional sense). Every so often, in a type of event we can only hope will become more frequent, someone actually tests the burble:
The studies are part of a broader effort to explain the existence of menopause, a rarity in the animal kingdom. The so-called “grandmother hypothesis” stipulates that, from an evolution standpoint, women’s longevity is due to their contributions to their grandkids’ survival, thus extending their own lineage (SN: 3/20/04, p. 188)…
In the Finnish study, researchers wanted to know if grandmas eventually age out of that beneficial role. The team used records collected on the country’s churchgoers born from 1731 to 1895, including 5,815 children. Women at that time had large families, averaging almost six children, with about a third of kids dying before age 5. Sujata Gupta, “Evolutionarily, grandmas are good for grandkids — up to a point” at Science News
What they found was that when grandma was young enough to reliably help, grandchildren’s survival increased but when she wasn’t (over 75), it declined, possibly because she drew off caregivers.
Not much was learned about the menopause puzzle. But then it’s not clear that menopause is even a puzzle. Women, unlike she-bears, can easily outlive their supply of eggs, mainly by belong to a community where old people are cared for. Something to do with human exceptionalism which, if you will recall, is not supposed to exist. Why anyone doubts that humans are exceptional is more of a puzzle than menopause.
Sadly, it probably doesn’t matter whether the grandmother hypothesis explains anything about human history because it doesn’t need to. It needs only to be a Darwinian talking point, trotted out at the correct time.
Still, if you are interested, see also: Shock! Darwinism does not explain why old women exist
Evolutionary medicine: Insomnia in the elderly is due to evolution?
The Grandmother Hypothesis, yet again
Menopause caused by guys staying home
“Grandmother” Thesis In Human Evolution Takes A Hit: The “grandmother” thesis is that the reason our ancestors didn’t kill granny was that she helped out. (And then somehow religion got involved, and …) An actual study showed that “The hazard of death for Dogon children was twofold higher if the resident paternal grandmother was alive rather than dead. This finding may reflect the frailty of elderly grandmothers who become net consumers rather than net producers in this resource-poor society.”
Evolutionary psychology: The grandmother hypothesis yet again
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