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We are asked to believe that men evolved navigation skill to find mates

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File:A small cup of coffee.JPG Having no use for them otherwise, presumably. From ScienceDaily:

By testing and interviewing dozens of members of the Twe and Tjimba tribes in northwest Namibia, the anthropologists showed that men who did better on a spatial task not only traveled farther than other men but also had children with more women, according to the study published this week in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

“These findings offer strong support for the relationship between sex differences in spatial ability and ranging behavior, and identify male mating competition as a possible selective pressure shaping this pattern,” the researchers conclude in their paper.

The Twe and Tjimba were good subjects for the study because they travel over distances of 120 miles during a year, “navigating on foot in a wide-open natural environment like many of our ancestors,” Vashro says.

The tribes “have a comparatively open sexual culture,” Vashro says. Cashdan adds, “They have a lot of affairs with people they’re not married to, and this is accepted in the culture.” Many men have children by women other than their wives.

That also made the tribes good for the study, because “in a culture where you don’t have mates outside of marriage, we’re not going to expect as tight a relationship between range size and reproductive success,” Cashdan says.

How does mating pressure favor navigation skills?

“Navigation ability facilitates traveling longer distances and exploring new environments,” Vashro says. “And the farther you travel, the more likely you are to encounter new mating opportunities.”

The obvious question is: If reproductive success really hinged on males cruising for temporary mates (using navigation skills), why would one hav to go so far afield to find an example? Why would that sort of culture not be more common in places with high birth rates? Actually, places with high birth rates usually feature stable two-parent families (cf the Mormons).

Which brings up another question: It’s unclear why children of affairs with distant women would be more likely to survive than children who live with their father. Most data favour the latter conclusion.

Or, as a friend put it, Darwinian assumptions can perform the unique feat of turning gold into lead. 😉

Note: Incidentally, even today, in Namibia, child mortality is 47.5 per 1000 live births and life expectancy is 67 years. In Japan, child mortality is 2.21 per m and life expectancy is 84 years. Most places are somewhere in between. (Different factbooks give slightly different rankings but don’t change the picture much.)

See also: Human origins: The war of trivial explanations

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8 Replies to “We are asked to believe that men evolved navigation skill to find mates

  1. 1
    tjguy says:

    You gotta have a good imagination and be a good story teller to get published as an evolutionist these days

  2. 2
    Andre says:

    Evolutionary storytelling is like just the best story ever! You can explain anything and everything, only one condition don’t think about it too much……

  3. 3
    Robert Byers says:

    Anglo-american civilization was based on a husband/wife exclusive sexual relationship for centuries and created a great civilization.
    how did these tribes do with their rejection of gods plan for marriage and sex??
    i never heard of them.
    So selection of mates does matter.

  4. 4
    Joe says:

    “We are asked to believe that men evolved navigation skill to find mates”

    And then we didn’t teach our mates how to use them so we could get away. 🙂

  5. 5
    centrestream says:

    “And then we didn’t teach our mates how to use them so we could get away. “

    Sexist much, Joe?

  6. 6
    News says:

    What’s really interesting to me is that the career of Harvard prez Larry Summers was poleaxed over a claim that men and women had different aspirations and skills sets (in re pursuit of science careers). But these people can get away with saying much the same thing. Why?

    Because Summers made the mistake of invoking only present day data. These researchers knew enough to invoke Darwin on the remote past, so they are safe, and possibly feted.

    That said, the glaring weakness of the thesis is that it depends on the assumption that the extra children will grow up apart from their fathers. All available evidence suggests that the survival chances of such children are routinely worse, for reasons that should not come as much of a surprise.

  7. 7
    Robert Byers says:

    Amen and again Amen.
    The same people who poleaxe anyone about identity issues are the ones who poleaxe creationists.
    I don’t remember the Harvard story but its the same song.
    A new master has invaded the nations and is telling us what is morally and intellectually right and wrong.
    i’m sure this summers banned creationism or a list of things until he reaped what he sowed.
    Creationists JUST bump into it too.
    So its back to drawing board and the fields.
    We must demand unconditional surrender to free people deciding what is right or wrong for our own selves except where laws are made on the books.
    No law no dictatorship.
    Society doesn’t mind honest opinions as long as not malicious.
    One can opine about anything.
    nobody is to rule us on great or minor issues like these things.
    it shows fanatical zealots have influenced the establishment.
    Dangerous but we can take them.

  8. 8
    Joe says:

    OK so we now know that bogart/ spearshake/ streamer A) doesn’t have a sense of humor and B) doesn’t know what a smiley face means.

    Talk about being totally ignorant…

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