The organisers, dr. Anton Fürlinger and prof. Anton Amann are to be
congratulated on the success of the 17th annual meeting of the European
Sociobiology Society on Sociobiology and Social Intelligence, held in
Krems, Austria. During August 25-28, 1994 the 32 participants - coming
from 9 countries (including the USA and Israel) - gathered at the
impressive, renovated building of a former tobbaco factory that nowadays houses various
institutes of the `Wissenschaftliche Landesakademie
für Niederösterreich' (the future Danube University).
The ESS Krems meeting aimed at discussing "how human intelligence and social behaviour can be understood in a biological framework, i.e. analysing biobehavioural requirements that have given rise to human intelligence in interaction with human social behaviour". This evoked a variety of divergent contributions.
The presentations started with Anton Amann (Vienna), wondering about the relevance of sociobiology for sociology. The discipline that generally operates rather remotely from biological backgrounds. It has been promising to hear a distinguished sociologist open his mind for alternative explanations for the history of the species and contemporary behavioural patterns.
Valentina Leonivicova (Prague) lectured in her for ESS members familiar quiet, clear way on the origin of social intelligence. To be divided into the more rare innate ability of creative adaptive behaviour, and the affective evaluation and essential recognition of the inner state of other individuals of the same species, common to all social animals. In her survey of three general stages in the evolution of behaviour the relevance of a prolonged ontogeny was mentioned. Stories on the domestication of dogs and foxes illustrated her arguments. More on dogs was reported by Jozsef Topal (Budapest), who tested the hypothesis that the manifestation of cognitive abilities of the first animal ever to be domesticated and selected on good communications with humans, depends on the degree of its social integration in the human community. Dogs kept in the garden have performed differently than dogs kept inside the house.
In open contact with the audience Laszlo Nagy (Braunschweig) at tempted to give his paper on evolutionary origins of psychological reasoning some theoretic underpinning. During the emergence of mutual cooperation and the evolution of cooperative strategies it has been crucial to be able to recognize a so called cheater (the one who is willing to take but not to give). He reported on experiments in which social contracts were compared with non-social contracts. A vivid discussion followed concerning the starting point of human morality, in which Peter Meyer took a rather deviating stand.
For years Michael Bujatti has developed a rather personal view on hominisation. It proved not easy to condense in one paper all his definitions and reasoning to give economy a place within a biological perspec tive. The audience got somehow lost trying to follow e.g. his `double niche transition' theory (which incorporates the aquatic ape concept), but his ideas deserve to be given a second thought.
Two speakers discussed the role of individuality. Vilmos Csanyi (Buda pest) emphasized the adaptive value of indivualistict plans for the emergence of cultural man. Examples from the animal world illustrated his vivid presentation. It may take baboon hunt-leaders hours to decide what road to follow on a certain day, due to a lack of means to communicate their mental plan. The increasingly individualistic social super-model of communication of early Homo induced the selection potential for the evolution of language.
Robin Allott (Seaford, UK) only could read a minor part of his interest ing, rather literary paper on the evolutionary significance of (individual) human life. He suggested among others that a single person such as a powerfull religious leader or the inventor of a new medicine, may change the course of evolution, due to genetic consequences of their actions. No time was left to discuss if likewise indeed the so called Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium (the basis of population genetics) may be disturbed.
Motherhood and offspring. Tamas Bereczkei (Pecz) analysed in Hungar ian couples mating preferences (high-status males, younger age of the female) in relation to reproductive fitness, and offspring in relation to the number of siblings. The results are in agreement with the theory of sexual competition. Considering recent chosen shifts in fertility patterns within numerous societies, it is good such mating patterns have been documented. Comments have been, for instance, that elswhere the better-off tend to have few children.
Hand preference has been studied thoroughly last years. A unexpected addition was presented in the clear contribution by Ada Lampert (Emek- Hefer). In primates and humans motherhood may have stimulated vocal communication as well as right-handedness in relation to left-side baby- holding. With consequences for the relevant left hemispere areas of the female brain. Both left handedness and homosexuality (combined with a 3-4 times higher left-handedness than the population) run through families via mothers. As proximate cause estrogens were suggested, a mascu line factor in males, a feminine factor in girls. Directed by the mainly motherly selected and transmitted mitochondrial DNA. Variance of estrogen's levels also relate to dyslexia and stuttering. A lively discussions followed about the pros and cons of revealing a possible genetic base for homosexuality.
Machteld Roede disputed male social intelligence considering the fact that - this in sharp contrast to mammals with specific strategies to protect pregnant and lactating females and their offspring - the inferior position of human females in society negatively interferes with their well being and health. The high mortality and morbidity, due to unwanted sex, too young age at marriage, small child-spacing and food deprivation lowers reproductive success. In a sociobiological context this is hard to explain.
Profound theoretical reflections were given by Pope, Falger and Van der Dennen. Stephen Pope (Chestnut Hill) focused on ethical relativism by comparing recent books of Beckstrom and Masters. He argued that their opinions be at odds with each other; what the former separates, the latter unites. He proved a real supporter of Masters approach. For details of his reasoning one has to read his text in the book of abstracts. In the discussion Falger stated a difference in approach between the States and the European continent and formulated a support for Beckstrom. Birth control by means of abortus provocatus versus infanticide was one of the examples used to determine positions.
Vincent Falger (Utrecht) interweaved in his relevant talk about sex roles between politics facts from his PhD thesis with impressions from the XVIth World Congress of the International Political Science Association, held in Berlin just before the Krems meeting. Namely a paper by Peter Corning concerning the evolution of complex social and political organizations and the fact that complexity not always seems to be adaptive. He referred to changes in patterns of female non-participation and different reproductive strategies. By means of a clear scheme Hans van der Dennen (Groningen) clarified step by step the possible relationship between Machiavellian intelligence, (proto) ethnocentrism and (lethal) intergroup competition, when studied from different theoretical point of views. He also argued that male coalitional behaviour in chimpansees and Hominids is more opportunistic and Machiavellian than in females. His final sentence `WFOBWYCFOW' or `Why fight over bananes when you can fight over women' of course was sexist to the limit, but he should be forgiven...
Alas, some speakers from Russia (Marina Butovskaya and Alexander Kozintsev), Hawaii (Glendon Schubert), India (Singh Rajpurohit) and England (Ian Vine) did never arrive to read their paper, so one had to put up with only their promising abstracts, like the one on the origins of humour that inspired Anton Fürlinger to design a two-masks-logo for the meeting.
After the ESS Business meeting on Saterday afternoon a round table was organised concerning: `On Origins of sex/gender differences in social cognition/intelligence/practice'. Interesting lectures by Elfriede Nekvasil-Bonet and Manfred Wuketits were meant as an introduction to the theme. As a drawback could be felt that the two guest speakers had not be present during the previous part of the meeting and their papers somehow deviated from former lines of thought. Moreover, among the audience once in a while the ready knowledge seemed to be lacking, such as on stages of socialisation. Somehow the discussion got stuck. Yet, during the stimulating, final general discussion on the next Sunday morning, partly due to the clear summarizing by ESS president Peter Meyer, the different roles of gender in evolution were once more further elucidated. Such as Valentina Leonovicova's remarks about the broader ranges of adaptation of female genes.
The general feeling was that one of satisfaction; the Krems-meeting had offered an atmosphere of scientific interest and motivation as well as warm friendship, had once more broadened the view, and stimulated to further exploration of ultimate causes for our behaviour patterns.
Social program. Winegrowing in the region of the Venus von Willendorf
dates back to Celtic and Romans times. Thus, inevitably, the social program was sprinkled by
the juice of the grape. The first evening the partic
ipants were welcomed during a reception by the deputy-mayor at the
baroque town hall of Stein (forming with Krems a joint township). The
short lecture on old history was followed by a succesful wine-tasting.
Next evening many took the advantage of an one hour walk along the vine-covered banks of the legendary Danube river to visit a typical Austrian `Heuriger', where once more the Grüner Veltliner was appreciated.
Sunday morning offered finally time to see more of 1000 years old Krems - built on ruins of Roman Favianis, referred to in the Lay of the Nibelungs. During a well guided city tour along historical buildings, more then one dating back to medieval times, others richly decorated with frescoes and stucco work, among others a visit was paid to the highly situated Piaristen church with paintings by `Kremser Schmidt'. The three different statutes passed, all showing a woman towering over a defeated male illustrated well the topic of the round tabel discussion of the previous day. Before parting, during a last collective drink, once more it was remarked that the pleasant meeting had been a success, notwithstanding the fact that Anton Fürlinger had sighed that somehow the issue had been brought to the attention years too early.....
By CHRISTOPHER BADCOCK, London School of Economics, London,
There are two kinds of landmark publications in science: those that open
a new era, like Darwin's Origin of Species, or those that mark an important
waypoint in a scientific revolution that has already begun. The Adapted
Mind is an example of the latter, comprising as it does a collection of
eighteen papers by twenty-five authors which sum up and illustrate
much of the best of our knowledge in the field of evolutionary psychology. The Introduction
by Cosmides, Tooby and Barkow records that each
contributor was asked to consider 1) relevant selection pressures for the
problem considered, 2) the psychological mechanisms involved and 3) the
relationship between these mechanisms and human culture. The authors
see the latter being the most essential in certain respects, and their
volume as filling the missing middle ground "between theories of
selection pressures on the one hand and fully realized sociocultural
behaviour on the other" (p. 6). This theme is taken up in greater detail in
Tooby and Cosmides's opening essay, "The Psychological Foundations of
Culture". Here the authors mount a devastating strategic attack on what
they term "the Standard Social Science Model" or SSSM. In the course of
their long essay, Tooby and Cosmides utterly refute the pretentious
claims and bogus logic of the SSSM, exposing its weaknesses in careful
detail while setting out the new evolutionary alternative.
The next essay, "On the Use and Misuse of Darwinism in the Study of Behavior", is by Donald Symons. He makes the all-too-often overlooked point that "no approach to human behaviour can be simultaneously psychologically agnostic and genuinely Darwinian" (p. 139). He illustrates his arguments with examples drawn from his own field of exper tise: sexual attractiveness.
The second section of the book, devoted to cooperation, opens with "Cognitive Adaptations for Social Exchange", again by Cosmides and Tooby, and features the now famous Wason Selection Task. The authors conclude with applications of the general principles to varieties of hunter- gatherer exchange, which is clearly the prime environment in which human cognitive adaptations for social exchange must have evolved. This theme is continued in the next paper by McGrew and Feistner, which takes two primate models as a basis for understanding the evolution of human food-sharing.
Part three, "The Psychology of Mating and Sex", opens with a short but striking paper by David Buss, who has made himself such an authority on the subject. He shows how preference mechanisms are central psychological adaptations in human mating behaviour whose evolution can only be fully explained by the theory of parental investment and our modern understanding of what Darwin called sexual selection. Cross- cultural studies refute the SSSM's claims that such preferences are predominantly culturally-conditioned and reveal the universal criteria which are apparent to most ordinary humans, if not to all social scientists. Bruce Ellis continues the theme with "Evaluative Mechanisms in Women" and Margo Wilson and Martin Daly follow with a paper explaining the evolutionary logic of male sexual proprietariness: "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Chattel." This is an excellent paper, which again does much to discredit the SSSM's feeble attempts to explain human mating systems and behaviour.
The fourth section is devoted to "Parental Care and Children" and opens with a paper on pregnancy sickness by Margie Profet, an interest ing example of the way in which Darwinian insights can make apparently pathological conditions look like adaptations. Papers follow on maternal preference among preterm twins, the evolutionary background to baby talk and an evolutionary approach to rough-and-tumble play. I missed anything on the important issue of parent-offspring conflict, especially since it contradicts the socialization theories so fundamental to the SSSM.
Part five, "Perception and Language as Adaptations", opens with a paper by Pinker and Bloom giving up-to-date corroboration of Darwin's view that language had evolved by natural selection. This is followed by papers on colour perception and sex differences in spatial ability. Part six comprises two papers on "Environmental Aesthetics" and the volume concludes with two papers on "Intrapsychic Processes". One is by Barkow on gossip and social stratification, but the other, by Nesse and Lloyd on "The Evolution of Psychodynamic Mechanisms" is the only one of the whole collection to take up Darwin's own principal work on psychology, his widely cited, but almost never read The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Thanks to the obscurity of its contents, few realize to what extent Freud continued Darwin's own researches into the emotions. Lloyd and Nesse devote substantial space to the rediscovery of the dynamic unconscious founded on research by Paul Ekman, one of the few modern psychologists to continue Darwin's work on the expression of the emotions. Here, perhaps more than anywhere else in this volume seems to be a major growth area for the future: not merely the evolutionary cognitive psychology that fills so much of its pages, but Darwinian depth-psychology too.
by ALYN R. BRERETON, 913 Carrigan Ave., Modesto, CA 95350, U.S.A.
The study of social conflict has been, and continues to be, of central
importance to primate behavioral biologists. The reason for this interest is
obvious, as conflict and its successful resolution are an inevitable and
necessary aspect of social life, and they may also play a determining role
in the particular forms that social systems take. For example, conflicting
reproductive strategies and counter strategies between and among the
sexes may be of equal or greater importance than ecological pressures
(i.e., food and predation) in both determining and affecting sociality, and
this may be particularly true for primates because of their greater cognitive abilities compared
with other animals.
Research on conflict has traditionally taken either the proximate (causal) approach or ultimate (functional) approach, usually with little or no overlap of the two perspectives. This is not surprising as studies of proximate cause can inform and enlighten us of the specific mechanisms that operate toward a functional end, but they cannot tell us what that functional end is, just as hypotheses addressing ultimate function are unable to inform and enlighten us about immediate cause. Even so, recent fashion has it that these two perspectives should be integrated to create a new synthesis, and this is what Mason and Mendoza attempt to do in their present edited volume on social conflict in primates. They bring together original research of both persuasions, while also integrating reviews of published data and theoretical essays. The overriding theme of the volume is that aggression may result from competition and social conflict, but cooperation and resolution are just as likely.
The first two chapters (of a total of 14) serve as an introduction, with the second chapter emphasizing transactional analysis. This approach, according to Mason, centers around an entire social episode or interchange and is based on the assumption that an element of expectancy or intent is almost always included in social interactions. This is in contrast to analysis of conflict which traditionally bases its conclusions on derived calculations from large numbers of specific categories and indices after the fact. Also, in this second chapter, Mason includes portions about conflict being intraindividual, as well as interindividual, and he suggests further that dominance striving may possibly be the cause of aggression, rather than the other way around. I am not clear, however, how the chapter fits into the book as a whole, other than outlining the method used by Mason, Long and Mendoza in their chapter on mother-infant conflicts in macaques. They conclude that bonnet macaques are more temperamentally permissive than rhesus monkeys.
Silk's chapter addresses social conflict among females in various cercopithecine species and is, unfortunately, one of the few chapters in the book that takes an evolutionary approach. Based on published data, she argues that, since females are selected to compete for resources, while males are selected to compete for reproductive access to females, social conflict in primate societies is inevitable. While I believe that food is often the trigger for much of the observed conflict among female cercopithecines, I am not convinced (as noted earlier) that this same resource is responsible for the forms taken by cercopithecine societies (as often suggested).
Each chapter in this book is worthy of review for an appreciation of the field's vastness, but I would recommend some articles more highly than others. Besides Silk's essay, I would suggest reading chapters by Anzenberger, Mendoza, de Waal, Lyons, Sapolsky, Abbott, and Tiger.
Anzenberger's article, like Silk's, employs an evolutionary perspective. In his experimental study of the behavioral aspects of pair-bonding and social conflict in two monogamous species of New World monkeys, he concludes that different mechanisms evolved in Callithrix and Callicebus to accomplish the same function, that is, pair-bonding to avoid cuckoldry and desertion. Infanticide by third-party males may play a central role in the formation of pair-bonding in monogamous species as well, but this issue was not addressed in Anzenberger's study. What he learned, in stead, was that, in Callithrix, both sexes maintain pair-bonding by actively aggressing against unfamiliar same-sex adults. Whereas, in Callicebus, males are more concerned with protecting their mates from same-sex conspecifics, while females respond (more or less) by remaining with their mates. Males of both species also respond positively to unfamiliar females, particularly in the absence of their own mates. Females seem to prefer their own mates.
Three chapters are concerned with either preventing, inhibiting, or resolving social conflicts. Mendoza examines the specific mechanisms that operate during first encounters and finds that surprisingly little aggression occurs on such occasions. Individuals with similar appearances (to the human observer) seem to somehow detect clues of physical disparity which make contests, where aggression is involved, unnecessary. De Waal reviews reconciliation (or conflict resolution) where the repair of damaged relationships appears to be the intent of the participants. Among several species of cercopithecine, he concludes that reconciliation is more a matter of mending fences after the fact, while resolutions among bonobos and common chimpanzees also include reassurances before and during conflicts. Lyons suggests that primates often cooperate in their attempts to resolve social conflicts, and mild conflict may help by promoting cooperation. Social conflict may also serve as a cohesive device among members within groups. With little evidence to support this idea, however, it must remain mostly speculative.
Sapolsky (chapter 7) and Abbot (chapter 12) focus on the physiological mechanisms involved in social conflict. Sapolsky addresses dominance among males in five cercopithecines and common squirrel monkeys, while Abbot addresses reproductive suppression among both sexes in tamarins and marmosets. These two chapters are especially recommended. Sapolsky concludes that physiological correlates of dominance rank do not exist, but there are associations in stable groups between high dominance rank and testosterone levels, as well as high rank and adrenocortical function. This does not appear to hold in unstable groups. Abbott tentatively suggests that a pheromonal mechanism, rather than direct aggression or other social factors, may be responsible for the alpha male and female's total reproductive suppression of subordinate group members in both tamarin and marmoset monkeys. Pair-bonding and the need for care-giving by older subordinate siblings of the dominant pair's offspring seem to seal-the-deal (so to speak) on this suppression. Dominant females also appear to be more successful in same-sex suppression of reproduction than dominant males.
The apex chapter in the book is by Tiger where he discusses social conflict in humans. In this chapter, he states that human evolutionary history includes both affiliative and aggressive elements, while he again describes those who do not ascribe to a biology of human aggression, particularly social scientists, as "the Christian Scientists of sociology," because they tend to see the cause of aggression in psychosocial terms, and not in the physical realm. He also states that it is reasonable to suggest that knowledge about any major behavioral system, like social conflict, can increase by cross-specific investigation, and this can be the basis of a sound scientific strategy. Am I confused (as I thought I might be) by Mason and Mendoza's honorable attempt to create an original synthesis of the vast realm of social conflict? The answer to this question is `no'. And, yes, I would recommend the book to those who want (or require) an in depth but relatively quick assessment of the field. But the reader must not expect to receive complete wisdom in primate conflict. The discipline is far too complicated and diverse, and it may be some time yet before a true understanding is within our grasp.
by EARL W. COUNT, 2616 Saklan Indian Drive, Walnut Creek, CA
A lucid, compact, informative survey of palaeoanthropology to date, by
the Professor of Anthropology in the University of Durham.
Its gross format follows tradition: the scope of palaeoanthropology; hominid structural and functional physical morphology; a discursive inventory of the fossil recoveries to date, arranged sequentially by geological incidence; what they tell of the dynamics of homination. The book amounts to the most recent of a long line of inventories, a genre almost entirely a feature of this century, which has seen enough recoveries of specimens to give the genre existence. So this has the promise of a life yet to come, for recoveries now are rapid and ever more numerous.
Understandably, sheer numerosity induces new analytic techniques with new perspectives on the problems they uncover. The dating armamentarium has been familiar for years: carbon-14, potassium-argon, aminoacid, racemisation, etc. But as abundance of specimens grow, cladistic and other analyses permit new taxonomic arrangements; and here there is ample room for speculative taste. The bulk of Human Evolution travels from the emergence and half-global spread of the catarrhines in the Miocene epoch, through the Pliocene and Pleistocene which have seen the rise, spread and differentiation of the hominoidea - the great apes, the Australopithecine, several archaic species of Homo, the eventual survival of but a meager number of great apes, and of only Homo sapiens sapiens among the hominidae. We shall return to this matter, later.
The substance of human evolution usually is subsumed under cranial and post-cranial topics. Cranial: recession of the muzzle and diminution of the masticatory apparatus, particularly of the teeth; increase of cranial volume to accommodate an enlarged brain. A special consideration of the evolution of the speech capacity (phasia). Post-cranial: acquisition of bipedalism with a corresponding loss of adaptation for arboreal progres sion; correspondingly, refinement of manual skill. That Human Evolution should follow this convention is but natural. However, despite its obvious virtues, it is not immune to scrutiny. An organism taken as an evolving system pays for an `advance' with disadvantages, it engenders new problems for itself. Every physician, for instance, is familiar with circulatory complication due to the verticality of a subsystem first evolved for horizontal functioning. Man's superlative brain is immensely vulnerable to stresses. Since heart, blood vessels, and brain leave no fossils, we may pass them by. But a bipedal pelvis obtains from the Pliocene onwards. When we add to it, later, the brain volume of Pleistocene Homo sapiens, we confront the `pelvic dilemma.' To be sure, the `dilemma' affects only 50% of our species; but Nature ignores our statistical valuations. The `dilemma' is rarely treated in biological anthropology and never in its palaeontological bailiwick. Perhaps its mention may be safely omitted at a `first level' biology; but at a `third level biology' (which Human Evolution claims to fit) it seems appropriate; for I can envision its place at a `fourth level' where theory and philosophy dwell.
Let us close by returning to that vexing problem: the speciation of the hominidae. The Pliocene Australopithecine may have numbered five species; but the muzzle features vary highly in each, so that not all variations have phylogenetic value. So too with the Homo genus from the Plio- Pleistocene durée onwards. (The startling fact that the Mauer mandible fits almost perfectly the Rhodesian maxilla is now less startling than it once was.) Over the time stretch of the evolving Hominidae (ca. 5 million years), they began as few individual numbers but high in genetic variability. Eventually the number of their species died away, until but one survives - ours. Homo sapiens sapiens has acquired a superlative brain and a diminished physical prowess. And we are a highly variable species: multiracial, dangerously prolific, and immune to predators.
In sum, "There have been major advances over the last two decades in the acquisition and analysis of evidence for human evolution and in the conceptual frameworks for handling the resulting information. The picture is both broader and more detailed, but has certainly not been simplified; it is, on the contrary, more complex. This is not retrogressive; while new discoveries naturally throw up new questions, and more of them, these are more sharply focused than before. Both the expanded evidence and increased uncertainties reflect the pace of change within palaeoanthropology: the search continues." (Human Evolution, p. 234.)
By LINDA MEALEY, Department of Psychology, College of St. Benedict,
St. John's University, COLLEGEVILLE, MN 56321, U.S.A.
Evolutionary Ecology and Human Behavior is a recent addition to Aldine de
Gruyter's "Foundations of Human Behavior" series, edited by Sarah
Hrdy. Many readers are already familiar with other texts in this series,
each of which takes an evolutionary or biocultural perspective on some
aspect of hominid ecology and life history. Previous volumes include
Eibl-Eibesfeldt's Human Ethology, Daly and Wilson's Homicide, and Alex
ander's Biology of Moral Systems.
This new member of the series is the first book of its kind. Its objective? To summarize, in a single volume, the literature to-date, which utilizes the methods of evolutionary ecology in the study of Homo sapiens. Does the book accomplish its goal? Generally speaking, yes, and for that reason, it seems a good choice for a graduate text for a course which might previously have utilized for reading assignments, a mathematical ecology text and/or a core set of reprints.
The book is organized into four sections. The first of these includes two exceptionally good introductory chapters by the editors. In these, the premises and the methods of evolutionary ecology are explained clearly and succinctly; they set the context nicely for the chapters which follow. The third chapter of section one - a chapter on the mechanisms of cultural evolution contributed by Richerson and Boyd - is less helpful. I think if I had not been thoroughly familiar with these authors' previous work, I would have found this chapter vague and unconvincing. Perhaps a reprint of an earlier article or a chapter of their book- Culture and the Evolutionary Process (Boyd and Richerson, 1985) - might have been more useful.
The second section, which consists of one chapter on the evolutionary ecology of extant, non-human primates, and one on the evolutionary ecology of fossil hominids, should not have been included in the book. Although in theory, inclusion of these two topics seems reasonable, in practise they serve to muddy the waters: after the excitement generated by the promise of the introductory chapters, we find that evolutionary ecology is full of holes, methodological pitfalls, and shortcomings that make it difficult to generate testable hypotheses or draw reasonable conclusions. Although these two chapters are fair and accurate in their reporting of the literature, I think that they will discourage some other wise potentially-interested students.
Section three consists of three chapters, respectively on food acquisi tion, time allocation, and habitat use. The first two, like the two chapters of section two, are fair and accurate representations of the current state of the field. They, too, however, readily display the gaps and pitfalls of human evolutionary ecology to date, and they don't make it clear whether it will actually be possible to improve methodology and data collection techniques sufficiently to make it worthwhile. Fortunately, I think the third chapter in the section does so. Thus, our hypothetical graduate student reader is made aware of the great number of potential dissertations out there, is informed of the weaknesses of previous research, is given some suggestions as to how to improve, and then is re-inspired that in the end, it might be worth what is going to be a major endeavor on their part.
The last section, consisting of four chapters on sociality, is by far the best. (Or does it just seem that way because that's the section that most closely matches my own interests?) The four chapters herein cover sharing, competition, reproductive decisions, and population dynamics. It seems that these chapters are able to present human evolutionary ecology in a more advanced incarnation than the previous chapters; they are able to utilize more complex and detailed mathematical models, and thus reflect reality more closely.
Except, that is, the final chapter by Alan Rogers. Rogers makes clear that his models of population dynamics are relatively simple, and that they rely on assumptions that seem not to be met by human populations. Despite these limitations, Rogers' chapter is an excellent one with which to end the volume, because, after illustrating the causes and effects of boom-and-bust cycles, it makes speculations about human population dynamics which will inevitably inspire several days worth of stimulating classroom debate. This chapter could also serve as a springboard for entry into some of the academic or popular literature on third world economics, women's empowerment, biodiversity issues, or a variety of other applications of evolutionary ecology to real and pressing human concerns.
This will make a nice text - one which can easily be supplemented by individual papers, but which does not have to be. I would have liked to see it shorter- leaving out section two- but perhaps in a subsequent edition ten years from now, revisions of those chapters will be able to show us just how far human evolutionary ecology has come.
Boyd, R. and Richerson, P.J. (1985) Culture and the Evolutionary Process.
University of Chicago Press.
by GUY RICHARDS, 327, 666 Leg in Boot Square, Vancouver, B.C. V5Z
Cronin has written a careful philosopher's history of 19th and 20th
century thinking on evolution, with particular attention to Darwin's
theory of sexual selection and its varying popularity since 1871. She
divides her book into three parts - `Darwinism, It's Rivals and Its
Renegades'; `The Peacock'; `The Ant'. John Maynard Smith writes a
supportive foreword, speculating on resistance to the idea of female
Part 1 stresses that Darwin and Wallace's theory of natural selection had no rivals with any comparable explanatory power. Cronin herself is a vigorous and persuasive champion, not only of natural selection, but also of gene-selection theory, which she uses to good end.
The peacock's tail is an example of a trait inconvenient and maladaptive for its male owner but for its attractiveness for females. Peahens' comparatively unobtrusive colouring would seem far more adaptive. The same can be said about the brighter colours of most male birds which make them more obvious to predators, but more attractive to females. Darwin suggested sexual selection as the explanation of such traits appearing in one sex only (presumably this applies to primary sex characters, if they are visible, as well as secondary sex characters). Wallace however was not happy with sexual selection. He thought natural selection could explain it all. But why did he not include the existence of the other sex and its power to choose as part of the individual organism's environment? Perhaps, as Maynard Smith implies in his foreword, the times were not ripe for allowing females that power of choice.
From about 1900 to 1930 sexual selection, and even natural selection, fell into disfavour. William Bateson, Mendel's translator (1902), Cambridge Professor of Genetics (a word he coined, father of anthropologist Gregory Bateson, named after Gregor Mendel); and his friend Wilhem Ludwig Johanssen, Danish botanist (coiner of the word gene, also Mendel enthusiast); Dutch botanist Hugo de Vries; and American founder of chromosome theory, Thomas H. Morgan, all thought that genetics or Mendelism and gene mutation could explain evolution without natural selection; in other words mutationism.
Cronin movingly preserves the memory of one Oxford biologist, Geoffrey Watkins Smith, who kept his Darwinian faith through the 1900s. Terse pencilled comments in his copy of Vernon L. Kellogg's Darwinism Today (1907), bequeathed to the Oxford Zoology Department, record this low opinion of mutationism and orthogenesis. Sadly, he was killed in action in France in 1916.
During this period of disfavour for natural selection it became unrespectable to ask adaptive questions about traits. The emphasis was on proximal mechanisms. Physiology and biochemistry were pre-eminent.
The efforts of many in the 1930's brought a reconciliation of Mendel and Darwin, genetics and natural selection, the `Modern Synthesis'. R.A. Fisher realized that female choice was a trait which itself is subject to evolutionary change. We might envisage an `arms race', the old battle of the sexes. Males `strive' to impress females with impressive traits at minimum cost. Females `strive' (are selected) to detect cheaters by selecting traits of unavoidable cost and therefore true indicators of health and good parasite-resisting genes in prospective mates. William Hamilton and Marlene Zuk developed this idea in the 1980s, that female choice is much concerned with looking for reliable indicators of parasite-resistance; in fact keeping ahead of parasite evolution may be the chief reason for the popularity of sexual reproduction among metazoa.
Cronin does not mention Michod and Levin's The Evolution of Sex (1988) which has much to say about genetic recombination. Trivers' contribution therein draws attention to the higher recombination rate for oogenesis as compared with spermatogenesis in most species. As a result the gene combinations inherited and expressed by a male are more likely to be those he bequeaths. A heterogametic male, such as male mammal, must pass on his X chromosome to his daughter largely as he inherited from his mother. One might speculate that since being male is in many ways less demanding, gene combinations and, in mammals, the whole X chromosome, can be tried out in a male. If it stands up in him, he is fit to be chosen to pass it on to his daughter. More briefly a writer in Discover expressed it `males are a genetic experiment run by females', a conclusion consonant with Cronin's message. But the complex mathematics which seems to apply makes one fear that ordinary language may be insufficient to describe the complexities of sexual and natural selection. Pushed by female selection it seems that part of a male role is to test the limits of the environment.
Part 3, `The Ant', treats altruism, haplodiploidy, eusociality in diploid termites, game theory and other topics familiar to sociobiologists.
Cronin thinks that cultural evolution should be seen as Darwinian rather than Lamarckian since it involves the selection of replicators, in this case memes. I would add that perhaps we should speak of environmental selection, to cover both natural and cultural selection.
She advances a convincing argument for seeing the versatility of the human brain, far beyond that required for past survival, as a pre-adaptation, and an inevitable outcome of a computing organ at a certain level of complexity required, say, for speech.
In a discussion of aesthetic sense and what constitutes beauty in a prospective mate, Cronin upholds the view that he or she should resemble oneself but with subtle variations. This is consonant with the probability that through much of human existence young women, while seeking exogamy, had to compromise by settling for first or second cousins (Shepher, 1983). More distant relatives required more distant, and therefore dangerous travel. A molecular basis comes to mind: the placentae of incestuous mating are nutritionally deficient as shown by low birth weights. Even first cousin matings show this effect to a slight extent. Evidently the optimal placenta needs to differ in subtle antigenic ways from maternal tissue, a finding for which there is much confirmation (Margaret Ounsted, 1972).
I read this book along with Daniel Dennett's Consciousness Explained. There is much overlap between the two books, and it was a privilege to meet both authors at the London School of Economics conference on `Evolution and the Human Sciences' in June 1993. The above is a pale reflection of the riches in Cronin's book.
Bateson, W. 1902. Mendel's Principles of Heredity: a defence. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Dennett, D.C. 1991. Consciousness Explained. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.
Michod, R.E. & B.R. Levin (eds) 1988. The Evolution of Sex: an examination of current ideas. Sunderland: Sinauer.
Ounsted, Margaret 1972. `Gender and Intrauterine Growth', in C. Ounsted & D.C. Taylor (eds), Gender Differences: their ontogeny and signifi cance. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
Shepher, J. 1983. Incest: a biosocial view. London: Academic Press.
by GUY RICHARDS, 327, 666 Leg-in-Boot Square, Vancouver, B.C. V5Z 4B3, Canada
Dennett's bold title makes a bold claim. To review this book satisfactorily
one should be a philosopher or a neurologist or both. Dennett is a big
man, so it's also wise to be polite.
He has chosen one of the two greatest questions, `How does the brain work?' and `What is the nature of the universe?' Some think the two are linked. The evidence he adduces to explain consciousness is derived from neurology experiments, which may range from simple experiments on the speed of nerve conduction, to complex experiments on the interpretation of unusual visual stimuli. The latter are often classed as experimental psychology since they include human volunteer subjects. But I think they should be seen as parts of the same science, neurology, because they are based on neuron theory, and not on psychology theory. Neuron theory assumes separate neurons or nerve cells as the functional units of the nervous system, including the brain.
Science is knowledge, but we usually narrow its meaning some to refer to knowledge based on unusual experience. This is nicely exemplified by the sensory experiments Dennett describes. They reveal the discontinuous digital or quantal nature of nervous inflow to the brain, which the latter edits and smooths into a probable and therefore credible narrative of events outside. I think he could have emphasized this point even more, that the qualitatively diverse nature of our consciousness is based entirely on an inflow of nerve pulses differing only in frequency and the particular fibre on which they come.
Dennett leads us a long way towards understanding consciousness, but even he will not claim that he has got us to the centre of the maze. There is no `Cartesian theatre', no place where Descartes' homonculus sits watching the project on a screen of the brain's version of events in the outside world. This is an almost instinctive assumption from which it is hard to escape. Remnants of it persist in all of us, he insists. The senses bring their messages to the cerebral cortex where editing and deciding occur. Voluntary action originates from the motor cortex and motor centres of the brain stem, but consciousness is distributed over the cortex. It is not concentrated into a compact centre area. I think most neurologists would agree.
Dennett invites us to consider the phi phenomenon. If two points of light four degrees apart are lit at brief intervals alternately they will give the appearance of a point of light moving back and forth. If they are red and green it will seem that the point changes colour as it `moves' across. Obviously this impression cannot arise before the green light hits the retina. When does it arise? Very quickly evidently, even before the green sensation reaches consciousness. Dennett follows this with a long argument between two theories. Is it an example of a hallucination accurately remembered, or an initially correct sensation distorted by a deceptive memory? Although intrigued I must confess I got impatient with this long argument which I had to read carefully several times. It's entitled `Orwellian and Stalinesque Revisions'. I think a neurologist would ask `Where does the impression arise?' rather than `when'? It could arise somewhere in the visual pathway where there are synapses: in the retina, in the lateral geniculate bodies, or in the visual cortex at the back of the brain.
I would add that embryologically the eye is part of the brain and visual sense data are subject to some processing right there in the retina. In small mammals that live close to the ground it is vital to respond to new vertical images quickly. Retinal processing enables them to recognize vertical patterns fast. May this be happening with the phi phenomenon? Knowledgeable neurologists have surely settled this question?
Disturbing finely timed experiments suggest that some `voluntary actions precede consciousness of the command to act. Is the brain like a vigorous executive-act now, vote later? Is consciousness like the passive part of the committee, receiving what has already been decided? Well, sometimes perhaps, but a humanist must protest `not always'. One can be a monist materialist without being a determinist. We do sometimes mull over the probable consequences of alternate lines of action before acting.
Dennett has a foil assistant, Otto. Otto is bright, but not quite as bright as Dennett. Otto gets a rough ride. He's got more than a little of the Cartesian theatre stuck in his brain. How shameful! One's sympathy goes out to Otto. He and Dennett have a difficult argument about the `Neon Color Spreading' optical illusion on the back of the book's dust cover. A 12x12 graph paper grid has its lines marked in red in a circular zone, outside and inside which they are black. The effect is to make one think that pink colour has oozed into the white squares so that there seems to be a pink glowing ring around the black lines at the centre, or as if a transparent pink glass ring has been laid over the grid pattern. Where is that pink ring? Otto claims it must be somewhere. Dan Dennett denies it. I'm on Otto's side. Dennett will say that's because I'm still contaminated with bits of Cartesian theatre. Well that's a Freudian ploy: ridicule the opposition in terms of your own theory.
It's consistent with good materialism to hold that if a brain infers something, say a pink ring, somewhere in the brain some thing or things, such as neurons, are carrying the information (or coding) for pink. Dennett shows in his subsequent discussion that he agrees. The pink ring doesn't exist in the outside world, but it is represented in the brain the way real things are represented in the brain, in this case probably by red- stimulated neurons affecting nearby white-stimulated neurons. I would have thought that Dennett should have allowed to Otto that this is how and where the pink ring exists. Admittedly their discussion certainly makes you wonder what `exist' should mean.
Evolution has shaped our brains to put the most probable (simple and economical) construction on sense data. One's brain says `No one in their right mind would bother to draw a grid of 13 horizontal lines and 13 vertical lines and then do the finicky job of making 9 of each black in parts and red in parts so as to make this pattern. Someone has obviously left their transparent pink doughnut over the grid and the colour has oozed!
Dennett rejects the idea that the brain `fills in' gaps in the sense data, such as the eye's blind spot. He says this view is part of `Cartesian Theatre' thinking. He suggests that the brain feels no need for information from this part of the retina, and so doesn't bother to supply it. I think he's wrong about this, and so do Francis Crick and Christof Koch (1992). The brain does fill in the blind spot with whatever colour or pattern adjoins, and with plaid if necessary but at a coarse resolution.
But don't get me wrong. I have picked on passages that troubled me. This is an intriguing and audacious book, and fun to read. It overlaps surprisingly with Helena Cronin's The Ant and the Peacock, probably in part because both authors are evolutionarily minded.
Dennett has an appendix for professional philosophers and another one for neurologists.
Crick, F. & C. Koch, 1992. `The Problem of Consciousness' Scientific
American, Sep: 267; 3:153-9
By EIKE-MEINRAD WINKLER, Institut für Humanbiologie der Univer
sität Wien. Althanstraße 14, 1091 Vienna, Austria.
This interesting volume, edited by E. Voland, fits into the meritorious
attempts to initiate a creative dialogue between biologists and social
scientists. Topic: the different perspectives of human reproductive
behaviour. The influence of nature and culture on the behaviour of man
has been the subject of passionate discussions for many years. In the
social sciences it mainly ended in an irrational nature-culture-antinomy.
With the rise of sociobiology in European anthropology, the old contradictory positions
became even more marked; biologists are often attacked
on the ground of mere ideology as being guilty of biologism. The seven
teen contributors to the book of E. Voland are well known representatives
of their individual fields. In fifteen review articles and special reports
they try to explain fundamental positions in biology and social sciences
with respect to the topic of human reproductive behaviour.
The profit of the book for the non-scientist stems mainly from the biologists who give easily understandable introductions into the biological theories about reproductive behaviour; in particular sociobiology and its basic ideas such as fitness, ultimate and proximate causes, sex-biased parental investment, "helper-at-the-nest", etc.
Cultural phenomena such as incest taboo, and the forms and rules of marriage are discussed in the framework of evolutionary biology and sociobiology. Here especially the instructive contributions of Christian Vogel, Nancy Thornhill, Paul Schmid-Hempel and Barbara König have to be mentioned. Volker Sommer points also to the fundamental problems of the concepts of sociobiology. Mating strategies and differential fertility leading to optimal reproductive success are described by several studies of wild-living animals like the Barbary macaques project of Paul and Küster, but also on the basis of ethnohistoric studies.
Unfortunately, the phenomena of reproductive behaviour such as forms of marriage, "helper-at-the-nest", rules of marriage and descendence, kinship, differential parental investment, and infanticide are not explained by the social scientists in this volume at all. They generally fail to present the principles of their science, a problem which obstructs an interdisciplinary dialogue between evolutionary biologists and social scientists but also makes it impossible for the reader to compare the different theories. Instead the reader is confronted with a synopsis of the history demography and its political abuse. The so-called ethnohistoric part is slightly biased because, with the exception of the Bakkarwal study of Casimir and Rao and the comparison of reproductive behaviour in Turkey and Germany of Bernhard Nauck, no non-European cultures are considered. Classical studies of traditional societies like of the Bushmen of Blurton Jones are mentioned in the text but not integrated satisfactorily into the discussion. Other studies in this part focus only on historical populations (18th, 19th century) in the area of recent Germany. Therefore the term "ethnohistoric" seems not really advisable in this context.
Most biologists regard human behavioural tendencies as adaptations to specific living conditions in ancestral environments, resulting in behaviour which is biologically appropriate although culturally determined. This hypothesis may be self-evident for sociobiologists; whether it is acceptable for sociologists is still unclear after reading this book, which is the outcome of a Werner-Reimers-Stiftung-project (1988-1990) dealing with the "double determination" of human reproduction. Two years of dialogue were obviously not enough to resolve the nature-culture-antinomy. It becomes evident in the different contributions to this anthology which very seldomly refer to arguments of the "other side".
The endeavour of the editor, however, has to be honoured, since this dialogue must be tried again and again.