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Darwin-L Message Log 8:57 (April 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<8:57>From ALVARD@DICKINSON.EDU  Sun Apr 17 15:11:22 1994

Date: Sun, 17 Apr 94 16:11:12 est
From: Michael Alvard <ALVARD@dickinson.edu>
To: DARWIN-L@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: mating

I lost Kim Sterelny's posting in response to mine, but to summarize s/he
said:

  1.  Short-term matings are not always so low-cost especially in the social
  environments where humans evolved.

  2. A male chimp ignoring an adolescent female's solicitation may have more
  to do with the chances of the female raising the offspring to independence.

I agree with both statements, in general,  but only have time to respond to
the first; perhaps someone else can discuss the second.

Short-term matings are low cost *relative* to long-term matings, thus males
should be more choosy for the latter.  I do agree, however, that the social
costs to a philandering male *could be* quite high (retaliation and
withdrawal of cooperation, as Sterelny said). But this is not necessarily
so. In the paleocommunities Sterelny invisions, within-group cooperation
could be so important that depending on the contributions of the philandering
male to general subsistence, his short-term adventures with one's wife, or
daughter, or sister might be tolerated. There is anecdotal evidence to
support this.  Among the Mehinaku, a native South American group studied by
Thomas Gregor, extra-marital sex is common, and tolerated as long as it is
kept discrete.  Gregor  determined that husbands often knew their wives were
fooling around, but did not confront the man because often he was a friend,
or relative.  To bring it into the open would have caused social chaos and
the possible loss of an economic or social ally.

On the other side of the coin is the situation with the Yanomamo (another
Amazonian group), where murder and warfare over infidelity is a common cause
of death for males. Short-term matings can be quite costly.  Even among the
Yanomamo, however, close friends and males relatives (brothers and cousins)
often share females.  My guess is that the response of the cuckold depends on
the identity  of the transgresor.

Michael Alvard, Ph.D.				Tel: (717) 245-1902
Department of Anthropology			FAX: (717) 245-1479
Dickinson College				E-mail: Alvard@Dickinson.edu
Carlisle, PA  17013

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