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Darwin-L Message Log 8:78 (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.


<8:78>From azlerner@midway.uchicago.edu  Sat Apr 23 21:05:15 1994

Date: Sat, 23 Apr 94 21:05:14 CDT
From: "Asia "I work in mysterious ways" Lerner" <azlerner@midway.uchicago.edu>
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Re: mating

To John Langdon:

  [me:]> Then there are
  > males who are not playing a reproductive strategy at all-- just out for
  > pleasure.

  [Asia:]> This is a mix up in levels - everybody is out for pleasure, of one
  > kind or another, the question is whether the pleasure-reward mechanism is
  > orchestrated, presumably by NS, in a way that it evokes a "maximum
  > reproductive efficiency" behaviour.

  I assume that pleasure evolved long ago as a positive feedback for
  fitness-enhancing behavior, such as copulation. [How long ago? Certainly at
  least early vertebrate ancestry.] I assume you assume this too.

Yes, naturally.

  Pleasure has now
  taken on a life of its own, so to speak.

That sounds like a good way to describe it.

  What happens when an individual finds a
  way to satisfy the pleasure program than circumvents normal reproduction?

  It would not necessarily be maladaptive, but it is likely to be non-adaptive.
  Take an easy example, male masturbation. Several individuals (e.g., Smith;
  Baker & Bellis) have interpreted this as adaptive in ridding the male
  reproductive tract of old and less viable sperm and the like.

This explanation also assumes that male masturbation and female masturbation
somehow occure for disparate reasons, which does not seem too convincing.

  Could it not be equally
  interpreted as a short cut to the pleasure center?

Why a short-cut? An alternative path. Or do you mean the short-cutting of the
reproductive function?

  It may not be as gratifying
  as the real thing, but it is simpler and safer. It is not even very expensive
  if the male isn't copulating but the testes are generating sperm anyway.
  Which explanation is more parsimonious?

It would seem to me that an explanation that would cover both male and female
masturbation would be most parsimonious.

  Apply this to non-conceptive sex in bonobos. Female chimps can offer pleasure
  to the males in return for temporary rise in status, social reassurance,
  food, or what-have-you.

Ahem. What, except the usual sociobiological transference of Victorian
stereotypes to the animal world, makes you assume that the female bonobos
do not engage in sex for the fun of it?

  We suppose the males don't know whether they are being turned on
  by sex or by reproduction, and I suppose it does not matter.

See above.

Asia

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