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Evolution vs. Fundamentalism The Three Chimps Nature and Human Nature
Evolution: Root of Biodiversity
• Individuals in a population differ in their characteristics
– Characteristics are based on inherited genes
• Genetic differences arise because genes can change (radiation, toxins) or get reshuffled (by sex)
– Individuals cannot change their characteristics deliberately, only by accident or chance
• Individuals with certain characteristics (structural or behavioral) survive and reproduce better than others
– With pressure from the environment, competitors, predators, prey, etc., which also change or evolve
• Eventually, only those with favored characteristics remain in a niche; unlucky ones go extinct
– “Those” refer not only to individuals but to entire taxa
Some Notes about Evolution
• More than a theory but a scientific principle • Despite claims by fundamentalists, evolution has solid scientific bases
Fossil record – evidence of change in structure in many species, including humans DNA and organs – too similar in diverse species, suggesting they had a common ancestor Vestigial structures – useless organs that may once have been functional in an ancestor Direct observation – development of genetic resistance to antibiotics by bacteria, pests to pesticides
• We can’t explain all traits of living things, but that doesn’t mean evolution is wrong
– Fossil record can’t preserve everything – Many unexplained traits were probably adaptive before
Darwin vs. ID
• Fundamentalists: Genesis is fact, evolution is wrong
– Bishop Ussher (1650): Universe was created in 4004 BC – Dinosaurs were wiped out during Noah’s Flood
• Creation Science (CS): Genesis has some historical basis, and
– Evolution is just a theory with many weaknesses, so – Biblical account should also be taught in science classes! – US Supreme Court: No way, since there’s no S in CS; e.g., absolutely no proof dinosaurs and humans ever coexisted
• Intelligent Design (ID) – Ok, forget CS. But how do you explain the complexity of life and human biology except by invoking an intelligent designer?
– Scientists: Complexity can arise from simplicity. Also, evolution has explaining power while ID does not. – US Supreme Court again: ID is still CS; no to ID in schools
Evolution of Primates
Humans did NOT evolve from chimpanzees or monkeys!
Evolution of Primates
• Humans, apes and monkeys share a common ancestor • The more recently any two species diverged, the more alike they are • Humans and chimps differ only in 1.7% of their DNA • Humans and gorillas: 2.3% difference
Humans and Relatives
• Several species of humans (Genus Homo) once coexisted! • Based on genetic analysis, all humans alive today are descended from a band of people who left Africa 50,000 years ago (just 2000 generations back), probably as few as 10 people!
So what if we’re related to apes?
What can we learn about human sexuality, family, and society from our primate ancestry? Warning: For Mature Audiences
Gibbons: • Mixed diet, arboreal • Couples mate for life; territorial, not very social
Gorillas: Vegetarian, dominant male keeps harem; males much bigger than females
Chimps: • Strong male bonds; dominant male mates with many females; weaker males sneak away with willing unfaithful females • mixed diet, some cannibalism Bonobo chimps: • Vegetarian • Egalitarian, peace-loving • highly social, highly sexual
What About Us, The Third Chimp?
The Third Chimpanzee – Physiology
• Full-time upright bipedal
– S-shaped spine, unlike apes’ straight spines; good for walking full-time – Centrally placed foramen magnum: allowed for a language-capable voice box – Straighter legs; non-opposable big toe on feet useless for grasping – Shorter, weaker arms useless for swinging from trees
• • • •
Moderate sexual dimorphism Stereoscopic color vision Tailless, generally hairless Very diverse diet; small canine teeth
The Third Chimpanzee – Behavior and Development
• Minimal olfaction • Extended postnatal development stage • No social grooming, but generally peaceful and cooperative • Capable of oral and symbolic communication
– Human brain size and capacity for language are believed to have grown together (feedback) – Language ability developed with intelligence, culture – Language improved survival through cooperation
• Hidden ovulation, no estrus – unlike most mammals
The Naked, Deviant Ape
• Unlike other apes, ovulation is hidden even to the female
– Without estrus, couples have sex anytime, rarely for procreation – Unlike other social animals, humans have sex in private
• Males and females form long-lasting bonds
– Child rearing is shared – Couples generally faithful, but not always – Males enjoy sex much more than females
• Big Questions:
– What selective advantages do these confer? – More Whys: homosexuality, cheating on love; weird disparities between the sexes
What’s the advantage of hidden ovulation? Some theories • Traditional male-1: To enhance cooperation, minimize aggression among males
– Assumes males will always try to maximize number of mates and offspring, forsaking food security and personal safety – Concealed ovulation evolved to avoid the scenario of men fighting over fertile females
Why can’t we tell if a woman is fertile? • Traditional male-2: Women are receptive all the time to keep the male happy and willing to help raise the family
– Avoids the assumption about men in the previous theory, but still assumes their dominant role – Objection: If the female’s continuous willingness for sex is important for monogamy, why do gibbons who rarely have sex remain monogamous?
Why can’t we tell if a woman is fertile? More theories • Modern male (D. Symons): Male chimps are more likely to share food with a fertile female than with one who isn’t
– Assumes women evolved perpetual receptiveness to get a steady supply of food from many males – Allows females with weak mates to remain well nourished
Why can’t we tell if a woman is fertile? More Theories
• Equality (R. Alexander and K. Noonan): With visible ovulation, a husband would mate with wife only if she is fertile. On other days he could neglect her to look for another fertile female.
– Hence, women evolved hidden fertility to keep men at home, trying to get her pregnant all the time – If he wanders off and another male comes along when she is in estrus, he may end up raising another man’s child – Wife benefits by keeping him at home, husband benefits in staying home by ensuring his paternity of her children
Why can’t we tell if a woman is fertile? More Theories • Feminist-1 (S. Hrdy): Nursing mothers are infertile. Many male animals (not just primates) kill babies not their own in order to allow the female to become fertile again
– Women evolved concealed ovulation and mate with many men – Since each male thinks that a baby can be his, he may protect it or even help raise it – This means females, not males, need to be adulterous (polyandrous)
Why can’t we tell if a woman is fertile? More Theories • Feminist-2 (N. Burley): Human childbirth is uniquely dangerous and painful due to size of baby’s head at birth
– Human baby’s head size increased with intelligence – Women would avoid giving birth if they could. Such women would not leave many descendants – Hence, hidden ovulation evolved to prevent women from avoiding pregnancies
Which of the six theories is right?
• J. Diamond: Any of the six could be true eons ago, but correct theory must continue to be applicable today
– This eliminates Modern Male plus both Feminist theories – Correct theory must be one or a combination of the other three
• Preferred by many is the Equality theory: concealed ovulation means sex for a fun and happy union, allowing couples to enjoy each other, stay together
The Science of Adultery
• If men and women are supposed to be faithful to their mates, then
– Why are human males bigger than women (like haremkeeping gorillas)? – Why do men enjoy sex much more than women? – Why do some men seek many partners?
• Whatever human nature is, culture has replaced or restrained it • Still, can understanding human nature be a nonreligious, culture-free basis for ethical behavior?
– What can we learn about right and wrong by observing nature?
Homosexuality: Is it natural?
What About Homosexuality?
• If gayness prevents reproduction, why does it persist in a population?
– After all, non-adaptive behavior should disappear, unless. . . – There is a hidden benefit, as in (1) sickle-cell anemia, or (2) risk taking
• Theory: Gay individuals help rear children of relatives, improving the family’s chances of survival and propagation of its shared genes
– In other animals, it may be a form of population control
• If homosexuality is natural, does that make it OK?
Some Guesses to Hard Questions
• Female menopause: loss of fertility with age
– Makes old, wiser females focus in participating in rearing of grandchildren – Children born to older women tend to suffer more from genetic disorders
• Why no male menopause?
– Men don’t help much in rearing children anyway; are expected to be dead before losing interest in sex
• Our bodies are due to our evolution, including many of our behaviors
– Language and big brains plus culture gave us clear advantages, even if . . . – Some features hard to explain as advantageous
• Why go to war, fight to death? • Why engage in destructive behavior, abuse drugs? • Stumper: Does procrastination have a hidden benefit?
• To explain adultery (including homosexuality and aggression) is NOT to defend it
– Understanding human nature humbles and equalizes us – Whatever our nature, humans are assumed to be capable of choice and control of their actions – Culture, laws, norms, morals may not be biological, but they’re now part of being human
• Naturalistic Fallacy – Human ethics (separating good from bad) CANNOT be based on observations of nature • So why bother relating early human behavior with modern society?
– We cannot fix what we cannot understand, nor can we fix what is not broken, e.g.,
• Homosexuality: its existence in nature should mean compassion, not scorn nor a cure, for gays • Adultery: no basis to justify as natural
– On other issues: Don’t expect Nature to give us clear answers
What we are certain of : To love, be loyal, nurture and cooperate is our nature
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