Human culture is a result of sexual selection?

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Human culture is a result of sexual selection?

Post by k1234567890y » Fri 01 Aug 2014, 16:07

Wikipedia:

Geoffrey Miller, drawing on some of Darwin's largely neglected ideas about human behaviour, has hypothesized that human culture arose through a process of sexual selection. He argues that cultural traits such as art, music, dance, verbal creativity and humour are of no survival value.

Miller is critical of theories that imply that human culture arose as accidents or by-products of human evolution. He believes that human culture arose through sexual selection for creative traits. In that view, many human artifacts could be considered subject to sexual selection as part of the extended phenotype, for instance clothing that enhance sexually selected traits.

During human evolution, on at least two occasions, hominid brain size increased rapidly over a short period of time followed by a period of stasis. The first period of brain expansion occurred 2.5 million years ago, when Homo habilis first began using stone tools. The second period occurred 500,000 years ago, with the emergence of archaic Homo sapiens. Miller argues that the rapid increases in brain size would have occurred by a positive feedback loop resulting in runaway selection for larger brains.

Tor Nørretranders, in The Generous Man conjectures how intelligence, musicality, artistic and social skills, and language might have evolved as an example of the handicap principle, analogously with the peacock's tail, the standard example of that principle.

Another hypothesis proposes that human intelligence is a courtship indicator of health and resistance against parasites and pathogens which are deleterious to human cognitive capabilities.

Anthropologists believe that "male genitalia ...represent a critical target of sexual selection for fertilization efficiency and sperm competition" and so have developed theories as to why about 25% of societies practice some form of male genital mutilation. Recently, Charles Wilson of Cornell University suggests that in societies where competition among males is acute, male genital mutilation reduces the threat of conflict for female mates, and so a young man who accepts male genital mutilation "gains immediate access to social and sexual privileges that are suggested to outweigh the cost of the male genital mutilation itself."

The same author indicates that female genital mutilation (FGM) may play a similar paradoxical role:

"Under this ‘sexual conflict’ hypothesis, male genital mutilation functions in a parallel context to female genital mutilation (FGM). Women who undergo vaginal infibulation or clitoridectomy experience sexual sequelae that would tend to limit EPCs (extra-pair copulations), including restriction of intromission and a reduced capacity to experience sexual pleasure. This reduces the paternity uncertainty of a husband, increasing the trust and investment he is selected to offer. These benefits to a woman and her children seem to outweigh the heavy cost of the mutilation itself in societies with high paternity uncertainty".

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_sel ... on#Culture

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If this is true, probably many alien intellectual species will also have sexual dimorphisms like human beings do and they may even also have polygamy marriage? do you think the theory that "human culture is a result of sexual selection" is plausible?
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Re: Human culture is a result of sexual selection?

Post by eldin raigmore » Sat 02 Aug 2014, 09:08

k1234567890y wrote:do you think the theory that "human culture is a result of sexual selection" is plausible?
No, it leaves out the part of culture in which women impress men, or in which men impress men, or in which women impress women. It also leaves out any part of culture in which adults or older children instruct children or keep them entertained. It makes Hair Metal the archetypical and prototypical exemplar of all culture; anything like fashion or architecture is just secondary to being a rock star. So I think the idea is either not-well-thought-out or is ridiculously and obviously wrong, or both.


But:

k1234567890y wrote:If this is true, probably many alien intellectual species will also have sexual dimorphisms like human beings do and they may even also have polygamy marriage?
1. Any species that has two sexes is going to have at least some sexual dimorphism. ( A sexually-reproducing species needn't have two sexes; maybe both parents' roles are equal, and/or maybe everyone's a hermaphrodite. And of course maybe there are three or more sexes. But barring those, if there are two sexes, they aren't going to be physically nor behaviorally identical; though the difference could be greater or lesser than it is among humans.)

2. Just because I don't think some hypothesis is likely the best explanation for Real Life, doesn't mean I don't think it could be a great idea in a conculture or conspecies or game or story.

3. What other uses of one's mind or brain might some alien species have that would exemplify the "handicap principle", or prove that the brain-user hasn't suffered a depletion of mental energy from parasitic or other infections, or periods of lack and want (famine, drought, cold or heat, etc.) or other stress in his or her formative years?

4. Among many cultures a man's oratorical skills, sometimes especially emphasizing his skill at persuading the crowd, is regarded either as sexually attractive directly, or is regarded as a very "chiefly" virtue; and being a chief is sexually attractive, so oratory and rhetoric and so on are indirectly sexually attractive.

5. Could skill and speed at learning new languages be sexually selected for?

6. Could working out pure math problems -- proofs in algebraic topology or some such -- be one of those "handicap principle" activities?
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Re: Human culture is a result of sexual selection?

Post by Xonen » Sat 02 Aug 2014, 16:45

eldin raigmore wrote:
k1234567890y wrote:do you think the theory that "human culture is a result of sexual selection" is plausible?
No, it leaves out the part of culture in which women impress men
How so? Last I checked, "intelligence, musicality, artistic and social skills, and language" weren't exclusively male traits. [:S]
or in which men impress men, or in which women impress women.
This could still have to do with sexual selection, albeit indirectly. Flaunting your ability to attract mates and general superiority in front of potential competitors seems to be quite a common strategy among animals, presumably in order to make it clear who's got the primary reproductive rights 'round these parts, bitch. If you can ensure getting the best and/or most mates (without getting killed by a challenger), it tends to improve chances for the long-term survival and propagation of your genes.
It also leaves out any part of culture in which adults or older children instruct children or keep them entertained. It makes Hair Metal the archetypical and prototypical exemplar of all culture; anything like fashion or architecture is just secondary to being a rock star. So I think the idea is either not-well-thought-out or is ridiculously and obviously wrong, or both.
Except that as far as I can tell, the hypothesis isn't that humans (or peacocks, for that matter) have no other motivations at all than to produce offspring and then forget about it. Just that the structures in our brain responsible for our capacity to understand stuff like music, language and art developed primarily because such things were at some point sexually selected for.

Not that I necessarily buy that hypothesis, though. The central idea that "cultural traits such as art, music, dance, verbal creativity and humour are of no survival value" especially seems highly dubious to me. It's true that all of these can be used in courtship - but they certainly also function in a more general fashion to strengthen social bonds and group identity. Which in turn helps ensure the group's survival.
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Re: Human culture is a result of sexual selection?

Post by DrGeoffStandish » Tue 23 Sep 2014, 20:21

There's no sexual selction phenomenon at all in my opinion, there's only natural selection. The opposite sex (we assume reproductional mating here and that takes opposite sexes) is part of the natural world so sexual selection is merely natural selection by definition.

Your question should therefore rather be formulated in terms of natural selection. I'm not competent enough to contribute to the discussion, though. Maybe it's relevant to consider natural selection of memes, but I leave that discussion out.
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Re: Human culture is a result of sexual selection?

Post by Torco » Tue 30 Sep 2014, 21:18

Words mean things, though: it's true what you say about how sexual selection is indeed natural selection inasmuch as the opposite sex is part of nature: but if we were to use the term natural selection in the way you do here we'd literally have to include all things under natural selection, including artificial breeding, since we humans are a part of nature as well... This renders the term useless... so we rather say natural selection is selection by predators and food and diseases and whatnot, artificial selection is selection by people, and sexual selection is selection by the opposite sex. See, that makes sense, cause then we can say things.

There's a strong case for civilization being an artifact of sexual selection, i think: it seems likely that, to be more prosaic, people have been using their brains and language skills to get other people in bed with them since forever.
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Re: Human culture is a result of sexual selection?

Post by Salmoneus » Wed 01 Oct 2014, 17:24

Being technical about it we could probably define 'breeding chance' as 'being sexually mature and capable of breeding and being in a situation where breeding could reasonably occur', define B as the sum number of breeding chances that arise for all members of the species with the characteristic, and then define 'natural selection' as selection as a result of high vs low values of B for each characteristic; then define C as the percentage of breeding chances for that characteristic that actually result in breeding events, and sexual selection as selection as a result of the value of C.
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Re: Human culture is a result of sexual selection?

Post by Micamo » Thu 02 Oct 2014, 06:58

DrGeoffStandish wrote:There's no sexual selction phenomenon at all in my opinion, there's only natural selection. The opposite sex (we assume reproductional mating here and that takes opposite sexes) is part of the natural world so sexual selection is merely natural selection by definition.
Well, yeah, it's all natural selection. But that's like saying "The laws of chemistry reduce to the laws of Quantum Electrodynamics, so there's no use distinguishing between distinct molecules, only between electron configurations." Environments have different selection pressures that determine which genes will come to dominance: By quantifying the effect of these pressures and the effects of each gene on them, you can predict how the species will change if the environment changes. For example, if a gene makes you more attractive to potential mates, but also increases the likelihood of being caught and eaten by a predator, and there's a sudden drop in the predator population, then that gene will begin to spread much faster.
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Re: Human culture is a result of sexual selection?

Post by DrGeoffStandish » Sat 04 Oct 2014, 21:50

Micamo wrote:Well, yeah, it's all natural selection. But that's like saying "The laws of chemistry reduce to the laws of Quantum Electrodynamics, so there's no use distinguishing between distinct molecules, only between electron configurations."
You're right on that chemistry is mere QED but the analogy isn't too good since chemistry and QED are not claimed to be opposed or mutually exclusive, they're rather vastly different energy regimes of the physical reality (remember, chemistry can be described perfectly well with non-relativistic quantum theory, no need to relativise it all the way to QED).
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Re: Human culture is a result of sexual selection?

Post by eldin raigmore » Sun 05 Oct 2014, 16:56

DrGeoffStandish wrote:
Micamo wrote:Well, yeah, it's all natural selection. But that's like saying "The laws of chemistry reduce to the laws of Quantum Electrodynamics, so there's no use distinguishing between distinct molecules, only between electron configurations."
You're right on that chemistry is mere QED but the analogy isn't too good since chemistry and QED are not claimed to be opposed or mutually exclusive, they're rather vastly different energy regimes of the physical reality (remember, chemistry can be described perfectly well with non-relativistic quantum theory, no need to relativise it all the way to QED).
DrGeoff, this looks to me like you are pointing out that you have been complaining about a "straw man".
No-one ever said sexual selection and natural selection were mutually exclusive or opposed.
Rather, sexual selection is one kind of natural selection.
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