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we cooperate with non-kin on a whole different scale than other animals.[/Quote]

I think you miss the point. I'm saying that we didn't evolve from an ancestor who only cooperated with kin. Odds are we evolved from a species which already lived in large groups with large numbers of kin and non-kin who cooperated in activities like gathering food and hunting. I don't think that necessarily contradicts your theory anyway.

 

Of course there are... but they are sufficiently suppressed to make their occasional presence tolerable.

 

But look at how they're 'suppressed.' It's not by throwing rocks, but by social means, those means varying based on the importance that they be suppressed. In hunter-gathers, where free-riding isn't as big of an issue, ribbing and teasing is all the effort the group is willing to put forth. In agricultural societies, shame is utilized and only very occasionally are formal punitive measures (like imprisonment) resorted to. But those societies are the most elaborated and "unnatural" (though I cringe as I use the word) of human social arrangements.

 

It just seems as if this theory is a bit divorced from the real world of human interactions. To people really go around throwing rocks at each other to keep free-loaders in line? Modern humans are the best analogues we have for ancient humans, so it seems as though this should be much better grounded in a cross-cultural examination modern human behavior, especially means of social control.

 

Well, I don't know if all hunter-gathering groups behave that way, but it doesn't negate what I said. It's just another instance of enforcing social cooperation. Do we see this type of behavior in, say, other ape hunters?

 

I got kicked out the library before I could finish that explanation so I'm afraid I wasn't entirely clear. I was trying to point out the free-rider problem is sufficiently addressed in these populations by social factors, such as that loafs don't have as high a reproductive success as the good hunters. There's no need for violent action. Indeed, in these cultures the focus isn't on underachievers at all, but overachievers who threaten the social order by dominating the other group members.

 

It's a generalization, but this is a pressure pretty common throughout hunter-gatherer societies (with the prominent exception of the Kwakiutl of the Northwestern US coast and British Columbia). So the freeloader problem doesn't seem to impede these societies' ability for non-kin cooperation. Will they build any pyramids? No, but neither would have Homo erectus.

 

In ape societies, by the way, it seems to be the opposite. The best hunters are the leaders of the group because they control the meat resources that they can strategically redistribute. Craig Stanford made a lot out of that in his theories about the evolution of intelligence based around meat redistribution (and his book on the matter, The Hunting Apes, is where I'm getting a lot of this information if you want a citation). I won't say that his ideas are any more valid than Bingham's, though.

 

I'm generally sympathetic to Tim White's response to Owen Lovejoy's theory of human evolution revolving around the concealment of female estrous: "I've never seen an estrous fossil." You could come up with aesthetic, internally consistent stories all day.

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The big problem with all these speculations is the lack of fossil evidence. How important is language in early human evolution? Any fossil evidence that Australopithecus had good language skills?

 

How important is socialising? Can we fossilise a social? My own theory on technology fails due to the fact that the early technologies (using wood and non shaped stone and bone tools) tend not to be fossilised.

 

Speculating is fun though!

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I think you miss the point. I'm saying that we didn't evolve from an ancestor who only cooperated with kin. Odds are we evolved from a species which already lived in large groups with large numbers of kin and non-kin who cooperated in activities like gathering food and hunting. I don't think that necessarily contradicts your theory anyway.

it probably doesn't... I don't think the theory is, we only cooperated with kin before and now we cooperate with everyone. I think that the theory is, according to hamiltons law, we were able to decrease the cost of coercion so that the benefits of cooperating outweigh the costs in a fundamentally new way.

 

I think things like reciprocal altruism still worked, but not necessarily on a scale that could have produced human cooperation as we see it in behaviorally modern humans.

 

 

But look at how they're 'suppressed.' It's not by throwing rocks, but by social means, those means varying based on the importance that they be suppressed. In hunter-gathers, where free-riding isn't as big of an issue, ribbing and teasing is all the effort the group is willing to put forth. In agricultural societies, shame is utilized and only very occasionally are formal punitive measures (like imprisonment) resorted to. But those societies are the most elaborated and "unnatural" (though I cringe as I use the word) of human social arrangements.

right... but we are definitely not the same as the first Homo species, in terms of our genetics, even in modern hunter-gathering groups. It could very well be that millions of years of evolution has produced a species that responds to social coercion, because individuals that only respond to physical violence aren't going to last very long in a society that relies on large amounts of cooperation from all its members (again, I exaggerate to make a point).

And of course, this can still be seen today... when social coercion doesn't work, we still "pick up rocks" and attempt to make cheaters come into line.

 

It just seems as if this theory is a bit divorced from the real world of human interactions. To people really go around throwing rocks at each other to keep free-loaders in line? Modern humans are the best analogues we have for ancient humans, so it seems as though this should be much better grounded in a cross-cultural examination modern human behavior, especially means of social control.

 

But like I said before, if throwing rocks could have removed a lot of the 'elite cheating' alleles from the population, this could have selected for individuals that respond to social coercion.

 

I got kicked out the library before I could finish that explanation so I'm afraid I wasn't entirely clear.

Where you caught coloring in the diagrams again?

oh, and you're previous comments where quite clear, and I think I've responded to them :)

 

In ape societies, by the way, it seems to be the opposite. The best hunters are the leaders of the group because they control the meat resources that they can strategically redistribute. Craig Stanford made a lot out of that in his theories about the evolution of intelligence based around meat redistribution (and his book on the matter, The Hunting Apes, is where I'm getting a lot of this information if you want a citation). I won't say that his ideas are any more valid than Bingham's, though.

I'm not sure how that would contradict what I have said, however. If Apes can strategically decide who gets to eat, the development of some means of cheap coercion, like throwing ability (whether it's rocks or spears) would be advantageous to the individual, and could possibly result in enforcing social cooperation...

that's just my own speculation though, and it's assuming that late australopiths had similar attributes. I haven't thought as much about that.

 

 

I'm generally sympathetic to Tim White's response to Owen Lovejoy's theory of human evolution revolving around the concealment of female estrous: "I've never seen an estrous fossil." You could come up with aesthetic, internally consistent stories all day.

I think concealment of estrous is important to human evolution, but I don't think it revolves around it... Macaques do it to.

 

though I see your larger point..

 

The big problem with all these speculations is the lack of fossil evidence. How important is language in early human evolution? Any fossil evidence that Australopithecus had good language skills?

The evidence is that Australopithecus didn't not have good speaking skills, at least, but that all species of Homo did. This is by comparing the hyoid bones of fossils.

 

How important is socialising? Can we fossilise a social? My own theory on technology fails due to the fact that the early technologies (using wood and non shaped stone and bone tools) tend not to be fossilised.

Unfortunately we don't have archaeological evidence for early human evolution. But, if we have a theory that can make consistent predictions, that's certainly a start.

 

For example, right around 2 million years, we see the evolution of elite throwing in Homo, by comparing Austrolopith and early homo pelvis to modern, and knowing how the muscles attach to the pelvis, and redesigned hand shape that is better for gripping. Following this we see brain expansion in Homo, development of a modern looking hyoid bone (elite language). Concurrently, we see a redesign of the lower rib cage, which is expanded outwards in Austrolopiths, but 'sleek' in homo. This suggests a redesign of a less complex gastic system, used to higher quality foods.

 

Alone, these fossils don't mean much, but together, it hints at the importance of the development of elite throwing (sources should be in Binghams paper).

 

 

 

Speculating is fun though!

very... though it tends to detract from the biochemistry studying :doh:

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Just a comment on accidental evolution - and non kin altruism.

 

Evolution is a very imperfect mechanism and often has consequences that are maladaptive. A good example is the nurturing instinct. The reason humans have this is pretty damn obvious, and especially this instinct is strong in the female of our species.

 

However, there is a maladaptive consequence of evolving this instinct, known as pets. In some countries, there are almost as many totally useless animals living with people as people themselves. They consume vast quantities of resources and contribute not at all to human survival and reproduction - in fact, quite the contrary. Note that I am not referring to working animals or animals that contribute materially, such as meat, milk and wool makers.

 

So why do people, and especially women, adopt small and useless cats and dogs, and nurture them like members of the family. Short answer - evolution gone wrong.

 

In precisely the same way, I think that non kin altruism is evolution gone wrong. Because altruism evolved during a time when virtually all humans people were in contact with were kin, to some degree, altruism evolved to embrace all people - not just kin.

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In precisely the same way, I think that non kin altruism is evolution gone wrong. Because altruism evolved during a time when virtually all humans people were in contact with were kin, to some degree, altruism evolved to embrace all people - not just kin.

 

I don't know though... that's a neat idea, but it doesn't seem to fit the scale that we see non-kin dependent social cooperation in humans. Certainly we cooperate with other humans more than which we 'cooperate' with our pets.

 

Also, animal domestication has its uses, from food (cows) for emotional (dogs)... though hunting dogs would have been originally used for 'food' too. I think pets is more likely functional animal domestication carried to a new level of non-functionality due to emotional attachments. As well, having 'useless' pets would not have been likely to become common until humans actually have the extra time and resources to give to these pets (people who have pets they can't afford will often abandon them).

 

I think this rich culture that can afford 'useless' pets *probably* only evolved after expanded non-kin dependent social cooperation arises in humans.

 

In precisely the same way, I think that non kin altruism is evolution gone wrong. Because altruism evolved during a time when virtually all humans people were in contact with were kin, to some degree, altruism evolved to embrace all people - not just kin.

 

But didn't someone state before that early human (or australopith) 'tribes' would have consisted of both kin AND non-kin? Certainly this is the case in non-human ape tribes. So, how could this have 'confusion' occur?

 

It seems odd to me that an individual that has no kinship with another individual would evolve to "embrace" cooperation with that non-kin, just because they can't tell the difference. Such an allele shouldn't survive in a population, because any individual with those qualities would have been taken advantage of immediately by those with more self-interested genes. This sort of self-interest is seen in Ape populations... individuals with a particularly good meat from a hunt don't share with non-kin if they aren't forced to.

 

So, unless you can enforce this social cooperation with non-kin, what we know about animal behavior predicts that the selfless cooperator will get taken advantage of (which happens all the time in modern human populations when cooperation isn't properly enforced).

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Just a comment on accidental evolution - and non kin altruism.

 

Evolution is a very imperfect mechanism and often has consequences that are maladaptive. A good example is the nurturing instinct. The reason humans have this is pretty damn obvious, and especially this instinct is strong in the female of our species.

 

In a sense, though, we are still mostly caring for our distant relatives, the mammals. In fact, I do believe that the nurturing instinct exists in other mammals as well. We are biased in favor of those in our class, order, genus, and kin.

 

However, there is a maladaptive consequence of evolving this instinct, known as pets. In some countries, there are almost as many totally useless animals living with people as people themselves. They consume vast quantities of resources and contribute not at all to human survival and reproduction - in fact, quite the contrary. Note that I am not referring to working animals or animals that contribute materially, such as meat, milk and wool makers.

 

So why do people, and especially women, adopt small and useless cats and dogs, and nurture them like members of the family. Short answer - evolution gone wrong.

 

You should note that pets are not completely worthless. There's a reason that the Egyptians worshiped cats -- they ate rodents which ate our food and spread disease. Dogs act as guards and helped with hunting. Only recently have pets become almost entirely for companionship. And companionship is not worthless either -- I recall reading some time ago that having a pet reduced stress and extended life span and mental health. Of course, animal companionship is not the proper solution to loneliness, just a substitute (like masturbation :)).

 

In precisely the same way, I think that non kin altruism is evolution gone wrong. Because altruism evolved during a time when virtually all humans people were in contact with were kin, to some degree, altruism evolved to embrace all people - not just kin.

 

Hm, didn't they do a study where they found that humans were descended from about 5 females? Maybe we're all close enough to count as distant kin.

 

From another perspective, we also have a strong justice instinct. If someone were observed to not help another in desperate need, they could well be retaliated against. Perhaps our reward/punishment system was good enough that the safest option by default was to be altruistic, even if you thought no one would notice. If this were the case, I would expect altruism to be reduced in the absence of witnesses, and also when there was more time to analyze the situation.

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To Mr Skeptic

 

Re pets.

 

You will note I excepted working animals etc from the 'useless' tag.

I also use the term in a strictly evolutionary context, as in line with this thread. The emotional value of a baby surrogate is probably not of adaptive value, in the sense of improving survival till after reproduction, and maximising reproductive success.

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To Mr Skeptic

 

Re pets.

 

You will note I excepted working animals etc from the 'useless' tag.

I also use the term in a strictly evolutionary context, as in line with this thread. The emotional value of a baby surrogate is probably not of adaptive value, in the sense of improving survival till after reproduction, and maximising reproductive success.

 

Which is why I don't think 'useless pets' would have been seen in human populations until we were rich and enough leisure time to look after them. Like I said in my other post, people getting pets they can't afford and abandoning them is an all too common practice.

 

Following through on what I've said previously, this wouldn't have happened until we've already developed large scale non-kin dependent social cooperation with other humans.

 

However, even if your pet theory is right (ho ho) I don't think that its necessarily transmissible to human evolution for the reasons I describe three posts back. (post 80)

 

From another perspective, we also have a strong justice instinct. If someone were observed to not help another in desperate need, they could well be retaliated against. Perhaps our reward/punishment system was good enough that the safest option by default was to be altruistic, even if you thought no one would notice. If this were the case, I would expect altruism to be reduced in the absence of witnesses, and also when there was more time to analyze the situation.

 

I think this backs up the notion that early humans must have evolved some way of enforcing social cooperation, thus selecting for a animals that respond to social punishment, rather than just physical punishment.

I think this was most likely elite throwing.

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I think this backs up the notion that early humans must have evolved some way of enforcing social cooperation, thus selecting for a animals that respond to social punishment, rather than just physical punishment.

I think this was most likely elite throwing.

 

I suppose I need to read this guy's paper, and not just one student's presentation of it (despite the respect I have for that student).

 

In my mind, the likely explanation is on social ostracism, whereby both resources and potential mates were withhold as a result of non-accepted behavior. The very suggestion that the ability to throw a rock was the most prominent factor is diffucult to accept. I can concede that rock throwing MAY have been part of the overall whole, but that it was the primary driver, I feel, strains plausibility.

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I suppose I need to read this guy's paper, and not just one student's presentation of it (despite the respect I have for that student).

 

In my mind, the likely explanation is on social ostracism, whereby both resources and potential mates were withhold as a result of non-accepted behavior. The very suggestion that the ability to throw a rock was the most prominent factor is diffucult to accept. I can concede that rock throwing MAY have been part of the overall whole, but that it was the primary driver, I feel, strains plausibility.

 

and obviously, social ostracism is VERY important, because obviously we don't go around throwing rocks at each other in order to control their behavior in a large scale.

 

But, perhaps it would help you to think of it this way: don't picture it as an individual or a pair trying to fend off a cheater with a rock. Think instead of a group using rocks or sharp objects ( eventually spears) and surrounding a cheater, and continually pelting someone. People used to be put to death by stonings in biblical times, after all. And everyone has seen a batter get hit by a 90mph fastball in baseball. Think about that, except on purpose, and as soon as the ball hits the batter, the pitchers picks up another one and aims at him again and again. Multiply that by another 20 or so individuals, and your dealing with a serious weapon... a weapon that is exponentially more serious than hand-to hand combat, and now the cheater is virtually helpless to defend himself.

 

With this in mind, I don't think its hard to imagine why throwing would be selected for (and it would also be quite useful in hunting), and why cheaters would 'learn' (evolutionarily speaking) to cooperate with non-kin, rather than be killed off or seriously injured by other non-kin cooperators. So, if it's "johnny play nice or we'll stone you to death" the selfish genes that will ignore social ostracism would get stamped out pretty quickly, if you ask me.

 

If you put this new weapon in the right conditions and environment, you should see the rise of large scale social cooperation.

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But, isn't this a displacement of what's truly being selected? I posit that it's social cooperation on which the selective pressures act, not "throwing" behavior.

 

Like I said, I can only combat your personal understanding and the way you've shared that understanding here with the rest of us. While that is highly rational and intelligent, it is not likely the same as that provided by the person who came up with the idea. Does he have a peer reviewed offering somewhere which pertains specifically to this "the pitcher's were better than the rest of the infield and outfield combined" hypothesis?

 

Your video didn't work for me, and the link you shared only was an abstract.

 

 

To be fair, I will concede now that I vehemently reject the entire premise of human "uniqueness," as I see it from a psychosocial standpoint of insecurity and artificial ego reinforcement. I do not mean to imply that this is what Bingham's paper does, only that... until I can read it in full... I remain rather skeptical of his "good baseball players did best" hypothesis.

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But, isn't this a displacement of what's truly being selected? I posit that it's social cooperation on which the selective pressures act, not "throwing" behavior.

I'm saying that throwing is selecting for social cooperation.

Throwing could have evolved for any reason (hunting or whatever) but the effect is that it ultimately used by cooperating groups to enforce social cooperation.

 

Like I said, I can only combat your personal understanding and the way you've shared that understanding here with the rest of us. While that is highly rational and intelligent, it is not likely the same as that provided by the person who came up with the idea.

Perhaps, perhaps not. I'm planning on going to his office next week to talk about these specific points we're bringing up here.

 

Does he have a peer reviewed offering somewhere which pertains specifically to this "the pitcher's were better than the rest of the infield and outfield combined" hypothesis?

that's not the hypothesis... I only brought up the baseball analogy to evoke the imagine of what elite throwing means, physically.

 

Your video didn't work for me, and the link you shared only was an abstract.

sorry about that... I'll try to figure out an alternate way of sharing the lectures (which are almost disappointingly non-technical anyway.)

 

also, I thought I posted the entire article... its possible you need to have a university or JSTOR account to access it. I look into that.

 

To be fair, I will concede now that I vehemently reject the entire premise of human "uniqueness," as I see it from a psychosocial standpoint of insecurity and artificial ego reinforcement. I do not mean to imply that this is what Bingham's paper does, only that... until I can read it in full... I remain skeptical.

well that's a point I would have to disagree with you, on principle... you don't even have to be human to see that the human footprint on earth is much larger than any other animal, currently living or extinct. It's not egotistical to ask what could have happened in our evolution that could have caused this.

 

edit: it appears that accessing the article required an account, so I can't legally provide the article. sorry

 

but here's a shorter (though less technical and thorough): http://www.hahmed.com/docs/Bingham.pdf

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Please define "expanded technology". Humans have only been in extended "non-kin" social cooperation for at most 10,000 years. Far too short a time for it to have affected our biological evolution and thus our physical traits. Therefore none of the list can be attributed to this.

evidence of this?

 

 

 

Please name them. I can't come up with any.

any type of apes, I believe, macaques, schools of fish, etc.

 

 

Sorry, but the first documented use of tools is by H. habilis -- who lived in small family groups. No villages. By the time larger groups and villages were forming, humans were H. sapiens with our modern brains. Kin groups also protect pregnant mothers and vulnerable young. You don't need a larger group than that.

source?

 

 

 

Cooperative species like wolves and dolphins most certainly have. Humans solved it genetically by evolving a brain module to detect cheating. It is one of the few modules that is constant from culture to culture that evolutionary psychology has found.

I think it makes more sense to reverse this cause and effect, from a basic evolutionary standpoint. Evolution doesn't evolve a brain module to detect cheating. A new brain module evolves that can detect cheating if we first evolve the means to physically ostracize them. Where's the advantage to detecting cheating if we can't do anything about it?

 

Maybe the production, but the technology itself is only partly, at most, related to social cooperation. Chimps have social cooperation, but they don't have the technology, do they? It is related to our ability to make tools to make tools.

non-kin social cooperation is much more limited in chimp populations as compared to humans

 

Let's try this. Bingham states (according to wikipedia) that it was the ability to throw, thus threatening from a distance. But other primate species throw. Chimps and baboons as just two examples. So why didn't they evolve like humans?

by all accounts, chimp throwing is not nearly as accurate or as powerful as human throwing.

 

Also, if you are living in a small group with a cheater, is throwing really going to help? The person isn't at a distance -- he/she is right next to you! What's more, they can throw back! So we have two pieces of observations that contradict the theory.

so, ostracizing a cheater requires many individuals... since the theory is about expanded social cooperation, this only strengthens the theory. Coercion becomes a community effort.

 

And certainly, throwing from a distance isn't that difficult to explain... just taking a couple of step backwards would do the trick!

 

I see Bingham has stated the theory in two papers. Has he ever studied the fossils of the upper arms to see if there are any specific adaptations in humans that allow for throwing?

The way certain muscles attach to the pelvis is more important to throwing, as well as the toes for balance... I get collect more information on this, if you would like.

 

 

That isn't the scientific way to do it. Promoting it to students who don't have the expertise to challenge the theory is a dishonest way to go about it. What Bingham needs to do is convince anthropologists. If he can't do that, then the theory isn't worth anything and what he is doing is the equivalent of creationist/IDers like William Dembski and Michael Behe who try to bamboozle non-scientists about how ID is correct.

you're criticizing a man without knowing him... He's been working on this theory for the last 20 years, and has only begun to publish less than 10 years ago. In the meantime, he has talked to a great number of anthropologists, evolutionary biologists, historians... etc and etc. This isn't a man who's interested in mindless indoctrination.

 

In fact, the man starts almost every lecture by telling his students to try and falsify this and every theory... he understands perfectly well about scientific rigor.

 

 

Not really. Especially if the individuals are unarmed. The thrown stone back can hurt, but an outnumbered individual not trained in hand-to-hand combat is going to be quickly subdued by the group.

But cheaters are probably most often going to be the fittest individuals in the group, so individuals that try hand-to-hand combat are at great risk to get injured themselves. The best strategy then becomes, hang back and let everyone else deal with the cheater. These selfish traits should become dominant if this was true.

 

 

Doesn't work that way. You also forget the cheater is going to take damage! Therefore it is much more likely that the cheater is going to flee! Look at predators faced with a troop of chimps or baboons. Yes, the physically fit predator is going to deal a great deal of damage to the members of the troop, but it is the predator that runs away, not the troop. Why? Because the predator knows that he will take damage. And a damaged lone predator (or cheater) isn't going to be able to get food. Whereas the undamaged members of the group can help the damaged one until they heal.

But, again, when it comes to cheaters, the individual that hangs back benefits from ostracizing the cheater just as much as the others which performs the ostracizing, but without any of the risk. The benefits from being a free rider outweigh these costs.

 

 

That assumes the cheater will fight. But that isn't the case. The group will bluff the individual and not have to fight.

that will just delay the problem. A cheater that realizes the group always bluffs should be able to catch up to that.

 

 

Ecoli, I went and looked up "Lanchester's Law" -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lanchester%27s_Square_Law -- since it is the basis of the idea of "throwing".

 

Unfortunately, from the description, the "law" doesn't apply here.

 

"Among these are what is known as Lanchester's Linear Law (for ancient combat) and Lanchester's Square Law (for modern combat with long-range weapons such as firearms)."

 

But we aren't talking about one on one here, are we? No, we are talking about many on one. This is why the predator won't take on a herd but seeks to isolate just one prey and why troops of chimps or baboons are able to deter predators. And it's why our hominid ancestors would have been able to eject cheaters without having the ability to throw.

 

Lanchester's square law basically states that the threat from a ranged weapon is the square of the number of weapons you have.

 

So, 20 people throwing stones at one is the same effective threat as 400 individuals in hand to hand combat... without any of the risk associated with hand-tohand combat.

 

I'm sorry to say, but (as long as Wikipedia is accurate) Bingham's theory is based on a faulty premise. No wonder it hasn't been accepted.

The book should be coming out next fall sometime. Even if the theory is true, scientific revolutions are never 'overnight.' I don't think even 10 years is that long for a scientific paradigm shift.

 

Also, you're assuming that Bingham is some nobody shut up in a closet with kooky ideas nobody's heard of. In actuality, he's put a lot of thought into it, and has consulted lots of peers.

 

If it's falsified by the scientific community, then so be it, but I don't think I've done a complete enough job of explaining it here, for any of these points to completely falsify it. (my admission of inadequacy, but I am trying).

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If it's falsified by the scientific community, then so be it, but I don't think I've done a complete enough job of explaining it here, for any of these points to completely falsify it. (my admission of inadequacy, but I am trying).

 

I'm not saying it will necessarily even be falsified. I'm just wondering if it can be anything more than an aesthetic, internally consistent, "just-so" story. It just strikes me as one of those explanations that tries to do too much on too little evidence when smaller, trait-by-trait explanations based on the differing ecological environments in which we evolved can do the job just as well and in a manner more in line with how we tend to to view the evolution of every other animal. I don't see many grand, over-arching theories of field mouse evolution attempting to explain everything that makes field mice "special" with a single mechanism.

 

The whole thing just seems disconnected from real human behavior too, like I said. In modern nation-states, we don't go around using our advanced range weaponry to punish most cheaters as Bingham seems to suggest in the paper you gave us. In fact, no society can exist if the primary means of social control is top-down coercion. The primary impetus for the nation-state was nationalism, not firearms. Instead of the beginning of large, complex political entities as Bingham seems to be implying, nation-states were very much a reduction in complexity as self-declared ethnic groups broke away from old multi-cultural empires and formed smaller states in the name of self-determination. It seems like the more we know about something that Bingham is trying to explain (like the origins of the nation-state) the more simplistic his theory seems. That's not a good sign.

 

So those are my general problems. I don't suppose I can judge specifically until I know more.

 

I would like to question this Leicester's Law for a moment, though, if I could. An AK-47 or even a musket is a long way off from a stone tool. You could poke someone with a pike at the distance you could throw a rock and with a lot more speed, repeatability, and accuracy. I don't know that just because a gun and a rock are "range weapons" they should multiply force in the same manner.

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In fact, no society can exist if the primary means of social control is top-down coercion. The primary impetus for the nation-state was nationalism, not firearms.

 

That's the point, though. Top-down control cannot survive if the populace has a cheap means of bringing their government under control. Consider, for example, the Cromwell revolution in England, and the American revolution. Neither of these revolutions would have been possible without cheap range weapons (flintlock muskets).

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That's the point, though. Top-down control cannot survive if the populace has a cheap means of bringing their government under control. Consider, for example, the Cromwell revolution in England, and the American revolution. Neither of these revolutions would have been possible without cheap range weapons (flintlock muskets).

 

Top down control can survive if those at the top own the means of production in a manner seen as being fair (even if it is not) and more importantly, if they control information!

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This thread is showing the danger signs of drifting off into politics. I would like to go back to the idea of the ape throwing arm. I suggest that this is just a subset of the basic principle I stated earlier - that the use of technology drove evolution, by selecting for those best able to use that technology.

 

How this applies to throwing is clear. Whether throwing a spear (sharp length of wood) or a rock, it is a form of technology. Adapting to this technology by selecting those best able to achieve it is a clear example of the earlier principle.

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Top down control can survive if those at the top own the means of production in a manner seen as being fair (even if it is not) and more importantly, if they control information!

Absolutely (and obviously there are plenty of examples). I think one common thread of many authoritarian states is that they actively control access to weapons. I think the Taliban in Afghanistan was proud of the fact that they were able to keep the peace by banning civilians from being able to own weapons. Meanwhile, they perform public displays of brutality (public executions) in a soccer stadium, to enforce fear (and respect?)

 

These traits are similar to that of almost all archaic civilizations. Ancient civilizations in Central america and the Romans were common in that they performed public executions. Neither civilization had cheap weapons available either.

 

Armor and shock weaponry is expensive and takes a long time to become proficient. This ensures that peasants will never be able to use them (allowing elite warriors to control the show).

 

When access to weapons is free and cheap, however, this evens out the playing field (especially during times of political turmoil).

 

This thread is showing the danger signs of drifting off into politics.

Not politics, really, but history. The idea is that managing the conflict of interest problem (through weaponry) shaped human history, social adaptation, as well as early evolution (brain expansion, etc).

 

I would like to go back to the idea of the ape throwing arm. I suggest that this is just a subset of the basic principle I stated earlier - that the use of technology drove evolution, by selecting for those best able to use that technology.

 

How this applies to throwing is clear. Whether throwing a spear (sharp length of wood) or a rock, it is a form of technology. Adapting to this technology by selecting those best able to achieve it is a clear example of the earlier principle.

Right... and this is probably why elite throwing evolved in the first place. I never meant to suggest that throwing evolved in order to manage the conflict of interest problem.

 

But, this type of selection only works to select for the technological achievements of the individual. I mean, you don't really see chimps teaching non-kin how to improve each other's tools. You still have to solve the free-rider problem before you see any large scale social cooperation, through which more advanced technology can develop.

 

This is a social change as well as a biological one. We get biologically smarter through brain expansion, but social cooperation also allows for job specialization, as well as the 'incentive' to share information. I guess it's sort of like a small scale market, where one member develops better weapons, which the hunters use to provide more meat for the 'engineer.'

 

Humans have become very good at doing this, but no other animals has even come close to us (so I can't imagine how reciprocal altruism, for example, could account for this).

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But, this type of selection only works to select for the technological achievements of the individual. I mean, you don't really see chimps teaching non-kin how to improve each other's tools. You still have to solve the free-rider problem before you see any large scale social cooperation, through which more advanced technology can develop.

 

I'm still really not sure if it's the case that there really is no non-kin cooperation among chimpanzees. They live in large, non-kin groups, after all, and they cooperate an awful lot. Males hunt together, females watch each other's children. Female bonobos (who in any group are almost certainly non-kin as female apes leave their natal group at maturity) even cooperate politically in the fairly complicated task of keeping the males from dominating them. If this whole theory rests on the premise that there is no significant non-kin cooperation among other apes, then its got some pretty shaky foundations. I know there are primatologists who would argue with you until foamy in mouth over that.

 

Here's just one abstract that I came across on Google that seems to be written by just such a primatologist:

http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0611449104v1?etoc

 

The complex cooperative behavior exhibited by wild chimpanzees generates considerable theoretical and empirical interest, yet we know very little about the mechanisms responsible for its evolution. Here, we investigate the influence of kinship on the cooperative behavior of male chimpanzees living in an unusually large community at Ngogo in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Using long-term field observations and molecular genetic techniques to identify kin relations between individuals, we show that male chimpanzees clearly prefer to affiliate and cooperate with their maternal brothers in several behavioral contexts. Despite these results, additional analyses reveal that the impact of kinship is limited; paternal brothers do not selectively affiliate and cooperate, probably because they cannot be reliably recognized, and the majority of highly affiliative and cooperative dyads are actually unrelated or distantly related. These findings add to a growing body of research that indicates that animals cooperate with each other to obtain both direct and indirect fitness benefits and that complex cooperation can occur between kin and nonkin alike.

 

I guess it's sort of like a small scale market, where one member develops better weapons, which the hunters use to provide more meat for the 'engineer.'

 

Or perhaps just more prestige (read: reproductive success). In hunter-gather societies today (imperfect analogue though they are) resource distribution is pretty even. What is uneven is how many mates members of the group with higher or lower prestige take.

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I'm still really not sure if it's the case that there really is no non-kin cooperation among chimpanzees. They live in large, non-kin groups, after all, and they cooperate an awful lot. Males hunt together, females watch each other's children. Female bonobos (who in any group are almost certainly non-kin as female apes leave their natal group at maturity) even cooperate politically in the fairly complicated task of keeping the males from dominating them. If this whole theory rests on the premise that there is no significant non-kin cooperation among other apes, then its got some pretty shaky foundations. I know there are primatologists who would argue with you until foamy in mouth over that.

I'll have to get back to you on that. I'm too busy now with finals to do the research fully (and would rather let the matter drop for now than give a half-researched rebuttal)

I still think there's an issue of the scale of non-kin dependent social cooperation, though I can't imagine how one could go about measuring such a thing.

 

 

Or perhaps just more prestige (read: reproductive success). In hunter-gather societies today (imperfect analogue though they are) resource distribution is pretty even. What is uneven is how many mates members of the group with higher or lower prestige take.

I don't think this would contradict what I've said, however.

 

Even if it is sexual selection, it would still allow for specialization of roles, in a way that would allow for technological achievement. And even then, there is still the question of why mates would find role specialization sexy? (hedging their bets by mating with males that have different sources of resources, perhaps?)

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I'll have to get back to you on that. I'm too busy now with finals to do the research fully (and would rather let the matter drop for now than give a half-researched rebuttal)

 

Yeah, I should be writing a paper about Nazis right now. Intentionalism vs. Functionalism.

 

I don't think this would contradict what I've said, however.

Oh, it wouldn't. I'm just saying. I like being pedantic, sorry.

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Actually, humans DID evolve from apes. In fact, we are still apes. That is our taxonomic grouping. The apes we evolved from are not modern apes, and none are still extant. I gave an example earlier - Pierolapithecus catalaunicus. - of a species of ape that may have been a direct ancestor of humans 13 million years ago.

 

On Bigfoot. This is a situation where applying Occam's Razor is appropriate. Which is the simpler of two explanations?

1. There is a giant, largely unknown species of near human, living in North America, that avoids cameras.

2. Someone is playing a practical joke.

Well that "someone" is awfully old & sure gets around since their have been sightings in every state except Hawaii & in every province in Canada dating back hundreds of years.

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Well that "someone" is awfully old & sure gets around since their have been sightings in every state except Hawaii & in every province in Canada dating back hundreds of years.

 

That "someone" is Elvis. :D

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lucaspa said

 

"Most of your list is a byproduct of technology."

 

That is really my point. We are a very strange ape, and the reason for the strangeness is the unusual evolutionary process we went down over the past few million years.

 

Evolution requires adaptation to changing circumstances. Europeans in general (not quite all) have a gene to permit lactose tolerance. This is due to the fact that, over the last few thousand years, Europeans have added animal milk to their diet. We have adapted with the lactose tolerant gene. If we regard the milking of cows, goats, raindeer etc as a form of technology, this is a direct evolutionary response to a technological advance.

 

I think you'll find that the lactose tolerant allele came first, which then allowed the milking of animals. A "few thousand years" is not enough for an allele to become fixed in the population of such a long lived animal as us when the population is as large (tens of thousands) as it was. Not enough generations.

 

However, I appreciate the point you are trying to make, even if this particular example doesn't work. A better example would be the first stone tools that allowed humans to hunt other animals and add meat to the diet. That in turn possibly led to the evolution of even larger brains. But the first stone tools are 2 million years + old.

 

The invention of cooking may have led to a reduction in our digestive system. But the reliable use of fire goes back at least 500,000 years.

 

If you are looking for connections of technology to biological evolution, you need to look at 500,000 years + ago. Any technology more recent than that is not going to have had a significant impact on biological evolution.

 

Well that "someone" is awfully old & sure gets around since their have been sightings in every state except Hawaii & in every province in Canada dating back hundreds of years.

 

A few years ago some people confessed to fabricating the first prints and photos of Bigfoot. It's a fraud. The continued sightings can be explained as people expecting to see Bigfoot. The fact that the sightings are in every stated mitigates against there being a real animal. Large animals like that do not have extensive ranges co-existent with humans and not been definitively identified. After all, some of those states have been thickly populated for decades. You are going to tell me no one is going to have gotten a real good photograph or actually shot one in all that time?

 

So, in terms of "every state" we can say we have searched the entire possible search space and not found Bigfoot. You would have to narrow Bigfoot down to a very small geographical region (such as the "original" sightings in the NorthWest US) and there you run into the confession of fraud.

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Europeans in general (not quite all) have a gene to permit lactose tolerance. This is due to the fact that, over the last few thousand years, Europeans have added animal milk to their diet. We have adapted with the lactose tolerant gene. If we regard the milking of cows, goats, raindeer etc as a form of technology, this is a direct evolutionary response to a technological advance.

 

Just to clarify, Europeans do not have a special gene allowing lactose tolerance. Every human possesses a functional lactase gene. The difference is that normally this gene will be repressed later on. However, a SNP in region near the lactase gene in Europeans allows a continuous expression of the gene). In other words, the mutation allowing lactose degradation is in fact only very small.

 

I have to correct myself, I was reading different things but I stumbled over some recent papers on this area and it appears that there may be now altogether 5 SNPs associated with lactose tolerance. Regarding the fixation rate, the question is, of course whether the alleles may have gotten fixated in certain subpopulations first. Even if the overall population of a given area was several thousand, it is likely that exchange of genetic material was somewhat limited (though one would have to trace where precisely diary was practiced). Alternatively or additionally, of course, the selection coefficient has had to be very high.

Anyway, back to topic...

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