Re: Scientology

Date: Fri Jan 18 2002 - 00:30:54 GMT

  • Next message: Francesca S. Alcorn: "RE: Scientology"

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    Subject: Re: Scientology
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    In a message dated 1/17/2002 4:55:51 PM Central Standard Time, Keith Henson
    <> writes:

    > At 02:46 PM 17/01/02 -0500, <>
    > wrote:
    > >As for the Yanamano, having "several times the number of children" sounds
    > >quite high. It might help to view the original study and any followup and
    > >replication studies.
    > >
    > >--Aaron Lynch
    > First thing which came up was this hostile article:
    > 0246.htm
    > "One might say that Chagnon made a scientific value of the belligerence in
    > which he was entangled, elevating it to the status of the sociobiological
    > theory that human social evolution positively selects for homicidal
    > violence. Whatever the other consolations of this theory, it brought
    > Chagnon the massive support of prominent sociobiologists. The support
    > remained constant right through the fiasco that attended his attempt in
    > 1988 to prove the reproductive (hence genetic) advantages of killing in
    > pages of Science.
    > "The truth claims of the argument presented by Chagnon in Science may have
    > had the shortest half-life of any study ever published in that august
    > journal.
    > "*Chagnon set out to demonstrate statistically that known killers among
    > Yanomami had more than twice as many wives and three times as many
    > as non-killers.*
    > "This would prove that humans (i.e., men) do indeed compete for
    > reproductive advantages, as sociobiologists claimed, and homicidal
    > is a main means of the competition. Allowing the further (and fatuous)
    > assumption that the Yanomami represent a primitive stage of human
    > evolution, Chagnon's findings would support the theory that violence has
    > been progressively inscribed in our genes.
    > "But Chagnon's statistics were hardly out before Yanomami specialists
    > dismembered them by showing, among other things, that designated killers
    > among this people have not necessarily killed, nor have designated fathers
    > necessarily fathered. Many more Yanomami are known as killers than there
    > are people killed because the Yanomami accord the ritual status of
    > man-slayer to sorcerers who do death magic and warriors who shoot arrows
    > into already wounded or dead enemies. Anyhow, it is a wise father who
    > his own child (or vice versa) in a society that practices wife-sharing and
    > adultery as much as the Yanomami do. Archkillers, besides, are likely to
    > father fewer children inasmuch as they are prime targets for vengeance, a
    > possibility Chagnon conveniently omitted from his statistics by not
    > including dead fathers of living children. Nor did his calculations allow
    > for the effects of age, shamanistic attainments, headship, hunting ability
    > or trading skill--all of which are known on ethnographic grounds to confer
    > marital advantages for Yanomami men. "
    > A copy of the table out of the original Science article is here:
    > sld011.htm
    > Thinking about this in the mode of Dawkins ESS, (and assuming this has
    > on long enough to have reached the ESS point) the argument would go that
    > being a killer among the Yanamani is one way to get a lot of sex and kids,
    > but the number of fathers we are looking at is the *survivors* because it
    > is also a way to get killed. (As pointed out in above.)
    > The other factor (as implied in the chunk of article above) is that while
    > you are out on long trips trying to enhance your social status, your wife
    > (or wives) are making time with the smooth talking lovers who stayed at
    > home. The net effect (if it is at an ESS point) is that taking the high
    > risk warrior road or the low risk stay at home road would result in about
    > the same number of kids over a lifetime.
    > But the genetic rewards seem to be there if you are among the lucky, don't
    > get your ass shot off, and your women don't mess around while you are gone.
    > Keith Henson

    Thanks, Keith.

    I think that even among scientists, vivid and gripping scientific ideas are
    often more memorable and often provoke more retellings, even if the realities
    are more boring and prosaic. Chagnon's ideas about the Yanamano, killing, and
    reproduction seem as though they might fall into this category. It's a
    phenomenon that has undoubtedly affected all of this on this list, as well as
    most scientists in general.

    The phenomenon is probably more intense in regard to scientific ideas
    spreading in the general population. We have the "10% of the brain" idea,
    (which, I believe, has been discussed by Richard Brodie among others). Then
    there is the "6 degrees of separation" idea, which has become immensely

    As an area that touches on many hot topics, sociobiology and evolutionary
    psychology seem to have their share of vivid, gripping, memorable,
    provocative, attractive, and exciting ideas. As an example, I have considered
    the differential propagation of ideas about female partner wealth preference...
    The original report by Buss et al (1990) found a widespread effect, but it
    was not nearly as salient as popular ideas seem to suggest. I discuss some of
    how the popularized ideas spread in my chapter "Evolutionary Contagion in
    Mental Software," [in The Evolution of Intelligence, edited by Robert J.
    Sternberg and James C. Kaufman, 2001 by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, and
    online as]

    --Aaron Lynch

    Buss, D. M., Abbott, M., Angleitner, A., Asherian, A., Biaggio, A.,
    Blanco-VillaSeņor, A., Bruchon-Schweitzer, M., Ch'u, Hai-yuan, Czapinski, J.,
    DeRaad, B., Ekehammar, B., Fioravanti, M., Georgas, J., Gjerde, P., Guttman,
    R., Hazan, F., Iwawaki, S., Janakiramaiah, N., Khosroshani, F., Kreitler, S.,
    K. Lachenicht, L., Lee, M., Liik, K., Little, B., Lohamy, N., Makim, S.,
    Mika, S., Moadel-Shahid, M., Moane, G., Montero, M., Mundy-Castle, A.C.,
    Little, B., Niit, T., Nsenduluka, E., Peltzer, K., Peinkowski, R.,
    Pirttila-Backman, A., Ponce De Leon, J., Rousseau, J., Runco, M. A., Safir,
    M. P., Samuels, C., Sanitioso, R., Schweitzer, B., Serpell, R., Smid, N.,
    Spencer, C., Tadinac, M., Todorova, E. N., Troland, K., Van den Brande, L.,
    Van Heck, G., Van Langenhove, L., and Yang, Kuo-Shu. (1990). International
    preferences in selecting mates: A study of 37 Cultures. Journal of
    Cross-Cultural Psychology, 21 (1), 5-47.

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