re: Parody of Science

Gatherer, D. (
Mon, 02 Aug 1999 10:01:46 +0200

Date: Mon, 02 Aug 1999 10:01:46 +0200
From: "Gatherer, D. (Derek)" <>
Subject: re: Parody of Science
To: "''" <>

So, Burgerhoff Mulder's first hypothesis (credited to Irons and Turke) is

a) where children require lots of resources
b) these are costly to the parents

selective pressure will cause a voluntary restriction in family size. There
are 3 bits of relevant historical data:

1) childlabour was banned in factories throughout much of Western Europe
(children can't work, are more costly)
2) education began to become a surer route to prosperity (children need
3) as agrarian communities became more land-limited, fewer male heirs meant
fewer claims on estates, and an easier maintenance of larger estates without
subdivision. (children are costly)

This, as BM points out is the transfer of evolutionary ecology into the
human sphere. Back in the 1940, Lack pioneered such an analysis to clutch
size variation in birds. This is the 'quality/quantity trade-off' as BM
puts it.

But is this an adequate explanation?

The problem is that, although low fertility may maximise social success in
terms of economic power, educational level etc, it doesn't maximise
reproductive success in the long term. The agricultural labourers of 1911
England has 4.57 _surviving_ children as compared with the 2.94 _surviving_
children of professional classes As BM points out, this is not really the
same situation that Lack described for bird clutch sizes because in that
case, restricting clutch size in times of environmental stress _really does
maximise fitness_.

ie. the birds with fewer eggs/nest have more actual _surviving_ chicks.
This is not the case in the human data.

So why, then did those at the top of the social ladder, those who had
previously had a survival/reproductive advantage in addition to an economic
one, enter demographic transition and commit evolutionary suicide?

Come on memeticists, I can't believe nobody has anything to comment on this!
This is a rare thing, a real open question in evolutionary theory. What
contribution can we make?

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