Monday, March 19, 2007

Survival of the fittest

Imagine, if you will, a point in prehistory. I may be wrong, but perhaps you are a creationist, and if so, this will have to be a game for you.

At this point in prehistory, there is a small group of individuals, an extra large sort of extended family and kinship structures forming a group that we might call a tribal unit.

They are subject to predation, and are also developing a degree of predatory skills and tool working, and are embarking, like many of those similar to them who have done so before, and who will do so later, they are seeking a somewhat cooler locale where the living is not so readily subject to finding yourself eaten by predators that out mass them by often 5 to 10 times.

This tribal group, about right now, is around 4K people; they all possess a tenuous kinship with one another in that, far beyond their own recollection, they all effectively possess the same Y chromosome structure.

They venture out of the somewhat more tropical regions they are in over time, migrating north and somewhat west over the span of several hundred years, finding the predators notably fewer, and the prey notably more to their liking, as they handle certain other issues.

Among those issues, is that they must compete with nature's attacks, with the assaults of other tribal groups, and with their own slowly growing band, from which break aways and split offs happen every couple of generation, prompting a chunk of the group to move on yet again.

One of the reasons that this group is generally more successful that other groups, similar to them in many ways, but not quite so gifted, is the degree of social interaction among them.

They live in cohesive units where there is often pair bonding -- although not all pair bonds are of opposite genders or procreative. Some groups even include bondings of larger than a pair.

This particular group is composed, like any of the others, of individuals who are inherently selfish. They have strong drives to survive, and are, like anything else, in it for themselves.

They are wired, however, for kindness. And, socially, they prize altruistic behavior. As a result, doing something for someone else creates a sort of better feeling, a sort of internal energy that can leap about and among all of them, generated both within the individual and among the social group, where praise comes in. Sometimes its an unusually large kill, which means more for everyone.

This particular wiring allows them to do have the interest of others in place, sort of competing with their self interest.

Suddenly, in situations where the group is faced by an external threat, this gives them the strong advantage of not functioning as a group of single, isolated individuals, but rather as a cohesive body -- a unified front, which increases their odds of survival *as a group* (which, in turn, increases the odds of survival overall).

Among these groups are some who have the basic charge of protecting the children. Often those less physically capable and who are also capable of producing more children, this group typically uses a water based protection.

The rest are those who do not have children, and are more physically capable. They include some females, even, just as the other group includes some males.

Among these groups are some who are generally more prone to risk. They are a minority, roughly about 8% of the body, and include those who are of various genders (gender being a social construct), and the group does not limit itself to merely two, but likely recognizes three to five distinct gender categories.

These individuals among them, who are more prone to risk, are sometimes without the burden of children, but usually a spouse. They are found frequently among groups who have several male children, and often serve in the capacity of godparent, should, on a hunting or foraging expedition, or through natural or political accident, a sibling be slain, they become the keepers of those children.

When an individual member of the tribe is threatened, they are often among the first to come to the aid of that individual, and to summon others, which will often cause predators to back off, since suddenly their prey is not single, but multiple, and capable of swift attacks.

Since they are unburdened, they are able to range further, seek more, see more, find more.

Again, all of it coming back to improving the capabilities of the particular group as it grows and expands.

Now, let's let several thousand years move this group forward.

Success has caused them to multiply and spread out further and further afield, sometimes incorporating other groups encountered through attrition or subsumption. They are no longer a single tribe, but many, many tribes; each slowly creating variants from the original based on conditions and needs as they adapt to their environment and as they learn now skills and continue to advance.

They have even engaged in wars for territory on the steps that many of them now occupy, having moved over the intervening years out. Some kept going, some turned back, some stayed in place.

Arguments would lead to splinter faction after splinter faction, grudges would be held and become rivalries, and rivalries would become traditions.

Separation enforces shifts in language as new concepts and new thoughts are introduced.

Slowly but surely, they advance towards the establishment of permanent encampments, which, in term change some of the social structures as they adapt there, as well.

Until, one day, they have civilization, when one of these permanent camps trades goods with a distant other camp.


That's not as imaginary as it might seem, either.

Its based on evidence of DNA, fossil records, sociobiology, neuropaleotology, and archaeological records of human conduct, as well as some well documented examples of social behavior among other species.

Multiplicity of gender isn't a new idea, either -- most tribal groups have considerably more fluid gender constructs, and especially third genders (reductionism).

The advantage is basically thus: they increase the ability of the social unit to meet risk and challenge to the social unit without as potentially great a loss to the unit.

They provide additional resources for the unit to ensure society without increasing the burden on that individual group.

Lets look at some basic underlying truths.

for one, based on twin studies, we know that it isn't wholly genetic, but that there is definitely some genetic aspect to it. We know this because, were it not genetic, then it would occur in less than 10% of twins sampled naturally, while if it was wholly genetic it would appear in 100% of twin studies sampled.

Since it appears far above the 10% factor, in the range of 45 to 65%, its absolutely genetic in some way, but not entirely.

Based on further studies, there is a significant correlation in morphology and endocrine systems that indicate an extremely strong likelihood of the variation striking in utero, during the developmental phase very early on (within the first trimester).

We know its biological, but we don't know its specific etiology.

We also know that normally, traits which do not advance the survival of a group are going to fade out over time if they prove to be a hindrance in some fashion. We know that most people on the planet can be traced through a specific Y chromosome genome with an astonishing accuracy, and we know that for us, evolution was a series of fits and starts with successful adaptations occurring among different populations over time until one group at least migrated out and kept going and growing.

That’s what we know right now.

So if it wasn't an advantage, we can be pretty sure it would have been bred out. Yet it wasn't.

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