Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness

Then for more than a million years people lived in a way that couldn't have changed much. They inhabited grasslands and woodland savannas, first in Africa, later in Eurasia, and eventually in Australasia and the Americas. They hunted animals for food, gathered fruits and seeds, and were highly social within each tribe but hostile toward members of other tribes. Don Symons refers to this combination of time and place as the "environment of evolutionary adaptedness," or EEA, and he believes it is central to human psychology. People cannot be adapted to the present or the future; they can only be adapted to the past. But he readily admits that it is hard to be precise about exactly what lives people lived in the EEA. They probably lived in small bands; they were perhaps nomadic; they ate both meat and vegetable matter; they presumably shared the features that are universal among modern humans of all cultures: a pair bond as an institution in which to rear children, romantic love, jealousy and sexually induced male violence, a female preference for men of high status, a male preference for young females, warfare between bands, and so on. There was almost certainly a sexual division of labor between hunting men and gathering women, something unique to people and a few birds of prey. To this day, among the Ache people of Paraguay, men specialize in acquiring those foods that a woman encumbered with a baby could not manage to—meat and honey. for example."

Kim Hill, at the University of New Mexico, argues that there was no consistent EEA, but he nonetheless agrees that there were universal features of human life that are not present today but that have hangover effects. Everybody knew or had heard of nearly all the people they were likely to meet in their lives: There were no strangers, a fact that had enormous importance for the history of trade and crime prevention, among other things. The lack of anonymity meant that charlatans and tricksters could rarely get away with their deceptions for long.

Another group of biologists at Michigan rejects these EEA arguments altogether with two arguments. First, the most critical feature of the EEA is still with us. It is other people. Our brains grew so big not to make tools but to psychologize one another. The lesson of socioecology is that our mating system is determined not by ecology but by other people—by members of the same gender and by members of the other gender. It is the need to outwit and dupe and help and teach one another that drove us to be ever more intelligent.

Second, we were designed above all else to be adaptable. We were designed to have all sorts of alternative strategies to achieve our ends. Even today, existing hunter-gatherer societies show enormous ecological and social variation, and they are probably an unrepresentative sample because they mostly occupy deserts and forests, which were not mankind's primary habitat. Even in the time of Homo erectus, let alone more modern people, there may have been specialized fishing, shore-dwelling, hunting, or plant-gathering cultures. Some of these may well have afforded opportunities for wealth accumulation and polygamy. In recent memory there was a preagricultural culture among the salmon-fishing Indians of the Pacific Northwest of America that was highly polygamous. If the local hunter-gathering economy favored it, men were capable of I being polygamous and women were capable of joining harems over the protests of the preceding co-wives. If not, then men were capable of being good fathers and women jealous monopolizers. In other words, mankind has many potential mating systems, one for each circumstance.

This is supported by the fact that larger, more intelligent and more social animals are generally more flexible in their mating systems than smaller, dumber, or more solitary ones. Chimps go from small feeding bands to big groups depending on the nature of the food supply. Turkeys do the same. Coyotes hunt in packs when their food is deer but hunt alone when their food is mice. These food-induced social patterns themselves induce slightly different mating patterns.


We can only be adapted to the past, not the present or the future.

Folksonomies: evolution adaptation

/law, govt and politics/legal issues/legislation (0.409563)
/art and entertainment/music (0.354172)
/food and drink (0.323408)

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EEA:Organization (0.882084 (positive:0.264176)), Americas:Continent (0.405898 (positive:0.324277)), Africa:Continent (0.375127 (neutral:0.000000)), food supply:FieldTerminology (0.374056 (neutral:0.000000)), Kim Hill:Person (0.366017 (positive:0.359477)), Don Symons:Person (0.362158 (positive:0.309901)), Eurasia:Country (0.351172 (neutral:0.000000)), Pacific Northwest:Region (0.346128 (positive:0.324277)), Paraguay:Country (0.340367 (negative:-0.355554)), Australasia:Continent (0.335143 (neutral:0.000000)), Michigan:StateOrCounty (0.330294 (positive:0.289370)), University of New Mexico:Organization (0.297498 (neutral:0.000000)), million years:Quantity (0.297498 (neutral:0.000000))

Human (0.986647): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Ethology (0.827456): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Polygyny (0.814898): dbpedia | freebase
Polyandry (0.794610): dbpedia | freebase
Mating system (0.757384): dbpedia | freebase
Sex (0.686585): dbpedia | freebase
Ecology (0.672708): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Present (0.665355): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Ridley , Matt (2003-05-01), The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, Harper Perennial, Retrieved on 2011-05-03
Folksonomies: evolution culture sex evolutionary psychology


04 SEP 2011

 Big History

Memes about the history of the universe and the evolution of life on Earth to build into a timeline.