Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Keeping your head   posted by Razib @ 5/13/2009 02:22:00 AM

Life histories, blood revenge, and reproductive success among the Waorani of Ecuador:
The Waorani may have the highest rate of homicide of any society known to anthropology. We interviewed 121 Waorani elders of both sexes to obtain genealogical information and recollections of raids in which they and their relatives participated. We also obtained complete raiding histories of 95 warriors. An analysis of the raiding histories, marital trajectories, and reproductive histories of these men reveals that more aggressive warriors have lower indices of reproductive success than their milder brethren. This result contrasts the findings of Chagnon...for the Yanomamo. We suggest that the spacing of revenge raids may be involved in the explanation of why the consequences of aggressiveness differ between these 2 warlike lowland South American peoples.

Perhaps these data are wrong somehow. That being said, I think the "psychic unity of mankind" and an attempt to shoehorn everything into cultural universals led anthropologists, whatever their ideological preferences (or lack thereof) to over generalize about the ubiquity of one optimal reproductive strategy. The data from human ethology about fitness on "small scale societies" can be confusing, it is clear in many cases that the researchers were looking for a particular finding but couldn't validate their expectations.

Rather than one model to rule them all it seems likely that a species with such a complex social system as ours does have various niches in which different morphs can optimize their fitness. Greg Clark implicitly assumes this in Farewell to Alms. The martial blood nobility had lower fitness than the relatively pacific gentry up until about 1800 in England because they were killed in war so often. But these patterns also vary over time, Peter Turchin has data sets from Europe which show wild swings in fitness of these martial elites over the past 1,000 years in Europe. When times were good, they were really good (e.g., the Victorian era when the nobility became breeders of the first order), and when they were bad they were really bad (e.g., the War of the Roses when the English nobility "thinned" itself out through conflict).

More crassly one has to ask oneself if history is a story of the ascent of the alpha what exactly are the pussies doing hanging around so thick on ground? In a Cartesian manner the very existence of these multitudes refutes the single strategy model.