Re: Symons: "Evolution of Human Sexuality"

From: alexandra beck (
Date: Thu Nov 20 1997 - 16:15:44 GMT

The Evolution of Human Sexuality Donald Symons 1st 5 Ch. Alex Beck

Human have a nature as well as a history. This wasn^t controversial
when relationships were peace loving, co operative and had innate needs
for long-lasting relationships. Today there is murder and jealousy
therefore, sociobiologists promote a cynical view of human social life
( Hamburg ). Evolution and human nature are consequently intensely
controversial. The book suggests that there is a female human nature
and a male human nature and that they are extraordinarily different. ^
Sexual desires and dispositions were adaptive for either sex were for
the other tickets to reproductive oblivion^.

Ch1: Proximate and ultimate causation. Attempts to explain how we
develop and exhibit behaviour patterns. Proximate: causes that deal with
development, physiology and immediate stimulus ( why we like it ). i.e.
An animal behaves because it possesses a particular complement of
genes, has encounted particular environmental circumstances during its
lifetime and is in the presence of a particular stimulus. Ultimate:
attempts to explain WHY animals exhibit behaviour patterns. They
exhibit behaviour patterns because its ancestors promoted their
reproductive success in specific ways by exhibiting that behaviour
pattern in similar circumstances. Kid sib = Successful behaviours
aided in survival and therefore got passed on.

Female menopause: If natural selection is to promote reproductive
success then why did the menopause evolve? 1) The essence was to
ensure the survival of the last child therefore, a post-menopausal
stage was essential. 2) The older women had knowledge and wisdom that
they could pass down to their children and aid in their survival (
inclusive fitness ). The male female difference in termination of
fertility gives evidence that menopause is carefully resourced, it can
be interpreted as an artifact rather then an adaptation.

Learning: If adaptation depends on our learning abilities, animals that
learn quickly have a reproductive edge on the others.

Ch2: Natural environment. The ability to learn makes possible a great
deal of behaviour variability, variability which will be expressed in
unnatural environments.Humans are genetically adapted to hunting and
gathering way of life. Human behaviour variability is then an artifact
of unnatural habitats in which humans live today.

The evolution of the mind: The book says here that natural selection
shaped the mind via the minds effect on behaviour i.e. through quality
and quantity of experiences. Yet evolution is blind and that e.g. birds
that have colourful feathers happen to be reproductively successful
and therefore, those genes get passed on to the next generation.

The other minds problem: Theory of mind - The ability to project onto
others how we feel, what it is like. Is that right?

Morality: Evolution does not take immorality into consideration. There
are no good or bad categories. Sperry, said what was good, right and
valued therefore, enhanced older designs of evolution nature. Anything
that occurred in the original environment i.e. infanticide, warfare and
mutation was good because it functions to promote stability in a
culture, society and ecosystem. Am I on the right lines here?

Ch 3: The female orgasm. 2 theories. 1) The orgasm is an adaptation
to the human female. In pairbonds the orgasm is used to enhance this
couple. Selection favours keeping husband and wife together. 2)
Orgasms are normal in human females. Monogamy is uncommon and
therefore, it is an adaptation to a lustful pre-agricultural past.
Well that^s what it says in the book. However, the female orgasm is
only an adaptation if in ancestral times it increased reproductive

Ch4: Pairbonds marriage and the loss of estrus: Two scenarios. 1) The
loss of estrus is in part a cause of marriage. The cost of constant
sexual activity to receive meet outweighed by the benefits of receiving
meet. Therefore selection favours females who advertise constantly.
2) A result of marriage. Most females marry to other men than there
ideal. By not advertising ovulation females may maximise their own
abilities to be fertilised by a man other then her husband i.e.
collecting better genes. She also minimises the amount of time her
husband can monitor her every move.

Ch5: Reproductive competition. Male male competition for wives is
because of the male psyche that makes women always a resource and
always in short supply. There is little female female fighting for
males. Females just want to protect their investment. Mead - in the
EEA men needed skill to get the women e.g. the best hunters were always
the most reproductively successful. The women just weighted for the
men, they were always reproductively successful. The evidence suggests
then that males and females pursue different reproductive strategies
throughout human evolutionary history. This is also much more than any
other species. Natural, sexual and artificial selection are all
consequently intertwined. Sexual behaviour for both male and female
selection act oppositly and these differences are evident in the brain
( spatial ability ) and are reflected in behaviour and psyche.

I have picked out the bits I thought were most relevant. Any problems e
mail me!

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