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Old 05-18-2015, 10:32 AM   #71 (permalink)
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To expand on my first post itt, which was terse, there are members of species (especially in a supersocial species like humans) whose contribution is not to reproduce, but who contribute to the health of the population in varying ways. Now, you can't really talk in too much detail about evolved traits in this context because there's not much molecular evidence (the evolution of the kidney is easily traced compared to the evolution of behavior; this is a huge flaw of evolutionary psychology).

BUT, some ideas are the "gay uncle theory" and "kinship selection" (as a mechanism for "biological altruism"). Unfortunately, a lot of the research is cotroversial and political, so I try to avoid it. I don't need physical evidence of evolutionary relevance to treat people with different sexual orientation as equals, anyway.
I think your point that humans are a consequence, not a design, is really a good point and the only one needed to point out that we have no purpose. I agree with this myself.

Gay uncle theory is a form of kin selection that I regard as highly speculative and it's not really needed for your argument.
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Old 05-18-2015, 11:31 AM   #72 (permalink)
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I think your point that humans are a consequence, not a design, is really a good point and the only one needed to point out that we have no purpose. I agree with this myself.

Gay uncle theory is a form of kin selection that I regard as highly speculative and it's not really needed for your argument.
Thank you for your comment. There are two separate points here. The first is that we have no objective purpose, but the second was that even if JWB meant "purpose" in a more mechanical way (as a stand-in for emergent function) reproduction is a population wide phenomena. In order for the species to survive, it's not necessary that at the individual level every member of the species reproduces (it would probably even be detrimental in many ecological settings, as it could exhaust resources faster than they could replenish). So non-reproducers can still contribute to resource gathering and reproductive success of other individuals while not straining resources with their own reproduction (and that can be a healthy component to a population).

Gay uncle theory is a guess answer (I agree that it's speculative) to the question "why are there still gay people if it's not evolutionary advantageous". I guess the observation that sparks the question is really the evidence - and the idea is generalizable to asexuals and inability to attract a mate. This is what I meant by "places undue necessity on the individual to reproduce".
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Old 05-18-2015, 02:32 PM   #73 (permalink)
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I'm just gonna nitpick a little bit.

Natural selection selects for fitness, not altruism. Altruism, in the strict sense, would be selected against - weeded out. Hence, no organism gives up reproduction for its population or its species if that implies altruism. The only reason an organism would evolve to give up reproduction was if this was part of a fitness raising strategy. I'm fairly sure you know this, but I just want to point it out because I see you write "in order for the species to survive" which reads to me like a fallacy. Species and population has little to do with it. How genetically alike the individual who gives up reproduction is to the individuals he or she can help raise the fitness of, that's what matters.

So the more related you are to your nieces and nephews, the more a "gay uncle theory" becomes valid. Giving up reproduction is common with f.ex social bees and I'm sorry if this seems a little long winded, but I can quickly explain why (if you don't already know).

In a bee hive, the queen makes haploid clones with only one set of chromosomes. These become males. The queen has sex with one male and he will father all the female worker bees. The worker bees will have two sets of chromosomes, one from father and one from mother. Because father bee is haploid, all his sperm carry the same set of chromosomes. His sperm are genetically identical. That means that all worker bees are basically guaranteed to be 50% alike genetically which is the half that comes from dad. Then they will receive one set of chromosomes from mom, who has two to pass on. On average, two worker bees should have half of the genetic contribution from mom in common. This means that two worker bees, on average, share 75% of their genes, 50% from dad and an extra 25% in common from mom.

Now, if a worker bee was to have sex with a male, any offspring she could get would have 50% of her genes. The other 50% would come from the male. However, every new sister she gets would be 75% (on average) related. In other words, getting a new sister raises fitness more than having her own child. Giving her own life in order to help ward off a predator becomes a no-brainer.

So if you're a social bee, it probably makes sense to give up your own reproduction in order to ensure the continued birthing of new sisters. After all, they will be more related to you than your own children.


But how related are human uncles or aunts to their nieces or nephews? Just looking at it in the simplest way - with a regular sibling, you are about 50% related on average. You each have one of two possible sets of chromosomes from each parent. Then your siblings children will be further watered down. On average, they'd be 25% related to you. Since your own children are 50% related to you, it seems you would have to raise twice as many nephews or nieces as your own children in order to have the same fitness.

There's no doubt that we do many sorts of kin selection, but generally speaking, I don't think we do it to the point where we give up our own reproduction in order to further the genes of nieces and nephews. I could be wrong, but the basic maths of it just don't look right to me. Humans already lived in family groups in the more recent part of our evolutionary history. Wouldn't it be better to just be "altruistic" (kin selection actually) and cooperate with raising both your own and your siblings children? For men in particular, the price of having a kid can become pretty cheap - you could basically impregnate someone and never see them again and she could raise the kid on her own or in her family group - so why evolve abstinence from reproductive sex?
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Old 05-18-2015, 10:17 PM   #74 (permalink)
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so is the basic distinction you guys are making between 'purpose' and 'emergent function' that we don't have an intelligent designer? because other than that these terms seem more or less synonymous to me. when i said 'we exist to reproduce' i was thinking in terms of the earliest simple organisms evolving as a sort of machine/mechanism for helping to protect and propagate the genes they host. sort of like saying our heart exists to circulate blood throughout our body. not really implying that there was some sort of premeditated foresight that went into our heart's 'design.'
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Old 05-19-2015, 01:14 AM   #75 (permalink)
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@ tore:

But humans do exhibit a high degree of altruism despite large disparities in relatedness. Such that we have social structures like orphanages, and place priority on "women and children" for safety, and use "but the children!" to be persuasive in moral action arguments. And I believe we still see kinship as a function of relatedness in racial issues. So the relatedness-to-altruistic relationship is still there but it's spread over a wider domain in the clade. You might even argue that we share more kinship with mammals than with reptiles and consider a much larger set of clades.

I would also note (or possibly remind you) that just because there's a better way to evolve, doesn't mean the process of evolution will ever discover it. Evolution easily gets caught in local minima, before it ever reaches the global minima.
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Old 05-19-2015, 03:15 AM   #76 (permalink)
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so is the basic distinction you guys are making between 'purpose' and 'emergent function' that we don't have an intelligent designer? because other than that these terms seem more or less synonymous to me. when i said 'we exist to reproduce' i was thinking in terms of the earliest simple organisms evolving as a sort of machine/mechanism for helping to protect and propagate the genes they host. sort of like saying our heart exists to circulate blood throughout our body. not really implying that there was some sort of premeditated foresight that went into our heart's 'design.'
Yes. I realize it might seem a minor point, but the philosophical distinction is important, I think.

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@ tore:

But humans do exhibit a high degree of altruism despite large disparities in relatedness. Such that we have social structures like orphanages, and place priority on "women and children" for safety, and use "but the children!" to be persuasive in moral action arguments. And I believe we still see kinship as a function of relatedness in racial issues. So the relatedness-to-altruistic relationship is still there but it's spread over a wider domain in the clade. You might even argue that we share more kinship with mammals than with reptiles and consider a much larger set of clades.
I'm not saying altruism doesn't evolve, it's just not selected for specifically. There are two common mechanisms that allow for something like altruism to evolve, kinship which we have already discussed and reciprocality. The latter is basically I scratch your back and you scratch mine. If we both scratch eachothers back, we both get to raise our fitness, so it's a win-win. I believe reciprocality and kinship explain why we are motivated to act in ways that appear altruistic.

Then you might say what about orphans or donating people to the sick and hungry? Then I'd say, as has been mentioned before, we evolved during a time when there were no orphanages or infomercials about starving people far away. The people around you were probably closely related to you and people whom your very existence depended on in a big way. When your genes look at a person who is in a bad place, their kneejerk reaction is probably that this person is a part of that group of people in which you have an "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" sort of relationship with. Modern society or parts of it haven't been around long enough for us to be adapted to it in a real fitness-calculating way.

On a side note, I believe the above also explains the "us and them" sort of mentality that people have. You cooperate with a group of people. These are "us", people whom your fitness partially depends on. You generally cooperate with these people. Then there's "them", people that you compete against for resources. These are people who you do not feel sorry for and who you might possibly pick up arms against. Since people group together in cooperative communities, "them" is likely another group or community.

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Originally Posted by Xurtio
I would also note (or possibly remind you) that just because there's a better way to evolve, doesn't mean the process of evolution will ever discover it. Evolution easily gets caught in local minima, before it ever reaches the global minima.
You are correct about this, but I don't see how it applies to the evolution of a gay uncle theory where a gay uncle gives up reproductive sex in order to raise the fitness of nephews and nieces.

Also, all the while this strategy would evolve, the "other" strategy would exist in the population (having your own kids and raising them). Not having your own kids would have to outcompete having kids and these two strategies are genetically entangled as well in that parents would pass on their reproductive capabilities to their young - capabilities that might directly complicate the gay uncle strategy's non-reproductive sex "goal".


Basically, I think homosexuality is around for other reasons than it being an adaptive strategy in itself and I don't know what they are. I can only guess. I believe I once read that genetic components that were found to raise the likelyhood of a man becoming gay also raised fecundity in women. So then genetic components that turn men gay might be selected for when they appear in women.

Then there's the interesting fact that there are identical twins where one is gay and the other is straight, so it's not just the genes either. The environment of the womb seems important and you can also create gay rats by controlling pre-birth hormones. So genes that would make a straight individual can also create a gay individual if they get the "right" environmental stimuli.

Then I also think "homosexual" is a relatively modern term and behaviour. Today, most of us decide that we either like men or women, but this is probably initially false. Instead, we're on a spectrum. I may be 70% straight and 30% gay, so I define myself as straight. Once I've made that definition and the gay side of me might be associated with shame, I might give those 30% up and only fantasize about women, driving me further up the spectrum to something closer to 100% straight. My thoughts and sexual conditioning cement my straightness.

If we weren't so concerned with defining our sexuality, would we only have sex with members of the opposite sex? I don't think so. People sometimes mention the ancient greeks where men would be married to women and make love to younger men on the side. If our sex drives were allowed to run rampant, I believe that is closer to how we'd behave. And then, even homosexual males would have reproductive sex because they wouldn't mind humping a dame now and then. In other species of animals, many animals engaging in homosexual behaviour (ex. giraffes) still have reproductive sex.

There may be even more to this. Perhaps women look for traits in men that correlate with gayness because it tends to make men more dedicated parents? I don't know, but I'm sure it's complicated.
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Old 05-19-2015, 09:13 AM   #77 (permalink)
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Can you expand a bit on what you mean when you say fitness?

Natural selection doesn't select for anything specifically, I'm confused why you're making it sound like something deliberate.
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Old 05-19-2015, 10:12 AM   #78 (permalink)
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"Then you might say what about orphans or donating people to the sick and hungry? Then I'd say, as has been mentioned before, we evolved during a time when there were no orphanages or infomercials about starving people far away. The people around you were probably closely related to you and people whom your very existence depended on in a big way. When your genes look at a person who is in a bad place, their kneejerk reaction is probably that this person is a part of that group of people in which you have an "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" sort of relationship with. Modern society or parts of it haven't been around long enough for us to be adapted to it in a real fitness-calculating way"


Which, I believe, would make it an exaption if that were the case. I don't see how what you're saying conflicts with my point.

You and I have a different paradigm too. You talk about traits being specifically selected for and serving functions. If you consider the other half, environment (where selection happens) the genes are more of a library and the "higher order" system (gene regulatory systems that decide what genes are expressed and when and for how long) are really the place to look at where the biological system is interpreting and responding to its environment using its library of genes. In this paradigm, there are no "gay genes" or "altruistic genes" that selected for, there's versatile genes that can be expressed to varying degree in a population and can serve to diversify social function In an dynamic manner - how humans deine and pick out thesee functions causes some loss of generality (we're forced to map territories we haven't been to, to talk about the ones we have). Of course, genetic variety will also contribute to social roles, but this broader reach of altruism over longer distances of relatedness has left a lot of people "artificially selected" (if you consider human selection non-natural... kind of getting into confusing the map with the territory at that point though). And I do think there's lots of evidence in the nature of our facial processing structures in our brain (which are distinct from other visual processing structures) and cooperation between tribes provided a benefit in many cases (knowing when to cooperate and when to compete is the superior trait, so an adaptive library would be more fit than a fixed library).

I'm on my phone so forgive the formatting and penmanship ship.
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Old 05-20-2015, 12:10 AM   #79 (permalink)
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"And I do think there's lots of evidence in the nature of our facial processing structures in our brain (which are distinct from other visual processing structures)"

I double checked this because its been a while since I saw the article. Apparently, this research has been challenged, so the issue is more controversial than my assertion alludes to.
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Old 05-21-2015, 04:12 PM   #80 (permalink)
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Sorry for not replying in this thread. I just haven't had more than a few minutes on here at a time and probably won't until next week (first work trip, now going on a little vacation).

But I'll be back
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