Re: poly: democracy, etc.

From: Forrest Bishop <>
Date: Wed Feb 11 1998 - 02:02:25 PST

d.brin wrote:
> A few replies:

> Damien>>Um... I doubt harems in historical times have had much effect on
> society. Are you saying the leaders spread their genetically ingrained
> tendencies through the population? I doubt it, and happily predict much
> attack of this idea if you present it, and much scorn if you don't back
> it up very heavily.
> ...'Castle Anthrax' (Monty Python's Holy Grail)? If you could press a button
> and render 99% of human males impotent (sparing yourself), how many of you
> would have to sweat and fight to keep that finger from stabbing forth?

Er, ah, um...

> you name even one human society that did not practice polygamy? (Ours is
> one of the crueler forms... serial abandonment.)

Very nicely put. This might be a transitory state, it is hard to
see a lasting evolutionary value to it.

>Where do you think these
> temptations came from, eh? We inherit them. They are a major motivation
> for the male success drive, even if individuals sublimate it into a
> yearning for flashy cars or a corner office. Our monumental egos and
> insatiability are rooted in an ancestry dotted with numerous chieftains who
> clawed their way to the top and impregnated more than their fair share.
> Damien>>And I don't think most prehistorical societies had large harems.
> We're a mostly monogamous species (with cheating); harems arise with
> (concentrated) societal surplus. Extant 'primitive' societies are more
> marked by egalitarianism and social insurance schemes.
> Did you know that there's a correlation, in mammals,
> betweem male-female size ratio and 'natural harem size'? Truly monogamous
> species like gibbons are same-size. Male elephant seals, which have harems
> of 40 or more are gigantic, not in order to dominate females, but in order
> to drive off the other 39 males who want in.

  There is also a correlation in primates between testicle size and
monogamy/polygamy. A species in which the females are more promiscuous
sports larger balls, relative to body mass, than one in which more
monogamous relationships predominate. Interestingly, humans are about
halfway between the observed extremes.
 Another interesting item is the role of all those 'excess' sperm cells-
they are 'soldiers' tasked with fending off the competition.

> Where do humans fit on this scale? Ethologists (male and female) suggest
> that the number for humans would be between 1.25 and 1.7... which fits the
> way things seem to be in tribal societies, in which chiefs get more than
> one wife, most men get one, and a substantial minority of males are either
> killed or driven off.

Hmmmm, sounds like the tribe I'm in.

> that, if America ever vanished, we would wind up missing it terribly. He
> got that spot on, and it's the important part.

Um, that depends on the nature of its replacement.


Forrest Bishop
Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering
Received on Wed Feb 11 10:07:46 1998

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