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Evolutionary Human Paradox

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posted on May, 11 2010 @ 04:52 PM
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Greetings,

I author this thread as a vehicle of inquiry as to a subject that I have been considering lately ... one that solicits a few questions to which I have been unable to find satisfactory academic answers to.

I am hoping to avoid reactionary posts and banalities based on racial/religious/ethnic prejudices and erroneous preconceptions for the question/phenomenon at hand, though often geographically localized, is manifested universally.

The premise:

Without boring you with endless citations to the obvious, the premise of my question is as follows:

To the best of our knowledge, all living things/species be they mammals, animals, plants, bacteria, etc, have been proven to thrive when resources are abundant and to suffer when resources are scarce. This causality is only natural and has been observed and scientifically accepted as fact. Animals breed less in times of scarcity and breed more in times of plenty ... as stated above, same can be said of all living things.

Humans/Homo Sapiens, for the greatest part of their existence on this planet have followed the same natural path.

In fact, no example better illustrates our historically proportional relationship to our resources than our near extinction:


Clues from genetics, archaeology and geology suggest our ancestors were nearly wiped out by one or more environmental catastrophes in the Late Pleistocene period. At one point, the numbers of modern humans living in the world may have dwindled to as few as 10,000 people.

Flirting with extinction

By a strange twist of fate, the harsh conditions that caused this near extinction may also have allowed the cultural explosion that gave rise to human behaviour as we know it today.

Professor David Goldstein, a molecular biologist at University College in London, has uncovered evidence of a very ancient population bottleneck. A bottleneck is an event that reduces the genetic difference, or diversity, in a population of animals.

One way this can occur is through a catastrophe that wipes out a large proportion of a population. If we compare the genes of modern people from all over the world, they are remarkably similar, suggesting that the ancestors of all living people expanded from a small population that survived a bottleneck. The ancient bottleneck proposed by Professor Goldstein must have occurred in Africa, where modern humans evolved.

"Our data suggests there was a bottleneck that was not that recent," says Goldstein. The genetic data puts the likely date for this event at just before 100,000 years ago. www.bbc.co.uk...


Same plight faced the neanderthals who obviously didn't fare as well:

ngm.nationalgeographic.com...

I understand that scarcity of resources and species adaptability are interconnected, but all of the above is to simply establish a well documented dynamic ... namely that all living species naturally regulate their reproduction levels to correspond with available resources.

The question:

What has triggered the seeming evolutionary paradox in present societies that leads humans to reproduce more in environments where resources are the scarcest?

www.prb.org...

In layman's terms, the question is ... why does Man now have an inverse relationship to available resources and what is the evolutionary, societal, anthropological, or even macro-psychological cause for this glaring paradox?

I realize that the Catholic church for example pushes their flock to reproduce despite their circumstance ... but that is but one factor that doesn't apply universally and that surely on its own cannot buck what is a cross species natural balance to their environment.

So what happened, and why did it happen?

Keep in mind that this question/thread isn't a loaded one as an underpinning for population control or anything nefarious ... it is simply the result of observation of human reproductive dynamics relative to available resources and trying to figure out when and why this evolutionary paradox arose.

Anyhoot, the question has been bouncing around my little brain for a while and as I haven't been able to locate a comprehensive answer I thought I would put it before my fellow members for consideration and discussion.

Thanks.


[edit on 11 May 2010 by schrodingers dog]




posted on May, 11 2010 @ 05:36 PM
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Great thread Schro


As far as i can tell, in many areas of scarce resources, the reasoning behind more offspring being birthed may have to to do with two reasons.

1. The more children, the more "heads" that can provide or have the potential to provide for the family as a whole. It may go against all logic, as the larger the family, the more mouths to feed, the harder all parties involved must work. But from a human psychological perspective, which does not always follow logic, it may make sense.

2. Our current systems of government. With the rise in welfare and government assisted living, it may be that people are popping children out to collect. Also in turn to feed the family. This second one though, ive seen it more often in Urban centers and such.


i just woke up, but ill get back after ive had some coffee.

love and peace



posted on May, 11 2010 @ 05:57 PM
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Originally posted by M157yD4wn

2. Our current systems of government. With the rise in welfare and government assisted living, it may be that people are popping children out to collect. Also in turn to feed the family. This second one though, ive seen it more often in Urban centers and such.


If I may address this one first for the first answer requires further consideration on my part ...

This of course is a sociological element, and while it is true in some cases, namely within the poorest demographics of developed nations with extensive social services, it does not address the paradoxical reproductive rates in the least developed nations which lack any significant social assistance. Yet it is those poorest nations of nations which trend towards higher reproductive rates.



posted on May, 11 2010 @ 06:00 PM
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Also, sex is a great way to pass the time
Especially when your on the lower end of the Class Ladder.

Due to sex being Earths pastime, and the poor way some Societies go about educating its peoples of the merits of safe sex, population growth has increased. But as nature normaly does, a balance is attempted.

The same Countries in which baby making has become econd to eating, not only an explosion in babies, but an explosion in illnesses can be seen as well.

ive seen studies which say that the more educated a society is, the less children are produced. i dont know how correct that study is, but ill throw a link to it ASAP.


ill also look for some sources to what ive said. ive never seen water take so long to boil though. without coffee im slower than rush limbaugh accepting an invite to an Obama dinner.


love and peace


ETA: WHen looking over The World Population Fact Sheet you provided, it shows that Africa has the highest rate of this phenomenon. i know from personal experience that in Africa and the Middle East, there is much fuss made over large families.

No matter how poor you are or how rich, a sign of success and blessings is a large family. Particualrly one with many sons.

This ties in to the first answer i gave you, but not wholly. There is a deep cultural impact upon the reproduction rates. Theres some sort of logical fallacy in these cultures which dictates that one who has many offspring will most likely have a much better chance at living comfortably.

Theres a series of commercials being run on Egyptian television, which are state sponsored, that is basically a plea to the farmers and lower class to stop making babies and focus on the ones they have. ill see if i can find a video of one.

love and peace

[edit on 11-5-2010 by M157yD4wn]



posted on May, 11 2010 @ 06:04 PM
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I think the switch humans made from being a hunters/gatherers to being producers/consumers have made it easier to reproduce in numbers.

Where nature balances itself we don't, we even fight nature in any way with finding cures for diseases that should be a natural population control.

We can get children with artificial insemination that creates a genetic devolution for the next generations instead of let natural selection decide for us, we decide for nature.

Darwin was right in that the fittest will survive, and we sure aren't getting fitter as a species.



posted on May, 11 2010 @ 06:21 PM
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I remember reading somewhere that women, if they are stressed out enough will stop ovulating, and years ago this was a kind of defence mechanism, because they were stressed ( maybe about not having enough food or resources to look after a baby ) then the body would know not to ovulate, so they would not get pregnant.

I have a friend who tried for three years with her husband to get pregnant, she was told by one doctor to take time off her stressful job to just relax and go on a holiday, it did the trick, her third week off work she concieved, i have heard that the same thing has worked for many other couples trying to concieve.

So maybe most women in the areas that the birthrate keeps going up are not as stressed out anymore, so the body allows them to get pregnant more often. Maybe they have just learned to cope with stress better.



posted on May, 11 2010 @ 06:32 PM
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If my memory serves me , the theory of K selection and r selection strategies of reproduction would go some way to explaining it.

There is a transition often from poor developing nation (with high birth rates ) to developed nations (with lower birth rates) ..... with a rise in the standard of living.etc

r-selection : multiple offspring with less resources to go round / higher mortality rates especially relating to childbirth . Same strategy can be found in many plants and animals in nature. Multiple seed bundles with only a few maturing to produce seed themselves , spawning salmon etc etc.

K-selection : fewer offspring afforded greater resources ... but the risk is that they might not survive to maturity to reproduce themselves.


Many western nations had populations consisting of large families ,in which it was not uncommon to have several siblings die before they reached adulthood .

==============================================

I guess its natures way of hedging her bets !



==============================================



posted on May, 11 2010 @ 06:33 PM
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Of course most people here know I do not accept the entire theory of evolution as an explanation for our origins. But my reply will be an answer in accordance with the OP's assumption that evolution is the explanation for the diversity of life on our planet.

This question and those similar have been on my mind for a while. If you think about it, modern humans do a lot that is against the grain of normal evolutionary standards.

Instead of survival of the fittest, we have compassion for the disabled. Instead of seeing a limit of resources and limiting our offspring accordingly, we continue to engage in sexual relations as an expression of love- not a mere need of perpetuation of the species. Instead of being symbiotic in nature with our environment, we strip resources due to greed.

What I think this is, is due to the development of advanced cognitive abilities. To relate it specifically to your question, while sex in the past was mostly meant as a means of procreation, in our time it is a symbol of love, companionship, and life mating. It's become a form of relationship bonding and that is something humans, as a social species, is not willing to do without.

Just one speculation.



posted on May, 11 2010 @ 06:47 PM
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It's quite simple, I think. Our increased intellect and, to a far greater degree, the incresing complexity of our social organisation have led to the subsumation of the biological imperative with regards to procreation in favour of it becoming a matter of conscious choice.

We are, or at least we see ourselves as, masters of nature, not slaves to it. Women, more than men, refer vaguely to the ticking of their biological clocks but it is not an unthinking surrender to the deep impulses of our animalistic sub-conscious.

From an evolutionary point of view, we are not as a species running out of resources. Drought and famine, when people are actually dying, is running out of resources and at those times birth-rates will inevitably fall, but most of the Human population has access to enough resources to live and procreate. We may be intellectually aware of the fact that the rate of our depletion of resources is unsustainable, but that is nothing to the parts of us that would be able to influence our drives and instincts.



posted on May, 11 2010 @ 07:11 PM
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Sounds like some type of innate evolutionary inability to delay gratification, otherwise known as a ‘self-defeating behaviour’. Children are known to do this, i.e. wanting Christmas presents on Christmas eve, therefore wanting instant gratification at the behest of the future. (AKA ‘low impulse control’ coupled with low civic and / or moral standards, which causes future chaos and greater scarcity)!

Consequently, negative correlations with growth over scarcity aside, we are all, it appears, living on borrowed time with the constant and wilful expending of natural resources – a self-defeating virus that is spreading uncontrollably, unable to delay such (capitalist / industrialist) gratification perhaps!

I don’t think this explains anything other than … we haven’t grown up yet, is what I am trying to say, and we are running out of birthdays!!

I guess Noam Chomsky aptly points out, ‘We are the only species with a history, whether we have a future is not so certain’’, Necessary Illusions.

Or, if one entertains, ‘He alone who owns the youth gains the future’. Adolf Hitler

Now, that is a self-defeating paradox as things stand!!


Ultimately, the third World is going through the industrial revolution - they are still children wanting now - their future is still in the hands of the parents - absent as they maybe.

[edit on 11-5-2010 by Breifne]



posted on May, 11 2010 @ 08:30 PM
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post removed because the user has no concept of manners

Click here for more information.



posted on May, 12 2010 @ 11:28 AM
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Originally posted by AshleyD
Of course most people here know I do not accept the entire theory of evolution as an explanation for our origins. But my reply will be an answer in accordance with the OP's assumption that evolution is the explanation for the diversity of life on our planet.


In an odd way the entirety of evolutionary theory doesn't have to be accepted in order to pursue this discussion. The reproductive relationship of species relative to available resources is really quite established, observed on a daily basis, rather logical, and can stand alone for the purpose of this conversation even if one were to be highly skeptical of evolutionary theory as a whole.

Nature is in fact so efficient at regulating itself for survival that it is rather common for many animals which may have average litters of let's say five offspring to naturally give birth to less in times of scarcity ... in fact many animals such as birds will instinctively kill one of their chick, or allow one chick to kill the other, in order to ensure a higher chance of survival for the rest.


This question and those similar have been on my mind for a while. If you think about it, modern humans do a lot that is against the grain of normal evolutionary standards.

Instead of survival of the fittest, we have compassion for the disabled. Instead of seeing a limit of resources and limiting our offspring accordingly, we continue to engage in sexual relations as an expression of love- not a mere need of perpetuation of the species. Instead of being symbiotic in nature with our environment, we strip resources due to greed.

What I think this is, is due to the development of advanced cognitive abilities. To relate it specifically to your question, while sex in the past was mostly meant as a means of procreation, in our time it is a symbol of love, companionship, and life mating. It's become a form of relationship bonding and that is something humans, as a social species, is not willing to do without.


Indeed ... the above are valid observations, yet somehow it is still hard to fathom/understand why any of those elements, or all those elements combined would be significant enough to override what is a fundamental strategy for survival in nature.

Consider the following:


www.prb.org...

What we see here is a direct correlation between nations with the highest population growth and their infant mortality rate, furthermore these nations are are the lower spectrum of resource availability (ie. poverty).

So something is happening here which seems diametrically opposed to any other species ... namely that humans, in light of minimal resources, in fact often in dire conditions, are procreating at the highest rates.



posted on May, 12 2010 @ 11:43 AM
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reply to post by schrodingers dog
 




In an odd way the entirety of evolutionary theory doesn't have to be accepted in order to pursue this discussion.


Which is why I joined in.




What we see here is a direct correlation between nations with the highest population growth and their infant mortality rate, furthermore these nations are are the lower spectrum of resource availability (ie. poverty).


I still think it has to do with more developed cognitive abilities and more complex social systems. Lust, love, familial relationships, human bonding outweigh basic survival instincts.

Also, those lesser developed and poverty stricken nations have less access to birth control.

People aren't going to stop having sex. It's just not going to happen especially when it is done for human bonding and recreation just as much as it is done for procreation. Couple it with a lack of proper medical prevention and birth control items, it's going to be a problem.

Also, sex releases endorphins. People in dire straights under certain levels of stress use sex as a reflex response for natural stress reduction.

It's a chain of events.



posted on May, 12 2010 @ 12:02 PM
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[edit on 12-5-2010 by Jean Paul Zodeaux]



posted on May, 29 2010 @ 12:56 PM
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This has been a good read


Post-modernist family structure in wealthier societies encourages smaller families from both government and citizen perspectives, according to what I've gathered over time. Thanks to established systems and social nets the focus is less survival-oriented; a people competes for position instead through education and they attempt to give their children the best advantages they can. The costs of life are inflated, which places a wide gulf of potential between an "uneducated" (by modern standards) tribesman and the average citizen who has completed high school in a first world society. Education beyond this point being as costly as it is, plays another big deciding factor for families planning children.

I found what I thought a good summary of additional factors :


1. Disillusionment with the optimistic assumptions of human progress and with the universality and the regularity of the laws of science; hence, lack of faith in the previously established order.

2. The uncoupling of economic forces underlying social conformity, such as the need for women to marry advantageously to survive financially and to transmit their class status to the next generation, or the need to bear children in wedlock for them to inherit family land or other property that would be their source of livelihood.

3. The influence of the electronic media, which both reflect and legitimize family diversity.


www.unu.edu...

Without the influences of post-modern society, the flipside is developing countries that often boast large families. May I suggest that we need to strip away our filters to understand that this is the right solution, for them, to cope with their existances.


For people living in desperate poverty in developing countries, there are many social and economic reasons for having several children

- A larger family is often perceived as a richer family - “richer” in terms of security and status, as well as enjoyment and quality of life. A family with many children may carry weight in community affairs.

- In some societies, the number of children she bears - especially the number of sons - largely determines a woman’s status. To have no sons may result in desertion or divorce.

- Needy parents often choose to have more children as they have the very real fear that some of their children may not live to adulthood, because of a lack of nutritious food, health care, clean water and adequate shelter.

- Children can contribute to the family income and help with the household chores. Often, by the time children reach their teens, they earn more than they themselves consume. If just one child is clever enough to do well at school and find a secure job, he or she may eventually be able to support the whole family.

- Since old-age pensions do not exist in many developing countries, impoverished parents need children who will be able to care for them when they are too old or sick to keep working.

- On the other hand, some parents may wish to limit the size of their families, but do not have information about or access to methods of family planning.


www.40hourfamine.co.nz...



posted on May, 29 2010 @ 01:22 PM
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I am a little dubious that we reproduce more in times of scarcity, but that could be true of some species, perhaps ourselves.

We have gone through, as you note, times with very low population numbers. We probably [certainly?] haven't run through any periods where limiting our own numbers was beneficial to the species so it just isn't there in our genetic code [pre-dispositions].

We may be coming to a period like that, as we blanket the globe & suck up & defile resources on a global basis.
It will be ugly & painful i am quite certain,
& could quite possibly be an extinction event for us.

If there is a cure/survival-path i can't say whether it will come from genetic filtering, intellectual command or just brute aggression in surviving pocket populations.

We do not have the conviction of our intellect(s).
So we parade & display intelligence as an ego hedge, but we don't actually apply it.
I for one am not holding my breath waiting for some completely unevidenced human behavior pattern to suddenly, magically arise/appear.

The smart money is going in on big wild parties.
Count me in, with a few survival supplies buried somewhere, just in case of an accidental miracle.

[edit on 29-5-2010 by slank]



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