[ExI] IQ and beauty

Dan TheBookMan danust2012 at gmail.com
Sat Oct 10 19:28:50 UTC 2015

On Saturday, October 10, 2015 10:00 AM John Clark <johnkclark at gmail.com>
> On Sat, Oct 10, 2015 at 6:51 AM, Rafal Smigrodzki <
rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com>wrote:
>> It is generally not reasonable to conclude anything in population
>> genetics without doing some math, followed by simulations exploring
>> various assumptions, followed by real-life measurements putting
>> limits on assumptions. The least you can do before concluding anything
>> is to read the relevant literature.
> Well... I've read Robert Axelrod's The Evolution of Cooperation and the
> entire book is pretty much a report on the outcome of evolutionary
> computer simulations that Axelrod performed. And I've read Richard
> Dawkins's The Extended Phenotype (the best book on evolutionary biology
> I know of) which has a good amount of math. And the work of E O Wilson
> and Robert MacArthur got me interested in the subject in the first place.
> Was there anything specific you have read that I may have overlooked?

The literature dealing specifically with the species under consideration,
for one. With regard to peafowl -- the classic textbook example used for
many lay discussions of sexual selection -- I cited field work that
questions some of the assumptions used to shoehorn (IMO) peafowl into
arguments about sexual selection.

N.B.: this is not to deny sexual selection. Nor is it to say, given certain
assumptions and a specific model, certain things don't follow, but to ask
whether the model or explanation works in a specific real world case. When
it comes to real world cases, one has to do a bit more than just cite broad
theories and general texts. And one has to be aware of alternative
explanations too. (And, to pre-empt again: no one here is denying sexual
selection or offering up some wacky alternative like aliens mated with elk
or supernatural powers.:)

>>> Not necessarily. Females could become so rare that the poor male
>>> with small antlers can't find any females at all, much less
>>> females that will mate with him.
>> ### You are concluding that the cost of a signal presented by
>> some males could somehow reduce the survival of females.
> From an Evolutionary point of view it doesn't matter if individuals
> survive or not, it only matters if their genes do.

To be precise, it matters that the individuals survive (or not) to
reproduce. But you know that. :)

> It might not reduce the survival of the female but it would reduce
> the survival of the female's genes because they will now be mixed
> with the gene for enormously impractical antlers (a male elk could
> receive the gene for exceptionally large antlers from his mother).

It remains to be proved in this example that the enormous antlers were
disadvantageous in the environment they evolved under.

> So now the female's offspring have the gene for liking big impractical
> antlers that they got from their mother AND the gene for producing big
> impractical antlers that they got from their father; so that team of
> genes is headed for a positive feedback loop. And positive feedback
> loops seldom have gentle happy endings.

We don't know that that's the cases here.

>> ### This is silly.
> And if I asked why it is silly I already know what you'd say "because
> you're being anthropomorphic". Yes I know I'm being anthropomorphic
> but it is a fact that human beings are part of the universe thus
> anthropomorphism can be a useful tool in figuring out how Evolution
> works, sometimes as an analogy and sometimes, as in this case,
> literally. The female elk REALLY doesn't want to settle for a geek
> with ugly small antlers regardless of how practical they are, and
> she REALLY does want bling not practicality.

The issue is not to avoid such analogies at all costs, but to realize that
the explanation must be tested somehow -- not merely presumed that this
really 'figures out' a specific evolution simply because it sounds like a
good story.

>>> Not necessarily, not if a female Irish Elk thought that a male
>>> Irish Elk that had antlers of a size that was less than gargantuan
>>> to be so repellent that virginity is preferred. And after all
>>> for all the female knows there could be a beautiful male out
>>> there somewhere with huge grotesquely impractical antlers.
>> Now, since you seem claim expertise in female elk sexuality, tell
>> me how many elks did you see that actively rebuff males in order
>> to protect their virginity?
> I personally have seen very few because the last Irish Elk died
> 7700 years ago and I was just a kid at the time. However it is
> very common for modern females to rebuff the advances of modern
> males and remained virgins, so I think it is reasonable to hypothesise
> that things may have been no different 7700 years ago.

While I'm no expert on elk, I'd like to know where you got that from? What
little I've read and seen on elks leads me to believe, perhaps wrongly,
that the males compete with each other for females -- that the antlers are
used in male to male competition. If this is correct, it's not females
choosing males directly -- unlike, say, in bowerbirds.



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