In the social sciences: what is our social behavior based on?

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by charles brough, Apr 10, 2012.

  1. charles brough Registered Senior Member

    Neurologists, physiologists and geneticists like to think human social behavio is based on genes, hormones and neuroloigical synapses. But that is no help to social theory when it comes to understand how human social behavior moves and is moved by society.

    So, why not simplify the task, isolate out our social behavior from like-us primates and mammals, then simply call them "instincts" which are, in turn, conditioned (affected or shaped somewhat) by our ideological systems?

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  3. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

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  5. charles brough Registered Senior Member

    Those are all very nice and informative links, but they really do little to help us, for example, understand history. In social theory, all that detail is superfulous. We have to use broader generalizations. The gene-neuron-hormone relationship can well serve to account for an "instinct" but one that can be "conditioned" or adapted by the needs of the environment---as is usual among mammals. Us, with better mental skills and speech can adapt the instincts better than any others, but there is a definite limit.

    For example, we instituted monogamy even though we are a polygamous species. The establishment of the patriarchal-monogamous system some five thousand years ago in the mainstream enabled us to develop civilization, but none of those civilizations lasted. The patriarchal-monogamous systems always tended to break down. When they did, barbarians would invade and restore patriarchal-monogamous rule.

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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    That is by no means the unanimous opinion of anthropologists.

    In fact I've seen it asserted several times that H. sapiens became monogamous no later than the Agricultural Revolution, but possibly tens of thousands of years earlier.

    Since our young require parental care for almost two decades, every mother needs lots of help. We are one of very few mammals whose females are physically capable of copulation outside of their estrus cycle, even when pregnant or nursing. This encourages her children's father to stay with her and help instead of looking for another female who's in heat.

    Now it's true that in the Paleolithic Era we lived in tiny communities in which everyone was related and had known each other since birth, so it could be that everybody raised all the children, regardless of who was sleeping with whom. But 11KYA once we began integrating multiple tribes into larger Neolithic villages (division of labor and economy of scale make larger farms and herds more productive), we weren't all so tight and it would have been possible for a family to be missing its father figure if his wife wasn't sexually receptive. Some of these towns got so big that it's quite possible that all the residents didn't even know each other and it would have taken a house-to-house search to track down a missing father.

    Your date of 5KYA was the early Bronze Age. We had been living in Stone Age cities for four or five thousand years before that, among anonymous strangers who might not provide a lot of help to a woman whose children's father ran off. Monogamy simply has to have been established much earlier than this.
    Your timeline is way off. No matter how you define "city," the first cities were built more like 10,000 years ago at the latest. Those were the first civilizations, communities in which residents had to live in harmony and cooperation with anonymous strangers, which required a formal, multi-level government. The business of a city alone is enough to require this, with its long chains of time-displaced transactions among people who don't know each other.
    Many of the early cities were quite durable. This was particularly true in the Bronze Age, the era on which you're concentrating for reasons I don't quite understand. Bronze metallurgy requires tin ore and copper ore, which are almost never found in close proximity. Cities were required to maintain peace with each other, or else they wouldn't have access to each other's metal. Furthermore, the "barbarians" had no trading network of that scope so they couldn't make bronze tools and weapons. This made it rather difficult for them to attack a city guarded by people with bronze blades and bronze armor.

    The Bronze Age Collapse eventually happened anyway, but it was the Iron Age in which the barbarians became a nightmare. Iron ore is everywhere. Once they learned how to build fires hot enough to smelt it, every barbarian tribe became a "kingdom" overnight, armed with the same iron weapons the civilized folk had.
  8. answers Registered Senior Member

    Human behaviour is based on needs. Needs are an evolutionary bi-product.

    I need to feel significant, doing things that make me significant are more times than not evolutionarily advantageous.

    Same applies to other needs which fuels other behaviours.
  9. charles brough Registered Senior Member

    You refer to ancient cities which are more apt to be aggregates of communes. You are going by what anthropologists sort-of agree on when there is a long list of social and natural science specialties involved in understanding pre-history. The key to understanding it is in weighing in all these many fields---along with the data which anthropologists are trained only to gather. That is what is done by social theorists. But unlike them, my interpreting of all that mountain of data is not influence by our secular ideological system's aversion to weighing in the dominant influence of the people's ideological belief systems ("religions"). Our secular doctrines involve the belief of "separation of church and state" which while we all commend it, nevertheless, committs our system (and the social sciences) to removing religion from the political scene wherever possible and when not possible, refer to the "ethnic" problems.

  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    That's an interesting series of comments, but I'm not quite sure how it was meant to be a response to my post.

    We have physical evidence of the continuous habitation of many ancient cities. In cases where they were abandoned, the usual cause is exhaustion of nearby resources.

    Perhaps the most famous case is the Mayans, although they are not exactly "ancient" since they achieved the Bronze Age relatively recently compared to Old World civilizations. They clear cut the forests in an expanding radius from their cities and used the wood to build temples. Then they wondered why the peasants were having trouble growing enough food for everybody in the distressed land that was left.

    But this can be and has been done by more prosaic means of simply growing a city larger than its surrounding environment can support.

    As for ideological belief systems (you call them "religions," I call them "superstitions," regardless of the era being studied), we don't have very good ways of getting into the heads of people who lived before the Bronze Age when the technology of writing was invented. We draw inferences from their art, second-order inferences from evidence of ceremonies they appear to have held and places where they appear to have congregated, and third-order inferences from myths passed down to successor superstition systems.

    All this has given us is Jung's set of archetypes, which appear to recur in every society in every era. This strongly suggests that they are instincts programmed into our DNA by evolution, although we can't imagine why they are there. Unlike practical instincts such as fleeing from a large animal with both eyes in front of its face or not stepping off a cliff, they appear not to be linked to survival. They may be random mutations passed down through a genetic drift or a genetic bottleneck, although the possibility must be held open that they may indeed have been survival advantages in a Paleolithic environment whose dangers we cannot reconstruct with unerring accuracy.

    To refocus on the central issue of monogamy, we both agree that it is a survival trait for the species, if not the individual. Therefore if a mutation occurred that prompted us to be mongamous, it would simply have reinforced the ease of being monogamous for a species whose females are not bound by their estrus cycle.

    All of this together would certainly have encouraged monogamy to be included as one of the archetypes that comprised the religions of the Stone Age and every era since then.

    If its power is weakening now, the reasons are obvious. To just cite two major weakening forces in my country:
    • Society is larger, wealthier and more structured than in the Bronze Age. Children with no father-figure are not at the same disadvantage they were 500 years ago, much less 5,000.
    • The War on Drugs has imprisoned a large percentage of the men in some communities, leaving many women to raise their children alone.
  11. kx000 Valued Senior Member


  12. charles brough Registered Senior Member

    Yes, this is what motivates us all. When we feel the need to help and reward our nation, then we are honest with it (not currupt) because we sense it as our "group," the "group" being what we evolved to focus our social behavior to through millions of years of evolution in hunting/gathering groups.

    However, when the nation-"group" is held together by a splitting and fracturing secular ideological system, they slip into trying to achieve status from within their secular splinter "group," be it either that of the Libertarians, the animal liberation activists or those of the Tea Partiers, women's right militants and all the others. That leaves the politicans no "group" other than their own families. So, that is what they seek their status with, who they serve. Society or the nation then becomes the "game" that the hunter vanquishes for feeding his own family. We call that "corruption."
  13. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member


    “The more there are riots, the more repressive action will take place, and the more we face the danger of a right-wing takeover and eventually a fascist society.”

    Martin Luther King, Jr.

    “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.”

    John Fitzgerald Kennedy

    “I began revolution with 82 men. If I had to do it again, I do it with 10 or 15 and absolute faith. It does not matter how small you are if you have faith and plan of action.”

    Fidel Castro
  14. charles brough Registered Senior Member

    That seems subjective, viturprative. No such ideological system is "the Truth," so they should be delt with objectively and functionally. It is the same with our Secular Humanist ideological system. It serves its purpose for a while and will be replaced when it loses the ability to serve us. Ideological systems serve to bond us into larger groups while providing a common motivational framework so people can agree on how to solve common problems.

    I really never stated that!. . . We are a polygamous species and managed to build a new type of society by adapting our ideological system to achieve it, the monogamous-patriarchal system, all "in order to" enlarge our group size to encompass cities, then nations, and then nations together, such as The Christian-secular West, Islam, Marxist East Asia and the Hindu world. (It was not a conscious process but the result of social evolution).

    At a cost of a few billion lives, we could give all that up and go back to "free-love" and live in small hamlets again all over the world. . . We would still survive, but civilization would not.
  15. Tero Registered Member

    We have mostly serial polygamy. But I am still on the first wife after 30 years.
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    • a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like.
    • a system or collection of such beliefs.
    • a custom or act based on such a belief.
    • irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious, especially in connection with religion.
    • any blindly accepted belief or notion.
    Please point out the flaw in my reference.
    No, our system is based on reason and knowledge, although admittedly not completely.
    I have already challenged that assertion and provided supporting evidence: Human females are not constrained by their estrus cycle and this strengthens pair-bonds. Consider it to have been peer-reviewed. This is a place of science, so in accordance with the scientific method please do not repeat it without A) refuting my evidence or my reasoning or B) providing new evidence of your own.
    Many would say it was an economic and technological evolution, the natural outcome of our paradigm shifts from the Paleolithic to agriculture to civilization to the Bronze Age to the Iron Age to the Industrial Revolution to the Electronic Revolution. Each shift created a several-orders-of-magnitude increase in the surplus wealth of the human race. Each one reduced the need for competition (people with a surplus of their own don't have to covet anyone else's surplus) and increased the benefit of cooperation (there appear to be no limits on the power of division of labor and economies of scale to increase our prosperity further).

    Nonetheless, as I have written before, each paradigm shift represents a transcendence over both external nature and our own internal nature. So the conflict between our inner caveman, who wants to live among people he's known and loved since birth, and our civilized persona, who lives in harmony and cooperation with people on the other side of the planet who are not just anonymous strangers but pure abstractions, continues to fester and occasionally erupts. When it erupts in a whole community at once, overwhelming and co-opting their authorities, it results in war.

    Which brings us back to religion, since it is one of the primary causes of war.
  17. charles brough Registered Senior Member

    What people believed in hundreds and thousands of years ago was also logical to them. To them, also, it was "reasoning" based on "knowledge." In the same way, in the decades to centuries to come, all secular doctrines that you believe are based on "reasoning" and "knowledge" will also be regarded as "superstition." That is "progress."

    FR, it seems clear to me, as it must to you, that we do not and will not agree, so I for one am happy to leave it there and go on to other threads. I think in terms of social evolution, not consensus social theory. I spent decades pouring over history, animal behavioral studies, anthropology, and more than a dozen other social and natural sciences, and you want me to come up with some single "authority" supporting my understanding? All I state is consistent with social science data. I just interpret it differently than do social theorists because they necessarily have to tip toe around how it is interpreted in order to keep from offending the religious faithful.

    Social Evolution as I have developed it is that ideological systems bond people into large groups but as the group's knowledge progresses, the ideology becomes outdate, divides and the ideological system---such a Christianity, Islam, etc.---is ultimately replaced.) It is explained in my web page.
  18. Cavalier Knight of the Opinion Registered Senior Member

    There is evidence, though I wouldn't consider the matter settled, that the human penis is shaped in the way it is, and sperm configured the way they are, precisely because woman were not monogamous in the past, and males were in competition with other males to have their seed be the one to reach the ovum. There is even more recent scholarship that links the female orgasm to a change in the pH of her reproductive system, allowing certain favored males a better chance, an adaptation that would not be as necessary if we were prone to monogamy. (By "favored males", I do not even mean to necessarily suggest males to whom they have an emotional attachment, as women orgasm more frequently with attractive males and males with more symmetrical bodies, whereas "love" likely leads to an increase in faked orgasms.)

    You can read about much of the research here:

    On Love and faking orgasm, you could see here: Mialon, Hugo M., The Economics of Faking Ecstasy (October 25, 2010)
  19. wellwisher Banned Banned

    My opinion is based on some simple logic. Animal instincts optimize the animal's form with function. For example, the instincts of an animal with fast legs, will take advantage and optimize this functionality. On the other hand, if the animal is huge his instincts will optimize function in the context of this form. If you have a sports car or an SUV, each has an optimized function. We can pretend the SUV is a sports car, I suppose.

    If we compare human form/function, to ape form/function, the biggest differences are humans are physically weaker but mentally stronger. Any two year old human can learn more than an ape. But any two year old ape can kick ass on any human. This reflects differently form ratios of body to mind.

    This different in form also reflect differences in function, and therefore reflect difference in the instincts needed to optimize each functionality. One set of instincts will not optimize both sets of function/form, especially since each is on the opposite side of body/mind proportion.

    The goal of human instinctive form/functionality is slanted toward the mental, compared to the ratio associated with apes, which is slanted physical. Relative to instinct, breeding, and offspring, the goal of human instinctive form/function should be slanted and optimize toward the mind compare to ape. The ape functionality will be slanted to the body, since that is is strong suit.

    To reflect this form/function, optimization for humans, human cannot be optimized with ape instinct, but rather would need instinct that put more weight into the mind. Apes are different since the body is stronger than the mind, so you optimize the body with natural selection and promiscuity. This does not make the mind stronger, that takes a personal touch.

    Getting back to social science, these mutant science fads are connected to using the human mind to pretend what is natural without using the litmus test of form and function. These fads will change when the money train dries up.

    One way to prove thesis is to consider ape overpopulation versus human overpopulation. We are told to use one set of instinct for both, even though there is different form and function.

    What the apes are doing appear to be working fine since they have a natural balance when found in the wild. There is optimization of form and function in the context of nature. The same is not true of humans who are being told ape instinct is natural for humans too. If was not for the human mind able to compensate (social prosthesis) this mutant science behavior induction, would create total chaos in the natural world; It only works because we artificially prop it up at great expense.

    If we based scientific instinct on form/function and use apes as the normalized base point, we can infer natural human. It would need to be modified from there to include the slant toward the mind; out best asset. Monogamy is better of the mind of children than promiscuity, especially if we were to remove the social support to prop up the negative result of promiscuity. If we were in nature without any social safety net monogamy would have natural selection. Promiscuity might make a better body but monogamy would create a smarter race who would outthink the ape brawn.
    Last edited: May 27, 2012
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    You forget that the human forebrain is qualitatively much larger in proportion to our animal midbrain and hindbrain. This gives us the power to consider, analyze, negotiate with, and simply override instinctive behavior with reasoned and learned behavior--to a far greater extent than any other animal.

    Instead of running away from any large animal with both eyes in front of its face, we can capture him, tame him, and leave him in charge of protecting our children. We can step off of a cliff and glide to earth on a parachute without being overcome by panic. We can go home to the same house every night and use a microwave oven to cook food that has never seen the soil (apologies to The Fixx for stealing their lyric) instead of wandering across the landscape hunting and gathering and starting fires by rubbing sticks together. We can make peace with other tribes instead of treating them as hated competitors for scarce resources (well okay we're still working on that one). Some of us can even question our instinct to believe in the supernatural and trust science to give us a more accurate understanding of how the universe works.
    Over the millennia I'm sure that there has been a modest degree of natural (or perhaps unnatural) selection at work so that at each of the six paradigm shifts (from the Early Stone Age to the Agricultural Revolution, to the Building of Cities, to the Bronze Age, to the Iron Age, to the Industrial Revolution, to the Electronic Revolution) people who weren't comfortable with the more "unnatural" way of life drifted away into the part of the world where the paradigm shift hadn't happened yet. As the communities thriving from the paradigm-shifting technologies became larger by orders of magnitude, ultimately the gene pool of the non-participants became marginalized. Like the Neanderthals before them, they're a footnote in our DNA so their instincts are muted in us.

    To be sure there's an Inner Caveman lurking inside each of us, but we keep him mollified with beer, air conditioning, motorcycles and football games so that he only bursts forth on rare occasions and most of the time manages not to do any serious permanent damage. Only when an entire community erupts into stone age behavior at once do they overpower or co-opt their leadership, and we have wars.
    As I've pointed out before, humans are one of the few species of mammal in which the females are physically capable of copulation outside of their estrus cycle. This tends to keep the men around their own hearth even when the women are pregnant, nursing, or simply off their cycle. Since our children have the longest maturation cycle of any animal (only five years for elephants and only two for whales) and absolutely require both parents for more than a decade, monogamy is a key behavior for us.
    We are apes. But our brains are qualitatively larger than those of the chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and gibbons.

    As a linguist I'd like to point out that the speech center in our forebrain is one of our most important advantages over all other animals. Our ability to communicate is a thousand times, a million times, greater than theirs. This is what has allowed us to form "packs" that include people on the other side of the planet whom we only know through the internet, and even some who are nothing more to us than anonymous abstractions.

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