This is why evolutionary psychology makes me want to scratch my eyes out. For a discipline with "evolution" in the name, it shows a frightful lack of understanding of how evolution works.
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- I spent a little time poking around on the PNAS site. The only thing I've found thus far that might be the article in question was this: "Natural and sexual selection in a monogamous historical human population"
http://www.pnas.org/content/109/21/8044.abstract (Full text appears to require a PNAS Journal subscription.)
The point of the article does not seem the be the one the Telegraph highlighted. (It's far enough off, in fact, that I'm wondering if I missed the correct article.)
Supporting documents including methodology are here: http://www.pnas.org/content/suppl/2012/04/25/1118174109.DCSupplemental/pnas.201118174SI.pdf
Source data appears to be extensive records kept by the Lutheran Church, with conclusions resulting from statistical analysis of the data using the R statistics package.
I did raise my eyebrows at the website article footer "In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, mathematicians from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville developed a model to explain why humans first began living in monogamous pairs. " (emphasis mine above)
I'm sure the statistics are valid, but whether the conclusions derived from them are is another matter.May 28, 2012
- Hrm. That doesn't look like the right study to me, unless science journalism is far, far worse than I thought. My guess is that the study the Telegraph is writing about involved mathemeticians assigning hypothetical fitness rates to males of various types and calculating whether the fitness of a woman as measured by the number of grandkids she ended up with was better if she ended up with a male that could give her strong sons likely to hold a harem or with a male who would provide care for her child and ensure its success. Or at least, that's what I would guess.May 28, 2012
- It doesn't look like the right study to me, either, but thus far I haven't seen anything else on the PNAS site that looks like it is the right study. I'll keep poking around.
Your supposition as to the original article is a good possibility, but they'd still need underlying data for the model, and I'd like to know what it was.May 28, 2012
- It could be a purely theoretical model, merely showing the mathematical possibility of such a trait spreading in a population. Of course, if it's purely theoretical, then drawing any conclusions from it aside from the idea that this is possible would be a grave mistake. That's the problem with the Telegraph's article--this could either be a purely intellectual exercise, or it could be rooted in actual data.May 28, 2012
- I don't think this is the paper, unless there's a Tennessee in Finland :-)
I guess this one is the source for the divulgative articles that last weeks have talked about "evolution still working in humans".May 28, 2012
- Yes, that's another problem. None of the authors of the paper were UT affiliates. I just haven't found anything else on the PNAS site even close.May 28, 2012