Evolution and Social Darwinism

A colleague of mine who is attempting to learn about neuroscience let me borrow a series of lectures on tape from a big name professor named Robert Sapolsky, Stanford professor and author of “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”. He will show up on PBS or NPR occasionally as well to tell us something about stress. I listened to this series of lectures mainly for style points, to see how he conveys complex neuroscience stuff to the masses.

At about the sixth lecture, Sapolsky started talking about how increased levels of circulating prolactin (hormone involved in breast feeding) from new mothers is a potent contraceptive. The key to prolactin is it needs to be released at low levels throughout the day. In other words, mothers can’t make the kids wait an hour or two and then give up the milk, it has to be little spurts all day long.

Then he goes off on this tangent (and I paraphrase): ‘People in Western culture seems to think that hunter/gatherer societies tend to live in horrible conditions. We think of these people as nearly starving, always succumbing to diseases, but in fact that’s not the case. In an anthropology study on (some tribe in Africa) it was shown that these people live just fine. They spend three or four hours a day foraging for food and spend the rest of the time doing social anthropology. They are the cream of the crop, health-wise. In agricultural societies people spend 10-12 hours a day producing food and are susceptible to all kinds of diseases due to the stress. One of the biggest mistakes in human history was the invention of agriculture. All agriculture does is allow for the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, which results in stratified societies etc. etc….maybe a little political motivation there’

Now I’ve read a little about Sapolsky. He seems like a nice guy. Definitely from a family of concentrated wealth, he attended tory Ivy League schools and succeeded everywhere he went. I’m sure he does wonderful charity work with the royalties from his textbooks, which are foisted upon college undergrads throughout the country. But the question I’ve got for Sapolsky is, how can the product of an agricultural society learn all this science, and why don’t the hunter/gatherers have some expert teaching kids about neuroscience (or music, or language, or film history, or biochemistry). The arrogant way these professors sneak some marxist propaganda into any topic they see fit makes me cringe.



Posted at 11:27 pm by Johnny B

Posted by BP @ 07/18/2005 08:40 PM PDT
Ok this post takes the cake as the most thought provoking of the month…anyone disagree?

Posted by Bonnie G @ 07/19/2005 04:28 PM PDT
I’ll say one thing for sure, it certainly isn’t comment provoking.

Posted by PB @ 07/20/2005 04:27 PM PDT

I guess one could make that argument, Bonnie…

However, it just goes to show you…that breasts in and of themselves…don’t sell.

Posted by Name @ 07/21/2005 11:39 PM PDT
maybe if there was a picture or something and not all them damn words