year-end summary, 2011

i tried to come up with a top-ten list of what i think were my most important (delusions of grandeur!) posts this past year, but instead i’ve got a top-seventeen list. sorry, i just couldn’t whittle it down any further. (^_^)

if you’re new-ish to the blog, it might be useful to read these in order if you want to catch up on the conversation. if your new year’s resolution is to read only one blog post per day, and it’s after midnight where you are, then i recommend four things from last month:

jan: reductionism works
feb: cousin marriage conundrum addendum
apr: whatever happened to european tribes?
may: father’s brother’s daughter marriage
jun: genes for altruism
jul: medieval manoralism and genetic relatedness and and so my next question naturally is…
aug: setting the stage? and “hard-won democracy”
sep: but what about the english?
oct: technical stuff
nov: mating patterns and the individual and which altrusim genes? and inclusive inclusive fitness and four things
dec: the middle ages and visions of altruism genes

happy new year everybody! (^_^)

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sociality genes

ruh roh:

“Genes Play Major Role in Primate Social Behavior, Study Finds”

“Social behavior among primates — including humans — has a substantial genetic basis, a team of scientists has concluded from a new survey of social structure across the primate family tree.

“The scientists, at the University of Oxford in England, looked at the evolutionary family tree of 217 primate species whose social organization is known….

“[T]he new survey emphasizes the major role of genetics in shaping sociality. Being rooted in genetics, social structure is hard to change, and a species has to operate with whatever social structure it inherits.

“If social behavior were mostly shaped by ecology, then related species living in different environments should display a variety of social structures. But the Oxford biologists — Susanne Shultz, Christopher Opie and Quentin Atkinson — found the opposite was true: Primate species tended to have the same social structure as their close relatives, regardless of how and where they live….

The Oxford survey confirms that the structure of human society, too, is likely to have a genetic basis, since humans are in the primate family, said Bernard Chapais, an expert on human social evolution at the University of Montreal.

“‘Evolutionary change in any particular lineage is highly constrained by the lineage’s phylogenetic history,’ Dr. Chapais said, referring to the evolutionary family tree. ‘This reasoning applies to all species, including ours.'”

oh my lord! pass me the smelling salts — i do declare, i think i’m gonna faint!

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visions of altruism genes

i had visions of this schematic diagram (along with sugarplums, of course!) knocking around in my head over christmas. for those of you who haven’t been following along, it came to mind ’cause of a brief conversation in this comments thread here.

the slopes might not be exactly right for conveying what i’ve got in mind — if i had actually drawn the graph myself, maybe they’d be more “right” (i brazenly stole and adapted the graph from wikipedia) — but hopefully you’ll get my general meaning. see what you think:

(hint: as the degree of inbreeding in a population increases, the number of reciprocal altruism genes decreases while the number of “sib-altruism” genes increases. and vice versa.)

previously: technical stuff

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recon report

so, i spent christmas in a large, east coast city — in fact, THE large, east coast city — and i have a couple of observations to report re. the war-on-christmas — which, yes, is definitely occurring. but you know what? i am optimistic! and as you prolly already know, i am not a “glass half-full” type of gal — i’m more of a “why is the glass so small?” gal. (~_^) so if i don’t think things are that bad, maybe they’re not.

anyway, there was a lot of christmas spirit on display in the big apple! a LOT. it was very gratifying to see.

sure — most of the christmas songs being played in the stores and coffee shops were missing the christian part of christmas (i.e. they were mostly “rudolf” and “jingle bells”), but at least there were christmas songs being played — EVERYwhere as far as i could tell. my spirits were definitely cheered. (^_^)

and, yes, there were a lot of “holiday” greetings everywhere — but the local tv station that i saw (ny1?) did have merry christmas commercials (as well as happy channukah greetings). and the rockefeller center christmas tree is still a christmas tree.

lastly, yes, most of the sales clerks and restaurant/coffee shop staff would wish me “happy holidays,” but if i started with or returned with a “merry christmas” (a little experiment that i ran), i was usually very cheerfully responded to with a “merry christmas.” (^_^) (i did not, of course, wish any of the taxi drivers named mohammed a merry christmas, or the owner of carnegie’s deli. (~_^) i’m not a fanatic — h*ck, i’m not even religious.)

maybe i imagined it, but i don’t think that i did, but i had the impression that many of the sales clerks would say, rather unenthusiastically, what they had presumably been told to say (“happy holidays”), but when i would reply with “merry christmas” they would really light up and respond with a cheeful “merry christmas.” like i say, maybe i’m imagining it (too much eggnog?), but i really think this was the case. and i seemed to get the best responses from blacks and puerto ricans.

so, that’s my little set of anecdotal war-on-christmas evidence. (^_^) my impression, after a week in the heart of darkness, is that the war on christmas is not yet lost. (^_^)

my next social experiment?: columbus day, 2012. (~_^)

p.s. – i’m still sleeping off my holly, jolly hangover, so posting will prolly be light for a few more days.

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