chapter  17
47 Pages

Is Yomut Social Behavior Adaptive?

WithWilliam Irons

This chapter presents the research that is relevant to the general question of whether human social behavior tends to assume forms which are adaptive in the biological sense. It addresses the question of the adaptiveness of human social behavior in terms of certain aspects of the social behavior of a single human population, the Yomut Turkmen of Iran. The hypothesized adaptive effects of human social behavior are seen as ultimately the result of natural selection even though a large number of intermediate environmental, ontogenetic, and physiological processes can also be seen as causing these behaviors and their effects. An important theoretical difficulty with the Wynne-Edwards hypothesis lies in the fact that the hypothesized social regulation of fertility would not be favored by individual level selection. The most reasonable application of the Wynne-Edwards hypothesis to Yomut society is one in which bridewealth is interpreted as the conventionalized token limiting fertility as population density increases.