Shared names prompt good deeds - evolutionary or psychological?

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by Weitzel, Jan 15, 2002.

  1. Weitzel Simon Fraser University Registered Senior Member


    I don't know that I agree with this interpretation of the results. I think it could have a lot less to do with evolution and more to do with psychology. I'm glad they are stressing "evolution may have taught us" rather than making a hard and fast conclusion.

    My reason for doubting their interpretation is that I pause whenever someone places the reasoning for a specifically human type of behavior on the role of genes & evolution. (I call this being-nice-to-namesakes specifically human simply because it isn't exhibited, can't be exhibited, among the other animals of the world, as they aren't aware of their names when they have them at all.) Evolution takes a long time to work its magic. A mutation must come into the population; a new evolutionary stable state must be reached. I don't know how likely it is that a gene has entered our genepool predisposed to helping namesakes. After all, most of our genes have evolved over millions of years - but how long have we had first and last names? I don't actually know the answer to this but I'd imagine names would have been given to people once they became able to communicate - yes, it was a long time ago, but not that long ago on an evolutionary timescale.

    Again, I think it's more a psychological issue, this helping others with the same name. What do others think?
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  3. SeekerOfTruth Unemployed, but Looking Registered Senior Member

    I would agree with you weitzel. I find it difficult to believe that my genetic makeup predisposes me towards a behavior that has only been learned in the last few thousand years (reading).
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  5. scilosopher Registered Senior Member

    I agree as well that saying there is a genetic basis is probably wrong. The fact that the effect was basically only seen in people with exactly the same name makes me even question if it has ANYTHING to do with people trying to help someone with a similar lineage.

    I would also comment though that thinking there might be a single gene that could make people suddenly start helping name sakes is dangerous territory. The current estimate for the number of human genes is aroun 35k and I don't think that would be enough if there are single genes for any complex trait. It's grouping of genes and minor modifications that are at issue. It's interesting to note if there are two alleles for each gene the number of possible genetic combinations is roughly 8E9030, which is SIGNIFICANTLY more than the 5E9 people on this planet. Getting a unique grouping of genes with altered characteristics can have a significant effect on evolution even in the absence of mutation.
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