Human Pheromones and Multi-level selection

Notes on science, politics, and history from a primate in the human zoo.

The Good Fight

By Eric Michael Johnson | July 9, 2012

Prominent scientists are in a bitter struggle over the origins of kindness. But the root of this conflict may be the most ironic part of all.

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My comment:

The problem with multi-level selection in humans seems likely to be one that is due to ignorance about the role of pheromones in the context of ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction. The honeybee model organism best exemplifies the multi-level selection that enables adaptive evolution via natural selection for nutrient chemicals that metabolize to pheromones (species-specific chemical signals, that control reproduction).

What the honeybee queen eats determines her pheromone production and everything else about interactions among the colony members, including the neuroanatomy of the worker bees’ brains. But the molecular biology that allows selection for nutrient chemicals and their metabolism to pheromones is the same in species from microbes to man.

Sensory input must epigenetically effect intracellular signaling and stochastic gene expression, or else adaptive evolution via pre-existing genetic variation and ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction cannot occur. Why then does EO Wilson not simply move forward with his eusocial insect model of group selection, and extend it to humans? There’s no other model for that. Is there?

Isn’t the lack of another model the problem here? And why on earth (i.e., this planet) would anyone use one model of group selection for insects, but propose that there must be some other model (nest-building) for mammals, like us?

Kohl, J.V. (2012) Human pheromones and food odors: epigenetic influences on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 2: 17338. DOI: 10.3402/snp.v2i0.17338. http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/snp.v2i0.17338

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Author: James Kohl

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