Speaker Series

Spring 2017

  • Terrence Deacon
  • 02-06-17
  • Terrence Deacon
  • Department of Anthropology, UC Berkley
  • Hierarchic evolutionary transitions in biology and society
  • No abstract

  • Dave Geary
  • 02-20-17
  • Dave Geary
  • Department of Psychology, University of Missouri
  • Evolution of Vulnerability
  • A framework for the a priori prediction of sex-, age-, and trait-specific vulnerabilities is proposed. At its foundation is the efficiency of mitochondrial energy capture and control of oxidative stress and the key idea is that more complex traits are more vulnerable to stressors because they require more energy to build, maintain, and express. Traits that support competition for reproductive resources or that influence mate choices are generally more complex than other traits. They are fully developed and expressed under favorable conditions but under less favorable conditions they are more severely compromised than are other traits. The utility of the framework will be illustrated for nonhuman species and then for trait- and age-specific vulnerabilities in boys’ and girls’ physical development, and boys’ and men’s and girls’ and women’s social-cognitive and spatial abilities, as well as men’s emotional composure under stress. The approach helps to organize what is known about deficits associated with stressor exposure and provides clear implications for future research and risk assessment.

  • William Brock
  • 03-06-17
  • William Brock
  • Department of Economics, University of Missouri
  • Fold, Flip, and Flutter: Early Warnings of Impending Bifurcations for Dynamics in the Sciences
  • No abstract

  • Rebecca Grollemund
  • 03-20-17
  • Rebecca Grollemund
  • Department of English, University of Missouri
  • Migrations in Sub-Saharan Africa: A new phylogenetic classification of Niger-Congo languages
  • The Niger-Congo family constitutes the largest African language family in terms of geographical area (the Niger-Congo languages cover the greater part of Sub-Saharan Africa), the number of speakers (more than 300 million speakers) and the number of distinct languages (approximately 1400 languages spoken). However, no comprehensive phylogeny has yet been established for the phylum using modern phylogenetic statistical methods. The main objective of this study is to propose the first phylogenetic classification of the Niger-Congo languages but also to understand the Niger-Congo expansion: what were their migratory routes? What triggered the Niger-Congo expansion? Was the Niger-Congo expansion linked to agriculture?

  • Armin Schulz
  • 04-03-17
  • Armin Schulz
  • Department of Philosophy, University of Kansas
  • The Evolution of Economic Decision Making: Insights and Open Questions
  • In my research, I am interested in finding out more about (a) how and when evolutionary biological considerations can be useful for illuminating questions in other sciences (such as psychology, social science, and philosophy), and (b) how and when considerations from other sciences can be useful for illuminating questions in evolutionary biology.

  • Siobhán Mattison
  • 04-17-17
  • Siobhán Mattison
  • Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico
  • How central are males to human family systems?
  • Matriliny is a rare but recurrent system of kinship organization in both human and non-human animals. Problematized in humans for the tensions it creates for men, matriliny may also provide certain benefits to men who take on relatively few household responsibilities. In this talk, I use data drawn from my studies of the Mosuo of Southwest China – the world’s only society to practice both patrilineal and matrilineal kinship as distinct modes of inheritance and descent – to muse about the possible costs and benefits of matrilineal kinship to men and women. I use evidence of daughter preference and daughter-biased investments to inform debates about social and ecological drivers of matrilineal kinship systems. Next, I introduce a new model that explores the effects of subsistence and the value of men’s labor on post-marital residence, showing that the shape of the return function affects whether men expend labor in their natal or spousal households. Finally, I extend this to develop a verbal hypothesis of female-centered kinship, which I call the “expendable male hypothesis”.

  • Sarah Mathew
  • 05-01-17
  • Sarah Mathew
  • School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University
  • Conflict and Cooperation In A Pastoral Society Shows That Cultural Transmission Enabled The Evolution Of Human Prosociality
  • Unlike other animals, humans cooperate extensively in large groups comprised of genetically unrelated individuals. This unique form of cooperation could have evolved through cultural group selection, i.e. selection among populations having different culturally transmitted norms. I will present findings from the Turkana, a politically uncentralized population of pastoralists in Kenya which indicate that: 1) the Turkana maintain costly large-scale cooperation in warfare through peer sanctioning of free riders; 2) Turkana norms regulating punishment help solve the second-order free rider problem and promote group-beneficial punitive behavior; and 3) Turkana norms regulating helping and harming benefit the cultural group, not smaller or larger social units. The nature and scale of cooperation and conflict is consistent with selection acting on the level of cultural groups, suggesting that cultural group selection has played a key role in the evolution of human cooperation.