Monday, June 06, 2011

An example of the naivete of behavioral anthropology: kissing

An article came out recently saying that the origin of kissing may have had to do with the way our bodies analyze the chemicals from the other person's mouth. Supposedly, attractiveness is increased when a particular chemical from a partner does not match the one that the individual themselves has, thereby increasing the likelihood that genetic diversity will be insured by encouraging folks to do things with people who are different from them. This was presented in reference to birth control, where once a woman is on birth control their response to this chemical by the partner changes from being positive if it's different to being negative.

There's just one problem: kissing is not nearly as important in many cultures outside of that of those descended from Europeans. Asian cultures reportedly have much less kissing than western cultures, and the same is said about sub-saharan Africa and parts of Polynesia. So, well, if kissing is something that a significant portion of humanity doesn't put great emphasis on, how exactly can it have had such a role in evolution? This shows one of the failures of looking at things from within your cultural perspective and not from a broader one, and suggests that if evolutionary biology can't explain real, observed, social and cultural differences, or is not aware of them, that the truth value of its claims are less certain than they might like.

Or, in other words, it might all be bullshit because they don't even have a good enough understanding to account for the possibility of cultural relativity. Eurocentrism informing outlandish theories about how evolutionary pressures shape present human behavior. Any sociologist or anthropologist could tell them how dangerous it is to generalize about the whole of humanity from a small, small, sample, and how it's even more tenuous to dare to connect that with biological constants, but of course the sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists no doubt think that sociology and anthropology are not 'hard' enough sciences to count.

No comments: