Female infanticide disproves sociobiology?

Wikipedia says “Sociobiology is a field of biology that aims to examine and explain social behavior in terms of evolution.”

One of the things that we learned about on our Northwest Passage cruise was the historical practice of female infanticide among Eskimos/Inuits. When food got scarce, female infants were at risk. The explanation given in museums and by guides was that boys would grow up into adult male hunters who could take care of their elderly parents.

From The North West Passage Exploration Anthology (a report from John Franklin from his 1825 trip):

The difficulty of procuring nourishment frequently induces the women of this tribe to destroy their female children. Two pregnant women of the party then at the fort, made known their intention of acting on this inhuman custom, though Mr. Dease threatened them with our heaviest displeasure if they put it into execution: we learned that, after they left us, one actually did destroy her child; the infant of the other woman proved to be a boy.

If the goal of an animal is propagating his/her/zir genes, this does not seem to make sense. A typical human female reproduces, thus passing on her parents’ genes. A typical human male has no offspring (polygamy is the natural human state, it seems; see “The era of monogamous long-term marriage was a brief interruption” within Real World Divorce).

The period of life in which the son will be potentially useful won’t likely start until after the parents are beyond reproductive age (and therefore whether they live or die has minimal effect on their reproductive success).

Readers: Is the existence of female infanticide across a range of cultures a simple proof that sociobiology is wrong?

4 thoughts on “Female infanticide disproves sociobiology?

  1. Female infanticide has always been around & is still practiced today by most cultures. You might say abortion haters are more supportive of women’s rights than abortion supporters.

    Based on today’s relationship preferences, there are a lot more bald fat guys reproducing than skinny guys & skinny women reproducing than bald fat women. As with abortion preferences, the less fit men survive. Humans benefit more from brain power than other animals. If the women are selected for fitness & the men are selected for social status, there’s enough improvement for the species to progress. They just have to invent their way out of diseases more than evolve. Sociobiology prevails.

  2. Highly undemocratic deplorable discriminatory comment above! Brain power is equal for all human beings and is not dependent on body type, race, gender, nationality etc.

  3. Split enough food for three eskimos by four (Mama, Papa, Son Daughter) and they all die. Get rid of Daughter and the three remaining thrive with a chance to make more later. Altruism can be deadly in a resource-poor environment. Since Humans are an apex predator, self-culling is an effective mechanism by which to stop total population collapse brought on by greater population than the envirnment can support in the long term. Killer polar bears cannot be relied upon to keep Eskimo numbers in check — they have to do it themselves. The Sociobiological answer is that those Eskimo groups that did not practice selective culling died off. The human biology of reproduction is not adapted to the Arctic, so behaviour (culture) must adapt when the body cannot.
    Long-term Generational survival is all in Evolution, no matter how ugly the method or the seemingly anti-adaptive behaviour when viewd in the short term

    Eskimo breeding habits do change as the environment changes. In Alaska, Eskimos breed prolifically as a parent receives the oil dividend for each offspring. Families of ten children are not uncommon – bringing Mama in forty grand a year. In this lies employment opportunity! There is severe shortage of professional psychologist, social workers and related workers to deal with these Eskimo children who are largely abandoned by their parents in the fifty-one weeks of the year that they are not necessary to collect a check.

    And my Alaskan source tells me Eskimo is now a dirty word, like rhymes-with-bigger.

  4. This may be one of those cases where “typical” as average instead of “typical” as a median is actually better. If 1 out of 10 males has a surviving offspring with 10 women, and 9 out of 10 have 0 offspring. That is the same chances of passing on genes as 10 out of 10 males each having 1 offspring.

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