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Lecture 3

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Child and Youth Studies
Anthony Volk

CHYS 2P10 Child Development Dr. Tony Volk [email protected] Class Business Evolutionary Developmental Science • Breadth and scope of theory- “Nothing in Biology makes sense except in the light of Evolution” - Theodosius Dobzhansky • Evolution is the ONLY unifying scientific theory in the study of life • Observational methodology gives very contextual, and highly valid, data • Nature = evolution Evolutionary Perspectives • What is evolution? • Evolution is a theory that explains the diversity and function of all living things • Evolution is a theory, but so is electricity or gravity • Evolution is the most powerful, and widely accepted, theory in biology Charles Darwin • Darwin was interested in explaining the wide variety of life forms that existed • Earlier theories existed – e.g., Lamarkianism (inherit traits that change during lifespan; e.g., lifting weights will give you stronger children) (what you do in your life changes how your kids will be) • You can’t change your genes based on what you do • Darwin came up with the theories of natural and sexual selection Five Components of Darwin’s Evolution by Natural Selection 1. More offspring are born than survive to reproduce 2. Individual vary on different traits (you’re not the same as your brother/sisters even if your identical twins) 3. Certain traits are more likely to pass on offspring (via genes) (being tall is helpful b/c tall siblings’ genes are more likely to be passed on) 4. Offspring likely inherit those traits 5. Environmental conditions have changed, leading to new species The Meaning of Life Evolutionary Fallacies • Survival of the fittest – fitness in biology means # offspring; evolution is really survival of those who produce the most successful lineages (fittest from a biological sense; fittest in terms of reproduction) • Group selection – evolution acts at the level of the individual, not the species • Evolution progresses from simple to complex life forms Fit vs. Unfit • Ultrahealthy, live to 200 years of age! • Poor health, live only 50 years • This requires more resources to maintain these “fit” bodies • Requires fewer resources to maintain these “unfit” bodies • So they only produce 2 children • So they can also produce 2 children Life is not about being healthy or being fit it is about passing on good genes! Group vs. Individual • Old zebra are 4-5 years old • 5 year olds are weaker, and make the herd weaker on average • “Dies for the good of the species” at 4 • Produces 1 child/yr • Individual turns 5 and sees lions charging • If he escapes, can breed, but his presence makes herd weaker avg. • Says “screw dying!” • Lives to age 5 Genes exist to be passed on! “Higher” and “Lower” Organisms • Evolution has a goal – it moves towards ever more complex forms of life – Evolution is random – a mutation is as likely to retreat from greater complexity as it is to move towards it • More complex forms of life are better – One in four animal species are beetles! – According to some definitions, the majority of species of life are parasites! E.P. Premises • According to Tooby & Cosmides, E.P. 1. Involves domain-specific mechanisms (there are different types of the brain that specialize in different things) 2. That are at least partly inheritable (there is no gene for being aggressive or being nice) 3. That solved problems in the E.E.A. in the past (we are adapted for life thousands of years ago, which is why we love sugar) • Note that this allows for experience, nurture, and culture to influence the cognitive mechanisms (none of this is fixed; can be changed) Critiques of E.P. • Doesn’t typically reveal specific cognitive mechanisms; it’s more of a guide than a manual (not a theory about brain/culture) • Depends on accurate guesses based on limited information about E.E.A. (we can’t say for sure when children learn the best, when their verbal skills peak) • Just-so stories • Too simplistic – ignores human culture and other environmental factors Evolutionary Pitfalls • Deterministic Fallacy - if someone is evolved, or in our genes it can’t be change • WRONG! - e.g., male aggression (men more aggressive than girls; men\women designed to be different in terms of aggression) • Naturalistic Fallacy - if something is evolved, or comes from nature, it must be morally good and/or acceptable (things that happen in nature are good; nature doesn’t care if it’s good; nature isn’t good or bad) • WRONG! - e.g., war (all nature cares about is passing on genes) Childhood is an Adaptation • ~50% of children died before adulthood! (1in 4 babies died in first year) • Surviving childhood was thus a crucial evolutionary pressure • Childhood is an adaptation in and of itself (e.g., limited attention, poor metaknowledge (not understanding your own limits), curiosity (very important), attachment, play, etc.) • Playing is a huge role for their development The Interplay of Heredity and Environment • Both heredity and environment influence individuals’ characteristics – When scientists first began to investigate the contributions of heredity and environment, they generally emphasized one factor or the other as the prime influence – Recent efforts to map the human genome established that individuals differ from one another by less than 1.5% of their genes – You share 98% of the same genes as others Model of Interaction - Three key elements - Genotype: the genetic material an individual inherits - Phenotype: the observable expression of the genotype, including body characteristics and behavior - Environment: includes every aspect of the individual, and his or her surroundings, other than genes Fundamental Relations 1. Parents’ genetic contribution to the child’s genotype (50% from mom, 50% from dad) 2. Contributions of the child’s genotype to his or her own phenotype (depends whether the gene is on or off) 3. Contribution of the child’s environment to his or her own phenotype (environment Makes a big difference) 4. Influence of the child’s phenotype on his or her environment (who you are is going to affect your environment) Fundamental Relations Relation between Parents’ and Child’s Genotypes • Genetic material is passed on as chromosomes—long, threadlike molecules made up of DNA • Genes are sections of chromosomes that code for a particular protein sequence and/or have a particular effect on other genes • Y chromosome smaller than X so it has less genetic material and this is a problem for men Mechanisms Contributing to Genetic Diversity • Mutations: Changes in sections of DNA caused by random or environmental factors • Random assortment: The shuffling of the 23 pairs of chromosomes in the sperm and egg; chance determines which member of
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