Thursday, August 27, 2009

Intro to Chapter 1

University rules say I have to have transitions between my chapters. They don't say what they have to be, and my professors don't care, so I'm writing little essays.

Here is the intro to Chapter 1:

Demographers and evolutionary biologists have a great deal to learn from each other. That there is no Demographic Evolution Society or Journal of Evolutionary Biodemography attests to the fact that most biologists, even those strongly interested in population processes and the interactions of individuals of different ages don't fully incorporate the insights and methods of demography. Similarly, most demographers give little thought to why such basic variables as mortality risk and fertility vary with age as they do. Any demographer can tell you that the qx curve is shaped like a U or a J or a bathtub, but precious few seem interested in ultimate explanations of how that came to be. Only evolutionary biology can provide such ultimate explanations. Demography is a social science; questions are expected to have some relevance to humans, and the vast majority are solely about humans. In evolutionary biology the assumption that humans must be interesting is quickly labeled as anthropocentrism.

Human demography offers the evolutionary biologist fascinating questions, tremendous stores of readily available data, and the quantitative tools to analyze them to. Evolutionary biology offers demographers the concepts to understand why humans are as we are, how we came to be this way, and how we differ from other organism. A uniquely human, cultural explanation is not needed to explain a trait humans share with all primates. Where humans are unique, this could be because of evolution, or culture, or more likely feedback between the two. Judging whether a trait of human demography is unique requires the methods and concepts of both demography and evolutionary biology.

Chapter 1 asks how unusual women's post-fertile survival is among primates, and what role culture plays. It combines the tools of demography (in developing appropriate measures of post-fertile survival) with those of evolutionary biology (in the comparative method). The result, it is my hope, clarifies a debate in which people have been talking past each other for some time.


Annaliese said...

I definitely didn't have transitions, so I think this is optional. I think they just mean the order should be sensible and flow reasonably from one to the next.

Dan Levitis said...

Hmm. Good to know. Did you have a global introduction and a global conclusion?