The murder of children, too, can be explained evolutionarily. On the face of things it makes no sense to kill the vessels carrying your genes into the next generation. And, indeed, that is not what usually happens. But sociologists failed to notice this. It was not until Dr Daly and Dr Wilson began researching the field that it was discovered that a child under five is many times more likely to die an unnatural death in a household with a stepfather present (whether or not that relationship has been formalised by law) than if only biological parents are there.
In this, humans follow a pattern that is widespread in mammals: male hostility to a female’s offspring from previous matings. In some species, such as lions and langurs, this results in deliberate infanticide. In humans things not are always as brutal and explicit. But neglect and a low threshold of irritation at the demands of a dependent non-relative can have the same effect.
Intriguingly, though, if a genetic parent is the killer it is often the mother. Infanticidal mothers are usually young. A young mother has many years of potential reproduction ahead of her. If circumstances do not favour her at the time (perhaps the father has deserted her) the cost to her total reproductive output of bringing up a child may exceed the risk of killing it. Not surprisingly, maternal infanticide is mainly a crime of poor, single women.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
How to Understand Big Numbers: "But that similarity trips us up when it comes time to imagine how those figures translate to the real world, where three more zeroes make all the difference. "My favorite way to think of it is in terms of seconds," says David Schwartz, a children's book author whose How Much Is A Million? tries to wrap young minds around the concept. "One million seconds comes out to be about 11 and a half days. A billion seconds is 32 years. And a trillion seconds is 32,000 years. I like to say that I have a pretty good idea what I'll be doing a million seconds from now, no idea what I'll be doing a billion seconds from now, and an excellent idea of what I'll be doing a trillion seconds from now." "But that similarity trips us up when it comes time to imagine how those figures translate to the real world, where three more zeroes make all the difference. "My favorite way to think of it is in terms of seconds," says David Schwartz, a children's book author whose How Much Is A Million?
The Economist on Darwinism: Long but great read. Example: