An interesting discussion on the effects of no natural selection on intelligence, prosociality, and civilization.
It’s a re-interpretation of a much older study involving mice, carried out by American ethologist (animal behaviorist) John B. Calhoun. Calhoun’s arresting research—Death squared: The explosive growth and demise of a mouse population [Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, January 1973]—charted the rise and fall of a mouse population living under conditions in which there was no Natural Selection. Woodley of Menie’s team argues human beings are living under the same conditions today.
… Woodley of Menie and his team aver that Calhoun’s experiment–which created a “Mouse Utopia”–will provide a good indication of what will happen to us.
In Calhoun’s “Mouse Utopia” at the University of Maryland, there were no predators, no bad weather, no possibility to escape, and no epidemics, because the mice were ensured to be healthy when they entered. There was a huge amount of space. It was, in other words, paradise for mice.
In July 1968, the experiment began… By day 315, Calhoun started to notice interesting behavior changes in the mice. More and more males became what he called “the beautiful ones.” These effete males would make no attempt to fight or copulate with females. They simply spend their time washing each other and eating.
By contrast, female behavior became increasingly aggressive: they would attack males, throw their offspring out of the nest too young, attack their young, and actively avoid sex.
By day 600, fertility was not only at below replacement levels (as it is now in the West) but no new-born mice survived beyond weaning, because their mothers weren’t looking after them properly.
The last conception was on day 920. Autopsies on females aged 334 days or over revealed that only 18% had ever conceived whereas wild mice would have had at least 5 litters by that age. In May 1973, 1720 days after colonization, all of the mice were dead.
One thing I have never liked about Calhoun’s mouse experiment was the conclusion that Calhoun’s mice were experiencing an accumulation of deleterious mutations which were not removed, and that it involved genetic changes to the mice. That may have played a small role, but I do not think that is it entirely, for two reasons.
One, the mice went into extinction, despite food being present, and the ability to reproduce. If the mutations were random, I would think at least some mouse would have retained the ability to mate, and reproduce, and would have. If mice were being culled by mutation, they would have been selecting for those that would continue to reproduce, just as if owls were killing off mice instead of mutations. These mice all, to a one, followed almost a programmed path which led to extinction in every mouse. That makes no sense from a genetic, biological perspective.
Second, the path of behavioral changes followed the changes you see in r/K, as a reproductive strategy heads ever more r. Pretty males. Manly, aggressive females. Lack of rearing urges leading to child abandonment. It would not surprise me if the lack of conception was due to amygdalae going so far r that you first had homosexuality, leading into even more amygdala-shocking sexual practices, as degraded amygdalae came to require ever more stimulation to reach sexual arousal until the stimuli required for arousal were not even related to reproduction.
My very strong assumption is that what happened in the experiment is that a mouse machine, which was designed to exist in balance with a certain amount of harshness, and adapt reproductive behavior very slightly, within a very narrow range of variability in that harshness, was given a constant stream of r-stimuli which first pushed all mouse brains into very r-behavior, and which then carried it over into a brain structure so r that it became maladaptive as epigenetic shift added to epigenetic shift generation after generation.
Small diminutions in rearing urges became so great offspring were abandoned. Males needs for slightly more aggressive female mates to attain sexual arousal turned into male needs for shocking things like savagery and pain to attain arousal, combined with grotesqueness in sexual preferences, and that led to a lack of conception. Females who were supposed to get slightly more aggressive and masculine became too masculine and aggressive, and that interfered with mating as well.
In short the mouse, which was perfectly designed to shift slightly r intermittently to optimize reproduction in nature had that adaptive mechanism pushed to its absolute extreme generation after generation, by conditions it had never encountered in nature, and which it was not designed to encounter. The result was a mouse robot whose programming was not designed for that environment, and the programming thus failed.
It is all so clear to me. This was the design. This was the mechanism, just it was pushed beyond what the reality it was designed for would produce. But without r/K Theory being known everywhere, people just can’t grasp that the environment is modeling brains and reproductive strategies, through environmental adaptation, through epigenetic adaptation, and even through genetic selection over the very long term. Moreover they are not seeing that the clearest evidence for this is that the shift can be pushed to a point where it will actually break the organism, and cause it to actually go extinct.
It is a shame, because it would seem that given we are doing exactly this to our own species in real life, that information could be useful somehow as we plan our way forward.
I suppose it is just one more reason to be thankful for the coming Apocalypse.