In Bob Herberts's post today in the nytimes, he claims
"The most important step toward ending the tragic cycles of violence and poverty among African-Americans also happens to be the heaviest lift — reconnecting black fathers to their children."
Unfortunately, what makes husbands stick with wives and fathers stick with children? Don't over think this one. It's simple - love.
Don't think I'm getting all fuzzy on you. Just in case you forgot, we have experiments addressing the chemical roots of love, the prairie vole experiment:
Almost a decade ago, Thomas Insel, Director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience at Emory University, and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health and the University of Maryland implicated vasopressin and oxytocin in controlling the preference for particular partners in both male and female prairie voles. These investigators found that giving a male vasopressin causes it to stay with its mate, whereas blocking this hormone prevents a pair-bond from forming. The scientists saw similar effects in female prairie voles, with oxytocin determining the extent of pair-bonding. In contrast, the administration of these substances had no influence on social interactions in the promiscuous montane voles. Surprisingly, vasopressin and oxytocin are naturally found at similar levels in both prairie and montane voles.
Now, would it really be such a huge shocker to say that this chemical may not have uniform distribution throughout all races? That because most mammals are NOT monogamous, perhaps western society is the exception? That expecting monogamy from African American households (absent the extreme economic pressure that forced such association prior to the welfare state) is doomed to failure?
Tierney's blog on the nytimes has the occasional interesting article on gossip. Here is a clip:
The researchers set out to test the power of gossip, which has been exalted by theorists in recent decades. Language, according to the anthropologist Robin Dunbar, evolved because gossip is a more efficient version of the “social grooming” essential for animals to live in groups.
Apes and other creatures solidify their social bonds by cleaning and stroking one another, but the size of the group is limited because there’s not enough time in the day to groom a large number of animals.
Speech enabled humans to bond with lots of people while going about their hunting and gathering. Instead of spending hours untangling hair, they could bond with friendly conversation (“Your hair looks so unmatted today!”) or by picking apart someone else’s behavior (“Yeah, he was supposed to share the wildebeest, but I heard he kept both haunches”).
Gossip also told people whom to trust, and the prospect of a bad reputation discouraged them from acting selfishly, so large groups could peacefully cooperate. At least, that was the theory: gossip promoted the “indirect reciprocity” that made human society possible.
So, if there is a connection between large societies and the evolution of altruistic, behavior, could we now have evolutionary reasons to the dysfunction of most african societies? Remember, most African tribes were small and gatherer(minimal hunting).
Or, am I grasping at straws?
Until someone offers good, coherent, reasons for dysfunctional phenomena in the African AND African American community, I will continue to parse through evolutionary psychology literature and try to gain insight into peculiarities of race differences in behavior. To not explore these possibilities would be suppressing possible knowledge.