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James Brody
July 10th, 2005, 07:22 PM
Jacob Bronowski and Russell Barkley pivoted their theories about evolution on the idea of premeditation: "what will happen if..." led to science and to civilization. This kind of thinking requires an inhibition of both well-practiced behaviors, whether instinctive or not. We find comparable inhibition in biological changes when one gene becomes a pair: the new piece differs from the old, disrupts the automatic routines managed by the older version, and tests modest changes on their common environment. (These partnerships of near-but-not-perfect identities underlie the success of sexual reproduction!) Thoughts, thus, copy the exploratory strategies of genes but do so faster and more reversibly because you can do more than one experiment per generation and often have a chance to end one before it kills you.

Not all of us, however, have equal talents for solving problems while sitting under a tree. Research by Barkley and by hundreds of others agree: males are more impulsive than females and have higher rates not only of impulse disorders but also most other forms of psychopathology (except for those inhibitory phenomenon that we call "anxiety and depression"). Males also die more easily in birth, are born with a higher proportion of developmental impairments, and have more difficulty with estrogen-based conformities such as sitting still, taking notes, writing, and repeating. We later step to our graves years ahead of females.

Males differ because of an initial lapse in maternal investment: Y replaces X. Mothers, aunts, and grandmothers devote years to repairing that omission. So do pediatricians, teachers, counselors, wives, and sometimes police officers. The ladies are estrogen's final effort to build conformity and cooperation, to make connections possible both with males and between them. Abortion and abandonment take care of the extreme misfits. And, despite gender bias in medical research and its emphasis on male disorders, we males still die seven years before females.

Females in a devious way (of course!) also put surviving hyperactives to work.*

Napoleon Chagnon, on his first arrival at a Yanomamo village in the interior of South America, was greeted by a cluster of tree-climbing, bow-shooting males. He was, however, escorted by James Baker who was the first non-Yanomamo to make contact with the tribe and who induced them to unbend their bows and unnock their arrows.
Chagnon then spent months learning language and managing thieves, beggars, and jokers, mostly males who often demonstrated their fierceness by beating their wives if they happened to have one. He also spent time learning how to defend his goods without getting into physical combat. Chagnon felt alone during these tests: he was simply a commodity to be used, from one impulse to the next, but of no enduring value.
He eventually passed his exams by the fringe elements and earned more time with the village headman, Kaobawa, who surveyed the village boundaries for hints of raids from other villages, collected information about land that could become farmland, and assessed alliances for both profit and dependability. After all, one custom was to invite a tribe to a feast and ambuse them! He also short-circuited fights so that side-slapping and chest pounding duels did not lead to club fights or murder. Kaobawa beat his wife but far less severely than the other males: he also had opportunity to have several wives.
Chagnon experienced and navigated, but without consciously recognizing, an emergent network much like that of a living cell: a perimeter of disposable combatants, each of them weakly linked to other members of the village. The external membrane surrounded a complex of individuals, partnerships, and families that stabilized the entire organization, even to the extent of replacing guards and soldiers when needed. It would be possible to assess impulsiveness and find it greatest on the outside and least on the inside of the village! And the females probably controlled assignments of future wife-beaters to this gradient: ridicule from high school girls leads to reproductive failure in Brooklyn males, avoidance and gossip lead to reproductive failure in the jungle but staying alive and socially connected in spite of being "fierce" enhanced the numbers of your children.**

Darwin has a ledger for the transactions between the genders: it eventually balances.

*Suomi observed that male rhesus live with within maternal matrilines for the first year: he has a year to shape up in regard to reciprocity, manners, and connectedness or be abandoned to the jungle.
** Barkley once commented that impulsive males become parents later but impulsive females do so earlier. Guys will breed with anyone, girls may go for psychopaths and bullies but not fools! Chagnon reports that a father's death is often followed by the tribe's killing his surviving children: impulsiveness, measured in genetic dollars, costs twice.

References
Barkley R. (1997) ADHD and the Nature of Self Control. NY: Guilford.
Brody, J. (2005) ADHD: Inhibition, Emergent Networks, and Maternal Investment. Chapter 2 in Michelle Larimer (Ed.) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Research. Hauppage, NY: Nova Science Biomedical Series. pp.19-58.
Bronowski, J. (1977) A Sense of the Future. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Chagnon, N. (1968) Yanomamo: The Fierce People. NY: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.
Raff, Rudolf (1996) The Shape of Life. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Suomi, S. (2000) How gene-environment interactions shape individual development trajectories in rhesus monkeys. Presentation at The Relationship System, Georgetown Family Center, April 2000.

Copyright, James Brody, 2005, all rights reserved.