Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Dominance and Submission in Evolution

One interesting point that came out of previous discussions of evolution is that there is noise in the process. There are many points of evolution, many capabilities and functions, that affect fitness, and if one of these happens to be very sensitive in a particular situation, then the noise in it will interfere with the evolution of other traits, and evolution in general will hover around the existing situation, without the organisms involved continuing to evolve at a normal rate. To give an example, if fighting for mate selection is a very critical thing in reproduction, evolution will emphasize those characteristics which allow a creature to win these battles, and anything else, like hunting ability or visual recognition skills will be swamped by the changes in fighting capability.

Now think about this: if a particular organism is not stuck in one of these noise in capability selection chokepoints, it can evolve other capabilities, and step by simple step, get up further in general adaptability and survivability characteristics. Since evolution goes by simple steps, it is not to hard for a noise situation to stop some simple steps from happening, meaning that a whole series of sequential simple steps don't get taken, and a large improvement in characteristics doesn't get completed, or even started. So, if some evolutionary change happens which helps an organism bypass a noise blockage situation, this change can enable other changes which will lead to a much more successful organism after it takes many of the simple steps that evolutionary mutations offer.

This concept of enabling mutations has importance for the development of intelligence. Mate competition seems to be very serious for many animals here on Earth, and perhaps in ways too subtle for us to appreciate, in the plant kingdom as well. How might evolution pull an enabling stunt to overcome this blockage? The answer is dominance and submission. If, instead of a large amount of mate selection competition, there was only a little, then there would be no blockage. If there was, in the gene pool, a gene for dominance which produced submissive behavior if not present, there would be little competition, little noise from this source, and lots of opportunity for the organism to develop any other survival-related traits, like intelligence.

So, if there is on an alien planet some species that has developed grasping appendages, learned hunting with simple implements, inhabited a large area so numbers would grow large and provide many opportunities for mutation, and besides developed a dominance/non-dominance gene, intelligence could be the result, and following that, an alien civilization and star traveling vessels.

Dominance genes could be simply connected with other traits, such as size. If the gene makes a creature 20% larger than otherwise, it would be dominant, provided other traits were not missing or ineffectual. In mate competitions, where battling occurs, there has to be some aggressiveness present in order for the size effect to make a difference, along with a normal amount of speed and a few other attributes. By the way, an increase an any one of these could substitute for size.

Dominance genes might not require any physical attributes to take effect. They could be a result of a prolongation of some childlike capabilities, such as following the commands of a parent. If the lack of dominance genes meant that a creature would not get over the willingness to obey a parent, and lost the transition to independence, then it would be submissive and no competition over mates would be necessary. Only between two creatures both possessing the dominance gene would there be battling, and if it were an uncommon gene, this might not happen enough to detract from the quiescence needed for other traits to evolve.

Remember that any particular stage in the chronology of an alien civilization, from the formation of the right kind of world to the overcoming of some sociological obstacle, has implications that stretch both forwards and backwards in the chronology. This hypothetical result has the same bi-directional implications. It means that only aliens which have developed extensive child-rearing, with the obedience gene or genes needed for long-term childhood, would be able to move past the mate competition battling noise chokepoint using this prolongation mutation. This is fortunate for intelligence, as only with a long childhood and parental involvement can traits which are non-genetic be passed down easily. Tool-using works well in this situation. Parent shows child how to make a spear and how to use it, or a tomahawk. Parent shows child what kind of stick to look for, or what shape of rock to seek, in order for tool using to be passed down generation to generation. This works better with longer childhood and parental involvement. As more complex tool-using develops, it is even more important.

The implications in the other direction are more impressive, and perhaps more consequential. Having a population which is mostly full of creatures who are genetically predisposed to submission rather than dominance behavior means something about the formation of cities. As a clan grows larger, because of its successes in hunting and gathering, enabled by intelligence on top of tool-using, plus communication skills, all from mutations, submissiveness keeps the battling to a minimum and allows the clan to succeed. Submissiveness from a gene which prolongs childhood and reduces the drive for independence means that live in a large population is tolerable, and it means that individuals can be organized to accomplish specialized tasks. It enables the formation of castes.

It also enables these castes to organize within themselves and to take a position within the clan. One of the castes, theological leader, depends on some sort of submissiveness or obedience or similar traits. The organization of warrior/hunter groups depends on some individuals being leaders, that is, dominant, but the rest being followers. The same holds for agricultural and tradesman castes. Some few need to organize the work, pick where to plant or what to harvest to make thread, and all the other hundreds of decisions that these occupations demand, and then others to follow through and implement them.

The implication is that in order for the transition from small hunter-gatherer clan to large clan with castes, some change is needed in how the individuals interact. The concept proposed here, a type of dominance/submissive genetic mutation, seems to be a possibility. This means, once again, that genetics poses no obstacle to the climb to having an alien civilization.

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