human evolution, religion, sociology

Evolution is often perceive as an individual affair: Traits that are helpful to the individual get passed on and eventually spread throughout a population, while those that are unhelpful eventually die off along with those who have them.

While this simple model is useful, there are many things that it finds difficult to explain. Asexuality and same-sex relationships are prime examples. Religious celibacy is another. Found in cultures worldwide, it seems like the kind of thing that eventually would have disappeared if the simple model for evolution — in which selection acts primarily at the level of the individual — is a complete explanation. The desire to become a monk should vanish from a population.

Now, a new study examines the implications of sending a family member into the monastery and provides evidence that while celibacy might not be a great decision for that individual’s genetic lineage, it works wonders for that of the family.

The evolutionary benefits of celibacy

The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, focused on Amdo Tibetans living in the eastern part of the Tibetan plateau. This part of China endured many of the trials and tribulations as the rest of the nation over the past century, including a restriction on the number of children (they were allowed three, as opposed to one elsewhere in China), the shuttering of the monasteries during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), and shocks to family wealth and general food availability during the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962). The local economy remains based around agriculture, and compulsory school attendance only began in 2000.

Since the reopening of the monasteries around 1980, many families have returned to the traditional practice of sending young boys to take up the life of a monk. At one point, more than half of ethnic Tibetan males were ordained in some manner. According to the authors of the study, one in seven Tibetan boys would become monks, making the western part of the Gansu province an ideal location for their investigation into celibacy.

Subscribe for counterintuitive, surprising, and impactful stories delivered to your inbox every Thursday

The authors collected sociodemographic data in 2017 by going door to door in 21 villages. The authors interviewed the residents of 530 households, representing 3,591 living people, 268 of whom were monks and five of whom were nuns. The head of each household was asked for a family tree, the names of their relatives, the occupations of their family members, and other relevant information, such as finances. Genealogies were constructed around this data.

The team found that men with a monk brother had 1.75 times as many children as those without a sibling in the abbey, on par with the number of kids an only son could expect to have. These men are also wealthier than those without a monk in the family. The results were less substantial for women, who do not generally inherit family wealth in that part of China. Still, the sister-in-law of a monk can expect to have their first child earlier than a woman with no relation to a holy man.

The benefits also extend to grandparents. Men who send one of their sons into a monastery have 1.15 times as many grandchildren as men without monks as children. This held up even in the face of other variables, such as wealth or the number of children, suggesting that there are only evolutionary benefits, but no costs, to sending a child off to the monastery.

Why does the benefit exist? Much of it derives from the family not having to divide their wealth as many times as those families who lack monks. The increased wealth makes larger families easier to support for those who do have children.

Taking one for the team

So, while becoming a monk is bad news for the genes of the person entering the monastery, it is great news for the genes of the parents and grandparents, as well as those of siblings. “Taking one for the team” ends up being a great evolutionary strategy for the group as a whole — a concept known, perhaps unsurprisingly, as group selection. Selection doesn’t happen just at the level of the individual.

NEWS RELATED

Hurricane Ian hits Cuba as Cat 3 storm; Vietnam evacuates ahead of Typhoon Noru

Hurricane Ian made landfall in western Cuba early Tuesday, with the Caribbean nation and the US state of Florida ramping up preparations for high winds and potential flooding. About 50,000 people in Cuba’s western Pinar del Rio province moved to safer locations, 6,000 of them to state-run shelters and ...

View more: Hurricane Ian hits Cuba as Cat 3 storm; Vietnam evacuates ahead of Typhoon Noru

Canada army deployed for hurricane cleanup

Canada deployed soldiers on Monday to help clean up widespread devastation caused by Hurricane Fiona, which left three people dead in the country’s Atlantic provinces. More than 260,000 people were still without electricity in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick on Monday morning. Soldiers were clearing debris ...

View more: Canada army deployed for hurricane cleanup

Boost climate action or we'll see you in court, activists tell govts

Governments around the world must scale up climate action “or face further legal action”, an open letter from campaign groups warned Tuesday, as battles over policies to cut emissions and protect the environment are increasingly fought in the courts. From legal efforts to steer governments to do more to ...

View more: Boost climate action or we'll see you in court, activists tell govts

Blinken urges Pakistan to seek China debt relief after floods

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Monday on Pakistan to seek debt relief from its close partner China as floods devastate the South Asian country. Blinken promised strong US support for Pakistan as it dries out from the floods, which have submerged one-third of the country, an area ...

View more: Blinken urges Pakistan to seek China debt relief after floods

Rare protest in China tech hub over Covid lockdown

Dozens of people have taken part in a rare protest in the southern Chinese tech hub of Shenzhen, social media footage shows, after officials announced a snap lockdown over a handful of Covid cases. The megacity of more than 18 million people reported just 10 infections on Tuesday, but ...

View more: Rare protest in China tech hub over Covid lockdown

Potentially Disastrous: 12 Key Ocean Species Are in Danger

Over the next 80 years, climate change will have a significant impact on twelve economically and culturally important species that live in the California Current marine ecosystem. Climate-induced changes threaten the future of coastal ecosystems. It may come as no surprise to those who grew up watching Finding Nemo ...

View more: Potentially Disastrous: 12 Key Ocean Species Are in Danger

The effects of stress and coping strategies regarding COVID-19 also depend on the pre-pandemic state of brain networks

The effect of perceived stress and coping strategies also depend on the configuration of the state of brain networks before the onset of the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic generated a unique scenario to analyse the psychological impact of global and extreme situations on the population. Now, a study reveals ...

View more: The effects of stress and coping strategies regarding COVID-19 also depend on the pre-pandemic state of brain networks

Quantum technology reaches unprecedented control over captured light

Illustration of the aluminum resonator to the right. The blue and red patterns show quantum mechanical states that the Chalmers researchers can create and control. Counting from the top to the bottom right, the states are: Gottesman-Kitaev-Preskill (GKP), Cubic phase state, Binomial state, Fock state and Cat state. Credit: ...

View more: Quantum technology reaches unprecedented control over captured light

Cattle grazing with virtual fencing shows potential to create wildfire fuel breaks, study finds

Contact with ET: How would humanity react?

After DART's incredible asteroid impact, the science is only beginning

Behold this fantastic 3D animation of Jupiter's frosting-like clouds

Wow! Telescopes spot DART asteroid impact in deep space (videos)

See Hurricane Ian churn in video from International Space Station

Bac Giang province moves to improve young people’s digital skills

Chinese Scientists Clone an Arctic Wolf With Beagle as Surrogate Mother

Endemic Area of Deadly Lassa Virus May Expand Dramatically in Coming Decades

The lifesaving power of gratitude (or, why you should write that thank you note)

Newly discovered gravitational lenses could reveal ancient galaxies and dark matter

China launches multiple satellites in back to back launches

OTHER NEWS

Breaking thailand news, thai news, thailand news Verified News Story Network