Have you ever wondered about how our social structures can affect the process of evolution? In Agustin Fuentes’ article “Behavior evolves, but evolution is a lot more than ‘survival of the fittest’”, he takes into account the biological aspect of human genetics but also how evolution is acted upon by cultural mechanisms such as behavior and niche construction. Fuentes argues: “We have to be aware that multiple systems of inheritance (genetic, epigenetic, behavioural, and even symbolic) can all provide information that influence our interactions with the world around us, with one another, and can cause biological change over time (evolution)”(Fuentes).
With this thought in mind, we can look to Death Without Weeping by Nancy Scheper Hughes. This article illustrates a Brazilian community that is faced with a high rate of infant mortality. Hughes describes in detail the persona of the mothers, who appear to give up on their children who are considered too weak to survive. Looking upon it from the perspective of our own American culture, the mothers seem unemotional and cold. However, these mothers have adapted to accept the high prevalence of infant mortality in their culture and as a result have decided to strategically choose which babies to mother, administering a type of “selective neglect”. Their hesitance for emotional investment in their children can be seen as an active survival strategy, or a behavioral adaptation that this culture has acquired. It is clear that this Brazilian culture is greatly effected by the behavioral model it has adopted and has allowed their cultural outlook of their own culture to be less dire despite the high rates of death and diseases in infants. In conclusion, the mothers actively decide the “survival of the fittest” contest in order to protect their own emotions and cope with tragedy of infant mortality.