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Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 1 month ago



Tell me: how did gold attain the highest value?  Because it is uncommon and useless and gleaming and gentle in its splendor; it always gives itself.... Golden splendor makes peace between moon and sun.  Uncommon is the highest virtue and useless; it is gleaming and gentle in its splendor..."


- Nietzsche, On the Gift Giving Virtue

Also Sprach Zarathustra



In 1975, Amotz Zahavi brought Sexual Selection back to the foreground of evolutionary theory by proposing the Handicap PrincipleZahavi took Fisher's notion of fitness indicators and put a new spin on it.  Essentially, he suggested that within certain species, males will handicap themselves (AKA make themselves more vulnerable to harm or death) in order to "show off" to potential mates.  By handicapping himself, the male sends a message to receptive females: "Not only can I survive, but I can do it with this handicap."  The classic example - that of the peacock - shows how the principle works: If a peacock has a large tail, he must be good at survival, or else he will be eaten.  The tail says "I can survive anyway," and so it is an evolutionary way of bragging.  Males incapable of bragging - those who have small tails, or who have been eaten prior to mating - won't reproduce to pass genes on to the next generation.


The principle suggests a model which keeps forms of signalling honest: a peacock cannot 'fake' having a beautiful and cumbersome tail. 

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