Evolutionary Aspects of Disease Avoidance: The Role of Disease in the Development of Complex Society

167 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2012 Last revised: 3 Dec 2018

See all articles by Niccolo Leo Caldararo

Niccolo Leo Caldararo

San Francisco State University - Department of Anthropology

Date Written: February 7, 2012

Abstract

Avoiding disease certainly has value to the individual in escaping pain, suffering and death. It would seem obvious that mechanisms would evolve to enhance the ability of an individual to recognize and avoid contact leading to infection or exposure to infection. Social animals especially display evidence of behavior that avoid or limit disease and death, as in the grouped behavior of the water flea Daphnia where grouped animals give off more carbon dioxide than single ones and this extra CO2 can neutralize some toxic substances in the water (Allee, 1938). It is clear from animal research in the wild and captivity that behavior can play a significant role in infection and the spread of disease and the production of mortality (Loehle, 1995). Such behavior would then have a selective role to play in evolution.

Hart (1988, 1990) has documented a variety of behaviors that can be described as sanitary, preventing the spread of infection among animals. Mary Douglas (1966) found that in studying the varieties of human religious practice, pollution and danger were often associated with a positive effort to organize the environment. She also found that “...pollution has indeed much to do with morals.” This book investigates the role of disease in shaping human society and its institutions.

Keywords: disease behavior, avoidance, complex society

JEL Classification: H10, I10, Z10

Suggested Citation

Caldararo, Niccolo Leo, Evolutionary Aspects of Disease Avoidance: The Role of Disease in the Development of Complex Society (February 7, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2001098 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2001098

Niccolo Leo Caldararo (Contact Author)

San Francisco State University - Department of Anthropology ( email )

1600 Holloway Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94132
United States
415-453-9064 (Phone)

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