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Rudolph to an anthropologist

Forwarded from the Arch-l list. (Second try!) Thought some of you might
enjoy it.

Mort Kessel wrote:
"Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: With an anthropological spin

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose
and if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows.
 Every so often a mutation arises.  Most of them are maladaptive.
 They do not impart any advantage in the struggle for life.

All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names.
They wouldn't let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games.
 An example of ethnocentric behavior.  A red nose could be a metaphor for
any physical difference; short, fat, smart, race.  Kids
 react to differences with teasing, ridicule, fear.

Then one foggy Christmas eve, Santa came to say
"Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"
 But, rarely, a trait appears which endows the individual with
 improved ability to cope with the environment.  His red nose,
 under different circumstances (fog), became an adaptive
 advantage.  He could guide in fog where the others could not.

Then how the reindeer loved him, as they shouted out with glee,
"Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, you'll go down in history."
 Maybe.  But in order for a mutation to prove advantageous, to
 validate true adaptability for the phenotype, we would need to
 demonstrate reproductive success.  Future
 generations of reindeer would need to show, increasingly, the red
 nose trait.

This anthropological analysis is offered for your amusement and
edification -- with the hope that other disciplines; psychology, literature,
social science etc. will join in enlightening us with their exegesis."

Mike Lovejoy

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