Paul J. Watson

Paul J. Watson
Universities of New Mexico & Montana · Biology

PhD, Cornell University, 1988.

About

28
Publications
5,596
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1,906
Citations
Citations since 2016
3 Research Items
379 Citations
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Introduction
Sexual selection studies on the sierra dome spider, since 1980. Human research on adaptive functions of religiosity, esp., testing my “Informational Boundaries Hypothesis,” an addition to the honest commitment signaling family of explanations. Pushing for proper testing of the “Niche Change” hypothesis for the evolution of unipolar depression, a member of the “bargaining hypothesis” family. Teaching: The Evolution of Religiosity & Human Coalitional Psychology & Field Studies in Animal Behavior.
Additional affiliations
February 1991 - present
University of New Mexico
Position
  • Research Faculty
Description
  • Evolution of social and sexual behavior in animals and humans.
January 1988 - May 2017
University of New Mexico
Position
  • Professor
September 1981 - January 1989
Cornell University
Position
  • PhD Student
Description
  • Wonderful.
Education
October 1989 - March 1991
University of Oxford
Field of study
  • Evolutionary Biology with W.D. Hamilton
September 1981 - January 1988
Cornell University
Field of study
  • Behavioral Biology with Stephen T. Emlen & Paul W. Sherman
September 1976 - June 1981
University of Montana
Field of study
  • Zoology & Botany (double degree program)

Publications

Publications (28)
Article
Full-text available
The purpose of this controlled-breeding study was to investigate the viability consequences of female choice and sequential polyandry for offspring in a way that would separate the influences of these two aspects of female sexual behaviour. Female sierra dome spiders, Neriene litigiosa (=Linyphia litigiosa) typically mate two to three times before...
Article
Evolutionary biologists use Darwinian theory and functional design ("reverse engineering") analyses, to develop and test hypotheses about the adaptive functions of traits. Based upon a consideration of human social life and a functional design analysis of depression's core symptomatology we offer a comprehensive theory of its adaptive significance...
Article
Full-text available
When a male Sierra dome spider (Linyphia litigiosa) encounters a virgin female that has been sexually mature for 7 to 10 days, he rapidly packs the silk of her web into a tight mass. This behavior hinders evaporation of a male-attractant chemical that such highly receptive females apply to their webs. The male thereby reduces the likelihood that hi...
Article
Full-text available
Magnitudes and patterns of energy expenditure in animal contests are seldom measured, but can be critical for predicting contest dynamics and understanding the evolution of ritualized fighting behaviour. In the sierra dome spider, males compete for sexual access to females and their webs. They show three distinct phases of fighting behaviour, escal...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Comments on misleading and helpful references concerning the airborne male attractant pheromone of female sierra dome spiders (Neriene litigiosa: Linyphiidae).
Technical Report
Full-text available
2012. Understanding how animals fight using Lloyd Morgan's canon. Animal Behavior 84, 1095-1102. Elwood and Arnott (2012) write: "Finally, when spiders hold out their legs in prefight displays the view of the opponent's legs will be very different to the focal animal's view of its own legs (Keil & Watson 2010). In these cases the animal will not ha...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
I present the “Informational Boundaries Hypothesis” (IBH) of religiosity and the evolution of religious diversity. The IBH emphasizes supernaturally-laced commitment signals with strategically high opportunity costs that function to maximize the security of sub-group-specific human capital, strategic information, and intellectual property. -- Dr. P...
Article
Full-text available
Contestants in agonistic encounters may use assessments of self, opponent and resource quality as a basis for making behavioural decisions. Ritualized displays reduce risk and energy expenditure during assessments, but may lead to injurious fighting behaviour under certain circumstances. In this study, we examined the decision-making process of mal...
Article
Full-text available
A long-standing theoretical tradition in clinical psychology and psychiatry sees deliberate self-harm (DSH), such as wrist-cutting, as functionala means to avoid painful emotions, for example, or to elicit attention from others. There is substantial evidence that DSH serves these functions. Yet the specific links between self-harm and such function...
Chapter
Full-text available
During decades of intense research, diverse theoretical and treatment perspectives on Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) have emerged. Only recently, however, have evolutionary adaptationist approaches to depression been proposed. Adaptationist approaches to the analysis of mental phenomena entail consideration of the long history of selection press...
Article
Full-text available
UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT, latest version provided here: 20 May 2004. Rejected without full outside reviews by: The Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, and The New England Journal of Medicine. ABSTRACT: Many agonizing experiences like physical pain and nausea are adaptations— functional aspects of human psychology that evolved b...
Article
Full-text available
We studied fluctuating asymmetry (FA) in two generations of the bulb mite Rhizoglyphus robini. We used Procrustes analyses, which allow the comparison of dimensionless shapes of body sides. We found little (<4%) directional asymmetry in either sex. Of the two morphs occurring in this species, fighters, which possess a thickened third pair of legs,...
Article
Full-text available
Analyses of intersexual conflicts of interest over courtship, mating, or mate guarding require an understanding of the physiological costs of sexual interaction. Repeated respirometric measures of energetic expenditure were taken on female Aquarius remigis while unladen and while carrying a mating male, a small metal weight, or a euthanized male. U...
Article
Full-text available
Analyses of intersexual conflicts of interest over courtship, mating, or mate guarding require an understanding of the physiological costs of sexual interaction. Repeated respirometric measures of energetic expenditure were taken on female Aquarius remigis while unladen and while carrying a mating male, a small metal weight, or a euthanized male. U...
Article
Full-text available
A lay-reader-friendly description of select aspects of the sierra dome spider mating system, with photos, by Paul J. Watson.
Article
Full-text available
Mating in the Sierra dome spider, Linyphia litigiosa (Linyphiidae) begins with 2-6 h of aspermic copulatory courtship, termed pre-insemination phase copulation. Male intromission rate, that is, the speed of repeated genitalic insertions, withdrawals and re-insertions, and body mass are related to fertilization success via cryptic female choice (i.e...
Article
Full-text available
Behavioral ecologists are being attracted to the study of within-individual morphological variability, manifested in random deviations from bilateral symmetry, as a means of ascertaining the stress susceptibility of developmental regulatory mechanisms. Several early successes Indicate that incorporating measures of symmetry into sexual-selection st...
Article
Full-text available
This article evaluates four potential phenotypic benefits of remating for female sierra dome spiders. The finding that foraging success of paired females improves in copula is discussed in light of evidence that multiple paternity also confers genetic benefits. Nonvirgin females face frequent daylong visits to their webs by dominant, kleptoparasiti...
Article
Full-text available
Observations of the reproductive behaviour of 44 free-living, polyandrous female sierra dome spiders combined with electrophoretic paternity studies were used to evaluate three hypotheses about genetic benefits of polyandry: (1) best male, (2) genetic diversity, and (3) genetic bet-hedging. Females nearing maturation rely upon intrasexual fighting...
Article
Full-text available
Field observations of individually marked female sierra dome spiders, followed by electrophoretic paternity analyses, indicated that 60–70% of all eggs were fertilized by first mates. In this spider, first mates are determined via combat between males incited by females. They are larger than later mates, because the latter seldom fight other males...
Article
Full-text available
Two to five days before sexual maturation, female sierra dome spiders (Linyphia litigiosa: Linyphiidae) undergo a transformation in their behavior toward males that visit their webs. During this latter part of their penultimate instar, females change from consistently positioning themselves far away from males to actively maintaining close proximit...
Article
Full-text available
Typescript (photocopy). Thesis (Ph. D.)--Cornell University, Jan., 1988. Bibliography: leaves 389-395.

Questions

Questions (2)
Question
When people discuss the possibilities of genetic editing, the seemingly obvious necessity of transforming ourselves into much more robustly compassionate and therefore sustainable species seems never to arise. But, I contend this topic must become a central part of the public debate concerning the ethical and practical use of rapidly emerging genetic editing technologies. Natural selection has designed our ruthlessly contingent and parochial morality. We must face that fact that this just will not do any longer. I propose that, as would be true for any advanced life form in the cosmos, to make it through our "technological adolescence" without destroying ourselves and the earth (thank you Carl Sagan, by way of Dr. Alloway, in the movie "Contact"), we will have to wrest the design of our pan-human / species-typical psyche from the amoral visionless hands of natural selection. We will have to move humanity into a meticulously designed ongoing program of Intentional Genetic Evolution. Thus, as a prerequisite, we obviously will need to identify the key multiple genes that modulate our moral deliberation processes, our capacities for more consistent and universal prosociality and biophilia, to have any hope of eventually performing an optimal combination of edits that would offer us a real chance of saving the human experiment and the planet. As we are, we are doomed, and fundamentally designed by natural selection to suffer, and to cause terrible suffering all along the way, for all the planet's sentient life.
Question
See my three part remark posted on TED on 07 April 2015 in connection with the talk, which gets explicitly biological toward the end:
These comments are also relevant to the March 19th front page article in the NYT reporting on the suggested moratorium on use of fine-grained genetic editing techniques, including ones capable modifying cells in the germ line.
It seems to me the time to deal with these questions is now.
I paste the first part of my three TED comments here:
Watson -- Introduction.
In the movie "Contact," (1997), I'd say the most wonderful moment came when Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) responded to a question from a government panel asking, "permitted only one question to ask of them (the ET's she might meet), what would it be?" Her choice was sober, visionary, and spot-on: "...how did you do it? How did you evolve, how did you survive this technological adolescence without destroying yourself?"
I see only one realistic answer to this question. It would be the same for any advanced life form in the cosmos. Carefully, but not with undue delay (inaction is action, in this case with guaranteed dire consequences for sentient life on Earth), we must usher in a new age where we no longer allow natural selection to have its unhindered way us, especially in designing our minds. We must, as a species, switch to a program of intentional evolution. The genetic tools in question begin to give us that miraculous, pivotal opportunity.
Given our naturally selected genetic constitution we are bound to continue being socially barbaric and ecologically unsustainable. Culture and magical thinking will not free us from this basic reality. They routinely exacerbate it. Our capacities for prosociality, and biophilia are congenitally contingent and expedient, totally inadequate to keep the human experiment running, certainly not in any morally decent form. That's what genetic engineering, in its most ethical form, can and must correct. (See extended comments, below.)
Dr. Paul J. Watson
University of New Mexico
Department of Biology
END

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