Heredity, the main trait of Bio-social System: The non-human social system meets its basic needs mainly through the mechanisms that are determined by heredity. The individuals respond to the social situations mostly instinctively. It does not mean that all the members react in the same way always. Because the physical characteristics of the individuals differ in predetermined ways. Here the continuation of the social system is accomplished through the transmission of the genes.
Here a change in the social order is possible only from the change in the germ plasma. The society is in the grip of organic evolution. It is biological in character and hence the name ‘bio-social system’. In order to help the organism to adapt itself to life in society the hereditary structure gets modified in the case of bio-social species. All non-human societies that are called ‘bio-social’ are not alike. For instance, between a termite and a bird society we find wide differences. The termites have an elaborate division of labour, a tight cohesiveness and a well constructed social environment. On the contrary, the birds have minimum of these qualities.
A greater amount of flexibility is found in their individual behaviour. But the social actions of termites and birds are essentially inherited. The bio-social systems are thus largely hereditary in character. Each kind of such society whether of termites or of birds, or of bees, is characteristic of the species as a whole.
It means the species as a whole reveal the same characteristics throughout the world. In the case of human society, such uniformity is not found. Though all the human beings belong to the same species- the ‘homo sapiens their social patterns differ from place to place and time to time. These social patterns are not determined by heredity, but by cultural transmission. Kingsley Davis has carried on his discussion of bio-social system and socio-cultural system at three levels: (i) In the first level he makes a comparison between the mammalian and other non- mammalian societies, (ii) At the second level, he compares the primates, the highest kind of mammals, with the lower mammals on the one hand, and with the human beings on the other, and (iii) At the third level; he concentrates on the human society which represents the socio-cultural system. (i) The Mammalian Vs Non-Mammalian Society: The addition of the element of culture to the social system at the level of human beings has contributed to the widespread differences between human beings and other mammalian societies including those of primates. Between the mammalian societies and other non-mammalian societies also we find lot of differences.
Such differences may be noted here. The Differences: (à) Less Bodily differentiation between Males and Females among Mammalians: In the mammalian social groups we find very less bodily differentiation among the members than those of insects. However, some amount of bodily specialisation is found along the sex lines. Even this is very less. We find very less differences in size, strength and shape between a cow and a bull, a tomcat and a female cat, a male Chimpanzee and a female Chimpanzee, and a man and a woman. On the contrary, vast bodily differences are observed between males and females at the level of insects.
Further, each sex may have its own castes or divisions. The female ants, for example, are divided into queens and workers. Among the Carebara ants, the queen is several thousand times larger than the workers.
Only the queen is endowed with the structural requirement for reproduction. Among the mammalians, there is no queen endowed with such a special quality. Here each female is capable of both working and reproducing.
Hence sex need has much to do with the mammalians and it has a limited role to play among the insects. Further, the mammalian family is also quite smaller than that of any insect. The ant queen for example, if once mated, can carry for a lifetime store of sperms in her sperm theca and produce eggs when the need arises. (b) Learnt Social Responses: In the mammalian groups, social responses are learnt rather than inherited.
The higher non-human mammals are capable of a good deal of learning. This ‘earning is not cultural for it involves no symbolic communication. It is direct experience and is very much limited in scope and importance than cultural learning. For instance, the Chimpanzee mother may encourage its infant “to walk, climb, to run about and to play”. But she cannot give instructions symbolically.
She cannot tell the infant what kind of Chimpanzee he should be when he grows up. (c) More Flexible Social Behaviour: The mammalian social behaviour is more flexible. They have greater capacity for modification.
They have a long life-span and an extended period of infancy. During its slow maturation the organism gradually learns the social patterns through trial- and-error method. Hence ‘play’ is important for learning in the mammalian childhood. The mammalian social groups thus do not have the fixed innate patterns of social behaviour as it is found in the insect society. The insects have some compensatory advantage against this supremacy of the mammals. The insects are smaller and can exist in great numbers. They are short-lived but have greater capacity for fast breeding.
The insect mortality is also very high, the turn-over of generations is very rapid. Their hereditary mechanisms can change very rapidly. For them, heredity provides a flexible instrument for environmental adaptation. But the mammals have to depend more on learnt responses. (ii) Primate Society vs. Non-primate Mammalian Society: The Primates such as monkeys, apes, chimpanzees, gorillas, men represent the highest order of mammals.
They all exhibit certain bio-social traits that are common to all mammals. But these traits in primates exhibit a difference also. This difference has the effect of producing a more complex society especially in the case of man.
The following explanation reveals this fact. (a) The Role of Sex in Primate Society: The mammals in general are not separated into anatomically separate castes. Physical specialisation within the same sex is also not found in them. But the sexes—females and males—are not sharply different. Further, we find in them almost an equal sex ratio at birth.
Because of this all mature members of the society get a chance to participate in reproduction. Sex is therefore an important element in group cohesion among the mammals. In comparison with other mammals, the primates have gone a step further in this regard. The primates do not have a definite mating season as such. Among them the female like the male is capable of sexual intercourse at all times. Hence they are constantly tied to one another. The sex is thus made a continual and a pervasive basis of group cohesion.
(b) Primates have better Sensori-Motor Equipment: In comparison with lower mammals the primates possess more complex sensori-motor equipment. They have keener eyes, more developed brains and more flexible behaviour. Since they have neural complexity and prolonged infancy they have a greater chance of being conditioned within the group .environment.
(c) The Role of the Principle of ‘Dominance’: “Dominance” characterises all mammalian social groups. But the primates exhibit it to a greater extent. In the primate group the relationship of each with his fellows is mostly determined by the principle of dominance. The degree of dominance determines how his bodily appetites will be satisfied, the number of females he will possess, the amount of food he will eat, the freedom from attack that he will enjoy, etc. Here, each member, male or female, adapts himself to his competitive social system partly through sexual reactions. For example, if a weaker baboon secures the food and if he is attacked by a stronger one at that time, he can swallow the food by presenting himself sexually to the attacker.
(d) Durable Relationship between Mother and the Child: In the lower mammalian family we find relationship only between mother and children. This tie is also short lived for it lasts only until the child becomes self-sufficient. Among the primates, due to the prolonged infancy we find relatively long lasting relationship between the mother and the child. Due to the constant sexual attraction the male is made to live along with the female. The family group of the primates is smaller for the female can have only one offspring at a time. (e) Primates have a better Communicative Mechanism: The primates reveal, in comparison with other mammals, a better communicative mechanism.
They show a wide range of vocalisation, facial expression, bodily posture and manual exploration. They are able to learn some particular sounds or movements coming from another monkey or ape. All the mammals can do this but primates can do it better. They can learn to respond in an appropriate way to social situations when they get vocal, gestural, postural, or all these kinds of cues.
Still they do not have the facility of language. Symbolic communication in its purest sense, is absent among the primates such as apes, monkeys, etc. Hence they cannot transmit their acquired knowledge and attitudes to the next generation. Each generation must make a fresh attempt to understand things by its own actual participation and experience in situations. Infant apes or monkeys cannot be told without seeing a snake that snakes are dangerous.
They cannot be told about gods, spirits, and ghosts, about morality, truthfulness, democracy etc.