Another Dingbat Sexual Selection Theory

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Beware of evolutionary explanations that rest on what men find attractive.

On Valentine’s Day, the New York Times ran an article in its science section linking physical traits common in East Asians—thick hair, distinctively-shaped teeth, small breasts, and extra sweat glands—to a 35,000-year-old mutation in a gene called EDAR. Researchers reproduced the mutation, which is carried by East Asians but not Africans or Europeans, in mice. The animals had more lustrous fur, more sweat glands, and smaller chests. 

The article, by Nicholas Wade, starts off with plausible explanations for why natural selection might have favored the deviation in EDAR when it emerged thousands of years ago in central China. One or two of the traits influenced by the gene may have been advantageous for survival; as those features persisted in the population, the other attributes came along for the ride. And he tracks down a reasonable hypothesis about which characteristic made EDAR so valuable: the sweat glands. For people hunting and gathering in China’s formerly warm and soupy climate, staying cool was crucial.

Fine. But then Wade derails the whole thing with a perfectly silly evolutionary biology just-so story. He quotes Joshua Akey, a geneticist at the University of Washington in Seattle, as saying it all comes down to pretty ladyparts.

According to Akey, “thick hair and small breasts are visible sexual signals which, if preferred by men, could quickly become more common as the carriers had more children.” In fact, he claims, “the sexually visible effects of EDAR are likely to have been stronger drivers of natural selection than sweat glands.”

Basically, the genetic mutation flourished because men wanted to do the no-no-cha-cha with women who carried it. Oops, I’d forgotten that science, the world, etc., revolves around what males find attractive. Never mind that this assumes an alarming passivity on the part of the females. Did they have no say in their mating partner? (That’s a rhetorical question: Studies throughout the animal kingdom show that it’s usually the females who decide who gets action and who doesn’t.) And even supposing that the women had no agency, were prehistoric East Asian men really so very picky? Did they typically refuse intercourse with large-breasted or fine-haired women? I am trying to imagine a caveman turning down a willing sexual partner on account of a triviality like insufficiently luxuriant tresses, and not just one caveman but the entire sperm-producing Pleistocene population.  

To be fair, the paper itself, written by a team led by Yana G. Kamberov and Pardis C. Sabeti at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., largely avoids speculating about how the EDAR mutation perpetuated. “The problem with all selection, but especially sexual selection, is that it’s impossible to test on humans,” co-author Daniel Lieberman told me. “We were careful not to make assumptions about the selective benefits of the gene.” When I asked him whether he found Akey’s hypothesis plausible, he replied, “Frankly, no.” 

Written By: Katy Waldman
continue to source article at slate.com

118 COMMENTS

  1. I actually agree with this statement:
    “the sexually visible effects of EDAR are likely to have been stronger drivers of natural selection than sweat glands.”
    It does not necessarily mean, as Katy claims, that evolution is driven by male taste, but I find it more plausible that the benefits of the sweat glands to the health of the individual are more easily manifested as that individual being fitter and therefore more likely to be successful in mating, than simply more likely to survive. Will a sweat gland really save your life, or your infinitely more fragile chances of making a great catch?

  2. ” Oops, I’d forgotten that science, the world, etc., revolves around what males find attractive. Never mind that this assumes an alarming passivity on the part of the females. Did they have no say in their mating partner? ‘

    I do not think that was said, so am I seeing some ideological knee jerk here? One ” say ” does not negate the others ” say. “

  3. The author needs to divorce herself from her clear disdain for men and look at the science. While it is true that in many species, female sexual partner selection drives the evolution of the male, why is so hard to posit that there might be an instance where it is the male whose choices influence a trait in females?

    That is not to say that the verdict is in on this particular matter. I do not see any real evidence that male partner choice drove EDAR as an adaptation. However, the venom that the author has is thinly veiled and colors her opinion.

    She even goes so far as to state

    To be fair, the paper itself, written by a team led by Yana G. Kamberov and Pardis C. Sabeti at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., largely avoids speculating about how the EDAR mutation perpetuated.

    So, her argument boils down to disagreeing with a premise that is not even stated in the paper she is critiquing. In no way, shape, or form does the notion that ONE adaptation in females might be driven by male sexual preference translate into

    Science, the world, etc., revolves around what males find attractive.

    Which is the inflammatory caption to the picture in the article. This is argumentum ad absurdum. The author has an axe to grind and does a poor job representing the actual science that is contained in the original article.

  4. I’m not siding with Akey, but KW’s arguments could do with a few comments.

    [NW] starts off with plausible explanations for why natural selection might have favored the deviation in EDAR… But then Wade derails the whole thing with a perfectly silly evolutionary biology just-so story.

    The distinction is a bit of a subjective judgement with our limited knowledge of the past.

    I’d forgotten that science, the world, etc., revolves around what males find attractive. Never mind that this assumes an alarming passivity on the part of the females. Did they have no say in their mating partner? (That’s a rhetorical question: Studies throughout the animal kingdom show that it’s usually the females who decide who gets action and who doesn’t.)

    Humans don’t fit this generalisation well in practice. This has been known to evolutionary biology for decades, e.g. The Selfish Gene discusses it, but hasn’t a clue as to why it happens. I don’t know if a decent explanation has been forthcoming since then.

    even supposing that the women had no agency

    Humans regularly rely on mutual consent. A woman doesn’t need to lack agency for a man to turn her down.

    I am trying to imagine a caveman turning down a willing sexual partner on account of a triviality like insufficiently luxuriant tresses, and not just one caveman but the entire sperm-producing Pleistocene population

    The way natural selection works, there only has to be, on average across men, a very small difference, as opposed to a vehement united opposition. The timescale needed is inversely proportional to the selection coefficient, which can be very small. What’s more, these differences are more liable, and self-reinforcing, in the case of sexual selection than ecological selection; The Blind Watchmaker gives a good account of why.

    [JC, sceptical,] says that sexually selected traits tend to arise in one sex only

    Of course. Do we have evidence this phenotype is equally well-expressed in the two sexes? If so, that criticism should have been made at the start.

  5. This could have been a decent article were it not for Waldman’s extremely immature/unprofessional tone and anti-male rhetoric, both of which significantly decreased the effectiveness of her argument.

  6. Speaking as a man, I wouldn’t sleep with a woman I didn’t find attractive. Contrary to popular belief, we are not necessarily driven by lust. Similarly, I bet I would find many prostitutes attractive yet I don’t sleep with them either. The sort of man who would sleep with just about any woman who came on to him probably didn’t have what it takes to survive anyway. In other words, they represent the minority and would appear less attractive to women as well.

  7. Thank you. I was trying to articulate exactly what you said. It took me a thousand words to say it badly. You managed to nail it!

    In reply to #6 by mirandaceleste:

    This could have been a decent article were it not for Waldman’s extremely immature/unprofessional tone and anti-male rhetoric, both of which significantly decreased the effectiveness of her argument.

  8. In reply to #7 by joost:

    Speaking as a man, I wouldn’t sleep with a woman I didn’t find attractive. Contrary to popular belief, we are not necessarily driven by lust. Similarly, I bet I would find many prostitutes attractive yet I don’t sleep with them either. The sort of man who would sleep with just about any woman who came on to him probably didn’t have what it takes to survive anyway. In other words, they represent the minority and would appear less attractive to women as well.

    Sure but does this reflect sexual habits of 35,000 years ago ?

    Michael

  9. Been doing some research and it seems that there is little difference in the number of eccrine sweat glands between the races. What does differ however is the number of apocrine glands which make sweat smelly and Asians have hardly any of them. Seeing as how body odour is considered a medical condition in this region it may actually have been sexually selected against.

    Mice, like most non-primate mammals, are covered in apocrine glands and have comparatively few eccrine glands.

  10. In reply to #1 by CliveHill:

    I actually agree with this statement: “the sexually visible effects of EDAR are likely to have been stronger drivers of natural selection than sweat glands.”

    Why do you think having pretty ladyparts is more useful? Tough environments where hard labour ensures survival and pretty ladyparts don’t really go well together. So most men and women would be finished in the mating game before they had a chance to start if it were just down to glossy hair. Plus their offspring would have died if they’d more spent time combing it rather than foraging for berries in hot climates.

    You seem to forget that the chance of catching a mate is not much use, (and probably is quite easy)- its fitness to survive and rear helpless offspring over a long period of time that are actually important.

    It does not necessarily mean, as Katy claims, that evolution is driven by male taste, but I find it more plausible that the benefits of the sweat glands to the health of the individual are more easily manifested as that individual being fitter and therefore more likely to be successful in mating, than simply more likely to survive. Will a sweat gland really save your life, or your infinitely more fragile chances of making a great catch?

  11. In reply to #6 by mirandaceleste:

    This could have been a decent article were it not for Waldman’s extremely immature/unprofessional tone and anti-male rhetoric, both of which significantly decreased the effectiveness of her argument.

    No actually I think she made a very valid point. It isn’t anti male rhetoric either, its antic sexism rhetoric! And it isn’t directed against the original paper its directed against Joshua Akey and against a prevailing attitude that undoubtedly exists. There is a huge difference.

    I suspect, like the rest of us, she is bored rigid that whenever she gets to read about a discovered evolutionary advantage – she’d find there would be some attempt to link it to ‘male taste’ what men found attractive. No matter how loose or tenous the connection. And here the connection is very tenous indeed, more sweat glands in a hot sweaty climate whilst hunting and gathering to keep offspring alive or glossy hair to get pregnant in the first place? No brainer – why bother with the second bit? The original researchers didn’t find it plausible after all.

    She probably didn’t choose the best piece of research to make her point but it really did/does need making! So good for her.

    To be honest it does sometimes feels like science is trying to misuse evolution in the same way that religion uses its holy books. To reduce women to secondary passive roles and ignore whatever their real role was in evolution. They chose mates too, and furthermore, sexual selection based on looks alone does not ensure human infants survive so it is far more complex then that.

    The point is for most of our evolutionary past I suspect looking good was hardly what drove us at all, we would never have evolved to have large brained helpless infants and corrosponding dangerous childbirth if it were. They require far more than female ornaments.

    I’m so pleased that the Richard Dawkins foundation had the courage to put this article up! Something moving science forward by acknowledging women weren’t just passive in our evolution and its time to stop trying to find ways to show they were.

  12. I always thought the prevailing view was that racial differences could all be attributed to sexual selection, like the peacock’s tail, and that to suggest otherwise was considered somewhat racist.

  13. In reply to #13 by atheistengineer:

    I suspect, like the rest of us, she is bored rigid that whenever she gets to read about a discovered evolutionary advantage – she’d find there would be some attempt to link it to ‘male taste’ what men found attractive.

    I don’t remember ever finding that before in any evolution article I’ve read. But I don’t actively seek it out. I think you’re being overly generous to Katy Waldman. Waldman debased her own argument by using such inflammatory and obviously biased language. The word “Dingbat” in the title got my attention but it made her article hard to take seriously and set my expectations of a cogent, well thought-out and articulate article very low. It also made her appear intellectually dishonest, fundamentally biased and unwilling to accept any information that may conflict with her own predetermined conclusion. She should just stick to the facts. She would have a far greater chance of being taken seriously and therefore be able to influence people’s opinions.

    I’m so pleased that the Richard Dawkins foundation had the courage to put this article up! Something moving science forward by acknowledging women weren’t just passive in our evolution and its time to stop trying to find ways to show they were.

    But surely nobody, at least in the scientific community, seriously thinks that women (and the females of any species) are just passive players in the evolution process. I’m over-simplifying a complex subject but there are surely far more examples of females choosing the males they mate with (eg. peacocks chosen for their spectacular tails) than males choosing females based on, often superficial, physical traits. Males also need to compete with other males to “win” the females. In both cases the females get the advantage of the best available (or close to it) father for their offspring and therefore give their offspring the best possible chance of being healthy and surviving.

  14. In reply to #16 by cp:

    In reply to #13 by atheistengineer:I suspect, like the rest of us, she is bored rigid that whenever she gets to read about a discovered evolutionary advantage – she’d find there would be some attempt to link it to ‘male taste’ what men found attractive.

    I don’t remember ever finding that before in any evolution article I’ve read. But I don’t actively seek it out.

    Neither do I actively seek it out but unfortunately I find it all over the place. In books articles and even here. It’s used to justify all sorts of sexism. I’m not looking at all I promise. I hate it when I do see it.

    I think you’re being overly generous to Katy Waldman. Waldman debased her own argument by using such inflammatory and obviously biased language. The word “Dingbat” in the title got my attention but it made her article hard to take seriously and set my expectations of a cogent, well thought-out and articulate article very low. It also made her appear intellectually dishonest, fundamentally biased and unwilling to accept any information that may conflict with her own predetermined conclusion. She should just stick to the facts.

    As far as I can ascertain she did stick to facts. Wade quotes someone called Akey whose come up with a utterly untestable and illogical explanation for the findings based on male sexual selection. Something which none of the other scientists find plausible at all. Why were words wasted even noting it? So in what way has she not stuck to facts in debunking Akeys implausible and silly suggestion?

    She would have a far greater chance of being taken seriously and therefore be able to influence people’s opinions.

    I took it seriously, purely and simply because it was something I’d actually noticed and got annoyed about. Believe me, for me to notice it has to have been fairly prevelant and obvious. And without basis – our evolution is complex and the sorts of sexual selection so obvious in things like peacocks tails or stags antlers are absent.

    But surely nobody, at least in the scientific community, seriously thinks that women (and the females of any species) are just passive players in the evolution process.

    Unfortunately that seems to be the case far too often. Far too many attempts to explain complex interplays in terms of what males liked in the past. Often to justify sexism in the present.

    All of them overlook several uncomfortable facts. Firstly in all other species sexual selection rests with the females and is linked to the higher costs of reproduction. So unless they buy into the religious notion that we are somehow special its unlikely we’d be the sole exception.

    Secondly for much of our evolution we were hunter gatherers and in hunter gatherer societies today, whilst hunting is important, it is the gathering that provides the bulk of the food and hence keeps tribes alive. Which again throws cold water on any evolution driven by hunting male preference notions. Alongside the fact that many of the earlier, pre historic deities seem to have been females.

    I ‘m over-simplifying a complex subject but there are surely far more examples of females choosing the males they mate with (eg. peacocks chosen for their spectacular tails) than males choosing females based on, often superficial, physical traits. Males also need to compete with other males to “win” the females. In both cases the females get the advantage of the best available (or close to it) father for their offspring and therefore give their offspring the best possible chance of being healthy and surviving.

    I’d agree with you. But the number of times that has had the addition of and of course this would have made the female more attractive to the male. If its relevant include it.

    Maybe she didn’t handle it as well as she could, or maybe she could have waited for a better example, but it was time it was said. And my opinion of this site in including it has gone up about 3000%

  15. In reply to #15 by Peter Grant:

    I always thought the prevailing view was that racial differences could all be attributed to sexual selection, like the peacock’s tail, and that to suggest otherwise was considered somewhat racist.

    So the advantage of darker skin in ensuring you aren’t burnt to a crisp in hotter climates and the advantage of paler skin in ensuring you don’t die from severe vitamin D deficiency in colder, duller ones are just secondary?

  16. In reply to #18 by atheistengineer:

    I didn’t say that the prevailing view was right. The point I was making is that you cannot say a theory is wrong just because it seems racist or sexist, natural selection isn’t worried about that sort of thing.

  17. I’ve read several comments on here and I really fail to see how this is misanderist. Waldman is being sarcastic at how even in science, which is supposed to be an objective discipline that explores multiples perspectives to reach the truth, we still are seeing research with patriarchal undertones. Waldman is right to remind us that in almost all species in natural settings, females are the one’s that choose and I’ll add males the ones that compete. Akey could have definitely have developed his hypothesis even further by questioning how EDAR would have benefited females (in individual survival and conferring these traits to her offspring would have proven beneficial to their survival) and then ask what traits she would have preferred in males. It is frustrating to see how many more studies are conducted that question the female body and not the male body. Seeing at how typically the female chooses, would it not be wise to seek what is it exactly that persuades a female to pick one male over another? Then studying how the males’ traits would have benefits his offspring would also be useful. This of course is open to not only physical features but behaviors as well. Furthermore, I would also be more interested in learning how the environment selects one trait over another. Ultimately it is the adaptation to the environment that will determine whether individuals survive or not.

  18. What an embarrassing piece to feature on the RD site. What qualifications does the author even claim to be able to dismiss any male selection at all? All males will simply mate with any female and only males do the choosing in humans? This is totally contrary to both common sense and all basic sociology work ever, essentially.

    Breasts are absolutely a sexual signal, their fat ratio is much higher than necessary and anyone who has a penis can tell you as such, (though preferences for breast types are not at all universal. See: Buss for reference on this)

    Therefore, even if genetic drift, draft or survival pressure were drivers in this gene, it would have still had to compete with sexual preferences that would have been acting on the same features (breasts in this case.)

    And, of course, as others have noted… Waldman seems to have made quite a big deal of a very small piece of this article. The authors were studying ONE gene and it seems to happen to affect female traits more, but they obviously don’t claim this is the only possible gene involved in sexual selection in East Asians or humans.

    I would remove this garbage article, personally.

  19. “Studies throughout the animal kingdom show that it’s usually the females who decide who gets action …..”

    Isn’t this one of those rules to which human reproduction is the exception? Usually in the animal kingdom the males are the ones that do the advertising, but its the other way round with humans? So therefore, surely its not so outlandish that this mutation might have had its propagation effects due to attraction dynamics?

    I read about this in the Blind Watchmaker (I think) – RA Fisher and long-tailed / short-tailed peacock feathers? And how the preference genes must be extant in both sexes for heritability trends to persist?

    I hope the Prof doesnt turn up here and tell me I’m a clueless arse and I’ve got it all wrong – that would be very embarassing…. ;-)

  20. In reply to #9 by mmurray:

    Sure but does this reflect sexual habits of 35,000 years ago ?

    I’m not sure how much men and women have changed in that regard since then. It’s still done in pretty much the same way and for fundamentally the same reasons.

  21. Having read through the comments here, I see that many have already pretty much stated what I was thinking. That is, that this Slate author could have made her points without the snarkiness and poorly concealed misandry.

    The problem is that this is becoming Slate’s MO. The site has changed considerably from the days when it was a reliable source of liberal and progressive thought. Now, it seems to have positioned itself as a contrarian-for-contrarian-sake, sensationalist rag with a strong post-modern, almost anti-science bent.

    RD.net should be more wary in the future of the Slate articles that it posts here, particularly those from the “XX” authors. They have an aggressive, radical feminist agenda that can distort their journalism. Even when they have a decent point or two, it is often ruined by the obnoxious tone.

  22. I agree with most of the criticisms of this article, but some of the comments are venturing into misogyny in their zeal to accuse the author of misandry. This will do little to convince those who agree with the author of it’s faults.

  23. Whatever the pros or cons of this article, RD.net wasn’t wrong to post it. It regularly posts articles that are much further from its views than this one. Every argument for, or counterargument to arguments against, the accuracy or value of religion that appears on here does so not because people like us will buy into it, but because it gives us an opportunity to reply to it critically. We do this kind of thing all the time.

  24. In reply to #23 by veggiemanuk:

    Eek, what a cack-handed article, I wonder if Katy Waldman belongs to that obnoxious crowed at Atheism+ with all their Man hate.

    I think the z in “womenz” gives it away.

    Michael

  25. In reply to #25 by joost:

    In reply to #14 by atheistengineer:

    Do they find you attractive in return?

    It could be the way I look or the car I drive. I can’t be sure. I’d like to think they like me for me.

    Well it wasn’t the car you drove 35,000 years ago. Maybe the club you carried ?

    Michael

  26. In reply to #26 by blitz442:

    RD.net should be more wary in the future of the Slate articles that it posts here, particularly those from the “XX” authors. They have an aggressive, radical feminist agenda that can distort their journalism. Even when they have a decent point or two, it is often ruined by the obnoxious tone.

    Except RD.net has never had the attitude that posting is approval.

    Michael

  27. In reply to #25 by joost:

    In reply to #14 by atheistengineer:

    Do they find you attractive in return?

    It could be the way I look or the car I drive. I can’t be sure. I’d like to think they like me for me.

    Though you don’t like them for them? Just for their looks.

  28. In reply to #34 by atheistengineer:

    Though you don’t like them for them? Just for their looks.

    I didn’t say that. Looks are important (in addition to other stuff) to tempt me into a physical relationship. I’d be willing to be friends with a “nice” girl but I wouldn’t go to bed with her if I didn’t find her physically attractive. I also wouldn’t go to bed with an attractive girl who had a bad attitude. So in summary, I’d probably bed an attractive and nice girl.

    Let’s also not be hypocritical about how important looks are; especially these days when “looking good” has also got the full endorsement of preventive medicine.

  29. In reply to #34 by atheistengineer:

    In reply to #25 by joost:

    In reply to #14 by atheistengineer:

    Do they find you attractive in return?

    It could be the way I look or the car I drive. I can’t be sure. I’d like to think they like me for me.

    Though you don’t like them for them? Just for their looks.

    Actually joost said “Speaking as a man, I wouldn’t sleep with a woman I didn’t find attractive.” Nothing about “just for their looks”.

    Michael

  30. In reply to #21 by danostrowski:

    What an embarrassing piece to feature on the RD site. What qualifications does the author even claim to be able to dismiss any male selection at all? All males will simply mate with any female and only males do the choosing in humans? This is totally contrary to both common sense and all basic sociology work ever, essentially.

    Breasts are absolutely a sexual signal, their fat ratio is much higher than necessary and anyone who has a penis can tell you as such, (though preferences for breast types are not at all universal. See: Buss for reference on this)

    Therefore, even if genetic drift, draft or survival pressure were drivers in this gene, it would have still had to compete with sexual preferences that would have been acting on the same features (breasts in this case.)

    And, of course, as others have noted… Waldman seems to have made quite a big deal of a very small piece of this article. The authors were studying ONE gene and it seems to happen to affect female traits more, but they obviously don’t claim this is the only possible gene involved in sexual selection in East Asians or humans.

    I would remove this garbage article, personally.

    Well an interesting theory about breasts and sexual selection. Except it only holds water in your head. Firstly what you fancy is not their primary role, they evolved for a completely different one – ask any baby. So sexual signalling would have played at best a very secondary role. And furthermore would not have been a sexual selective one but one signalling availability, like obvious ovulation in other primates. Not sexually selected!

    So the selective features? Feeding young perhaps? Storing fat as well – for carrying and looking after offspring if pregnancy occurs. Just like all the other fatty areas.

    And if you were correct there would not be the variety of sizes and shapes seen. How many variations on the peacocks tail do you see.

    Sexual selection usually refers to traits for which there is no alternative explanation. Here males would merely follow whatever natural selection has prioritised for other reasaons! You have no proof they were the ones doing the choosing after all. They were selected for to keep infants alive not for you. The only human trait I could think of that could be explained by sexual selection is blue eyes.

    Secondly you’ve ignored the role of concealed ovulation. Their evolution beyond feeding may well have been to assist in concealing ovulation which is still a mystery. However it may in turn may have evolved as humans started to realise the link between that and pregnancy and started to act accordingly. Anything therefore that helped conceal ovulation would have a distinct advantage.

    I would be more inclined to remove your explanation as it seems to ignore any role in the evolution of breasts beyond what you think it should have been. And its nonsense like that that I suspect Waldham was going on about.

  31. In reply to #22 by john.riordan.353:

    “Studies throughout the animal kingdom show that it’s usually the females who decide who gets action …..”

    Isn’t this one of those rules to which human reproduction is the exception?

    Well what evidence do you have to state that?

    Usually in the animal kingdom the males are the ones that do the advertising, but its the other way round with humans?

    I’m not so sure it is. Males are just as flamboyant in behaviour as females. More so in a way. What is your evidence?

    So therefore, surely its not so outlandish that this mutation might have had its propagation effects due to attraction dynamics?

    But why? What is more beneficial, the ability to stay foraging for longer in hot sun and provide more food for offspring or the ability to attract a mate when you could probably do that quite easily anyway?

    If it were a male trait do you honestly think that attractive hair hypothesis would even have been mentioned? It would have been the ability to survive longer and bring in more resources! That is what this article is about.

    I read about this in the Blind Watchmaker (I think) – RA Fisher and long-tailed / short-tailed peacock feathers? And how the preference genes must be extant in both sexes for heritability trends to persist?

    I hope the Prof doesnt turn up here and tell me I’m a clueless arse and I’ve got it all wrong – that would be very embarassing…. ;-)

    Well possibly given the original researchers think the glossy hair hypothesis unlikely and Jerry Coyne who is a fairly competant evolutionary biologist also thinks it unlikely and cautions against half baked theories about sexual selection in humans anyway. It may have played a part but I think it unlikely!

    Sexual selection in most species is linked to the higher costs of reproduction in females – ensuring the female doesn’t waste precious resources. In humans the costs of reproduction for the female are huge. Just look at the maternal death rates in the third world or the types of damage done without modern medical care. Do you really think therefore that the situation just reverts in humans. So why would it suddenly be the male that becomes selective and the female wasteful?

  32. In reply to #39 by Peter Grant:

    Don’t know what some people have against sexual selection, but I challenge anyone to explain human intelligence without it.

    Nothing at all against sexual selection. It gives a good explanation of human intelligence – which is very different from pretty ladyparts with no real evidence that the author is going on about.

    If you read the article and some of the responses it is against a tendency to explain so much in terms of unsubstantiated male sexual selection of females. Sexual selection of blue eyes yes – though just as likely to have been driven by females than males. Sexual selection in the case cited – ridiculous according to those who are experts. Just a sexist statement by Akey for some unknown reason.

    In the breasts case cited by doanostrowski even more ridiculous not least because any male attempting to select a mate based on breast size renders himself as shallower and therefore less attractive as a mate anyway. Which would have deselected his genes in the evolutionary race.

    Nobody is against sexual selection it is the tedious male attempts to reduce everything to pretty ladyparts with no reason at all that is the issue. I guess the author just got fed up, as I have with no brainer explanations like danostroskis women evolved for penises one.

    And the number of males here who seem to think the glossy hair hypothesis plausible need to think whether or not the same explanation would ring true if the sweat gland gene were found purely in males. There I bet there would be no mention of glossy hair and nice manparts it would be the increased abiltiy to gather resources.

  33. In reply to #35 by joost:

    In reply to #34 by atheistengineer:Though you don’t like them for them? Just for their looks.I didn’t say that. Looks are important (in addition to other stuff) to tempt me into a physical relationship. I’d be willing to be friends with a “nice” girl but I wouldn’t go to bed with her if I didn’t find her physically attractive. I also wouldn’t go to bed with an attractive girl who had a bad attitude. So in summary, I’d probably bed an attractive and nice girl.Let’s also not be hypocritical about how important looks are; especially these days when “looking good” has also got the full endorsement of preventive medicine.

    So in return for just liking you ‘just for you’ a female would have to be both nice, and attractive? Doesn’t sound like much of an equal exchange to me – you hope to be liked ‘just as you are’, the women lots of effort to dress nicely and be pleasant?.

    I’m not arguing with you about the importance of looks or personality, just the fact you felt it ok to make that comment about women you would sleep with with without taking into account and telling us what you had to offer in return. I don’t say what type of man I’d like to sleep with cos it would have involved me stating what I have to offer in return. It just looked like a one sided comment to me.

  34. In reply to #12 by atheistengineer:

    In reply to #1 by CliveHill:

    I actually agree with this statement: “the sexually visible effects of EDAR are likely to have been stronger drivers of natural selection than sweat glands.”

    Why do you think having pretty ladyparts is more useful?
    I don’t! It would have been nice if you actually read my post before trolling.

  35. In reply to #40 by atheistengineer:

    Women produce on average a single egg every 28 days, men produce billions of sperm daily. Pregnancy lasts nine months, a single sexual act can take minutes. Male shallowness and promiscuity follows naturally from this. Unlike joost, I’m willing to spend the night with any attractive woman who displays interest in me.

  36. In reply to #43 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #40 by atheistengineer:Women produce on average a single egg every 28 days, men produce billions of sperm daily. Women incubate their young for nine months, a single sexual act can take minutes. Male shallowness and promiscuity follows naturally from this. Unlike joost, I’m willing to spend the night with any attractive woman who displays interest.

    Good excuse, often used, but one that forgets that you don’t actually pass on your genes until there is a live birth and the offspring survive long enough to mate. Nine months, very vulnerable and incredibly dangerous childbirth, prolonged childhood with the need to share resources to feed relatively helpless child, plus need to pass on learning to allow child to survive. Much of that time spent on edge of extinction/starvation with fierce competition for scarce resources and genetic interest probably all you can rely to gain help.

    If females selected you based on your shallow promiscuity criteria in the days before contraception they reduce both their and any childs chance of survival so a no no in evolutionary terms where females can choose. If you did manage to mate with lots of women using those criteria the chance of offspring being born alive and surviving is tiny (maternal and neo natal death rates are only low due to modern medicine). So male behaviour following on from that doesn’t really make evolutionary sense. Players only get to play around for a while till they become very unattractive and lonely to be honest.

    Pop into any ante natal class if you don’t believe me, or any delivery suite! Biologically successful males and shallowness don’t really fit together in evolutionary terms. Plus it would appear that marriage seems to benefit males far more than females for some unknown reason. So your argument doesn’t stand up (no pun intended).

  37. In reply to #44 by atheistengineer:

    All of that stuff is for men who want a “relationship”, but women cheat too. The ironic part is that I always use protection. Evolution explains my behaviour, I never said it justifies it.

  38. In reply to #45 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #44 by atheistengineer:All of that stuff is for men who want a “relationship”, but women cheat too. The ironic part is that I always use protection. Evolution explains my behaviour, I never said it justifies it.

    And all I said is evolution does NOT explain it because it reduces the chance of live births and children that survive and the chance of women selecting you in an era when contraception wasn’t available. It’s just another of the crap explanations that ignore the role of women that the author of the article was referring to

    Your behaviour doesn’t have to be justified, it’s your own business I’m not moralising about how anyone behaves just pointing out it isn’t a satisfactory evolutionary explanation. Males that play around may initially look to be sucessful in passing on genes, but in real evolutionary terms aren’t as successful. With females the situation is different – cheating may actually be beneficial to them.

    Using protection is irrelevant in evolutionary terms as we’re discussing behaviours that evolved thousands of years ago – but I’d guess it is actually contraception that has facillitated your behaviour rather than evolution. In that it has made it possible for females to sleep with you once or twice without considering reproductive cost or risk to their survival. Contraception is probably the single most important invention ever for women. The one thing that gave them some semblance of equality.

    Sucessful males (and females) in evolutionary terms are the ones in the ante natal classes as they have passed on their genes sucessfully and are trying to ensure the offsprings survival. That is all evolution requires, fitness to pass on genes! That isn’t a moral judgement on them or you, or even a life choice, I wouldn’t particularly have chosen to have children though did, its a simple evolutionary fact.

  39. In reply to #46 by atheistengineer:

    Any ESS can support a certain percentage of cheaters and in males this percentage will be higher because it costs us so much less to reproduce. You forget that many cheaters, especially females, get away with it and remain in stable relationships (men get caught more often but get rejected for infidelity less). Even with all the protection I’ve used I cannot be certain that I haven’t spawned at least a few little bastards, currently being reared by other male suckers.

  40. atheistengineer

    Are you assuming a tight pair bond situation in your evolutionary scenario? If so then I get where you’re coming from. In that case a sexually opportunistic male would be viewed as a dangerous aberration. But possibly Peter Grant is imagining an evolutionary scenario where males are playing a mating game of guarding and inseminating one or more “favorite” females and playing the field at every opportunity while females are using some tricky adaptations and formidable social skills to control which male gets to inseminate her while trying to avoid rape since this denies her ability to choose the paternity of her offspring and also to manipulate any resources that might come her way from males around her whether they are the fathers of her offspring or not. Remember that resources to support offspring could come from herself or the other women around her – maybe more than from any male around her anyway.

    In a loose pair bond situation, males should take every opportunity to mate and females should be very selective but if she has a few favorite males accessible to her sexually, what’s it matter if she swings between them?

  41. Ahhhh…here’s to living dangerously! :-D

    In reply to #49 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #48 by LaurieB:

    In that case a sexually opportunistic male would be viewed as a dangerous aberration.

    :D High risk, high reward.

    Excellent comment BTW!

  42. In reply to #41 by atheistengineer:

    So in return for just liking you ‘just for you’ a female would have to be both nice, and attractive? Doesn’t sound like much of an equal exchange to me – you hope to be liked ‘just as you are’, the women lots of effort to dress nicely and be pleasant?.

    I’m not arguing with you about the importance of looks or personality, just the fact you felt it ok to make that comment about women you would sleep with with without taking into account and telling us what you had to offer in return. I don’t say what type of man I’d like to sleep with cos it would have involved me stating what I have to offer in return. It just looked like a one sided comment to me.

    First, I said “I’d like to think they like me for me”, which implies I’m actually really kidding myself. I’m not saying this is impossible, but it’s rare to non-existent. Second, this whole notion about absolute equality between men and women is a very recent concoction by the Western world, brought on and exacerbated in no small part by the feminist movement. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but it hardly applies to what men and women have generally expected of each other over the course of tens of thousands of years of evolution. Arguably “equivalent” things, but not precisely and exactly “equal”.

    It’s also important to realize that why we think we do something or feel a certain way may not be the truth on a more fundamental level. For instance, a woman might try very hard (subconsciously) to justify why an attractive man with a six-pack who drives a Maserati is really a nice guy and right for her compared to a regular Joe. Or why Mark (a good-looking white guy with blue eyes) has “a more compatible personality” and is suitable as a spouse compared to Carl (who is also a “very nice guy” but happens to be black).

    The same is true for the rich man who marries a supermodel when he keeps saying (and perhaps even truly believes) that “she really is a nice person” (until the divorce, that is). Through all this, there are also those who will do and behave in a way that seems to suggest that love is blind; but who are really – without realizing – just trying to show the world they are different and special. If free will is an illusion, so is love.

  43. In reply to #48 by LaurieB:

    atheistengineer

    Are you assuming a tight pair bond situation in your evolutionary scenario? If so then I get where you’re coming from. In that case a sexually opportunistic male would be viewed as a dangerous aberration. But possibly Peter Grant is imagining an evolutionary scenario where males are playing a mating game of guarding and inseminating one or more “favorite” females and playing the field at every opportunity while females are using some tricky adaptations and formidable social skills to control which male gets to inseminate her while trying to avoid rape since this denies her ability to choose the paternity of her offspring and also to manipulate any resources that might come her way from males around her whether they are the fathers of her offspring or not. Remember that resources to support offspring could come from herself or the other women around her – maybe more than from any male around her anyway.

    In a loose pair bond situation, males should take every opportunity to mate and females should be very selective but if she has a few favorite males accessible to her sexually, what’s it matter if she swings between them?

    Not assumed LaurieB – observed. The simple observation is that both males and females sleep around whilst younger and then usually pair bond before choosing to have children. Observation is the basis of science.

    Peter Grant is playing out imaginary evolutionary scenarios, I’m simply stating what seems to be observed doesn’t really back them up and are therefore unfounded. which is exactly the point of the original ariticle. Males playing out imaginary scenarios with no real basis in science to give women a passive role in evolution. As for the women providing resources, if you recall that was the most logical conclusion of the original article. That the advantage helped in securing resources till some male came up with an imaginary scenario to give males the upper hand. Help from other women when resources scarce? Less likely I’d say.

    He may be right in pre homo sapien societies or early human ones, I may be right but there is no real way to tell and evolution has bought us to the situation where pair bonding is the more observed norm. Not only that, but bizarelly a norm that all research suggests is far more beneficial to males than females in terms of need for companionship. If either you can point observations that support Peter Grants imagined scenarios that aren’t enforced by religion or misogyny then thats fine. If you can also point to another scenario where sexual selection rests with the male that would also be helpful.

    As for your comment about what does it matter? It doesn’t so why do you ask?

  44. In reply to #47 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #46 by atheistengineer:

    Any ESS can support a certain percentage of cheaters and in males this percentage will be higher because it costs us so much less to reproduce.

    Why? The costs maybe higher for female but they are also fixed. One egg per 28 days remember, plus on possible pregnancy. Unlike for males there is no additional energy cost whether they choose twenty men or one in any one 28 day period. The benefits probably greater as well. There is also no real genetic trace of how many as only the winner is recorded. For you there is an additional energycost of gamete overproduction every time. You forget how much of our evolution went on on the edge of extinction.

    You forget that many cheaters, especially females, get away with it and remain in stable relationships (men get caught more often but get rejected for infidelity less).

    What makes you think I’d forgot. But you’ve just argued against your original male orientated explanation for your behaviour. I’d agree with you here, the behaviour you claimed is exclusively or predominentaly male is seen equally in both genders therefore your argument that it is specifically favoured in evolution for males only is unlikely! Hence we are in agreement that it isn’t a male driven behaviour specially gifted by evolution to men only.

    Can’t say I’d noticed a real gender difference in consequences though!

    Plus you’ve forgotten it is a behaviour with a fairly limited shelf life because at some point the majority move to pair bonded relationships and their replacements are less likely to see the remainder as attractive options. A sad fact but true.

    Even with all the protection I’ve used I cannot be certain that I haven’t spawned at least a few little bastards, currently being reared by other male suckers.

    Ah now I am going to move to moralising, upgrade your protection asap. There is a huge difference between someone who likes women but doesn’t want commitment and a misogynist who couldn’t care less about ruining lives. Women who would be with you in good faith on the understanding that it is a low risk, one off bit of fun are being conned into something that potentially could ruin their lives if they don’t realise.

    I wouldn’t worry too much though. If the failure rate of your protection is that high in your neck of the woods it’s likely that at some point you too will be the male sucker for someone else.

  45. In reply to #51 by joost:

    In reply to #41 by atheistengineer:

    So in return for just liking you ‘just for you’ a female would have to be both nice, and attractive? Doesn’t sound like much of an equal exchange to me – you hope to be liked ‘just as you are’, the women lots of effort to dress nicely and be pleasant?.

    I’m not arguing with you about the importance of looks or personality, just the fact you felt it ok to make that comment about women you would sleep with with without taking into account and telling us what you had to offer in return. I don’t say what type of man I’d like to sleep with cos it would have involved me stating what I have to offer in return. It just looked like a one sided comment to me.

    First, I said “I’d like to think they like me for me”, which implies I’m actually really kidding myself. I’m not saying this is impossible, but it’s rare to non-existent. Second, this whole notion about absolute equality between men and women is a very recent concoction by the Western world, brought on and exacerbated in no small part by the feminist movement. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but it hardly applies to what men and women have generally expected of each other over the course of tens of thousands of years of evolution. Arguably “equivalent” things, but not precisely and exactly “equal”.

    I’m sorry! ‘This notion of absolute equality’!!! It is not a recent concoction it is a fundamental human right. Would you say the same about gay rights or the rights of ethnic minorities. Not absolute rights just recent concoctions of uppity folk who haven’t understood their place or role in society! So equality is exacerbated by the feminist movement, where do you think we should be with our equivalent goals out of interest? In the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant? I have the feminist movement to thank for available contraception, the right to equal pay and most importantly of all men that are pleasant and treat me as an equal because of that.

    It’s also important to realize that why we think we do something or feel a certain way may not be the truth on a more fundamental level. For instance, a woman might try very hard (subconsciously) to justify why an attractive man with a six-pack who drives a Maserati is really a nice guy and right for her compared to a regular Joe. Or why Mark (a good-looking white guy with blue eyes) has “a more compatible personality” and is suitable as a spouse compared to Carl (who is also a “very nice guy” but happens to be black).

    Those are human traits common to both sexes.

    The same is true for the rich man who marries a supermodel when he keeps saying (and perhaps even truly believes) that “she really is a nice person” (until the divorce, that is). Through all this, there are also those who will do and behave in a way that seems to suggest that love is blind; but who are really – without realizing – just trying to show the world they are different and special. If free will is an illusion, so is love.

    Love exists so clearly has evolved for some reason, but to be honest none of the above are real examples of it.

  46. In reply to #54 by atheistengineer:

    I’m sorry! ‘This notion of absolute equality’!!! It is not a recent concoction it is a fundamental human right. Would you say the same about gay rights or the rights of ethnic minorities. Not absolute rights just recent concoctions of uppity folk who haven’t understood their place or role in society! So equality is exacerbated by the feminist movement, where do you think we should be with our equivalent goals out of interest? In the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant? I have the feminist movement to thank for available contraception, the right to equal pay and most importantly of all men that are pleasant and treat me as an equal because of that.

    “Human rights” is a human invention. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but it is a recent invention nonetheless and cannot be found in our DNA. For most of our history, we humans knew nothing of it. So men and women were “getting it on” regardless. From the viewpoint of sex, nothing much has changed. That was my point.

    The fact of the matter is, because women see themselves as bearing the burden of pregnancy whereas all the guy has to do is shoot his load, most will, hypocritically, never accept this concept of absolute equality. They will always make the guy pay for it somehow.

    Those are human traits common to both sexes.

    Exactly. So why delude ourselves with the concept of absolute equality? It’s no mystery that men and women actually want different things from each other and will twist and turn and engage in all kinds of sophistry to show they conform to modern conventions. In the end, they will follow their DNA one way or the other (usually without realizing). Just like no amount of dieting and exercise is going to help you prevent a disease if your genes have it in for you.

    Love exists so clearly has evolved for some reason, but to be honest none of the above are real examples of it.

    I don’t understand what you’re saying here. If you say love exists, prove it. You’ll have the same amount of luck proving ghosts exists, i.e. what you think is “love” can always be reduced to a far more prosaic, natural, mindless phenomenon. Are you a scientifically-inclined atheist or what? If you don’t believe in ghosts, you can’t honestly believe in “lovey-dovey” love. No cherry-picking!

  47. In reply to #60 by joost:

    In reply to #54 by atheistengineer:

    I’m sorry! ‘This notion of absolute equality’!!! It is not a recent concoction it is a fundamental human right. Would you say the same about gay rights or the rights of ethnic minorities. Not absolute rights just recent concoctions of uppity folk who haven’t understood their place or role in society! So equality is exacerbated by the feminist movement, where do you think we should be with our equivalent goals out of interest? In the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant? I have the feminist movement to thank for available contraception, the right to equal pay and most importantly of all men that are pleasant and treat me as an equal because of that.

    “Human rights” is a human invention. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but it is a recent invention nonetheless and cannot be found in our DNA. For most of our history, we humans knew nothing of it. So men and women were “getting it on” regardless. From the viewpoint of sex, nothing much has changed. That was my point.

    Human rights, equality and sex are different things. What someone is capable of is very rarely limited by gender. In fact the differences are largely limited to reproduction which both sexes are involved in. Attempts to claim differences nearly always mask attempts to claim superiority and to remove human rights. As it is whenever someone starts with the phrase well they are different to us. All sorts of things are human concoctions anyway so not sure what you’re on about.

    The fact of the matter is, because women see themselves as bearing the burden of pregnancy whereas all the guy has to do is shoot his load, most will, hypocritically, never accept this concept of absolute equality. They will always make the guy pay for it somehow.

    Not quite sure what you mean here? As parthenogenesis is unknown amongst humans any child is the responsiblity of two parents so both should contribute, regardless of whether or not they themselves are together. And have equal access as well unless there are extremely good reasons to deny it – such as risk of actual harm. Unless special circumstances such as Artificial insemination by donor or adoption or surragacy are involved.

    That is absolute equality, you both get the chance of contributing your genes so you both have to contribute to their survival.

    Those are human traits common to both sexes.

    Exactly. So why delude ourselves with the concept of absolute equality? It’s no mystery that men and women actually want different things from each other and will twist and turn and engage in all kinds of sophistry to show they conform to modern conventions.

    Do they? really? In the long term they want pretty much the same things in relationships and outside of them. Loyalty, companionship, friendship, sex, support inside a relationsip. Respect and the right to have their contributions to society judged for what the actual contribution is not for what they look like or what car they drive. There are undoubtedly extremes who distort that but thankfully they find each other and leave the rest of us alone to avoid them. If you seek out mates based on limitted traits you shouldn’t be disappointed when they are limited in what they look for in you. But you’ve already said you don’t.

    they will follow their DNA one way or the other (usually without realizing). Just like no amount of dieting and exercise is going to help you prevent a disease if your genes have it in for you.

    And most of that DNA is not gender specific. The bit that is governs reproduction only and that again governs a limited set of behaviours which actually involve both sexes having to get on with each other and find common ground. Those are the strategies our evolution left us with, we’re walruses or tigers after all. We don’t actually survive apart as a species, or in harems either.

    Love exists so clearly has evolved for some reason, but to be honest none of the above are real examples of it.

    I don’t understand what you’re saying here. If you say love exists, prove it. You’ll have the same amount of luck proving ghosts exists, i.e. what you think is “love” can always be reduced to a far more prosaic, natural, mindless phenomenon. Are you a scientifically-inclined atheist or what? If you don’t believe in ghosts, you can’t honestly believe in “lovey-dovey” love. No cherry-picking!

    I’ve never seen a ghost. I’ve seen people crying over elderly spouses who clearly have had nothing left to contribute for years in hospices and hospitals. I’ve seen people crying after divorces or death of ‘loved’ ones. I’ve seen people fighting for justice for people they’ve ‘loved’ who’ve been harmed. I’ve seen people going into relationships, getting married and so on and so forth. So I’m clearly observing some phenomenon mindless or otherwise. Why choose one person over another?

  48. OK, now I have some time.

    In reply to #53 by atheistengineer:

    Why? The costs maybe higher for female but they are also fixed. One egg per 28 days remember, plus on possible pregnancy. Unlike for males there is no additional energy cost whether they choose twenty men or one in any one 28 day period. The benefits probably greater as well. There is also no real genetic trace of how many as only the winner is recorded. For you there is an additional energycost of gamete overproduction every time. You forget how much of our evolution went on on the edge of extinction.

    Gamete production is not the costly part, pregnancy and rearing offspring is.

    What makes you think I’d forgot. But you’ve just argued against your original male orientated explanation for your behaviour. I’d agree with you here, the behaviour you claimed is exclusively or predominentaly male is seen equally in both genders therefore your argument that it is specifically favoured in evolution for males only is unlikely! Hence we are in agreement that it isn’t a male driven behaviour specially gifted by evolution to men only.

    Of course both sexes will cheat, but selfish gene theory predicts that males will cheat more and the evidence bears this out. Selfish gene theory also predicts that females will be more forgiving of male cheaters as long as they don’t waste resources on their illegitimate offspring. Neither males nor females drive anything, their selfish genes do.

    Can’t say I’d noticed a real gender difference in consequences though!

    Females select most traits for both sexes I’ll give you that, but female beauty gets selected by males.

    Plus you’ve forgotten it is a behaviour with a fairly limited shelf life because at some point the majority move to pair bonded relationships and their replacements are less likely to see the remainder as attractive options. A sad fact but true.

    Not attractive as a prospect for a long term relationship perhaps, but then I’m not looking for one.

    Ah now I am going to move to moralising, upgrade your protection asap. There is a huge difference between someone who likes women but doesn’t want commitment and a misogynist who couldn’t care less about ruining lives. Women who would be with you in good faith on the understanding that it is a low risk, one off bit of fun are being conned into something that potentially could ruin their lives if they don’t realise.

    Nonsense. I also use condoms so I don’t get aids, but nothing is one hundred percent effective so I get regular blood tests as well. If I had any illegitimate children who required financial support I’m sure I’d have heard about them by now.

    I wouldn’t worry too much though. If the failure rate of your protection is that high in your neck of the woods it’s likely that at some point you too will be the male sucker for someone else.

    Government issue is pretty good here in SA, but I have caught a few women trying to poke holes in mine. As for being made a sucker by another male it will never happen, I will never commit to a relationship with just one women or intentionally try to breed.

  49. In reply to #61 by atheistengineer:

    Human rights, equality and sex are different things.

    Yes, they are.

    Attempts to claim differences nearly always mask attempts to claim superiority and to remove human rights.

    That is what is called the naturalistic fallacy. Even if men were in fact more intelligent than women on average or whites more so than blacks these facts would not justify discriminating against individuals based on which group they belonged to.

    Next time someone does this just point out their mistake instead of trying to attack the facts their argument is based on.

  50. Peter Grant,

    Females select most traits for both sexes I’ll give you that, but female beauty gets selected by males.

    If we agree that females do the selecting and I think we do agree on that, then how will you explain your assertion above? It doesn’t sit well with me. If females are doing their best to control the DNA that will line up next to their own in offspring then aren’t they by default deciding what those offspring will probably look like? Male offspring and female offspring as well?

  51. In reply to #51 by joost:

    If free will is an illusion, so is love.

    love is an illusion in the same way that sight and sound or pain are illusory. “Free will” isn’t even real in this subjective sense.

  52. Yay, LaurieB is back! :D

    In reply to #64 by LaurieB:

    If we agree that females do the selecting and I think we do agree on that, then how will you explain your assertion above? It doesn’t sit well with me. If females are doing their best to control the DNA that will line up next to their own in offspring then aren’t they by default deciding what those offspring will probably look like? Male offspring and female offspring as well?

    Sure, but to the extent which her own looks are genetically determined she has no control over whether they will be selected, especially by high-ranking or alpha males who contain the more desirable genes. However there are many tricks women use to make themselves appear more physically attractive to men, and now with cosmetic surgery almost all bets are off.

    Men don’t need to be that physically attractive to get lots of action, just intelligent, witty and entertaining enough to attract interest. Please don’t assume that I’m saying women aren’t all of these things too, such traits are passed on to females as well and are in any case required to recognise these qualities in potential mates. Ultimately, because men invest less we are less choosy, but some men who are spoiled for choice can afford to be a bit more choosy. The same goes for women, only more much so.

  53. Peter:

    Gamete production is not the costly part, pregnancy and rearing offspring is.

    Ah but that wasn’t what I said, I said the cost was fixed. Whether 20 males or 1 are slept with.

    Of course both sexes will cheat, but selfish gene theory predicts that males will cheat more and the evidence bears this out. Selfish gene theory also predicts that females will be more forgiving of male cheaters as long as they don’t waste resources on their illegitimate offspring. Neither males nor females drive anything, their selfish genes do.

    The Selfish Gene was a seminal work BUT it was written before we were born for gods sake!!! How slowly do you think science moves on exactly? Also it was of its time, a popular book in sexist times and an idea for speculating upon. Like all theories will have been adapted, tested and altered in the light of evidence. Selfish gene theory predicts forgiveness, what, what evidence backs it up? Chris Huhne and his fast car perhaps? And what evidence bears out the males cheating more?

    Look at it objectively and see the risks inherent in wasting time with a male who may at some point waste resources on someone elses offspring? Why bother when there are plenty more fish in the sea. I wouldn’t stay. And before you bother with the male selfish gene rearing others offspring – from what I’ve seen of friends going into relationships with people who have children, males seem to handle it far better than females do. Selfish gene predicts that caring for others offspring may lead to offspring of their own perhaps.

  54. Females select most traits for both sexes I’ll give you that, but female beauty gets selected by males.

    Really, see Laurie Bs answer.If that were true human females would be equally selective for looks as well to ensure their genes survive more than one generation.

    Humans select like for like. Very few people punch above their weight of either sex.

    Not attractive as a prospect for a long term relationship perhaps, but then I’m not looking for one.

    To let you know this is not personal insult and not directed at you, but a general observation about your statement and to correct you. I didn’t mean attractive for a long term relationship I meant attractive as a one night stand or quick fling.

    Most people move into coupledom by choice, not all, and move to different criteria. Those that chose to remain single don’t stay fixed and young forever. So what would selfish gene predict the single woman in the pub who hasn’t got to the coupledom stage yet would chose for a quick fun fling with no commitments? The fit good looking 25 year old or the slightly less fit 35 or 40 year old? As I say its a behaviour with a limited shelf life – one day its the cheeky chappie good for a laugh the next……..

    Government issue is pretty good here in SA, but I have caught a few women trying to poke holes in mine. As for being made a sucker by another male it will never happen, I will never commit to a relationship with just one women or intentionally try to breed.

    You don’t have to commit for someone to make you financially liable. Though you are lucky enough to live in an era of DNA testing.

  55. Peter Grant

    However there are many tricks women use to make themselves appear more physically attractive to men, and now with cosmetic surgery almost all bets are off.

    Haha. (cruel jeering laughter) but after many years of watching men strut and display their cars, sports, clothes, wining and dining skills, bragging and every other male status enhancement technique, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re no better than this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Peacock_Wooing_Peahen.jpg

  56. In reply to #67 by atheistengineer:

    Ah but that wasn’t what I said, I said the cost was fixed. Whether 20 males or 1 are slept with.

    It’s not about sleeping with more males, but about sleeping with better quality ones.

    The Selfish Gene was a seminal work BUT it was written before we were born for gods sake!!! How slowly do you think science moves on exactly? Also it was of its time, a popular book in sexist times and an idea for speculating upon. Like all theories will have been adapted, tested and altered in the light of evidence. Selfish gene theory predicts forgiveness, what, what evidence backs it up? Chris Huhne and his fast car perhaps? And what evidence bears out the males cheating more?

    The Selfish Gene is a seminal work, you should read it. A man will cheat more because he risks less if he gets caught by the partner he is cheating on, her selfish genes care more about the resources he provides her children than his sperm.

  57. In reply to #68 by atheistengineer:

    So what would selfish gene predict the single woman in the pub who hasn’t got to the coupledom stage yet would chose for a quick fun fling with no commitments?

    I find that it’s the married women who are generally more in need of a quick fun fling.

  58. Oh ya! And that is the most totally predictable behavior yet! Exactly what I was referring to in my comment #48:

    Are you assuming a tight pair bond situation in your evolutionary scenario? If so then I get where you’re coming from. In that case a sexually opportunistic male would be viewed as a dangerous aberration.

    In reply to #71 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #68 by atheistengineer:

    So what would selfish gene predict the single woman in the pub who hasn’t got to the coupledom stage yet would chose for a quick fun fling with no commitments?

    I find that it’s the married women who are generally more in need of a quick fun fling.

  59. atheistengineer,

    So what would selfish gene predict the single woman in the pub who hasn’t got to the coupledom stage yet would chose for a quick fun fling with no commitments? The fit good looking 25 year old or the slightly less fit 35 or 40 year old? As I say its a behaviour with a limited shelf life – one day its the cheeky chappie good for a laugh the next……..

    The only reason that women have the option to consider this scenario is because we have access to reliable birth control and abortion. These are very new on the human social scene. Go back a couple hundred years, a thousand years and ten thousand years and every sexual intercourse could have resulted in a pregnancy. Then we would see how the stakes would be raised. From a female perspective, a casual sexual encounter would be extremely risky. A rape was a disaster. Who’s going to be the choosy sex now?

  60. In reply to #71 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #68 by atheistengineer:

    So what would selfish gene predict the single woman in the pub who hasn’t got to the coupledom stage yet would chose for a quick fun fling with no commitments?

    I find that it’s the married women who are generally more in need of a quick fun fling.

    Ah a high risk there. Higher risk requires higher reward I’d say. More likely from the fit 25 year old I’d say.

  61. In reply to #74 by LaurieB:

    atheistengineer,

    So what would selfish gene predict the single woman in the pub who hasn’t got to the coupledom stage yet would chose for a quick fun fling with no commitments? The fit good looking 25 year old or the slightly less fit 35 or 40 year old? As I say its a behaviour with a limited shelf life – one day its the cheeky chappie good for a laugh the next……..

    The only reason that women have the option to consider this scenario is because we have access to reliable birth control and abortion. These are very new on the human social scene. Go back a couple hundred years, a thousand years and ten thousand years and every sexual intercourse could have resulted in a pregnancy. Then we would see how the stakes would be raised. From a female perspective, a casual sexual encounter would be extremely risky. A rape was a disaster. Who’s going to be the choosy sex now?

    So again the player strategy has a limited shelf life. Not offering assistance with child rearing and no longer offering optimum looks.

  62. In reply to #74 by LaurieB:

    The only reason that women have the option to consider this scenario is because we have access to reliable birth control and abortion. These are very new on the human social scene. Go back a couple hundred years, a thousand years and ten thousand years and every sexual intercourse could have resulted in a pregnancy. Then we would see how the stakes would be raised. From a female perspective, a casual sexual encounter would be extremely risky. A rape was a disaster. Who’s going to be the choosy sex now?

    You are right, but there are, hypothetically, at least two reasons for monogamous males to be choosy about which females they mate with. The first one is how faithful he judges his potential partner to be. A female who mates too readily with males is likely to be a risk to his chances of siring offspring (because he can’t count on any one of her children being his), while those who are more conservative would avoid his jealousy and suit him perfectly.

    This explains male jealousy and possessiveness in humans, though I don’t think it explains why human females appear to advertise their sexiness to males. The second reason a male would be choosy is the fact that he’s also investing some of his resources into the baby, and can’t afford to waste time with females who might potentially give him sickly or stillborn young. This is especially important in large and mixed-sex groups where he doesn’t have to settle for the first females that come along, but can be more discriminating.

    Perhaps the differences between the human sexes – and the unusual nature of human sexuality – are down to the fact that both males and females invest in the offspring together more often than not, and so both have an advantage in selecting each other simultaneously, but for different purposes. Males have to show that they can bring home the resources needed to stand by and to support the family (wealth, faithfulness and trustworthiness, community connections, hunting prowess, and so on) once the baby is born, whereas females have to show that they are fit and healthy and capable of producing healthy young throughout pregnancy. Hence females advertise using their bodies, but males advertise through their behaviour and social standing.

    I don’t think it’s as simple as that, though, and this is idle speculation, when all’s said and done. My honest answer is “I don’t know”.

  63. In reply to #73 by LaurieB:

    Oh ya! And that is the most totally predictable behavior yet! Exactly what I was referring to in my comment #48:

    Entirely predictable.

    Are you assuming a tight pair bond situation in your evolutionary scenario? If so then I get where you’re coming from. In that case a sexually opportunistic male would be viewed as a dangerous aberration.

    Dangerous to other males :D

  64. In reply to #63 by Peter Grant:

    That is what is called the naturalistic fallacy. Even if men were in fact more intelligent than women on average or whites more so than blacks these facts would not justify discriminating against individuals based on which group they belonged to.

    Who said anything about discrimination? If men are expected to compensate women somehow for having to bear the burden of pregnancy (so we have “equivalent” things, not “equal” things due to our different biology), why can’t the same logic be extended to men wanting women to be attractive in exchange for resources? Why should a woman see me as being “one-sided” when I say I will only sleep with her if she’s physcially attractive to me? How is this a violation of human rights?

    All those guys out there working out 3 hours a day in the gym to maintain that six-pack in order to attract females based on the I-want-a-hot-girl-so-I-have-to-look-hot-too logic is pretty silly to me; yet this is where we seem to be headed.

  65. In reply to #65 by Peter Grant:

    love is an illusion in the same way that sight and sound or pain are illusory. “Free will” isn’t even real in this subjective sense.

    Love is a (claimed) feeling and is not measurable like sight and sound. Pain is a more realistic comparison yet most physicians (including your dentist) will often tell you that it is an illusion too (all in your mind etc.). Besides, pain is something you can effectively reduce or numb through anesthesia. So your comparisons are a bit off.

    And yes, free will is not real… and neither is that feeling we call “love”. Like I said, you may as well believe in ghosts if you believe in love (scientifically speaking). “Love” is a useful term to describe how you think you feel about someone or something, but its meaninglessness is clearly illustrated when you hear people say “she loves her children more than her husband” etc. More? You mean like putting love in a cup and measuring the volume?

  66. In reply to #62 by Peter Grant:

    Nonsense. I also use condoms so I don’t get aids, but nothing is one hundred percent effective so I get regular blood tests as well. If I had any illegitimate children who required financial support I’m sure I’d have heard about them by now.

    I think you mean HIV; and if you use condoms correctly (i.e. they don’t break or slip off), you actually don’t need regular blood tests. The risk is too low to warrant them. Save yourself a few bucks and some unnecessary anxiety.

  67. there are, hypothetically, at least two reasons for monogamous males to be choosy about which females they mate with. The first one is how faithful he judges his potential partner to be. A female who mates too readily with males is likely to be a risk to his chances of siring offspring (because he can’t count on any one of her children being his), while those who are more conservative would avoid his jealousy and suit him perfectly.

    Right, no argument here except that I would not use the term “monogamous male”. I would say a male who has interest in monopolizing the reproductive resources of a certain female. If you think about it, A male who lives in a polygamous culture feels the same way about all of his wives. Also, your so called monogamous male may chose to monopolize one female in a possessive way while keeping an eye out for spontaneous action on the side. The pattern you have described will hold whether he stays faithful to that female or not.

    The second reason a male would be choosy is the fact that he’s also investing some of his resources into the baby, and can’t afford to waste time with females who might potentially give him sickly or stillborn young.

    I’m thinking about this and wondering exactly what signs would warn a male off from having sex with a female and would make him think that she’s too sickly to produce a viable offspring. Severe emaciation? In that case her repro system would probably shut down on its own. leprosy lesions? I guess anything that would produce a yuck factor would give most males some pause, but I think it’s interesting to note that in the present time, of all the women I know, the ones who have had difficulty conceiving or of maintaining the pregnancy or even of working through labor and delivery successfully, I never could have predicted it from their looks. I learned this lesson when I (tall, Northern European robust type female) lived in N. Africa where most females are – from my perspective – short, spindly, and frail. At that time I thought -they’ll never get through a pregnancy at that small size and the delivery will kill them. Not like me with my quicky no problem labor and deliveries! but I was wrong. They deliver pretty well with those little pelves of theirs. And tall robust females run into plenty of problems in repro matters too. So I’ll go along with that yuck factor aversion idea but outside of that, I don’t think this will hold and especially not if we go back 1000, or 10000 years.

    This explains male jealousy and possessiveness in humans, though I don’t think it explains why human females appear to advertise their sexiness to males.

    I guess what you’re talking about is women who wear what you consider to be provocative clothing and act in a sexually aggressive way. Is that what you mean? If so then I guess you are talking about the present time and maybe in settings like dance clubs etc. I mean, if you go back 1000 and 10000 years, do you think women did these things then? Seems foolish really though. Rape was an ever present threat and as I stated above, every single sexual intercourse could have resulted in a pregnancy with all the risk and responsibility that it entailed. To tell you the truth, it’s a waste of time and effort to advertise sexiness since all that’s ever needed is to maintain eye contact for a little too long and display a certain provocative smile and there isn’t a guy on doG’s green earth who doesn’t know the meaning of that. Correct me if I’m wrong but my impression is that men are constantly scanning for these subtle communications from women. Why women spend so much time and money on their clothing and accessories and outward displays of wealth, whether or not they can actually afford it, has more to do with female-female oneupmanship.

  68. In reply to #82 by LaurieB:

    Right, no argument here except that I would not use the term “monogamous male”.

    Fair enough. Monogamous faithfulness isn’t compulsory on the male side, though I think it might have been important in human sexuality, since females can feel jealousy too.

    I’m thinking about this and wondering exactly what signs would warn a male off from having sex with a female and would make him think that she’s too sickly to produce a viable offspring. Severe emaciation? In that case her repro system would probably shut down on its own. leprosy lesions? I guess anything that would produce a yuck factor would give most males some pause, but I think it’s interesting to note that in the present time, of all the women I know, the ones who have had difficulty conceiving or of maintaining the pregnancy or even of working through labor and delivery successfully, I never could have predicted it from their looks. I learned this lesson when I (tall, Northern European robust type female) lived in N. Africa where most females are – from my perspective – short, spindly, and frail. At that time I thought -they’ll never get through a pregnancy at that small size and the delivery will kill them. Not like me with my quicky no problem labor and deliveries! but I was wrong. They deliver pretty well with those little pelves of theirs. And tall robust females run into plenty of problems in repro matters too. So I’ll go along with that yuck factor aversion idea but outside of that, I don’t think this will hold and especially not if we go back 1000, or 10000 years.

    I’m not sure you’re avoiding your own problem here. If a female looks emaciated and her system “shuts down” (assuming this actually happens), that would be an outward sign to a male not to bother, wouldn’t it? Also, I think you’re falling into your own trap of taking modern trends into account, with our modern medicine and social institutions to prevent more pregnancy problems than would have been known to our ancestors. In a world without healthcare or welfare systems, a male has to make tough decisions if he doesn’t want to have useless kids with genetic disorders or a tendency to fall ill too easily. The whole point of sex selection is that the one sex has to verify the genetic fitness of the other.

    In any case, shouldn’t you be a bit wary about anecdotal evidence?

    I guess what you’re talking about is women who wear what you consider to be provocative clothing and act in a sexually aggressive way. Is that what you mean?

    No. Not even close. I was talking about the enlarged breasts, narrow waist, rounded buttocks, hourglass figure, and other secondary sexual characteristics unique to human females, which they permanently advertise from puberty onwards. The characteristics are consistently rated as most attractive by heterosexual men across cultures.

  69. In reply to #77 by Zeuglodon:

    In reply to #74 by LaurieB:

    The only reason that women have the option to consider this scenario is because we have access to reliable birth control and abortion. These are very new on the human social scene. Go back a couple hundred years, a thousand years and ten thousand years and every sexual intercourse could have resulted in a pregnancy. Then we would see how the stakes would be raised. From a female perspective, a casual sexual encounter would be extremely risky. A rape was a disaster. Who’s going to be the choosy sex now?

    You are right, but there are, hypothetically, at least two reasons for monogamous males to be choosy about which females they mate with. The first one is how faithful he judges his potential partner to be. A female who mates too readily with males is likely to be a risk to his chances of siring offspring (because he can’t count on any one of her children being his), while those who are more conservative would avoid his jealousy and suit him perfectly.

    This explains male jealousy and possessiveness in humans, though I don’t think it explains why human females appear to advertise their sexiness to males.

    I’m not sure they do any more than males actually. The things females find attractive, height, buttocks, six packs are equally advertised. And I’d agree with LaurieB attracting a males attention seems to have more to do with smiliness and eye contact.

    The second reason a male would be choosy is the fact that he’s also investing some of his resources into the baby, and can’t afford to waste time with females who might potentially give him sickly or stillborn young. This is especially important in large and mixed-sex groups where he doesn’t have to settle for the first females that come along, but can be more discriminating.

    LaurieB is right there is no obvious looks based way of judging this beyond absence of obvious illness. Go into any ante natal clinic or post natal clinic there is no type. If you chat there is even less way of telling – given that some will have conceived with help some willl have had more help than others in giving birth. Plus there is no obvious correlation between mothers looks and health of baby. If it were based on looks the standard norm would be pregnant or breastfeeding.

    And some STDs will rely on the carrier looking fairly healthy after an initial incubation period.

    Perhaps the differences between the human sexes – and the unusual nature of human sexuality – are down to the fact that both males and females invest in the offspring together more often than not, and so both have an advantage in selecting each other simultaneously, but for different purposes.

    Agreed, won’t the purpose be tjhe same in that case?

    Males have to show that they can bring home the resources needed to stand by and to support the family (wealth, faithfulness and trustworthiness, community connections, hunting prowess, and so on) once the baby is born, whereas females have to show that they are fit and healthy and capable of producing healthy young throughout pregnancy. Hence females advertise using their bodies, but males advertise through their behaviour and social standing.

    Bit simplistic. We lived in hunter gatherer societies where the females had to work equally hard at providing. Therefore the skills of showing you could provide, resourcefulness, negotiating, getting on with others etc just as important in females. The female also has to ensure the male stays through pregnancy and early days after childbirth, which believe me is not based on looks.
    I don’t think it’s as simple as that, though, and this is idle speculation, when all’s said and done. My honest answer is “I don’t know”.
    Which brings us neatly back to the title of the article ‘beware evolutionary explanations which rely on what males like? We don’t know. It isn’t simple and the simple what males like is as lazy and pointless as godidit ones.

  70. In reply to #87 by atheistengineer:

    I’m not sure they do any more than males actually. The things females find attractive, height, buttocks, six packs are equally advertised.

    And yet, females aren’t particularly interested in male appearances. It’s more likely, on average, they’d be more interested in attributes such as character and status. Why else would even the ugliest dictators, emperors, socialites, warlords, businessmen, and caliphs nevertheless rope in women? In any case, it’s perfectly possible that women select males who show evidence of physical strength, health, and charisma, but this could coexist along with their selecting for those who are socially successful or those who are faithful and honest. They’re not mutually exclusive.

    And I’d agree with LaurieB attracting a males attention seems to have more to do with smiliness and eye contact.

    As indicators of willingness to have sex with him, maybe. Otherwise, it seems more likely sexual attributes are more interesting.

    LaurieB is right there is no obvious looks based way of judging this beyond absence of obvious illness. Go into any ante natal clinic or post natal clinic there is no type. If you chat there is even less way of telling – given that some will have conceived with help some willl have had more help than others in giving birth. Plus there is no obvious correlation between mothers looks and health of baby. If it were based on looks the standard norm would be pregnant or breastfeeding.

    And yet, males consistently rate the same female body type as the more attractive. I’m talking about things like blemishes and body asymmetry, which could be symptomatic of disease more often than not, and therefore it would pay a male to err on the side of caution. You also forget the role of status in sexual politics – sometimes, a male lower down the scale wants a higher ranking female, but on balance any female is better than none.

    In any case, I already made the point with LaurieB that modern practices aren’t representative of our circumstances in the past.

    And some STDs will rely on the carrier looking fairly healthy after an initial incubation period.

    STDs don’t disprove my point, firstly because those are acquired illnesses, and secondly because I’m not talking in absolute health. The idea is that women with signs of fertility will on average have better genes, and therefore lower reproductive risk, than women who deviate from showing such signs.

    Perhaps the differences between the human sexes – and the unusual nature of human sexuality – are down to the fact that both males and females invest in the offspring together more often than not, and so both have an advantage in selecting each other simultaneously, but for different purposes.

    Agreed, won’t the purpose be tjhe same in that case?

    No, as my following point made clear:

    Males have to show that they can bring home the resources needed to stand by and to support the family (wealth, faithfulness and trustworthiness, community connections, hunting prowess, and so on) once the baby is born, whereas females have to show that they are fit and healthy and capable of producing healthy young throughout pregnancy. Hence females advertise using their bodies, but males advertise through their behaviour and social standing.

    My point is that females have the main role in the embryological stage and in suckling the young, but the males have an opportunity to invest either indirectly (by looking after the pregnant mother) or after the birth by looking after, feeding, and teaching the children. This asymmetry of times and resources makes different demands on either sex, which would be more pronounced when it comes to sexual selection.

    Bit simplistic.

    It’s as if I never made the disclaimer:

    I don’t think it’s as simple as that, though, and this is idle speculation, when all’s said and done. My honest answer is “I don’t know”.

    So my response is: True, but you’re a bit late in pointing this out.

    We lived in hunter gatherer societies where the females had to work equally hard at providing. Therefore the skills of showing you could provide, resourcefulness, negotiating, getting on with others etc just as important in females.

    You’re missing the point. I’m not saying the roles are exclusive, but that they’re biased one way or the other. Males are just as capable of gathering as females are, but more importantly, males aren’t the ones who have to hold the baby in their stomachs for nine months. If a male has to invest after that, then it would pay him to discriminate based on how likely it is that the mother’s genes will give his offspring the best start in life, as that reflects on his own reproductive success. It’s no good to him if he impregnates a woman, and then ends up rearing a runt or a sickly child who turns out to be a bad investment, especially if his ability to impregnate other females is restricted. If it’s possible to choose females who look healthier and more fertile than their neighbours, and who therefore have good genes for fitness, then it would pay him to select them, leading to the sexual selection process as female bodies compete to advertise their health more convincingly. This could explain, for instance, why human females have larger breasts or narrower waists than, say, chimpanzees or gorillas do.

    The female also has to ensure the male stays through pregnancy and early days after childbirth, which believe me is not based on looks.

    This has nothing to do with my point about the asymmetric sexual selection pressures. The looks of a females are for advertising to the male her fertility and health. It’s in her interests, however, to select in return for traits such as faithfulness and competence in him, hence the two-way selection pressure as males advertise their social successes and personality traits.

    Which brings us neatly back to the title of the article ‘beware evolutionary explanations which rely on what males like? We don’t know. It isn’t simple and the simple what males like is as lazy and pointless as godidit ones.

    But if you’re discussing sexual selection, and if you want to consider the possibility that males selected females, then sooner or later you have to discuss what sexually arouses a male, because that arousal depends, using evolutionary logic, on what passes the criteria for sexual selection. The main problem with the speculation posited in the article is simply lack of proof and the presence of plausible alternative hypotheses. It’s no excuse to act like “what males like” is an automatic corrupter of our evolutionary thinking.

  71. In reply to #85 by Zeuglodon:

    In reply to #82 by LaurieB:

    Right, no argument here except that I would not use the term “monogamous male”.

    Fair enough. Monogamous faithfulness isn’t compulsory on the male side, though I think it might have been important in human sexuality, since females can feel jealousy too.

    I’m thinking about this and wondering exactly what signs would warn a male off from having sex with a female and would make him think that she’s too sickly to produce a viable offspring. Severe emaciation? In that case her repro system would probably shut down on its own. leprosy lesions? I guess anything that would produce a yuck factor would give most males some pause, but I think it’s interesting to note that in the present time, of all the women I know, the ones who have had difficulty conceiving or of maintaining the pregnancy or even of working through labor and delivery successfully, I never could have predicted it from their looks. I learned this lesson when I (tall, Northern European robust type female) lived in N. Africa where most females are – from my perspective – short, spindly, and frail. At that time I thought -they’ll never get through a pregnancy at that small size and the delivery will kill them. Not like me with my quicky no problem labor and deliveries! but I was wrong. They deliver pretty well with those little pelves of theirs. And tall robust females run into plenty of problems in repro matters too. So I’ll go along with that yuck factor aversion idea but outside of that, I don’t think this will hold and especially not if we go back 1000, or 10000 years.

    I’m not sure you’re avoiding your own problem here. If a female looks emaciated and her system “shuts down” (assuming this actually happens),

    It does usually. Though if that were the case the environment would probably be to blame and starving the males as well so they wouldn’t bother.

    that would be an outward sign to a male not to bother, wouldn’t it? Also, I think you’re falling into your own trap of taking modern trends into account, with our modern medicine and social institutions to prevent more pregnancy problems than would have been known to our ancestors. In a world without healthcare or welfare systems, a male has to make tough decisions if he doesn’t want to have useless kids with genetic disorders or a tendency to fall ill too easily. The whole point of sex selection is that the one sex has to verify the genetic fitness of the other.

    Modern healthcare doesn’t alter the fact that you are claiming you can judge who will produce healthy live young and who won’t on looks. You can’t, all sorts of women reproduce. There is no obvious way to judge in advance how easy that will be or how healthy the offspring. If there was a way to judge in advance medicine would have utilised it to manage high risk ‘looking’ women from the first trimester very carefully and waste less time on the low risk ‘looking’ women.

    The only remotely relevant research I’ve ever found was that males and females slected partners with different immunities to theirs. Very subtle and miles from looks.

    In any case, shouldn’t you be a bit wary about anecdotal evidence?

    It is more than guy in the original article used when coming up with his glossy hair theory. There is a hell of a lot of anecdotal evidence. There are many different types of women with children. Always have been.
    I guess what you’re talking about is women who wear what you consider to be provocative clothing and act in a sexually aggressive way. Is that what you mean?

    No. Not even close. I was talking about the enlarged breasts, narrow waist, rounded buttocks, hourglass figure, and other secondary sexual characteristics unique to human females, which they permanently advertise from puberty onwards. The characteristics are consistently rated as most attractive by heterosexual men across cultures.

    But characteristics rated as physically attractive by females in males are equally advertised. And what is found attractive has and still is changing with fashions and cultures.

  72. In reply to #88 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #86 by atheistengineer:

    Her actually.

    Sorry, my mistake. Was going by your profile.

    Default profile.

    My point still stands though. Your gender doesn’t make your argument any less fallacious.

    The first step to discrimination is dehumanise. The first step to that emphasise differences ignore similarities

  73. Zeuglodon

    In any case, shouldn’t you be a bit wary about anecdotal evidence?

    True that! Not to get too off topic here, but some weeks back I was in casual conversation with someone about similar topics and he suddenly expressed concern over the degree to which I was engaged in speculation. Since then I’ve been more careful to declare my intention to do so, even in what I take to be casual, off the cuff chit chat. I realize that I tend to weave anecdotal stories into my comments here as well as speculation. I should say that in my comments the anecdotes are definitely not meant to serve as evidence. Not at all! Goodness, I get so aggravated when religiobots do that to me in conversations where they talk about how they’ve had personal interactions with God or the Spirit of Life or whatever. It’s so awkward. But I might have a relaxed attitude to my comments here when I’m involved in a conversation that takes place with like-minded interlocutors and I do let down my guard somewhat.

    My experiences in traditional societies have been extremely valuable to me as they directly challenged most of what I was taught while growing up in middle class, white America. It was nothing short of a paradigm shift and I rely on those observations there to inform me on what human relationships might have been like in our evolutionary past. Much of what I grew up observing here and now just isn’t useful on this topic. The observations that I included above having to do with female reproductive fitness really prompted me to read more widely on the topic. Now I try to combine what I’ve observed with what I’ve read and done coursework on to try to come up with reasonable explanations for questions like the ones presented in the article here. We may never know what relationships looked like in our deep evolutionary past -unless someone invents a time machine! But it’s so very fascinating to watch the evidence trickle in and listen to what our best thinkers in the field have to say about it. I just can’t get enough of it! But I will definitely concede that anecdotal stories need to be labeled as such and not lead anyone to think that they are any kind of acceptable evidence, and the same goes for speculation.

    Actually, wouldn’t that be a good topic for the discussion section? -What is the role of speculation in Science? Evo Psych is getting hammered for the degree of speculation that we engage in. We need to address this.

  74. In reply to #91 by atheistengineer:

    The first step to discrimination is dehumanise. The first step to that emphasise differences ignore similarities

    I’m not dehumanising anyone. There are in fact objective differences between men and women. If your philosophy of non-discrimination cannot handle this fact then you need to find a better reason for not discriminating, because you cannot change the facts.

  75. atheist engineer,

    I think we are all tripping over the whole feminism-evolutionary science stand-off. If I’m right, I think the guys are frustrated that you won’t concede that we have biological differences between males and females that ultimately dictate behavior and cause us both to have different strategies in the mating game.

    I absolutely understand that way too many science guys throw feminism under the bus way too often and that is really painful to me when it happens. I’m always proud to say I’m a Feminist and that is the first intellectual movement that I discovered in my teens and that it led me straight to Atheism. But Feminism and Atheism are both very broad movements that encompass some very different types of people with different perspectives. All feminists don’t agree with each other about all things-the movement is very fractured, but that never means we should trash it in general. The same goes for Atheism.

    At this point, I think the best thing that we can do, since we have a foot in both camps, is to ease both movements into a tolerance of each other. I hope feminists can accept that evo-bio and evo-psych have certain truths that cannot be ignored, or ignored at our peril such as the topic of rape which I think the feminists have got totally wrong. And I hope that the Atheist community will crush the misogynists in it’s midst. I hope every Atheist understands how deeply upsetting it is for us female Atheists to be reduced to a sex object and insulted with impunity.

    In light of this, I want to tell you about a book that will no doubt speak directly to the subject of this article above. The title is Evolution’s Empress: Perspective on the Nature of Women. Authors are Fisher, Garcia, Chang and Foreword by Hrdy. I think the book is out today or will be shortly. Here is the book description from Amazon:

    “Over the last decade, there has been increasing debate as to whether feminism and evolutionary psychology can co-exist. Such debates often conclude with a resounding “no,” often on the grounds that the former is a political movement while the latter is a field of scientific inquiry. In the midst of these debates, there has been growing dissatisfaction within the field of evolutionary psychology about the way the discipline (and others) have repeatedly shown women to be in passive roles when it comes to survival and reproduction. Evolutionary behavioral research has made significant strides in the past few decades, but continues to take for granted many theoretical assumption that are perhaps, in light of the most recent evidence, misguided. As a result, the research community has missed important areas of research, and in some cases, will likely come to inaccurate conclusions based on existing dogma, rather than rigorous, theoretically driven research. Bias in the field of evolutionary psychology echoes the complaints against the political movement attached to academic feminisms. This is an intellectual squabble where much is at stake, including a fundamental understanding of the evolutionary significance of women’s roles in culture, mothering, reproductive health and physiology, mating, female alliances, female aggression, and female intrasexual competition.

    Evolution’s Empress identifies women as active agents within the evolutionary process. The chapters in this volume focus on topics as diverse as female social interactions, mate competition and mating strategies, motherhood, women’s health, sex differences in communication and motivation, sex discrimination, and women in literature. The volume editors bring together a diverse range of perspectives to demonstrate ways in which evolutionary approaches to human behavior have thus far been too limited. By reconsidering the role of women in evolution, this volume furthers the goal of generating dialogue between the realms of women’s studies and evolutionary psychology.”

    I just can’t wait to read this book. Then I noticed it’s 80 bucks and that cooled me down a bit. I guess it’s classified as a textbook so whatever. I guess at some point I’ll just pay it because I am so anxiously looking forward to hearing what our best thinkers have to say about this very significant problem in our movements. What do you think about it?

  76. Zeuglodon:

    And yet, females aren’t particularly interested in male appearances.

    Whatever gave you that idea? Have you ever seen an ugly boy band for teenage girls? Or looked at the men used to advertise Calvin Klein pants?

    Truth is we have very long childhoods, bizarrely prolonged adolescence and a longish adulthood. Throughout life our priorities and what we look for change.

    It’s more likely, on average, they’d be more interested in attributes such as character and status. Why else would even the ugliest dictators, emperors, socialites, warlords, businessmen, and caliphs

    You’re moving from choice to fear, force or finances here. Wherever there are huge discrepancies in looks or age you can almost guess there is big money to be made!

    In any case, it’s perfectly possible that women select males who show evidence of physical strength, health, and charisma, but this could coexist along with their selecting for those who are socially successful or those who are faithful and honest. They’re not mutually exclusive.

    Nope agreed but that is not exclusive to females. Males select on numerous traits as well including cunning, personaltiy and wealth. And both sexes seem to have choices!

    As indicators of willingness to have sex with him, maybe. Otherwise, it seems more likely sexual attributes are more interesting.

    I’ve found a smile in scruffy jeans gets more attention than standing miserably in a revealing dress. It is almost failure proof I’d say. But again, humans are all different. As for sexual attributes, see above – not exclusive to males.

    And yet, males consistently rate the same female body type as the more attractive. I’m talking about things like blemishes and body asymmetry, which could be symptomatic of disease more often than not, and therefore it would pay a male to err on the side of caution. You also forget the role of status in sexual politics – sometimes, a male lower down the scale wants a higher ranking female, but on balance any female is better than none.

    Likewise females. It is not a male only trait. They to may make do with lower ranking males.

    And there is another factor you forget. I can’t speak for males but for females a male who is clearly selecting on the grounds of attractiveness and nothing else may or may not be successful but in his attempts to attain the high ranking female he makes himself less attractive to other females. He appears shallow and therefore a less attractive bet.

    So if unsuccessful he writes himself out of the race. If successful he runs an increased risk of rearing someone elses child for not selecting for limited fidelity as well. As for the looks, they go leaving him with no other traits when his looks are also going and his chances of finding something else reduced.

  77. Zeuglodon:

    You’re missing the point. I’m not saying the roles are exclusive, but that they’re biased one way or the other. Males are just as capable of gathering as females are, but more importantly, males aren’t the ones who have to hold the baby in their stomachs for nine months. If a male has to invest after that, then it would pay him to discriminate based on how likely it is that the mother’s genes will give his offspring the best start in life, as that reflects on his own

    But in that case it also pays the mother to discriminate. It is not a male only trait. If a female has to invest she will also look to give her offspring the best start.

    Now both males and female offspring are going to be born. If you were right about males being selected for things other than looks, it would make sense to double the chances of it getting those traits by selecting females with them and vice versa for females selecting looks. A male only selecting on looks runs the risk of less attractive male offspring if you were right.

    If it’s possible to choose females who look healthier and more fertile than their neighbours, and who therefore have good genes for fitness, then it would pay him to select them, leading to the sexual selection process as female bodies compete to advertise their health more convincingly. This could explain, for instance, why human females have larger breasts or narrower waists than, say, chimpanzees or gorillas do.

    Again health and fertility are traits that both would select for. It isn’t a male only trait.

    Perhaps the differences between the human sexes – and the unusual nature of human sexuality – are down to the fact that both males and females invest in the offspring together more often than not, and so both have an advantage in selecting each other simultaneously, but for different purposes.

    Yes I think so there. But with common purpose – to pass on their genes. Therefore the same traits are pretty much desirable in both sexes, intelligence, resourcefulness, health, the abitlity to negotiate with others to solicit help in tasks and so on.

    This has nothing to do with my point about the asymmetric sexual selection pressures. The looks of a females are for advertising to the male her fertility and health. It’s in her interests, however, to select in return for traits such as faithfulness and competence in him, hence the two-way selection pressure as males advertise their social successes and personality traits.

    No its in both their interests to select for traits that ensure their genes are passed on. So if you are right and males select females on looks the female would have to select also on looks to ensure the best chances for female offspring. If males are selected on social success and personality they would do well to select females for those traits to ensure the best chances for male offspring.

    It is very complicated which I guess is why Jerry Coyne cautions against using sexual selection as an explanation! Unless it is obvious.

    What I look for now is very different to what I looked for at university or school. My life and priorities are different. You can’t simplify sexual selection when it changes in individuals throughout their lives so much.

  78. Zeuglodon:

    But if you’re discussing sexual selection, and if you want to consider the possibility that males selected females, then sooner or later you have to discuss what sexually arouses a male, because that arousal depends, using evolutionary logic, on what passes the criteria for sexual selection.

    But if you look at the original article it wasn’t actually discussing sexual selection it was discussing the tendency for some males to drag male dominated sexual selection explanations out of their bottoms for no reason.

    The main problem with the speculation posited in the article is simply lack of proof and the presence of plausible alternative hypotheses. It’s no excuse to act like “what males like” is an automatic corrupter of our evolutionary thinking.

    No the speculation posited in the article was the presence of an implausible alternative hypothesis with neither logic nor evidence nor reason other than to give replace god given male superiority with willy driven male dominated evolution. Which bizarrely some of the males here ran with, accusing the author of misandry.

    Lets look at the facts. A gene is found which confers an obvious advantage in hot climates. Those with the gene can withstand more heat – stay out longer hunting or gathering. Gain more food increasing their ability to have more children and keep more of them alive. If said gene were found in a male human or even a rabbit or lizard, that would be it – simple explanation! The reasearcher thought so, Jerry Coyne thought so.

    Alternative hypothesis is this gene also alters hair and teeth therefore it must have been selected by males cos that is what they’d like. Garbage – unlikely. The researcher think so Jerry Coyne thinks so.

    Yet first post says oooh yes sexually selected for cos evidence of increased fitness. Like all sexually selected traits. But why and how?

    Well lets look again. The trait gave an advantage in hot climes. If that was the advantage it wouldn’t spread too far beyond those hot climes- as it would have no real advantage and need to. Did that happen? Seems so – it is limited.

    Or it gave glossy hair which men then sexually selected as increasing fitness (as per your body type hypothesis). Now there are no constraints as sexual selection is fairly blind and the trait should spread, as the genuinely sexually selected blue eyes gene spread. Did it? NO!

    So I look at the responses and the first response claims it was likely! Why? All the other responses scream at the poor old author stating a simple fact? She’s a misandrist, an evil feminist, a man hater. Nope just fed up with the same old ‘our willies rule evolution’ crap I’d guess.

    Go read the bible and you find males are reassured that god created adam first and then eve as his helper and dogsbody. But the garden of eden isn’t real and science kicks in. Purposeless evolution with no special role for men at all, and no special helpers and dogsbodies.

    Well it almost looks to me that some males, like Akey in the article, may be happy enough without god but miss that old comfort blanket of the male dominated garden of eden.

    Last week I found out about theistic evolution for the first time. Where god pops up occassionally to fiddle with evolution and ensure the route to us. Reading here I’ve seen the godless version which I call willy driven evolution. Instead of god and his goal, it’s willies that pop up (pun intended) throughout evolution. And instead of being blind and purposeless it has a new goal. To create the perfect women for men. No role for them of course, other than passively growing breasts, glossy hair and glassy smiles. They are selected for traits.

    The blind purpose of evolution is not sexual attraction or even sex, It is passing on genes. Everything else serves that end. As we evolved increasing brains and bipedalism that required ever more parental investment. Look at all the claims made for the willy driven evolution hypothesis and see blindingly better explanations. Breasts – part of ensuring concealed ovulation? Concealed ovulation? Bizarrely thaought to play a role facillitating pair bonding to cope with increased need for parental investment (yep, and it seems it needed to encourage it more in females as its the female orgasm that leads to the release of pair bonding hormone oxytocin). That is what has driven us, not what men like!

  79. LaurieB
    Wrote you huge long response and it disappeared. Will try again in shorter chunks so sorry if disjointed.

    I think we are all tripping over the whole feminism-evolutionary science stand-off. If I’m right, I think the guys are frustrated that you won’t concede that we have biological differences

    I’m quite happy to concede biological differences. Just not the notion that women are passive in everything and evolved for men. That is too biblical for me.

    Plus I’m not happy to grant the huge degree of difference suggested. We live together in groups and in couples, work together, socialise together and get on largely. It would be difficult to hold even the most rudimentary conversation about politics or tv, or books or anything else if you accept the degrees of difference suggested by Joost or Zueglodon or Peter.

    We select mates for similar things in many cases. Research shows that – shared political views, religion, tastes, educational levels and social groups. When it comes to physical attractivenes it is an issue for both sexes but not the only issue for both sexes. To claim women are impervious to looks or should work hard to be attractive yet accept little in return as Joost suggest is just bizarre.

    • In reply to #98 by atheistengineer:

      Just not the notion that women are passive in everything and evolved for men.

      I never made any such claim. Women are the choosier sex, I have attempted to explain to you why. Selection by women has shaped our minds as well as our bodies. Why is simply suggesting that selection by men may have shaped female beauty considered somehow sexist?

  80. LaurieB

    I absolutely understand that way too many science guys throw feminism under the bus way too often and that is really painful to me when it happens.

    I don’t understand it though. It only seems to be certain males, who seem to be afraid of women having rights that do so. At the end of the day, gains like equal pay help us pay massive mortgages and bills. Most men I know are in favour of that. Just not the sexists for some reason.

    I’m always proud to say I’m a Feminist and that is the first intellectual movement that I discovered in my teens and that it led me straight to Atheism.

    And I always felt so grateful that I didn’t think I needed it. I work in a male dominated environment with men I’d count as friends and trust with my life. I had a baby 18 months ago, met more males through that. All devoted to big fat pregnant wives, like mine was. All devoted to their resulting offspring.

    At this point, I think the best thing that we can do, since we have a foot in both camps, is to ease both movements into a tolerance of each other. I hope feminists can accept that evo-bio and evo-psych have certain truths that cannot be ignored, or ignored at our peril such as the topic of rape which I think the feminists have got totally wrong.And I hope that the Atheist community will crush the misogynists in it’s midst.

    I was thrilled to read the original article. I’d seen articles before where, without evidence or any logic, nearly everything was reduced to male sexual selection and women were passive. I’d also seen respected evolutionary biologists cautioning against it. But it was always men shaped this trait in females and that. Never this trait ensures survival or women shaped this trait in men. Always as a precursor to some sexism or other if I’m honest.

    So when the article was posted I really thought atheism had nailed it. It had shed the shackles of religious misogyny and moved on. Exposed some of the arse gravy being passed off as science.

    But then all the responses came straight from the 1970s :-O – real shock. Had 1970s man come here on time machine to turn back the clock or just ignored the changing of the centuries? The misogynistic vitriol poured on the author was left there! She was an evil feminist (how very biblical for an atheist site – anti feminism), man hater (despite quoting men who backed her up). And many claimed they RD foundation shouldn’t have posted it and certainly wouldn’t support it in their opinion.

    Well I hope they do support it and go on to debunk more similar pseudoscientific excuses for sexism and the men that need them for some reason. I’m not sure atheism should be tolerating feminism! Surely it should be de riguor? I’d be horribly disappointed if it were just an old boys club.

    Atheists to be reduced to a sex object and insulted with impunity.

    Ah yes, joost only sleeps with attractive women and suggests he is somehow doing them a favour for allowing them to carry his genes. They should reward him by being gorgeous for looking after them when pregnant ignoring the very obvious fact that its not actually them he’s looking after its his genes. Thing is he could just have easily made his point by stating the more obvious fact that we all prefer to sleep with people we find attractive!

    Someone else is sure breasts only evolved because he liked them. Really! Despite all the other possible survival reasons already cited.

    Problem is with evolution being misused as a tool of men to shape women hypothesis is that if it were remotely true and they had shaped us we would be uniform. Large breasted, passive, glossy haired etc. The reality is many different shapes and sizes all happily having sex and giving birth with men who seem more than happy with the wide range. I doubt very much that in our long illness ridden, not washing, toothless, edge of starvation evolutionary existence looks played that much of a part. the species would have died out if men had been so picky every time a drought or breast feeding made boobs droopy and hair matted.

  81. LarieB

    In light of this, I want to tell you about a book that will no doubt speak directly to the subject of this article above. The title is Evolution’s Empress: Perspective on the Nature of Women. Authors are Fisher, Garcia, Chang and Foreword by Hrdy. I think the book is out today or will be shortly. Here is the book description from Amazon:

    “Over the last decade, there has been increasing debate as to whether feminism and evolutionary psychology can co-exist. Such debates often conclude with a resounding “no,” often on the grounds that the former is a political movement while the latter is a field of scientific inquiry. In the midst of these debates, there has been growing dissatisfaction within the field of evolutionary psychology about the way the discipline (and others) have repeatedly shown women to be in passive roles when it comes to survival and reproduction. Evolutionary behavioral research has made significant strides in the past few decades, but continues to take for granted many theoretical assumption that are perhaps, in light of the most recent evidence, misguided. As a result, the research community has missed important areas of research, and in some cases, will likely come to inaccurate conclusions based on existing dogma, rather than rigorous, theoretically driven research. Bias in the field of evolutionary psychology echoes the complaints against the political movement attached to academic feminisms. This is an intellectual squabble where much is at stake, including a fundamental understanding of the evolutionary significance of women’s roles in culture, mothering, reproductive health and physiology, mating, female alliances, female aggression, and female intrasexual competition.

    Evolution’s Empress identifies women as active agents within the evolutionary process. The chapters in this volume focus on topics as diverse as female social interactions, mate competition and mating strategies, motherhood, women’s health, sex differences in communication and motivation, sex discrimination, and women in literature. The volume editors bring together a diverse range of perspectives to demonstrate ways in which evolutionary approaches to human behavior have thus far been too limited. By reconsidering the role of women in evolution, this volume furthers the goal of generating dialogue between the realms of women’s studies and evolutionary psychology.”

    I think it sounds fantastic but very pricy – have to convert that to pounds and save up. I’d love to read it but I think you and I would be the only two interested in doing so :-( I will very hard to get a copy.

    From what little I’ve seen and heard its needed. I think evolutionary psychology is resting on too many fairly old hat assumptions based on womens roles in the past to be taken remotely seriously as science. Far too limited in its scope, more a version of Peter’s/Joosts opinions in a lab coat than an open minded science.

    But the role of women has changed and so has what they’ll put up with, so clearly those assumptions are based on earlier roles hadn’t been that fixed by evolution at all but by society.

    So anything that frees it from some of those assumptions might at least push it down a more realistic science route. For example if men only selected us for looks where did we manage to get the nous to select them for being clever, and manly. Why did we play no role in shaping their looks. Are they really that shallow to only value women as sex objects. Obviously not, most aren’t cos sex objects don’t keep infants alive in difficult circumstances or they lose their looks! And relationships do survive beyond the looks stages as well.

    We do not really know enough yet about human sexuality or about several features of our own biology or psychology to begin to understand their evolutionary roots. And whilst its held back by overt sexism – it won’t progress.

    Why such a prolonged adolescence for example – really odd time when girls can get pregnant but the consequences are awful. Increased liklihood of maternal death or lifelong damage, plus smaller weaker babies less likely to survive. Why? What is the role of concealed ovulation. Where are our ancestors and how much more do we need to find out about them before making assumptions. Why do very attractive women find it more difficult to get mates than those at the more average range. Why does none evo psych research suggest so much is based on shared interests if looks are the be all and end all and so on.

    Hope you do manage to get hold of a copy.

  82. In reply to #100 by atheistengineer:

    LaurieB

    At the end of the day, gains like equal pay help us pay massive mortgages and bills. Most men I know are in favour of that. Just not the sexists for some reason.

    This is my observation as well. I will add to that though- Guys want or appreciate or require women to bring in as much income as possible but the problem on my side of the pond is that they don’t always come up to the plate in their share of household chores and childcare. We have a longstanding burnout problem for working women here that has not been resolved in the past 20-30 years. I hope the 20-somethings will improve on this.

    And I always felt so grateful that I didn’t think I needed it.

    Ahhh, that hurt just a little bit. You see, I’m older than you, 50 to be precise, and I remember the day I sat in my high school guidance office with the career counselor and after a review of my test scores and grades he said, “Well, you have a good application for a science major, but how do you think you’re going to do science and have a family too?” I was stunned by that question and unprepared for it then. I said, “What SHOULD I major in then?” He said, “It doesn’t matter, just write something on the application so we can send it out.” this still makes me furious all these years later but when I hear of young women making it in careers that were totally closed to us before – and engineering is one of them, it makes me feel a little better about the whole thing. But I want to remind you younger ones what it took for you to have the right to compete with men on a playing field that although not completely level, is at least becoming much more so. Feminism had everything to do with that.

    I doubt very much that in our long illness ridden, not washing, toothless, edge of starvation evolutionary existence looks played that much of a part. the species would have died out if men had been so picky every time a drought or breast feeding made boobs droopy and hair matted.

    haha! And there we have a perfect agreement.

  83. I must say I am concerned by this new direction feminism seems to be taking. It’s almost comparable to the indirect racism lead to by the left embracing cultural relativism. This emphasis on “family” values instead of liberal ones as well as the attacks on science are beginning to look more and more conservative right wing.

    • What do you mean by “new direction”? Can you be more specific? I understand about the indirect racism thing but usually it’s the feminists who are being acused of destroying family values. Remember that old saying? – A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle… But you must have something else in mind.

      In reply to #103 by Peter Grant:

      I must say I am concerned by this new direction feminism seems to be taking. It’s almost comparable to the indirect racism lead to by the left embracing cultural relativism. This emphasis on “family” values instead of liberal ones as well as the attacks on science are beginning to look more and more conservative right wing.

      • In reply to #104 by LaurieB:

        What do you mean by “new direction”?

        Perhaps it isn’t all that new and I just haven’t noticed. Pity, because I’m all for women’s rights. The rest still stands though.

  84. Peter Grant:

    must say I am concerned by this new direction feminism seems to be taking. It’s almost comparable to the indirect racism lead to by the left embracing cultural relativism. This emphasis on “family” values instead of liberal ones as well as the attacks on science are beginning to look more and more conservative right wing.

    What attacks on science exactly?

    If you’re talking about the selfish gene, then actually that research has been held back in a way by stalling at sexual selection based on what males find attractive – where women select active traits but are selected for passive ones like looks! For years by the looks of it. How likely is it to have been that simple?

    Because that ignores the fact that the selfish gene is at its most selfish in the feotus which will even kill the mother in its attempts to grab every resource. And it ignores the fact that the selfish gene is all about suriving offspring not finding a mate or actually getting pregnant which is easy.

    Family values! You also cannot ignore that the biggest driver of ‘family values’ has got to have been the massively increasing risks of large brained helpless infants. It is not palatble but it is something that science needs to investigate. Both evolution and family values conspired against women there far more than men.

    Family values and feminism? What are you on? There is no way any female wants to return to those!

    Family values are, and always were in my opinion, driven by the fact female reproductive choices were governed by the total fear of pregnancy and the reliance on a male that engendered. Thats the driver of family values pure and simple. Not religion, not conservatism nor anything else. Repeated pregnancy and child rearing = slavery and no option to work hence total reliance on somebody else. Which gave males the upper hand totally once the initial choice was made.

    Liberal values are more the result of adequate contraception freeing women economically than anything else you can come up with! Without that none of us could have sex happily and freely and without fear, or educations or careers.

    Plus you ignore something interesting about so called family and liberal values. Womens sexual choices and family values have been driven by fear of pregnancy – often dangerous and life limiting – through thousands of years of evolution. That drove them to things like relative chastity!

    The minute that fear was lifted their sexual behaviours and choices changed almost immediately. Women are players now just as much as men – in fact it is a normal stage to go through – to choose to have sex without commitment is fun. It was science gave that freedom and feminism that fought for the right to have it!!! So whatever evolution dictated can be very easily over ridden by the massive brains we evolved, jointly I’d like to think, I’d like to think men selected more equitably as well.

    Don’t forget all married males and females were once players like you (or weird), they chose a different option for a time. That doesn’t make them conservative or religious or likely to want to impact on your lifestyle at all. As long as you are careful not to ruin someone elses life with an unwanted child – who gives a shit what you do? Certainly not feminists. So I really don’t understand your link here.

    And just because someone is part of a copule that doesn’t mean they will be forever together or were chaste beforehand.

    Plus contraception means familes can be limited and the females can work more. So now both patners will only stay while they wish – by choice. But I suspect the selfish gene does still dominate the early baby years.

    An interesting peice of science would be to look at the age of children when couples split to see how strong the part played by evolution rearing helpless young babies might be. I’ve noticed it seems rarer when the children are very young and becomes increasingly likely as they get older.One thing that has been noticed is the number of women in their 50s initiating divorces which also looks interesting – children will be leaving home and therefore and evolutionary reliance will have gone. Is that linked to evolution or not? Has that link been ignored by dingbat sexual selection based on what men likes?

    The whole post is not about returning to family values its about sexism limiting science and sexism trying to reduce the roles of women in pre history to pretty lady parts. If along the way parts of what is discovered don’t appeal to men – tough. Huge parts haven’t been that kind to women either! But whatever we find doesn’t matter cos we have big brains and can ignore it anyway.

    • In reply to #106 by atheistengineer:

      In reply to #108 by atheistengineer:

      So it seems feminism is now even busy devising its own creation myths.

      It really is a pity about all this anti-science rhetoric because though I share many values with feminists I now realise that I could never truthfully ascribe those values to such an inherently irrational ideology.

  85. LaurieB:

    Ahhh, that hurt just a little bit. You see, I’m older than you, 50 to be precise, and I remember the day I sat in my high school guidance office with the career counselor and after a review of my test scores and grades he said, “Well, you have a good application for a science major, but how do you think you’re going to do science and have a family too?” I was stunned by that question and unprepared for it then. I said, “What SHOULD I major in then?” He said, “It doesn’t matter, just write something on the application so we can send it out.” this still makes me furious all these years later but when I hear of young women making it in careers that were totally closed to us before – and engineering is one of them, it makes me feel a little better about the whole thing. But I want to remind you younger ones what it took for you to have the right to compete with men on a playing field that although not completely level, is at least becoming much more so. Feminism had everything to do with that.

    Please don’t be hurt. It is complete and utter gratitude. What I said was I thought I didn’t need to be a feminist because of the hard work of previous women. Like I could say I don’t need to be a suffragette but am eternally grateful to them.

    But I do still need to be a feminist, and I am. It’ll be a long time before I can’t be. While people like Joshua Akey are still pulling glossy hair drives evolution BS out of theirs bums and people aren’t falling on the floor laughing at them then I will.

    And I think the tide is turning back very viciously against women. I was very shocked at the initial responses to the post here and the antipathy to femnism. And some of the trends over here in the UK are worrying. My sex education was how to avoid pregnancy – it was just assumed sex would be fun and by choice – and I would never have thought any different. My sister is a teacher, she’s showed me the latest sex ed booklets (secular not religious at all) and they start omniously with you can say no, sex should feel good if it feels degrading, threatening or menacing it isn’t right!

  86. Peter Grant:

    Why is simply suggesting that selection by men may have shaped female beauty considered somehow sexist?

    The short answer is women usually find being reduced to sex objects demeaning, boring and irritating. So if they did have choice why would the select males exhibiting a trait that is about as close to a universal turn off as it is possibly to get?

    The longer answer, it ignores reality and in assuming men think they were slected only for their brains but women were selected only for looks, consigns women to passive pretty lady parts roles from the start of hominid time. It is very likely that both men and women were selected for other traits in harsher times and that both men and women were selected for looks in better ones. History and environment not being constants! Something complex is being held back and ignored by simple sexism.

    Looks don’t remain, pregnancy removes them for starters. Therefore whilst men need brains to select a mate, women need equal brains to keep once pregnant.

    Go read the story of Scherazade. A king beds a new virign wife every night and beheads them the morning after. After a thousand women he marries virgin Scherazade. Every night she tells an interesting story but doesn’t finish it. To hear the end he has to keep her alive to the next night and hear the start of the next story. Her surivival is brains not beauty and virginity which he’s clearly found in abundance.

  87. Peter Grant:

    In reply to #106 by atheistengineer:

    In reply to #108 by atheistengineer:

    So it seems feminism is now even busy devising its own creation myths.

    How exactly? By suggesting females may also have selected for looks? What evidence do you have that they didn’t? They very clearly do now, when freed from risk of pregnancy. Amongst the females I know, and myself in the past when selecting for short term flings anyway!

    Not noticed metrosexual men? Not noticed men dressing up and strutting far more than their cars and wits before females. Never seen how long a teenage boy spends on his hair? Longer term maybe not just looks, then females do move to other qualities, but then so do males as far as I can see.

    So explain the above behaviours? The sharp suits? the Calvin Klein pants much loved by women? The cute looking, to teenage, girl boy bands? Where did it come from, cos I abslolutely can’t see where it came via your evolutionary route so need instructing.

    Perhaps you can also explain the wide variety of female looks? If selected purely on beauty? The use of underwear which most men like and which was clearly absent when we were evolving? The changing criteria for the perfect female shape – go look at a rubens or early venus statues – they wouldn’t get into the movies these days? Explain them in terms of your theory please.

    Otherwise I might have to think you were anti science and ignoring lots of evidence and making up your own willy driven theories to suit!

    Or is it by suggesting that men may have selected for other things as well? What evidence do you have they didn’t? You are not selecting for relationships so your critieria are different but a sample of one outside the normal range is not really evidence. Look at our evolution – how much of it do you think was carried out on the very edges of existence? How attractive is the small pox survivor – with the life saving immunity to pass on to their genes?

    Or was it by suggesting that large brained and vulnerable infants that die easily and difficult births played a part in that selection process and behaviours? Getting pregnant via the medium of glossy hair and cute figure or not, is very, very, very easy – its staying alive and keeping offspring alive that is difficult. So why are you placing all the emphasis on stage one when stage two is the hard part. What evidence do you have that is wrong? What is your explanation for concealsed ovulation and oxytocin?

    And anyway its not my idea – its Jerry Coyne that cautions against over use of sexual selection in the absence of evidence! Take it up with him. To my knowledge he isn’t a mad feminist and he’s .
    I’m saying I don’t know yet, needs researching. Your claiming the whole thing is based on males selecting for looks as many females as poss, females selecting for brains and far less.

    Give me your evidence and I’ll admit you’re right. But as far as I can see the research as been held up by the over simplified

    It really is a pity about all this anti-science rhetoric because though I share many values with feminists I now realise that I could never truthfully ascribe

    • In reply to #110 by atheistengineer:

      How exactly? By suggesting females may also have selected for looks?

      Please stop trying to absolutise everything I say, it’s a symptom of essentialist thinking and not at all intellectually attractive.

      Females also select for looks, but they also select for other things. Males, especially males not looking for a long-term relationship, select almost exclusively based on looks.

  88. Peter Grant:

    Please stop trying to absolutise everything I say, it’s a symptom of essentialist thinking and not at all intellectually attractive.

    But I don’t really need to be intellectuallly attractive do I? Not according to your model. In fact with your model I just need to be impressed by someone elses wit and intellect whilst simultaneously having successfully avoided developing any brains at all myself?

    How does that work? How do females select males for intellectual qualities when looks is all they’ve been selected for and maybe the brighter females removed from the gene pools?

    Females also select for looks, but they also select for other things.

    When going into longer term relationships yes, but then so do males on that basis. Maybe not the same traits but very few men would enter into a long term relationship with someone that bored them rigid. Look at the all the research suggesting couples selecting on shared interests and educational level. Explain in terms of your model. That is science.

    Males, especially males not looking for a long-term relationship, select almost exclusively based on looks.

    Now who is being absolutist. There are many points in a females life when she is not looking for long term relationships. You of all people should know that. I selected on the basis of looks at that stage in my life. So do many of my friends at similar stages – eg when leaving long term relationiships and not wishing to go into others or on holiday, at university when career more important.

    Now where is the evidence for you statement?

    • In reply to #112 by atheistengineer:

      But I don’t really need to be intellectuallly attractive do I?

      Not if you want me to have sex with you, for that all you need is to be willing and reasonably physically attractive, but if you want me to embrace your ideology you will need to do much better.

      Not according to your model. In fact with your model I just need to be impressed by someone elses wit and intellect whilst simultaneously having successfully avoided developing any brains at all myself?

      How does that work? How do females select males for intellectual qualities when looks is all they’ve been selected for and maybe the brighter females removed from the gene pools?

      Most traits selected for in males get passed on to female offspring as well. Intelligence makes females even choosier.

      • In reply to #113 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #112 by atheistengineer:

        But I don’t really need to be intellectuallly attractive do I?

        Not if you want me to have sex with you, for that all you need is to be willing and reasonably physically attractive, but if you want me to embrace your ideology you will need to do much better.

        You forget my ideology made your lifestyle (and mine) possible. Without the fight for free, effective contraception, safe legal abortion AND the removal of double standards that would have seen your reputation enhanced and mine destroyed by exactly the same thing, you’d have to be worth dying for – quite literally. It was feminism (from men and women) that fought for all of that! Reject it at your peril.

        Not according to your model. In fact with your model I just need to be impressed by someone elses wit and intellect whilst simultaneously having successfully avoided developing any brains at all myself?

        How does that work? How do females select males for intellectual qualities when looks is all they’ve been selected for and maybe the brighter females removed from the gene pools?

        Most traits selected for in males get passed on to female offspring as well. Intelligence makes females even choosier.

        Well lets move from the 21st century and individual phenotypes back to the selfish gene at its worst and consider your statement. Intelligence is the trait selected by majority of females, looks by males. So you select on looks (which are common to a huge set of females with small differences so you have a large choice but select the best looking) and someone else from a smaller sub set selects on a combination of traits including intelligence and looks but with IQ balancing against the very best looking.

        He adds another set of intelligent genes to his and doubles his chances of intelligent sons who become more attractive than yours to the majority of females – your genes die out, they aren’t chosen. His daughters are more intelligent so her genes are selected from by all males including the sub set selecting females for intellegence as well as looks. She is more attractive to more males and more successful than your daughters.

        His mate is better at resource gathering and contributes more, more children, more living to adulthood, more attractive and free from disease. Your mate is less well equipped, less resources for your children, more die, those that live are stunted and less attractive. Your genes die out.

        Meanwhile the looks you so valued have changed with the passage of time. Both yours and your mates. Abandon your mate and you are deselected by the remaining females as high risk of abondonment and less fit as as a hunter as you are older and so less attractive – your genes die out.

        Problem with Joshua Akey and all the others is that their theory, like all theories hasn’t stood the test of time very well. It can explain limited things extremely well, like the spread of blue eyes. It fails on far more. Which is why GOOD evolutionary biologists warn against it tll more is known. And that includes looking now to see what and how females contributed, parental involvement contributed and huge brains contributed.

        Anyway as we’ll never agree might as well stop. Its been fun tho.

      • In reply to #113 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #112 by atheistengineer:

        But I don’t really need to be intellectuallly attractive do I?

        Not if you want me to have sex with you, for that all you need is to be willing and reasonably physically attractive, but if you want me to embrace your ideology you will need to do much better.

        Not according to your model. In fact with your model I just need to be impressed by someone elses wit and intellect whilst simultaneously having successfully avoided developing any brains at all myself?

        How does that work? How do females select males for intellectual qualities when looks is all they’ve been selected for and maybe the brighter females removed from the gene pools?

        Most traits selected for in males get passed on to female offspring as well. Intelligence makes females even choosier.

        Oh and just to add, if you’re right there would be a clear correlation between looks and brains! But IQ is not predictor of looks or vice versa.

        If I’m right all traits, IQ, looks, values etc should correlate! Which they do.

        • In reply to #115 by atheistengineer:

          Oh and just to add, if you’re right there would be a clear correlation between looks and brains! But IQ is not predictor of looks or vice versa.

          Nonsense, selfish gene theory predicts no such thing. Given the asymmetry in selective pressure brains can be selected for without looks and vice versa.

          If I’m right all traits, IQ, looks, values etc should correlate! Which they do.

          In couples, yes, but not in every sexual encounter which takes place.

          This is only one more example of what I meant when I said you need to do much better. A start would be to try incorporating scientific facts into your ideology instead of trying to beat them into oblivion with it.

          Edit: Just thought I might add that I suspected from the first that the difficulties you are experiencing have more to do with your being an engineer than your gender. Engineers typically have problems with complex biological-type systems. I cannot count the number of arguments I’ve had with them over global warming, for example.

  89. Peter Gramt:

    A start would be to try incorporating scientific facts into your ideology instead of trying to beat them into oblivion with it.

    Er where are your scientific facts? Thus far you’ve relied on citing a sample of one – yourself. Thats not really a gene pool, not even a shallow gene puddle its a droplet. Plus your anecdote is in opposition to my anecdotes so we pretty much cancel each other out. You claim all males select on looks over brains mainly, the ones I know don’t all the time. It depends on the end goal. You claim all females select on brains over looks, the ones I. know don’t all the time – it depends on the end goal.

    Where are your up to date stats? I’ve said there is research showing couples are similar in IQ, education and so on. Explain it in terms of your model using something more up to date than an 37 year old book written as a simple introduction for non scientists. Which was also the authors first and followed by a body of work that frankly left it in the shade. Go read Jerry Coynes book for starters.

    Explain why you think the researchers and Jerry Coyne were wrong in advising extreme caution is attributing simplistic sexual selection to traits in the absence of evidence? When we have yet to be able to explain sexual behaviour and choices as they are now? Explain why there isn’t a strong correlation between IQ and looks which would be predicted if all the cleverest, wittiest, most charming males selected only the prettiest females and vice versa?

    And why keep going off topic? We’re not discussing every sexual encounter – which results in pregnancy only – we’re discussing evolution. Which is the blind product of billions of years of successfully passing on genes and beneficial mutations. Throughout changing enviroments, changing times and bottlenecks when we were close to extinction. Gving us a complex system of neurons capable of overiding older more instinctive parts of the brain. Only yesterday research revealed the beer goggles effect is not that alcohol helps women (and men) lower standards merely that it switches off some of the cognitive functions and allows the very basic very strong urge to mate to surface without thought or brakes.

    Pregnancy in humans does not result automatically in live young of which a significant percentage survive. Thats frogs you’re thinking of. The natural break in human intelligence should have been the pelvis, instead intelligence pushed us into learning and immature brains. Increased risks to mothers. Increased need for parental involvement. New strategies new ways of breeding.

    So stop judging the world by 21st century standards of freedom and medical care and give me something more compelling. Cos from where I’m standing a lot is still very speculative and being held up by preconceptions.

  90. Peter it will take me a wee while to plough through all of that, its a very long interview and I only have short chunks of time. But I will don’t worry. Interestingly it did not only mention sexual selection but also parental investment (how often have I mentioned that), recipricol selection, kin selection and parent offspring conflict. Plus I’m still with the biologists that it is difficult and hard to objectively to judge things like behaviour, which don’t leave clear obvious traces, in the way genes and fossils do for biology.

    Plus I’m pretty sure that Buss guy has published stuff stating that when selecting long term mates both females and MALES select differently to short term flings!!! And I’m sure he’s also published stuff that says the similarities between men and women are greater than differences due to shared evolution in hostile environments. Think it was him anyway.

    Meanwhile you can ponder on this:

    Men generally relax mate preferences (whereas women increase selectivity for physical attractiveness) in short-term mating contexts Kenrick et al. 1990; Kenrick et al. 1993; Li et al. 2002; Li and Kenrick 2006; Regan 1998a, 1998b; Regan & Berscheid, 1997; Regan et al., 2000; Simpson & Gangestad, 1992; Stewart et al., 2000; Wiederman & Dubois, 1998

    Which would tie in with my observations of weeks on holidays with female friends in the past. For women, brains, charm and wit for going out with long term, nice bums and pecs for brief flings.

    Anyway think I’m finished with this one. Have to say the initial misogynistic, bile filled responses from the earlier posters – who either didn’t seem to get the fact that it is quite possible to both fancy AND like women or were unable to articulate that that was what they really thought has rather put me off atheism as an ideology that has anything at all to offer women. Though I guess they weren’t representative given nearly all the people I know are atheists.!

    • In reply to #119 by atheistengineer:

      Evolutionary Psychology and Feminism

      Empirical findings relevant to evaluating sex differences in desires for sexual variety:

      Men are more likely than women to engage in extradyadic sex

      Men are more likely than women to be sexually unfaithful multiple
      times with different sexual partners

      Men are more likely than women to seek short-term sex partners that
      are already married

      Men are more likely than women to have sexual fantasies involving
      short-term sex and multiple opposite-sex partners

      Men are more likely than women to pay for short-term sex with (male
      or female) prostitutes

      Men are more likely than women to enjoy sexual magazines and
      videos containing themes of short-term sex and sex with multiple
      partners

      Men are more likely than women to desire, have, and reproductively
      benefit from multiple mates and spouses

      Men desire larger numbers of sex partners than women do over brief
      periods of time

      Men are more likely than women to seek one-night stands

      Men are quicker than women to consent to having sex after a brief
      period of time

      Men are more likely than women to consent to sex with a stranger

      Men are more likely than women to want, initiate, and enjoy a variety
      of sex practices

      Men have more positive attitudes than women toward casual sex and
      short-term mating

      Men are less likely than women to regret short-term sex or
      “hook-ups”

      Men have more unrestricted sociosexual attitudes and behaviors than
      women

      Men generally relax mate preferences (whereas women increase
      selectivity for physical attractiveness) in short-term mating contexts

      Men perceive more sexual interest from strangers than women

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