Evolutionary Mating & Morality

“if the slate of a newborn is not blank, different babies could have different things inscribed on their slates [possibly leading to] prejudice… Social Darwinism [and] eugenics.” (Pinker 141)

Three chapters for today’s reading, two on morality from Pinker and one on mating by Buller. This batch was surprisingly broad, going over a lot of ground. Ultimately, neither Pinker nor Buller make their case. Pinker is pushing a morality that centers on his personal combination of cherished belief and general cynicism. For his part, Buller tries to deliver a knock-out blow to Evolutionary Psychology but fails badly. even less convincing that his section on the massive modularity thesis, his entire chapter here could be easily brushed aside by simple explanations. I wanted to shout people fear rejection during many pages, which would have saved everyone a good deal of time.


Topic: Evolutionary Psychology
“Modern biology tells us that the forces that make people alike are not the same as the forces that make people different. (Indeed, they tend to be studied by different scientists: the similarities by evolutionary psychologists, the differences by behavioral geneticists.” (Pinker 142)

Topic: Universal Man
“As little as one conversion, affair, or rape involving a gentile in every generation can be enough to blur genetic boundaries over time.” (Pinker 143)
“when Evolutionary Psychologists use the term ‘universal’ they are implicitly referring to a developmental program shared by all ‘normal’ human beings, not to manifest or observable preferences, beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors [yet compare to] universal means that they are observable in all cultures, all historical periods, all economic or political systems, all social classes, all religious groups, all ‘ races’ or ethnicities, and all relevant ages of the life cycle.” (Buller 209)
but besides being incoherent, compare to:

the selection pressures on individuals within a sex also change across the course of the life cycle. (Buller 79-80)

“This appears to show that female preference for high-SES mates is not an artifact of unpreresentative American samples, but is in fact a robust universal preference.” (Buller 243)

Topic: Particular Man
“Because oceans, deserts, and mountain ranges have prevented people from choosing mates at random in the past, the large inbred families we call races are still discernible, each with a somewhat different distribution of gene frequencies. In theory, some of the varying genes could affect personality or intelligence.” (Pinker 144)
“in an isolated indigenous population in Southeast Peru, females with a [hourglass] 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio were described as having ‘had diarrhea a few days ago’ or having had fever, lost weight, especially in the waist.” (Buller 227)

Topic: Discrimination
“The case against bigotry is not a factual claim that humans are biologically indistinguishable. It is a moral stance that condemns judging an individual according to the average traits of certain groups to which the individual belongs.” (Pinker 145) (not how “certain” is a weasel word)
“according to Bayes’ theorem a decision maker who needs to make a prediction (such as whether a person will succeed in a profession) should factor in the prior probability, such as the base rate of success for people in that group.” (Pinker 147)
“Decisions that have to be made with finite time and resources, and which have high costs for certain kinds of errors, must use some trait as a basis for judging a person. And that necessarily judges the person according to a stereotype… no one objects to keeping chimpanzees out of our schools, even though it is conceivable that if we tested every chimp on the planet we might find one that could learn to read and write… after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, about half of Americans polled said they were not opposed to ethnic profiling — scrutinizing passengers for ‘flying while Arab’… knowing the typical sexual emotions of the two sexes, should we apply the same punishment to a man who seduces a sixteen-year-old girl and to a woman who seduces a sixteen-year-old boy?”" (Pinker 148)
“The point is that [group differences] do not have to be used that way, and sometimes we can decide on moral grounds that they must not be used that way.” (Pinker 149)
“Frederick Hayek wrote [that equality] before the law and material equality are, therefore, not only different but in conflict with each other.” (Pinker 151)
“Egoistic, sexist, racist, and xenophobic attitudes are logically inconsistent with the demand that everyone respect a single code of behavior.” (Pinker 169) (meaning? is this just wrong or not even wrong?)

Topic: Leftism
“A surprising number of intellectuals, particularly on the left, do deny that there is such a thing as inborn talent, especially intelligence. Stephen Jay Gould’s 1981 bestseller The Mismeasure of Man…” (Pinker 149)
“If people are assumed to start out identical but some end up wealthier than others, observers may conclude that the wealthier ones must be more rapacious. And as the diagnosis slides from talent to sin, the remedy can shift from distribution to vengeance. Many atrocities of the twentieth century were committed in the name of egalitarianism, targeting people whose success was taken as evidence of their criminality.” (Pinker 152)
“Contrary to the belief spread by the radical scientists, eugenics for much of the twentieth century was a favorite cause of the left, not the right. It was championed by many progressives, liberals, and socialists including [long list of names goes here].” (Pinker 153)
“American public health officials were slow to acknowledge that smoking causes cancer because it was the Nazis who had originally established the link.” (Pinker 154-155)
“The new realization that government-sponsored mass murder can come from an anti-innatist belief system as easily as from an innatist one upends the postwar understanding that biological approaches to behavior are uniquely sinister.” (Pinker 156-157)
“Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago… “The imagination and the spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology.”
“It is no coincidence that the writings of Rousseau inspired both the Romantic movement in literature and the French Revolution in history, or that the 1960s would see a surfacing of romanticism.” (Pinker 159)
“recurring Statements on Violence by social scientists averring that it is ‘scientifically incorrect’ to say that humans have tendencies toward aggression.” (Pinker 160)
“Betty Friedan has spoken out in favor of ‘compulsory preschool’ for two-year-olds.” (Pinker 171)

Topic: Rightism
“A spokesperson for the Discovery Institute, a creationist organization, testified at a U.S. congressional hearing that the [A Natural History of Rape] threatened the moral fabric upon which America is founded.” (Pinker 161)

Topic: Religion
“Though Hitler disliked Christianity, he was not an atheist.” (Pinker 154) (thus a Deist?)

Topic: Tribalism
“Martin Daly and Margo Wilson have documented that stepparents are far more likely to abuse a child than are biological parents.” (Pinker 164)

Topic: SysAdmin
“Our mental circle of respect-worthy persons expanded in tandem with our physical circle of allies and trading partners. As technology accumulates and people in more parts of the planet become interdependent, the hatred between them tends to decrease, for the simple reason that you can’t kill someone and trade with him too.” (Pinker 168)
“Given the independently documented robustness of status homogamy, we already know that, if you ask medium- and high-SES females what they want in a mate, they will show a preference bias against low-SES males.” (Buller 237) (how should a SysAdmin funnel sex? how to relate to “Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!?)

Topic: Old Ideas
“Even the young Mark appealed to a “species character,” with an impulse for creativity activity, as the basis for his theory of alienation.” (Pinker 169)
“Authoritarian High Modernism also lead to the ‘urban renewal’ projects in many American cities during the 1960s that replaced vibrant neighborhoods with freeways, high-rises, and empty windswept plazas.” (Pinker 170)

Topic: Education & Children
“Asian Americans and African American parents often flout the advice of the child-development gurus, using more traditional, authoritarian styles of childrearing that in all likelihood do their children no lasting harm.” (Pinker 171)
“In many schools, teachers have been told, falsely, that there is an ‘opportunity zone’ in which a child’s gender identification is malleable.” (Pinker 172)
“Humans are among a small minority of species in which both sexes invest heavily in offspring… a female who had to spend all her days tending a suckling infant [would need] males to provide their mates and offspring with food, shelter, and protection.” (Buller 204)
“Thus, Evolutionary Psychologist argue, since human male parental investment can be misspent in a way that human female parental investment cannot, selection should have designed males to deliver a lower level of parental investment than females as a hedge against the possibility of mispending it.” (Buller 205)
“females who are choosing mates are assumed to pay particular attention to a male’s ability to provide indirect resources, and males are assumed to pay special attention to signs of a female’s apparent health and reproductive potential.” (Buller 206)

Topic: Methodology
“males may indicate preferences on a survey questionnaire that don’t accord with the actual decisions they make in choosing a mate.” (Buller 211)
“to confirm that males have an evolved preference for young women, it is not enough to show that young men prefer young women.” (Buller 212)
“patterns of variation can be highly significant, because they indicate that different, possibly frequency-dependent, strategies are being pursued.” (Buller 219)

Topic: Pedophilia
“[Studies find] adolescent male preference for somewhat older females, especially females near peak reproductive value.” (Buller 225)

Topic: Homosexuality
“the preferences of homosexual men and women should reveal the pure, uncompromised evolved desires of each sex [because no cross-sex compromise is needed].” (Buller 226)

Topic: Sex Selection
“high status appears to compensate for homeliness, since the high-SES costume raised the homely model’s acceptability at every level of involvement over that of the handsome model in the low-SES costume.” (Buller 234)
“[Daniel Perusse] found a very weak correlation between status and mating success (that is, the higher a male’s status, the higher his NPC) in the whole sample and no correlation whatsoever between status and mating success for men over forty.” (Buller 245) (Many times irrelevant. EP says that programs are universal and adapted, not that behaviors are adaptive)
“matings between different pairs of have-somethings can achieve equal reproductive success, even if those different pairs have different ranks in Evolutionary Psychology’s scale of mate value.” (Buller 255) (‘can’ is a weasel word. in subsistence or starvation level societies, that wouldn’t be the case)

Topic: Definitions
human nature — an endowment of cognitive and emotional faculties that is universal to healthy members of Homo Sapiens.” (Pinker 142)
naturalistic fallacy, the belief that whatever happens in nature is good.” (Pinker 162)
moralistic fallacy: that if a trait is moral, it must be found in nature.” (Pinker 162)
Authoritarian High Modernism: the conceit that planners could redesign society from the top down using ‘scientific principles.’” (Pinker 170)
fitness costs and benefits which respectively diminish and enhance fitness.” (Buller 202)
parental investment [is] any characteristics or behaviors of a parent that enhances the ability of an offspring to survive and reproduce at a cost to the parent’s fitness… the minimum obligatory parental investment for women is vastly higher than that for men” (Buller 203)
problem of paternity uncertainty [means] any issue from her womb was of uncertain provenance from a male’s perspective.” (Buller 205)
fertility, which is a measure of the likelihood of being abel to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term.” (Buller 206)
reproductive value, which is a measure of the remaining number of offspring that a female can produce,” (Buller 207)
homogamy is the tendency for people to male with those similar in race or ethnic background, age, socioeconomic status, educational background, and religious orientation. Homogamy is a form of what biologists call associative mating, which is preferential mating with other organisms with like phenotype(s).” (Buller 213)
hypothesis of adjusted age homogamy predicts that males and females both prefer similarly aged mates, but that the preferred ages are adjusted for sex difference in age at reproductive maturation.” (Buller 215)
reproductive effort refers to the allocation of physiological resources among the component demands of survival and reproduction.” (Buller 220)
Mating Effort… is effort that is expended to mate. An organism that mates indiscriminately and invests nothing in its spawn of its mating allocates all of its reproductive effort to mating effort.” (Buller 220-221)
Parenting Effort [is Reproductive Effort Less Mating Effort, and] an organism that mates only until offspring are produced, then forgoes any further mating in order to invest itself fully in caring for its offspring, allocates part of its reproductive effort to mating effort and the majority to parenting effort.” (Buller 221)
Grandparenting Effort — to caring or providing resources for, or aiding one’s children in caring or providing resources for, one’s grandchildren. [Grandparenting effort is a form of Reproductive Effort besides Mating Effort or Parenting Effort. Also note that ] paternity uncertainly affects grandparental investment.” (Buller 221-22)
dominance, which is ‘a measure of one individual’s ability to prevail over another in competitive encounters.’” (Buller 230)
socioeconomic status (SES), which includes earning power and occupational prestige.” (Buller 230)
mate value, which is a measure of ‘one’s overall desirability to members of the opposite sex.’” (Buller 253)

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