One of the things I love about British lefties…

Love as in it irritates me enormously.

The low voice of men, like stags, is a trait that probably evolved through sexual selection. This isn’t just about being attractive to the opposite sex, it’s also about beating same-sex rivals. A deep voice may prove an advantage in both cases, helping a man to exclude other, apparently less dominant men, from the mating game, as well as making him more attractive to the opposite sex. A win-win situation.

They’re right up there with evolution, the lefty papers happily publish bits telling us the implications of it all.

And then the other 90% of said papers are all about how horrible the results are and how we shouldn’t be doing the things that evolution means we do do. Men are more interested in looks than women, they being more interested in status. This flows directly from the basic bits about being a mammal with a long gestation and even longer child rearing process. And we can go on and on in pointing out which parts of our nature various lefties will pooh pooh.

It’s the acceptance of evolution and the subsequent railing against the implications of it that so pisses me off. Lad’s mags? Evolution. Screwing around? Evolution. An interest in Ya Yas? Evolution.

31 comments on “One of the things I love about British lefties…

  1. Well you’re talking about evolutionary psychology, not evolutionary biology, a field not exactly the most respected within the scientific community or even the evolutionary science community (being as it is mostly educated guesses and that evolutionary psychologists tend to contradict each other).

    It assumes there is a singular nature to evolved traits in humans. If you’ve met people you’ll know traits, particularly around sexual behaviour, are incredibly variable.

    I also think there is the argument we are the one creature who can overcome their urges. I mean a lot of violent criminals likely have those propensities due to innate evolutionary urges or conditioning, does that mean they somehow should be absolved of their responsibility.

    I sort of agree and I find this new puritanical march against pretty innocuous things (absolutely no evidence they harm anyone, there is no evidence hardcore porn harms people for that matter, it may act like alcohol to someone predisposed to alcoholism in a very small segment of the population but those effects are minor) really obnoxious and wish they would just be far more clear and stop trying to bring very dodgy ‘evidence’ relating it to sex crime and that into it and say we just don’t like it or think it’s moral.
    I am generally of the opinion whenever right wing religious types and the more stringent feminists agree on something being bad then things get worrying.

    The right wing press has been very guilty of dropping on evolutionary psychology which supports it’sd views of standard family and monogomy and largely ignoring the theories that suggests otherwise and that single partner monogamy was not amazingly common in pre-civ times.

  2. What greg said. The whole point of civilisation is that we can alter aspects of our evolutionary heritage by using our Massive Human Brains.

  3. I didn’t expect to see this sort of anti-science here, in the comments of course, not the post.

    Read the Blank Slate. The only controversy about sociobiology, which is what this is, has been produced by Marxists like Steven Rose and Stephen Jay Gould, for political reasons.

  4. There is nothing wrong with evolutionary reasoning or the assumption that human psychology is a product of evolution. Myself though I fear that there is a tendency to rush to conclusions and apply overly simplistic or “linear” models which tend toward teleology. A, therefore B. A lot of the presumptions about how women and men *ought* to behave are ISTM based on moral assumptions within our own social preferences; women are preferential monogamists whose behaviour is focussed on childcare provision, A therefore B.

    Our closest relatives, chimpanzees, have a long childcare provision period, but the females are promiscuous (in the sense of mating with multiple males during oestrus). You can’t presume that some outcome has only one “obvious” preferred behaviour.

    I mean, like I say, not against this. I love to speculate myself in this regard. But people seem to me to have run along to an awful lot of jumpy conclusions which, strangely, often seem to correspond with how they rather would prefer the world to be.

    Let’s take “Men are more interested in looks than women, they being more interested in status”. What does this really mean? What are “looks” for? Consider another approach; looks are a status (or potential status) indicator. That’s where female preferences come from. They want an alpha male. A “good looking” male has looks which indicate alpha; health, strength, fitness, big lantern jaw that won’t get broked in a fight.

    Humans lived for most of pre-history with only simple social status. A male would be Big Man of the tribe, and some more as his lieutenants. He got there by physically oppressing his rivals. In this case, looks and status are congruent.

    Now, relatively recently, more complex social structures evolve. Firstly, hereditary leadership- kingship. Secondly, societies start to rely more on brains. It’s the wily commander who wins the battle, not necessarily the strongest warrior. Now, females find a dichotomy between goals. They may find that the highest “status” male is a relatively weedy hereditary, or a cunning planner with legs like toothpicks. Now, our female finds a choice; she can have a good looking male, or a high status male. She’s stuck with a choice.

    In modern society, most high status males are not the best physical specimens. The dichotomy has become profound. It’s not that the female wants status over looks; she’s just now got a lot of trouble getting both in one package. Which may be the cause of the stereotype of the woman married to a (status alpha/physical beta) businessman who fucks the (status beta/physical alpha) swimming pool boy while hubby is out earning his millions.

    So, maybe that spin is wrong too. May well be. But I think that it’s easy to fall into the trap of making simplistic declarations like “men prefer looks, women prefer status” as if these are hardcoded in this straightforward manner. If you had the choice of a handsome, poor brickie who’ll fuck you like a lady deserves, or a billionaire tycoon wheezing away on top like a broken accordion, which would you choose?

  5. The other question that remains open is how much of the “status seeking” behaviour is instinctive and how much volitional and socially constructed. It may be that women seek high status males (“gold digging”) simply because they can, and are overriding their physical “instinctive” preferences in order to do so. Basically, you don’t necessarily need to postulate an instinct if other incentives will cause the desired behaviour. That’s not to say there isn’t such an instinct, but we really should not just presume that there is.

  6. The problem about arguing from what our ancestors did and how they lived is that we know so little about it. All we have is inferences drawn from fragmentary info.

  7. I don’t think it’s a left /right thing at all. You can accept evolution and find some of its results deplorable.

    For example, intra-human violence is far commoner than for any other species, maybe apart from shrews and an obscure American rodent.

    We are also extremely duplicitous. (Fake barber fish run us close but only on one dimension.) The newish idea of evo-devo postulates that, unlike birds, we did not evolve colour vision to find fruit but to detect lies told us by other humans.

  8. Tim,
    In line with previous comments, I think you may be speculating ahead of our real knowledge of whether particular aspects of observed current human behaviour are mainly evolved, cultural or individual. We can guess the broad outlines, yes, but not much further than that. (And some ev. psych. reasoning goes too far in the direction of denying individual moral responsibility in my opinion.)

    “It’s the acceptance of evolution and the subsequent railing against the implications of it that so pisses me off. ”
    The place where I really see that is in discussions of intelligence. It’s still quite common to see denial of ANY hereditable component to intelligence at all. Someone once called this “creationism for socialists.” Asking them how they think intelligence evolved in the first place usually gets one accused of wishing to introduce the caste system from Brave New World.

    bloke in france,
    ” intra-human violence is far commoner than for any other species, maybe apart from shrews and an obscure American rodent.”

    I question this. Lots of male animals have frequently-lethal battles during mating season. Also quite a frequent pattern for lions / bears / seals to kill the offspring by another father of the female they have just mated with. Dolphins will sometimes kill strangers who come into their pod’s territory. Chimpanzees have outright wars.

  9. Be careful about the bonobos; I’ve read some skeptical scientific stuff that suggests the behaviours reported are maybe not so typical after all, and occur primarily in adolescents, in captivity.

    We might be watching the same effect as shoving teenagers together into an institution…

  10. Natalie, I suppose you’re right, in the sense that all animals die a violent death, while primitive humans have a 70% chance of not being murdered. I was thinking of stags and walruses; in the end the battle for mates ends with one conceding defeat without serious injury.

    I agree that what we now know about the morally reprehensible habits of lion infanticide makes the lion on the Queen’s arms and our coinage a bit peculiar.

    Selection pressure works on whole societies of course. One chap, coincident with Genghis Khan’s conquests, is the male ancestor of 7% of people in those conquered territories. They are hell holes which everyone wants to leave. On the other hand, Jews make up 0.1% of the world population but 20% of Nobel prize winners. Somewhere in between are the Montenegrins, who despite coming from a very violent society have disproportionate success in America.

  11. I was thinking of stags and walruses; in the end the battle for mates ends with one conceding defeat without serious injury.

    As with humans. It’s been pointed out by some scientist (ref: forgotten) that human males seem to use deliberately inefficient methods of display fighting, thumping each other basically. Which is why we even have a special crime when somebody dies as a consequence- manslaughter- because people aren’s supposed to die from being thumped and it’s an awkward accident when they do.

    One chap, coincident with Genghis Khan’s conquests, is the male ancestor of 7% of people in those conquered territories. They are hell holes which everyone wants to leave. On the other hand, Jews make up 0.1% of the world population but 20% of Nobel prize winners.

    …and live in Palestine, fighting over a mythical right to a little city in the hills. I’m not sure what point you’re making here.

    Especially as Khanate DNA appears to be why the central European ladies are so beauitful. Every cloud has a silver lining.

  12. IanB
    I can’t remember what point I was making. Maybe Genghis was more beautiful than brainy? Sounds implausible – but not impossible.

    Natalie: I should have retorted that most animals get killed by other species. Most humans get killed by humans.

    general rule: most societies die from the inside. Even jews before WW2 had a collapsing birth rate. For a dying culture look at modern day Samaritans, who are not persecuted from “a little city on the hill”.

  13. Just to throw a little notion into the debate.
    There was a theory I came across, the status of human males might not be in the eye of the beholder but in the eye of the individual themselves.
    High status ie self confident males present in a different way to women than low status. May be in posture, behaviour, maybe even pheromone production. Or a combination of two or all.
    Which, if you think about it, could account for otherwise inexplicable attractions. And loss of attraction.

  14. Well, yes, confidence is internal to the person (the male in this case) and they will present differently. Women are attracted to confidence on the reasonable numbers game that there is a better than random correlation between the sets of (a) males who are confident and (b) males who have a justification for their confidence. If we presume that women are seeking confident men; personals ads provide strong evidence that they are, but they may be lying or self deluding, as with all the males who advertise for a woman who is “strong and independent” when they really want to write “pretty, decent personality, nice tits, not too old, not too fat”.

    So going by advertising (confidence) means women have to suffer some significant proportion of false advertisers (men who are confident but have no right to be) while missing some proportion of men who are not confident but probably ought to be), but they do better than random. Although if this “game” thing should prove to be as effective as its gurus claim (questionable) and becomes generalised in the population (questionable) that might queer the pitch quite a lot since women will then find themselves shopping in a market full of apparently alpha super-confident males who are really total losers.

    The other problem with going for super-confidence is you might end up with Tony Blair.

  15. You don’t think conservatives have a keen interest in restraining man’s sexual impulses as well? Heck, civilisation is, in large part, built upon directing the species away from the habits that it has acquired. What can be annoying about leftists, more than their attempts to limit our evolution, is their denial of its limits: the idea of universal empathy, for example, or equal abilities.

    Peter

    The only controversy about sociobiology, which is what this is, has been produced by Marxists like Steven Rose and Stephen Jay Gould, for political reasons.

    Yeah, but there is a heck of a lot that is controversial within sociobiology.

  16. @Ian
    Not sure if you’ve quite got what the suggestion was. It’s not whether the male is confident or not & not whether the female is looking for a confident partner. It’s a set of signals given off totally involuntarily & received likewise which change behaviour without concious appreciation.
    There was discussion about pheromone production which made a lot of sense. Thesis was humans produce pheromones which in the original tribe signalled status, mating availability etc. Effectively the tribal group moved in a cloud of its own pheromones which identified both individuals within it & the tribe as a whole. Gave a sense of security. Stranger groups would have a different smell provoking different responses. Interesting was the suggestion, modern living where individuals are both isolated as singletons or in small family sets & also constantly challenged by stranger’s signals which constantly surround them produces a low level sense of insecurity. In turn, the insecurity itself modifies the pheromone signals. If true you can see how this might explain how people living in close proximity in crowded cities might be continually stressed. How, living in an apartment building where the occupants were relatively unchanging, might feel much more like “home” than one where there was a constant turnover of residents.
    Regrettably it was something I stumbled over years ago in dial-up days & never found again. Journal article or similar. Certainly stuck in my mind as explaining a lot of urban behaviour.

  17. Matthew L – “The whole point of civilisation is that we can alter aspects of our evolutionary heritage by using our Massive Human Brains.”

    The whole point of Freud is that no we can’t.

  18. bloke in spain – “If true you can see how this might explain how people living in close proximity in crowded cities might be continually stressed.”

    You think it is the pheremones and not the random muggings?

    There isn’t much need to explain why people who live in places like Brixton are stressed. We all know even though we are not supposed to say so in polite society.

  19. The problem is there’s no real evidence that humans have any significant pheromonal system. We have a pretty poor sense of smell, but good visuals and audio systems, and we seem to interact using visual and audial signals. Hence, taking the tribal case different tribes will have different haircuts, body paint, markings, etc to distinguish themselves and we use such signals to this day, every time we choose what to wear, what hairstyle to have, what makeup to use, what jewellery and so on. It seems to me Occam’s Razor would apply.

    I don’t really know if cities are actually more stressful. They may contain more people under stress, but that isn’t necessarily the amount of people, it’s the jobs and lifestyles they have. Anyone would get stressed taking an hour on the tube to get to work. But me, I’m a townie and I find being in a proper city- that’ll be London then- fills me with a general sense of wellbeing. Having moved out to my shitty little hometown, I hate it here and would love to go back to the city. If I were trapped in the proper countryside, I’m sure I’d start feeling agriphobic. And that’s even without the ghastly smell.

  20. “I agree that what we now know about the morally reprehensible habits of lion infanticide makes the lion on the Queen’s arms and our coinage a bit peculiar.”

    *cough* Richard III *cough*

  21. “The problem is there’s no real evidence that humans have any significant pheromonal system. We have a pretty poor sense of smell”
    You are kidding aren’t you? One of the most potent memory triggers is the sense of smell And you’ve obviously never had much experience of french* crumpet. She’s in the mood, little dab of vaginal secretions behind the ear. You don’t have the option, not to be. Worked on me. I married la salope.

    *Information obtained during a rare moment of veracity encouraged by half bottle high octane. Whether is extended to the latina community indeterminate. Current representative refuses to be drawn on the matter. Probably regards as trade secret. Not a factor with Britbirds who are mostly deodorant obsessives.

  22. @SMFS
    “You think it is the pheremones and not the random muggings?”
    The theory would put that the other way round. In areas with high diversity, the pheromone environment would contain examples from genetic origins radically different from the perceiver , so enhancing the feeling of alienation. So you might see more expression of anti-social behaviour.

  23. BIS-

    I hate to drag out the tiresome “correlation is not causation” cliche, but the fact that your Mrs smeared her lugs with fanny batter doesn’t actually prove that that was what attracted you to her. 🙂

    Point is, there’s no evidence for humans acting “subliminally”, though there are a lot of folk tales about subliminal sights, sounds and smells. Humans do respond to smell- freshly baked bread, sewage, whatever- but I don’t think there’s any evidence that humans respond to levels of smell too low to be consciously detected. Even if it’s lady musk.

  24. BenSix,

    “You don’t think conservatives have a keen interest in restraining man’s sexual impulses as well?”

    The key difference is that conservatives understand that men’s sexual impulses are the way they are. The graun lefties assume that they are unnatural, the result of society, and can be changed.

    So, while both groups are anti-whoring and anti-porn, one thing that conservatives have always leaned towards is the idea of women being sexually submissive to their husbands, because those are his needs.

  25. @Ian
    Later education has revealed this little ploy is fairly well known to the worlds working girl community. And to be honest, when it comes down to insight into human nature, I’d back them against any army of psychologists.

  26. SMFS,

    > The whole point of Freud is that no we can’t.

    Er, no. Freud addressed quite a small and limited area of human behaviour. And he was wrong about loads of it.

    If you’re seriously suggesting that humans are incapable of using rationality to overcome instinct, the onus is on you to explain a massive amount of our civilisation, starting with eating things that taste like poison ’cause we know they’re good for us and working up from there.

  27. Freud addressed quite a small and limited area of human behaviour. And he was wrong about loads of it.

    Not so. He was wrong about all of it. The man was a total fruitcake.

  28. Hey,where are our physicists?
    The low voice of men is simply a consequence of the length of the voice-box which is related to size.
    Size is the evolutionary factor (“a good big’un will beat a good little ‘un” – unless he’s Dave Charnley), not the tone of voice.

  29. bloke in spain – “The theory would put that the other way round. In areas with high diversity, the pheromone environment would contain examples from genetic origins radically different from the perceiver , so enhancing the feeling of alienation. So you might see more expression of anti-social behaviour.”

    Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Higher than Iraq during the worst of the fighting. Yet it is not all that racially diverse. Some South and East Asians. I am not sure the theory works. If anything Jamaicans in the UK seem a little less prone to crime and violence.

    Squander Two – “Er, no. Freud addressed quite a small and limited area of human behaviour. And he was wrong about loads of it.”

    I am with Ian that he was wrong about all of it. But maybe not this.

    “If you’re seriously suggesting that humans are incapable of using rationality to overcome instinct, the onus is on you to explain a massive amount of our civilisation, starting with eating things that taste like poison ’cause we know they’re good for us and working up from there.”

    Do we eat things that taste like poison? We can eat things that we know are not poison, but we have a great deal of trouble eating things that disgust us even if we know they are safe. Look at the struggles English people have to eat snails. Rationality is not overcoming prejudice.

    Our civilisation works hard to control a lot of impulses. I am not sure how much success they have but I doubt it is a victory of rationality. I expect it is a victory of prejudice and deep conditioning. Christianity appears necessary for our civilisation to work and the bits that are important are not rational at all.

  30. > Do we eat things that taste like poison?

    Yes: antibiotics, quinine, sumatriptan, etc. Instinct is to spit this crap out, as anyone who’s given medicine to a baby or animal will know. Then there’s injections: your instinct when a needle jabs into you is to move away. Then there was surgery pre-anaesthetic: people would bite down on a bit of leather and put up with an amputation because they knew they’d die without it. We are capable of using rationality to overcome instinct. This is trivially and obviously true. This is why dogs and cats need to be put under a general anaesthetic for simple operations that humans don’t even need a local for: because we can understand the explanation of why it’s necessary and use that information to overcome our instincts and they can’t.

    > Look at the struggles English people have to eat snails. Rationality is not overcoming prejudice.

    Instinct is not prejudice. Taste is not rationality. I can’t imagine why you would even think this example was relevant. Are you seriously suggesting that the French and the English have different instincts?

    > Our civilisation works hard to control a lot of impulses. I am not sure how much success they have but I doubt it is a victory of rationality. I expect it is a victory of prejudice and deep conditioning. Christianity appears necessary for our civilisation to work and the bits that are important are not rational at all.

    OK, a terminology problem here. “Rationality”, the way I’m using it, refers to the human ability to reason, as opposed to instinct, which is reflexive and involves no reasoning. I thought that was clear from context. You’re using “rational” to mean “wise” or “sensible” or “correct” or something like that. Fair enough; it is used that way too. So, to be clear here: prejudice is rationality; conditioning (assuming the conditioning has been done by another person) is rationality. Neither of them are instinctive; they are cultural, not innate. Rationality is the ability to reason. It doesn’t have to reach a correct conclusion to qualify. Humans can use reasoning to overcome instinct regardless of whether it’s a good or a bad idea; people can overrule their instinct with really stupid reasoning.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.