The greatest inconsistency that most people discussing Social Darwinism fall into is the “survival of the fittest” falacy. Nowhere in any of Darwin’s writtings will you ever see this terminology refered to in the context of natural selection. It’s not survival of the fitest, it is survival of the species best able to adapt to it’s changing conditions and environments. Dinosaurs ruled the earth as the preeminent species for eons (far longer than humans). Then in the relative blink of an eye, they were extinct because a radical environmental change, for which they were, biologically, completely unprepared wiped them out wholesale. They simply couldn’t adapt to that environment.
This is what people fail to see; adaptation is the coin of the realm in evolution. 68% of the population in the U.S. is overweight, not because of “bad” genes, but because the environment has changed and people have adapted to it. Our bodies naturally store fat. We evolved from a necessity to do so since food sources were scarce in our biological past, however now the environment has changed. Food is too abundant, too convenient, too calorie dense, etc. for us not to be fat. Our metabolism favors carbohydrates over protien and stored fat, why? Because our environmental reality thousands of years ago meant that a good sugar kick made for a better chance of evading a predator. Now this biological legacy only makes us fatter when you can buy ding dongs at any 7-11.
With regards to monogamy or polygyny, essentially what we’re observing in this era is a result of a restructuring of adaptive methodologies to account for changes in our environment. Single motherhood, readily available forms of birth control, greater potential for security provisioning for men and women that isn’t based on physical prowess, etc. Yet, in light of all that we still struggle with the legacy of our biological pasts.
Men and women, biologically, have different methodologies for reproduction. It is in a woman’s biological best interest to mate with the genetically superior male best able to provide long term provisioning for her and any potential offspring. Again, it is in her best interest to find a man best fitted to share in parental investment. This is due to her comparatively prolonged period of gestation (9 months), the rigors of rearing a child to self-sufficiency (at least adolescence) as well as her own insured survival. They ovulate in a 28 day cycle and are at a peak of feritlity 5-7 years after puberty. They posess a limited number of eggs and become biologically inviable after a certain age (at or around menopause). Their hormone and endorphin biochemistry also reflect this reproductive schema; they produce in bulk oxytocin and estrogen, both responsible for prompting feelings of nurturing as well as serving as buffers for sexual indescretions. At the peak of their menstrual cycles they produce more testosterone in preparation for sexual activity and in the low periods produce more estrogens and progesterones. In addition, both during and after pregnancy they produce high levels of progesterone and oxytocin, both primary in engendering feelings of love and nuturement for offspring.
Men’s methodologies are much different. Biologically, we produce 12.5 times the amount of testosterone than women. As a result we have higher accuity of vision, hearing and touch. We have more muscularity, lean towards feelings of aggression in preference to sadness. And of course we are easily prompted to a state of sexual arousal – we’re always ready for it in our natural state. We produce millions of reproductive cells daily and are sexually viable until very late in life. Our reproductive methodology revolves around “spreading the seed” as indiscriminately as possible. Ours is quanity, women’s is quality.
Now, having done the break down of this, you can see the conflict in mating methods; thus enters adaptive sociological and psychological mechanisms to regulate this process. Thus, being social animals, we introduce ethics, morality and implied responsibilities to buffer both methodolgies. In our biological past, sexual arousal in both men and women was mitigated by physical prowess. Large breasts in women, an appropriate hips to waist ratio, physical symetry in both sexes, muscularity in men, physical manifestations of testosterone (square jaw for example) etc. we’re the call signs for sexual activity. Physicality was (and still is) the primary motivator for sexual activity and this is literally encoded into our genetics.
However, as society progressed, conditions and environments changed, thus social adaptation changed. A lot of freshly unplugged guy’s make an astute observation in this progression – Why is it that women are still hot for:
- Drug dealers
- Daredevils and risk-takers
Social proof began to become a secondary consideration for intimate acceptance (from a female mating methodology) for women as society progressed. Physical prowess, while still a primary sexual attractor and indicator of prefered genetics, didn’t necessarily ensure a continued committment to parental investment. Men and women’s reproductive methodologies have always been in a see-saw balance since we began as hunter-gatherer tribal societies. As society (see environment) changed other factors for parental investment became important. Artists became attractive bcause they possessed creative intelligence and this was manifested in their creative abilities to solve problems. When you see the broke musician with the dutiful girlfriend this is that legacy at work.
Social proof and intersexual competition, while always present, began to move into the psychological. It was far more efficient for women to compete for a desirable male covertly – usually by not confirming his acceptance – than to do so overtly. As society further progressed, male competition moved away from the physical and into a provisioning capacity. A drug dealer and a high powered corporate executive could both be “alpha” males – both have high social proof and provisioning capacity – albeit in different social strata.
Polygyny and Monogamy are natural human methodologies. Polygyny serves a mans biological imperative better, while monogamy serves a woman’s better. The conflict arises when either is compromised. A single man who’s non-exclusively dating is essentially in a state of polygyny, while a married woman is in her prefered state of secured monogamy. Either sex must surrender their prefered methodology to accommodate the other’s. This is why, socially, we have stages in our modern lives where one is exercised over another.
I was recently watching an animal planet special on dogs and cats that compared their “domestic” behaviors with those of their wild counterparts, like preadatory cats and wolves. Not so surpisingly a dog will instinctively do circles and tramp down his bed in exactly the same fashion as a wolf will his sleeping area. So too will cats cover up their own excrement, burying it so predators wont catch their scent so readily, just like house cats will. To us, these and many other behaviors seem cute, but entirely unnecessary for domesticated animals to habitually perform. One would think that after literally thousands of years of domestication, as well as selective breeding, these behaviors would be less prominent or entirely “bred out” of them, but this is obviously not the case. They are hardwired, unlearned behaviors that are imprinted into them from birth that proved to be valuable in their species’ survival over the course of generations.
Using this analogy, how much more complex are our behaviors and the motivations behind them? There are many global studies that compare physical features in attraction across culture and race for both sexes that show very frequent commonalities for physical attraction. Broad shoulders, squared jawline and chest to waist ratio in men and symetry of facial features, breast size and hips to waist ratios in women are universal attractors for each respective sex. In fact the very common propensity for women to exclude men shorter than themselves from their consideration for intimacy is specifically derived from what evolutioanry psychologists call vestigial sexual selection.
Bear in mind this is attraction and how our subconscious interprets external cues for prompting desire. You see a naked woman in Playboy and the result is a hard on. External prompt – biological response, pure and simple. That’s a quick and easy one, but there’s a variety of other reponses that occur too – quickening of heart rate, release of hormones and endorphines, dialation of pupils, flushing of skin, etc. Again this is a reaction that was unlearned and part of our chemical make up.
A lot of frustration most men and women endure in our modern socio-sexual education is the result of a psychological attempt to reconcile the vestigial behaviors and predilections of our feral past with the need for adaptation in our present environment. Hypergamy is the prime directive for women, but precious few are cognitively aware of it, and even the ones who may be still find themselves subject to it. Hypergamy is a vestigial, mental subroutine running in women’s peripheral awarenesses. So vital was this species survival methodology in our past that it had to become part of a woman’s limbic understanding of herself.
So when these processes are brought into our awareness (i.e. feminine hypergamy, male polygyny, etc.) we tend to play them down or dismiss them wholesale. Sometimes the truths of these vestiges are ugly – in fact the reason we find them uncomfortable or offensive is the result of a societal effort to keep them under the surface in ourselves. They offend our sense of justice, or notions of equitability, but they did serve to bring us to where we are now as a society.
A lot of critics of evo-psych (in particular), as well as the revealers of some of the more unsettling aspects of human social and sexual evolution, like to start their criticisms by conflating the revelations of these dynamics with condoning the behaviors that are results of them. Yes, hypergamy, in all its permutations, can be a very ugly truth to witness, but exposing it, attempting to understand it, is not tantamount to endorsing it. Human beings can’t handle too much reality, so the recourse is to attempt to stuff the Genie back into the bottle. Being aware of our feral natures and attempting to deconstruct the vestiges of those we deal with today is not the same as expecting absolution from the consequences of them.
Just because you know the reasons for your behaviors doesn’t grant you a license to engage in them. Yet neither should anyone be discouraged from legitimate inquiry into the natures of our primal selves for fear of the shame that others would want to apply to you to ease their own discomfort.