The Game Theory of Holiness Spirals

If a social process is accelerating, why is it? Is it because of, say, learning? (E.g., a new technology: The more people use it, the more non-users see it, so the faster it spreads.) Or is it because there are game-theoretic reasons for it? The latter is obviously the case with a holiness spiral.

Holiness Spirals

A holiness spiral is when a group of people try to outdo each other in expressions of ideological piety. Other terms are signaling spiral (because people are competitively signaling their faith), purity spiral (I’m ideologically pure!), and Left Singularity. The last term is due to the fact that the current holiness spiral in the western world is a leftist phenomenon.

A key part of such a spiral is that one attacks people to one’s right, but not to one’s left. Indeed, participants are expected to attack those to their right as an expression of piety. The driving dynamic is that it makes sense to say, “That guy’s not holy enough! Attack him!” but it does not make sense to say, “That guy’s too holy! Attack him!”

As far as I know, Jim of came up with the concept of a holiness spiral/ left-wing singularity, and if he didn’t, he’s certainly doing more with the concept than anyone else. (See e.g. here:

As noted, the current holiness spiral is a leftist one. An example of the leftist acceleration:

• The time from gay marriage first being mentioned, to the moment leftists started calling opponents of gay marriage “bigots,” was about 15 years.

• The time from the start of Transvestite Lib to the moment leftists called a man who refused to kiss a tranny a “bigot” was about 3 years.

The process was well articulated by whatever asshole leftist came up with the slogan pas d’ennemis à gauche: “No enemy to the left.” (It started in Revolutionary France; see e.g. and was, unsurprisingly, important in Soviet Russia:
That established the dynamic. It would have happened anyway, but this slogan certainly accelerated it. It explicitly created the incentive to attack people to one’s right only, thus created the incentive for every leftist to try to get to the left of— to out-holy— every other leftist.

There’s only one way that ends. If everyone is rushing to get to the left of everyone else, obviously there will be acceleration to the left, which will never stop until it hits the most extreme possible situation: Genocide or an attempt at genocide that starts a civil war.

We are not at overt civil war yet, but we have entered the start of it. Consider our political situation right now: We are obviously living in Chapter One of every history book about a civil war ever written.

The Game Theory

The central problem of a holiness spiral is that the advantage is relative. That is, what determines whether the mob attacks you is not your absolute position, but your position relative to everyone else. That’s what creates the incentive for the perpetual leftward movement and the acceleration of that movement.

Importantly, when the participants in the holiness spiral realize they’re in a holiness spiral the problem becomes worse, not better. There are two key moments in a holiness spiral. The first is when is when a typical participant in the spiral notices that the movement to the left is accelerating. The second key moment is when a typical participant not only notices that the movement left is accelerating, but realizes that everyone else must also be noticing that. Then he starts thinking game-theoretically:

If some holiness spiral participant, call him Fred, notices the rapid leftward movement, then he has an incentive to move leftward too, to stay in the middle of the group. In fact, to be safe, he has an incentive to move left a little faster than he expects other people to move. That will leave him a margin for error, so that at worst, he stays in the middle, and at best, he’s a little to the left of the average, so he’s somewhat more holy than average.

But eventually Fred thinks: “Hmm, but presumably a lot of people are thinking the same way I just did. So they’ll also try to move more rapidly to the left.” For example, if the average belief is that the movement will be 10 miles per hour, then everyone actually has an incentive to move at, say, 12 miles per hour. That way there’s a margin for error, and at worst you outpace the average person a little to the left, which is always safe. (Being to the right isn’t safe.)

Note the logic here. For everyone to expect movement of X miles per hour is actually not a Nash Equilibrium, because if everyone believed that, then they wouldn’t behave that way; they’d move faster. Thus we have a proof by contradiction: Assume everyone expects movement of X mph. Then they have incentive to actually move at X+2 mph. Thus the acceleration.

But of course, it’s even worse than that. Because once Fred thinks game-theoretically, drawing the conclusions I’ve just drawn, he realizes that everybody else is, or will soon start, thinking that way too. So Fred’s incentive is to move leftward at 14 mph. That is, suppose everyone at first anticipates movement of 10 mph. Then their reasoning process tells each individual he’d better move at 12 mph. But it occurs to him that other people might also reason this out and move at 12 mph, so he thinks, “Hmm, actually I’d better move at 14 mph.” And so on.

Plainly this process has no sane limit.

This is why Jim notes that a holiness spiral cannot last forever; it must be forcibly stopped either by civil war, someone seriously stepping on the brakes with hardcore punishments for trying to out-holy everyone else, or until everybody goes as extreme as possible. The most extreme possible position is that everyone who’s a sinner must be tortured to death immediately, and indeed, that is where these things often end up. E.g., various Communist states’ purges in the 20th century.

Killing a Spiral

There are other possibilities, of course. For example, if I correctly recall the history of the Salem Witch Trials: At some point the Salem Witch Persecutions simply became too extreme, with everybody at risk because anyone could accuse anyone else of being a witch, and no one was safe. And it became obvious that some innocent people were being executed, when people standing on the gallows refused to confess and recant, and went to their deaths instead. So the thing was stopped, apparently by a sudden public agreement that the entire thing was BS and had Gone Too Far. Everyone just woke up and said, “What the fuck were we thinking?” Or the incentive to speak up became overwhelming, since you were likely to be accused of being a witch and sentenced to death even if you remained silent.

It would be good to try to push things in that direction, the Salem direction. The most obvious example is to make it clear to white people that this is tending toward the most holy thing of all, as leftists currently define holiness, which is torturing all white people to death. They won’t succeed, but the civil war they’ll force upon us will certainly create an astoundingly large pile of bodies. ’Twere best avoided. Getting white people to see where this is headed is one way to increase the number of people pushing back. And most of the western world is still white. Important: Spreading the idea of the holiness spiral increases the incentive for those participating in it to move leftward faster, but it increases the incentive for everyone else to resist.

The reason that participants in a spiral participate in it, beyond a certain point, is that they perceive it (correctly or not) to be their safest option. As more people oppose the HS, it becomes safer to exit the HS. That’s crucial.

It is, in fact, one reason the left tries to prevent people from realizing that there is widespread opposition to left-wing ideas. They know that a preference cascade can ruin their entire plan.

PREFERENCE CASCADE is indeed a kind of equal and opposite dynamic to a holiness spiral. It’s an important part of our conceptual and practical toolkit as we try to fight the HS.

A preference cascade can occur in an environment of widespread preference falsification, which is when everyone lies about their preferences. It could be because you’d damn well better lie – e.g., in 1940 in the USSR, you’d better say that Stalin is wonderful, or else. Or it could be just because you don’t want to say things that you’re afraid will make you unpopular, perceived as foolish, etc. A preference cascade is when enough people say, “The orthodoxy is bullshit!” and that can encourage others to join in, etc., until the orthodoxy is destroyed.

Such a cascade is exemplified by the little boy shouting, “Hey! The Emperor’s not wearing any clothes!” This can lead to other people – it doesn’t have to be everyone at first – saying, “Yeah, that’s true, he’s not wearing any clothes!” Then more people chime in, and so on, until the explicit consensus has converged to the truth, that the Emperor has no clothes.

Note though that there are always evil people who actually enjoy attacking others; indeed that’s who starts a spiral in the first place. So just pointing and laughing at leftists, even after the preference cascade, may not be enough. It is very plausible (Jim again) that some sort of firm incentive will be necessary to robustly discourage continued participation in holiness signaling.


Lindsey Graham Applies His Boot to a Generous Helping of Left-Wing Ass

…and then rubs abrasive rock salt in their wounds by doing the most painful thing you can do to a leftist chick: He ignores her.


It’s like she doesn’t exist.

The great thing about the photo is… well, everything.

One great thing about it is that you actually can’t tell if he is genuinely unaware of her existence, or if he is aware, but just deliberately ignores her. And the stylish adjusting of the tie… the complacently serene look on his face… She is utterly irrelevant to his world, as she yowls in well-deserved pain and/or a performative bid for attention. Fuck, that is priceless.

The instant I saw this already-iconic photo of Graham, I thought of this scene from the Bond movie Goldeneye (watch to the end to get the reference):

How to Ice Skate Repost

Reposting this today because it’s October first, a good date to put up stuff about skating. If your local rink isn’t open for the season yet, they will be soon. I think I’ll repost this every year on Oct. 1 (until I forget or get bored).

Aright, bitches, ’tis the season, so listen up.

Ice skating is awesome. When you’re going fast it is the closest a human being can get to flying. The American Psychiatric Association defines “not liking ice skating” as a mental disorder. It’s in their diagnostic manual.

I always see a lot of n00bs ice skating, which is great! Here are some tips.

(1) You will fall. Get used to it.

(2) Ice skating is not walking on ice. The physics is different.

When you walk, you push backward with one foot. (See Figure 1.) If your foot has good traction on the ground, it can’t slip back, though, so instead you are pushed forward. (Newton’s third law of motion, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”)

Figure 1

You cannot do this on ice skates, padawan, because you are on a blade that’s like a sixth of an inch thick. If you push your foot straight back, there is not enough area of the blade making contact with the ice to produce good traction. (See Figure 2.) Instead of being planted on the ice and thus propelling you forward, your foot will simply slide back. Then, because you’re a n00b, you’ll fall down. (Newton’s lesser-known fourth law of motion, “N00bs fall down.”)

Figure 2. The thin black line is your blade’s contact with the ice.

How do you deal with this? Well, plainly you need more area of the blade making contact with the ice. Simply turning your foot somewhat sideways does it. (See Figure 3.) This gives your foot enough traction, so when you push it back, the only thing that can happen is that the rest of you goes forward.

Figure 3. (The extent to which the foot is turned here is exaggerated for clarity.)

Meanwhile you are pointing the other foot in roughly the direction you want to go, so you glide forward on that foot. (As per Newton’s fifth law, “Ice is slippery.”)

Then the feet switch roles, with the gliding foot becoming the foot you’re pushing back with, and the pushing foot becoming the gliding foot. Repeat.

Once you learn this, it really is easy and natural.

(3) On falling: One of the problems is that your instincts about righting yourself when you’re off balance are all wrong. Moves that help you regain your balance when you’re on terra firma don’t necessarily help you, to put it mildly, when you’re skating on blades on ice. You have to learn new reflexes (if learned reflexes isn’t an oxymoron). I can’t re-wire your neural wiring that handles these reflexes, so I don’t know what to tell you here, except that you have to practice.

(4) “Crossover,” logically enough, is the term for when you cross one foot over the other. You’ve seen this: It’s that thing a skater does where it seems like his feet are moving independently of the direction his body is traveling in, so it looks like he’s moonwalking or something.

Crossovers function best when you’re turning at high speed and really leaning into the turn. You do this naturally when you turn while running on ground, but when you do that your foot is planted. When you’re skating, in contrast, you continue to glide on that foot as you shift your weight into the turn, so that for a moment the foot is actually moving in a different direction from your body’s center of mass.

Crossovers are a great way to add speed with relatively little effort, because gravity is doing some of the work for you. When you change direction you lean in the direction you want to go in. So you start to fall in that direction. Before you fall very far, though, you put a foot out under yourself so you glide in that direction instead of falling.

By the way, when you take a turn with a fast series of crossovers, it actually is as fun as it looks. Hell, it’s much more fun. There’s a power and smoothness that is like nothing else. Cf. comment above, in re: “flying.”

(5) Control: As long as you’re not going too fast, turning is so easy that it’s practically subliminal. (No crossovers for the moment; I’m not talking about that level of speed.) What is actually going on, of course, is that you’re shifting your weight ever so slightly in the direction you want to go in. But it feels like you’re just thinking yourself into changing direction. Telekinesis!

(6) Efficiency: Another way you can tell n00bs, even after they’ve learned to not fall much, is by how much energy they waste. In extreme cases it looks like they’re expending half again as much energy as they need to per foot-pound of work accomplished.

If this is you, don’t worry; this takes care of itself over time. Your body’s natural reluctance to waste energy will quickly make you adjust so that your motion is economical.

(7) Stopping. Several n00bs at rinks have asked me for advice, particularly about how to stop.

The correct answer is: Stopping is for the weak and timid! Are you a wuss!? Are you!? Huh!? Good, I didn’t think so. Let’s have no more nonsense about stopping.

If you insist, though, you can just point yourself at a wall. That usually works.

All kidding aside: There are basically two ways to slow yourself down, and if you keep slowing long enough you’ll stop.

The first I call the two-feet method: Just point your skates toward each other, while keeping your legs stiff so your feet don’t actually come together. If your feet bump into each other you’ll fall, obviously. But if you hold your feet apart at that angle, the blades will scrape against the ice, slowing you. And if you keep doing it, stopping you.

You can feel and hear the scraping, at least if you’re not at a rink where they constantly blast fucking country music over the sound system at full volume, what the actual fuck, not that I’m complaining or anything, but what the fuck? Don’t they know that playing that shit voids the warranty on your speaker system? Anyway…

The second method of stopping is the much-admired “hockey stop.” That’s the one you think of when I say “how to stop,” where they turn sideways and kick up ice shavings.

Just turn sideways and dig the blade of your leading foot into the ice. You’re also using your trailing foot, of course, but more for balance than friction, at least the way I do it (YMMV). Also, you’re doing some rapid adjustment of your balance, naturally.

When you first try this you’re going to think, “I shall now attempt a hockey stop.” That’s well and good, but you learn faster if you just think, “Shit! I need to stop!” and imagine what you’d do if you really needed to stop suddenly. This makes it more instinctive and less cerebral.

(8) Sharpness matters so your blades dig in. You need this (a) for acceleration, so your pushing foot can bite into the ice, (b) to slow yourself and stop, and (c) to execute a crossover. (Probably for six other reasons that I’m not thinking of at the moment too.) When you’re doing a crossover, the gliding foot has to bite into the ice to a certain extent or the foot will just slide out from under you. This happened to me once when I was trying to take too steep an angle with my gliding foot. Foot shot backward, rest of body went, “Hello, ice!”

The blade has some thickness; it’s not a knife blade. It’s the blade’s edges that are sharp. Once I actually drew blood from my hand accidentally with the edge. But that was probably right after they’d been sharpened; normally blades aren’t that sharp.

(9) Miscellany:

(A) Little kids on the ice are cute, but DANGER DANGER DANGER!!! Partly this is because they can’t control themselves yet, and partly because even the ones who can control themselves have no social awareness whatsoever. If they see Mom over there, they will simply turn with no warning in that direction, and if you’re behind them you’re going to be doing some fancy dancing to not hit them. This leads to hilarity and occasional bruises, because of course you’re going to steer yourself into a wall or shift so that you fall, instead of plowing into a little kid.

I recently cracked my elbow into the wall of a rink because I had to dodge a little one who seemed to execute a right-angle turn right in front of me with no warning. I had to do something to avoid smashing into him and ended up saying Hi to the plexi-glass. He didn’t even realize it had happened, but I did get a sympathetic look from someone on the other side of the glass.

They can also turn quite suddenly because their centers of gravity are so low. It’s like they’re equipped with little inertialess drives.

Just remember this:

Little kids on ice = Brownian motion + inertialess drives.

(B) Use your ears as well as your eyes to help maintain awareness of other skaters in your vicinity. Thus you can avoid pulling a “little kid” and turning suddenly just when someone’s coming up behind you.

Caveat: In the corners of the rink, noise bounces around weirdly. Sometimes it sounds like someone is coming up behind you and just about to smash into you. You’re like “Gah!” but when you look around there’s no one within ten yards.

(C) Downhill skating. Sweet! But why didn’t they have this when I was 19? You kids today don’t know how good you have it, let me tell you, when I was your age I had to skate 40 miles to school, and it was uphill both ways! By God!

(D) This is a politically incorrect blog, so an observation about the sexes. Normal people, continue to read; shrieking feminist shrikes, go somewhere else (permanently).

Still with me? OK, a fun observation:

All good skaters have both power and grace, strength and fluidity. But there is a difference between good female skaters and good male skaters. Good female skaters have power – you can’t be a good skater without it – but they have more grace compared to male skaters. And good male skaters have grace – you can’t be a good skater without that, either(*) – but they have more power compared to female skaters. Just a nice little “the world is gendered” observation to affirm normality and freak out the screaming SJWs.

If you’re like most people, i.e. psychologically normal, you understand (there was a time when no one denied this!) that the sexes are different and that the differences, in so many ways, can be a source of delight to everyone. This is just a small example of that.

* Even the most brutal hockey player, 190 pounds of muscle and missing three front teeth, who starts throwing jabs at the slightest provocation, has grace on the ice. If you don’t believe me, Youtube is your friend.

(10) Have fun!


How they see themselves and how everyone else sees them

With a hat tip to this guy:

How cuckservatives see themselves:

Ladies luuuuuuuuv the bowtie!

How the rest of the world sees cuckservatives:

I luuuuuuuuv children!

How Old-School Liberals see themselves:

Using Keynesian equations, supergeniuses like me will achieve total permanent economic stability!

How the rest of the world sees liberals:

Forcing banks to make mortgage loans to people who couldn’t afford them seemed like such a good idea! Also, I once again have an octopus stuck to my face, GLAVIN!

How Hillary! sees herself:

I am a supervillain! All the deplorables will fall before me!

How the rest of the world sees her:

“The people were like, ‘We love you, Hillary!’ but then who should intervene but Trump and Comey and Facebook and Russians and the Electoral College and white women who are easily led and let their husbands tell them how to vote…”

How Open border libertarians see themselves:

If I virtue signal hard enough, all these people will remember and be nice to me! Also, look, leftists, look how NOT racist I am! And by the way, I don’t mind this guy’s elbow on my neck at all!

How the rest of the world (including their new “friends”) sees Open border libertarians:


Slather more A-1 sauce on yourself. And be quick about it!

“…and WikiLeaks and racists and misogynists and the Trilateral Commission and a cartoon frog…”

How SJWs see themselves (when they’re telling themselves that they actually believe their own bullshit):

Take that, Nazis!

How the rest of the world sees SJWs:


“…and the Federal Reserve System and the aliens from the Tau Ceti system and Taylor Swift and the Freemasons and Jack Ruby…”

How white Democrats in the Dem Party apparatus see themselves:

We are evil geniuses who will use our clever immigration plan to import an overwhelming flood of leftist voters! We’ll install ourselves in power forever!

How the rest of the world sees them:

You didn’t actually think this through, did you?

“…and the Illuminati and Alex Jones and a vast right-wing conspiracy and the Knights of Malta and the Boy Scouts and…”

How Hillary! sees President Trump:


How President Trump sees President Trump:


How the rest of the world sees President Trump:


Linux Adopts Codes of Conduct

…And Linux creator Linus Torvalds has “taken a leave of absence.”

One of the CoCs is for attendees of Linux Foundation events and the other is for work on the Linux kernel itself, the core of the Linux operating system.

Here’s the CoC for coders who work on the kernel:

The Foundation one is worse; it’s a doozy. Read it here:

It’s a major SJW victory. When I read it I thought, with many others, “What the hell do they have on Torvalds?” It has all the usual, and worst, provisions we’ve come to expect from this type of thing: The widest possible definition of bad behavior, including saying things that (someone claims to feel) are “offensive,” explicit policing of off-site behavior, explicitly including all communications in any electronic form whatsoever, including before or after Linux events, and pre-emptive targeting of individuals whom someone says they fear might harass them in the future.

We begin with:
Harassment will not be tolerated in any form, including, but not limited to, harassment based on gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion or any other status protected by laws in which the conference or program is being held. Harassment includes the use of abusive, offensive or degrading language, intimidation, stalking, harassing photography or recording, inappropriate physical contact, sexual imagery and unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors.

Of course, anyone can claim that any language is “offensive.” We know how this works. A minority who alleges that a white person said something, anything, they found offensive will be taken at face value. Whitey will be persecuted. A white man who objects to someone saying “All white people are evil” will be ignored at best, and treated as if his complaint is itself “offensive” at worst.

Note too the prohibition on “harassing photography or recording,” which in practice will mean, “We won’t let a man use video/audio evidence to defend himself from a false accusation.” At least one college went after a male student for this very reason a couple of years ago. A woman says you raped her. What, your video proves you didn’t? Well, the very fact that you took video is itself a crime!

How does the Left get away with this shit?

It gets worse, so much worse. This next passage defies commentary; you just have to read it:

Individuals who participate (or plan to participate) in Linux Foundation events should conduct themselves at all times in a manner that comports with both the letter and spirit of this policy prohibiting harassment and abusive behavior, whether before, during or after the event. This includes statements made in social media postings, online publications, text messages, and all other forms of electronic communication.

Then there are “Pre-Event Concerns”:

If you are planning to attend an upcoming event and have concerns regarding another individual who may be present, please contact [XYZ]. Precautions will be taken to ensure your comfort and safety, including, but not limited to: providing an escort, prepping onsite event staff, keeping victim and harasser from attending the same talks/social events.

So you can be kept out of an event by someone pre-emptively saying they’re afraid that you might “harrass” them. Because the complainer is not going to be the one kept out of an event.

Meanwhile, Linus Torvalds is taking a leave of absence “to reflect on his past behavior.” WHAT THE FUCK?! What the hell do they have on him? Torvalds now says that he loves Big Brother:

From now on, or in the very near future, Linux must be regarded as not secure as an operating system.

My advice is to download a copy of the Linux operating system now to CD or other medium. It’s free and you don’t have to do anything with it; just have it lying around. And a total newb can install it, in case you want to. I know because I *was* a total newb. I had never installed an operating system before. Last year I downloaded a copy of the Linux OS and successfully installed it on my computer. Everything worked. They design it so that it can be done by non-experts.

High-tech hardware required? No, I put Linux on my desktop, which I got at WalMart!

The entire process probably only took an hour, altogether. (This ignores the preliminary shredding of my old operating system (Windows) which you just start running and then go to bed; it wipes your hard drive while you sleep.)

So my advice is, download Linux and keep it. In the future, you might be hella glad you have a non-SJW-corrupted version available. And even if you don’t want to muck around at the OS level of your computer, someone else you know might be very glad that you can provide them with a copy.

Reddit deletes 300,000-member Qanon forum

The title is self-explanatory. Obviously this is important enough to be its own post. But there isn’t much to add, which is why it’s a short post.

(I’m a Q skeptic, but that is really not the point.)

Commentary at Vox Popoli:

If you’re on the right and you can, I’d signal boost this. Let’s see if we can Streisand the Orwellian shitbags.

Addenda on Darwinian Lenses

Some nuances etc. on my last post. I wanted to make the basic point before including the complications.

1) The evolutionary effect is not always something dramatic like you getting caught and eaten by a lion, or you or your offspring starving. E.g., peacocks have fancy tails because that attracts peahens, for no awesome reason. This is a runaway sexual selection result that cannot last in the long run – it’s like an asset bubble in Finance, a temporary deviation from a more stable situation. That tail is burdensome. Put a new predator in the peacock’s environment and see what happens. (But don’t do this if you like peacocks.)

2) Another qualification is there are equilibria with a mix of features across individuals. This can happen because some features depend on the prevalence of themselves and other features. So an equilibrium can have, say, 60% of feature A and 40% of feature B. Not all features are like having better eyesight, which is always better.

An example from David Friedman: Suppose, simplistically, that you can be born with a temperament to always fight (“hawk”) or never fight (“dove”). (Don’t sperg out; I said it’s a simplistic example.) The payoff to being a fighter depends on the prevalence of other fighters. If there are lots of such people, then if you’re starting fights constantly you’ll soon encounter another fighter. So you’ll run afoul of the Law of Large Numbers eventually and be outselected (killed or injured to an extent that hampers your reproductive success). So if there are a lot of fighters in the population, the average payoff to being a fighter is negative, so the percent of fighters in the population declines.

On the other hand, if the percent of fighters in the population is small, this doesn’t happen much. So you pick a fight with someone who just killed an antelope, he very probably runs away and you take the antelope. Lots of food at a trivial metabolic cost! So the average payoff to being a fighter is high if the percent of fighters in the population is small. So if there are few fighters the percent of fighters in the population will rise.

So if the percent is low it tends to rise and if it’s high it tends to fall. This, kids, is known as “stable dynamics.” The proportion of fighters in the population will converge to some stable percent such that the mean reproductive success of fighters and non-fighters is the same.

(BTW, I suspect a similar point is true for r/K theory, if that theory is descriptive of homo sapiens. We seem to be in a high-r period now, but that can’t last because a critical mass of rs is a problem that prompts a response from the Ks. Ks are getting PO’d, starting to fight back, electing God-Emperors, etc., while the rs themselves (whether they realize it or not) are starting a civil war that just can’t end well for them. They’re too impulsive and inclined to ignore tactics, strategy, caution, the long-run consequences of current actions, etc.)

3) In the previous post I asked, “why didn’t the subdominant males simply gang up to kill the dominant males and/or their children?”

And in the comments Alf said,

“Because the most dominant subdominant males answered to the dominant male, and in return received their share of the women. That has been the evolutionary deal between the dominant and subdominant males, and is reflected in the evolutionary fact that while all women get wettest for alpha males, they will pair bond with beta males.”

Indeed, alpha males are as capable of strategic alliances as anyone else.

In fact, alphas can be quite pro-social, especially with others of around their status level. Think of the way that guys on the college football team interacted with each other.

And of course, alpha/beta is not a binary thing; it’s a continuum.

4) The complications in the following turn out to explode quickly, so here’s the short version:

There’s a possible version of the human story that’s more pleasant than children of low-dominance males being directly or indirectly killed: Say that if you were an average man you had fine reproductive success, e.g., three (surviving) children, but if you were an alpha you had, say, six. Maybe this is because alpha traits are good for, e.g., hunting, which provides for children. So the most hair-raising version of the story isn’t the only possibility.

But I doubt this kind of effect can explain why all (it seems) women prefer dominant men. That’s because, while alphas and good providers have some overlap, when they’re distinct, women have a clear preference for alphas. A woman settles for a provider. She gets wet for an alpha.

I don’t think optimistic versions can explain women’s strong preference for alphas, because any optimistic argument (I can think of) that predicts an attraction to alpha (dominant) men also predicts an attraction to good providers. So optimistic arguments can’t explain women’s real-world preference for alphas.

What I mean is this: Suppose some men’s children have particularly high survival rates. Call these H men (for high-survival). For the moment it’s not important why these men’s kids have especially high survival rates. It’s easy to show that women who have a hardwired preference to mate with H men will gradually have their female descendants become 100% of females. (I did some arithmetic to check; the result is exactly what you’d expect.)

Now here’s the problem: The validity of the above argument doesn’t depend on the reason that a given man is H. That’s a problem because what’s to be explained is women’s strong preference for alpha males in particular. In light of that fact, the foregoing argument is too broad: It implies women should be indifferent between varieties of H men such as alphas versus providers. But they actually aren’t indifferent.

So it looks like we are back to the original dark view of the matter.

In fact, the failure of the optimistic argument is even worse, because it draws its false conclusion with even more confidence than it seems at first. That’s because it implies that any H man, regardless of why he’s H, should benefit from…

5) … positive feedback: Kinship support groups and conflict. If you get into violent conflict, your siblings are likely to support you. This raises your survival probability. Say H men have on average 6 surviving offspring and non-H men have 3. Then if you’re a non-H’s child you have 2 siblings who might support you in a conflict . If you’re an H’s child you have 5 siblings who might support you. This raises H children’s survival probability even more.

So the argument once again predicts a strong attraction to good providers just as strong as an attraction to socially dominant men. But empirically, that’s not observed.

What we actually observe is that women are most attracted to socially dominant men. This tells us that such men’s offspring had the highest survival probability in the ancestral environment.

In my (rapidly growing) set of notes on this topic, here’s one possibly-important qualification:

Do “all” women really prefer men who are unpleasantly socially dominant? The extent to which this is true should be investigated. E.g., as far as I could tell, most girls in my high school didn’t date thugs or seem to want to date them. Indifferent “bad boys,” yes, absolutely, but the truly fucked up guys, no. That was a small subset of girls. So when we remember, e.g., Charles Manson getting love letters from women, is that just salience bias? Do we just remember the women who prefer thugs because it sticks in our heads as shocking? And why does the average girl not go for the thugs? Does she not want the thug, or does she just not have enough social self-confidence that she can get the thug? This merits empirical follow-up.

Of course, one thing we do know: Even if it’s only a small subset of women who really are attracted to the very worst men, there is no equal-and-opposite set of women who are attracted to the nicest of men. (LOL, as if.) The female preference distribution is not symmetric around “average guy.” The question is exactly how asymmetric it is.