A “Holiness Spiral” in Evolutionary Biology

Eliezer Yudkowsky’s unnerving example of mouse biology:
https://www.lesswrong.com/s/MH2b8NfWv22dBtrs8/p/gDNrpuwahdRrDJ9iY

There is a segregation-distorter on the male sex chromosome of some mice which causes only male children to be born, all carrying the segregation-distorter. Then these males impregnate females, who give birth to only male children, and so on. You might cry “This is cheating!” but that’s a human perspective; the reproductive fitness of this allele is extremely high, since it produces twice as many copies of itself in the succeeding generation as its nonmutant alternative. Even as females become rarer and rarer, males carrying this gene are no less likely to mate than any other male, and so the segregation-distorter remains twice as fit as its alternative allele. It’s speculated that real-world group selection [among reproductively isolated populations] may have played a role in keeping the frequency of this gene as low as it seems to be. In which case, if mice were to evolve the ability to fly and migrate for the winter, they would probably form a single reproductive population, and would evolve to extinction as the segregation-distorter evolved to fixation.

That is, this allele does very well reproductively until it destroys the entire population of which it’s a member because there are no females left. Obviously this example doesn’t involve politics, but it has similar dynamics: Something that does well for the individual (gene or person) in the short run, while eating away at the individual’s own foundations. In the case of the mice it’s a gene that eliminates females; in the case of our current holiness spiral it’s white people shouting that white people are evil and should be attacked. Saying things like that identifies one as safely leftist(*) in the haute reaches of western culture these days. But of course it destroys one’s safety in the long run.

A holiness spiral has the aspect of being in the ocean on a raft, and hacking away at the raft with an axe because it somehow helps you in the short run, even as it guarantees your death in the long run. E.g. there are a bunch of people on the raft, and somehow a convention has gotten established that they single out the person who’s hacking away at the raft with the least enthusiasm and attack him. Everybody wants to hack at the raft at least as enthusiastically as everyone else. If they think about it at all, they’re thinking, “Sure, this behavior will guarantee that we all die eventually, but if I stop hacking I’ll die right now.”

Yudkowsky also mentions the possibility of viruses greedily killing their host before they can propagate to another host. Basically there’s no reproductive benefit to an individual member of the virus from reproducing slowly to keep the host alive: The other viruses also reap the benefit of the “prudent” one’s restraint, and they reproduce faster than the prudent one. So, prudent virus genes are out-selected. Given that, the surprising observation is that any illnesses ever propagate before killing their host. Yudkowsky: “I don’t know if a disease has ever been caught in the act of evolving to extinction, but it’s probably happened any number of times.”


* Comparatively safe. Fortunately, as the holiness spiral becomes ever more insane, it becomes ever less safe even to be a leftist. This reduces the incentive to engage in leftist holiness signaling, so is one of the things which may rescue us as people choose up sides in the impending civil war.

Why is fertility lower among high-status women?

Why is fertility lower among high-status women than low-status women? It’s not just a weird unfortunate coincidence. It’s because they’re high status. Female hypergamy means that the number of men a high-status woman regards as worthy of her are smaller. It’s a terrible thing for a woman to be high status. It hurts her reproductive success. And so it hurts the reproductive success of the population of which she’s a member.

Men and women are different in terms of everything, including the effect of their social status on their reproductive success.

Look at human history with Darwinian eyes. (If you’re an evolution denier, look with Chesterton’s Fence eyes.) As far as can be told from history, women are by default lower status than men in all societies that existed up to around 1900. Why? Not because those horrid men forced them all into low-status roles. All? Seriously, all? In every society in the history of the world? Please. Nothing is “all” in the world of social phenomena. No, indubitably there were some societies just like ours in which deluded social innovators allowed and encouraged women to have high social status. Those societies are gone now.

Because those societies in which women had higher or even equal status by default were outbred. They’re not around any more. They didn’t even survive long enough to leave a noticeable presence in the historical record.


Let us pause to refute some feminist idiocy on this topic. God knows they make it easy.

The fuck-witted feminist account of all this is this: “In earlier eras, men were higher status than women because men— those brutes!— kept women down with overwhelming physical force. But now, in our modern society, this is not relevant any more.” Why not? Anyway, notice how stupid this is, if you just think about it instead of mindlessly repeating it: Men kept women down by physical force? Really? No they didn’t. What the hell? I love this notion that the average woman was thirsting to be a sailor on a whaling ship but the men used violence to prevent her from doing so. Or the average woman yearned to be a statistician in the actuarial department of an insurance company but those violent men beat her senseless until she stopped trying it. Fucking LOL. In fact, it is the opposite: In the modern world it takes a constant barrage of one-sided propaganda just to make some women think they want to do such things.

Also: Were the highest-status men in the last few millennia the ones who were biggest and toughest? Did you get to be Pope or Corporate CEO or College President by beating up other men? Or even credibly threatening to do so? Bitch, please.

Also notice that this whole moronic feminist argument contradicts the other, opposite feminist argument, that women should be in combat positions in the military because they’re just as good in a fight as a man. Well, which is it? Did men use their superiority in physical conflict to keep women down? Or are women just as good in a fight as men?

Feminists. Jesus. Stop trying to make arguments, sugar-tits. You’re just not very good at it. Now quit being such a skirt and get me a beer; I want something to drink while you’re blowing me.


So that “argument” makes no sense. No, the reason we see no historical societies in which women had higher or equal status compared to men, is that they didn’t breed enough to leave a noticeable presence in the historical record. And the reason for that, or a main reason for it, is that female hypergamy means that high female status is highly contra-reproduction. Lethally so.

The only antidote to the contra-natalist tendency of high female status, that has worked empirically, is a set of social conventions and traditions in which (1) husbands automatically have higher status than wives, and (2) fathers can marry off daughters even if the daughter thinks the prospective husband isn’t good enough for her. In that way the deadly poison of female hypergamy is rendered irrelevant. In a society with these two features, even a girl who is born a heir presumptive to the crowns of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Ireland can be induced to squeeze out baby after baby, enough for seven of them to survive to adulthood.

Stop Talking About the Anthropic Principle, Idiots

There’s a thread at Slate Star Codex about the Fermi Paradox and the Great Filter:

Don’t Fear The Filter

In the comments, the “anthropic principle” comes up several times. The notion is well summaraized by the Infogalactic article’s second sentence: “Some proponents of the anthropic principle reason that it explains why the universe has the age and the fundamental physical constants necessary to accommodate conscious life.” I’m getting really tired of this as an “explanation” of anything or an “answer” to any question. It’s a testament to the stupidity of so many people who consider themselves “wonks” or whatever. Very plainly, people:

Say you have an enemy who is an expert marksman. One day he shoots at you and misses. You might be interested in why he missed. Saying, “If he hadn’t missed I wouldn’t be here to ask the question” IS NOT A FUCKING ANSWER TO THE QUESTION! One wants to know WHY he missed. Was he on drugs? Was he sick? Nervous? Just bad luck, e.g. he was he distracted at the wrong instant? That is, this is about cause and effect. The effect was him missing. We want to know what caused that effect. Your being alive to ask the question is not the cause. It can’t be, since it’s happening after the event it’s purported to explain, fucking duh! So unless you claim to have a time machine, STOP CLAIMING THIS IS AN ANSWER TO THE GODDAM QUESTION!

Robert Heinlein once said that a touchstone for how intellectually serious a person is, is what they think about astrology (he wrote that in the 1970s, back when astrology was a fad). I’m about ready to use mentioning the anthropic principle in the same way. If you mention it, unless you’re being ironic, YOU ARE AN IDIOT. YES, LITERALLY, AN ACTUAL IDIOT.

Suppose your kid asks you, “Hey Dad, how did you and Mom meet?” and you respond, “Well, if we hadn’t met, you wouldn’t be here to ask the question.” Seriously? Anyone who says with a straight face that this is a satisfactory answer – or any kind of answer at all – should be forced to wear underwear made out of steel wool and given a nuclear wedgie.

Cut it out, morons.

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.

Through Darwinian Lenses

This post makes two points about evolution, a general point and a specific point.

The general point:

Organisms have the features they have because individuals that lacked those features were not reproductively successful. More precisely, over time were not as reproductively successful as individuals that had the feature. Yes, this is the supposedly well-known core of evolutionary theory, but I get the sense that the average person still hasn’t fully absorbed the implications.

For example, some species of eagle can see a small prey animal like a rabbit from two miles away. Consider what this astounding fact implies: Individual eagles who didn’t have such good vision were out-selected. At worst, they starved to death because they couldn’t feed themselves. At best, they had fewer surviving offspring than those with better vision, because good nutrition is required to create healthy eggs and good hunting is needed to feed the hatchlings. So over time their genes became less common until they disappeared in that species.

So when you observe a feature, like astoundingly sharp eyesight, in nature, understand what you are seeing: The imprint of death.

One way or another, individuals who lacked that feature didn’t get their genes into successive generations. This is the same outcome as simple death, evolutionarily speaking. Note, not metaphorically the same outcome, but actually the same outcome.

So, speaking in an evolutionary sense, we can say:

Eagles have good eyesight because eagles without it died.

Bats have good sonar because…

Gazelles can run fast because…

Organisms’ features exist because those features matter. They affect the organisms’ reproductive success.

If you look through Darwinian lenses, you can see the imprint of death all around you, in every organism you observe. Every feature implies the evolutionary death of individuals who lacked that feature.

Once at a zoo I saw a male lion pounce on a large plastic bucket that had been left in his cage. His teeth dug into it and he lifted it into the air. There was something startling and a little scary about seeing 500 pounds of muscle launching a set of teeth at something. But of course I should not have been surprised, because evolution didn’t endow lions with huge sharp teeth and lots of muscle so those features can not be used.

(By the by, why do male lions have armor— manes— around their necks?)

Now, the specific point:

What does human females’ obsessive preference for dominant men say about our species’s evolutionary history?
.
Just mull that over for a second.
.
Ponder it…
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Let it sink in…
.

What it says is grim, and alarming. Women have an intense preference for dominant men because women without that preference were less reproductively successful in our species’s evolutionary past. That is, to put it plainly, either those women didn’t reproduce, or their offspring didn’t survive.

But why should that be? The obvious guesses are that such women’s children were killed outright, or starved during periods of scarce food. The children of women who preferred dominant men didn’t starve. (Obviously, since their female descendants are here, all around us.) E.g., because their men could take food from less formidable men. Or, slightly less horrifyingly: “I’m hunting over here in the best hunting grounds; you go hunt over there, where the hunting isn’t as good.” So the implication is unavoidable: The powerful men killed, directly or indirectly, the children of less-powerful men. Again, it might not have been that direct. It might have been a matter of differential reproductive success over time.

Now there are some questions to be answered about this. E.g., if you try to directly take food from Joe’s kids, Joe’s going to fight you, and stands a good chance of doing you significant injury even if you win. So it’s not obvious that it’s worth it to you. E.g., why didn’t the subdominant males simply gang up to kill the dominant males and/or their children? I don’t care how dominant you are; you have to sleep some time. (And alphas are a minority of men, by definition.) So we’re talking about… what? An effect that didn’t kick in until kings, palaces, and palace guards were established? So there are blanks to fill in, but the basic mechanism is not in doubt. It’s not in doubt because we observe its immediate consequences, in the reality of current human female sexual behavior.

Closely related point: Why do men have more muscle mass than women? Not so they can not use it. Men have it because they fight each other and the losers weren’t as reproductively successful. That is, they died, or at “best” were prevented from producing as many (surviving) children.

Human beings, like other animals, are red in tooth and claw. Yes, we are wired for both cooperation and conflict, but in western society we tend to underestimate the conflict because we are particularly good at things like feeding ourselves, so that life-and-death conflict over food doesn’t happen any more. But the hard wiring is still there. Summarizing: Chicks dig jerks with big pecs, and that tells us that plans for world peace are doomed to failure. No, we are not all going to sit around the campfire singing Kumbaya.

Obiter dictum: It’s important to get this perspective into our mindset as our political situation moves from “dress rehearsal” to “it’s showtime!”

Women, Jerks, and Evolutionary Psychology

Women interpret male niceness as proof that the male is not good enough for them. As The Chateau said – commenting on a study that revealed exactly this way of thinking by women – if you’re nice to her she takes that as evidence that she’s too hot for you.

Thus it seems reasonable on the surface to think: Women are the choosers, so you’d better be nice to them. However, the reality is: Women are the choosers, so you’d better be mean to them.

You haven’t understood female evolutionary psychology until that last sentence makes sense to you. If it doesn’t make sense to you – if you think that evolution implies that women should make choices that make them happy – remind yourself of this:

Evolution doesn’t select for happiness. It selects for reproductive success.

So much male confusion about women results from a failure to understand this point. Quite a lot of female sexual behavior is driven by this fact. Women are compelled by their genes to have sex with men who won’t make them happy. An indifferent jerk who places a low value on a female makes her experience a fierce desire to have sex with him.

Presumably the evolutionary driver of this is as follows: Alpha males are the desirable mates (because they can protect and provide for a woman and her offspring). And for that reason, alphas receive sexual attention from many women. This surplus of sexual attention makes an alpha indifferent to any particular woman. Thus women evolved the “short-cut” algorithm of concluding that a man who is indifferent to them is alpha. I don’t mean that women think this through explicitly and “draw conclusions.” Hardly! Rather, it’s an emotional response to indifferent men that evolution has hard-wired into the female brain.

Additionally, women seem to be hard-wired to put out for men who don’t give them much affection in the hopes that the sex will earn the man’s affection. Needless to say, this doesn’t work, but evolution has wired women to think that it will work. It’s one of the motivations women have to mate with alphas. By the way, ladies, this makes no sense, as should be obvious. If I treat you like dirt and you give me sex, do I have any incentive to change how I treat you? Try to answer by thinking with your brain, not your vagina. Your vagina is genetically programmed to come up with the wrong answer. Anyway, a woman is wired to think that if she just puts out for the guy who treats her with contempt, he’ll stop treating her with contempt. (Yeah! And if you give someone a thousand bucks every time he throws a brick through your window, he’ll stop throwing bricks through your window!)

It is also true that in some ways, being with an alpha man makes a woman happy. Many (all?) women are suckers for emotional roller coasters. Some aspects of being with an indifferent man make women happy and some make them unhappy. Evolution doesn’t care about the “principled consistency” of all this; evolution is the ultimate ideology-free pragmatist. Seeing her boyfriend flirt with the waitress and the waitress flirt back may make a woman unhappy and wet at the same time: Unhappy because it’s a threat to the relationship. Wet because (1) it’s social proof of her man’s desirability, and (2) if she has sex with him ASAP she can yank his attention away from the relationship threat.

Once in a public library I walked past a group of around eighth-grade girls, one of them crying. And it wasn’t gentle weeping.
“Why is he so mean to me?” she wailed.
“Did you break up with him?” one of her friends asked.
“No,” she said through her tears.

God, it is funny, isn’t it? If you look at it from a certain point of view? I remember the incident because it was soon after I started to acquire a clue about female behavior. A couple of years before I would have thought, “Huh. If he’s mean to her I wonder why she doesn’t just break up with him.” This was one of the first times, maybe the first time, that I thought, “Yup. Standard female behavior. She didn’t break up with him because he’s mean to her.”

Anyway, the point is that women aren’t wired to do what will make them happy, but what will optimize the propagation of their genes. These can be the same thing or they can be totally different things; evolution doesn’t give a fuck. It will wire women to be made happy by reproductively optimal behavior if that’s the easiest hack, and will wire them to be deluded about what will make them happy if that’s the easiest.

This is also true for men, at least in principle, but the contradictions don’t seem as important for male sexual behavior as for female sexual behavior.

Jim in the comments at his blog:
(Backup link for WordPress’s magic Disappearing Links feature: https://blog.jim.com/culture/women-like-sexual-coercion/ )

Female behavior in sexual matters is not well described by utility maximization. They react to stimuli, rather than optimizing long term utility. They want what they do not want, and do not want what they do want.

Male sexual behavior is pretty much utility maximizing – or, which comes to much the same thing, pussy maximizing. Female behavior not so much. What women “like” is not consistent with behavior, nor predictive of behavior.