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.

Advertisements

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…
.
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, therefore 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.

CLONE WARS: Stupidity on Cloning

I originally wrote this ~1997, in response to some of the more fuckwitted reactions to the Dolly the Sheep announcement. It has a couple of dated references to celebrities, which I’ve left in on the grounds that they add an element of period charm.

The idiotic commentary on cloning serves as a sharp reminder of the low intellectual level of the human species.

What follows are some of the more extremely cretinous objections raised against cloning in the weeks immediately following the Dolly announcement, along with remarks highlighting their already obvious imbecility.

1. Cloning will cause a gradual accumulation of genetic defects.

Why?

Because gene surgery, like everything else in this vale of toil and sin, will not be perfect, so mistakes will be made, and must inevitably accumulate over time. Asymptotically, the entire human race will be genetic freaks.

Here’s why this argument is moronic: First, cloning and gene surgery are not the same thing. Second, mistakes—mutations—occur all the time in nature, but they don’t accumulate over generations. (Unless they’re beneficial, in which case no prob.) Third, any society advanced enough to do gene surgery in the first place, will be advanced enough to use gene surgery to correct the mistakes made by gene surgery. Following this kind of “reasoning,” cars must be getting worse all the time, because mistakes are made sometimes, and “they must inevitably accumulate.”

2. Cloning will cause a loss of genetic diversity.

Why?

Because everyone will just copy himself.

Uh-huh. Yeah, sure. But whatever. Suppose everyone in the world elected to copy himself. Then the genetic makeup of the next generation would be exactly identical to the genetic makeup of this generation, so the level of genetic diversity would also be exactly the same. Fucking duh.

3. Cloning is like incest. (Yes, someone actually said this).

You’re an idiot.

4. Clones would be bought and sold like slaves.

If this isn’t legal for people created the traditional way, why would it be legal for clones? I’m not aware of any clause in existing laws that says “…unless the victim is a clone.” And if there were such clauses, the thing to do would be to eliminate them, not to outlaw cloning. Argument a la mode: “Women are sometimes raped! Therefore we must outlaw… women!”

5. Corporations would own cloned children because they’d be perfect workers, or something.

See above. And if you’re not a perfect worker, a clone of you wouldn’t be either.

6. Cloning violates a person’s right to be unique.

Oh, now there’s “a right to be unique.” WTF?

Round up all parents who have twins or triplets, and string ‘em up.

7. Cloning raises tough questions about the nature of free will.

Like what?

8. The rich would be able to afford it and the poor wouldn’t.

I suppose if you’re a socialist this seems self-evidently a bad thing. The response from the rest of us: Yeah, so? The entire point of being rich is being able to afford lots of goodies. Furthermore, if you really think it’s unacceptable for anyone to be able to afford stuff other people can’t (and if you have a touching faith in government programs) your argument does not support outlawing cloning; it supports making it an entitlement.

9. It’s like Naziism, what with all the shades of improving the race.

The Nazis were evil because they killed people. If someone resolves to improve the human race by producing children only if the other parent is a physically perfect supergenius, fine, let ‘em. That doesn’t hurt anyone. The same applies to doing it without the sex, even if it’s not as fun. I’m not an advocate of zero population growth, but if any are reading this: An article in The Times on September 13, 1977, made the following droll observation: “The principle that a lesser but early benefit will offset a substantial but postponed liability is one which rules human life; indeed, it is the principle on which the human race reproduces itself.”

10. The government could take an individual who is a perfect soldier – strong, fast, and obedient – and make thousands of copies of him, thus making the military and law enforcement forces more efficient and therefore more dangerous to liberty.

If this really worries you, excellent. Join those of us who want a smaller, less powerful government. Either that, or be consistent and oppose all technology that could, in theory, possibly be used in some way by government to limit individual freedom. Of course, that means all technology.

Also, see the above remarks on the illegality of slavery. If the government can’t own children and dictate that they be professional soldiers now, why would they be allowed to do so for clones? Oh, wait a minute. The government can force people to be professional soldiers; that’s called the draft. Well then, let us oppose a reinstatement of the draft, which is, as a matter of objective fact, unconstitutional, since the Constitution forbids involuntary servitude. See the Thirteenth Amendment. In the absence of the draft, most of the government’s intended military slaves would just say, e.g., “No thanks; I’m going to be a party planner.”

By the way, note the technology available to the government also would be available to private individuals, so they could adopt cloned babies of an individual who is strong, fast, and courageous – thus evening up the odds in conflicts with minions of the State.

Addendum January 2018: How easy would it be to design a bioweapon that would kill 100% of these soldiers: They’re all genetically identical, LOL! (It just hit me that that’s a serious problem with the Star Wars clone trooper thing.)


The glaring common feature in all the above objections to cloning is that they’re all easily refuted by someone who has the desire to be objective about it. Quite evidently, not everyone has the desire to be objective about it. This is a real mystery. Why cloning? What is it about cloning that makes people so prone to spout off without even going through the usual rudimentary activity commonly labeled “thinking”? Will someone who “thinks” like this kindly tell me the emotional reasons, that is, the real reasons, that everyone finds this so horrifying?

I think y’all have been exposed to too much bad science fiction.

If you’re afraid that “corporations” or the government might steal your genetic material, may I suggest, with all due respect, that you’re flattering yourself? Also, why would they? Do they steal kids now? Do they secretly fertilize human ova and train the resultant people to be CIA assassins or whatever? Whoa. Huh huh, that would be cool. But there are easier ways to get assassins, and anyway, it’s a bit too late to worry about it. You see, the ability to do this is a matter of test tube baby technology, which is distinct from cloning and which has been around for decades.

Maybe you don’t like the idea of a rich guy like Ross Perot making a hundred copies of himself. I don’t like that idea either, on aesthetic grounds, but we needn’t worry. If Ross didn’t choose to have a hundred old-fashioned kids, why would he choose to have a hundred clones? It’s not as if it would be less costly to raise a cloned child.

Ah, maybe that’s the issue. Maybe you slightly slow individuals have forgotten about the laws of conservation of matter and energy. You envision this technology creating a new adult instantaneously and out of thin air, by wave of the technological wand. Never fear; this is science, not magic. It’s not even Star Trek. No, there aren’t any matter transmuter thingies. Raising a clone to adulthood would take exactly the same quantity of time and other resources as raising any other child to adulthood. If your neighbors can’t afford to feed, clothe, etc., ten old-fashioned kids, how are they supposed to afford it for ten clones?

There’s this thing called thinking and it would benefit us all if you hoi polloi would try it every now and then. As an exercise in noblesse oblige, I will now take you step by step through an example of this process as it applies to cloning.

Let’s return to the example mentioned just above of the laws of conservation of matter and energy. Since I have two brain cells to rub together, this point is simply obvious to me, but I’ll pitch it down a level to make it easier. Despite what many say, the important thing in thinking is not so much to avoid jumping to conclusions, as it is to actually check the conclusions to which you have jumped.

The first step involved in thinking is to identify in specific detail the scenario you’re thinking about:

Step 1. The scientists press a button and instantly, a Tia Carrere look-alike appears on the laboratory workbench. Also, she’s naked (here at Neurotoxin we believe that learning should be fun).

The next step is to list in detail what would be required for this imagined event to occur:

Step 2. More than one hundred pounds of matter, in the form of gorgeous dark eyes, high round cheekbones, etc., have suddenly appeared next to the Bunsen burner on our laboratory table. This requires one of two things: either matter-energy that did not exist one second ago exists now, or matter-energy has been converted from one form into another very rapidly. The first is impossible; it violates the laws of physics. Also, if scientists had found a way around the conservation of matter-energy the last thing they’d be chatting about would be cloning; it would be about, for example, the best technique for blowing your nose into tissue made of gold, constructing Jeep rollbars out of solid diamond, etc. So we must be assuming instantaneous conversion of matter from one form into another.

Let’s consider the “out of thin air” scenario. Earth’s atmosphere is about seventy-nine percent nitrogen, twenty percent oxygen, and one percent carbon dioxide, which is in turn composed of the elements carbon and oxygen. The gorgeous piece of femininity we’re ogling at is assembled partly from these three elements (i.e., nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon) but also, among other things, iron, hydrogen (in water), calcium, etc. Thus our latest science project could not exist unless we had the ability to convert any arbitrarily selected element into any other one, for example, nitrogen into iron, and so on. As it happens, we cannot do this – that’s another scenario in which you’d be hearing about golden Kleenex. (We can convert some elements into other elements—for example nuclear breeder reactors convert uranium 238 into plutonium 239—but only for a small number of special cases.)

Summing up, for the scenario we’ve envisioned to occur, we’d either have to create matter out of nothing, which violates the laws of physics as we presently understand them, or we’d have to be able to convert any element into any other element, which we cannot do now and may never be able to do.

Finally, note there is also the organizational problem of assembling our black-eyed siren, even if we did have all the ingredients. I mean how, in detail, do you convert eighty-five pounds of water, a bunch of carbon, and so on into a set of working lymph nodes, hemoglobin-laden red blood cells, perfectly proportioned calcium endoskeleton, etc.? Or consider the brain: since we don’t understand how it works, how are we supposed to build a working model, from scratch no less? Now I know you anti-cloners are stupid, but even you should have realized this task presents some difficulties.

Of course in a practical sense everyone does know how to turn so much free oxygen, etc., into living human biomass, but our role in such a project is limited to what can be accomplished in the first thirty minutes or so, with no instruments more complicated than a couple of gin and tonics, some crotchless panties, and a pair of thigh-high spike-heeled black leather boots. After that, we just release the resultant biohazard into the environment and watch the mysterious process of its self-assembly. It’s sort of like downloading a self-extracting ZIP file.

In conclusion: the process of thinking, in the proper sense of the word, requires, among other things, attention to real-world details. You have to imagine specifically, concretely, how the scenario you’ve imagined is to be accomplished. If we’re talking about science then it might occur to you that the laws of physics are sort of relevant. If you’re not sure whether we can do things like violate the classical conservation principles of physics, one way of getting a vague clue is to imagine what the world would be like if we could do so.

For example, if we could say a magic word and have a ton of anything appear, the world would be a very different place, different enough that you’d notice. The price of all precious metals would drop to zero. Formerly starving Africans would suddenly appear rather corpulent. Terrorists would alter the Earth’s orbit by creating another planet the gravitational pull of which would jerk Earth around. And so on. In short, you’d know about it.

Whew! This has been a long exercise in the way a person who is not mentally challenged sees the world. I hope that you have learned something about this activity called thinking. If you don’t believe your intellectual skills have been improved, may I ask that you not vote ever again? Oh, and please don’t reproduce – by any method.