Pickup mentors are relying, consciously or sub, on the principles of evolutionary psychology, which uses Darwinian theory to account for human traits and practices. Robert Wright introduced the reading public to evolutionary psychology in his 1994 book, The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are. He summarized what biologists had observed in the field: that among animals—and especially among our closest relatives, the great apes—males often fight each other for females and so the most dominant, or “alpha,” male has access to the most desirable, and perhaps all, of the females. But it’s the female of the species who ultimately makes the choice as to which member of the pack she will deem the alpha male. “Females are choosy in all the great ape species,” Wright wrote. He also noted that, for example, a female gorilla will be faithful—forced into fidelity, actually—to a single dominant male, but she will willingly desert him for a rival male who impresses her with his superior dominance by fighting with her mate. That’s because, as Darwin postulated, evolution isn’t merely a matter of survival of the fittest but also of the replication of the fittest, “selfish genes,” in the words of neo-Darwinian Richard Dawkins. Driven by instinctual desire for offspring, male primates chase fertile females so they can replicate themselves, while female primates choose strong males on the basis of survival traits to be passed on to young ones.Note that Patri Friedman also makes contributions to this literature.
Evolutionary psychologists like David Buss in The Evolution of Desire (1994) and Geoffrey Miller in The Mating Mind (2000) have elaborated on these theories, arguing that the human brain itself, with its capacity for consciousness, reasoning, and artistic creation, evolved as an entertainment device for male hominids competing to impress the females in the pack. Dennis Dutton’s new book, The Art Instinct, makes much the same argument. Evolutionary psychologists postulate that the same physical and psychological drives prevail among modern humans: Men, eager for replication, are naturally polygamous, while women are naturally monogamous—but only until a man they perceive as of higher status than their current mate comes along. Hypergamy—marrying up, or, in the absence of any constrained linkage between sex and marriage, mating up—is a more accurate description of women’s natural inclinations. Long-term monogamy—one spouse for one person at one time—may be the most desirable condition for ensuring personal happiness, accumulating property, and raising children, but it is an artifact of civilization, Western civilization in particular. In the view of many evolutionary psychologists, long-term monogamy is natural for neither men nor women.
All of this is obviously pure speculation, if imaginatively rendered and bolstered by anthropological observations of hunter-gatherer societies today. Furthermore, there is a troubling chicken-or-egg circularity in evolutionary psychology arguments: How did the female hominids know the males were trying to entertain them unless their own brains were sufficiently evolved to appreciate the effort? You can’t get a gorilla to recognize Mozart or a cave painting. It’s equally easy to laugh out loud at a 2007 interview Mystery gave to Salon in which he asserted that a woman’s scratching the back of her hand when a man talks to her is an “Indicator of Interest” because “[T]hat area of the hand gets itchy when a girl is attracted to a man from ape days, you know—it means, ‘Groom me.’ ” Yet evolutionary psychology offers a persuasive explanation for many things that we are supposed to pretend are culturally conditioned: that the natures of men and women are fundamentally different and that, pace Naomi Wolf and the cougar-empowerment movement, women don’t get sexier as they get older, at least not in the eyes of the man sitting on the next barstool. Youth and beauty are markers of fertility. As Mystery wrote in his book, it may be sexist to say out loud, but women are well aware “that their social value can be rated largely on their looks” or they wouldn’t devote so many hours to toning muscles and adjusting makeup.
Evolutionary psychology also provides support for a truth universally denied: Women crave dominant men. And it seems that where men are forbidden to dominate in a socially beneficial way—as husbands and fathers, for example—women will seek out assertive, self-confident men whose displays of power aren’t so socially beneficial. This game of sexual Whack-a-Mole is played regularly these days in a culture that, starting with children’s schoolbooks and moving up through films and television, targets as oppressors and mocks as bumblers the entire male sex.
Tuesday, 9 February 2010
Weekly Standard meets Roissy
A nice piece on game at the Weekly Standard cites Dutton on the art instinct and ultimately endorses Roissy's worldview, evil though it may be.