Born to Sag

Banana Boobs as Darwin's Clock

July 8, 2007

Oh god, the endless, thumping, hope-draining, drab, repetitive soul-crushing tiresomeness of it. I find in Psychology Today a piece called “Ten Politically Incorrect Truths about Human Nature,” explaining various aspects of behavior in Darwinian terms.* The smugness of that “politically incorrect” is characteristic of those who want a sense of adventure without risk. Nothing is more PC than an evolutionary explanation, unless it explains obvious racial differences that we aren’t supposed to talk about.

OK, the authors are going to explain why we mate as we do.

“Blue-eyed people,” they write, “are considered attractive as potential mates because it is easiest to determine whether they are interested in us or not.”

Or, as the authors explain, men like blue eyes because, since eyes dilate when the owner is interested in something, in this case getting laid, and since blue eyes better show a large pupil, then men will know when the woman is interested. This produces more children.

Ponder the solemn fatuity of this. Does any reader over the age of thirteen believe that women with any sort of eyes have trouble letting a man know when they are interested? The authors need to get out more.

Why is this sort of story-telling so widely engaged in when an alert porcupine would reject it? Because it is PC. As a fellow I see on the internet said in another context, “This is a stretch and illustrates how easy it is to believe what fits your world view.” Yep. The authors would find an evolutionary explanation for a loose doorknob.

To be fair, the greater reproductive success of the blue-eyed does explain why they predominate around the planet, with the exception of small population pools such as China, Africa, the Arab world, Southern Europe, Japan, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and South and Central America. It’s because men in all those dark-eyed, under-populated places can’t tell when women are interested.

Next: The authors say that blonde hair evolved because it loses its luster with age, and turns brown, therefore signaling to a man that the woman is too old to have healthy offspring. That is, it has the evolutionary advantage of keeping its possessors from having many children.

This would seem to indicate that blondes evolved after the invention of shampoo, since the hair of women who never bathe is presumably something short of lustrous. Doubtless men married to blondes—marriage after all seems to be something of a pattern—stop boinking them when their hair dulls, while men married to brunettes keep at it, producing the huge swarms of dying, defective kids that one usually sees in China, Mexico….

Again, note the complacent absurdity. Do you have difficulty distinguishing between brunettes of 15, 25, 35, 45, and 55, despite dentistry, hair conditioners, and facial creams? But not with blondes, right?

Say the authors, blondeness evolved in Scandinavia because women were covered with clothes and, without hair-luster as a signal of age, men couldn’t tell how old they were. This explains why so many young Eskimo men mate with grandmothers: They just can’t tell.

Does this make any sense at all? It implies, among other things, that young men can’t ask someone. People advanced enough to wear clothes are advanced enough to talk. Do you really suppose that Eskimo boys can’t tell the age of village girls they grew up with? That the same cues as to age that I effortlessly read daily in dark-eyed Mexican women, who characteristically wear clothes, are invisible to Eskimo swains?

Next, breasts. The authors assert that men like big-titted women because big ones sag at an early age, warning the men that the gal is too old to have healthy progeny. This is wonderfully silly. I know all manner of breasty women who don’t sag, because they wear bras, and I can tell how old they are. Again, if big hooters discouraged further reproduction, the evolutionary benefit to the woman would seem exiguous, and big boobs ought to vanish.

An unstated but fairly apparent assumption underlying most discussions of the subject is that mating is entirely physical. The man takes the woman with the biggest tits and bluest eyes and the most of whatever characteristic is currently thought evolutionarily desirable. Perhaps this could be demonstrated with water buffalo. It isn’t what I see among people.

Rather men seem to want a woman who is reasonably cute, not fat and, by whatever the standards of the particular man, likeable. Conducing to the latter condition are (depending on the man) brains, sense of humor, a minimum of bitchiness, and being a decent human being.

With the exception of brains, these are not evolutionarily respectable categories. Yet, in my experience, bright, vivacious, good-humored, dark-haired and small-bazoomed easily trumps the reverse qualities.

In general, a difficulty with grasping the evolutionary logic here is that of knowing whether evolution is thought to apply to the civilized. It doesn’t seem to, quite. For example, one may read in numerous sources that mankind, having left Africa, moved to colder climes and evolved greater intelligence to deal with the problems of survival in cold places. (Obviously they would have to go north to get smart since, if they already were, they wouldn’t go. Who wants to live in four feet of snow?) The implication is that intelligence increases fitness and should lead to the production of more offspring.

But what one sees today is rapid growth of the population of the supposedly least intelligent, namely black Africans, and the extremely low rate of reproduction of the most intelligent, namely Jews. Within populations, the bright have fewer children than the dull, and whole populations of the heretofore fit, for example Japanese, Germans, Spaniards, Russians, and Italians, are rapidly diminishing. If fitness is measured by reproductive abundance, then their fitness has diminished mightily in a few decades.

Is intelligence not a constituent of fitness? Or has natural selection stopped—assuming, or course, that it worked up to some point? If so, why? When did it stop? Or is something entirely else going on?

To force mating into the mold of reductionist fitness-shopping, it is necessary to connect beauty and sexual attractiveness with fitness. This is easily done by making up stories. I can do it by the hour: Wide-set eyes improve depth perception and prevent death when jumping about on high rocks. Long lashes prevent dust blindness in windy regions. Pretty, even teeth cut food more efficiently, avoiding the metabolic burden of inefficient chewing which, in time of famine, would lead to starvation. Ready laughter clears the lungs and avoids pneumonia. Shiny blonde hair reflects sunlight better and makes it easier for men to find fertile women at a distance.

But it reeks of improvisation, of beginning with a conclusion and putty-knifing the logic. I think of those millions of pitiful Chinese women, sobbing quietly in corners, “Oh, how can I let him know I’m interested when I have these horrible dark eyes? Maybe I can write him a letter….”

*Here, By Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa