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Nov 02 2005

Sexbots Logical Consequence of Human Evolution

Men, at least those men who are pleased to cop to vulgarity and atavism, have maintained for quite a while now that they are hardwired to get it up for hot chicks. It’s biology. There’s nothing that they or anybody else can do about it. Male brains, they assert, have simply evolved to respond with pitched tents to stone cold, moist pink foxiness, and to recoil in abject horror from anything suggestive of non-receptacality.

Which is why they have invented porn, hookers, strip clubs, lipstick, stoned supermodels, spandex, labiaplasty, and TV shows where women in bikinis with huge jugs bounce on trampolines while gobbling handfuls of worms. They have created, in other words, a vast network of sexbots as a means to prevent, or at least buffer, men’s accidental exposure to females or female images that might torment them with the repellent spectacle of unfeminine unfuckability.

It’s only natural!

This evolutionary defense of male assholicness has, for the past 30 years, met with no small amount of feminist skepticism. But now here’s science to the rescue at last, proving the biological necessity of patriarchally-defined femininity. Classical feminine beauty, concludes a team of psychologists at St. Andrew University’s Perception Lab, is no cultural whimsy. No, sirree. Beauty is linked to estrogen, which is linked to fertility, which is linked to male approval. The aforementioned team of Perceptionists reasons that men have evolved to respond to phenotypical expressions of fertility–i.e. hotness–with incessant woodies.

"Men," observes one shrewd psychologist who I suspect has just left his wife of 30 years for his 22 year old Swedish TA, "really just want someone young and pretty who is fertile."

Meanwhile, did you know there is such a thing as The Face Laboratory at Aberdeen University? Well, there is. It’s right next to the Ass Laboratory. A Delphic cabal of highly specialized physiognomists sits around there all day pondering the esoterica of the human mug. Quoth the head cheese at the Face Laboratory on the subject of universal absolute feminine beauty: "Men from all cultures and all backgrounds find similar faces attractive. They are drawn to a babyish face and big baby-like eyes."

So you see, there is an evolutionary advantage for grown women to resemble toddlers.

No word from these elite researchers on why gay men have not evolved to routinely pulsate over gorgeous women-babies, or how plain women ever manage to land a man.

51 comments

  1. Sam

    This reminds me of a revolting ad playing on internet radio right now where Adam Corolla says his new show is going to have lots of, “women, monkeys and midgets.”

    It would be interesting to note how men’s faces appear when they look at midgets, monkeys and the sexbot women he’s referring to. It must be the “classical feminine beauty” drawing men’s attention to these three juxtaposed objects of men’s amusement.

  2. Nancy

    Smokin’ post Twisty!

    You’ve been exposed to the inner workings of the evpsych network, and it took you 2 seconds to indentify one of the basic problems with the evpsych program – if male sexual response hinges so totally on screwing fertile females – and therefore passing on that tendency to future generations due to natural selection – where does homosexuality come from?

    And why is it that you never hear much about what females find desireable in male faces? Is it because the evpsychs have already concluded that females don’t respond to beauty, but only to old men with big fat wallets? And just coincidentally, the main proponents of evpsych are old men with big fat wallets.

  3. Mandos

    In defence of evpsych, they are almost always talking about tendencies within a population rather than universals, as any study of the evolution of characteristics will do. Individual counterexamples don’t exactly form a rebuttal.

  4. Mandos

    BTW there’s are evpsych-compatible explanations for homosexuality too. One such is the utility in a population of having non-reproducing individuals that further sibling/similar genotypes.

    Of course you can find other weaknesses in EP, it’s just that conventionally I always see criticisms of EP based on strawmen. PZ Myers I think has some posts with good criticisms.

  5. Nancy


    BTW there’s are evpsych-compatible explanations for homosexuality too. One such is the utility in a population of having non-reproducing individuals that further sibling/similar genotypes.

    Ah yes, the old human society is like an ant colony evpsych explanation for homosexuality.

    Sorry, but Niles Eldredge nails it:

    “Ultra-Darwinians (including some homosexuals) have no ready explanation for homosexuality. Kin selection arguments have surfaced from time to time, and there are, of course, many examples of homosexuals aiding family members who themselves may eventually reproduce. But kin selectionism offers but faint hope of a full accounting of human homosexuality in ultra-Darwinian terms.

    Homosexuality is the perfect illustration of the decoupling of sexual from reproductive matters so characteristic of human behavior. It also illustrates how sex and economics are linked. If kin selection is basically not relevant to explaining the prevelance of homsexuality, economic-sexual cooperatives definitely are. Whether it be transient relationships, or the emerging phenomenon of more stable relationships increasingly recongized by the power structure of society, homosexual relationships are economic-sexual in nature. They exhibit all the trappings of male-female pair bonding, sans reproduction. Indeed, the increasingly common phenomenon of adoption among homosexual couples only reinforces the general conclusion: homosexual pair bonds can have all the trappings of male-female nuclear pair bonds, including the rearing of children, without the need to spread one’s own genes to the next generation as the driving factor…

    …It is ludicrous to maintain that the social system that we know best – our own – is absolutely and fundamentally driven by the need of each and every one of us to leave as much of our genetic information as we can to the next generation. The human world, and the biological world in general, just don’t work that way. It is more complex. It is not as “tightly wrapped” as the hyperdeterminism of ultra-Darwinism wishes it to be. Life is simply not solely about the transmission of genetic information. It is also about the economic affairs of actually being alive.”

    – Reinventing Darwin, The Great Debate at the High Table of Evolutionary Theory

    Straw man my ass muthafucka.

  6. tisha

    As I mentioned before commenting on the “not so Dowdy” post, Nature does not care if we are romantically fulfilled or happy; It only cares that we breed. Welcome to the mating game, where our limbic systems play umpire.

    Choose to play the game or don’t; in either case don’t let your head explode over the unfairness of it all. The only way to beat the game is to transcend it, and if women are the only ones transcending it, we’re left keeping each other company, and what’s wrong with that? NOTHING. Get a dog, a cat, a life and a passel of girlfriends; FUCK THE PATRIARCHY . . . and don’t fuck men. Or, do. Whatever.

  7. Nancy

    Nature does not care if we are romantically fulfilled or happy; It only cares that we breed.

    Nature doesn’t give a flying fuck whether we breed or not. And human culture has completely trumped nature anyway, which is why evpsych theories are so idiotic.

  8. Ms Kate

    Oh yeah, and how do you explain the “evolution” in the past 100 years from “Mae West is a babe” to “ohhh, I can’t even look at Betty Grable’s legs without wanting to … to “I want to fuck Kate Moss”? Look at the naughty nudes of the past and how much flesh they have. Now look at the average supermodel, a teenage boy with implants! Oh yeah, that’s fertillity speaking. Right.

    Culture determines this crap, not evolution and fertility. Pure and simple fashion and status seeking. Just like all the bellowing and towel snapping in a lockerroom or extra horsepower in a Camaro, it is about BESTING OTHER MEN.

    If it were about fertility, I’d be the goddess of the earth. Historically, women with buxom figures were well known to be easy to knock up, survive childbirth, and bear babies that survive. Evolution doesn’t change human experience that fast.

  9. Mandos

    “They exhibit all the trappings of male-female pair bonding, sans reproduction. Indeed, the increasingly common phenomenon of adoption among homosexual couples only reinforces the general conclusion: homosexual pair bonds can have all the trappings of male-female nuclear pair bonds, including the rearing of children, without the need to spread one’s own genes to the next generation as the driving factor…”

    This is only a criticism if you have a narrow view of adaptations. A tendency towards homosexuality can conceivably evolve while other biological aspects of socialization remain static.

    In fact it can be used as evidence for the opposite point: rearing of other people’s children? Come on. Like I said, it’s about tendencies, not counterexamples, and this excerpt is merely another example of a strawman.

  10. Mandos

    “If it were about fertility, I’d be the goddess of the earth. Historically, women withut buxom figures were well known to be easy to knock up, survive childbirth, and bear babies that survive. Evolution doesn’t change human experience that fast.”

    But fertility is more than just biological fertility. No evpsych person claims that there is precisely one factor in determining attractiveness, which this criticism would require if it were to be a valid criticism. Rather present attractiveness is a weighted combination of biological tendencies including factors such as economic success…

    And no evpsych person would claim that there is no cultural “noise” over time, either.

  11. Nancy


    In fact it can be used as evidence for the opposite point: rearing of other people’s children? Come on. Like I said, it’s about tendencies, not counterexamples, and this excerpt is merely another example of a strawman.

    How many counterexamples does it take to disprove an evpsych “tendency”? Funny thing about evpsych theories – they NEVER TELL YOU. How easy to stand by a theory that can NEVER BE DISPROVED because you can’t be bothered to address exceptions to the rule and only speak exclusively in terms of tendencies and dismiss exceptions.

    And what the hell does the term “straw man” mean in Canada? Cause where I live, a leading evolutionary theorist arguing that the evpsychs have never made a good argument about the existence of homosexuality does not qualify as a straw man.

  12. Ron Sullivan

    And of course the fact that “sexiness” in women and in clothing are both matters of fashion, with the perceived models for sexy women just barely lagging in the pace of change behind the perceived hipness or dowdiness of clothing. Oh yeah, but it’s universal to like big infantish eyes. Or big nocturnal eyes.

    And women universally like, oh who cares, shut up and put on that eyeshadow. And lose some weight, you look like um a woman who has enough reserves to get pregnant. But you need bigger boobs so you’ll look like someone who’s nursing. Only virginal. And slutty. But not a cocktease.

    Liking perceived neoteny is a human universal, right? I mean, especially for women, who naturally loooove babies and cute little puppies ‘n’ kitties, so women respond, they just can’t help it, to snub-nosed darling men with big tadpole eyes ’cause they’re the ones who just naturally want to take care of babies all the time, so they’re helplessly turned on by big-eyed guys who wet their pants. Um, wait.

    Sure you can “prove” damn near any just-so story with the right studies. Nothing new about that — Lambroso applied it to “the criminal element” and since race has become such an unpleasantly hot topic, well, we can get our grants by talking about women and gays, because hey, nobody can say they’re “just like men” (meaning us straight wannabe-rich guys and the token over therein the corner) because geez, Vive la difference and all, or we’d all just stop reproducing those babies babies babies. And that would be The End of the World. So it can’t be true.

    See? We’re just being objective.

  13. Nancy

    Rather present attractiveness is a weighted combination of biological tendencies including factors such as economic success…

    And no evpsych person would claim that there is no cultural “noise” over time, either.

    In other words, evolutionary psychology has nothing of value to tell us about human behavior. All exceptions will be dismissed as cultural noise or economic factors, and we’re left with nothing to test.

    Except Steven Pinker, who claimed that girls poorer math test scores prove that females have evolved with less mathematical ability than males. And so as each year goes by and girls’ test scores rise in a less than evolutionary time span, Pinker looks like a bigger and bigger fool.

    No wonder most evpsychs are so wary of presenting testable theories, and speak only in terms of tendencies.

  14. CJ

    Beauty is linked to estrogen, which is linked to fertility, which is linked to male approval.

    Shit! All the excess estrogen in my body (supplied by my ample adipose tissue) should have made me beautiful AND fertile! Instead I spent the bulk of my younger years as the “ugly friend” who came along as part of the package and then had to spend $$$ on fertility treatments when I finally met the guy who I wanted to have kids with. And now all that estrogen is causing polyps in my uterus and perhaps something more sinister… that’s what I get for missing the memo, I suppose.

  15. darkymac

    Richard Lewontin in his NYRB essay/review of recent works on evolutionary theory, concludes an examination of The Patriarchy’s attempt to squash cultural change into a strict biological evolution mould with a judgement that could equally apply to all this ghastly Old Men’s Psychology:

    That a theoretical formulation is desirable because it makes it easier and more efficient to write more articles and books giving simple explanations for phenomena that are complex and diverse seems a strange justification for work that claims to be scientific. It confuses “understanding” in the weak sense of making coherent and comprehensible statements about the real world with “understanding” that means making correct statements about nature. It makes the investigation of material nature into an intellectual game, disarming us in our struggle to maintain science against mysticism. We would be much more likely to reach a correct theory of cultural change if the attempt to understand the history of human institutions on the cheap, by making analogies with organic evolution, were abandoned. What we need instead is the much more difficult effort to construct a theory of historical causation that flows directly from the phenomena to be explained. That the grand historical theorists of the past tried and failed to do this does not foreclose further efforts. After all, Darwin was preceded by eminent failures and even he did not get it all right.

    And yet these Heads of Faculty not only subscribe to the ratology they have never been able to wean themselves off, they also feed a steady stream of watered-down press releases to garbage recyclers such as The Scotsperson.
    It’s no bloody wonder that science has a bad profile.

  16. Mandos

    “And what the hell does the term “straw man” mean in Canada? Cause where I live, a leading evolutionary theorist arguing that the evpsychs have never made a good argument about the existence of homosexuality does not qualify as a straw man.”

    No, the argument as quoted in the context in which you put it is strawmanly (it may not be strawmanly elswhere, or with more quoted material). Credentialism is not a subtitude for an argument.

    “In other words, evolutionary psychology has nothing of value to tell us about human behavior. All exceptions will be dismissed as cultural noise or economic factors, and we’re left with nothing to test.”

    Not really. All it means is that we have to figure out how human beings process cultural noise and economic factors, which is presumably an evolutionary aspect of behaviour at some level. Like any science, all knowledge is tentative: the whole purpose of such experiments is to attempt to remove, as much as possible, complicating factors. As time goes on, we’ll discover more complicating factors and eliminate those.

    Your Pinker example is simply a classic case of science marching on. Of course he looks like fool: it doesn’t mean we can NEVER make statements about human behaviour, sex, and evolution.

    “No wonder most evpsychs are so wary of presenting testable theories, and speak only in terms of tendencies.”

    This is awfully reminiscent of criticisms of the study of evolutionary history in general. I mean, we’re all unique, and if we were to be gestated and raised a second time we might have turned out to look quite different. It doesn’t mean that evolution didn’t happen. To paraphrase a well-known and rather misogynist movie (it was being ironic though), you are not a special, unique snowflake. Noise happens.

    NOW, like I said, there are criticisms of evpsych, and in particular specific evpsych claims, like perhaps that one that Twisty was talking about. But blanket criticism of the concept of evpsych always seems to be the first thing on the menu.

  17. robin

    Ditto to Nancy’s Steven Pinker comment. I was all prepared to like him until I read “The Language Instinct”.
    I don’t fault him for having opinions about human nature, but I didn’t like his smug and superior approach which showed a strong bias for which he was determined to find supporting “evidence”, actual evidence be damned.
    I think it’s more than a case of science marching on: I think it was bad science to begin with.
    Funny about Pinker: he gleefully dismissed a mother’s role in teaching her child to use language, and he also claimed that girls are inferior at math?
    Wow, he did use a broad brush, didn’t he?

  18. Nancy


    No, the argument as quoted in the context in which you put it is strawmanly (it may not be strawmanly elswhere, or with more quoted material). Credentialism is not a subtitude for an argument.

    In what way was anything I said an example of a straw man?

    And mentioning Eldgredge’s credentials isn’t automatically credentialism. But your taking it that way is definitely what I’d call an example of a straw man.


    NOW, like I said, there are criticisms of evpsych, and in particular specific evpsych claims, like perhaps that one that Twisty was talking about. But blanket criticism of the concept of evpsych always seems to be the first thing on the menu.

    And not so fast pal. We ain’t done with the homosexual issue. Back up your apparent belief that homosexuality is an example of kin selection.

    But the homosexual problem isn’t the ONLY problem with evolutionary psychology, or rather, I should say that it isn’t the fundamental problem with evolutionary psychology.

    The fundamental problem is, as Eldredge says:

    “…ultra-Darwinians emphasize continuity through natural selection and the primacy of active competition for reproductive success as the prime mover underlying absolutely all evolutionary phenomena.”

    Naturalists, of which Eldredge is one, on the other hand:

    “…look to global cooling or meteor impacts to explain mass extinctions of the geological past. Ultra-Darwinians, in contrast, look to more purely biological causes for such phenomenon.”

    Of course if the ultra-Darwinians stopped there, they’d hardly be the stuff of political controversy.

    But when the Steven Pinkers and the Lawrence Summers of the world take such theories and extrapolate all the way to claiming that women’s lesser math/science careers are due to women’s innate, evolved inabilities more than social conditioning, then we have a political fight, and feminists must necessarily stand firm against the efforts of evolutionary psychologists to limit women’s lives and blame it on the women themselves.

    Fuckers.

  19. ursa

    Why do men always assume we want to turn them on – only to relieve them of their resources. Many women want to know how to turn them off, a sort of anti Viagra that switches them to no sex mode for months at a time. think of the social ills that would cure.

  20. tisha

    My rant for the day: NO amount of reasoning is going to change the fact that common, ordinary men are quite HAPPY thinking primarily with their dicks, and they’ve got an evolutionary advantage because of it. In fact, I believe that many of the (straight) men women imagine as “evolved” have simply learned how to PRETEND not to think with their dicks in order to increase their chances of actually getting laid by a real flesh-and-blood woman. In the end, it’s still all about sex, and enlightenment becomes just another technique.

    We can attempt to compete with a million theses trying to support the “nurture” side of the nature-nurture controversy, but I don’t think it’s going to get us very far. We’ll just create an insular society for ourselves and continue to be frustrated over how the rest of the world isn’t listening (of course they’re not listening; they’re too busy trying to get laid . . . .)

    Admit it: Nature designed the landscape. Culture just decorates it.

  21. zugenia

    Twisty, I read you devotedly but have never commented before. I just wanted to tell you that I love you. Seriously. Thank you for writing.

  22. ae

    Twisty, you are brilliant, and I would so make out w/ you.

    I will be laughing all day over “anything suggestive of non-receptacality.”

  23. M

    You’ve written about research done by Miriam Law Smith before; I got an e-mail from her, responding to some of the comments on this blog. Ok, so there is some kudos for having responded to a blog like this; but she did start off with

    “However, I would say to all that, as a scientist we are taught to actually read the scientific paper if we wish to make comments or pass judgement, rather than just a simplified news story. Also, the general commentary on our lack of scientific vigour is ironic in the light of the anecdotal evidence being used in response; (those of you with an elementary understanding of statistics will have heard the phrase “many anecdotes don’t make data”.)”

    Condescending, much? I wrote her an e-mail back saying that as someone who was not a student and not a member of university staff I did not have access to scientific papers (I know there are some free journals; the one she published in was not one of those). Furthermore, it is as much the reaction to the research in the popular media that creates problems for women. She hasn’t replied, even though she invited further correspondance at the end of her e-mail.

    From St.Andrews sources; the perception lab pays students to be subjects of their research. This may tell more about the psychology of sleep deprived students who need beer money than anything else…

  24. Nancy

    Admit it: Nature designed the landscape. Culture just decorates it.

    Your empty, evidence-free postings don’t really deserve a serious response, but it’s so easy to disprove even your windy assertion about Nature and Culture that I can’t resist.

    Humans thwart Nature all the time via Culture. Birth control is a prime example. It doesn’t matter how much men think with their dicks – thanks to easy and cheap birth control methods, they won’t necessarily end up with progeny no matter how much they fuck. There is nothing else like that on this planet. With every other species – if they fuck, they get pregnant. Not humans. Because of our culture.

    And BTW, your metaphor sucks. You don’t decorate landscape design.

  25. Joolya

    Maybe homosexuality is just a natural variation that is not selected for or against in the long run . . .

  26. Joolya

    Also: “Why do men always assume we want to turn them on – only to relieve them of their resources.”
    So true. That denies that ladies might like to shag just for the fun and intimacy of it – do lesbians want to relieve other lesbians of their resources?
    As for moi, I want to turn my partner on so he’ll be happy and make love to me – but then he doesn’t really have any resources . . .

  27. Joolya

    Also: “Why do men always assume we want to turn them on – only to relieve them of their resources.”
    So true. That denies that ladies might like to shag just for the fun and intimacy of it – do lesbians want to relieve other lesbians of their resources?
    As for moi, I want to turn my partner on so he’ll be happy and make love to me – but then he doesn’t really have any resources . . .

  28. tisha

    But Nancy you just inadvertently added weight to my point. All this progeny-free fucking isn’t changing the underlying -shall I say Natural? – drive to continue doing it!
    This “evpsych” study reavealed the obvious: what gives (straight) men their stiffies is the appearance of fertility. News flash? Last time I checked, we were still animals. Sure we have culture that can shape our natures, but it won’t CHANGE our basic natures.

    I love Twisty’s site and can’t wait to read her posts, they crack me up. Please understand that just because cause I acknowledge the power of Nature doesn’t mean I approve of its harmful social effects. I’d cheer louder than anyone if the right (read: feminist-approved) cultural conditioning could undo all the testosterone-addled nonsense this world suffers from . . . but I’m not holding my breath.

    (oh – and can’t decorate a landscape? Tell that to my next door neighbor. His lawn ornaments are driving me batty!)

  29. Soph

    Er…
    “Beauty is linked to estrogen, which is linked to fertility, which is linked to male approval.”

    Am I missing something ? Most oral contraceptives contain estrogens, so I’d think they are bound to raise your estrogen levels…
    And of course this will make you look more fertile…

  30. Nancy


    This “evpsych” study reavealed the obvious: what gives (straight) men their stiffies is the appearance of fertility. News flash? Last time I checked, we were still animals. Sure we have culture that can shape our natures, but it won’t CHANGE our basic natures.

    But I’m not the first one on this site (or even thread, I believe) to point out that what is considered desireable has little to do with fertility. Women who are underweight are not fertile, and yet underweight women are considered the most desirable in our culture.

    If fertility = fuckable then plump women would be featured in Playboy.

    But also – the desire to have sex with a physically attractive person – however “physically attractive” happens to be defined at the time – is not limited to males. Although that is what the evpsychs claim. Thanks to the Patriarchy, women haven’t had the luxury of choosing men based on beauty for most of human history. Women had to get married because men controlled all the money – a man was a meal ticket. Women were forced to trade their youth and beauty for the old man’s money.

    What’s so evil about evpsych is that they take the realities of Patriarchy and try to say that it’s “natural” and that it’s women’s own innate desire for old, wealthy males that caused the situation, not the Patriarchy itself.

    That’s why evolutionary psychology is a prime tool of the Patriarchy. Heroes of the Patriarchy like Summers and Pinker use evpsych to justify keeping women out of good careers in math and science. And fucks like Thornhill and Palmer used it to suggest that young WOMEN should have curfews because young men can’t be expected to control themselves. Oh and young women provoke rape by what they wear.
    And douchebags like Helena Cronin use it to suggest that the British government institute two career tracks – one for men, and one for women so that the women can have time to take care of the kids.

    Evolutionary psychology is a pernicious tool of the Patriarchy, and furthermore, it is oppposed by plenty of scientists – one of the rhetorical tricks of evolutionary psychologists is to present objections to evpsych as Politics (feminists) vs. science (EPs).

    All opponents of the Patriarchy should learn all they can about EP because it will continue to be used to bolster the Patriarchy – the Summers affair is not the end of it.

  31. ursa

    In the context of the post ,these studies tend to present turning men on as the acme of female achievement, On the resources issue, yes all relationships exchange resources, even best friends, these usually being time, energy and their representatives one of which is money. Again in the context of the post ” porn,hookers ” women would quite rightly want resources in exchange for these activities.

  32. Betsy

    On talkorigins.org (the leading source of anti-creationist info on the web), a study was mentioned recently that suggested female relatives of gay men have more offspring.

    I’m not pinning any hopes/conclusions on one fuzzy study, but let me suggest that there may be reproductively adaptive bases for homosexuality. For example, what if males in a same-sex pair bond had greater resources with which to assist their sisters’ upbringing of children?

    A key feature of some matriarchal societies is that brothers are the primary resource contributors to their sisters’ children (which reduces concerns about male parentage, since no resource transfer from fathers occurs). It’s often cited that the patriarchy hates gay men because homosexuality is a threat to it …

    Just an interesting thought, with no proof value of its own.

  33. Mandos

    Yikes. I’m on a brief holiday (which somehow means that I’m still continuously online or something, but not trying to stress myself out), so I’m not going to respond to the…mess that has occured. It’s too complicated now. Let me say that I disagree with both Nancy and Tisha, but maybe if the debate comes up in the future we can hash it out in dribs and drabs.

    Actually, I’ll leave you with a bit of content: Nancy asserted that often “culture trumps nature” or something like that. This exemplifies a false dichotomy that exists in Nancy’s thinking that underlies her entire stream of argument. There is no culture apart from nature.

    As for Tisha, well, I ALSO happen to think that it’s extremely difficult to relate one behaviour or another to a particular evolutionary path, and that most attempts to do so are quite facile…but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done, of course.

  34. Nancy


    This exemplifies a false dichotomy that exists in Nancy’s thinking that underlies her entire stream of argument. There is no culture apart from nature.

    No, you’re the one with the false dichotomy. To say that culture trumps nature does NOT say that culture can exist apart from nature.

    Now tell me exactly you think is wrong with my thinking and stream of argument so I can give you a good old fashioned rhetorical ass-kicking.

    Or, if you don’t have time, tell us more about the inferior bread you purchased. I just can’t get enough of that.

  35. Mandos

    “No, you’re the one with the false dichotomy. To say that culture trumps nature does NOT say that culture can exist apart from nature.”

    I simply don’t know how to respond to this, since it’s an instantaneous contradiction…while missing the point. Maybe it’s me and I wasn’t clear.

    To say that A trumps B necessarily requires A to be in some character wholly independent of B. “Culture” does not trump “nature” since the acquisition of culture is a natural process, so any component of “culture” that “trumped nature” is merely an epiphenomenon of the biological process that permitted culture to exist. Consequently we are immediately faced with the question of what biological process permitted what cultural object to exist and how.

    For instance, language does not exist except as an epiphenomenon of the biological capability of acquiring, generating, and processing it.

    Now you may use your “rhetorical” skills. Rhetoric is fun. It never has to mean much, but it’s fun. I don’t begrudge you that.

    And frankly, this is the blog “that never misses dinner.” I think it’s a perfectly appropriate place to talk about inferior bread especially since Twisty once wrote about Mr. T beating up the Safeway Artisan.

  36. Nancy

    Alrighty then, let the asskicking begin!

    TRUMP: To get the better of (an adversary or competitor, for example) by using a crucial, often hidden resource.

    The very term TRUMP implies a relationship between A and B. “Apart” implies no relationship.

    Which is why your statement: “There is no culture apart from nature” indicates a misunderstanding of what I said.

    Clearly there are two separate things indentifiable as “culture” and “nature” but they are intricately intertwined, and it can be very difficult to determine the degree of causality of each in human behavior.

    But in some cases we can. There is a strong connection between intercourse and giving birth throughout the natural world, except in human beings. In this case, culture has trumped nature – that is, culture has broken the connection between sexual desire and reproduction that is the basic mechanism of natural selection.

    There are other, less clear cut examples that can certainly be debated and hopefully tested empirically. But the problem is that evolutionary psychologists have declared premature victory in proclaiming almost all modern human behavior, especially pertaining to sex as the result of natural rather than cultural selection. And as I’ve noted previously, they don’t bother to painstakingly demonstrate where the culture strands diverge from the nature strands through testable theories. It’s much easier to talk in generalities about tendencies.

    Speaking of which, I notice you’ve ignored my suggestion that you might care to support your claim about your belief in homosexuality as a form of kin selection.

    And the comment about bread was an observation that although you confessed you were too enervated to respond to the… “mess” that occurred due to Tisha and myself, you had enough energy to share your grocery ephemeron.

  37. tisha

    “Goodness gracious!” We need to lighten up!

    We are posting comments to a BLOG (a wholly entertaining one to boot, love it!). This is not the Womens Studies Department; no one is GRADING our posts; we are under NO obligation to be rational. Personal opinions, imperfect analogies, and half-baked theories based on personal experience or conjecture should be par for the course on a commentary thread.

    (BTW I consider most academic evpsych studies to be no more – or less – compelling than conjecture, since they pretty emanate from the same subjective place; meaning, there is NO objectivity here, it’s impossible, our brains just don’t work that way, but that’s another rant).

    So let’s throw in another imperfect analogy. The bonsai tree, eh? Hey I just make this shit up! Check it out: Artisans devote their whole lives to taking these stubby, rangy things and turning them into compact trees of petite beauty. They can even control whether or not, or when, these trees propagate.

    Despite these artists’ devotion to the cause, however, they cannot change – - and they’re not interested in changing – - the fundamental biological processes that make these trees germinate,grow, propagate and die . . . but no one is suggesting these bonsai growers are wasting their time, either.

  38. Mandos

    “Clearly there are two separate things indentifiable as “culture” and “nature” but they are intricately intertwined, and it can be very difficult to determine the degree of causality of each in human behavior.”

    I’m sorry. This is simply a repetition of what you said before, essentially. I responded to it. “Culture” and “nature” do not have the same status that would allow them to be called “two separate things” that are “intricately intertwined.” It’s pretty easy to estimate the relative degree of causality in a general sense: you can’t have culture without nature (it’s an epiphenomenon), but nature certainly doesn’t really need culture to be said to exist. Unless you’re a bloviating philosopher.

    Tendencies are all you can talk about in biology on so many things at a macro scale, not just behaviour and cognition. I mean, if tendencies weren’t central, you wouldn’t worry about sample sizes and statistical significance. Now I also think that one eventually has to come up with a clear-cut idealization of the process, and it’s quite likely that EP people may very well have jumped the gun. Perhaps. I happen to think that on some issues, they very well might have. Spandrels and all.

    BUT I don’t agree with demands for immediate theoretical perfection either. Which is what you sometimes APPEAR to demand.

    “Speaking of which, I notice you’ve ignored my suggestion that you might care to support your claim about your belief in homosexuality as a form of kin selection.”

    I threw it out as a suggestion by which an EP argument can be made, not as a topic of discussion in itself. ie, as I understood it we were talking about the forms of EP argument primarily.

    “And the comment about bread was an observation that although you confessed you were too enervated to respond to the… “mess” that occurred due to Tisha and myself, you had enough energy to share your grocery ephemeron.”

    Because talking about food is easier than arguing about scientific matters. Isn’t it? The “mess” meant that there were too many things to respond to, among other things.

  39. Twisty

    This blog welcomes comments about bread.

  40. Nancy

    We are posting comments to a BLOG (a wholly entertaining one to boot, love it!). This is not the Womens Studies Department; no one is GRADING our posts; we are under NO obligation to be rational. Personal opinions, imperfect analogies, and half-baked theories based on personal experience or conjecture should be par for the course on a commentary thread.

    People who complain about other people posting on blogs by posting on blogs themselves always amuse me. If you don’t like the conversation, don’t participate. As you said, you aren’t getting a grade.

    And see, it’s not because I feel obliged to be rational that I am – it’s how my mind works. If you don’t like my rational methods, again, you don’t have to participate. And I’m certainly not interested in people with half-baked theories, bad analogies and unsupporter opinions – you can get that anywhere, anytime.

    I participate in blogs for rational discussions. Granted, only a small percentage of people are interested in and/or capable in such things, but there are some – you just aren’t one of them I guess.

  41. Nancy


    It’s pretty easy to estimate the relative degree of causality in a general sense: you can’t have culture without nature (it’s an epiphenomenon), but nature certainly doesn’t really need culture to be said to exist. Unless you’re a bloviating philosopher.

    But I’m not interested in “a general sense” I’m interested in causality in relation to human behavior – I thought that was the topic of this conversation.

    And you can’t seriously believe that I’m arguing against nature preceding human culture chronologically unless you either have a serious reading comprehension problem or you’re constructing a big ole straw man.

    And please don’t try to play off the use of the word “mess” as some kind of values-free observation concerning quantity. It was clearly meant as an insult – which is what made me offer a rhetorical ass-kicking. Because your condescension is sorely misplaced here.

  42. Mandos

    “But I’m not interested in “a general sense” I’m interested in causality in relation to human behavior – I thought that was the topic of this conversation.”

    To me the topic of the discussion was the apparent dismissal of EP arguments as such.

    “And you can’t seriously believe that I’m arguing against nature preceding human culture chronologically unless you either have a serious reading comprehension problem or you’re constructing a big ole straw man.”

    Not chronologically: causally.

  43. Mandos

    Oh and, “mess” meant difficult for me to unentangle in a way that wouldn’t take me a very long time to respond. You are free to take that as an insult if you wish, but it how *you* are taking it.

    I condescend freely. Have a nice day.

  44. Nancy


    “But I’m not interested in “a general sense” I’m interested in causality in relation to human behavior – I thought that was the topic of this conversation.”

    To me the topic of the discussion was the apparent dismissal of EP arguments as such.

    But EP is all about the relative causality of nature vs. culture in human behavior. And so any dismissals of it must necessarily address that issue.

    So that’s what *I* was talking about.

    And I am prepared to backup whatever I say about EP with evidence and arguments – which is more than I’ve seen from you.


    “And you can’t seriously believe that I’m arguing against nature preceding human culture chronologically unless you either have a serious reading comprehension problem or you’re constructing a big ole straw man.”

    Not chronologically: causally.

    But just because human culture is built on nature doesn’t prove human culture can’t trump nature. But as usual, you haven’t bothered to actually make an argument in support of your belief.


    I condescend freely. Have a nice day.

    Well clearly you do. And not only to me – based on the posts you’ve written to others, it seems that is your usual mode.

  45. Reality Check

    I am a 29 year old male, and I think there is a lot to what that research discussed. Of course, it isn’t a hard-and-fast rule (pardon the choice of phrase), but as I get older and continue on in my personal and professional life, I have become more appreciative of the youthful and sweet feminine charm. Their skin and bodies are gorgeous, and I “want” what I see. There is a lot of biological initiative to it. To think otherwise, is naive. Nature could care less about the feelings of feminist scholars. Sorry ladies…..

  46. Twisty

    It is amusing to be lectured on naïveté by a 29-year-old boy.

  47. Reality Check

    Yeah yeah yeah. Men suck. Whatever. Stay inside and keep reading your books full of nonsense. The world won’t notice your absence. Trust me.

  48. Mandos

    “But just because human culture is built on nature doesn’t prove human culture can’t trump nature. But as usual, you haven’t bothered to actually make an argument in support of your belief.”

    But I did. Let me rephrase it yet again. If there was a manner in which “culture” trumped “nature,” then it follows immediately from the premises that there is a component of biology that provided the mechanism for “culture” to trump “nature”, in which case the word “trump” here is entirely meaningless.

    Look, I’m suggesting that the binary opposition you pose between “culture” and “nature” is ill-defined, and the onus is actually on YOU to suggest why we should even consider the existence of cultural objects that are not natural objects subject to constraints imposed by evolutionary processes. Until you do that, there is actually no point in you discussing ANY experiments at all. It doesn’t work the other way around, because we don’t need to prove the existence of natural objects in a discussion of cultural objects: cultural objects imply the existence of natural objects necessarily, and hence experiments to demonstrate sociobiological evolution are conceptually well-founded if often (usually?) extremely problematic in practice.

    This is in some ways akin to the Korean studies Twisty discussed on this blog earlier: if you have incorrect concepts, the experiments you cart out one way or another are meaningless.

  49. Donna

    Reality Check, speaking as a 37 year old, and I must assume not nubile and dewy-skinned enough for your taste.

    Stay inside and keep ogling the perky titties on The Man Show, secure in the belief that it doesn’t matter how YOU look ‘cuz the young hotties don’t care about that. What with them being all hardwired to go after pudgy dorks who impress upon them their ability to provide resources for their offspring. At least that’s what all the pudgy dork male researchers keep telling you…

    Eventually you’ll notice that the babes keep dissing you for those pretty boys who waste all that time at the gym. They just don’t appreciate a nice guy, the shallow bitches. Enjoy your mail-order bride.

    And trust us, you won’t be missed either.

  50. Kate

    Hilarious! Thanks for this great post. I was just writing one of my own about the same story (though covered by the Toronto Star not the Scottish one you linked), but yours is much funnier.

    The methodology of these studies is pretty questionable. And I hate the way they try to make sweeping, deterministic statements like “all men prefer this and they’re hardwired to do so,” especially since they didn’t even do a good job quantifying what was so attractive about these women!

    Non-sexbots unite!

  51. belledame222

    If the mainstream look were designed to appeal to biological impulses, there would be no such thing as Paris Hilton. Unless, of course, one is of the belief that some among us are descended from twelve-foot alien lizards, or some other exotic species that actually has a genetic tendency toward orange tans, platinum hair, boulder-like appendages jutting incongruously from skeletal frames, and immobile, eerily smooth faces with oddly shaped nostrils.

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