When last we met Satoshi Kanazawa he was telling us that evolutionary psychology “proved” that black women were uglier than white women. Black women, he said, were bred to have more testosterone than white women, and therefore black women looked more like men, and were thus uglier. Read the linked article to discover why this hypothesis is nuts.
And then return here, because he’s back and better than ever in his Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature from Psychology Today.
1. Men like blond bombshells (and women want to look like them)
Until very recently, it was a mystery to evolutionary psychology why men prefer women with large breasts, since the size of a woman’s breasts has no relationship to her ability to lactate. But Harvard anthropologist Frank Marlowe contends that larger, and hence heavier, breasts sag more conspicuously with age than do smaller breasts. Thus they make it easier for men to judge a woman’s age (and her reproductive value) by sight—suggesting why men find women with large breasts more attractive.
Note first the logical truth that “mystery to evolutionary psychology” does not imply “mystery.” Many scientists have a difficult time accepting facts (true, observed verities) that do not fit neatly inside a formal theory. Beautiful hypotheses are preferred to ugly realities.
Then you have to admire the fertile imagination of evolutionary psychologists like Kanazawa. Out go banal explanations like larger breasts are easier to see, or that breast size preference is a changeable cultural artifact, and in comes a theory tangled and tortured to point to evolutionary causes.
Ignore that faces tell age better than any other marker. Marlowe asks us to believe that an early human man while considering early human women for mates—even though these ladies died early, probably in their twenties or thirties, long before age caused certain appendages to head south permanently—was able to say to himself, “Margaret Oog’s breasts are plumper than Sally Aargh’s, therefore I know that my descendants will be better able to judge the age of potential mates if I marry Margaret and pass on her mammary genes. I will disregard that Miss Oog’s shape excites my imagination now.”
Just think: any behavior that is evolutionarily encoded, and I do not doubt for a moment that such behaviors exist, must have started out as missing, as not a behavior. How did preference for larger breasts arise in the first place? And if it is so productive, why aren’t all women equipped with whoppers by now?
2. Humans are naturally polygamous
The history of western civilization aside, humans are naturally polygamous…We know that humans have been polygynous throughout most of history because men are taller than women.
It works like this: a wide-spread, deeply ingrained cultural practice, one which has existed through many eras in many place, is first declared “unnatural”, a word which means that the practice is aberrational. You next find an exception—and human cultural experience is ripe with these, so your search will often be rewarded—and then declare the exception the “norm.”
Lastly, you uncover a statistical correlation which proves the rarely practiced exception is actually the behavior that would reign if only…what? Well, apparently if only everybody would except the reasonings of evolutionary psychologists.
The correlation here is that “the degree of polygyny highly correlates with the degree to which males of a species are larger than females” and that “human males are 10 percent taller” than human females. Understand: non-humans males being taller than females in a certain species does not mean that this species automatically practices polygyny, but only that in those species where the males are taller than females more of those species than not practice polygyny. (I’m accepting this observation as true, though I doubt it: is it all species? Insects, fish too?) Not to be tedious, but correlation does not imply causation.
I’m going to repeat this so that it sinks in: whatever behavior we see of humans is the behavior we see of humans. Whatever we do is therefore natural. We do not “deviate” from what is evolutionarily optimal, we do what we do. A true evolutionary explanation must account for all ranges of a human behavior, or it must prove why it can only explain a small fraction of that range. Kanazawa’s hypothesis fails miserably here.
3. Most women benefit from polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy
Men in monogamous societies imagine they would be better off under polygyny. What they don’t realize is that, for most men who are not extremely desirable, polygyny means no wife at all, or, if they are lucky, a wife who is much less desirable than one they could get under monogamy.
We now learn that, in direct opposition to point #2, men actually benefit more from monogamy (and his reason is true). Would Kanazawa say that men derive enough benefit from monogamy that monogamy is a cultural trait that is selected by evolutionary pressures? What’s that? He has to take a phone call? Then let’s move on.
4. Most suicide bombers are Muslim
This is true, or has been true for the past fifty or so years. The fifty years before that were dominated by Japanese suicide bombers, right Satoshi? But these observations do not imply, and it is not true, that most Muslims are suicide bombers, nor was it the case that in the mid-twentieth century most Japanese were lofted and blasted by the divine wind.
Anyway, Kanazawa says that the reason more Muslims than non-Muslims are willing to blow themselves to Kingdom Come is not religion but that Islam
tolerates polygyny. By allowing some men to monopolize all women and altogether excluding many men from reproductive opportunities, polygyny creates shortages of available women…polygyny makes men violent, increasing crimes such as murder and rape, even after controlling for such obvious factors as economic development, economic inequality, population density, the level of democracy, and political factors in the region.
Yet again, the evils of polgyny are made manifest. The reader may begin to wonder how we as a species were able to breed so many of ourselves with polygyny being the “natural” state, thus encouraging so many single men to blow themselves up and engage is various forms of mayhem.
This example at least highlights the weak historical grasp of evolutionary psychology, for we remember that the earlier Japanese suicide bombers did not live in a polygynous society. And then we wonder of the women who have lately been torching themselves in Palestine and Tibet, who are not men lacking sexual opportunity. We could go on, but it is too depressing.
5. Having sons reduces the likelihood of divorce
Since a man’s mate value is largely determined by his wealth, status, and power…the father has to make sure that his son will inherit his wealth, status, and power, regardless of how much or how little of these resources he has.
And why can he not ensure that this daughter not inherit his wealth, etc.? It does not matter one whit whether in fact men actually favor their sons, the question is why they do. The inheritance theory fails because women can, and have, been primary beneficiaries. Culture appears strongly influential or even (at times) determinative here.
Kanawaza’s evolutionary imagination’s starting point is that “demographers have discovered that couples who have at least one son face significantly less risk of divorce than couples who have only daughters.” Has this always been true? Is it only true in the USA? Did these demographers account for the differences in birth rate? (Kanazawa remembers this in point #6; see tomorrow.) More males are born than females without external aid, and with external aid the discrepancy is even larger. Why compare one son with families with no sons? Is there something different about women who cannot produce sons and the men who father them? In short, there is plenty of reason to doubt the observation that begins this journey.