1. Summary chapter 3
In chapter three of Geoffrey Miller’s book The Mating Mind he analyses one explanation for human brain size, Runaway selection. He then analyses the benefits and draw backs to this hypothesis and offers a finial conclusion as to its validity.
First Miller explains what runaway selection is and how it works. He notes that along with Darwin’s theory of evolution runaway selection needs three occurrences to take place. First there must be variability of a certain trait in a population. Females must develop a preference for this trait. It doesn’t matter why females developed a preference for the trait. The trait must be heritable, so the offspring will exhibit the trait. There is a fourth requirement for runaway and that is polygamy.
Once the trait has been selected for, it will thus start appearing with greater frequency in a given population. The female offspring will, like their mother select for the trait, and the male offspring will both exhibit the trait, but pass the preference for that trait along to his daughter.
With this in mind Miller hypothesis that runaway selection can be used to explain human brain size, as it too fulfills the it’s four requirements. The trait that humans selected for was creative intelligence. This was a variable trait, a heritable trait, and humans used to be polygamous. It would seem for all intensive purposes that runaway selection would sufficiently explain human brain size, but Miller pokes some holes in his own theory.
The first problem is that runaway selection selects for one trait and modifies it greatly over many generations. It can promulgate itself fairly quickly The human brain as it turns out grew too slowly for run away selection to be an acting force on it. Also it produces profound sex differences. If it indeed did work men would have three pound brains and women would only have three pound brains.
In answer to this problem Miller proposes that there was a lap of creative intelligence and the part of the brain used for selecting creative intelligence. Female brains may have evolved because men’s evolved. If they were the ones selecting for a trait they would have to have a better sense of creative intelligence, one above that of men so they could accurately judge and select of it.
As a rejoinder to this Miller offers that there is a problem even with thus theory. In run away selection females select of a specific trait. However, in this view it seems as though females only evolved intelligence because of men. This could not work because females couldn’t develop heightened expectation for a trait if they can about it latently.
A solution includes: that for long term relationships men and women are equally choosey. Men and women are subject to equal pressure for sexual selection. Men as well as women may have selected for creative intelligence. This would mean that men and women’s brains would have evolved at the same rate.
It is this explanation of runaway selection where its flaw is finally found. Mutual choice is not one of the requirements for runaway selection. There is not a satisfactory for runaway selection causing the present day size of the human brain.
Most evolutionary psychologists have viewed human morality as a question of altruism; however, the author views human morality as a direct result of sexual selection. Miller defines human morality as any behavior that displays good moral character.
Evolutionary psychologists argue that human morality is based on nepotism (kindness to blood relatives) or reciprocity (kindness to those who may reciprocate).
It is known that our ancestors favored kind, generous, helpful and fair mates and we still have the same preferences. Human kindness is the number one feature that people want in their mate. Buss’s studied 37 different cultures and found that human kindness was the most important characteristic in a mate. In another study Wilde found that good moral character is sexually attractive & romantically inspiring. However this idea has not yet been received as sufficient attention in evolutionary psychology.
Miller’s idea of sexual selection allows us to explain sympathy, agreeableness, moral leadership, good parenting, etc.
The discussion of Apathy as the evolutionary norm supports the idea of neutralism. The idea of neutralism means that we have neutral feelings towards others right off the bat. This explains why when you put animals into a pit they do not immediately start ripping each other apart. Being nasty to each other has costs and animals have evolved to avoid costs whenever possible. Darwin pointed out that most violent competition happens within a species because animals of the same species are competing for the same resources and the same mates.
Next, evolutionary rules demand that there is some hidden benefit in being kind to other people. Most evolutionary psychologists have agreed that the reason people are nice to other people is because they are blood relatives or that they want something in return. The idea of generosity to blood relatives is actually genetic selfishness. This is because it tends to help other copies of the same gene to prosper, copies that happen to be in bodies other than one’s own. The idea is to generate as many copies of themselves as possible. In addition, the idea of being kind to kin may have helped the idea of being kind to non-kin. The idea of reciprocity is that if you interact with someone often enough you can build trust and produce a system that is mutually beneficial. The problem with these two ideas is that neither explains charity to non-relatives. Also, neither explains moral leadership, romantic generosity, sympathy, sexual fidelity, or sportsmanship.
Conversely, Biologists and Scientists think that human morality must be taught. They agree that all genes evolve because organisms promote the replication of their own gene at the expense of other organism’s genes. This selfish evolution of genes leads to the selfishness of humans. Dawkins believes that we are born selfish. Human kindness is an adaptation to be explained, so the goal is to find the hidden evolutionary benefits of human kindness. However, Tessman argues that sexual selection shapes morality. Arguing that mate choice could be the single most powerful moral filter from one generation to the next. For example, if females choose to not mate with males that eat meet then any genes predisposing individuals to vegetarianism would spread like wildfires.
Next there is the idea of equilibrium selection. An equilibrium selection is the gradual process by which equilibrium becomes established for a particular game. Equilibrium is a set of strategies, one for each player that has a simple property. The property that no one player has an incentive to switch to different strategies, given what the other players is already doing. This leads to game theory, which is the idea that your payoff for doing something depends not only on what you do, but also on what other people do. For example, In America we drive on the right side of the road and that is our equilibrium, everyone drives on the right side. However, the British have a different equilibrium and drive on the left side, which is fine because everyone does the same thing. However, in Bangalore people choose which side of the road to drive on randomly. So this creates a problem because people are not doing the same thing. Therefore, there is no rational basis for predicting which equilibrium will become established.
In conclusion, without sexual selection, generosity to unrelated individuals unable to reciprocate would be very unlikely to evolve. With sexual selection, such generosity can evolve easily as long as the capacity for generosity reveals the giver’s fitness.
Second Half of Chapter 9
In the second half of the Virtues of Good Breeding, Miller makes very interesting points about the different everyday habits of a person that one would deem as normal and what it is really saying about the individual. His first example of this would be the reasoning behind donating to charities. He states, “It is hard to imagine how instincts for giving away resources to strangers would benefit the giver.” He poses the question as to why one should deeply care about giving to a charity when they are not even sure as to where their money is going to. In many of the large charities, a high percentage of donations received are actually given to the fundraisers, administrators, and to pay for the charities’ overhead rather than actually using the money raised for the cause of the charity. Miller states that “charity events” are in actuality big luxurious parties where “donors can meet other donors while drinking champagne.” An example of this is when the Princess of Wales charity was created shortly after Princess Diana’s death. Thousands of people contributed to this cause without even knowing what the money was going to be used for. People don’t bother to get the charitable value for their money nor care what charity they are giving to, as long as it is the one that “everybody” is giving to so they can showcase the wealth and fame they have. He also states that charity work reveals how generosity is used as an inefficient display rather than an efficient resource transfer device. By this, he means that if the wealthy really wanted to help, they would give the money they earn to a lower income group who is trained to help people. “For most working people, their most limited resources is time, not money.” But, by using their free time to do charity work, it shows how people are using their generosity and kindness more than their actual efficiency. Another feature of human charity that is important is how givers like to be given tokens of appreciation as a way to show others that they have indeed been a good person. An example of this is when people donate blood and afterwards, donors usually get buttons saying something like, “I gave blood today” which Miller views as really saying, “I am altruistic, not anemic and HIV-negative.” Many major benefactors like to have buildings or universities named after them so future people know just how much money they contributed to make that building or university happen. So why do people give to charities? Miller believes that because most donors spend more time picking out a video to rent rather than choosing a charity to donate to, people are just looking for another way to showcase themselves. He believes that this is just another way people try to attain a higher social status and giving because of this is embedded in human instinct.
He also talks about the reasoning behind why men tip better than women. According to waitresses, groups of men leave better tips than groups of women and men on dates with women leave especially good tips if they are the ones paying for dinner. This reinforces the fact that sexual selection favors displays of generosity, which is why men do it. One might also argue that it’s because men simply make more money than women, but this is not a valid argument since a selfish man could have eaten in a slightly more expensive restaurant and left a smaller tip. John D. Rockefeller, Sr., was one of the richest men in the world yet chose to continually contribute exactly 6% of his annual earnings to charity. Even after he was earning $10/year in dividends form his Standard Oil Monopoly, he preferred to spend his money creating institutions such as the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research and the University of Chicago. Through all his donations, he was attempting to create a name for himself and showcase his wealth and generosity.
Next, Miller talks about male generosity in courtship. He states that during courtship, males incur very high costs in terms of time, energy, and resources. Many of these costs offer nothing to the female except to provide them with information about the fitness of the male. Other researchers suggest that human courtship is a social contract where a male offers resources in exchange for sex. When men buy gifts, they are in turn looking to buy the reproductive potential of women indicating a human trade theory. This theory is plausible because of the fact that everything in this world is commodified and every relationship is contractual. There is no price tag that is available to a man when considering the reproductive value of a female. If we were to create a price to compensate for the exhaustion of a nine month pregnancy, breast feeding and the pain of childbirth, no man could afford to buy a woman. Miller also believes that romantic gifts are useless to women and very expensive for men. Modern romance makes women believe that the flowers that fade, candles that burn, and overpriced dinners are important, when in reality, they offer the woman no kind of survival or reproductive benefit at all. All this does is provide temporary happiness that quickly fades. This is what women consider a capital virtue, and just makes men more broke than ever.
Another important aspect of this chapter discusses sexual fidelity and romantic love. The author believes that humans are much more faithful to their mates than other animals are. Most male primates will not turn down an opportunity to copulate with a willing female and the same can be said about female primates, if they know they will not face the consequence of a beating by her partner. But, humans highly value sexual fidelity even in the face of temptation. If infidelity does take place, the punishment that usually occurs is a break in the relationship and no more sexual access. As a way to protect against sexual infidelity, sexual selection produced a two stage defense-romantic love and sexual love. Romantic love focuses all courtship efforts on a single individual and excludes everyone else. There is a high sexual attraction between the two mates, which helps ensure monogamy between the two. Sexual love rarely lasts more than a couple of years. Over the long term is the feeling of friendly, mutually respectful sexual commitment. The attraction in this type of love must be maintained for it to last and this is usually accomplished by the use of flirtation and sexual fantasy. By flirting and fantasizing, one can envision the different opportunities for copulation in the world without really cheating on their mate.
Lastly, sexual selection and the views of philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche are discussed. Nietzsche believes that the emphasis on reciprocity led evolutionary psychologists to concentrate on the morality of the herd, which includes prudence, humility, fairness, conscience, dependability, equality, submission to social norms and the cult of altruism. He believes that many cultures value other virtues such as bravery, skill, beauty, fertility, strength, pride, leadership, stoicism, sacrifice, tolerance, mercy, joy, humor, grace, good manners, and the creation of social norms. The core elements of these pagan values include virtue as a force, virtue as seduction and virtue as etiquette, which are similar to the sexually selected fitness indicators. Nietzsche believes that virtues reveal “processes of physiological prosperity or failure” and shows the “charm of rareness, inimitableness, exceptionalness, and unaverageness.” Although he did not really understand the concept of sexual selection completely, Nietzsche believed that sexuality and power lay at the heart of human perceptions, judgments, values, ideologies, and knowledge.
Chapter 3: The Runaway Brain.
What is needed for it to work:
A variable trait
The variable trait must be heritable
Females must develop a preference for that trait; it doesn’t matter why the trait was preferred.
A species must be polygamous
The result of runaway selection
The offspring of the females who select that trait will inherit the trait. Consequently the daughters will also develop a preference for that trait. Sons who inherit the trait will pass the desire for said trait to their daughters as well.
Runaway and the human brain
One could argue that runaway selection could explain human brain size.
The trait that humans selected for was creative intelligence.
This was a variable trait.
Females develop a preference for this trait and they were able to pass it on to their offspring.
Humans used to be moderately polygamous
Problem number one with runaway selection and the human brain
Run away selection selects for a trait and modifies it greatly over many generations.
The human brain grew too slowly for runaway selection to explain it.
Runaway selection produces sex differences. If it did work, males would have a three pound brain and females would have a one pound brain.
Solution to problem one
Remember females are the one selecting for the trait.
There is an overlap of creative intelligence and the part of the brain used for judging and selecting for creative intelligence.
Female brain would evolve creative intelligence themselves so they could develop expectation about behavior and judge it.
Problem number two
Females select a specific trait in runaway selection
The way that it was previously stated means that female only evolved intelligence as an effect of men evolving intelligence.
Females couldn’t develop a heightened expectation for a trait if they came about it latently.
Solution to problem two
For long term relationships men and women are equally choosey.
Men and women are subject to equal pressure for sexual selection.
Mental capacity and creative intelligence could evolve equally in both two sexes.
The finial answer
There is an error in logic to the solution to problem two
Mutual choice isn’t compatible with runaway selection.
Therefore pure runaway selection can not explain creative intelligence.
Chapter 9 Outline
I. Human Morality- includes any behavior that displays good moral character.
A. Most evolutionary psychologists say human morality is based on
1. Nepotism (kindness to blood relatives)
2. Reciprocity (kindness to those who may reciprocate)
II. Miller says Human Morality is the direct result of sexual selection.
A. Ancestors picked kind, generous, helpful, and fair mates.
1. Buss’s study showed “kindness” was the most important feature desired by both men and women in the 37 cultures studied.
2. Wilde put his finger on an evolutionary pressure for morality that has not yet been received as sufficient attention in evolutionary psychology: good moral character is sexually attractive & romantically inspiring.
B. A sexual selection perspective allows us to explain sympathy, agreeableness, moral leadership, good parenting, etc.
III. Apathy as the evolutionary norm
A. Animals from all over the world get out of each other’s way. Being nasty has costs, and being nice has costs, and animals evolve to avoid costs whenever possible.
B. Darwin: Most violent competition happens within a species because animals of the same species are competing for the same resources and the same mates.
IV. Evolutionary biology rules demand that we find a hidden genetically selfish benefit to our altruism.
1. It tends to help other copies of the same gene to prosper, copies that happen to be in bodies other than one’s own. Generate as many copies of themselves as possible.
2. Generosity to blood relatives is actually genetic selfishness.
3. Many think that the adaptations for kindness to kin may have been important building blocks for kindness toward non-kin.
1. Benefit by being nice to one another if they interact often enough to build up trust.
2. Alternate with giving and receiving; whole sequence is mutually beneficial.
1. Kinship and reciprocity have a difficulty explaining charity to non-relatives.
2. Neither explains moral leadership, romantic generosity, sympathy, sexual fidelity, or sportsmanship.
A. All organisms must evolve due to the idea that they are promoting the replication of their own genes at the expense of other genes.
B. The evolution selfishness of the gene was seen as leading to selfish humans. Dawkins says we are born selfish
C. Human kindness is an adaptation to be explained so the goal is to find the hidden evolutionary benefits of human kindness.
A. Mate choice could be the single most powerful moral filter from one generation to the next.
1. Vegetarian example
A. Game theory: where your payoff for doing something depends not only on what you do, but also on what other people do.
B. An equilibrium selection is the gradual process by which an equilibrium becomes established for a particular game.
C. Equilibrium: a set of strategies, one for each player that has a simple property. The property that no one player has an incentive to switch to different strategies, given what the other players is already doing.
1. Ex: Americans drive on the right side, British drive on the left side, and Bangalore choose daily which side they drive on.
A. Without sexual selection, generosity to unrelated individuals unable to reciprocate would be very unlikely to evolve.
B. With sexual selection, such generosity can evolve easily as long as the capacity for generosity reveals the giver’s fitness.
Part 2 of Chapter 9 Outline:
I. Donating to Charities-Selfish or Really Helpful?
A. “Charity events” are excuses for parties
1. for example-the Princess of Wales charity was created and received much revenue for a charity that no one had any idea what they money would really be going to
B. “Charity work” is an inefficient display rather than an efficient resource transfer device
C. Token of appreciation is necessary
1. for example-blood drives give out stickers to all their donors
2. many major benefactors like buildings or universities named after them
D. Why do people give?
1. showcase themselves to attain higher social status
II. Why Men Tip Better than Women
A. Men have more money to spare
1. According to waitresses, men leave much better tips than women.
B. John Rockefeller
1. Discuss his wealth and how he used that to donate to charities
III. Male Generosity in Courtship
A. Males incur high costs in terms of time, energy, risk and resources
B. Human Courtship is a Social Contract where a male offers resources for sex
1. But, there is no monetary value that can be given to the sacrifices a woman makes for childbirth.
C. Romantic gifts are useless to women and very expensive for men
IV. Sexual Fidelity and Romantic Love
A. Humans are less likely to cheat in comparison the rest of the animal kingdom
1. Other animals will take the opportunity to copulate if given the opportunity, but humans will not.
B. Specify the difference between romantic love and sexual love
V. Sexual Selection and Nietzsche
A. “Morality of the Herd”-prudence, humility, fairness, conscience, dependability, equality, submission to social norms and the cult of altruism
B. Core elements of pagan values
a. virtue as force
b. virtue as seduction
c. virtue as etiquette