Steve Jones on anarchism and marxism

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Jan 20 2008 00:08
revol68 wrote:
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but that sex for sex's sake is antisocial and unsatisfying, and the documented phenomenon that excessive promiscuity tends to lead to resentment and jealousy.

oh fuck off you moralising numpty.

fair enough if it isn't your thing but don't fucking universalise it nor for that matter seek to justify such wank with appeals to biology.

pathetic!

So consider this situation, variations of which have been propounded by some utopian novel or other. There's a small community, containing equal numbers of (straight) men and women. Sexual partners are allocated by lot, and there is a rota such that every so often partners will switch so that every man will sleep with every woman and vice versa. This would be sex purely for pleasure's sake, divested of its role of cementing pair bonds.

Can't you see that as soon as soon the members of the community start developing genuine feelings for one another, things would get extremely messy? Certain feelings are invariably invoked when a loved one sleeps with someone else, and these preclude the total free love model from ever running smoothly, or being a desirable state of affairs.

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Jan 20 2008 00:24
revol68 wrote:
eh what the fuck, sex for sex sakes doesn't equal some fucking hideous instrumental rota system, consenting adults can do what the fuck they want, if that means slutting it up that's there business, if it means being in an exclusive relationship that's good too.

I don't disagree with you. My original point was merely that sexual activity is never going to become 'communal' in any sense, and that the utopian models of sexual activity are unworkable due to the pervasive influence of evolutionarily influenced human dispositions. That's it, I'm not advocating some moralistic universal puritanism.

capricorn
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Jan 20 2008 08:01
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a bunch of hippies fucking in a field.
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Sexual partners are allocated by lot, and there is a rota such that every so often partners will switch so that every man will sleep with every woman and vice versa.

Is that what your mother told you happened in the 1960s? And is this what you think communists are advocating?

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The criteria of sexual attractiveness are broadly the same throughout all cultures.

Are you sure about this? In any event this is irrelevant since humans have never had a free choice of sexual partner. This has always been governed by customs and conventions.

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This would be sex purely for pleasure's sake, divested of its role of cementing pair bonds.

I still think that in labelling as "depraved" sex "divested of its role of cementing pair bonds" sociobiology is being prescriptive

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Jan 20 2008 11:50
capricorn wrote:
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a bunch of hippies fucking in a field.
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Sexual partners are allocated by lot, and there is a rota such that every so often partners will switch so that every man will sleep with every woman and vice versa.

Is that what your mother told you happened in the 1960s? And is this what you think communists are advocating?

Oh for goodness sake. As for the first one it is a caricature of some of the side effects of the sexual revolution. And as for the second one it is a thought experiment and you well know I don't think it ever happened. As I wrote, "So consider this situation, variations of which have been propounded by some utopian novel or other" (look at 'Brave New World', 'We' etc). But it is the logical conclusion of sex for sex's sake, and the fact that we all think it ridiculous shows that we cannot help but think that sex should be linked with feelings for the other person involved.

If you would stop pedantically picking on every hasty turn of phrase, and look at what I am actually saying, you might not be so quick to disagree.

"My original point was merely that sexual activity is never going to become 'communal' in any sense, and that the utopian models of sexual activity are unworkable due to the pervasive influence of evolutionarily influenced human dispositions. That's it, I'm not advocating some moralistic universal puritanism."

Do you disagree with that?

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The criteria of sexual attractiveness are broadly the same throughout all cultures.

Are you sure about this? In any event this is irrelevant since humans have never had a free choice of sexual partner. This has always been governed by customs and conventions.

Yes. Body weight is the main exception, in that the preferred body weight can be shifted up or down a continuum by social factors, but still, the very fat and the very thin are not considered attractive. But experiments have been done, where people from all different cultures, including primitive tribes, have been shown the same pictures of people and asked to choose the most attractive. The results agree over all cultures.
Another thing, where do you suppose customs and conventions originally come from? Do they fall from the sky?

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This would be sex purely for pleasure's sake, divested of its role of cementing pair bonds.

I still think that in labelling as "depraved" sex "divested of its role of cementing pair bonds" sociobiology is being prescriptive

How about if I replace the phrase "role in cementing pair bonds" with "feelings for the other person involved". I am not sure what you are arguing against here. You know I am all for "a more liberal sexual morality", I am merely pointing out that sexual activity will never become totally "free" but will be always regulated to some degree by human dispositions and feelings. 'Love' cannot be separated from sex. (And surely, in a communist society, in which people are no longer alienated, social relations should become more important, not less?) To remind you of what I said before:

"People can obviously do what they like. My original point was merely that the kind of impersonal 'free love' advocated by some utopians is unworkable in practise."

Do you disagree?

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Jan 20 2008 12:23
Devrim wrote:
Lenin had shockingly reactionary positions on sexual questions. That didn't make him a counter-revolutionary. The fact that he ended up heading the counter-revolution made him that.

Oh sure, that helped. But being a patriarchal, sexist petty bourgeois prude really clinched it from the beginning. It's sociobiology.

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Jan 20 2008 22:02
Anna wrote:
Yes. Body weight is the main exception, in that the preferred body weight can be shifted up or down a continuum by social factors, but still, the very fat and the very thin are not considered attractive. But experiments have been done, where people from all different cultures, including primitive tribes, have been shown the same pictures of people and asked to choose the most attractive. The results agree over all cultures.

There is no point trying to work out what would make for universal attractiveness - you can reel off a list of things since of course there might be similarities across the board - "i want funny, i want tall etc.' But that doesn't help us when things clearly don't fit in with "all cultures" because then it wouldn't be universal:

Fat for example:

http://patstoll.org/afspeaknew/customs1.htm

"They think that the ideal woman is well padded. Her curves and chubbiness are quite full. Her fleshy hands are real velvet in their caresses. Her undulating rump makes you tremble with pleasure.

In Zarma-Songhai areas, people judge a man by his wife's stoutness. The husband of a fat woman is supposed to be well-off, thoughtful, and very concerned with the well-being of his family. "

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Jan 20 2008 22:43

Um, look what I just wrote, and what you actually quoted...

Anna wrote:
Body weight is the main exception, in that the preferred body weight can be shifted up or down a continuum by social factors, but still, the very fat and the very thin are not considered attractive.

Weight is the least important part of beauty. Although what has been considered the most attractive weight has differed (within confines), what has been considered the most attractive shape (i.e. hip:waist ratio of 0.7 or whatever) has remained constant.

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Jan 21 2008 01:22

Wow, stunning. I like reading your posts Anna but fuckin hell, some of this shit really is moralistic batshit nonsense.
I'd share the same criticisms aired above.

I know your saying you're not advocating some universal moralism yet, you make value statements about what you deem acceptable sexual practices by consenting human adults. Why does that kind of shit even interest you?

As for ratios hip-waist - I've read that shit before - I think it's in every introductory sociobiology book ever. I don't see how and why it's any way useful in understanding how we, as people, in the here and now actually make choices about how we go out with, have sex with whatever.

All this shit about sex for sex's sake and cementing pair bonds - I mean, come-on. I honestly don't see how this is in any way useful in understanding our sexuality. I don't give a fuck what consenting adults to, people can be as promiscuous as they want if they're consenting and not being pricks. I have NO interest in behaving like that, but that's just me, I prescribe nothing to anyone else, except maybe telling my mates "here, don't be an insensitive cunt" or "do you really think that's a good idea?"

tastypudding
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Jan 21 2008 03:35

the last two examples of sociobiology i´ve read were that gay men show patterns of behaviour that can also be found in the mating rituals of a certain species of fish and a guy writing a book about the ruling class being genetically superior. i´m not exactly convinced.
my impression of the whole thing has always been that it has massive logical holes, making claims of certain bahaviour being caused by genes when it could very easily be explained otherwise and presenting no proof whatsoever for that supposed relation, but that it is popular because it´s quasi-religiousness offers a narrative about society that fits in well with contemporary capitalism.
so my question is: what in sociobiology has actually been proven?
sorry if something like that has already come up, i didn´t read the whole thread.

capricorn
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Jan 21 2008 08:27
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what in sociobiology has actually been proven?

Nothing. It's all based on speculation, coincidence and correlation. And as everybody knows (or should know) correlation doesn't mean causation. To prove causation (that our genes makes us behave in particular ways) we'd have to wait for the completion of the human genome project. All the advances made so far in this project do not confirm the claims of sociobiology. The opposite in fact. The individual genes and what they control, identified so far by the molecular biologists (those biologists who actually work in a laboratory rather speculate from an armchair or on a TV show), confirm that what genes govern is the development and renewal of the body and that a faulty gene results in some bodily defect. They don't govern behaviour. In humans that is overwhelmingly learned as the cultural anthropologists have shown. In humans even sex has to be learned. Put two sexually mature individuals, one male, one female, who have not been told what to do to reproduce, into a room and they won't know what to do. (sorry if this sounds like one of Anna's "depraved" experiments).

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Jan 21 2008 14:33

Sounds like a pretty funny experiment to be honest.

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Jan 22 2008 00:43
choccy wrote:
Wow, stunning. I like reading your posts Anna but fuckin hell, some of this shit really is moralistic batshit nonsense.
I'd share the same criticisms aired above.

I know your saying you're not advocating some universal moralism yet, you make value statements about what you deem acceptable sexual practices by consenting human adults. Why does that kind of shit even interest you?

As for ratios hip-waist - I've read that shit before - I think it's in every introductory sociobiology book ever. I don't see how and why it's any way useful in understanding how we, as people, in the here and now actually make choices about how we go out with, have sex with whatever.

All this shit about sex for sex's sake and cementing pair bonds - I mean, come-on. I honestly don't see how this is in any way useful in understanding our sexuality. I don't give a fuck what consenting adults to, people can be as promiscuous as they want if they're consenting and not being pricks. I have NO interest in behaving like that, but that's just me, I prescribe nothing to anyone else, except maybe telling my mates "here, don't be an insensitive cunt" or "do you really think that's a good idea?"

A moralistic argument is one that says how we should be, whereas I've been dealing with how we are.
The two points I've been making (neither of which I thought would be contentious):

1) Sex is never going to be 'like drinking a glass of water', because people have sex with people because they like them. This is all I mean by 'cementing pair bonds' - ie that the behaviour is social in that concerns feelings for another rather than a purely self-contained urge. By 'excessive promiscuity' I was attempting to refer to a completely artificial situation like the one in Brave New World or whatever, and pointing out that this type of thing isn't going to come about. I'm not concerned with condemning people for having a few one night stands.

2) Partly as a result of the above, humans are jealous and possessive of their sexual partners, and therefore attempts to turn sex into something communal usually end in tears, because people have an inherent tendency to dislike being 'cheated on'.

These are two facts about human sexual behaviour, and my concern is not to say what human sexual behaviour should look like, but only point out that certain inherent psychological traits set limits on what types of behaviour are compatible with human nature.

shit about sexual politics really doesn't interest me in the slightest, but capricorn jumped on one throwaway phrase I employed in the illustration of some more general concept, and my ensuing attempts to clarify my position obviously failed. If a moralistic tone crept into what I was writing, then what can I say, it's my puritanical straight edge zeal for the 'third X' doing the talking wink

As for my point about the hip:waist ratio, no I don't think it's particularly important, I mentioned it only to debunk ein auslander's claim of cultural relativism in standards of sexual attractiveness. Body weight is the only criteria that differs greatly between cultures, yet people constantly employ it to 'prove' that these criteria are socially determined.

This ignores all the other criteria of sexual attractiveness / beauty that do not differ. To state a few:

- Signs of health: symmetry, absence of deformities, cleanliness, unblemished skin, clear eyes, intact teeth, shiny hair

- Geometry of faces:
In a man, the effects of testosterone (built up bone in the jaws, brows and nasal region)
In a woman, evidence of lack of testosterone, (delicate curved jawbone, small chin, small nose and upper jaw, smooth forehead without brow ridges, high 'cheekbones' - and other obvious shit like lack of facial hair) - actually, if a woman has too much testosterone in her blood it is a sign of many diseases/infertility. Also signs of youth (larger eyes, redder lips, tighter skin etc)

The same sort of thing can be done for body shape. Basically our aesthetic receptors for beauty are really detectors for health/fertility/vigour. As for desired personality traits, intelligence and kindness come out top across all cultures.

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Jan 22 2008 01:01
tastypudding wrote:
the last two examples of sociobiology i´ve read were that gay men show patterns of behaviour that can also be found in the mating rituals of a certain species of fish and a guy writing a book about the ruling class being genetically superior. i´m not exactly convinced.
my impression of the whole thing has always been that it has massive logical holes, making claims of certain bahaviour being caused by genes when it could very easily be explained otherwise and presenting no proof whatsoever for that supposed relation, but that it is popular because it´s quasi-religiousness offers a narrative about society that fits in well with contemporary capitalism.
so my question is: what in sociobiology has actually been proven?
sorry if something like that has already come up, i didn´t read the whole thread.

Sounds like you've been reading the wrong type of sociobiology

Sociobiology is basically a combination of careful ethology with modern population genetics, bound together with the logic of evolutionary biology. It's usually used to analyse animal social structure and behaviour. It can also be used in studies of human nature (in which case it is renamed 'evolutionary psychology), but the extension from animals and humans has complications, and the discipline is best when it is cautious. However it is extremely powerful as an analytical and explanatory tool, and to demonstrate this I'd suggest checking out the books of some of its leading lights. (Sociobiology is such a maligned / misunderstood / misrepresented area of science that it is important to get your impression of it straight from the horse's mouth before you form an opinion of it. Unfortunately, in 'radical' circles, the influence of detractors such as Gould or Lewontin or Rose is almost total, despite the fact that their 'scientific' objections have been totally debunked.)

If anyone is interested in giving the discipline a fair chance, I'd be extremely happy to recommend books and discuss issues that arise.

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Jan 22 2008 01:23

I'm sorry but the moralistic tone in the posts was indicative of more than just a common-sense personal righteousness, which you're entitled to. Terms like "depraved" and the Lenin quote you edited, well the bits left out anyway, are more than just light moralism, but proper prescriptive and absurdly loaded universal statements.

Guessing most people here would acknowledge that the notion of utopian "free love" you mentioned certainly wouldn't work because humans navigate the messy world of complex emotions and attachment. I doubt anyone here actually advocates any hippy free-love shit anyway. You're right there - that shit's a non-starter!

The rest I'm not doubting does come up across culture, I've read that too. But I'd echo the concerns about correlation versus causation. What do these things actually tell us? Given that there are countless examples of socialized attractiveness that have nothing to do with naturalistic conceptions of health and vigour - like big titted tiny blonde girls. And to be honest, if you actually talk to people about what the find attractive, they can genuinely surprise you with their choices. Actually, Revol and I had this discussion last week - y'know that show 8 Out Of 10 Cats? Well y'know you'll get 2 people put up against each other and the audience choose who's the best-looking. So say one gets a landslide 80% and is "obviously" the looker - but's there's still 20% who thought the underdog is better looking. Sure you'll say there statistical significance or some shit, but really, at a very human level, there's 20 people out of a hundred, who genuinely think that the supposedly worse-looking person, is in fact attractive, depsite them probably violating your measures of attractiveness.

Even just sitting around with your friends. I dunno if you do it. But we all do it really though. People comment on other people "oh such and such is hot", and some days your mate can just shock you or vice versa and you'll just be like "how can you find them attractive? I don't see it at all", or they'll be like "how can you NOT find them attractive?". You can't prescribe what will be deemed attractive, even on a purely physical level. Yeah you can make guesses that'll probably be right. Like generally fenians are better looking than prods wink

We're probably crossing wires here and I'm sure you don't actually go around with a ruler measuring cheekbones and the refractive index of people's hair wink

As for the third X - for most people, it's the first to go!
I'm actually embarrassed my undergrad thesis leaned heavily on the Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams (such a shit book) - Revol nearly pissed himself when he read it back in the day. I deserve a slap.

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Jan 22 2008 01:24
capricorn wrote:
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what in sociobiology has actually been proven?

Nothing. It's all based on speculation, coincidence and correlation. And as everybody knows (or should know) correlation doesn't mean causation. To prove causation (that our genes makes us behave in particular ways) we'd have to wait for the completion of the human genome project. All the advances made so far in this project do not confirm the claims of sociobiology. The opposite in fact.

What a load of rot. You are basing these assertions on what exactly?

Quote:
The individual genes and what they control, identified so far by the molecular biologists (those biologists who actually work in a laboratory rather speculate from an armchair or on a TV show), confirm that what genes govern is the development and renewal of the body and that a faulty gene results in some bodily defect. They don't govern behaviour. In humans that is overwhelmingly learned as the cultural anthropologists have shown. In humans even sex has to be learned. Put two sexually mature individuals, one male, one female, who have not been told what to do to reproduce, into a room and they won't know what to do. (sorry if this sounds like one of Anna's "depraved" experiments).

You seem to be pretty ignorant of some fundamental concepts of biology.

1) Everyone knows that what genes 'do' is code for polypeptide chains, or switch other genes on or off. That's it. However, these polypeptides combine to form proteins, and the complex sequence in which genes are turned on and off and produce proteins causes the development of a body. All the information required to grow a human lies inside the nucleus of each cell. We are created by genes, and that means that our brains have been built by genes. Now unless you decide to hold the batshit theory that the mind is a 'tabula rasa' - which flies in the face of all science, then you agree that brains to a large degree 'determine' behaviour. Hence the shorthand, 'genes determine behaviour'. The causation is not direct, but still the genes lie at the root of the causal chain. If you fail to grasp this basic point, you are completely missing the dialectical nature of biology.
An analogy: all neurons 'do' is pump ions in and out of phospholipid membranes. However the brain can compose sonnets, do maths, visualise images etc. Hence (according to your logic) the activity of neurons cannot determine the activity of the brain. Faulty logic, no?

2) A feature of behaviour being learned no way proves that that feature is not innate. I have addressed this point in greater detail on the previous page. For now, let me ask you to consider a similar situation to the one you posit:
A kitten has its eyes sewn shut at birth, and at the age of one year the stitches are cut, revealing the fact that the cat is effectively blind. Can we infer from this either that a) vision is totally learned rather than inherent, or that b) that the mechanisms and capacity for and 'determination' of vision are not innate?
Neither? Then your arguments are inconclusive to say the least.

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Jan 22 2008 01:25

Anna, who was it threw water round EO Wilson at a lecture/conference/seminar whatever? Didn't lots of people actually refuse to work with him after the publication of Sociobiology?

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Jan 22 2008 01:38
Anna wrote:

1) Sex is never going to be 'like drinking a glass of water', because people have sex with people because they like them. This is all I mean by 'cementing pair bonds' - ie that the behaviour is social in that concerns feelings for another rather than a purely self-contained urge.

I'm not speaking from experience here, but people don't always have sex with people "because they like them" shock horror, people have sex with people they hate, people who don't care about them, people who are cunts. it happens sometimes because there all sorts of other shit going on and depency issues and shit. It's a complex, and often pretty cruel world out there and whether you like it or not.

And it isn't just one-night stands. People get in long term relationships sometimes with people who violate all your rules of attractiveness, be they physical, mental, or even "resource-wise" (the AnnaNicoleSmith thing) if we're talking daft sociobiology here.

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Jan 22 2008 01:54
choccy wrote:
I'm sorry but the moralistic tone in the posts was indicative of more than just a common-sense personal righteousness, which you're entitled to. Terms like "depraved" and the Lenin quote you edited, well the bits left out anyway, are more than just light moralism, but proper prescriptive and absurdly loaded universal statements.

And I've learned my lesson - don't write posts in a hurry, or write anything that can be misconstrued, because anything that can be blown out of proportion and torn to shit, will be wink

Quote:
Guessing most people here would acknowledge that the notion of utopian "free love" you mentioned certainly wouldn't work because humans navigate the messy world of complex emotions and attachment. I doubt anyone here actually advocates any hippy free-love shit anyway. You're right there - that shit's a non-starter!

Yep, and that was the limit of the point I was making to start with, which was about constraints rather than prescriptions. Glad we agree on that - the whole rest of the discussion was unnecessary.

Quote:
The rest I'm not doubting does come up across culture, I've read that too. But I'd echo the concerns about correlation versus causation. What do these things actally tell us? Given that there are countless examples of socialized attractiveness that have nothing to do with naturalistic conceptions of health and vigour - like big titted tiny blonde girls.

Not sure I understand your point - are you saying "big titted tiny blonde girls" being found attractive is an anomaly? Tits are a sign of fertility and blondeness an indication of youth. So this type of body is basically a caricature and exaggeration of the signals that set of "WEEYYY!" receptors in men. But my point is not to say that all pretty people look identical, merely that an old, bald, wrinkly octogenerian with rotten teeth, smelly breath, warts, hairs on her chin, and a skin disease is not considered the height of attractiveness in any society.

Quote:
And to be honest, if you actually talk to people about what the find attractive, they can genuinely surprise you with their choices. Actually, revol and I had this discussion last week - y'know that show 8 Out Of 10 Cats? Well y'know you'll get 2 people put up against each other and the audience choose who's the best-looking. So say one gets a landslide 80% and is "obviously" the looker - but's there's still 20% who thought the underdog is better looking. Sure you'll say there statistical significance or some shit, but really, at a very human level, there's 20 people out of a hundred, who genuinely think that the suppose worse-looking person, is in fact attractive, depsite them probably violating your measures of attractiveness.

Even just sitting around with your friends. I dunno if you do it. But we all do it really though. People comment on other people "oh such and such is hot", and some days your mate can just shock you or vice versa and you'll just be like "how can you find them attractive? I don't see it at all", or they'll be like "how can you NOT find them attractive?". You can't prescribe what will be deemed attractive, even on a purely physical level. Yeah you can make guesses that'll probably be right. Like generally fenians are better looking than prods ;)

I don't disagree. I don't suppose that everyone is identical and has an identical conception of the 'ideal' man or woman - I'm not crazy enough to think that. My argument is much more modest, basically that there are general criteria (indications of good health being the most important) that govern aesthetic conceptions across all cultures.

Quote:
We're probably crossing wires here and I'm sure you don't actually go around with a ruler measuring cheekbones and the refractive index of people hair ;)

You joke, but people don't need to, their eyes and brains do it automatically and are incredibly sensitive instruments that are far more accurate than rulers and such. I mean just think of how sophisticated a computer program would have to be just to reliably recognise and distinguish between human faces at all, let alone make aesthetical judgements between them. It's pretty amazing that our sense of beauty enables to carry out a pretty reliable medical check on someone instantly, just by looking their way.
But anyway, all these motives are at the level of genes, not of brains, and its important not to conflate the two. As far as the social level goes, people like people just because they like them, and that's all there is to it. When I fancy someone, as far as I'm concerned it's just because I think they're nice and have a cute smile or whatever.

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Jan 22 2008 02:17
choccy wrote:
Anna, who was it threw water round EO Wilson at a lecture/conference/seminar whatever? Didn't lots of people actually refuse to work with him after the publication of Sociobiology?

Harvard students called for his dismissal and invaded his classrooms...I'm not sure exactly where the demonstrators behind the water incident were from, but it happened at a 1978 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A bunch of people with swastika placards stormed the stage shouting 'Racist Wilson, you can't hide, we charge you with genocide' and grabbed the microphone, as well as chucking a pitcher of water over him. There were also posters calling him the 'Right-Wing Prophet of Patriarchy'.

This was all mostly a result of a manifesto produced by a group containing Gould and Lewontin, that lumped Wilson in with Nazi eugenics policies, Social Darwinism, Jensen's rubbish theory about race and IQ etc. These smear tactics are laughable to anyone who's actually read Wilson, who, although not a revolutionary, is a Liberal Humanist and an honest scientist (and a nice old man who wants to protect the environment and likes ants a lot). Just a pity people tend to read Gould and Lewontin rather than Wilson, and take their claims at face value.

Oh another thing, in conjection with my point about cats' visual systems a few posts back, actually when Weisel and Hubel published their historic paper showing that cat visual systems are largely complete at birth, another neuroscientist called Weisel a fascist. How ridiculous can you get?

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Jan 22 2008 02:24
choccy wrote:
Anna wrote:

1) Sex is never going to be 'like drinking a glass of water', because people have sex with people because they like them. This is all I mean by 'cementing pair bonds' - ie that the behaviour is social in that concerns feelings for another rather than a purely self-contained urge.

I'm not speaking from experience here, but people don't always have sex with people "because they like them" shock horror, people have sex with people they hate, people who don't care about them, people who are cunts. it happens sometimes because there all sorts of other shit going on and depency issues and shit. It's a complex, and often pretty world out there and whether you like it or not.

And it isn't just one-night stands. People get in long term relationships sometimes with people who violate all your rules of attractiveness, be they physical, mental, or even "resource-wise" (the AnnaNicoleSmith thing) if we're talking daft sociobiology here.

Oh for sure. But surely this all corroborates my point that sex is tied up with the social world and isn't to do with the simple sating of some 'urge' analogous to hunger or thirst.
Another thing, I don't mean to claim that every action of every human being is directly determined by the necessity to maximise the number and genetic fitness of one's offspring. The claim is instead that this is the logic which has built our brains. The genes build the brains, and in this way influence what they do, but they do not control them.

yoshomon
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Jan 22 2008 07:52
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Not sure I understand your point - are you saying "big titted tiny blonde girls" being found attractive is an anomaly? Tits are a sign of fertility and blondeness an indication of youth. So this type of body is basically a caricature and exaggeration of the signals that set of "WEEYYY!" receptors in men. But my point is not to say that all pretty people look identical, merely that an old, bald, wrinkly octogenerian with rotten teeth, smelly breath, warts, hairs on her chin, and a skin disease is not considered the height of attractiveness in any society.

How is blondness an indication of youth?

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Jan 22 2008 08:48
Quote:
Another thing, I don't mean to claim that every action of every human being is directly determined by the necessity to maximise the number and genetic fitness of one's offspring. The claim is instead that this is the logic which has built our brains. The genes build the brains, and in this way influence what they do, but they do not control them.

Agreed, Anna, that that would have to be the case if sociology is going to be true. But even you will admit, I assume, that at the moment this claim has the status only of a hypothesis. This is why I said we will have to wait till the human genome project has been completed and analysed to test it -- since you are positing that a gene or a combination of genes imposed this "logic" on all humans. Either the gene(s) you posit will be discovered or they won't. Personally, on the basis of what the molecular biologists have discovered so far, I don't think that any such genes or combination or interaction of genes will be found and that in the end sociobiology will be found to be baseless and abandoned just like phrenology was.
Even as a hypothesis it's open to criticism. Do you know any single human being who follows the logic of maximising the number of their offspring? Have you calculated how many offspring a man could have in a lifetime? Do you feel driven to have 20 or more children in your lifetime? If not, why not?
PS I don't agree that water should have been poured over EO Wilson or anyone else just for proposing something. He is entitled to put forward his hypothesis and have it debated fairly and tested scientifically.

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Jan 22 2008 12:49
yoshomon wrote:
How is blondness an indication of youth?

Hair tends to darken with age. Of course bleaching and hair dyes render this irrelevant.

revol68 wrote:
if you are a northern european centric muppet it might do because some people have blonde hair when very young but it gets darker, on the other hand one could then easily read blonde hair as being prepubescent and alas infertile.

Oh the amazing just so narratives it is possible to weave with social biology. roll eyes

revol68 wrote:
further more if blonde hair gave such an advantage then how come it hasn't become far more common, 2% occurance in world and it's recessive nature would suggest that any ideas about evolved sexual selection towards blonde hair as a crock of shit.

I wouldn't roll your eyes just yet, revol. It's actually quite funny that you made the particular arguments you did.

1) As for the age that men will tend to be attracted to in a partner, obviously the indications of the girl being post-pubescent (baby-suckling tits, child-bearing hips etc) are going to outweigh the effects of blond hair, don't be facetious. But you raise an important point. Despite the fact that a woman's most fertile point is somewhere in her mid twenties or so, men have a tendency to prefer women as young as possible (so long as they've actually gone through puberty). This is because humans are a relatively monogamous species, and so when a man is considering possible mates, he does not merely (unconsciously) consider the exact fertility of a woman at that particular point, but her fertility over the course of their union. In our 'natural state', women tend to be either pregnant or breastfeeding throughout their whole lives up to menopause, though most won't reach that point. [Incidentally, this is why periods are such a pain in the ass for women. Since over the course of our evolution, women would have been either pregnant or breastfeeding all the time - in nomadic cultures, women breastfeed for four years or so - they would only have experienced about half a dozen periods in their whole lives, hence the absence of a strong selection pressure in favour of making menstruation not a total bitch each month.]
So anyway, obviously 'in the wild' an 18 year old girl is going to bear more kiddies than a 35 year old one, hence the bias towards youth in sexual attraction. This is in stark contrast to chimpanzees (a much more polygamous species than us) where some of the wrinkliest and saggiest old females are the sexiest.

2) Regarding your assertion that if blonde hair was sexually attractive, we would expect it to be more common than it is. Actually, you have got the situation entirely backwards. Blonde hair in Europe was caused by a genetic mutation that occured at most about 11,000 years ago, which is extremely recent in evolutionary time. Relying on just regular natural selection, we would be at a loss to explain how fast this particular gene spread through the population despite its being a recessive allele. The theories of how it could have possibly happened rely on sexual selection as a catalyst.

wikipedia wrote:
Lighter hair colors occur naturally in Europeans, and as rare mutation in other ethnicities,[3] In certain European populations, however, the occurrence of blond hair is very frequent, and often remains throughout adulthood. The hair color gene MC1R has at least seven variants in Europe and the continent has an unusually wide range of hair and eye shades. Based on recent genetic information carried out at three Japanese universities, the date of the genetic mutation that resulted in blond hair in Europe has been isolated to about 11,000 years ago during the last Ice Age. Before then, Europeans mostly had darker hair and eyes, which is predominant in the rest of the world.[3]

A long standing question has been why certain populations in Europe evolved to have such high incidences of blond hair (and wide varieties of eye color) so relatively recently and quickly in the human evolution timescale. If the changes had occurred by the usual processes of evolution (natural selection), they would have taken about 850,000 years.[3] But modern humans, emigrating from Africa, reached Europe only 35,000-40,000 years ago.[3] A number of theories have been proposed, as follows.

Canadian anthropologist Peter Frost, under the aegis of University of St Andrews, published a study in March 2006 in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior that says blond hair evolved very quickly at the end of the last Ice Age by means of sexual selection.[4] According to the study, the appearance of blond hair and blue eyes in some northern European women made them stand out from their rivals at a time of fierce competition for scarce males. The study argues that blond hair was produced higher in the Cro-Magnon descended population of the European region because of food shortages 10,000-11,000 years ago following the last glacial period when the most of it was covered by steppe-tundra. Almost the only sustenance in northern Europe came from roaming herds of mammoths, reindeer, bison and horses and finding them required long, arduous hunting trips in which numerous males died, leading to a high ratio of surviving women to men. This hypothesis argues that women with blond hair posed an alternative that helped them mate and thus increased the number of blonds.

According to the authors of The History and Geography of Human Genes (1994), blond hair became predominant in Europe in about 3000 BC, in the area now known as Lithuania, among the recently arrived Proto-Indo-European settlers though the trait spread quickly through sexual selection into Scandinavia when that area was settled because men found women with blond hair attractive.[5][6]

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Jan 22 2008 13:02

You can't even come close to universal statements about human sexual attraction or who they fancy, at leats not in the social world I experience. I'm going to end up sounding like that gimp Mika, but seriously, people come in all shapes and sizes, and all sorts of people find them attractive.
Revol likes girls that look like boys and have flat chests wink
My housemate likes MILF porn and fancies the divorced middle-aged housewives
I fancy "normal" girls wink (of course I don't actually believe in normal, just not wacky gimps basically)

These are slight exaggerations but in some sort of experiment, you could show us all pictures of women and (we're all hetero males) we may very well give you completely different answers. I think there's something nice and humanising about that, without wanting to sound like a hippy.

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Jan 22 2008 13:06
EO Wilson's girlfriend wrote:
The theories of how it could have possibly happened rely on sexual selection as a catalyst.

That in term brings up an interesting debate in evolutionary theory: sexual selection versus natural selection and their relative effects. Just as an aside, if anyone's ever asked what are legitimate scientific debates in terms of evolution and whatnot, it's an example of one, along with whether sociobiology is shite, gradualism vs punctuation etc Kinda handy to what these are when creatuionists present evolution as the dogmatic personality cult of "Darwinism"

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Jan 22 2008 13:08
revol68 wrote:
Quote:
merely that an old, bald, wrinkly octogenerian with rotten teeth, smelly breath, warts, hairs on her chin, and a skin disease is not considered the height of attractiveness in any society.

see this is the level of banality your evolutionary psychology shit is forced to retreat to whenever it is faced with real humans and social relations.

Dispenses with cultural relativism pretty well though, doesn't it? wink
According to which, why shouldn't wrinkly old women be considered less attractive than pert young ones? (Remember the chimpanzees).

But anyhow, sociobiology recognise the flexibility of human brains and human societies:

E.O. Wilson wrote:
"The first and most easily verifiavle diagnostic trait [about human societies] is statistical in nature. The parameters of social organisation... vary more among human populations than among those of any other primate species ... Why are humans this flexible?"

"Human societies have effloresced to levels of extreme complexity because their members have the intelligence and flexibility to play roles of virtually any degree of specification, and to switch them as the occasion demands. Modern man is an actor of many parts who may well be stretched to his limit by the constantly shifting demands of the environment."

But the point is that this flexibility itself is genetically determined. Remember what I said in a previous thread about 'nature and nurture' and 'freedom and determinism' being false dichotomies? It takes a much simpler program to make an amoeba that just sits there and does nothing, than a human brain that can adapt to and in fact change its own environment in multifarious ways.

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Jan 22 2008 13:12
choccy wrote:
You can't even come close to universal statements about human sexual attraction or who they fancy, at leats not in the social world I experience. I'm going to end up sounding like that gimp Mika, but seriously, people come in all shapes and sizes, and all sorts of people find them attractive.
Revol likes girls that look like boys and have flat chests wink
My housemate likes MILF porn and fancies the divorced middle-aged housewives
I fancy "normal" girls wink (of course I don't actually believe in normal, just not wacky gimps basically)

These are slight exaggerations but in some sort of experiment, you could show us all pictures of women and (we're all hetero males) we may very well give you completely different answers. I think there's something nice and humanising about that, without wanting to sound like a hippy.

The point is that all these are well within the relatively narrow confines of what constitutes an 'attractive woman'. And those confines are set by evolutionary biology.

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Jan 22 2008 13:14

Narrow confines - so vague, wishwashy truisms?

"people fancy anyone who doesn't look like they're about to die" essentially

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Jan 22 2008 13:22
revol68 wrote:
yes I read that little wikipedia entry as well but what is interesting is that blonde hair is understood to have become sexually selected because of it's rarity rather than some bullshit about 'it tied into our ideas of youth', also it is simply a vague attraction to the exotic and different, something rooted in our socialisation rather than some inherent mechanism in the mind. Unless of course you think that north europeans have differently evolved minds that leads them to find blonde hair naturally more attractive.

I think you'll find that your 'novelty in and for itself' theory doesn't pan out. Women with horns growing out of their foreheads are certainly a novelty, but no one in their right mind would find that attractive.

Quote:
Also your argument would suggest that men are most attracted to 12-15 year olds, which i'm afraid is bullshit,

In most cultures throughout history, women have been married off as soon as they hit puberty. The fact that this is no longer the case shows a bit of progress in civilisation.

Quote:
rather like your idea that humans are naturally monogamous? Considering our nearest evolutionary cousins put it about quite abit such a theory doesn't sit well with your hard on for evolutionary psychology.

Um it sits fine with it. Among the primates there are species displaying every degree of promiscuity, from the harems of the gorillas, through the serial monagamy of humans, through to the total 'free love' of bonobos. These aspects of sexual behaviour tie into the social structure of the species. In fact you can predict the sexual behaviour of a primate species purely by looking at the degree of sexual dimorphism, and the size of the male's testicles compared to his body. From the small amount of sexual dimorphism between humans, and men's medium sized balls, we would expect humans to be a little promiscuous, but generally pretty faithful, which ties in well with the serial monogamy we actually observe.

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Jan 22 2008 13:27
choccy wrote:
Narrow confines - so vague, wishwashy truisms?

"people fancy anyone who doesn't look like they're about to die" essentially

People tend to fancy people that look healthy and relatively youthful. (Straight) women tend to fancy faces that show the effects of testosterone on bone structure, while (straight) men tend to fancy faces that show the absence of these effects.

Why is this simple biological truth provoking such an outraged reaction?