Darwin-L Message Log 8:58 (April 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

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<8:58>From azlerner@midway.uchicago.edu  Sun Apr 17 15:18:48 1994

Date: Sun, 17 Apr 94 15:18:46 CDT
From: "Asia "I work in mysterious ways" Lerner" <azlerner@midway.uchicago.edu>
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Re: mating

  Lerner, in her critique of Alvard's comments, states:

  >This prediction, of course, rests on the supposition that "fertility" or
  >"reproductive value" are the single overwhelming criteria for the human
  >male, which seems rather doubious.

  The _assertion_ reflects a commonly-held misunderstanding of modern
  Darwinian behavioral science.  Namely, Lerner assumes that proposed
  evolutionarily-established mating strategies (or other behavioral
  strategies/evolutionary psychologies if you like) are/need be consciously
  recognized by their perpetrators in order for them to hold water.

This represents a common misunderstanding on the part of sociobiologists who
are very fond of assuming that people who object to their conclusions
do not know what they are talking about. I do not assume that the evolutionary
strategies need to be concsious. My comment refered to the fact that in order
to reach the conclusion that the first poster reached, you need to assume that
whatever mechanisms are present to ensure that a male chooses "a maximally
fertile female" are not contradicted by other mechanisms that promote other
criteria. Only if such contradictory mechanisms do not exist, or if they
are not sufficiently strong, can you make the prediction that males will
_exibit_ a behaviour that you associate with the evolutionary goal of
"choosing a fertile woman".

  This is
  not what most evolutionists say (or mean) as far as I can tell.  Rather,
  the darwinists argue that observed patterns of behavior indicate that
  actors behave AS IF they were following a strategy.  Thus, at a basic
  level anyhow, we need not worry about one's conscious mate selection
  strategy, rather the question is 'what types of females are most often
  selected by males as mates, those with greater or less reproductive
  potential?'.  Viewed this way, I think the data will clearly demonstrate a
  strong _de facto_ preference for females with greater reprod. potential,
  regardless of the sophistries males may engage to "explain" their

Kindly present that data.

  Likewise, to demonstrate lesser discrimination in picking mates
  for a one-night-stand than for a long-term relationship investigations
  should focus on the characteristics of the mates actually selected, rather
  than on the preferences stated by the involved party.  E.g., a young male
  may walk into a singles bar wanting to spend the night with a elle
  mcpherson look-alike (young and healthy-looking--proximate cues of
  reproductive viability/potential), but more often than not be willing so
  settle for a one-time mate whose appearance diverges dramatically from the
  initial preference.

The evolutionary theory is rather unnecessary to reach this common sense
conclusion. The above is equally true for women, so that nothing save the
sociobiological penchance to represent the sexes as psychological opposites
necessitates "males" rather than "humans" in the above passage.


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