Evolutionary Stability is Real.

From time to time, Cold Spring Shops calls attention to the effects of the sexual revolution and hook-up culture on human unhappiness.  Two observations from a 2011 post structure that argument.  First, “contemporary mating practices and admissions policies might not be evolutionarily stable.”  Second, “younger people have different time horizons, and different rates of time preferences.”  Those observations tended to rely on opinion columns.  The mini-dissertation below the jump will engage recent Serious Scholarship on those themes.

It’s not that others haven’t suggested the same thing.  In fact, in “Bat shit crazy broads vs. the rest of us,”  Stephanie Gutmann expands, if in a more colorful fashion.  Here she takes on the careerist feminism of the second wave.
The Second Wave bestowed the idea that “the personal is political,” which brought political theory about oppressors and victims into every area of life, including the most nuanced and crucial areas of marriage and sex. This has been a disaster for marriage, for child-bearing, for heterosexual bonding.
In a less polemical way, she lays out the evolutionary instability and the time horizons.  Is your curmudgeonly Uncle Steve muttering something about “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free” in the background?
Men and women are radically different. This is what makes for the specially potent attraction but also what makes communication and successful pairing very difficult.

Paradoxically, in other words, the Sexual Revolution left behind at least two (are we at three now?) generations of women who have experienced long bouts of sexual loneliness. Teenaged girls grew up knowing nothing about normal female sexual response and felt shame when they did not feel compelled to act like their male cohorts, when they found, for instance, hook up culture so deeply unsatisfying.

Ask the experts (if you can’t just ask your grandmother) solid female arousal depends on time. It’s actually hard-wired. An investment of time is a sign that a man might invest time when it’s needed most, during the years of pregnancy and child-raising. So women get turned on by someone who has gone to the trouble of trying to seduce them, but the elements of seduction, which starts with glances, casual, but usually complimentary, comments, and casual touches, have been driven out of the public sphere by sexual harassment regulations. In the modern workplace, at a college, even glances can be dangerous.

So, women under the age of about 80 actually have good reason to be angry, but they’re misdirecting their anger—at men instead of the feminists who have been shaping public policy since the mid-seventies. The Sexual Revolution was a terrible deal for women, and eventually for men too.
Ms Gutmann wrote a political polemic, praying for a presidential change.  The main points of her argument, though, turn up in feminist discourse as well.
When writers for the at-the-time conservative Badger Herald makes that argument, maybe the self-styled progressives will roll their eyes and consider the source.
The demands of feminism required certain concessions on the part of men. Men had to be willing — or forced — to open their career ladders to the likes of women. They also had to cease to understand fidelity and commitment as prerequisites to sexual relationships. Needless to say, the second “concession” made the first much easier to swallow. It quickly dawned on men that there was now no reason to put women on the proverbial pedestal.
What will their reaction be when a self-styled feminist, Louise Perry, makes a similar argument?
It’s precisely because I’m a feminist that I’ve changed my mind on sexual liberalism. It’s an ideology premised on the false belief that the physical and psychological differences between men and women are trivial, and that any restrictions placed on sexual behavior must therefore have been motivated by malice, stupidity or ignorance.

The problem is the differences aren’t trivial. Sexual asymmetry is profoundly important: One half of the population is smaller and weaker than the other half, making it much more vulnerable to violence. This half of the population also carries all of the risks associated with pregnancy. It is also much less interested in enjoying all of the delights now on offer in the post-sexual revolution era.
Reality was leading by two runs thirty years ago.
Remove the progressive goggles, and the history of the last 60 years looks different. The sexual revolution isn’t only a story of women freed from the burdens of chastity and motherhood. It is also a story about the triumph of the playboy.

The new sexual culture isn’t so much about the liberation of women, as so many feminists would have us believe, but the adaptation of women to the expectations of a familiar character: Don Juan, Casanova, or, more recently, Hugh Hefner.
It gets better. Here’s more from that Herald article.  Prescient, nicht wahr?
One has to wonder how different things would have been if feminism had demanded economic freedom for women and denounced the sexual revolution in the interest of preserving womens’ traditional roles as the guardians of chastity. This would have gained for women the equal pay and opportunity they deserved while at the same time ensuring that women who wanted to raise families would find willing husbands-to-be.

Such a situation would also have spread the gains from feminism. Today the only victors in the sexual revolution are those men and women who are good-looking and clever enough to enjoy multiple partners with a minimum of emotional and financial commitment. The dowdy and the not-so-clever (or not-so-unscrupulous) are used by the well-endowed and find loneliness and frustration where, in a previous generation, they would probably have been able to start families.
Here’s Ms Perry.
If we are to challenge the social costs of the sexual revolution effectively, then we can’t redesign society on the back of an envelope. We have to look at social structures that have already proven to be successful and compare them against one another, rather than against some imagined alternative that has never existed and is never likely to exist. The technology shock of the Pill led many liberals to the hubristic assumption that our society could be uniquely free from the oppression of sexual norms and function just fine.

The last 60 years have proved that assumption to be wrong. We need to re-erect the social guard rails that have been torn down. To do that, we have to start by stating the obvious: Sex must be taken seriously. Men and women are different. Some desires are bad. Consent is not enough. Violence is not love. Loveless sex is not empowering. People are not products. Marriage is good.

And, above all, listen to your mother.
Reality is socially conservative, and evolutionary stability is real.
As long as I’m administering lessons, let me direct your attention, dear reader, to that “we can’t redesign society on the back of an envelope.” That’s true of the Welfare Economics Paradigm and economic policy; that’s true of Multicultural Transformation, and it is true of the experiments against reality that came to the dating scene.

Now, by way of a Marginal Revolution link-list, comes scholarship, “Enough With the Incels! A Literary Cry for Help From Female Insings (Involuntary Single)” in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences that might be identifying precisely the outcomes those Herald columnists of some thirty years ago called attention to.  The abstract hints at the possible confirmations of those fears.
Modern mating markets relegate a growing number of men to being incels (involuntary celibate). Increasing attention befalls another group struggling in the same markets: female insings (involuntary single). In the partly autobiographical novel, Half of Malmö Consists of Guys Who Dumped Me, Amanda Romare dramatizes how urban dating and technologies like Tinder exploit women’s evolved mate preferences in a manner that drives addiction and dysfunction. Many women have practically unlimited access to serial dating and short-term sex with highly attractive men, but such experiences can leave women less able to calibrate their mating strategies, thus making it harder to acquire a long-term partner. Romare argues that incels get too much attention, as our culture blinds us to the plight of lonely women. To investigate the insing phenomenon, we apply sexual strategies theory, sexual conflict theory, and other frameworks from evolutionary psychology. Mismatch, conflicting desires, and exploitative technologies make many women prioritize mate qualities that misalign with their pair-bonding ambitions. Juxtaposing Romare’s novel with the TV series Sigurd Can’t Get Laid (2020–2022) aids us in comparing insings to incels. Our analysis illustrates how both groups fall victim to our evolved mate preferences. Communities that develop a better understanding of these preferences could improve intersexual communication, which might help them find more productive ways to mate.
I’ll break down that distinction more bluntly: the “incel” is frequently a low-status man, possibly “dowdy or not-so-clever” whose prospects as a provider are not that great.  There used to be all sorts of self-help books, such as Body Language (now a collectible!) and The Sensuous Man (ditto), as well as the Charles Atlas body-building courses in the pulp magazines, offering methods by which a guy could Project Confidence and Land That Lady, or maybe score in the bar.  The paper notes that “incel” takes on shades of Victimology: it’s not the guy’s looks or brains keeping him on the sidelines, it’s the System, and sometimes the Victims lash out at the System, often with fatal consequences.  That theme will permeate the paper.
In the past decade, involuntary celibate (incels) men gained public notoriety after the terrorist attacks of a few extremists (Costello & Buss, 2023; Tietjen & Tirkkonen, 2023). Scholars are making sense of the incel phenomenon (e.g., Baselic, 2022; Blake & Brooks, 2023; Brooks, Russo-Batterham, et al., 2022; Costello et al., 2022, 2023; Hoffman et al., 2020; Räsänen, 2023; Sparks et al., 2022, 2024)—for instance, through explaining why, when men’s and women’s evolved mate preferences play out in the modern West, the lowest-value men become excluded from mating. Incels have been common throughout most of human history (Larsen, 2023c, 2023d). The early-second-millennium Church’s imposition of life-long monogamy restrained Homo sapiens’ bias for polygyny and hindered women from channeling mating opportunities predominantly to the highest-value men (Larsen, 2022, 2023b). This unique regime drove a sexual egalitarianism that peaked in the post-World War II environment with nearly universal marriage (Coontz, 2005).
In the linked article, all those references include hyperlinks that might get you a look at the cited papers themselves without having to subscribe to J-Stor or use a university account. All those references are characteristic of a peer-reviewed publication.  Recall, dear reader, that “peer-reviewed” does not have to mean “definitive.”  (That’s why we have all that snarking about Minimal Publishable Units.)  It does not even have to mean “correct.”  Minding the Campus contributor Eric-Clifford Graf offers the methodological note.  “Science is about negating the findings of others by exposing flaws in their theories and experiments. So, you don’t follow science, much less vote on it; you demonstrate it.”  So it is with “Literary Cry for Help.”
Our two fictional case studies illuminate why an alarming number of youths are opting out of both short- and long-term mating. High singledom and sexual inactivity may contribute to our era’s impending demographic collapse, which threatens social stability and human prospering. Analyzing fictional portrayals of dating dysfunction through the lens of evolutionary psychology could generate insights that help individuals and communities progress past our current malaise.
I am not a fan of that “lens.” In the paper at hand, it refers to an analytic framework.  We used to call such things “theories.”  Fictional portrayals, or even out-takes from Blind Date, provide insufficient observations to apply methods of statistical analysis, psychometrics if you will, to find outcomes not inconsistent with the testable implications of the theory.  A number of the cited papers appear to undertake such statistical inquiries.

The paper proceeds in the spirit of supporting or negating findings.  That I’m pointing that out says more about the state of academic research these days: if somebody’s applying a “Marxian lens” it might be prudent to think “filter” or “tight priors” whilst if the author refers to an “antiracist lens” a fun-house mirror comes to mind.  The authors might be revealing their priors with the use of “dating dysfunction” and “current malaise.”  These are normative terms, and one ought be able to describe the effects of internet-assisted dating on the incidence of loneliness and frustration or ability to start families.  It’s possible that “dysfunction” is a term of art within psychology that has a generally understood connotation.

Those quibbles, though, are the sort of thing that peer review exists to evaluate.  The reviewer ought be answering one question: Does this paper, whether I agree with its findings or would use its methods, contribute to a conversation within our discipline?  There are, at any time, more working papers and candidate Minimal Publishable Units, with perhaps a few paradigm-disrupting studies among them, in circulation than even the most assiduous scholar can keep up with.  By recommending publication, the reviewer is providing one answer:  Colleague, you’re busy, this paper might be worth your looking at.  Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences might be coming to your mailbox or your library; and it will be indexed on J-Stor.

The paper, though, breaks down the dating frustrations among the women.  In a scientific paper, a responsible scholar probably isn’t going to allude to Uncle Steve cracking wise about that cow.  And yet, that’s where the good looking and clever guys are.  Virtual reality, how delightful!
The fact that most Western women no longer are materially or morally dependent on being in a long-term relationship motivates them to exclude the least compelling men from their pool of potential pair-bonding candidates. Gender equality and economic inequality drive women to focus their mate attraction efforts on a shrinking proportion of men (Brooks, Blake, et al., 2022). Sex differences in mate preferences empower women in short-term markets, giving them practically unlimited access to casual sex with higher-value men (Buss & Schmitt, 2011). Less restrained by monogamous mating morality—and given access to larger, more accessible short-term markets through technologies like Tinder—many women can serially date the small percentage of men whom they perceive to be the most attractive. These men generally find promiscuous mating to be rewarding, but many of their female partners are often left sexually unsatisfied and with negative emotions and regret (Campbell, 2008; Fernandes et al., 2016; Kennair & Bendixen, 2018; Kennair et al., 2016, 2018). This point should not be exaggerated; for instance, the stereotype of promiscuous women having low self-esteem is unfounded (Krems et al., 2021). For the small proportion of women whose genuine preference is promiscuous mating, today’s markets confer an exceptional level of in terms of access to higher-value men. But since women in general are more oriented toward committed relationships, promiscuity is for many a poor replacement for pair bonding (Buss & Schmitt, 2011). Many women thus experience that modern mating markets relegate them to being involuntary single (insings).
The scholarly throat-clearing and careful language is necessary in scholarship:  you have to distinguish one sort of player from another, and you can’t have crusty Uncle Steve pointing out that if there is new free milk to be had, the old cows are put out to pasture.  Cultural conservatives, though, can only nod their heads.  Assortative mating has always been a thing.  Those advice books, and Charles Atlas, and these days, the pickup artists, all exist to help men raise their sexual market value (lift their game, if you will, which these days is teaching the scrupulous how to mimic the unscrupulous.)  Apparently Sigurd got laid after he took advice from a pickup artist.

The old combination of church-reinforced monogamy and sexual egalitarianism, seasoned with good manners, however, ensured that people who were willing and able to mix and mingle would have a good chance of finding a partner, and back in the day, there was a social norm under which women were guardians of their chastity, and their fathers and brothers would keep in line the men who did their daughters or sisters wrong, with shotguns if necessary.  “Baggage” referred to what you checked ahead on a honeymoon trip, and “issues” referred to magazines.  The Moynihan report had those social norms of the American High in mind.  These days, though, Uncle Steve unleashes his inner cynic.  “Slut-shaming is a dishonor tax, and feminism is a tax cut.”

Perhaps in a few millennia we got some things right.
Through humanity’s forager and agricultural phases, family and kin wielded considerable power over mate choice. Homo sapiens was “the only species on the planet where males are selected by other males for reproductive purposes” (Apostolou, 2010, p. 46). Traits were selected for that helped men win favor with in-laws, such as being reliable providers and good long-term partners. A woman and her parents have overlapping interests, but there are also genetic conflicts (Kennair & Biegler, 2017). The woman will benefit more from getting good genes from an attractive man than what her parents will. If he proves to be a bad provider, she may have to seek help from her parents, which poses a burden on them. Being perceived as sexy was therefore less of an advantage when parents had a strong say in spouse selection. Until the past centuries, there was less pressure on men to have attractive looks and good flirting skills.

Women too seem suboptimally evolved for long-term markets. Apostolou et al. (2023) found that 57% of men and women have difficulties in starting and/or keeping a relationship. In short-term markets, many men struggle to attract women. Buss (2021) proposed that 20% of men are sufficiently compelling to succeed with short-term mating. The longitudinal study of Harper et al. (2017) indicated that this stratification is becoming stronger. From 2002 to 2011–2013, the top 5% of men increased their number of sex partners by 32%. An equivalent reduction in sex partners occurred among the lower-value men. Norwegian studies attest to a similar stratification (Seksualvaneundersøkelsen, 2020; Træen et al., 2003). A 2015 study suggested that there could be a 20:80 distribution among men on Tinder (Medium, 2015), but this might no longer be the case. In 2014, men swiped right three times as often as women did, 46% and 14%, respectively (Bilton, 2014).
The “short-term market” is the singles bar with algorithms and wi-fi; and that a power rule emerges among the players comes as no surprise.  That works out to the advantage of the attractive and the unscrupulous, and to the detriment of everyone else.  Once you deconstruct the norms of long standing, trouble follows.  Once Sigurd figured out how to score, he decided he was due for some affirmative action.  That part of the story squares with the Popular Perspective featuring incels feeling entitled to their fair share of sex taking out their frustration on others.
The series’ creators argue against deterministic incel ideology by depicting how, with much effort, men like Sigurd can become sufficiently attractive to earn copulation and pair bonding, even with today’s Western women. After working on his looks and skills, and suffering numerous failures, Sigurd finally gets to have sex after a date at the end of Season 2. Season 3 explores how there might still be harmful consequences from how men with low short-term mate value are so strongly discriminated against about promiscuous sex. The fact that modern dating dynamics incentivize women to channel sexual opportunities mostly to the highest-value men could contribute to dysfunction in long-term markets.

After Sigurd has become more socially capable and confident, he gets to pair bond with Josefin. She is an attractive woman with whom he envisions a future. But because Sigurd feels that women have deprived him of sex until now, he does not consider it immoral to cheat on his first-ever girlfriend. He views himself as a victim of systemic discrimination and thus entitled to a form of affirmative action. To his friend Mats, Sigurd explains that men have always offered Josefin sex, while “only now people have become interested in having sex with me … It is so incredibly unfair that I have to stop because she is satisfied. I have to grab the opportunities I have” (3-7-15-6). Sigurd is unable to convince Josefin that he deserves to have sex with others while in a relationship with her. He reminds her that she has “had 15 boyfriends [and also] slept around” (3-4-18). Having had only three sex partners, Sigurd feels he “cannot grow old and have had sex with [so few]” (3-8-1).
Again, I wonder whether dysfunction is a term of art with a specific connotation.  And yet, isn’t that exactly what those Badger Herald columnists told us all those years ago?  “The dowdy and the not-so-clever (or not-so-unscrupulous) are used by the well-endowed and find loneliness and frustration where, in a previous generation, they would probably have been able to start families.”

In the article, the authors note where the trouble began.  Is anybody surprised?
The post-1968 mating ideology of confluent love contributes to how Sigurd feels that an important part of self-realization is not only to be found in committed relationships but also through casual sex (Giddens, 1992; Shorter, 1975). This ideology of convenience and individualistic reward promotes serial monogamy interspersed with opportunistic, short-term mating. A belief in confluent love has taken hold of Western populations during the same period as individual choice empowered women to exclude the lowest-value men from mating. Not only does this societal evolution impose existential pain on men unable to live up to cultural ideals, but also some of them respond maladaptively. Yong et al. (2023) found that men with low mate value, instead of accepting that an assortative, long-term strategy is their best bet, approach mating markets with unrealistic expectations. Those men who do get into pair bond may also suffer increased psychological pressures. Strong sex partner stratification between men makes it so that many relationships will be like that of Sigurd and Josefin, in that the woman will be the most sexually experienced. Considering men’s sexual jealousy (Buss et al., 1992; Daly et al., 1982; Wilson & Daly, 1992), their greater desire for partner variety (Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Clark & Hatfield, 1989; Schmitt, 2005b), and the promiscuous ideals of confluent love, our era’s mating stratification could contribute to greater friction within a relationship.

The series’ creators make a case for how poor intersexual communication—as a result of men and women not understanding how the sexes face different mating challenges—contributes to breakups and singledom. Josefin becomes furious when Sigurd admits to having cheated. She refuses to sympathize with his sexual marginalization, and he doesn’t care that she has suffered similar victimization as Amanda in Half of Malmö. Josefin had admitted with regard to her former boyfriends: “I find an asshole, then we break up, and then I find a new asshole. Are you an asshole?” (3-2-13). She agreed to pair bond with Sigurd because he is not. By “asshole,” she seems to mean an attractive man who mates long- and short-term at the same time. Josefin exemplifies the burden that can befall women who get to pair bond with the most sought-after mates. Men with sexual opportunity typically become more short-term oriented (Goetz et al., 2019, which can motivate them to cheat even after having agreed to be in a closed relationship.

Josefin had not been an insing. Attractive men pair-bonded with her, but their cheating caused her to adjust the value she assigns different traits in potential partners, further upvaluing men who convincingly signal long-term commitment. She makes this point when she throws Sigurd out of her life: “The whole point of you is that you don’t do things like that! If I am to have a boyfriend who fucks others, he might as well be good-looking.” She seems to have accepted Sigurd as a boyfriend whom she considers to have lower mate value, as a compromise that he should understand excludes him from pursuing short-term opportunities. Their exchange attests to how “the fundamental conflict of interest between the sexes prohibits so-called ‘true love’ [due to] exploitation by both partners” (Chang et al., 2017, p. 199).
Perhaps that cage of norms that evolved in the second millennium conferred evolutionary advantages, and the experiment against reality the authors term “the post-1968 mating ideology” isn’t turning out well, even for people like Josefin, who thought they were favored by the new dispensation.  “Josefin had desired a stable, monogamous pair bond, while Sigurd desired partner variety—a predictable conflict due to differences in male and female mate preferences.”  Note that the authors refer, frequently, to “pair bonds” but in no case does anybody put a ring on it.  Eventually, reality comes up to bat.
By having Sigurd eventually do what is adaptive, the series encourages low-value men to accept their plight. He still desires to accumulate sexual experience with additional partners, but doubts whether he will be able to do so to an extent that justifies the effort. Mats encourages him to mimic the behavior of men who are so attractive that they can have a relationship and also sleep around. Jonason and Buss (2012) accounted for how such men adopt tactics that let them avoid burdensome entanglements that could hinder their short-term strategies. With high to new partners, high-value men “can afford to keep relationships purely casual more than can those lower in mate-value” (p. 607). Sigurd concludes that his mate value could never become sufficiently high to support such a strategy; he does not “feel that he is that kind of guy” (3-7-13). The realization that he will never be attractive enough to have significant success in short-term markets makes him adopt a long-term orientation. His decision exemplifies how mating stratification also can have a positive effect on pair bonding. Low-value men can become more motivated to commit, as they lack sexual opportunity outside of relationships. In his next pair bond, Sigurd accepts that the price of long-term intimacy and family life is to forego short-term opportunities—even if such restrictions on men with low short-term mate value can feel unfair.
Thus the women who benefit—from one short-term relationship to another—by offering the high value men the milk without having to buy the cow, until they realize they’ve been had.  Perhaps there is an opportunity for the next cohort of youngsters to restore a state of good repair in their personal lives.
With this happy, prosocial ending, the series’ creators reject the validity of incel demands regarding compensation for systemic discrimination. Our evolved psychologies make it so that, in the modern West, women have far easier access to casual sex, an advantage they use to channel a disproportionate amount of sexual opportunity to the most attractive men. Sigurd may view himself as a victim who is entitled to affirmative action, but the series creators are unwilling to entertain what it would require to achieve a more sexually egalitarian social order in the 21st century. Their ending tells marginalized men to work hard to increase their mate value so that they have a better chance of earning a monogamous relationship in the future.
That the women are discovering that easier access to casual sex renders them what the authors call “insig” after a series of flings, while their biological clocks keep ticking, suggests that perhaps the old values confer the attractive and the plain alike more advantages, should they choose to play by the old rules.  Note, as if in a symphonic recapitulation, Stephanie Gutmann’s grandmother speaking.
In the context of a first date out on town, it is hard for men with high long-term mate value to showcase qualities such as their partner and parenting skills, their willingness to commit and invest in the pair bond, their strong social standing, and their ability to plan and provide. Although both sexes prefer a high level of agreeableness in long-term partners, Dark Triad traits seem more effective for making a strong first impression. If Amanda had prioritized spending time with similar-value men, she may have experienced emerging feelings of love, a slower-burning emotion that motivates women to have sex also with lower-value men.

In previous eras, Amanda would have had access to a much smaller number of potential mates. The courtship likely would have lasted months or years. She would have gotten to know her courter more deeply, and he would have gotten to know her as well. Tinder encourages her to evaluate a never-ending line of men, using seconds or minutes on each. Research shows that when women have many choices, they tend to eliminate candidates by a single attribute at a time. Visual cues become more important. For Amanda, her selecting attribute is mostly hotness, which is central when your dating strategy includes sex on the first night. When women have fewer options, they focus less on visual aspects and evaluate potential partners more holistically. Having faced a smaller pool of potential mates also leaves people more satisfied with their decision (Goetz et al., 2019).

Amanda feels debilitated by choice. Romare portrays that she falls prey to her evolved mate preferences, but as a consequence of the 21st-century environment. In interviews, Romare (2022b) has suggested that one solution could be to return to 20th-century mating practices. She finds today’s mating morality and technologies to make it too hard for women to fulfill their desire for a relationship. One factor is how there is nearly no cultural pressure on Amanda to change her strategies. Her promiscuity is not discouraged through shaming, a practice that is relatively rare in today’s gender-equal Scandinavia (Kennair, Thomas, et al., 2023). Instead, she had felt ashamed prior to beginning her serial dating for only having had seven sex partners. Wanting to increase her number of partners at the same as she seeks a boyfriend appears to be the prime example of conflicting desires that generate the habits that Amanda later is unable to move past.
It is difficult to read that passage as anything other than concurrence with the opinion those Herald columnists offered.  “Dark Triad” traits are the superficial elements of what the pickup artists call Game, and that strategy involves a lot of the power trips that come under the rubric of “asshole.”  As far as Amanda’s troubles, again, does anybody remember “a man chases a woman until she catches him?”  That’s the extended courtship we see mentioned in the second paragraph above.

The article continues in a similar vein for many more paragraphs, none of which come close to offering a rebuttal to “contemporary mating practices and admissions policies might not be evolutionarily stable.”  Returning to the courtship practices of the second millennium might be restoration of a state of good repair.

15 thoughts on “Evolutionary Stability is Real.”

  1. …contemporary mating practices and admissions policies might not be evolutionarily stable…

    Might not be? Might?

    I would think the sub-replacement level birthrate of most of the civilized world is a rather incandescent sign that something has gone seriously wrong with modern society.

    Shrug. Does anyone lament the passing of the Shakers? Humanity will continue, just without the failed societies that couldn’t manage to make new people, or just didn’t want to bother.

    Anyway, it seems to me we’ve reached peak matriarchy and the whole feminist woke worldview is about to end, one way or another. Either the feminists get put back in their crazy box or “modern” society will cease to exist, to be replaced by something that regards women as property or less.

    I still recall reading the astonishing story of the Swedish feminists who were pretending to be horses- to protest the patriarchy, of course- because there was a statue of a man on a horse in Stockholm. They completely ignored the endless stream of “migrants” who turned Sweden into the rape capital of Europe.

    I just don’t get the sense that feminists have any sort of answer to all that, other than continuing to complain about men and the patriarchy they have helped destroy, which is now utterly ridiculous.

    The dating preferences and practices of feminists- well, the Shakers made good furniture, didn’t they?

    Other than that, who cares about them now?

  2. Xennady: “I would think the sub-replacement level birthrate of most of the civilized world is a rather incandescent sign that something has gone seriously wrong with modern society.”

    Perhaps it is a sign that evolution is still working fine. After all, evolution does not provide stability, it is dynamic. As you note about the long-passed Shakers, a population which does not reproduce ceases to exist.

    The feminist subgroup in society is certainly in the slow process of exiting stage left. But there are other subgroups which are still replacing themselves or increasing, such as LDS believers and Muslims — generally faith-based groups. Will the feminists, with their iron control of education and politics, be able to spread their distaste for babies to the faith-based subgroups before the feminists themselves disappear from the population? Or will the surviving faith-based subgroups become mutually antagonistic (as has been the pattern throughout history) once Darwin has eliminated the feminist subgroup?

    A few centuries from now, the history of the approaching changes will make for very interesting reading.

  3. The question: To what degree are the long-term attitudes of children shaped by the attitudes of their parents? …versus, shaped by the values of other forces in their societies?…seems like an important one, and indeed one that could be researched.

  4. Related post & discussion from 2018: Would arranged marriages be better?


    An ad for a matchmaking service has been running on TV. The woman representing their customers talks about how frustrated she was with online dating services, and says: “I just wanted someone I could introduce to my friends.”

    Note that it was the approval of her friends she was concerned about, not the approval of her parents and other family.

  5. Actual evolution doesn’t occur in Humans in a time frame short of tens of thousands of years. The transition between hunting-gathering and agriculture hasn’t made a dent to this day. Were we able to resurrect an ancestor from Mesopotamia there is no reason to doubt their fertility with a modern partner. The Human Race is just too widely distributed and has too long of a generation interval for evolution to take place on a shorter time frame.

    Beyond that, Humans have both intelligence and self consciousness. We constantly override instinct and emotion to attain all sorts of abstract goals. Sex is not exempt form this.

    Contraception and the seeming, transient, suppression of STI’s is far too recent for any biological change in people. Bacteria operate on a much shorter loop, thus transient. All the changes wrought in society by these developments are completely a product of conscious decisions not biology. At the same time, in the developed world, women’s economic value in the workforce had been increasing steadily since 1900 and the mechanization of industry and agriculture, given two big bumps when women picked up the slack at home from mobilization of so many men in the wars.

    What this did was monetize the cost of children from the previous state where they represented a minor, marginal cost of an extra mouth to feed for a few years against a very real value as helpers and eventual source of labor. Now the cost of a child was easily apparent and that child was entirely optional. Governments have not been backward in finding ever new ways to increase those costs as well.

    With no sales campaign, no one standing by to offer easy financing, it’s not a wonder that childbearing has declined. I doubt that feminism is responsible for some profound change in the female libido, The expression; “Lay back and think of England”, originated in an era of supposed prudery named after a woman that gave birth to five children, an only slightly deficient number by the norms of the time. I doubt the sexual genie is going back in the bottle. If you look outside the big cities, where the cost of child rearing is highest, larger families start to become more common although families with nine children such as my mother’s are likely not coming back.

  6. MCS…”Contraception and the seeming, transient, suppression of STI’s is far too recent for any biological change in people. Bacteria operate on a much shorter loop, thus transient. All the changes wrought in society by these developments are completely a product of conscious decisions not biology.”

    That is true, BUT it doesn’t exclude the effect of evolution having influenced male and female behavior patterns over a much longer time period of thousands of years…for example, the desire of women to have a man who will stick around when she is most vulnerable in late pregnancy and within an infant. The length of the historical period when she could just call the cops if faced with a threat, and just call Social Services if there was no food available, has indeed been way too short to have a biological evolutionary impact…whereas the period during which such things were *not* available was probably indeed long enough for such evolutionary impact.

  7. Last week while scanning the Washington Post, I saw an op-piece regarding family size The ideal number of kids in a family: Four (at a minimum) I just couldn’t resist clicking through, just to read the comments. It was pretty much what you expect a lot of comments such as “Breeder!”, “Child Abuse”, “Christian Nationalistic MAGA” okay I made the last one up but still…

    My observation is that LDS birth rates, while above average, have been shrinking. Anybody can point to a reason(s) why?

    If we are took about evolution and social practices, I don’t think we can talk enough about sex and society. Without getting too much into weeds, a big reason why social structures and traditions have evolved the way they do is to both constrain sexual impulses and channel them into socially useful outcomes.

    There has been a lot of social science and philosophical ink spilled over the past 150 years about the corrosive effects of modernity on traditional society. That talk has been mostly about the decline in religious belief and the effect of industrialization and urbanization. The themes here seem to be part of a second phase of modernity-caused destruction that was enabled by the results of the first.

    The problems and consequences of the intersection among feminism, ideology of sexual liberation, and technical advances in birth control were mapped out well before “Woke” The disconnection between sex and procreation combined with the discrediting of both traditional society and male/female roles has not only allowed women to be as libertine as men, but it has allowed men to be free of any restrictions on their own sexual impulses. This wasn’t some well thought out process, but rather more of a juvenile, spasmodic rebellion against the status quo. Women were free to make their own choices, unencumbered by any traditional constraints and…. what?

    I am not enamored by the idea that we will eventually evolve as society to come to deal with these new phenomena, to come to a new equilibrium, at least in a positive way. Evolution was a development based on Hegel who saw a Philosophy of History evolving ever forward through a dialectical process of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. As with much of Hegel, that’s just self-congratulatory happy talk. That’s not to say that eventually there will be a new equilibrium but more than likely (and sadly) it will be the non-Western world (Islam), societies that have yet to inject these toxins, that will learn how to deal with the social effects of female sexuality. After all a lot of evolution is about how one’s life is a warning to others.

    It’s hard Does that sound too pessimistic? Perhaps, but the problem is that the society of 2024 does not have the same ability to course correct that the one of 1974 had. My belief is that once a society loses its moorings in such a way, it lack the ability (the grammar) to self-correct. Many of the institutions and traditions back then which would offer guidance and comfort to people that Stephen and Ruxandra cited are either completely gone or severely compromised. Not only are there gone but the prevailing Zeitgeit is to actively smother any remnants of that patriarchal, white supremacist heteronormativity. For the past 15 years there has been active effort by the Left to ostracize any of that traditional social order as “far right” or “Christian nationalist”; for a woman seeking guidance those paths lead to social expulsion.

  8. MCS: “Actual evolution doesn’t occur in Humans in a time frame short of tens of thousands of years.”

    That is a reasonable hypothesis. But let’s not reject too easily the potential for Darwinian selective breeding.

    Observation of the people around us shows — Some people (female and male) really want to have children, others do not. Here is a possible hypothesis: What if that difference is genetic rather than learned behavior? Nature rather than nurture?

    In the days before reliable contraception and on-demand safe abortion (i.e., until about half a century ago), that presumed genetic difference had no effect on breeding success. Boy met girl and baby resulted, whether the parties wanted it or not.

    But in today’s world, those people who have the postulated “Don’t Want Babies” gene don’t have to have babies. Within a generation or two, that segment of the population with the “Don’t Want Babies” gene will have exited the gene pool — permanently. The surviving human race would then be almost entirely composed of people for whom children & families are important and desired.

    Darwinian selective breeding occurs when there is a new environmental pressure which allows only those with a particular genetic trait to survive and reproduce. We may possibly be (quite unintentionally) in such a period of a new human-created environmental pressure, and the consequent changes in the human population could be surprisingly rapid (in evolutionary terms).

  9. While it is certainly in the best interests of a prospective mother to choose a companion with the intent to stay for the long term and the ability to provide, evolution is, perforce, limited to operating on physically perceptible characteristics. Until men evolve factory verified stigmata of rectitude, women are forced to use their judgement. I don’t see any evidence that the accuracy of that judgement has ever been much better than now. While I can’t produce peer reviewed gobbledygook to support that contention I do cite a few millennia of literature.

    Just as well to ask why men have not evolved constancy over the last few million years. Without going too far into the bootless conjecture that passes in most places for evolutionary theorizing , I’ll venture that evolution favors quantity over quality. Evolution is mute in terms of societal, emotional or financial consequences. Evolution would function perfectly well on a planet without a single Human as it did for billions of years before we appeared.

  10. Seems to me we’re seeing the third generation of US courtships conducted in the echo chamber of doom-cryers. Live [only] for today, because there is no tomorrow. There will be nuclear war, or famine with riots and civilizational collapse due to over-population. There will be nuclear waste causing epidemics of cancer even if the nuclear weapons are abolished, and the skies will be black with soot and ash from pollution from our electrical plants, our industries, and especially our cars. Forget about tomorrow’s jetpacks and flying cars, because today’s cars are unsafe at any speed and will kill you, and especially kill any kids loose in the back seat, before you see them finish school. For that matter, forget school. Johnny can’t read, (1950s) Johnny STILL can’t read, (1980s) and Johnny is oppressed by the soft bigotry of low expectations so can’t be taught to read (2000) Besides, teachers are dumber than any other professional. Farms are a failed business model. Factories failing.
    All our children’s jobs have been sold to Japan, and their children’s jobs to China. Miners should learn to code. Plumbers can’t build “that” without government subsidy. And health care only means everybody has an insurance agent, if not a doctor. Seemingly working lightbulbs, thermostats, gas generators, lawn mowers, and especially cars 10 years old — now called “clunkers” — must be trashed and replaced. So, don’t buy a car thinking you’ll haul your sweetheart to the drive-in now and your wife to the OB soon and your kids to the dentist later and teach them to fix it up to drive it themselves someday… Lease what you personally individually need for the short term, and get out before you get underwater; and as for wives and kids — Pffhst! They never come into the calculation.

    There are no books on the shelf just files in the cloud to be — if you’re lucky — accessed on your tablet. Until the next crash, or hack, or your credit rating tanks or the vendor goes bust. Your tools are great for a year or two until the battery pack fails and the new battery is a different and incompatible shape. If you DID learn to code, (Fortran? COBOL?) the language might as well be Sanskrit before you’re laid off and reapply for the next job. Don’t put canned goods in the pantry — the cans are made of toxic “forever” chemicals and the “goods” are “highly processed foods” that will kill you a second time. And if you can’t be with someone to love, love the one you’re with.

    You must live, live once, live it up, live fast and leave a good-looking corpse, during a short-cycle time frame, and learn to like it.

    Eat the bugs.

    Or tune it all out.

  11. “Related post & discussion from 2018: Would arranged marriages be better?”

    That’s an interesting question. When I was still teaching medical students, I had a group that were interested in biomedical engineering.. They had Engineering degrees and were in medical school. One of them was possibly the smartest student I ever had. She was also female and very pretty. She was Indian and had a dark complexion but tall and beautiful. She said her parents had met at an Indian dating site. Her mother chose her father because he was the only man to post a color photo of himself. Both parents had immigrated to the US and were not involved personally.

    For anyone interested in evolution in humans I would recommend, “The 10,000 year explosion.”

  12. Monogamous marriage seems to be a Western concept and an old one, going back to the Greeks at least. For much of that time, marriage was a custom confined mostly to the upper crust. The lower orders lacked the dynastic and property motives to justify the fairly high costs associated with a formal union and usually made do with more informal arrangements. Polygamy in the West seems mostly a pre-conquest tribal custom while it’s much more common in the rest of the world. The joining of virtue with the marital state seems also to be a mostly Western concept.

    Those dynastic and property considerations also made female continence non-negotiable for those with property and dynastic pretensions. Male fidelity to the ideals of marriage has always been variable. This has ranged from fairly formal institutions of concubinage, usually also connected with slavery, to rampant prostitution, to fairly widespread promiscuity usually limited to short episodes such as the French Restoration. In the last case, married women actually enjoyed license since any pregnancy was legitimized by that marriage. Still, one man, one woman, one marriage. History with reliable contraception and/or reliable paternity tests would have been different.

    I have read, and believe it’s plausible, that through the Renaissance and early modern era, the satisfaction of the female in bed was considered a requirement for the conception of male progeny.

  13. That’s an instructive set of comments. Thanks.

    Xennady, that 2011 post was while I was still on faculty and attempting to model academic discourse practices as best I could, with perhaps an understatement or two to nudge the conversation along. I’m freer to spout off now as a retired academic with a bit of F.U. money.

    David Foster, it’s going to be more productive for former adherents of equity feminism and its later incarnations to recognize what traditionalists have been saying for a long time. That “It’s Just Lunch” commercial you cite might actually be evidence that the hookup culture isn’t satisfying. Years ago, the lady in question would have her friends vet her possible long term companions first, whether that was high school or college or at church, and it would make sense to finally have him visit Mom and Dad. These days, the opportunities for friends to vet potential mates first is missing, or so the advert is suggesting. Recall that “It’s Just Lunch” is a high end matchmaking service in the metros, and the way today’s high income individuals might give lip service to wokery in their public personas, they still live like Lutherans. The lady might be conceding that the sort of cad frequenting the apps would not have been vetted by college or church friends, back when those institutions mattered for family formation.

    I make no claims with respect to biological evolution, the “evolutionary stability” I use is as game theory does, referring to a strategy available to all that is robust against defection. Whatever the reasons monogamy displaced polygamy, and whether the assortative mating is arranged by parents or worked out by individuals, its emergence and its persistence suggest that sort of robustness. Serial monogamy looks a lot like polygamy in its outcomes (who gets to pair off most?) but the emergence of as many disaffected souls as there are suggest that it will go the way of concubines and eunuchs. Perhaps that’s part of, to extend MCS just above, how the West grew rich.

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