book excerptise:   a book unexamined is wasting trees

The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature

Geoffrey Miller

Miller, Geoffrey;

The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature

Vintage, 2001, 538 pages

ISBN 0099288249, 9780099288244

topics: |  evolution | gender | brain | neuro-science | sex

Redefine yourself

When I first read this book, I was surprised there wasn't a bigger brouhaha about it. For me, it was one of the most profoundly eye-opening books for many years. But over the years, it has been building in strength, it seems, and now I see references to it quite often.

Miller (Cognitive Science PhD from Stanford) considers sexual selection and how it may have affected what our brain (mind) is today. Given that the brain weighs only 2 percent of our body weight, but consumes 15 percent of our oxygen and 25 percent of our energy, there must be something that caused it to grow so big. Miller advances a plethora of arguments that this something was sexual selection.

Excerpts and Comments

Steven Pinker, in How the Mind Works, argued that human art, music, humor, fiction, religion, and philosophy are not real adaptations, but biological side-effects of other evolved abilities. "If music confers no survival advantage, where does it come from and why does it work?" [concludes] that art and music must be like cheesecake and pornography -- cultural inventions that stimulate our tastes in evolutionarily novel ways, without improving our evolutionary success. - p.5 [but does not agree with Pinker, argues to the contrary]

- Human behaviour: An evolutionary view--

brains heavier than a pound evolved only in the great apes, in several
varieties of elephants and mammoths, and in a few dozen species of
dolphins and whales.
  chimpanzee brains - one pound,
  human brains - three pounds,
  bottlenose dolphin - 4 pounds
  elephant brains - 11 lbs
  sperm whale brains - 18 lbs - 17

no plausible survival payoffs for -
   storytelling  [?]
   gossip  [?]
   ornate language
   imaginative ideologies [?]
   religion  [?]
   morality  [?] - 18
   	       [I am not so sure abou the one's I flagged with "?"]

Pinker: Language Instinct: elephant's trunk raises some of the same
problems as human language - a large complex adaptation that arose
relatively recently in evolution, in only one group of mammals.  Yet
the elephant's trunk does not raise these problems.  There was
convergent evolution towards grasping tentacle-like structures among
octopi and the squid.  The evolution of the trunk split the ancestors
of elephants very quickly into mammoths, mastodons, and elephants
(adaptive radiation). Our unique human abilities [language] do not
show convergent evolution, nor adaptive radiation.
[Rather loosely argued.  Language as an adaptation may need other
skills already present in related species. Sound aspects (older, more
universal - e.g. music) - is related to  birdsong. ] - 19

How could our ancestors afford the energy costs of large brains?
Evidence in the last decade reveals how our ancestors evolved the
ability to exploit energy-rich foods such as game animals that could
be hunted for meat, and underground tubers that could be dug up and
cooked.  These energy rich foods could also be digested using shorer
intestines than other apes. Leslie Aiello: Our smaller guts also
increased our energy budget above what is available to other apes. - 23

the first gene specifically identified with extremely high
intelligence, IGF2R, on chromosome 6.

Darwin and sexual selection

As a child, Charles Darwin collected beetles avidly, and was once so
determined to capture a specimen, despite having his hands full, that
he placed it in his mouth to carry home.  . . . He saw that many
animals, especially males, have colorful plumage and melodious songs.
These complex and costly traits have no apparent use in the animals'
daily routine of feeding, fleeing and fighting.  [After returning from
the Beagle trip, he was intrigued by peacocks in English gardens.  To
his son Francis:] "The sight of a feather in a peacock's tail,
whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!" - 35

REF: Helena Cronin: The ant and the peacock - the only good history of
sexual selection.

The origin of species, 1859 - has three pages on sexual selection: sexual
selection depends "not on a struggle for existence in relation to
other organic beings or to external conditions, but on a struggle
between individuals of one zex, generally the males, for the
possession of the other sex." [37]

He noticed that most differences between males and females are either
specializations for making eggs or sperm, or weaponry and
ornamentation used during sexual competition. - 40

One result of sexual selection is a very fast divergence between
species -- the weaponry and ornamentation of one species can go off in
a different direction from the weaponry and ornamentation of a closely
related species. 40

Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in relation to Sex
900 page, two vol book of 1871:
  He who admits the principle of sexual selection will be led to the
  remarkable conclusion that the cerebral system not only regulates
  most of the existing functions of the bpdy, but has indirectly
  influenced progressive development of various bodily structures and
  of certain mental qualities.  Courage, pugnacity, perseverance,
  strength and size of body, weapons of all kinds, musical organs,
  both vocal and instrumental, bright colours, stripes, and marks, and
  ornamental appendages, have all been indirectly gained by one sex or
  the other, through the influence of love and jealousy, through the
  appreciation of the beautiful in sound, colour, or form, and through
  the exertion of choice; and these powers of the mind manifestly
  depend on the development of the cerebral system. - 47-48

Opposition to sexual selection

The ease with which Alfred Russel Wallace independently discovered
natural selection during a bout of Malaysian malaria (46)... [ AW] was
constantly emphasizing the power of selection to explain biological
structures that seem inexplicable.  He was the world's expert on animal
coloration, camouflage, and was more generous than Darwin in
attributing high intelligence to 'savages.' .. Yet Wallace was utterly
hostile to Darwin's theory of sexual selection through mate
choice. .. Did not consider male ornaments to be proper adaptations
that evolved for some real purpose .. were the unselected side effects
of an exuberant animal physiology that has a natural predilection for
bright colors and loud songs.  A random animal, cut in half, shows
many brightly coloured internal organs.  Wallace pointed out that
internal coloration cannot usually result from mate choice ==> organs
have a natural tendency to assume bright colours just because of their
chimistry and physiology.  On the outside, selection favours
camouflage so animals often look dull and drab. [IDEA: Blood is red so
we can see it easily]

Wallace then claims: the more active an organ, the more colourful it
is.  Males are more active, therefore more colours.
(1889 book, Darwinism): "The enormously lengthened plumes of the birds
of paradise and the peacock... have been developed to so great an
extent [because] there is a surplus of strength, vitality and
growth-power which is able to expand itself in this way without
injury."  Males are even more energetic in the mating season, and
their ornaments grow more colourful. Energy surplus ==> released in
ardent songs and extravagant dances. - 49

Wallace's energy surplus theory foreshadowed Freud's speculation that
human artistic display is the sublimation of excess sexual energy.
Stephen Jay Gould's claim (1977: Ontogeny and Phylogeny): human
creative intelligence is a side-effect of surplus brain size.  Makes
little evolutionary sense: surplus energy usually converted into fat,
not creativity. 50-1

[NOTE: Surplus of energy theory ==> Tagore's art as surplus:
    "man has a surplus where he can proudly assert that knowledge is for
    the sake of knowledge.  Upon this fund of surplus his science and
    philosophy thrive. ...  Man has a fund of emotional energy which is not
    all occupied with his self-preservation.  This surplus seeks its outlet
    in the creation of Art, for man's civilization is built upon its
    surplus. ] Tagore, Personality

Though he remained an evolutionist about everything else, Wallace was
a creationist about 'the human spirit'.  Allied with anti-Darwinians
who claimed that evolution could never account for human
consciousness, intelligence, or creativity.  Developed interests in
mesmerism and went to seances. - 50

Edward Westermark, 1894 (History of Human marriage) spent hundreds of
pages trying to undermine the idea that premodern humans were free to
choose their sexual partners.  He thought that traditional arranged
marriages destroyed any possibility of sexual selection. Like most
anthropologists of his era, he saw women as pawns in male power games,
and young lovers as dominated by matchmaking parents.  He founded the
tradition of seeing marriage primarily as a way of cementing alliances
between families, a view that dominated anthropology until the last
years of the 20th c. 52

The rediscovery of Mendel's work around 1900 shifted interest from
Darwin and his sexual selection ideas.  For young biologists at the
turn of the century, genes were the way forward. 53

Ronald Fisher, runaway sexual selection, 1930: The genetical theory of
natural selection.  Originally posed as a counter argument (Thomas
Hunt Morgan, 1903): If female birds preferred slightly brighter
plumage, all males would produce brighter plumage, but now the goal
would be shifted: "Shall we assume that ... the two continue heaping
up the ornaments on one side and the appreciation of these ornaments
on the other?"  FIsher suggested that a female who prefers
super-ornamented males, will produce super-ornamented sons, who will
be super-attractive to other females, etc. 56

The narrow adaption was perhaps reinforced by 20th c. aesthetics which
held conpicuous, costly ornamentation in low regard.  Walter Gropius
(1920s) and other in the Bauhaus movement, Germany argued that in a
socialist utopia, working people would not waste time and energy
hand-decorating objects for purchase by the rich, merely so the rich
could show how much wasteful ornamentation they could afford. Form
should follow function.  Ornament was morally decadent and politically
reactionary. ==> Spilled over into science ==> JBS Haldane suggested
that the excesses of sexual selection may be 'advantageous for the
individual, but ultimately disastrous for the species.' 61

Female biologists doing fieldwork drew more attention to female
choice among the animals they studied, esp in primatology: Jane
Goodall, Diane Fossey, Sarah Hrdy, Jeanne Altmann, Alison Jolly,
Barbara Smuts. 63

Handicap principle: sexual ornaments are high cost

1975, Amotz Zahavi: handicap principle: high costs of sexual ornaments
make them reliable as fitness indicators. 63

In the 1980s [After a hundred year of neglect] sexual selection became
the hottest area of evolutionary biology and animal behaviour
research. 65
[Once sexual selection became mainstream, sophisticated methods
already existing in experimental psychology were applied] to mate
choice.  In species after species, females were seen to show
preferences for one male over another, for beautiful ornaments over
bedraggled ones, for a higher level of fitness over a lower.  Female
choice was observed by Linda Partridge in fruit flies, by Malte
Andersson in widowbirds and by Michael Ryan in Tungara frogs.  David
Buss even showed evidence of mate choice in humans.  [Sex differences
in human mate selection: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37
cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences v. 12 1-49]

Three requirements of runaway ornamentation:
  a. variation (all biological traits show variation)
  b. heritable (variation must be capable of being passed down)
  c. selection: (e.g. female preference for long tails)
Fisher's key insight : the female daughters of choosy females will
also inherit the preference for long tails ==> runaway selection. 71

If our ancestors were perfectly monogamous, runaway sexual selection
could not have started. 75

Generally the larger the body difference between male and female, the
more polygynous the species.

[Compared to the the average  human female] the average male is about 10
percent taller, 20 percent heavier, 50 percent stronger in the upper
body muscles, and 100 percent stronger in the hands grip strength.
	 ==> moderate degree of polygyny. 75

A problem with the runaway brain theory is that runaway is supposed to
produce large sex differences in whatever trait is under sexual
selection.  Peacock tails are much larger than peahen tails.  If the
human brain tripled in size because of sexual selection ... men would
have three-pound brains and women would still have one-pound brains
like other apes... Male human brains average 1,440 grams, while female
brains average 1,250 grams.  Compared to body size, the brain
difference shrinks to 100 grams. This 8 percent difference is larger
than can be predicted by other theories, but much smaller than would
be predicted by the runaway brain theory. 81

Similarly if creative intelligence evolved through runaway, one would
expect men to have much higher IQ's.  The underlying 'general
intelligence' ability (technically called 'the g factor')... In the
best analysis, Arthur Jensen, The g factor, 1988: "The sex difference
in psychometric g is either totally nonexistent or is of uncertain
direction and of inconsequential magnitude."  No diffs found on most
reliable g factor tests, involving abstract symbolic reasoning, such
as Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices. 82

Men have slightly higher variation in IQ, producing more geniuses as
well as more idiots, but this variation does not reflect a greater
variation in the underlying g factor. 82

Male humans paint more pictures, record more jazz albums, write more
books, commit more murders, and perform more strange feats to enter
the Guinness book of Records.  Demographic data show not only a large
sex difference in such display behaviours, but also a peak between the
age of 20 and 30.  [But many of these may also be due to cultural
reasons like] the nightmare of patriarchy. 82-3

However, in most animals, distinct sexes specialize in making DNA
packets of different sizes.  The female sex evolved to make large
packets in which their DNA comes with additional nutrients to give
offspring a jumpstart in their development (egg). The male sex evolved to
make the smallest possible packets in which their DNA is almost naked,
contributing no nutrients to their offspring (sperm).  85

In the 1970s, biologist Robert Trivers realized that, from this
difference in 'parental investment', all else follows.  [Females make
fewer costlier eggs than males make sperm.  Eggs become the limiting
resource, and males compete more intensely to fertilize eggs than
females do to acquire sperm, and thus females are choosier than
males.] 85-6

In female mammals the cost of pregnancy and milk production are
particularly high, amplifying the difference. 86

For male genes, copulation is the gateway to immortality.  This is why
males risk their lives for copulation opportunities -- and why a male
praying mantis continues copulating even after a female has eaten his
head.  87

Choosy females may be quite active in searching for good mates
[passive females and active males] is uselessly simplistic and not
biological or Darwinian] 88

Reproduction Strategies

- Cloning / Cell division: Bacteria simply divide and conquerAmong
  multicellular organisms like fungi, some cells are specialized for
  making genetically identical bodies.  Advantages - fast -
  exponential rise in nutrient rich environments.  Problematic for the
  long term :
    a. no adaptive power - susceptible to extinction
    b. mutations cannot be checked

- Sexual Reproduction - mutations in one parent may be masked by
  normal genes in the other (dominance), or at least, progeny have a
  higher variation in terms of mutations; some are more mutated and
  die without progeny, others have fewer and thrive.  Of the 1.7 mn
  species, most have sexual reproduction: 1m animals, vast majority
  sexual, all animals larger than a few mm- all mammals, birds,
  reptiles; 300K plants, 250K through flowers that attract
  pollinators.  Asexual - Only very small, very transient, parasitic,
  bacterial = brainless.  Large bodies must have sexual reproduction
  in order to adapt against parasites that mutate much faster. 99-100, 176

[Biologically almost all mutations are negative. ]

Incest is a bad idea because blood relatives often inherit the same
mutations 101

A small number of animals and a large number of flowering plants are
hermaphroditic.  Because they still compete to attract mates, they
still evolve sexual ornaments (but no sex differences). 85

Since evolution is a long-term winners-take-all contest, it is more
important to produce a few good offspring than large numbers of
mediocre ones. [Risk-seeking strategy] 102

Human brain as fitness indicator

Brain's Complexity makes it vulnerable to impairment through
mutations, and its size makes it physiologically costly.  By producing
behaviours such as language and art that only a costly, complex brain
could produce, we may be advertising our fitness to potential mates.

EVOLUTIONARY FITNESS: the fit between an organism and its environment,
leading to a higher survival probability.  How to measure etc is a
matter of debate in biology.  Related to "condition" - which depends
on external factors such as food availability etc, as well as basical
physical fitness, which may be lower due to a temporary factor such as
injury.  Can also have mental fitness (as in "fit to stand as
witness").  WD Hamilton (Oxford biologist) - pointed out the strong
correlation between Evolutionary fitness and Physical/Mental fitness. 108-110

Many fitness indicators advertise fitness by revealing the animal's
condition.  From the p.o.v. of an animal making sexual choices,
fitness indicators are just proxies for good genes. 111


George Williams, Adaptation and Natural Selection, 1966
   It is to the female's advantage to be able to pick the most fit
   male available for fathering her brood.  Unusually fit fathers tend
   to have unusually fit offspring.  One of the functions of courtship
   would be the advertisement, by a male, of how fit he is.  A male
   whose general health and nutrition enables him to indulge in full
   development of seondary sexual characters, especially courtship
   behavior, is likely to be reasonably fit genetically.  Other
   important signs of fitness would be the ability to occupy a choice
   nesting site and a large territory, and the power to defeat or
   intimidate other males.  In submitting only to a male with such
   signs of fitness a female would probably aiding the survival of her
   own genes. 114

Lek is Swedish for a playful game or party.  Some birds like sage
grouse congregate in leks to choose their sexual partners.  The males
display as vigorously as they can, dancing, strutting, and cooing.
The females wander around inspecting them, remembering them, and
coming back to copulate with their favourite after they have seen
enough. In species that lek, the males usually contribute nothing but
their genes.  The most attractive male may mate with thirty females
one morning; average males usually mate with none.  [The lek paradox:
After some generations of this, the variation in fitness should
disappear and the basis for female selectivity should disappear; why
doesn't this happen?] 116

In the 1980s WD Hamilton and John Tooby independently developed the
idea that variation in fitness coulod be sustained over very long
periods by populations evolving interactively with their
parasites. [The peacock's tail also advertises his conquest of his
parasites.] 117

Imagine all the DNA in our 23 pairs of chromosomes laid end to end in
a single strip.  The DNA from a single human cell would be about six
feet long, and contain about 80,000 genes.  [Simple traits such as
skin colour may be involved in a half-dozen genes, a moderately
complex feature such as the shape of the face may have several
hundred, but a very complex organ like the brain would involve tens of
thousands of genes.  (This percentage is not known, but geneticists
estimate that between a third and half of the genes are active in the
brain).  By focusing on the brain, the observer could make a better
estimate of mutation load and fitness. ] 121

Honest Signaling

Anita Loos 1925 novel Gentlemen prefer Blondes: Lorelei Lee forces
suitors to spend large amounts of money on her, to show how much they
really have.  Thorstein Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class 1899,
people increasingly advertise their wealth by ornamenting themselves
with costly luxuries ==> Conspicuous consumption.  Well accepted in
Economics (1960s) - if I spend more and create surplus capacity in my
factory, I advertise my financial strength and drive off
competitors. 125-128

Amotz Zahavi 1975 -> only costly signals can be honest. Most sexual
ornaments as "handicaps".  Sexual selections cares more for the
prodiguous magnitude of the waste than about its precise form. 129

Our brains are only 2 percent of our body weight, but they consume 15
percent of our oxygen intake, 25 percent of our metabolic energy, and
40 percent of our blood glucose.  Spending several hours thinking
hard, or conversing seriously, makes us tired and hungry. 134

The 10 percent or so of our brains that are not shared with other apes
include abilities like creative intelligence and complex
language... these absurd wastes of time, energy and effort. 133
[AM: But these also confer specific and wide-ranging evolutionary

The concept of fitness indicators violates eight core values
 - basic variation violates human equality [But most people realize
    that there is a lot of variation;
 - free will+choice+actions + social and family environments shape
   human development (not heritable brain aspects)
 - advertising fitness violates humility, decorum and tact
 - sexual status hierarchies violate egalitarian social organization
 - people sorting themselves into sexual pairs based on assessing each
   others' fitness violates romantic ideal of personal compatibility
 - The conspicuous waste demanded by the handicap principle violates
   our values of frugality, simplicity, and efficiency
 - The sexual choice mechanisms violate our belief that people should
   be judged by their character, not the quality of their genes
 - It seems nihilistic to propose that such lofty capacities as for
   art, language, and music are merely a loud and insistent
   proclaimation - "I am fit, my genes are good, mate with me!"
A mind evolved as a set of fitness indicators can sound like a fascist

Social norms evolve to protect the individual; humility from
braggarts, frugality from waste, and egalitarianism from arbitrary
despotism. 135-6

But without reproductive competition, we cannot formulate a theory for
human origins.

SENSORY BIAS: Displays match senses
Richard Dawkins and John Krebs, 1978, Information or Manipulation?  In
Krebs and Davies (eds), Behavioral Ecology, p.282-309, J.R.:

	Sender of signal is trying to selfishly influence the behaviour of
	==> signals are good for the sender, not the receiver.  They
	are sent to manipulate behaviour, not to convey useful information.

	If the receiver and sender's genetic interests overlap, they may
	cooperate.  The receiver may develop greater sensitivity to the
	signals, and the messages may evolve to be quieter, simpler, and
	cheaper.  Cells within a body have almost identical interests and
	strong incentives to cooperate, so intercellular signalling is very

	On the other hand, if the receiver's interests deviate from the
	sender's, signals will tend to become excessively manipulative.
	Predators may trap prey by evolving lures that resemble the prey's
	own favorite food.  In defence, receiver's may become insensitive to
	the signal.  Prey may evolve the ability do discriminate between the
	lure and the real food.  This may be why lures are so rare in nature.

Courtship - sometimes exploitative and sometimes cooperative.
Typically males of most species like sex regardless of the
attractiveness and fitness of the females, so they tend to treat
female senses as security systems to be cracked.  This is why male
pigeons strut for hours in front of female pigeon eyes, and why male
humans buy fake pheronomes and booklets on how to seduce women.  On
the other hand, females typically want sex only with very attractive,
very fit males, so tend to evolve senses that respond only to signals
of high attractiveness and fitness.  140

Colour vision evolved in part to notice brightly coloured fruit.  THe
fruit evolved to spread its seeds by attracting fruit eaters such as
primates and birds. ... If a male happens to evolve a bright red face,
he might prove more attractive to females with colour vision oriented
to looking for red fruit. 141

If female ears of one species hears best at 8909 hertz, then male
calls center around that frequency.  Males calling at other
frequencies would find their genes going extinct.

Michael Ryan: Often, females find it easier to locate males with a
deeper-than-average call, [??because calls at a lower frequence travel
longer?] and there is a "sensory bias" towards deeper calls.  But this
may also be because of females preferring larger males which produce
lower-pitched calls. 143

The preponderance of stripes and dots in sexual ornamentation may be
driven towards stimulating edge detectors in the V1 area.  Magnus
Enquist suggested that ornamentations with bilateral and radial
symmetry may have evolved to exploit parts of the visual system that
work with 3D rotations and are optimally excited by radially symmetric
patterns (stars, sunbursts, eyespots). 145


Tim Guilford / Marion Stamp Dawkins:
	Apart from sensory bias, there can be attentional, cognitive, memory,
	judgment, emotional, and hedonic biases.  These can be even more
	important - i.e. mind as an entertainment system.

Imagine a cold, calculating chooser, whose neural circuits weigh the
variables without any hedonic component.  Contrast the hot chooser,
whose behaviour in the end is the same, but it has very different
subjective feelings - including aesthetic rapture, curiosity, warmth,
happiness, awe, lust, and adoration.  These feelings play a direct
causal role in the choice process.  But an external observer cannot
tell them apart. [Or can he?]

Suppose that the pleasure system of the hot chooser is the same
pleasure system it uses for all other domains - e.g. level of
endorphins in the nervous system, which responds to seeing an
attractive mate is similar to that in eating good food, escaping a
predator, or viewing a beautiful scene, watching its children thrive,
etc.  All its decisions are mediated by this pleasure-meter.

Over the short term, both hot and cold choosers will behave
similarly.  But in the long term, they differ in how their systems
evolve to new signals.  E.g. a male has a mutation that makes him give
good food to a female, the cold female will eat the food but it may
not influence her mate choice; on the other hand the hot-chooser will
have her pleasure-meter enhanced and may favour the food-giving
mutant.  Similarly, hot choosers would prefer behaviour that saved
them from predators, led them to a rich beautiful habitat, etc. 148-50

Ornaments - wasteful devices evolved to meet runaway sexual
Indicators - indicative of evolutionary fitness
Most sexual signals are a mix of both.

[IDEA: Monotonicity of innovations] Giraffe's neck could have evolved
gradually, each increment giving a small improvement; so also an
insect's camouflage.  But eyes, middle ear, etc.  Dawkins and Manfred
Eigen - possible to evolve along a continuous trajectory with small
improvements at every stage.  This may be the most significant problem
that theories of evolutionary biology must address. 166

[BILL: William Eberhand, in his book, Sexual Selection and Animal Genitalia,
tells us that the one of the first things that begins to diverge when
one species splits off into another species is the penis shape.  And
what force makes the penis change shape?  To quote Miller: "In
Eberhard's view, this is because female choice focuses on the details
of penis shape, and female choice apparently drives most
micro-innovation." p. 169.]

HAREM system: When food comes in patches large enough for several females to
share, they tend to band together... if the female band is not too large, a
single male can exclude other males from sexual access: hamadryas baboons,
colobus monkeys, some langurs, and gorillas.  Competition between males ==>
strong sexual selection pressure on male size, strength, aggressiveness, and
large canine teeth.

When food is in still larger patches, the female groups can be goo large ==>
complex, multi-male, multi-female group, as in some baboons, macaques,
ring-tailed lemurs, howler monkeys, chimpanzees.

Three kinds of female preference in primates:
	- preference for high ranking males capable of protecting the female
	  	and offspring
	- preferences for male friends that have groomed the female a lot and
	  	have been kind to her offspring;
	- preference for new males from outside the group, perhaps to avoid
	  	genetic inbreeding  184

MALE CHOICE: When costs of male sexual competition and courtship are high,
males also have incentives to be choosy.  When male choice becomes important,
sexual selection affects females as well as males.  185

Because sexual choice often shapes traits to work as fitness indicators, it
can also produce traits that show large differences between individuals
within the same population.  If male choice selected female buttocks as
reliable indicators of fertility, health and youth, we should not expect
all females to have identical buttocks, for that would make the trait
useless.  229

Developmental Stability:  Symmetry despite mutations and environmental
challenges - faces and breasts - symmetry of sexual ornaments is an
important detrminant of sexual attractiveness in many species. 229-30

The human penis is the largest among primates:
Length of erect penis in primates
Gorilla 3 cm
Chimpanzee 7.5 cm
Orangutan 3.5 cm
Human 12 cm
There is a general correlation between body size and penis size - for example, blue whales and humpback whales have penises that are eight feet long and one foot in diameter. Bull elephants have penises that are five feet long. Boars have 18-inch penises that ejaculate a pint of semen. Hermaphroditic snails have penises about as long as their entire bodies. Stallions, like humans, use blood rather than muscular contraction to fill their much larger penises. Dolphin have voluntary control over the tip of their man-sized penises, which can swivel independently of the shaft. Male genitals are even stranger among the invertebrates, sporting a dizzying variety of sizes, flagella, lobes, bifurcations, and other ornaments, apparently designed to stimulate invertebrate female genitalia in as many ways as there are species. 231 [William Spriggs (see review below): Now, stop the presses. You mean, that science -- which is dominated mostly by white males of European descent have declared that the human penis has been selected to be this oversized shape because the female wants it to be that big. Sure, why not? Again Miller: "Given two otherwise identical hominid males, if female hominids consistently preferred the one with the longer, thicker, more flexible penis to the one with the shorter, thinner, less flexible one, then the genes for large penises would have spread. Given the relatively large size of modern human penis, it is clear that size mattered. If it had not, modern males would have chimp-sized sexual organs." p. 233. And again: "The male human penis does not appear to be especially well adapted for producing auditory, olfactory, or gustatory stimulation. That leaves the sense of touch as the medium for female choice." p. 234.] Anthropologist Maxine Sheets-Johnstone has argued that bipedalism may have evolved in part because it makes penile display more effective. She observed that in other primates, bipedal standing and walking are most often done by males displaying their penises to potential mates. 233 [Also for female breasts 244] Clitoris: Freud suggested clitoral orgasm as a sign of mental disorder, and counselled his female clients to learn how to have purely vaginal orgasms. Other male scientists such as Stephen Jay Gould and Donald Symons viewed the female clitoral orgasm as an evolutionary side-effect of male penile orgasm. Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfelt and Desmond Morris viewed female orgasm as a reinforcement mechanism for long-term pair-bonding keeping the female faithful to her mate. [Clitoris as instruments of female sexual choice] have been promoted by more female scientists. Helen Fisher, Meredith Small, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy have viewed clitoral orgasm as a legitimate adaptation in its own right,. Lynnn Marguilis - female orgasm leads to female choice, influencing the evolutionary trajectory of their species. Natalie Angier in Woman: An intimate geography: "She is likely to have sex with men she finds attractive, men with whom she feels comfortable for any number of reasons, and thus to further her personal, political and genetic designs." 239 The penis evolved to deliver more and more stimulation, and the clitoris to demand more and more 240 The female mechanism for assessing penis size is not the clitoris itself, but the ring of nerves around the entrance to the vagina, which sense circumference. 240 [Female orgasm as much a function of the mind. Owner must be attracted.] Modern milk-substitute manufacturers worked to convince women that they are not mammals. Recent research showed: "Breast-feeding raises IQ by five points." when it should really have said that 'bottle-feeding reduces IQ by five points." 242 [Breasts as] condition-dependent indicators of a woman's nutritional state. Women who try dieting know that breast size is the first thing to shrink when food intake is restricted. [Buttocks] Evolutionary psychologist Dev Singh: Men around the world generally prefer women with a low 'waist-to-hip ratio'. Young, fertile women have ratios of around 0.7, e.g. waist 24 inches, buttock 36 inches. Men almost always have a waist to hip ratio of 0.9. Indian temple sculptors have depicte nymphs with waist-to-hip ratios of as low as 0.3, to symbolize their supernatural fertility and sexuality. 245-6 An alien may consider such extreme concentration of sense and ingestion organs in one tiny area of the body rather disgusting - yet the face is crucial to human notions of physical beauty. 249 Human sports as sexual selection? - 255 SUV's as wealth and status indicators 257

What is art for?

Anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake: What is Art for? (1988) and Homo
Aestheticus, (1992), argues that human art shows three features
reflecting its role as a biological adaptation with a role in evolution
  a) ubiquitous across culture groups
  b) Arts are sources of pleasure for both artist and viewer, and
     evolution tends to make pleasurable those behaviours that are
     adaptive. (e.g. food is pleasurable when hungry)
  c) Artistic production entails effort - costs not incurred without
     some adaptive rationale.  (Ernst Grosse, 1897 book - The
     beginnings of Art comments on the wastefulness of art: Art would
     have long been rejected by natural selection.)
Like most mental adaptations, the ability to produce and appreciate
art is not present at birth.  260

Art is very old - evidence of using red ocher for body ornamentation
in Africa 100,000 years ago. ...
To Darwin, high cost, apparent uselessness, and manifest beauty
usually indicated that a behaviour had a hidden courtship
function. But not to most art theorists...

German Romanticism, Schiller and Goethe - art as a higher plane where genius
trancends the petty concerns of the world.  261

Art as social glue (like ritual, religion, music) that holds groups
together - anthropologists Emile Durkheim, Bronislaw Malinowski, AR
Radcliffe-Brown, Talcott Parsons 262

There is no clear line between Great Art, fashion, and other human
ornamentation such as body-painting, jewelry, and clothing.  No clear
line between ornamenting our bodies and ornamenting our lives, nor
between art and craft. 267

Bowerbird Nests

Human ornamentation is different from the peacocks because it is made
with our minds rather than grown on our bodies.  The only other
animals that spend significant time and energy constructing purely
aesthetic displays are the bowerbirds of New Guinea and Australia.
Each of the 18 species constructs a different style of nest, only by
males, and only for courtship.  Males that build superior bowers can
mate upto ten times a day with different females. Once inseminated,
the females go off, build their own small cup-shaped nests, and raise
their offspring with no male support, rather like Picasso's
mistresses.  By contrast, male nests are enormous, sometimes large
enough for David Attenborough to crawl inside.  The golden bowerbird
of northern Australia, though only nine inches long, builds a sort of
roofed gazebo upto nine feet high.  A hut built by a human male to
similar proportions would top 70 feet and weigh several tons.

Male bowerbirds decorate their bowers with mosses, ferns, orchids,
snail shells, berries and bark.  They fly around searching for the
most brilliantly coloured natural objects, and arrange them carefully
in clusters of uniform colour.  Males often try to steal ornaments,
especially blue feathers... strength to defend their delicate work is
a precondition of their artistry.  Females appear to favor bowers that
are sturdy, symmetrical and well-ornamented with colour.

Regent and Satin Bowerbirds even paint an avenue they construct with a
walkway flanked by two long walls.  They use bluish regurgitated fruit
residues.  Presumably the females have favored the best male painters
for many generations. 268

Male of many bowerbird species are also more brightly coloured than
females, and they dance, and also sing, producing guttural wheeezes
and cries, and also imitations of the songs of other species.
However, male bowerbirds pale compared to their relatives, the
spectacular birds-of-paradise, where sexual choice resulted in an
efflorescence of plumage in 40 species.  Bowerbirds - proliferation of
ornamental nests in 18 species. 269

If you could interview a male satin bowerbird for Artforum magazine, he might
say something like, "I find this implacable urge for self-expression, for
playing with colour and form for their own sake, quite inexplicable.  I cannot
remember when I developed this raging thirst to present richly saturated
colour-fields within a monumental yet minimalist stage-set, but I feel
connected to something beyond myself when I indulge these passions.  When I
see a beautiful orchid high in a tree, I simply must have it for my own.  When
I see a single shell out of place in my creation, I must run to put it
right. ... It would be an insult to suggest that I create in order to
procreate.  We live in a post-Freudian, post-modernist era in which crude
sexual meta-narratives are no longer credible explanations of our artistic
impulses.  269-70

In "The EXTENDED PHENOTYPE" Richard Dawkins argued that genes are often
selected for effects that spread outside the body into the environment.  It is
meaningful to talk about genes for a spider's web, a termite mound, or a
beaver's dam.  [So why not other art?] 270

bipedalism freed our hands for making sexual ornaments - some on the
body (tattoo, face makeup, hairstyles, hair dye, jewelry, furs,
clothing), and filling our houses with art... We make useful objects
with as much style and ornament as we can afford, and make useless
objects with purely aesthetic appeal. 271

Darwin viewed human ornmanetation and clothing as outcomes of sexual
selection.  In "The Descent of Man" he citd the popularity across tribal
people of nail colors, eyelid colors, hair dyes, hair cutting and braiding,
head shaving, teeth staining, tooth removal, tattooing, scarification, skull
deformations, and piercing of the nose, ears and lips.  Darwin observed that
'self-adornment, vanity, and the admiration of others, seem to be the
commonest motives' for self-ornamentation.  He also noted that in most
cultures, men adorn themselves more than women. He also stressed the time
costs of acquiring rare pigments, the pain costs of aesthetic mutiliation,
Finally he argued against a cultural explanation of ornamentation, observing
that 'It is extremely improbable that these practices which are followed by so
many distinct nations are due to tradition from any common source.' 272

Throughout the 1800s Herbert Spencer argued that sexual selection accounts for
most of what humans consider beautiful, including bird plumage and song,
flowers, human bodies, and music, drama, fiction and poetry. Max Nordau
(Paradoxes, 1896) attributed sexual emotions and artistic productivity to a
hypothetical part of the brain called the generative center.  Freud viewed art
as sublimated sexuality.  272

Thoomas Clay, "The origin of the sense of beauty":
	That a very large part of art is directly inspired by erotic motives
	is perfectly true, and that various forms of art play an important
	part in love songs and courtship is obvious, but this is because
	buauty produced by art has in itself the power of arousing emotion,
	and is therefore naturally made use of to heighten the total
	pleasure. .. but we cannot admit that it is due to the sex feeling
	that rhythm, symmetry, harmony, and beautiful colour are capable of
	giving us a pleasurable feeling.  272-3

Modigliani's cocaine-fueled quest to have sex with every one of the
hundreds of models he painted.  Gauguin's drive to infect every girl in
Polynesia with his syphillis.

Picasso fathered one child by his first wife Olga Koklova, another by his
mistress Marie-Therese Walter, and two more by his mistress Francoise Gelot.
His tireless energy, prodigious output, and sexual appetite seem to have been
tightly intertwined. 273

If we view art as an example of a biological signalling system, we can break
it up into two parts - producing art, and judging art.  The second is more
mysterious. ... Powerful forces like aesthetic rapture are the footprint of
powerful selection forces.  273-4

Runaway Beauty

Aesthetic tastes evolved as part of female mate choice - certain tastes
regarding male ornaments were propagated.  Wodaabe people (Bororo)
cattle-herders of Nigeria/Niger - young men spend hours painting their
faces and ornamenting their bodies.  Men also dance vigorously for seven
full nights - end of ceremony the men line up and woman invites the man she
finds most attractive for a sexual encounter.  Wodaabe women usually prefer
the tallest men with the whitest teeth, the largest eyes, the straightest
nose, the most elaborate body-painting, and the most creative ornamentation
- and the men have evolved in all these directions. 277

EXPLAINING AESTHETIC TASTE:  Sensory bias - stripes are liked because V1 is
most sensitive to stripes. 278

From a neuroscientist's viewpoint, we are our brains.
Holds for both genetically acquired as well as cultural preferences. 279

Rhesus moneys - Nicholas Humphrey (1970s) - preference for white to red light,
focused pictures to out-of-focus, and pictures of monkeys to anything else.
But no other aesthetic preferences for forms, shapes, patterns, symmetries, or
compositions.  ALthough rhesus monkey visual systems are remarkably similar to
ours, they exhibit no sensory bias leading to aesthetic preference.  279

Desmond Morris - Chimpanzee paintings (1962, The biology of art) - similar to
abstract expressionist paintings.  Salvador Dali: "The hand of the chimpanzee
is quasi-human, the hand of Jackson Pollock is almost animal."  But research
showed that Chimpanzees were driven reactively by paper edges, and to any
geometric forms already printed on the paper. If a human does not snatch away
the paper in time, the chimp tends to cover the page with a meaningless
multicoloured smear.  280

Beautiful is costly (? Rare?)

Throughout history, the beauty of an object has depended very much on its
cost.  That cost could be measured in time, energy, skill, or money.  Objects
that were cheap and easy to produce were almost never considered beautiful.
Veblen (Theory of Leisure Class): "The marks of expensiveness come to be
accepted as beautiful features of the expensive articles."
Our sense of beauty was shaped by evolution to prefer what is difficult as
opposed to easy, rare as opposed to common, costly as opposed to cheap,
skillful as opposed to talentless, and fit as opposed to unfit.
Ellen Dissanayake: human art depends on 'making things special'   281

The fundamental challenge facing the artist is to demonstrated their fitness
by making something that lower-fitness competitors could not make, thus
proving themselves more socially and sexually attractive.  This challenge
arises not only in the visual arts, but also in music, storytelling, humour
and many other behaviours. 282

Franz Boas, "Primitive Art" (1955, Dover) shows how most aesthetic preferences
of tribal peoples can be traced to the appreciation of patience, careful
execution, and technical perfection.  In his view, this thirst for virtuosity
explains our preferences for regular form, symmetry, perfectly repeated
decorative motifs, smooth surfaces, and uniform colour fields.  Art historian
Ernst Gombrich made powerful arguments along similar lines in his "The sense of
order" (1984), viewing decorative arts as displays of skill that play on our
perceptual senses. 282

Beauty conveys truth, but not about the human condition in general
(for this reason, Plato and Hegel derogate art compared to philosophy).
However, art delivers truth about the condition of the a particular human, the
artist. 282

Beauty of mathematics

When mathematicians are talking about the "art" of therem proving, they are
recognizing that good theorems are often the products of minds with high
fitness.  It is a claim for the social status of their medium - likewise for
the 'arts' of warfare, chess, football, cooking, gardening, teaching, and sex
itself. 283

Kant: Critique of Judgment (1790) - beauty cannot be reduced to utility,
aesthetic judgment must be disinterested (ideal beauty), but there is also
'adherent beauty' - biologically and personally relevant. 283

Elite aesthetics - vs Folk aesthetics - Art historian Arthur Danto: "We have
entered a period of art so absolute in its
freedom that it seems but a name for an infinite play with its own concept." -
art for art's sake - makes it difficult to judge artist's talent - "my child
could have done that." ==> where is the evidence of artistic skill? 285

Veblen: when spoons were made by hand, those with the most symmetrical form,
the smoothest finish, and most intricate ornamentation were considered the
most beautiful. ... Now we favour conpicuously handmade spoons, with charming
asymmetries, irregular finish, and crude ornamentation which would have shamed
any 18th c. silversmith's apprentice.

Cultural theorist Walter Benjamin: Before photography, accurate visual
representations required enormous skill to draw or paint... later painters
invented new genres based on new, non-representational aesthetics:
impressionism, cubism, expressionism, surrealism, abstraction.  Signs of
handmade authenticity became more important than representational skill - the
brushstroke became an end in itself, like the hammer marks on a handmade
spoon. 287

Dyes, pigmented and coloured clothing

When Alexander sacked the royal treasury of the Persian capital Susa in 331
BC, its most valuable contents were a set of 200-year old purple robes.  By AD
400, cloth dyed with 'purpura', a purple dye obtained from the murex mollusk,
cost about four times its weight in gold, and Emperor Theodosium of Byzantium
forbade its use except by the Imperial family, upon pain of death.  Colourful
objects were considered beautiful, not least because they reliably indicated
resourcefulness/cost.  287

Constantin Brancusi sent his streamlined bronze sculpture, Bird in Space, to
be exhibited in the US.  A customs official imposed 40 p.c. fine since he
classified the object as a bronze machine part rather than a birdlike piece of
art.  Was overruled following months of testimony by the art cognoscenti. 287

Handaxe as art

2.5 mya - stone tools
1.6 mya - H. Erectus - Handaxes - shaped like a child's hand, with a point,
  and sharp all around.  Became extremely popular - were made until about 200K
  years ago, until the time of H. Sapiens.  Many variations on same basic
  design.  Reasonable functionality, cutting edge / weight, but hard to hold
  due to sharp edge all around.  Were they thrown at prey (HG Wells)?
  Unlikely - spears (at least 400K ya) were better. Some handaxes are large,
  intended to be held in two hands and admired; others less than two inches -
  too small to be useful.  Many of the finest handaxes show no signs of use
  such as chipped edges.
Marek Kohn, "As we know it" (1999) - handaxe as a highly visible indicator of
fitness, as a criterion for mate choice.  "Hand axes are a measure of
strength, skill, and character."

COSTLY (Zahavian handicap): Modern experts with 25 years of flint-knapping
experience take about 20 minutes to make a decent handaxe, whereas a simple
edged tool can be made in just a couple of minutes. + risk of injury - modern
flint-knappers wear goggles/leather aprons/boots, and often get cuts on their
hands.  [IDEA: Make your stone tool - knapping] 289-91 [IDEA: Handaxe - ruled
for millions of years - 500 times the length of recorded history - how did
they live?]

Oscar Wilde: The ideal husband - strong pressure to demonstrate high moral
stature to their lovers and spouses.  Will the highly principled Lady Ghiltern
still lover her husband after learning that he acquired his fortune by selling
a government secret? 293
[IDEA: Also - Shyama story - Vajrasen cannot take the immoral act of
sacrificing uttiya]

Murder, unkindness, rape, rudeness, failure to help the injured, fraud,
racism, war crimes, failing to leave a tip in a restaurant, cheating at sports
- all immoral - and all something that you would not wish to tell your lover /
spouse. ==> sexual selection favours social norms.  Can explain sympathy,
agreeableness, moral leadership, sexual fidelity, good parenting, charitable
generosity, sportsmanship...
Biologist Irwin Tessman, anthropologist Kristen Hawkes and James Boone,
primatologist Franz de Waal.
While altruism can be among the most potent displays of moral character,
altruism is not the only display.  As with other displays, moral displays
concerned less with the benefit conferred on others, more on the cost imposed
on oneself ==> costly indicators are stronger handicaps. 294

Ecologists have long understood that the typical interaction between
any two individuals or species is neither competition nor cooperation
but neutralism.  Anything else takes too much energy. ... Our
attitudes to others are not dominated by hate, exploitation, spite,
competitiveness, or treachery, but by indifference.
So why do we do
anything but shrug when we see opportunities for care or generosity?
[IDEA: relationship between two musical notes - also apathy?]

Cheat Detection

Leda Cosmides and John Tooby - humans if evolved under reciprocal
altruism, must be capable of detecting cheats.  Repeatedly verified in
many experiments. 303

Karl Marx: Society may be based on status signals without reciprocity
(dominance hierarchy),
or reciprocity without status signals (egalitarian utopia).  Our
outrage against cheats is directed at those who display deceptive
fitness indicators, not just those who fail to return a kindness. 303

In the 60s, evolutionary selfishness of the gene was seen as as
leading automaticall to the selfishness of human individuals.
Richard Dawkins:  If you wish, as I do, to build a society in which
individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common
good, you can expect little help from biological nature."
Biologists such as Stephen Jay Gould to reject the selfish-gene view
of evolution.
Franz de Waal - note of optimism, in Good Natured (1996) - Humans and
other animals have been endowed with a capacity for genuine love,
sympathy, and care, a fact that can and will one day be fully
reconciled with the idea that genetic self-determination drives the
evolutionary process. 305

experimental economics research - irrationally high generosity between
adults playing bargaining games.  Economist Robert Frank, Passions
within Reason: the strategic role of the emotions, 1988 [306]

Irwin Tresmanm, 1995 - role for sexual selection in defining the
esteem of one's partner.  Noted that human generosity goes beyond the
demands of kinship and reciprocity.  Generosity may work as a Zahavian
handicap that shows fitness, and thus evolved through
SS. Anthropologist James Boone combined Zahavi's handicap theory with
Veblen's conspicuous consumption theory to explain costly, conspicuous
displays of magnanimity. 307

Hunting and Maleness

Anthropologist Kristen Hawkes: only 3 percent chance per day of
successfully killing a large animal.  hunting success is much higher
when they go after smaller, weaker animals.  The smaller the game, the
more of its meat can be eaten before it rots.  When hunters really
need to eat, they will give up on the large game and catch the small.

Anthropologist Helen Fisher - The Sex Contract (1982) - male hunting
provided meat for sexual partners burdened by babies. ... not
fashionable today

Often the amount of meat the hunter gets is statistically
indistinguishable from anyone else's share.  After perhaps a month of
hunting effort, the hunter gets around 10 percent of the carcass,
around 20 to 30 pounds of meat which must be consumed within a few
days before it rots. 310

Kristen Hawkes:  Meat from large game is a "public good" ... Evolution
cannot favour such genetic tendencies... 311

Men spend huge amounts of time and energy doing useless sweaty things
with one another: basketball, sumo, cricket, skiing, tae kwon do,
mountaineering, boxing. To an evolutionist, human sports are just
another form of ritualized male contest in which males
compete to display their fitness to females.   From a female's point
of view, sports are convenient because they make mate choice easier -
she can tell which male is healthier, stronger, more coordinated, and
more skilfull. 312

Now consider two different hominid groups that evolve to prefer
different sports.  Oue group prefers the club-fighting sport favoured
by the Yanomano tribe of teh Amazon: males stand facing each other
and take turns bashing their opponent in the head with a very long
stick until one contestant gives up, faints, or drops dead.  THe
females prefer mating with the winner since he may have stronger arms,
better aim, a thicker skull or a pulse. ...
  The second group evolves a different sport: they compete to sneak up
on big animals, and throw spears at them, and then chase the wounded
animals until they drop dead. ... Here again, the competitive display
system is wasteful: the males may spend all day chasing animals
around, getting injured, getting tired, stumbling into thorn bushes,
being gored, etc. And yet, the hunting sport is not as wasteful as
club-fighting, because of the meat. 312-313

Amos and Avishag Zahavi:
	Arabian Babblers - songbirds in Israel.  Some birds act as sentinels
	- behaving altruistically - warning others of predators, and trying
	to mob the intruder and drive it away.  They share food with
	non-relatives. Why this altruistic behaviour?  The birds even compete
	to perform the apparently altruistic behaviours.  Dominant animals,
	upon seeing a subordinate trying to act as a sentinel, will attack
	and drive off the subordinate, taking over the sentinel role.  The
	Zahavi's propose that the birds view these altruistic acts as
	handicaps, thereby attaining higher social status. 314

Around 1950, the economist John Nash - idea of 'Nash equilibrium' - a
set of strategies, one for each player, s.t. no player has an
incentive to switch to a different strategy, given what the other
players are already doing.  The idea of equilibrium is the foundation
of modern game theory, and therefore of modern economics, business and
military strategy.

Driving Equilibria

Driving on the left, Driving on the right - different equilibria.
Also an equilibrium - taxi-drivers of Bangalore - 50% on right, 50% of
the time to the left.  Imagine that cars suddenly start arriving in a
country.  People start driving without knowing which side of the road
the other drivers will favour.  Eventually some pick the left
consistently, others the right, and still others 50-50.  There is no
rational basis for predicting which equilibrium emerges.  Even though
the latter has a high rate of collisions, it still has a small
probability of emerging. 315-6

Which equilibrium depends not on rational logic but on historical
contingency.  For most realistically complex games, hundreds of
thousands of possible equilibria.
Sports Example:  Club fighting and hunting both possible - but hunting
has higher payoff for all. 317

James Boone, 1998 paper - "The evolution of magnanimity":
	Now imagine that in some of these groups, elites signal their power
	by piling up their year's agricultural surplus in the plaza and
	burning it up in front of their subordinates.  In other groups,
	elites engage in status displays by staging elaborate feasts and
	handing out gifts to their subjects.  After several generations of
	intense warfare, which type of display behaviour is likely to survive
	in the population?  One might expect that the "feasters" would be
	much more successful in attracting supporters than the "burners". 318

Evolution does not favour truly selfless altruism, but the hidden
benefit of generosity is reproductive rather than nepotistic or
reciprocal.  Evolution could sustain high levels of altruism by
rewarding the altruistic with high social status and improved mating
opportunities. 318

Men tip better than women 327

John D. Rockefeller, Sr.  In business he was a ruthless monopolist,
but in private he was a devout Baptist committed to good works right
from his adolescence.  Even during his first year of work as an
assistant accountant at the age of 15, he gave 6 percent of his paltry
salary to charity.  This rose to 10 percent by age 20, when he raised
\$2,000 to save his church from bankruptcy, and contributed to a fund
for an African-American man in Cincinnati to buy his wife out of
slavery.  A young woman in his congregation said that although he was
not especially handsome: "He was much thought of by these spiritual
minded young women because of his goodness, his religious fervour, his
earnestness and willingness in the church, and his apparent sincerity
and honesty of purpose."  

Even after he was earning $10 mn a year in dividends from his Standard Oil
monopoly by age 40, he avoided the ostentation of other magnates,
preferring to spend his money creating institutions such as the Rockefeller
Instt for Medical Research and the University of Chicago (which
incidentally appointed Theodore Veblen as one of its faculty). After age
50, he spent more time researching his charity than minding his business,
and managed to give away much of his billion-dollar fortune to
intelligently chosen causes before dying at age 93.  The Rockefeller
Foundation was his peacock's tail. 317


In the descent of man, Darwin proposed that language evolved gradually
through sexual selection, as an instinct to acquire a particular
method of verbal display similar to music.  343

The language theorist Noam Chomsky and other 'nativists' fought hard
against the social science dogma that all human mental abilities are
the product of learning.  Chomsky and the nativists won.  Steven
Pinker's The Language Instinct lists the features why Language is an
    Language is a complex, specialized skill, which develops in the
    child spontaneously without conscious effort or formal
    instruction, is deployed without awareness of its underlying
    logic, is qualitatively the same in every individual, and is
    distinct from more general abilities to process information or
    behave intelligently.

These features are common of all human adaptations -
depth perception, face recognition, sexual attraction, autographical
memory, and social planning are all specialized skills, spontaneously
learned, unconsciously deployed, and universally enjoyed.

But why did these functionalities evolve?
He offered convincing arguments that children could not
possibly learn the fundamental syntactic principles of language
through parental feedback or formal instruction.  This demonstration
undermined the 1950s Behaviorist view of language as a learned
cultural invention.

But Chomsky rejects a Darwinian evolutionary basis for the language
faculty, and has speculated that any sufficiently large brain (such as
that of a mammoth? [seven tons, five times human brain size]), might
automatically develop the capacity for language, as a mysterious
side-effect of packing 100 bn cells into a small volume.  344

Language As Altruistic Act

Beneficiary of language: speaker or listener?  If listener, then why
would speaker expend energy on the speech act?
Fifty years ago, Konrad Lorenz - communication was for the good of the

Anthropologist Chirst Knight: Human language is especially vulnerable
to deception because it depends so much on 'DISPLACED REFERENCE' -
things distant in time and space - e.g. "there's a river beyond that
hill." - hard to verify.  No theories of animal signalling can justify
evolving reliable displaced reference, given conflicts of interest
between signaller and receiver.

Bee dances also indicate 'dispalced reference', but bees in the same
hive are sisters. 348

Language altruism - same mechanisms as moral altruism - kinship,
reciprocity or sexual selection.
[Kinship - not relevant
IDEA: Language as Game Reciprocity - build trust over repeated
interactions - IPD -> MAIN mechanism?]

If language evolved for information transmission, it benefits the
listener more than the speaker.  Then most of us should be more keen
to listen and reluctant to talk.  Does not hold up in conversation -
most people are competing to say things. When they appear to be
listening, they are often mentally rehearsing their next contribution
to the discourse rather than absorbing what was just said by others. 351

Ernst Haeckel, 19th c biologist: Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny
Perhaps the awkward, uneven, sometimes witty verbal courtship of
teenagers may not be such a bad model for the verbal courtship of our
ancestors during the evolution of language. 352

Language Evolution Theorists 354

Robbins Burling, 1986 paper: excessiveness of our baroque syntax and
    enormous vocabulary with the communicative sufficiency of simple
    pidgin languages for trade, hunting, tool making etc.  Language
    evolved through male orators competing for social status - links
    in tribal societies between verbal skills (storytellers), status,
    and reproductive success.  "All that is needed for the mechanism
    to be effective is that the average leader in the average society
    have slightly more verbal facility and slightly more average
    children than other men."

John Locke, Cambridge Linguist: looks at linguistic evidence - role of
    'verbal plumage'.  Quotes from a study - African American male in LA:
    	   "Yo' rap is your thing... like your personality.  Like you kin
    	   style on some dude by rappin' better 'n he do.  Show 'im up.
    	   Outdo him conversationwise.  Or you can rap to a young lady, you
    	   tryin' to impress her, catch her action - you know - get wid her
    the teenager alludes to both classic processes of sexual selection -
    male competition for status, female choice based on male displays.

Jean-Louis Dessalles - listeners award higher social status to speakers who
    make relevant interesting points in conversation.  Language may have
    evolved through social selection to permit these 'relevance' displays.
    That is why people compete to offer good ideas and insights when talking
    in groups.

In the first three months of courtship (until conception of a baby) a
couple talks about a million words each - [2 hours/day, 3 words per
second. 3x7200x90 = 2m] about the size of six books like this one. 355
[approx 0.3m words / mo at 2 hours of converse time]

To build an adult vocabulary of 60,000 words, children must learn an
average of 10 to 20 words per day between the ages of 18 months and 18
years.  Of the 60K the most frequent 100 constitute 60% of all
conversation.  The top 4000 constitute 98% of speech. 369-371

[When it comes to explaining how children end up learning thousands of words
 each year, the only possibility is that they learn most of them through
 linguistic context (Sternberg 87: Most vocab is learned from context).

Nagy and Herman: even students who read relatively little, and only during
the school year, will read about half a million words a year and be exposed
to about 10K words a year that they do not know.  This is many times more
than what they would be exposed through conversation since conversation is
often between children the same age who have roughly the same vocabularies.

Basic English

Cambridge philosopher CK Ogden with IA Richards: 850 words which are
sufficient for functional communication (as language for global
peace). Only 18 verbs.  Example of BE:

  'It is possible to say in Basic English anything needed for the general
   purposes of everyday existence -- in business, trade, industry, science,
   medical work -- and in all arts of living, in all the exchanges of
   knowledge, desires, beliefs, opinions, and news which are the chief work
   of a language.'  371

Most pidgins have small vocabularies, like BE, and minimal grammar.
However, children brought up learning a small-vocabulary pidgin tend
to transform it into a larger vocabulary 'creole', which is a
full-sized language.  Language researchers take 'creolization' as
evidence that small-vocabulary pidgins must have been insufficient for
pragmatic communication in some respect. ... But perhaps creoles
emerge as verbal ornaments... 371

Vocabulary and intelligence

Genes more strongly correlated to vocabulary - identical twins raised
separately have similar vocabulary size (correlation 75%), whereas
parenting accounts for a zero percent variation in adult
vocabulary size. 373

General intelligence 'the g factor' correlates about 20 percent with
body symmetry 373

Vocabulary and IQ - WAIS-R intelligence test
IQ of 80 - typically know fabric, enormous, conceal
IQ of 90 - also know sentence, consume, commerce
higher - also designate, ponder, reluctant. 374

Cyrano de Bergerac, Edward Rostand: Cyrano (w a big nose, a big sword, and a
big vocabulary) - wins over
Roxane by improvising a ballad of rhyming alexandrines, including
three eight-line stanzas and one quatrain, while sword-fighting his
sexual rival the Vicomte de Valvert, all timed perfectly so that
the last word coincides with the Vicomte's death. 357/377
(transl. Anthony Burgess, 1993)
[Alexandrine: (in prosody) a line of verse that has six iambic feet]

Sexual selection shapes language's content more than its form... we
prefer the Zen master who utters an enlightening and memorable 17
syllable haiku once a day to a superficial chatterbox. 358

Failed Conversation

Tommy Snookes and Bessy Brookes
Were walking out one Sunday
Says Tommy Snookes to Bessy Brookes
"Tomorrow will be Monday."
	- Nursery Rhyme 360

Linguistics focuses on grammaticality judgments, but people are less
interested in syntax as in normative judgments about whether a speaker
is truthful, relevant, interesting, tactful, intelligent, and
sympathetic.  Traditional linguistics has exiled all such question to
the underfunded discipline of 'sociolinguistics'. 361

LIFE STORIES - storytelling may contain useful insights - converting
negative events into stories that become indicators of our
fitness. 364

Jennifer Freyd, Psychologist: demands of verbal 'shareability' - leads
us to perceive naturally continuous phenomena in discrete ways 366
[Shareability: the social psychology of epistemology, Cog Sci
v.7:191-210, 1983]

novel information may be courtship behaviour, indicative of higher
social status of speaker
Robin Dunbar, evolutionary psychologist, analyzes content of ordinary
human conversations
 - Personal relationships 55% of male conv-time, and 67% of female.
 - Talking about one's own relationship - 65% of male speech, 42% of female

   Female conversations can be seen to be directed mainly towards
   social networking (ensureing the smooth running of a social
   group). whereas males conversations are more concerned with
   self-promotion in what has all the characteristics of a mating
   lek.  This is particularly striking in the two university samples
   where academic matters and culture/politics, respectively, suddenly
   became topics of intense interest to males when females are
   [Dunbar, Marriott and Duncan, 1997, Human conversational behavior,
   Human Nature, v.8:231-246] 368


Most tests evaluate language comprehension, not language generation.
Peacocks can grow larger tails, but peahens may be better at judging
tail length. 375

Literary scholar John Constable: meter is a kind of handicap in
the Zahavian sense.  Metric line - regular num of syllables - Across
different styles, languages and cultures, 6-12 syllables.  On
average, shorter words when writing metric poetry (easier to fit
together).  Meter imposes a measurable cost on the writer must have
spare verbal capacity - makes it a good verbal handicap. 379


Women's magazines - much written about men's inability to articulate
thought or feeling. But may have talked during courtship [?? WEAK] 382

Male mate choice - strong in later stages of courtship when male may
decide to leave for another woman.  Female courtship efforts -
Scheherazade story - sleep with a virgin every night and kill her in
the morning. Until Scheherazade, who kept herself alive by telling
stories that were so enthralling that the king relented to one more
day... and so on for 1001 days, by which time 3 sons were born to
her.  Then she displays her sons to the king, but the king says that
by now he is already in love with her for her creativity, eloquence,
intelligence, wisdom.

Language developed as much to display our fitness as to communicate
useful information.  To many language researchers and philosophers,
this is a scandalous idea.  399

Sexual Personae - dramatic role-playing - changing under the influence
of different lovers 419

Other reviews: William A. Spriggs

	excerpts from

In 2000, an obscure cognitive psychologist by the name of Geoffrey Miller
published  The Mating Mind. that has revisited Darwin's stepchild theory of
sexual selection, and, as a result, through his careful analysis has resulted
in theories that have created quite a stir in the evolutionary community.
What Miller is arguing is that all the "stuff" you see around you in our
complicated human world, such as art, music, architecture, SUV's (Sport
Utility Vehicles), million-dollar mansions, professional football teams,
etc., etc., are not really needed for survival in the evolutionary world.
Our brain's architecture was set in the Pleistocene era 100,000 years ago
where none of this "stuff" existed.  His basic argument, and those of some
theorists before him, but never argued as eloquently as Miller, is that all
this "stuff" is similar to the peacock's tail designed to attract the
attention of the complicated, modern  human mind -- ornaments designed to
attract the opposite sex in the overall plan to copulate and pass one's

Well, you might admit that this argument appears to be quite a leap
in attempting to convince you that erect human penises are equal to large
SUVs (although some human males today might place equal importance to the
two), but it is not that hard to convince you that mentally, the human mind
"attaches" importance to anything that it wants, and that is exactly what has
occurred when we begin to exam human penises and breasts as ornaments
designed to appeal to the cognitive parts of our brains.

For an excellent reference to this mating dance, the sexual passions,
jealousies, and emotions that hold sway in 37 cultures from an
evolutionary perspective, I highly recommend, David Buss'
The Evolution of Desire.

Miller's main theory in his The Mating Mind, is that these "traits" of
good conversation, artistic ability, wooing techniques, and etc., that
begin as "micro-innovations," then lead to "ornamentation," which then
leads to fitness indicators. Once again, Miller: "As we shall see,
many fitness indicators advertise fitness by revealing an animal's
condition. They are "condition-dependent" -- very sensitive to an
animal's general health and well-being ("condition"), and very good at
revealing differences in condition between animals.  This sets up a
chain of relationships that will prove absolutely central to many
arguments in this book: genetic mutations influence fitness, fitness
influences condition, condition influences the state of fitness
indicators, fitness indicators influence mate choice, and mate choice
influence evolution." (p. 111 in MM)

Now we get to the interesting part of this essay: how is the shape of the
human penis determined?  Miller states that the search begins with
taxonomitists.  These are those gleeful people who spend their lives
classifying different variants of a species and give us those complex Latin
names that everyone in biology is required to know but can never remember,
pronounce, or spell -- (except those people who don't have a life -- I'm only
teasing -- I'm just jealous because I have difficulty with all three).  The
prevailing method is that if you are having trouble telling the difference in
a classification, then you look at the color pattern, what "weaponry" has
evolved, and finally, one looks at the genitals.  Miller informs us that
William Eberhand, in his book, Sexual Selection and Animal Genitalia, tells
us that the one of the first things that begins to diverge when one species
splits off into another species is the penis shape.  And what force makes the
penis change shape?  To quote Miller: "In Eberhard's view, this is because
female choice focuses on the details of penis shape, and female choice
apparently drives most micro-innovation." p. 169.

Now, stop the presses.  You mean, that science -- which is dominated mostly
by white males of European descent have declared that the human penis has
been selected to be this oversized shape because the female wants it to be
that big.

Now, I am a true believer that once our sisters have found conditions
suitable for finding the best suitable mate in her local environment, she
goes through a mental transformation in preparation for child birth by
enjoying sex in abandon as much as any male. Since the human female does not
display the bright pinkly colored fluid-filled anogenital sac that her
chimpanzee cousin displays while in estrus, the human female expands her
copulatory stimulations opportunities to any time of the month she chooses,
including during their menstrual cycle.  And as Miller points out, can judge
the long-term potential of their mates for their love-making skills. Miller
also makes his most convincing argument for female choice in human penis
shape: "If efficient sperm delivery were the only point of copulation, a
single thrust would be sufficient...Copulatory thrusting seems designed to
maximize the intensity, duration, and rhythmicity of tactile stimulation
delivered to the female genitals." p. 235.  And finally: "Female hominids may
not have preferred thicker, longer, more Flexible penises per se.  They may
simply have liked orgasms and larger penises led to better orgasms by
permitting more varied, exciting, and intimate copulatory positions.  This
rather contradicts the view of the penis as a symbol of male domination. If
we were a species in which males dominated the sexual system, we would have
one-inch penises like dominant gorillas. The large male penis is a product of
female choice in evolution." p. 236.

So, if you add all of Miller's arguments together, he gets my vote that the
female has had the most influence on forming the shape of the human penis.
But, not so fast; I'm going to put a roadblock in front of his arguments and
argue something else that I feel has had an effect on the size of the human
penis.  I feel that penis size could also be the result of "limited
selection" fitness pressure by males placing restrictions upon other males.
I argue this because males, who most likely bonded into alliances surrounding
alpha males and became the dominate influence on physical strength
determinations in their local environments, perhaps equated large penis size
with "manliness," and restricted other males whose penises were "not up to
manly proportions."  I argue that male-bonding is so essential to the social
group of our ancestral hunter gatherers that part of the daily ritual would
be the constant exclusion of "loser" males having access to fecundate
females.  This then, limited the selection "choices" available for the

[BILL: . . . the sexual passions, jealousies, and emotions that hold sway in
37 cultures from an evolutionary perspective, I highly recommend,
David Buss' The Evolution of Desire. ]

Miller : Sexual selection and the Mind

from interview

EDGE: What biologists are at odds with your set of ideas?

MILLER: Unfortunately there are a great number of biologists who shy away
   from applying evolutionary theory to the human mind. A large part of it is
   a failure of nerves - that they're comfortable getting grants to do
   research on animals, and those grants might be threatened or compromised
   if the public understood that the theory that they're using for animals
   applies equally for humans... It's very comfortable for biologists to
   write about evolution in general but to draw a line around the human mind

MILLER: Science is... powerful at what it does, but people credit it with far
   too much ideological importance. Basically people believe what they want
   to believe politically. There's even evidence from behavior genetics that
   mostly people's political ideologies are genetically inheritable. Whatever
   context you grow up in, to some extent the kinds of attitudes and beliefs
   you have about political issues and social issues, does not seem terribly
   much affected by the intellectual environment that you're exposed to -
   people pick up the ideas that fit with their preconceptions and they
   reject those that don't. It's a great mistake to credit science with too
   much importance in shaping people's attitudes ... Ideologues always pick
   up whatever science looks like it will fit their cause and they distort it
   and present it and support it and they'll try to use it to convince

   Let's take one rather provocative piece of research. There's some evidence
   from behavior genetics now, some evidence, not a lot, but a little bit,
   that happiness itself is somewhat inheritable. If you're extremely
   reactionary and conservative you could say Ah! See, we can't do anything
   for people, they'll just be happy or not as they see fit; there's no point
   in trying to improve people's lives. On the other hand you could be a
   radical socialist and you could take this as a profound critique of
   capitalist consumerism - you could say people have been duped into
   believing that the more stuff they acquire the happier they'll be. That is
   empirically not the case. You could take it either direction. You could
   also just say well, pragmatically speaking, if you want happy kids, marry
   somebody happy. Any different scientific discovery can be taken in a
   thousand different ideological directions for a thousand different

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This article last updated on : 2014 Apr 18