XXXIX Big Brother is watching You, baby, and He likes it very much

Eyes of Blue

Fair eyes are depigmented eyes, the fairer the more depigmented, with blue the most depigmented, then grey, then all shades of green and hazel and brown to the most pigmented dark eyes. In the world population at large pigmented irides are the rule rather than the exception. In fact fair eyes are rare, they are virtually inexistent outside the white Caucasian race, which includes Arabs and Indians of India, among whom fair eyes are rare too.

According to Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa, people have a preference for fair eyes: Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters (2007), p. 61. A preference that would be “both universal and undeniable.”

These authors’ hypothesis is very interesting. To be precise it is not their hypothesis but that of an undergraduate student, Lee Ann Turney, “in her term paper for a class that she took from one of us (Kanazawa) in spring 2002.” According to Mrs Turney’s very interesting hypothesis, as the pupil dilates and contracts according to one’s emotions, blue-eyed people are more trustworthy because their pupil is more salient, being seen on a fair background.

That supposes that the eye be wide enough. Many Slavs, albeit blue-eyed, tend to have slanting eyes, so the preference cannot extend to them. This is a way to confirm or disprove the hypothesis.

Twenty years ago, when I started dabbling in physical anthropology, they said blue eyes were recessive (now they say “mostly recessive”). If blue eyes are recessive, and there is a universal preference for blue eyes, then I think the math foretells the extinction of the trait. On a global market, that is. Many a woman, and a man too, will sacrifice their preference for blue eyes when offered sufficient compensation, and if high-status people from all over the world are in search of blue eyes on the mating market, then, the proportion of blue-eyed individuals among these high-status people being small in absolute terms (see first paragraph), generation after generation the recessive trait will find fewer possibilities to be expressed in the offspring. Expect for slant-eyed Slavs, because no one cares about them. Yes, you have read it right: These latter will thrive because of the very contempt they inspire on the mating market.

This is to suggest one should consider recessiveness and dominance in studying behavior. A recessive (selfish) gene has nothing to gain from globalization. On the other hand, a dominant (no less selfish) gene must struggle with such a concept as miscegenation.

To be sure, there is globalization and globalization. In the times of the British Empire, a world empire, high-status men, to be frank, were all Britons. Local (colored) rulers, local elites were precisely that, “local,” and so were their mating markets. Blue-eyed English ladies were not to be touched by locals. The mating market of the British imperial elite was also local but, given a universal preference for the traits present in their market, their situation is more properly described as having being a monopoly.

Perhaps women in northern European cultures have always been freer than in other parts of the world because, being most of them fair-eyed, men feel they can trust them. The Nordic phenotype is also characterized by fair skin, and blushing, on a fair skin, may play the same role as the salient pupil of a fair eye. Ceteris paribus, deception is harder for individuals of the Nordic race.

This leads us to the fact that contract polities as opposed to despotism, that is, societies relying on interpersonal trust rather than on top-down power, originated in the same European regions where women have been the freest. For such societies to be able to thrive, trust must be more than a vain word. (On the geographic origins of political freedom, see Montesquieu.)

To all intents and purposes, the Wahhabis’ way to deal with their women seems sound from an evolutionary perspective.

A Call to Exceptional Men

In his Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871), Darwin writes: “for with man when the beard differs in colour from the hair of the head, as is commonly the case, it is, I believe, almost always of a lighter tint, being often reddish. I have repeatedly observed this fact in England; but two gentlemen have lately written to me, saying that they form an exception to the rule. One of these gentlemen accounts for the fact by the wide difference in colour of the hair on the paternal and maternal sides of his family. Both had been long aware of this peculiarity (one of them having often been accused of dyeing his beard), and had been thus led to observe other men, and were convinced that the exceptions were very rare. Dr. Hooker attended to this little point for me in Russia, and found no exception to the rule. In Calcutta, Mr. J. Scott, of the Botanic Gardens, was so kind as to observe the many races of men to be seen there, as well as in some other parts of India, namely, two races in Sikhim, the Bhoteas, Hindoos, Burmese, and Chinese, most of which races have very little hair on the face and he always found that when there was any difference in colour between the hair of the head and the beard, the latter was invariably lighter.” (Chap. XIX)

As can be seen from a picture of my younger days, I have got brown hair and black beard. (Look here, the 9th from the top; the picture is black and white and perhaps the evidence not as clear as one could wish, but you can enlarge the picture by clicking on it to get a clearer view of the contrast.)

I hereby make a call to all men in the same exceptional situation to reach out and share their experience for the purpose of forming a club. There’s not even a word to name us. One of our first tasks will be to invent one.

To think that it has been more than a decade since I read this in Darwin and I never had the idea to make a call to such exceptional men before! (Darwin’s calling it a “little point” is wrong.)

June 2016


  1. florentboucharel

    Blue eyes are dealt with by Miller and Kanazawa after they discuss a universal preference in men for blonde hair. Because generally blonde hair is blonder when the individual is younger, it’s seen as a marker of youth (hence of high female fertility).

    Turney’s hypothesis on blue eyes allows the following inferences as well. If blue-eyed people are more trustworthy, they get a larger representation among high-status people (than their representation in the population at large) because people are more willing to make business with them and to bestow responsibilities on them, and that share of theirs in the power structure is the result not of a freemasonry of scoundrels but of a freemasonry of genes; they have it (it’s not an “ought” but an “is”) as a birthright.

    Talking of freemasonry, one is reminded of Sartre’s coining for gays the phrase “freemasonry of pissoirs” (franc-maçonnerie de pissotières). Some evolutionary psychologists’ ideas on the subject amount to the same. Most gays are bisexuals: They learn to overcome scruples with multiple male partners and then apply the lessons to inseminating women, leaving to these and their long-term partners the burden of parenting. Male homosexuality is not a safe strategy, as the rates of STDs among gays show, but still it’s an “evolutionary stable strategy.” (See my series “The Science of Sex.”)

  2. florentboucharel

    Has the gay community reached true acceptance? There is for sure a mass media effect with a message of tolerance toward that community blurring all the negative from the picture such as the high rates of STDs, so in a society mediated by mass media the picture must be that of wide acceptance. Yet that “straight” people would really trust gays and have no second thoughts interacting with them is another matter, and doubtful. As long as paternity uncertainty exists, gays’ lifestyle must be perceived, even if unconsciously and as a repressed thought (because inconsistent with the medium), as threatening to the man who takes the responsibility to raise a family (which most gays do not).

    After the Orlando shooting (June 12, 2016), I came across an article in a newspaper stating that what the bigots really hated about gays was that they had true lasting love relationships between them, and could live, so to speak, like good husband and wife of old. That was the highlighted part of the article. Yet most gays do not live that like and instead promiscuity is high among them, as studies show: “gay men tend to have significantly more sex partners and have sex significantly more frequently than straight men do: because there are no women in their relationship to say no.” (Miller & Kanazawa, p. 133)

    Yet there may be a subgroup in that group, which are men who come out as gays because they fail to bond with a woman (women are choosy) and think it’s better, socially speaking, to be gay rather than a failure. Such men, perhaps, are no more promiscuous than the average. That would be a masculine equivalent of so-called “Boston marriages” among women — lone women being prone to be targeted by all sorts of evils (probably more than lone men), if they cannot find a suitable man they will bond with another woman, but that bond is not necessarily sexual (because no sperm competition is involved that would make routine sex “compulsory”). Yet such women are likely, in our social context, to come out as lesbians.

    These comments are consistent with a few other things I wrote on the present blog, such as the fact that in our short-term, permissive context a good deal of men are doomed to fail to bond — more men, I believe, than in a long-term context of institutional polygyny of moderate scope, such as Islam provides.

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