The relations between Islam and the West have been hotly discussed for decades. Milestones in this debate have been books such as The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama (1992), Jihad vs McWorld by Benjamin Barber (1995), The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel Huntington (1996). In his work Conflicts of Fitness: Islam, America, and Evolutionary Psychology (2015), Dr A.S. Amin (MD) brings new insights in the discussion by making fruitful use of the findings of evolutionary psychology (EP), and I will review his ideas at some length while broaching the evolutionary roots of the clash of civilizations.
Although “Jihad vs McWorld” has become a kind of catchphrase, in the 1996 afterword of his book Barber explains that it is a misnomer: “I made clear that I deployed Jihad as a generic term quite independently from its Islamic theological origins (…) While extremist groups like Islamic Jihad have themselves associated the word with armed struggle against modernizing, secular infidels, I can appreciate that the great majority of devout Muslims who harbor no more sympathy for Islamic Jihad than devout Christians feel for the Ku Klux Klan or the Montana Militia might feel unfairly burdened by my title. I owe them an apology, and hope they will find their way past the book’s cover to the substantive reasoning that makes clear how little my arguments has to do with Islam as a religion or with resistance to McWorld as the singular property of Muslims.” So much for the catchphrase.
By opposing these two objects, Barber sometimes appears to mean an opposition between globalization and parochialization; yet Islam is hardly a good example of parochialism, since it is itself a globalism. In fact, all civilizations, inasmuch as they possess an inherent tendency to expand, are global; it’ just that some are more global than others, and the Western world is to date the more global of all inherently global civilizations. In some other places, Barber explains that he is defending democracy against both McWorld and Jihad, against “globalizing commerce” and “the populist reaction” to it – “Demopoulos vs McJihad’s” could be the phrase – but I do not find in his book convincing evidence that would allow us to dissociate democracy from McWorld; the inevitability of their connection has not been disproved, and the democracy Barber is talking about looks more like another Utopia, a Lubberland for the intellectuals, if the discourse is not Pavlovian appeal plain and simple. Barber means that, McWorld being far from humanistic, it deserves not to be associated with the concept of democracy, because, if I understand well, anything that has something wrong about it is undemocratic. If this does not build on Pavlovian conditioning, I don’t know what does.
This is not to say that more humanistic tendencies should not be encouraged in the society, but perhaps clinging to the word “democracy” is not the best way to prepare for a humanistic future, since historically democratic institutions have contributed much in preventing counter-powers to commercial interests from being more effective, and if the future is different from the present, then new words are needed to describe it. As far as I am concerned, deeming the existence of a political class, even appointed by universal suffrage, as exploitative, and suggesting that people vote for ideas, not for men (just vote on your computer and let the administration apply the programme), I am rather inclined to drop the name altogether.
In the present essay I draw a double-entry matrix of civilizations (picture). Entry 1 is reproductive climate: long-term (“committed”) / short-term (“hedonistic”). Entry 2 is material wealth: affluent / nonaffluent. These concepts will be explained. The Western world is defined as affluent and short-term. The Far East, and especially the continuum China-Korea-Japan, is defined as affluent and long-term. For practical purposes, Islam is defined as nonaffluent and long-term. We shall not deal with wealthy Gulf states, which I call “leisure nations” due to the extreme forms of welfare state they provide their nationals with; no matter how important on the world stage, they owe many of their current attributes to the accident of the oil rent. Black Africa is defined as nonaffluent and short-term.
Reproductive climate and wealth are considered independent. A certain tendency present in the West sees in short-term (“hedonistic”) mentality the engine of affluence. The idea is that, as the constraints on production, hence scarcity, have been overcome by technology, the sustenance of abundance and of the affluence that abundance makes possible now depends on mass consumption or hedonism, the lack of which would provoke the collapse of affluence. If our assumption that East Asia is both affluent and long-term (“committed”) is correct, the preceding reasoning, albeit cogent, is unwarranted (the main impetus of mass consumption may well have nothing to do with hedonism, even broadly defined.)
The matrix is descriptive and applies to the present instant only. It does not imply, for instance, that the West is inherently affluent and short-term; in fact, the West used to be poor and long-term – and the historical conjunction of its newly accrued affluence and short-term outlook is the reason some people hypothesize a relationship of causality.
Institutional Vs Cryptic Polygyny
To understand the evolutionary roots of the clash of civilizations, one must keep in mind three basic ideas grounded on the Darwinian theory of evolution.
1/ Humans, like other animals, are designed by their genes to aim at reproduction. This is an axiom of the theory of evolution and of evolutionary psychology (as the theory applied to human behavior specifically). As a consequence, humans are involved in sexual competition, by which they intend to maximize their numbers of descendants. Maximization is said to happen usually through optimizing one’s number of children and their rearing according to the level of one’s resources, in order that the children grow up in environments that allow them to reproduce successfully in their turn.
2/ In sexual and reproductive matters, men and women are not alike. The biological costs of making a child are higher for women. It costs women a nine-month pregnancy whereas it costs merely an ejaculate to men. After parturition the woman feeds the baby, whereas it costs nothing to the man if he decides so. In some animal species, males are not involved in parenting at all. In humans, the burden of parenting is shared by both sexes.
3/ Men are sexually less discriminate than women because the cost of reproduction and the consequences of mating are not as great for the former.
Institutional polygyny, as practiced for instance in Islam, is limited polygyny, that is a departure from unlimited polygyny by which one dominant male inseminates all women in a given group. Gorillas display such unlimited polygyny. The alpha male lives with most females in the area and he is the only one to inseminate the females in the group. Other adult males live alone at the periphery of the group; their aim in life is to seize the first occasion to kill an infant gorilla belonging to the group, because then the grieving female leaves the group after a few days and mates with the killer of her infant (see Wrangham & Petersen, 1996). Groups expand and shrink according to the results of this endless infanticide. Amin explains that, in human societies, limited, as opposed to unlimited, polygyny deflates occasions for violent behavior: “Unrestricted polygyny increases the likelihood of a situation where it becomes next to impossible for even an average man to find a wife. Having many men who are unable to find a mate can be a destabilizing force in society, and it may be important that a marriage institution works to insure this type of situation does not occur.” (pp. 6-7). By insuring access to mating to a greater number of men, restricted polygyny benefits the group overall.
Considering this, it would be logical to go one step further and postulate that, as monogyny insures access to mating to the greatest possible number of men, it is the one best solution. It is perhaps the best solution for men, but Amin claims that monogyny does not benefit women overall and that limited polygyny is the best compromise. We must here take into account the notion of a man’ desirability. There is a flavor of objectivity about this notion that may put off some readers, for whom in matters of love and passion desirability would be the most subjective thing in the world. In fact, as far as evolutionary theory is concerned, things are not as subjective as they are usually fancied to be; people’s choice is determined by objective preferences and competition, i.e. one’s ranking and value on the mating market. We can therefore assume men’s desirability to be something objective. Men of a given group or population can be ranked from most to least desirable, and the same is true for women. For a man, capacity to secure resources and status is deemed particularly important; for a woman, markers of fertility and health (beauty) are.
If a woman’s fitness optimization depends on her mating with a richer and more desirable man than the man whose value equals hers on the mating market, she will mate with that man rather than with her equal. As to the more desirable man, he will mate with the less desirable woman willingly because men are less discriminate (basic idea #3 above), and as long as he has got the resources, he can provide for both (or more) women and the children they give birth to without jeopardizing their fitness. Admittedly, the most desirable woman is the loser in this scenario – she is the one loser.
As Amin explains (pp. 5-6), with polygyny a greater number of women have sexual access to men more desirable than they are; conversely, a greater number of men must accept mating with women less desirable than they are (some men even having none). Polygyny thus benefits women more than men overall, and it is advantageous to a woman as long as the advantage of mating with a more desirable man exceeds the drawback of sharing him – and his resources – with other women. The latter provision allows us to predict that polygyny is more advantageous where social inequalities are greater.
The West practices institutional monogyny, Islam has institutional polygyny, but perhaps the real difference is between institutional vs cryptic polygyny. In order to compare the two systems, we should add to the picture the advantages or drawbacks of cryptic polygyny. On which point I quote a previous essay of mine (xxxi): “The plight of low-income single mothers is the rich man’s deed [as a result of cryptic polygyny]. It is the rich woman’s also, because, in some other societies, rich men marry several women, and all these women’s children are his legal children, to whom he is bound by law to provide support during their bringing up; in our society, the rich woman doesn’t want resources to be scattered among so many children.” In terms of Amin’s thought, the more desirable woman doesn’t care to share her mate’s resources with less desirable women – and, yes, under institutional polygyny the most desirable women fare less well than their counterparts under monogyny. & “A number of the rich man’s children, perhaps most of them, are thus [as a result of cryptic polygyny] raised in low-income homes or by low-income single mothers. When a single mother finds a partner who wants to live with her, the children she had before they met are much more likely than other children to suffer abuse from the partner (see xxviii). A child raised by a single-mother is also more likely to become a delinquent (see The Bell Curve, a book already dealt with in xxx). With the acuteness of deprivation rises the likelihood of abuse, molestation, rape, and murder of children by their ‘parents’.”
Cryptic polygyny increases existing social inequalities. The man’s urge to reproduce is largely wasted for those of his children born out of wedlock after acts of unlawful insemination, because even if they inherit his genes their bringing-up in deprived or worse-off environments is likely to be harmful*. As polygyny is predicted to be greater in unequal societies, and as inequalities in Western societies have increased during the last decades with the globalization of markets and the development of the knowledge-based economy (see, for instance, Brynjolfsson and McAfee, The Second Machine Age, 2014), one may assume that cryptic polygyny has been on the rise in the West.
Whereas cryptic polygyny is triggered, in an institutionally monogynous society, by social inequalities and at the same time further increases inequalities, on the contrary institutional polygyny is more egalitarian. On this point I have found my intuition confirmed by Amin. I had written (Comment to xxx): “As the rich man, when impregnating a poor woman, obligates her to scatter her scant resources among a greater number of children, he increases the adverse pressures of the environment on their future status. The rich man’s children would be better off if brought up by him. In the abstract, providing the number of wives be a positive function of the man’s wealth [which is the case, as we have seen while dealing with a man’s desirability], legal polygyny is more egalitarian than monogyny, because the rich man’s resources are spent on a greater number of children (his legal children).” I have then found the following under Amin’s quill: “Polygyny [institutional polygyny] enables a society to utilize a man’s desire to maximize his reproductive fitness to achieve a more balanced distribution of wealth. For example, a man who makes $500,000 a year can provide financially for ten women twice as well as a man making $25,000 can for just one woman.” (p. 7).
Whether or not there is also cryptic polygyny in Islamic countries where institutional polygyny exists I cannot say based on data, but the following section about the concept of reproductive climate will show that these countries are serious in their attempts to prevent it.
Reproductive Climate: Long-term Vs Short-Term
Based, again, on the evolutionary basic ideas presented above (1-3), Amin explains how “the reproductive ideal for women” is best served when men’s commitment to their pair is strong: “Forbidding men to have sex while offering little or no commitment is to their reproductive detriment. Furthermore, forcing men to make a commitment to their mates and to support any children that result approximates the reproductive ideal for women.” (p. 4). The notion of patriarchy is far off the mark, given that matrimonial bonds serve women’s reproductive interests rather than men’s; of which Schopenhauer already had a clear notion, concluding on the subject by these words: “By reason of the unnaturally advantageous position conferred to women by the monogamous arrangement and corresponding laws of matrimony, because they posit the woman as the man’s whole equal, which she is in no way, intelligent, prudent men are very often wary of committing so great a sacrifice and of engaging themselves in so unequal a compact.” (Parerga and Paralipomena).
A reproductive climate, that is, the overall outlook of mating and parenting practices in a given population, can be defined as long-term when males are committed to raising their children together with their female mates, and short-term otherwise. Rather than separate worlds, the two notions are in a continuum; when we ascribe one of the two to a given group, it is only in relative terms. In this view, gorilla males (mentioned above) are long-term strategists, whereas tigers, for example, are the most short-term possible insofar as tiger cubs never meet their father, unless by accident.
Among humans, one adaptation evolved to cement the bonds between a pair, so that both partners provide good cooperative care to the children, is love, and the more enduring the more efficient, hence the romantic (but nevertheless true in an important sense) view that love is everlasting or it is not love. Another saying is that love is blind. To be more precise, love is blind to opportunity costs; when in love, a man does not leave his partner for a more desirable woman when given the occasion. (Hence the universal idea that desirability is something subjective.) I say “a man” on purpose, for a man in love is more important to a woman than a woman in love to a man, because the problem this adaptation solves is how to pair-bond men, whose instincts incline them to remain free from bonding and parenting.
In order to maximize their fitness, each person needs to assess the reproductive climate in which they are living, because their success depends on it. The more long-term the climate, the more advantageous it is, as a rule, to adopt long-term strategies, and vice-versa. Sex being secretive, one needs to rely on cues. Hence gossip: “Although far from completely trustworthy, gossip can offer at least some information on the reproductive strategies being employed by others” (p. 26). Clothing, makeup, and behavior also serve as clues (pp. 26-7).
Amin then goes on explaining the dilemma women are facing: “Before a woman can hope to get a man to commit to her, she must first attract him. Attracting a man is made easier by displaying sexual receptivity, thereby appealing to his need for promiscuity and low commitment. On the other hand, getting a man to commit is made easier by displaying sexual restraint, thereby appealing to his need for paternity confidence.” (p. 29). In long-term climates, commitment is a given, for women, but they have to attract a partner. Considering what has just been said about cues, in long-term climates at the same time women’s clothing and makeup are conservative, so if a woman takes the step to make her clothing and/or makeup slightly more appealing to the sexual urges of men, she gets an edge over her female competitors (p. 30). This fact triggers a seduction arms race between women, in the course of which women’s behavior evolves towards more and more encouraging men’s shorter-term strategies, and men are given an ever greater number of opportunities to access females without committing to them. Amin contends this is what has been happening in the US these last decades (pp. 32-3). The arm’s race is reinforced by the media, advertising, and pornography. Catering to women’s need to attract men, at the same time advertising is permanently spreading cues that a woman’s reproductive interest lies in appealing to men’s sexual short-term urges. Same with pornography, “providing the brain with false information which it then uses to come up with an inaccurate assessment of the prevailing reproduction climate” (p. 43). As the race goes on and on, the levels of paternity certainty that women are able to offer decrease and men are consequently ever more incited to decline commitment since they naturally expect paternity certainty must be part of the deal (evolutionarily speaking, it does not make sense to provide resources to a stranger’s offspring; and studies show that stepfathers are many times more abusive with their step-children).
Hence, according to Amin, the media and pornography exert a reinforcing effect. I have argued elsewhere that this effect could be more warping than reinforcing, but for the time being I will stress that I find Amin’s description of what is occurring in the West plausible. If the role of mass eroticism in the media is consumption first and foremost, consumption itself, in the EP view, is ancillary to reproductive pursuits, such as when women buy clothing and makeup to attract men. In short-term climates, part of conspicuous consumption on the part of men is aimed at making known to women who are not expecting commitment that they will receive great amounts of resources fast during the short time of an uncommitted relationship.
That the West has become short-term may be confirmed by current divorce rates in the US: “American divorce rates now approach 67 percent for those currently getting married, up from the mere 50 percent figure that alarmed many over the past two decades.” (David Buss, The Dangerous Passion, 2000). Given such figures, why people even keep marrying is difficult to understand if that is not make-believe for women’s expectations of commitment.
Another characteristic of long-term climates that is addressed by Amin are matchmakers and arranged marriages. The practice is used as an indictment against Muslim countries (and against the past of the Western world), but all long-term patterns of behavior for which Islam is being blamed from a Western point of view exist in the long-term, affluent Far East (see Matrix) as well, as we shall see. Quoth Amin: “In a long-term climate, being shy benefits both men and women when dealing with the opposite gender [men’s shyness advertises commitment, women’s shyness advertises paternity certainty]. Obviously, a situation such as this makes the formation of new relationships quite difficult. Arranged marriages offer a solution to this problem. Rather than meddlesome interference, matchmakers play a vital role in bringing together couples whose long-term reproductive strategies act as an impediment to starting a relationship by themselves.” (pp. 50-1). This insight can help us assess the reasons why numbers of Westerners renege on their civilization and convert to Islam and even to Jihad – having being dismantled, in the Western short-term context, the very institutions that would allow shy men to find a partner. No matchmakers, no whorehouses (where one can gain experience and confidence, see xxix), and sexual competition and pressure as high as ever: You can expect a good deal of men to understand they will not be able to thrive in our “emancipated” society.
Two other characteristics Amin ascribes to short-term climates are: a/ less concern for women’s age; b/ women’s careers.
a/ “Men in short-term reproductive climates do not put the same emphasis on youth than men in long-term reproductive climates do. This is often viewed as enlightened, since such men seem to be focusing more on the woman herself rather than her baby-making abilities. However, the real reason men in short-term climates do not place the same emphasis on youth is they have less reason to concern themselves with long-term reproductive utility. Instead of focusing on long-term reproductive utility, men pursuing short-term strategies are more concerned with signs of immediate fertility.” (pp. 48-9).
b/ “The more short-term a reproductive climate becomes, the less likely it is that men can be relied on, making it extremely important for women to be economically independent. Therefore, women in short-term climates place a huge value on their careers, feeling sorry for women who do not have the same opportunities that they do. Women in long-term climates tend to see things differently. Such women are often glad they have husbands who provide them with the opportunity to stay home and take proper care of the children, pitying women who are forced to play the role of provider and caretaker at the same time.” (pp. 51-2). The role of provider is all the more to be pitied that in many cases it is a dehumanizing one; and there is something frightful about business experts’ demanding “passion” for his or her repetitive toil from a worker.
Now that we have familiarized ourselves with the concept of reproductive climate, let us see how it applies to current civilizations.
The Double-Entry Civilization Matrix
We will say a few words on 1/ Islam; 2/ the West; 3/ Black Africa; 4/ the Far East.
1/ I have defined Islam as both long-term and nonaffluent. That it is long-term is evidenced by institutional polygyny, whereby a man commits to all his wives’ children, by its stance against eroticism and pornography, by standards of decency for women that impose conservative clothing, makeup and behavior, by relative eviction of women from the workplace, and in some cases (perhaps as an inherent tendency) by seclusion of women. According to Amin, the Quran has been in several instances interpreted in a manner that suits the interests of extremely long-term male mentalities, to the point of distortion (p. 56). For example, passages from the Quran on women’s share of inheritance would be ignored because they might promote women’s independence and thus trigger the seduction arms race that leads to short-term climates. Moves towards a greater independence for women are resisted because they are perceived as jeopardizing long-term climate.
As to affluence, many Muslim countries belong to the developing world, and recent international events in several Arab countries, which have plunged them into chaos, are reinforcing this situation by impoverishing them further. The Gulf states are a different case, which, however interesting, we shall not discuss here. (For those interested, and fluent in French, see my essay “Saudi Arabia the Leisure Nation,” here.)
I suggest with Amin that Jihad is not only the hostility of the have-nots against the haves, but also of the long-term against the short-term. The current appeal of Islam to some non-Muslim young people in the West (among whom many young women), and to formerly secularized second or third-generation immigrants, lies in its extreme long-term stance, as opposed to the short-term ideologies of these young people’s countries of birth and residence. The appeal of Islam lies first and foremost in his advocating of long-term strategies, not in the daily prayers nor in the ritual slaughtering, etc. The best way to dry up the stream of Westerners’ conversions is consequently to liberalize Islam and make a ritualistic empty shell of it, to which fundamentalists, of course, are firmly opposed; this opposition is predictable in the framework of sexual competition and reproductive climates.
2/ With respect to the West, as already said I have intended elsewhere to cast some doubt on the depth of our promiscuity, bringing into the picture a possible warping media effect, but Amin’s approach is convincing enough.
Another objection can be raised in case reproductive strategies were inborn, which is the contention of J.P. Rushton, based on sociobiologist E. O. Wilson’s r/K model. According to Rushton, blacks would be more short-term (r), mongoloids more long-term (K), whites being in the middle. The trouble with aggregating clues and data from various groups if their reproductive differences are inborn is that it makes an accurate assessment of reproductive climate impossible. A person is advised to assess the behavior of people from his or her own group, because assessing people’s behavior from other groups is misleading (you don’t want to mimic the behavior of a person whose idiosyncrasies are inborn). Mere aggregation would tend, if Rushton is correct, to make believe the climate is more short-term than it really is as far as the white subgroup is concerned and conversely more long-term as far as the black subgroup is concerned.
3/ This leads us to the Black African civilization in the Matrix. I have defined it as nonaffluent, which can hardly be denied, and short-term relying in part on Rushton’s use of the r/K model. Black men’s virile endowments (penis and testes size) suggest greater sperm competition, lesser paternity certainty, and shorter-term strategies.
To the credit of this classification, Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop describes ancient black civilizations, and their contemporary rests, as matriarchal and matrilinear, which suggests a lesser commitment from men. In short-term contexts, the woman’s brother is more committed to her offspring than the father himself; according to C. Anta Diop, that is the case in sub-Saharan Africa. Quoth: “African men designed matriarchy in accord with African women with a view to the greatest might of the clan. … Contrary to the social order of the Indo-European clan, it is progressively with the dislocation of the clan that lineage through males has been admitted in African matriarchal societies. In these societies this kind of linage has kept up to the present day the character of a weak kinship, less strong than that derived from women. … Among Indo-Europeans the patriarchal family structure excluded any alternative notion of authority deriving from the maternal uncle; the latter term did not even exist originally.”*** (For a short exposé on some others of Cheikh Anta Diop’s ideas and an annotated wolof glossary, see here, in French.)
Incidentally, given the basic ideas 1-3 above, such a situation is a bit of a puzzle. The current view is that our ancestors were very polygynous and a little bit (if at all) polyandrous – albeit I have stated elsewhere (xxxv) that this overlooks sperm competition. Yet, it really looks as if black men were not much concerned about paternity certainty (the reason is “the greatest might of the clan”?). Usually, short-term men adopt mixed strategies; even rap singers, whose lifestyle and lyrics exemplify, according to Amin, the most extreme forms of short-term mentality in the West, have a “wifey” (p. 75) from whom they expect certain standards of behavior upon which they can build a sense of paternity security. Conversely, the Quran allows for concubines, mostly slaves, that is, for men’s indulging their short-term urges; however the practice has fallen into disuse, although it seems to have been restored by newcomers such as Daesh.
4/ The Far East, namely a continuum China-Korea-Japan, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, offers the example of an affluent and long-term civilization. To describe it I will make use of the book Order by Accident: The Origins and Consequences of Conformity in Contemporary Japan (2000) by Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa. (For a discussion of Kanazawa’s “Intelligence Paradox,” see xxxv.)
Japan has long been an industrialized, affluent country. Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore all belong to the NICs (newly industrialized countries), and China, formally a communist country, is on the verge of becoming world power number one.
The continuum China-Korea-Japan is built on Miller & Kanazawa’s model. China is the oldest civilization in the world, they argue, and its institutions are characterized by high levels of cooperation. Its culture has spread; in the process, it is the most cooperative groups from China that have taken the culture abroad, first to Korea, then to Japan: “the social institutions that the Korean inherited from the Chinese were more cooperative than the average social institutions in China, because some groups in the latter, still in the process of being replaced, had less cooperative social institutions. … These social institutions were later transmitted from Korea to Japan by the ascendant and dominant groups in Korea. Then, by the same token, Japanese social institutions should be slightly more cooperative than Korean social institutions at any given point in history.” (p. 131). Accordingly, we can see Japan as the purest example, in the sense of most thorough, in the continuum.
That Japan is a long-term country is clear from the place Japanese women occupy in the workplace. In the main, Japanese women do not work; to be precise, the workplace is replete with women employed on short-term jobs up to about age 25, when they are supposed to marry and leave (p. 47). This allows companies to provide their male employees, much overworked comparing to Western standards, with a pool of potential partners, in which they actually find a partner. This reminds one of what Amin says on “arranged marriages” and the role of third parties in long-term reproductive climates: Here the matchmaker is the company. “This, of course, provides a very practical solution to an otherwise difficult problem. With men spending all of their time at work or in the company of coworkers, they have no time to actively search for a spouse. By hiring a large number of young, single females, the company can provide their single male employees with potential mates and can also exercise some control over the types of women their male employees meet and eventually marry.” (p. 48). Moreover, divorce rates in Japan are very low (p. 57).
By comparison, in a rather rigorous Islamic country such as the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam, women make up 40.3% of the workforce (Marie-Sybille de Vienne, 2012). This is perhaps not representative of other Muslim countries, especially where an extreme long-term mentality actively pursues women’s dependence, but I mean that, if some are truly concerned about the improvement of women’s position on the workplace, they would do well to broaden the scope of their indictments, for Japan holds a prominent position among long-term nations that evince women from work. I expect the same to be true, perhaps not to the same extent, though (given what has just been said about the cultural transmission inside the continuum), for South and North Korea and China.
Japan has been flooded with its own pornographic production (videos and manga comics) for decades, without its long-term mentality seemingly being altered. This could cast doubt on Amin’s view about the media’s reinforcing effect.
More recent than the West’s, East Asia’s affluence has fueled among these countries’ elites a discourse on Asian values, typically contrasted to the “decadent” West, like when Singapore’s prime minister Lee Kuan Yew told Australians they would become “the white trash of Asia” (cf. Huntington). Huntington advises Australia to coalition with Western countries, specifically with US, Canada, and New Zealand, rather than trying to define herself as an Asian nation – the latter move was all the more awkward, by the way, that Australia had only recently abandoned her decades-long “White Australia” policy (1901-1973) barring Asian immigrants from entering the country. The 2005 Cronulla riots, where rioting flaxen-blond surfers could be watched on TV beating up immigrant Lebanese pushers that had been dealing dope on the beach, has perhaps confirmed the white trash image in the eyes of Asians – yet, to my knowledge, you don’t find Lebanese pushers in Singapore (3rd richest country in terms of GDP per capita). In fact, Asian authoritarians are likely to have been confirmed in their views about the weakness of Western institutions, and on how weak institutions lead to riots and the Lynch law, among other unwanted turmoils. Undemocratic states in East Asia are at the date of today: China, North Korea, Singapore (debated), Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Burma (in transition).
In conclusion, evolutionary theory has provided us, thanks to Dr A.S. Amin, with a theoretical model for categorizing current major world civilizations, in terms of reproductive climates. The roots of the clash of civilization are the same as those of human violence; what is new in Amin’s thinking is his treatment of these groupings called civilizations.
*“Even in a developed country like Britain, a child born into a low socio-economic group has twice the chance of dying during childhood than one born in a high socio-economic group. Wealth means health, both at the individual level via diet and lifestyle and at the national level via medical services.” (Robin Baker, Fragile Science, 2001, p. 166)
** « bei der widernatürlich vorteilhaften Stellung, welche die monogamische Einrichtung und die ihr beigegebenen Ehegesetzte dem Weibe erteilen, indem sie durchweg das Weib als das volle Äquivalent des Mannes betrachten, was es in keiner Hinsicht ist, tragen kluge und vorsichtige Männer sehr oft Bedenken, ein so großes Opfer zu bringen und auf ein so ungleiches Paktum einzugehn. » (Parerga und Paralipomena)
*** « L’homme l’a conçu [le matriarcat] en accord avec la femme pour la plus grande puissance du clan. (…) À l’inverse de l’ordre social du clan indo-européen, c’est progressivement avec la dislocation du clan que la parenté par les hommes sera admise dans les sociétés africaines matriarcales. Aussi dans ces sociétés cette parenté garde jusqu’à nos jours le caractère d’une parenté affaiblie, moins forte que celle issue des femmes. (…) Chez les Indo-Européens, la famille patriarcale régnait à l’exclusion de toute notion d’autorité découlant de l’ordre maternel ; ce terme n’existait même pas à l’origine. » (Antériorité des civilisations nègres. Mythe ou réalité historique ? 1967)
April 30, 2016
According to Dr Satoshi Kanazawa (London School of Economics) in his book The Intelligence Paradox: why the intelligent choice isn’t always the smart one (2012), general intelligence is, in evolutionary terms, the faculty to deal with “novel and nonrecurrent adaptive problems.” He argues that in the African savanna where humanity’s ancestors evolved till the relatively recent (at evolution scale) advent of agriculture, the use of general intelligence was limited to such one-off, isolated problems, and consequently selection pressure upon the development of intelligence did not exist in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA). He further contends that in our modern man-made environments the capacity to deal with novel and nonrecurrent problems has become of utmost importance, yet this capacity, i.e. general intelligence, is not the best way to solve the general adaptive problems mankind still faces. The most important of these general adaptive problems is optimizing one’s fitness via mating, the coping with which relies on specific regions of the brain different from those in charge of intellect: namely, those in charge of emotions, or instincts.
There is something quite intuitive in the idea. Often enough people perceived as extremely intelligent tend to be derided by their peers as geeks or eggheads. Culture and mass culture frequently display funny characters who are very intellectual and at the same time awkward in many respects, such as Murray in the TV series Riptide; among my circle of school friends, to call someone “Murray,” based on the series, was one way to mock, though not with an altogether spiteful intent, an awkward guy, especially one who would fail to achieve anything outside the classroom.
Yet, no matter how intuitive, such a view runs counter to one tenet of evolutionary psychology (EP) – a field to which Kanazawa’s book belongs –, namely that high-status males are more reproductively successful than other males. In the view of EP, the Murrays of the world are the greatest womanizers, because it is general intelligence that has become the principal highway to status in our modern man-made environments. (For a broader discussion of EP findings on reproductive inequalities, see xxxii and xxxiii, or better all my posts from xxvii on.)
By presenting Kanazawa’s intelligence paradox in the terms above, I don’t do him justice, although that would render rather well his book’s subtitle “why the intelligent choice isn’t always the smart one,” but I have found myself in a quandary since I have wished to discuss his book, because of several inconsistencies.
The intelligence paradox is based on what Kanazawa calls “the Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis,” that reads as follows: “Less intelligent individuals have greater difficulty comprehending and dealing with evolutionarily novel entities and situations that did not exist in the ancestral environment than more intelligent individuals. In contrast, general intelligence does not affect individuals’ ability to comprehend and deal with evolutionarily familiar entities and situations that existed in the ancestral environment.” (p. 56)
Given this hypothesis, the intelligent choice is out of reach of the smart brain whereas neither the smart nor, by definition, the intelligent choice is out of reach of the intelligent brain, although the intelligent brain may or may not make smart choices (smart is defined as the way to cope successfully with “evolutionary familiar situations”). So far, so good. But the negative relationship I have being talking about (that intelligent people are geeks wanting in smartness) is clearly alluded to in the title of chapter 12: “Why Intelligent People are the Ultimate Losers in Life.” Relying on the Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis, intelligent people should not be the ultimate losers, since their intelligence “does not affect their ability to comprehend and deal with evolutionarily familiar entities.” Moreover, if the hypothesis is true there should be no “intelligence paradox” at all, because smartness and intelligence would then be two uncorrelated abilities, whereas both the notion of a paradox and the idea that intelligent people are the ultimate losers in life imply a negative relationship. Let us look at some of Kanazawa’s contentions in more detail.
According to Kanazawa, the intelligence paradox predicts that more intelligent people are more homosexual than the general population because homosexuality is not natural, it is not common among animals nor among contemporary tribes of hunter-gatherers: “Even though some form of homosexuality is observed in many species, the basic biological design of all mammalian species is heterosexual reproduction, and exclusive or predominant homosexuality is rare in nature.” (p. 127) Kanazawa then says the data shows homosexuals are more intelligent.
He does not say, unless I’m mistaken, that it is the exclusive homosexuals that are more intelligent, which is in fact what the paradox predicts, not that occasional homosexuals, or bisexuals, are more intelligent, because such behaviors being observed in many species, as Kanazawa acknowledges, one may argue they’re natural. This is what Robin Baker says: Homosexual behaviors are quite common among animals. Moreover, most homosexuals, Baker argues, are bisexual, only a minority of them are exclusive homosexuals (see xxviii). The reason why exclusive homosexuality even exists is the same as why schizophrenia (according to Baker) exists, both at about 1% of the population: Both occur, namely, inside a process of mutation-selection balance. A gene mutation occurs that makes people exclusive homosexuals or schizophrenics and, as most of these individuals do not reproduce, selection prevents the mutation being forwarded.
Other than exclusive forms of homosexuality are in fact strategic, they are a way to deal with familiar adaptive situations, and one finds these behaviors among animal species quite frequently, so the intelligence paradox would not predict that people engaged in such behaviors are more intelligent. In fact, the intelligence paradox cannot even predict that exclusive homosexuals are more intelligent if it does not predict at the same time that schizophrenics are more intelligent, nor that any people affected by severe genetic mutations that would make them unfit for the ancestral savanna are more intelligent.
Certainly Kanazawa’s most astonishing contention is that the intelligence paradox predicts that intelligent people consume more drugs, alcohol and cigarettes because such consumption is not natural. On this score, he finds the results “somewhat equivocal” (p. 176), still he is inclined to consider the prediction realized. On this particular point, I would first like to quote one of Kanazawa’s mentors (named twice in the book’s acknowledgments), Dr Richard Lynn, in his book Dysgenics (2011): “Cigarette smoking (…) is, like alcohol consumption, an expression of weak self-control over immediate impulse gratification.” As I explain in xxx, the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment shows that children with self-control are more intelligent for they get higher status later in life and intelligence is the principal highway to high status today. So, if the intelligence paradox predicts that intelligent people drink, smoke and take drugs more than others, it can safely be dumped.
However, does the paradox really predict such a thing? According to Kanazawa, smoking did not exist before the culture of tobacco, nor drinking before the advent of brewery and distillation, nor taking drugs before the development of refining techniques, in a word they could not exist before agriculture and were nonexistent in the African savanna. Yet, many tribes of hunter-gatherers are familiar with psychotropic substances they encounter in the course of their foraging activities, such as hallucinogenic mushrooms, so the dependence on agriculture seems erroneous. I am not categorical that our ancestors in the savanna knew such substances and consumed them; I am merely doing what EP scholars do when they try to describe the life of our ancestors, taking contemporary tribes of hunter-gatherers as the closest approximation.
The vocabulary of psychotropic and stimulating substances used by hunter-gatherers is quite extensive. In the Spanish language alone, I know the following terms, most of them being taken from the vernacular languages of Amerindian tribes: achuma, ayahuasa or ayahuasca, bacuey or macuey (aphrodisiac), chamairo, chamico, cochizpacle, cocoyome, cojoba, colorín, curupa, frijolito (“little bean”), gasparito, jabí, jícore, masacoate (name of a Mexican boa which flesh was consumed by Indians as an aphrodisiac), ñorbito (aphrodisiac), paricá, peyote, pillunchuca, sumarique, señí, tacualispacle or clacualispacle (aphrodisiac), xtabentún, yagé. For more details on some of these words, see my glossary of Aztequismos (here) and Americanismos I (here) and II (here) (Spanish and French).
If taking such drugs predates agriculture and was familiar in the EEA, the intelligence paradox cannot predict what Kanazawa says it does.
Kanazawa predicts that “more intelligent men (but not more intelligent women) value sexual exclusivity” (p. 97) – “having one sexual partner in a committed relationship” (p. 101) –, and the data proves him right. More intelligent men value sexual exclusivity because it’s not natural, since polygyny was rampant in the savanna, whereas for a woman, sharing her man with other women or not, she was supposed sexually exclusive to that man. Intelligent men are decent Murrays. So far, so good.
Yet, Kanazawa also finds that more intelligent men have more extramarital affairs (figure 7.2, p. 108), and here is his explanation: “Note that the Intelligence Paradox is about individual preferences and values, what people desire and want in their heads; it’s not necessarily about what people actually do. If people have complete choice over their behavior, they are expected to pursue what they desire and want, but they do not always have such complete choice. And, when it comes to sex and mating, men have very little choice.” (p. 109) In other words, Dr. Kanazawa is telling us intelligent men desire to be monogynous but women force them to be polygynous.
He means that a man “has no realistic choice to say no” to a woman (p. 105). This is a rather audacious step from the finding of evolutionary biology regarding the differential biological costs of reproduction which imply males’ somewhat indiscriminate sexual outlook compared to females’ choosiness. I say it’s audacious because evolutionary biology also posits that males are urgent and females coy, which is not altogether the same proposition. In biological terms, if a male is not urgent – not proactive – no female will choose him. A man, thus, may be thought to always have the choice either to enter the arena (the lek) in the hope of being chosen or remain outside and attract no attention at all. Still, a man can desire to be monogynous, i.e. faithful, yet be induced into temptation and succumb to it in the course of his social interactions with many persons of the other sex, occasions allowing for the succumbing, without our being justified to call his behavior proactive in the proper sense. That would be, then, the lot of intelligent men, namely to be seduced by women, to be chosen by women without wanting to be chosen, and succumb because of males’ universal urgency.
So the question is: Are more intelligent men, although they desire to be monogynous and as a consequence are not urgent with women once they have got a partner, more likely to be chosen and induced into sex by women? According to Kanazawa, the answer is yes. As to this, I repeat here what I have said under the head of addictions, that more intelligent men also have more self-control, so if to begin with they desire to be monogynous although it’s not natural, they also are in a better position to resist succumbing, albeit that, too, is not natural.
But a more important question perhaps is about the attractiveness of intelligent men. According to Kanazawa, they are more attractive: “More intelligent individuals – both men and women – are on average physically more attractive than less intelligent individuals.” (p. 106). The source of this assertion is Kanazawa (2011) and Kanazawa & Kovar (2004), that is, papers from the same. As a complement, “more intelligent individuals – both men and women – are significantly taller than less intelligent individuals. And, once again, women prefer taller men as mates.” (p. 107) (Note that Kanazawa elsewhere says Asians are “slightly more intelligent than other races.” (p. 124). As Asians are also shorter than other races, his findings on the relationship between height and intelligence must apply inside one race and not across races.)
As to intelligent women’s attractiveness, here is another distinct statement by Kanazawa, which he does not relate to the previous assertions even though they likely bear on the discussion: “modern British people are not very endogamous on intelligence [the talk is about the British because one of the three studies used by the author is the British National Child Development Study (NCDS), the other two being from US; these studies sometimes contradict one another, like in the case of correlations between IQ and smoking already mentioned]. More intelligent men do not appear to marry more intelligent women in the contemporary United Kingdom.” Given the fact that more intelligent men are supposed to be more attractive and that at least their status is no obstacle to attracting a partner (when it’s not the very reason that attracted the partner in the first place) because it is more likely to be high than not, one is entitled to conclude from this study that intelligent women are not physically attractive on the whole, contrary to quote p. 106 from the previous paragraph.
As to men’s attractiveness, I invite the reader to read my essay xxxii. I add two remarks. 1/ Kanazawa et al.’s papers on attractiveness are based on judgments on photographs, “by two different judges.” I suggest that such minimal tests may not be very convincing, especially since it is known that women’s appreciation of men’s attractiveness varies during the course of their menstrual cycle. Thornhill and Palmer write in their Natural History of Rape (2000): “Perret et al. (1998) report that women in their study found men’s faces that were slightly feminized more attractive than men’s faces that were highly masculine. Highly masculine faces show greater effects of testosterone. This is interpreted by the researchers as a female preference for men who will invest in women. However, the same research group found that women who are not on the pill (i.e., are having ovulatory cycles) and are at the fertile point of their cycle prefer the most masculinized faces.” (pp. 203-4). The study alluded to posits a cyclic variation of individual women’s preferences through time.
2/ Kanazawa finds more evidence for his stance in the following: “The evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey F. Miller has consistently argued that women preferentially select men with higher levels of intelligence to mate with. … There appears to be some evidence for this suggestion. … more intelligent men are significantly more likely to have ever been married and to be currently married at age 47 than less intelligent men.” (pp. 184-5) This overlooks the irrelevance of marriage (or any other form of pair-bonding) to assess women’s sexual preferences, according to the springboard model (see xxxii) and the phenomenon of cuckoldry. Among Darwinian scholars, I have found so far that only Robin Baker does not overlook the predictable consequences of human sperm competition and female sexuality. Especially when intelligent men “are not very endogamous on intelligence” are they likely to be cuckolded by their partners because, as we shall see next, intelligent women are less eager to want children, consequently less eager to look for sexy sons’ genes outside their pair.
In this discussion, Kanazawa surmises that more intelligent men value sexual exclusivity because it’s not natural, but I think it depends more on how a male fares in sperm competition. If a male is uncompetitive, he would waste his time and energy in affairs, so he’d better invest in mate-guarding and parenting, like the good Murray he is. The fact that more intelligent men value sexual exclusivity proves my point right, that more intelligent men are meagerly endowed, virilely speaking.
Incidentally, when EP scholars talk of high-status men in the past, they show us an emperor with his harem, in the present for aught I know they may be talking of a restaurant manager, who is perhaps more likely to cuckold his employees than the reverse. Perhaps, then, one should not equate high status with elites; these would be two radically distinct concepts. In the classic of sociology The Children of Sanchez by Oscar Lewis, we have the example of a “high-status man,” Sanchez, whose job is to buy food for a restaurant in Mexico City. Hardly a high-status job, yet this man provides resources to three women living in different places of the same squalid barrio.
The overlooking of elite men’s poor virile endowments by most EP scholars so far may be due to some kind of sycophancy, the will (probably unconscious) to avoid presenting elite people in an evolutionarily unpleasant light. The sycophancy derives from certain notions about virility and manliness. If a high-status man fails to take advantage of his high status by inseminating many women, why care about status to begin with? Why be rich rather than poor, since it’s so much more trouble earning money than feeding on charity or welfare? The “unpleasant” is that high-status men are not emperors with harems like in the past; a good deal of them are (but sometimes I’ve got my doubts, especially after reading EP books) quite decent fellows, and that’s the shame, you see. By the same token, they may be suspected to be weak. Are weak elites true?
As to the question of why be rich rather than poor, I think the intelligence paradox predicts that, all men on the savanna having to hunt and forage, intelligent men are slackers.
As we have already seen, more intelligent individuals have more homosexual partners than less intelligent individuals (although I have contended this is not predicted by the intelligence paradox). They also have, on a declarative basis, more heterosexual partners (p. 137). The figures are: very bright Americans (IQ > 125) (5% of the US population) have had 9.98 heterosexual partners; bright (110 < IQ < 125) (20% of the US population) 9.79; normal (90 < IQ < 110) (50% of the US population) 8.9; dull (75 < IQ < 90) (20% of the US population) 7.92; very dull (75 < IQ) (5% of the US population) 7.10. Murray Bozinsky is a myth. You may call him a geek, or any person who looks like him a “Murray,” but he cuckolds you in your back. There are the haves and the have-horns!
Yet, as the figures here are based on individual statements, some of the statements may be deceptive. I should think the dull and very dull especially may have a tendency to under-declare their numbers of mates, because, as Kanazawa explains in chapter 5, they tend to be more conservative in politics, so under-declaring would be a way for some of them to display greater consistency between conservative ideas and their behavior. Same thing, perhaps, for intelligent people, who would think they would appear as lacking consistency if they did not over-declare their numbers of mates.
Male urgency patterns also depend on one’s time allocation. Men who work more have less time to court women (outside work, that is; please let me know if the workplace is the greatest sex club available, I need to know for productivity choices). Who works more: organization men or the leisure underclass?
A Parenthesis on the Clark-Hatfield Experiment
The Clark-Hatfield experiment is dealt with by Kanazawa (pp. 102-4) to explain female choice and men’s taking it as it is. It shows that 75% of male college students approached by an unknown attractive woman (a confederate in the experiment) who ask them if they would like to have sex with her the same night respond “yes,” comparing to 0% of female students approached by an unknown attractive man making the same proposal. I find the experiment silly. Men with a little knowledge of life, a little knowledge of women and courtship would have much reason to suspect the woman’s motivations. Some of the guys surely thought it was a hidden camera TV show. Some others may have been thinking the woman was a prostitute (I know a couple of streets in my city where unknown women ask you to get laid with them), some others that she was a schizophrenic intent on killing them, some others that it was a third-type encounter with an extraterrestrial, and all these were the least nincompoops of the batch. Apparently, none of the guys tried to embrace or kiss the woman on the spot, whereas she, if deemed sincere, would have been eager to respond.
Intelligent people are the “ultimate losers in life” because they fail more often to have “as many children as one can potentially raise to sexual maturity so that the children themselves can reproduce,” (p. 178), which is the definition of optimizing one’s fitness, “an evolutionary familiar goal.” In the discussion, Kanazawa only deals with data of children raised by the respondents, so all children begot by men outside their bonds are ignored, which is by itself problematic since it has been argued that more intelligent men have more affairs and presumably beget more children outside wedlock.
The picture below shows figures 12.3 and 12.4 (pp. 182-3). (Click to enlarge)
Before dealing with the intelligence component in these tables, some general considerations on fertility. According to Baker (Baby Wars), in industrial countries about 10% of people are infertile, roughly the same number of men and women. I’m not sure if this includes people who could have children but decide not to; the present figures show a greater number of childless people, so the sample must be warped or Baker’s figures must be wrong — or alternatively the number of people who remain deliberately childless, if not included in the 10%, must be high.
As a matter of fact, on these tables 444 women out of a sample of (444 + 2210) = 2,654 have not had children at age 47 (which means, for all practical purposes, that they will never have: “99.7% of women and 96.5% of men complete their lifetime reproduction by the time they are 45” p. 181). Cross-calculation gives the proportion of 16.7% of women being childless. For men, the figures are 475 men out of 2,319, which gives us 20.4% (same remark as for women). One woman out of six, one man out of five remain childless.
If we follow evolutionary psychologist David Buss, the difference in figures between childless women and childless men should be greater, with much more childless men than childless women: “The primary reason men are so much more given to violence, and specifically to the violence of murder, is that the stakes of the mating game are so much higher for men than for women, because there is much more variability among men than among women in reproductive success.” (The Murderer Next Door, 2005). The present figures do not seem to support this statement, because if the variability does not depend on the number of childless people, men and women as pairs, taken broadly, have the same numbers of children respectively: If a woman has two kids, the man has two kids. If variability does not depend on childless individuals, it depends on putative fathers who are not the biological fathers of the children they raise (10-15%), on the number of single mothers (X), and on the number of men who remarry and make more children (X). I don’t know if these latter phenomena can account for a much greater variability among men than among women in our societies. In any case, there (still) is more variability among men.
Two other tables (pp. 179-80) show answers to the question “Do you ever want children?” (asked at age 23). According to these tables, 10.6% of women and 10.95% of men say they do not want to have children. Seemingly, physiological causes of infertility (infections etc.) and failure to attract mates account, thus, for only half cases of childless men.
Among the individuals who say at age 23 they do not want to have children, more intelligent individuals, both men and women, are in relatively greater numbers. Kanazawa shows that intelligent men change their minds before they reach 45 and make as many children as other men (so they’re not “ultimate losers” after all), but intelligent women don’t change their minds (or they do but men don’t want them!).
The reason more intelligent men do not, at age 23, desire to have children may be due to the high costs of parenting I exposed in my essay xxxiii (How To Make Successful Children Without Parenting) and the reason they change their minds, whereas intelligent women do not, perhaps is because men don’t want status to get a mate (and children) but rather they want a mate (and children) to get status – they fear ostracism (see the Cyberball experiment: no matter how trivial the context, how low the stakes, ostracism generates great stress).
In the case of intelligent women, if it’s not only that men, no matter how intelligent, are not particularly interested in them (and we have seen that men may not be endogamous on intelligence), it might be due to some particularity of female sexuality. No matter how you take it, the burden of parenting is greater on women (although it has become absurdly heavy on men these days – but then, again, men will accept the burden if they think it can help them avoid ostracism). Now, something evolutionarily advantageous (or required) is pleasurable. Sex is. People derive enjoyment from sex in order for their genes to replicate (routine sex is hardly pleasurable because it is a by-product of sperm competition), but reproduction (gene replication) can be thwarted by contraception. If having children and having to have routine sex is viewed by a hedonistic intelligent woman as likely to prevent her from enjoying sex, she will not have children. Intelligent women are not reproductively successful because they’re more polyandrous. Studies show they’re indeed more testosteronized (cf. Nyborg). There is truth in the conservative view that a life of pleasure alienates the individual from family life. This being said, many other considerations beside sexual “emancipation” may conduce one to deliberately avoiding parenting, and, considering the above figures, it seems that such a deliberate choice is not so rare.
All in all, I do not think Kanazawa is justified, because a few intelligent women remain deliberately childless, to end his book by the question: “Why is the tendency [intelligence] to commit the greatest crime against nature [voluntary childlessness] the ultimate gauge of human worth?” He has not shown with sufficient clarity that such a breach against nature is really the crime of the intelligent; he has even brought forth data to the contrary. As to his questioning the value people place on intelligence, it is all the more irrelevant given that intelligence has become the main highway to social status.
Intelligence has become the main highway to social status – to a point. Very intelligent people may easily be barred from every opportunity by coalitions of less bright people as it is more difficult for them, due to sparse numbers, to form coalitions with as intelligent people as them.
Pure science does not pay as much as applied science, so the applied scientist must be more intelligent than the pure scientist because the former’s status is higher.
Another stimulating book that I recommend is Waistland: The (R)Evolutionary Science behind our Weight and Fitness Crisis (2007) by my friend Dr Deirdre Barrett from Harvard Medical School. (I call her my friend because I wish her well.) I am not going to discuss the book’s content, though; I just want to show its jacket (picture).
On this jacket you can see a prehistoric man standing on a big, bright-colored double cheeseburger. The book deals with the fact that we are not prepared to cope with an environment of abundantly available fatty foods and that this has provoked a major fitness crisis. The picture of the prehistoric man on the burger appears both on the front cover and the spine, so you can’t put the book in your library without seeing the flashy burger, even if only peripherally, when you look at your library unless you drop the jacket before.
This troubles me a lot because Deirdre writes: “Even more analogous to Tinbergen’s dummies, the exaggeration of visual elements in addictive foods often plays a role in hooking us” (p. 33) and “Food ads increase both immediate and long-term consumption of junk food.” (p. 90).
As I have repeatedly said in my series on advertising, advertisers today rely heavily on the effects associated with peripheral vision, in which peripheral stimuli are not treated by regions of the brain involved in conscious processes, so even if you think you never look at the burger in your library it will not escape your peripheral attention when you look in the direction of your library, and you’ll be the more easily hooked that you will not be mobilizing rational defenses.
At the same time that Deirdre warns against exaggerate visual elements and visual food ads that make us addict to junk food, she flashes gaudy burgers at her readers in this fashion! How is this possible? How can publishers treat their authors with such disregard and contempt? How can authors accept it and let their message be drawn in the dirt by publishing houses’ marketers? I am dissatisfied with my friend because she now looks like a fool.