Is sexism a remnant of evolutionary development? : LUSENET : like sands : One Thread

Well, it's also broader question. Such things as this recent school shooting--is it really a reflection of a low-totem pole subordinate male trying to reestablish himself somewhere up in the hierarchy of dominant males? I mean, there is a quite a bit of psychobabble that serves to address a solution for the alienation, bad parenting skills, or teasing that may lead a kid like this to act out, and yet is his action even more rudimentary--a program of ancient origin in the adaptation of humans?

Violence --even seemingly irrational violence, may serve to establish respect -- or even copulation rights. In the modern workplace, sexism could also be seen as a way to rank, and establish control in a hierarchy.

On the one hand we have evolutionary progress that ticks along at about the speed of radioactive decay, as opposed to, or let's say superimposed on this is our modern mechanisms of establishing equality for all, or at least fairness.

Are the intellectual arguments we make in fashioning our social structures up against the relentless, grinding evolutionary bar of progress--that still serves up dominance, violence, as useful mechanisms of survival, though now in more and more unfamiliar settings?

I sort of liken it to feeling that if you can just come up with the right and most convincing intellectual arguments and information of why everyone should eat a specific diet, that everyone will soon be following the healthy diet, and yet later you find genetic causes of overeating and bad diets -- whereas, it wasn't an intellectual solution at all that you needed. (well, that's speculating of course, for this example)

-- Anonymous, March 06, 2001


Well, obviously the role of nature vs. nurture in personality development is a complex one, and it seems that different individuals vary in the extent to which their genetic makeup dominates their behavior. If the instinct to be hyperaggressive were really an uncontrollable evolutionary remnant, then it seems to me that there would be shootings in every school, every day. Andy Williams et al. do not come from a different gene pool than the rest of us, yet clearly their behavior is highly unusual.

Also, your assumption that male dominance over women has a genetic basis is speculation. I don't see any way to determine whether our society's power structure results from "a program of ancient origin in the adaptation of humans," or whether it is merely a tradition inherited by each generation mimicking the one that preceded it.

Furthermore, I don't think that aggression has necessarily been strongly selected for throughout human evolution. Humans are a social species, and it is not only the dominant men who are allowed to mate. To my knowledge, this has been true throughout recorded human history, and I believe that it is also typical of primates in general. A tribe full of Attilla the Huns is probably not going to be a very successful tribe.

As to the speed of evolutionary progress, it can be either very rapid or very gradual depending on the nature of the change and the evolutionary pressures in the environment (also, I hate to be a smarty- pants but I feel compelled to point out that radioactive decay can also be very fast--some man-made isotopes have a half-life of milliseconds). Dogs can be bred to have certain personality traits within a few generations. It doesn't seem unreasonable to predict that the same could be true of humans.

-- Anonymous, March 06, 2001

I don't think it's even true that more aggressive men are "more likely" to mate. Men with greater social status have probably had more wives and concubines, but social status is rarely based on aggression. It seems to me that throughout recorded human history, the greatest predictors of status are skill at warfare and politics and not just blunt aggression. In fact, inappropriate expression of aggression has been documented to lower a man's status as far back as Ancient Egyptian society, and probably before that, as well.

-- Anonymous, March 07, 2001

I wasn't limiting expression of aggression to simple fight or flight.

We obviously have developed a complex society, language, rules, etc, and the expression of non-violent but aggressive activity goes on in corporate boardrooms, as well as the violent aggression on the football field of the NFL.

Success, or attaining status is, pretty much almost never obtained passively. And if it is attained passively, through say divine right, and the attainer remains passive, surely someone will take it.

-- Anonymous, March 07, 2001

But what I'm saying is that among humans, there isn't a linear relationship between aggression and status. There is a certain amount of aggression needed to attain status, but the most aggressive males are not necessarily going to be the highest-status ones, and in fact, as I pointed out before, too much aggression can be detrimental to status. That would argue against aggression being strongly selected for throughout human evolution (even if you could show that aggression is genetically heritable, which I don't know that anyone has done).

-- Anonymous, March 07, 2001

I don't know -- maybe if we're talking unmoderated, uncontrollable aggression. But I still think aggression is a highly selective trait. The whole world had to take on 'you know who' to win World War II. Napoleon's resume' is beyond exceptional. Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan are quite ruthless in their respective fields. Kasporov (most likely the greatest grand master chess player to date ) really enjoys absolutely crushing his opponents both psychologically and on the board. Even Bill Gates has been described as ruthless, (though it's hard to believe from his mild manner) -- AND these are/ or were the people at the very apex of their professions. These are the Numero Unos in all of history that I'm thinking of, not just your average best of list.

Okay, maybe you're not attracted to Gates (I'm supposing) but his dominance among the nerds probably makes him more than attractive enough in comparison to his rivals.

-- Anonymous, March 07, 2001

Yeah, but do you really think that Napoleon, Gates, etc. represent the "most aggressive" men, or are they just able to use their aggression in the most effective way?

Incidentally, most of the men you cited didn't really do a great job of passing on their DNA. Hitler didn't have any kids, Napoleon had (I think) one, Tiger Woods hasn't had any yet, MJ has a whopping 3 kids, I don't think Kasparov has any, and Bill Gates has one.

Anyway, such dominant leaders are sufficiently rare that even if they did have lots of kids, it wouldn't have any impact on the course of human evolution as a whole.

-- Anonymous, March 07, 2001

Well, I'm pointing out the significance of aggression to success and status.

I'm supposing any of these men certainly have/or had more opportunities than many men to engage in extra-circular sexual activity. (and perhaps some have-- that may never completely be known).

My original point -- somewhere lost, was wondering about "sexism" and other modern terminonlogy to reflect behavior of status seeking males from a historical evolutionary viewpoint. And yes, I'm unsure that one could ever definitively answer such a question.

When I spoke of the teen shooter -- I did not mean to infer that he was particularly successful in his attempt to reestablish respect (dominance, hierarchy), although, in fact, he has probably stirred up some actual hatred (instead of being ignored) and earned the attention of a few other disturbed souls, who may attempt to imitate him later. Wrecking havoc on your assumed enemies may have at least temporary elevated his self-esteem (in its twisted way). And we know, even the worst serial killers, seem to garner at least one or more female admirers, through, I suppose their notoriety.

That said, I was just "supposing" a what-if, that is, a what if many of our modern solutions are like Band-Aids on a long on-going evolutionary progress? Or maybe not.

But if so, does it make a difference? Or could you fashion a modern solution to such things as violence and sexism, based on a hypothetical assumption of evolutionary development that addresses the problems of status, dominance and hierarchy and develop a better model for a healthy society? And so forth...

-- Anonymous, March 07, 2001

It has never beeen tried before but reliving one's birth experience in the mind and emotions may be the answer. God cursed Eve with pain and suffering in childbirth and Jesus said ye must be born again. Just maybe, we all suffer from birth trauma and that is the cause of the world's ills. Read the Internet on birth trauma and cirucmcision. It has seldom been tried before, not among "normal"people. ANd forgive Eve, Adam, the serpent, the curses, the flood , the Queen of Heaven, the Original Sin, and all the pain and fear experienced in the conception/pregnancy/birth process.

-- Anonymous, March 31, 2002

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