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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Sexual Selection, Children and Teenagers

To find out first the 2 key things about LIFE, go here.

With that in mind, we can now look at sexual selection in children and teenagers. To find out about sexual selection, read this post first. The reason I have asked you to read the first link before reading this post is because the 2 key things about life are sustainability and propagation. That is, surviving and reproducing. When it comes to children, psychologists too often, and wrongly, emphasise the "reproducing" part of life, and omit the "surviving" part. They paint a bizarre image of people that is highly sexual (in the "people have sex way) and ignores completely the importance of whatever follows after conceiving a child. Evolutionarily speaking, the psychologists' theory that they wrongly label as "evolutionary", is anything but that. Firstly, there is the assumption that what humans try to subconsciously achieve by having children is pass on their genes, that are supposedly the best, since they conferred the parents whatever it took to survive. This has become more and more false, as the artificial environment that humans have built themselves requires less genetic adaptation, and more artificial adaptation.

For example, if you were of British origin but born and raised in Germany, those "British" genes would be of no better use in the UK if you didn't speak English. What use would you be to your ancestors, if you couldn't even speak their language? And what use is a child with your genes, if they use those genes to eventually sexually select anything they want? To the extent to which children are blank canvases, parents try to manipulate the way they turn out, and many do so without realising. But external things that themselves try to be propagated, such as information, other views, other people, etc. inevitably reach those children, and depending on the child's needs, they fight to come on top on what becomes a teenager's personality. The deeply-rooted feelings and attitudes will cause the teenager to begin their own quest for sexual selection. Being new at this, some teenagers go through stages of changing their mind and style, even radically.

But when this process ends, teenagers will not allow their parents to try to change their views, because the entitlement to a personal sense of freedom of sexual selection will be set in place. This is true of Western culture, where the "external influences" are varied and encourage people to stand up for them individualistically. Can sexual selection be taught? "You must get married and have children." Someone who says that believes doing that is the best bet for surviving future selection pressures. More in the next post.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

High end products of human sexual selection, and how they provide diversity

We might think things such as laptops and bikinis are simply the result of human intelligence, but they are not. Human intelligence enables these things to be made, but that is true for toilet rolls and portable toilets, too. The difference is that some things are made to be better than anything else, and to gain popular support. Yes, they do have nice-smelling toilet rolls with Winnie the Pooh sketched on them, but what I am talking about are big, industrial productions of artificial things which are highly selected. This can be seen in the competition for smartphone dominance between iPhone and Android for example, or in the fashion industry between all the big names.

What makes an item better than another? Its suitability to the environment and likelihood to succeed. Put simply, the same things which make some species dominate a habitat, and some individuals outperform others. And of course, the drive behind selecting which traits are thought best, is the same, Sexual Selection. Why sexual? Because these traits are merely bets, just like Apple bet that people needed what they never knew they did: such thing as an "iPad". People often select things without enough evidence they will succeed or not, and that is what sexual selection is all about. To a teenager, perhaps, a style of clothing may bring them friends or dates, but on the other hand it might make them a loser. If such things were easy to predict, selection wouldn't even be needed, and that would reduce diversity which renders a species more vulnerable to unforeseeable selection pressures of the future.

For example, if all humans were to decide that Buddhism is the best religion, and all live the same lifestyle, future selection pressures that would go against Buddhism e.g. require war with armies and guns, would be overwhelming. So as they say, people don't put all their eggs in the same basket. But we do so without realising.

The manufacturing of such diverse objects satisfies our inner drive to strive for whatever we think is best, and to be able to select it. The selection tool in this case is either building these things, or purchasing them. Someone who hates Apple will not work for them, but instead will help their competitor, Windows Phone. As the saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The product must adapt to its environment, so the reason some have touch screens is because people use their fingers to manipulate things. The reason behind a rail application is that people travel frequently. Apps which correctly predict the most popular needs (information, entertainment, organising, etc) are the most successful, just like features which are best adapted to the environment become dominant, for example the ability to use complex language to communicate.

Also, the sheer satisfaction, or addiction, of some people when they shop for clothes is linked to being in control (perhaps as a result of losing control of some other aspect in life), and being able to make personal selection decisions. Those who don't enjoy clothes shopping may place their bets when selecting their next smartphone or laptop, furniture, holidays and so on.

Yet this drive, the sex drive, shows a significant development during the teenage years, and stems from childhood which can have an impact on the direction it leads to. The reason behind children being perceived as "innocent" is the subconscious thought that children cannot select anything innately, and that outside influence will determine their outcome. After all, if this weren't true, then why would parents impose their own selections on their children, as if they are blank canvases? Maybe they are; find out more in the next post, Sexual Selection in Children and Teenagers.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Cheating

Cheating in its simplest form involves supporting something, and then letting it down. If you see yourself as a collection of attributes of all kind, be it physical, mental, spiritual or otherwise, then your friends support most of them. It is a network of selection in which more people support, or select, the same things together (what they like, what they do, etc.). If one of your friends suddenly selects something which goes against everything else, say a radical view on things, then you are likely to completely abandon them and stop calling yourself their friend. Even more, you might make them your enemy.

Imagine the same goes for relationships, but more extreme, and with the involvement of a more relevant selection tool: sex. Evolutionarily speaking, it is easy to figure out why sex has become such an important selection tool, by the use of reproduction of genes. But through the ages, as humans started artificially modifying their environment, the separation of sex and reproduction, on a behavioural level, is apparent. Humans do not have a ticker in the back of their heads "telling" them to have sex so they have children. Quite the opposite is true, where those who enjoyed sex more in the distant past inevitably passed on their genes by reproduction, therefore producing modern humans, most of whom have a strong sex drive, and big potential for physical pleasure.

This urge is a by-product of that selection, and drives people today. The ability to control actual reproduction leaves sex in its own right as a selection tool, among others such as laughter. That is why we perceive a strong selective bond between those who have sex with each other. For example, if two people have sex, then they are perceived to support all their attributes, their looks, beliefs, character, etc. Hence, it is ridiculous to suggest people with contrasting attributes would have sex; for example, good looking people with unattractive people, smart people with dumb people, etc. Of course, the reality of it is different, because different people value different attributes more than others. Some are prepared to overlook everything for wealth only.

It is no surprise, therefore, that your partner having sex, or getting along with (both of which are selection tools), a potential partner whose attributes are different to yours, is so outraging. We see ourselves as a unique mix of attributes, so being cheated on is never going to be acceptable. Still, some people overlook it, or do it themselves without showing any resentment. Some people "get over it". The way this happens is either by diluting the act of cheating, and considering it a weaker selection tool (for example, having sex doesn't mean anything more than a physical act), or by reaching the conclusion that the partner still supports you more than whoever they cheated with.

The more sexual partners someone has, the more diluted sex becomes for them. Someone who has only had one partner all their life is more likely to consider sex very important in showing selection, or support for someone, while someone who has had sex with countless meaningless people is more likely to deem it as "overrated" and not associated with supporting anyone.

Check back next time for a post on High-end products of Human artificial selection. You know, like designer shoes and iPads.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

The drives behind relationship make-ups and break-ups

Before we delve into this topic deeper, I advise you first read the post on positive and negative sexual selection. Essentially, both these types of sexual selection work together, and it must be stressed that sexual selection of whichever type is a primal drive of life, equal to the other drives typically seen as primal, such as feeding, survival, etc.

It might seem that examples of modern life sexual selection in humans, such as a mere facebook "like", or supporting Chelsea FC, are not big enough or relevant enough to be caused by a drive as essential and primal as the sex drive. But remember, this drive is of utmost importance in evolution, because it shapes humans' best bets when it comes to unforeseen selection pressures. A spirit of competition and fair-play, for example, might well play a key role if the future selection pressure involves people trusting each other to work together.

How does all of this relate to relationships between people? Relationships may be seen as alliances between people, things or ideas. So naturally, they tend to form as a result of these alliances. Of course, we can all guess which things go better together, that a couch potato is unlikely to marry a gold medallist.

Positive sexual selection is the initial drive behind selecting partners. Agreeing on similar things, doing similar things, and supporting the same attitude, or best bet for the next selection pressure. This could be a political view, a certain activism, or even the seemingly counter-intuitive "who cares" attitude. Sometimes, negative sexual selection brings people together. This can be seen in those who love each other because they hate the same things. To them it is not about focusing on promoting certain things, but about destroying others, be it religion, socialism, or a certain lifestyle.

We have many relationships in life, friends, acquaintances, family. The depth of these relationships comes from the amount of common attitudes towards things we pick to select. Acquaintances are people we have a few common things with. How about that acquaintance that you liked for decades, then found out something about them, and instantly started disliking them? That is long-distance negative sexual selection, where you decide to be against that acquaintance. When it comes to primary partners, things get complicated because you don't only have to consider that single thing that made you dislike your acquaintance. Usually, there are a lot of different things to weigh out. This is why sometimes friends are against your partner, because they have a few items of information about them that they disagree with, while you know a lot more, and find it harder to decide.

Relationships break when these small things add up to too much stuff one partner cannot longer support, be it a change in lifestyle, unforeseen events which change circumstances, or even not enough excitement. On the other hand, it may be just one thing that one partner deems too much to keep the partnership going. A perfect example is cheating. Evolutionarily speaking, it is crucial for sexual selection to work properly and not be compromised. This is why we are so fierce about, and ultimately our whole life boils down to, the things we are for, and the things we are against.

Read the next post to find out why evolutionarily speaking, cheating between partners has become so unacceptable, yet at the same time many people do forgive it. No, don't listen to the psychology blabber, it has nothing to do with babies. Not nowadays, at least, and not from the point of view of evolution.

Friday, 15 July 2011

By-products of Evolution - why not everything has a purpose

Last time we looked at how certain major adaptations such as hair loss have enabled humans to survive over the millennia in different conditions, and when faced with competition from other species. Not everything about the human body has a specific purpose, though, in the sense that we expect it to. One example of such thing is the philtrum - that little channel leading from the base of your nose to the upper lip. Recent research suggests that this development dates back millions of years, and has been inherited from fish. Apparently, when human embryos develop their face in the womb, all parts of the forehead, mouth, etc come together and fuse where the philtrum is located.


Some adaptations, on the other hand, are no longer relevant not because of their nature, but because the environmental selection pressure for which they evolved has disappeared. For example, an East Asian's typical eyelid shape evolved as a result of higher light intensities in that area of the world, yet the people born with this adaptation in other areas of the world simply don't need it. Another example is skin colour. Most physical adaptations due to local environments where separate human populations used to live for a very long time are now being mixed together because people can travel more easily around the world and settle.



There are of course, those properties which happen to be a certain way by chemical or otherwise coincidence, not evolution. For example, the colour of blood happens to be red due to the haemoglobin in red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Similarly, there is no reason why we must have 10 fingers and 10 toes. We have merely used what our ancestors had, to adapt to new conditions. We have four limbs, but we walk upright. We still have 10 toes, but they've changed their shape (big toes).

Essentially, evolution is limited by whatever resources there are available. No organism can just grow wheels or another brain overnight, and that is why all organisms on Earth are so interlinked and similar. For example, the structure of the heart and brain can clearly be explained from birds to cats to humans, without any huge jumps in between, just small changes over a long period of time.

Check back next time for a different topic; we'll look at how positive and negative sexual selection work when it comes to relationships.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The evolution of the human body

In order to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and be able to answer the question "Why do I look like this?", we must look back to our ancestry and their lifestyle, over a very long period of time. For the purpose of this analysis, let's look at the human versus the neanderthal. Recently there have been found neanderthal genes within the human gene pool, but the two species are different enough to compare, yet not too different (human versus fly would be too different).

As you can see, the construction of the human pelvis and toes is different, and the human has less hair. This results in humans being able to run easily for long distances, in the detriment of short-distance running which we are worse at. We sweat better, so we can do more long-term effort. This feat is essential to better settlements, as we can discover a larger area with potentially better resources. It might seem counterproductive to not be able to run quickly for a short period, when it comes to hunting, but humans' strategy is to chase the prey for a long time until the prey is so exhausted that it gives up. Neanderthals on the other hand are much stronger, but hairier and shorter.

As can be seen in the photo above, the human female has a relatively narrower pelvis which improves running long distances, but in turn makes childbirth more difficult. Eventually though, as a result of our scientific advancements, this isn't a problem anymore because complications may be dealt with in hospitals.

The neanderthal here is able to obtain bigger prey. However, the trade-offs of the modern humans out-competed those of neanderthals, as they are now extinct while we are successfully populating the Earth. The concept that evolution means humans "came from" monkeys is not accurate. As you can see, the neanderthal is quite similar to humans. There have lived many other different cousins of ours, each with different adaptations. Out of all of them, we came on top. The ancestors of all Homo genii might have looked a bit more like monkeys, and their ancestors even more. But the key idea is that the differences between each stage are very small, like between humans and neanderthals, while the differences between whole evolutionary branches are huge, like between humans and most other animals (dogs, fish, birds).

Back to our human here, the construction of her shoulders enables better weapon throwing, while the Neanderthal could hardly throw weapons. Humans have smaller teeth, with their canines a lot less sharp, and the wisdom teeth gradually disappearing from the species (some babies are born without the ability to grow wisdom teeth at all). We cook our food to the point where it is nice and tender, and the use of huge canines simply isn't there anymore.

So next time you look in the mirror, come to think of why you look like that. It's not the image of god. Most evolutionary adaptations have important roles, such as less hair and communication. But there are some things about us that are either outdated, or simply without a purpose, like byproducts of evolution. These things prove that there is no intelligent designer up there, and that evolution itself isn't perfect either. Check back to find out what these things are!