Monday, May 24, 2010

Thicker foreheads: Meet thickets of Darwinism

In "Men developed thicker foreheads and jaws due to fighting, over women" Richard Alleyne, science correspondent for Britain's Telegraph, who presumably knows better, advises us (14 May 2010):
Winning a mate used to depend only on physical prowess and men with the strongest jawline and thickest skulls were better able to survive onslaughts from love rivals.

That meant that over time all men developed thicker bones in the jaws, around the eyes and on the forehead than women.
You can read the further Darwiniana for yourself.

Men evolved manly jawlines and thick brows because they used to fight for women in the past, claim anthropologists

To dispose of the evidence-based issues first, it is more likely that characteristic male appearance is part of a kit of traits governed by the need for rapid building of muscle mass. Maybe a fuzzy navel was part of that too? Whether governed by design or chance, the kit is the kit, and if you have outdoor plumbing to begin with, you probably got whatever else came with the kit. (If you didn't, you can always complain to the Manufacturer, though how much good that does is under debate. You might get the usual "I am the Potter, you are the clay" boilerplate.)

The part I want to focus on is the observation of biological anthropologist David Puts of Pennsylvania State University and author of these theories, that "On average men are not all that much bigger than women, only about 15 percent larger. But the average guy is stronger than 99.9 percent of women." From this he derives his theories.

As I wrote to a friend recently,
But what if Jawline is stupider than 99.9 per cent of women? Isn't he winning the club bash, just to go to his doom?

This classic Darwinian thesis entirely discounts the effect of intelligence in confrontations.

And that somehow images Darwinism perfectly, doesn't it?.

Suppose Jawline is bashing it out with Muscle and Gravel?

Go-getter, watching nearby, has always avoided the race to the bottom, possibly because - although he has normal male characteristics - he is not physically intimidating.

He has had his eye on the nice girl standing there, haplessly awaiting her fate, for some time. So, seizing an opportunity, he whispers,

"Hey, babes, with any luck, all these losers will just kill each other. I've got a nice little secluded cave up in the hills. Always plenty to eat. Lots of skins. Lots of firewood. Wanna come and see it? Fine. Just don't make any noise while we go..."

This is the "true evolutionary reason" why women put on more fat, a fact that Dr. Puts correctly notes ... (See? I can make up stories too.)

Incidentally, I am told that something like this can happen with a number of animal species where males compete for mates. The female may mate with the male who is just standing around, because he is Mr. Available. Of course, he isn't smart, just less aggressive, and the species doesn't get any smarter as a result of his success. But this situation helps the ecology by controlling the value of sheer aggression. That's behavioural ecology, which I consider a much better explanation of many facets of animal life than Darwinism.