Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Evolutionary Adaptation and the Prophets: Courtship

November 16th, 2015 by G.

Sex selection is a big thing in evolution.  Why does the peacock have a gaudy, useless tail?  The only reason we can think of is that drab little peahens like the macho display.  The tail says, “look at me!  I’m (bird)man enough to survive and thrive while carrying all this useless junk around.”  So generation after generation the drab little peahens flock around the guys with the biggest tail and cluck over his eggs, and so generation after generation the little male peachicks are the ones with the genes for the biggest tails.  So every generation the pea race gets bigger tails, tempered only by the fact that, you know, a lot of the peacocks sporting big tails probably get eaten.

That’s the theory anyway.  It’s the best explanation we can come up with for features that otherwise don’t make sense.Mankind appears to be one of the rarer creatures where the females have been fairly sex-selected also.  Big breastusses, for example.

In evolutionary terms, patterns of courtship and mating are where the rubber meets the road.  It doesn’t matter how well you survive if you can’t get a little honey to help you pass on your genes.  It doesn’t matter what great genes you’d give to your kids if you don’t have any kids, because you don’t have any mate.

Something seems pretty broken about our courtship patterns today.  The PUA Game diagnosis is that modern life has trained us men to conceal our inner peacock, which wants to strut around, or our inner gorilla, thrusting out its chest and going right after what it wants.

Maybe.  Could be.

My own very, very tentative thought for awhile is that we were meant for smaller groups where male display happened in productive settings.  My experience is that women, especially young women, *like* to watch the young men of their set doing guy stuff–building things, or play fighting (sports).  In smaller communities with more tangible work, the kind of work that could be watched, this would happen more often.  Think barn-raising.  Not so any more.  In such events, afterwards there would be a kind of community exhilaration that gets people talking and laughing and breaks down approach barriers (much like alcohol does at parties, or like Gamer techniques are supposed to do).

Bruce Charlton has an extremely stimulating post up.  In short, he argues that the ancestral mode of courtship was parental selection.  In the post but further in the comments, he argues that some features of Mormonism ape or replace this ancestral mode.  For instance, the urge to courtship and the organized mutual activities could be seen as a compensation for an environment where parents would be bringing the young people together, so many young people wouldn’t be organized on the biological level to do the seeking out on their own.

Read the whole thing. Its one of the most stimulating arguments I’ve read all year.



Prior posts in this series here and here

Comments (6)
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November 16th, 2015 06:41:19

November 16, 2015

It almost reminds me of that very first lesson in the Bible – something about how rejecting God’s plan and offerings might have negative consequences for us.

“How does that fruit taste?”

November 16, 2015

Amazing coincidence: A couple of hours ago, I looked up an old post of yours from 10/17/14, “Evolutionary Adaptation and the Mormon Prophets, Part I”. Now I visit your home page and here’s virtually the same title staring me in the face.

(I had remembered your argument that “Back in the day, you would only get near real-time, vivid, and detailed information about some unfolding disaster if it closely touched people you knew,” and thought of it with regard to the Paris situation.)

el oso
November 16, 2015

The widespread elimination of parents involvement in courtship coincides with the world-wide growth of the church post WWII. Meeting a prospective spouse at a YSA ward or institute activity allows input from the mature church leaders, and also puts the basic relationship into the context of gospel teachings.
The flip side of this is that many young couples live very far from either set of parents and they lack the proximity of the support system that parents provide before and after getting married. Having a local ward with shared values and a support system on the other side of the continent is a huge support for young families. Big time reduction in marital stress in the aggregate.
BTW, anyone want to go to the full practice of this ground breaking hypothesis? I have several close relatives that would almost certainly be married in the old days, but have yet to tie the knot. Of course one of them lives really close to his parents… they may be slacking on their historical roles.

November 17, 2015

The church/gospel setting allows for social/spiritual selection, getting believing/active Mormons (or any religious group) paired up with other believing/active Mormons, and promoting their continued belief/activity. That’s a good thing.

Non-believing and/or non-active participants get filtered out. Though we desire their conversion to believing/active participants, their self-seaparation (as long as they remain non-believing/non-active) is also a good thing.

Yet the purely biological/psychological (that is, aside from the religious) traits that factor into the pairing-up, are still in play in the church setting.

Whether it is the parents or their unarried children who do the choosing, and regardless of the setting (church or elsewhere) there will still remain a set of less-desirable individuals.

Prophets teach rules, not execptions. (As per Elders Nelson and Oaks.)

There are some obvious exceptions to the “everyone should get married” rule. But how far should the exceptions go?

I’ve met plenty of people, in and out of the church, who I thought should not get married until they are past child-bearing years. The older Single Adult activities in the church have plenty of examples.

November 17, 2015

I have always thought it was interesting that when Lehi was commanded to go back for Ishmael, so his sons could have wives, that there was someone for everyone. There was a righteous match for Nephi, as well as an appropriate match for Laman and Lemuel. Even Zoram and the elder spinster daughter matched. It even appears that Sam (who I suspect was mentally handicapped in some way, even if just a little slow) had a match.

November 18, 2015

I watched a program on TV last night about birds of paradise. This is the peacock situation taken to its greatest extremes with amazing male feathers which make flying more difficult. This seems to “work” in Papua New Guinea because food for birds is plentiful and bird predators are relatively few. This evolutionary strategy works for the males (who don’t contribute to nest building or feeding the young) because they can get away with it in this environment. Birds of paradise are found nowhere else in the wild. There is a lesson here somewhere about the extremes one can get away with (for a while) in a special environment, in this case, nature’s own hot house.

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