Just completed the Audiobook of the The Moral Animal by Robert Wright.
Glad I did not act on the thought of bailing on it a few chapters in. Before I point out what almost had me on to the next book, here is some background.
Having been a traveler from a young age, I have long been a fan of people watching. It may be one of my favorite pastimes. It likely developed as a necessity in order to better fit into the different cultures I found myself in. When you do enough of people watching, you begin to see that most of what they do is just that, attempts to fit in. Survival of the fittest.
As mentioned in my previous post, The Sky, IS the Limit, the way one defines words dictates their understanding of sentences. When one looks at survival of the fittest in the natural world, it is easy to imagine fitness as a purely physical term. Athletic or corporal fitness. How fast a being chases prey, how well its musculature is adapted to its environment, how resistant is it to the elements etc
When it comes to Humans (and arguably though less obviously all sentient species) fitness is far from limited to physical parameters. I do not discount the importance of physical fitness, nor should anyone, as a mind still needs a vehicle and power source.
Now let me introduce Evolutionary Psychology, of which the “underlying idea is that since our mind is the way it is at least in part because of our evolutionary past, evolutionary theory can aid our understanding not only of the human body, but also of the human mind”
Evolution and Psychology? Wonderful, sign me up! I have a long held belief that no one does anything they consider bad. We operate on doing what we consider will continue our lives. Evo-Psych delves into this on a genetic level. Whats is good? what is bad? Just or unjust? Ours or Life, let alone ‘Our Life’?? These are things future posts will contemplate in greater detail.
Though I can not recall the first time heard of Evo-Psych, as I had begun to kick around some of the central ideas I was aware that there was a field to begin with, I have been enthralled by it ever since. A likely source could have been in some YouTube Video, or comment section. Possibly an early Girl Writes What video… but this is not too important. Online social comment sites can be equated to burying your mind-head into the armpit of thought. This is highly dependent on the content being commented on and not a general internet rule.
I am currently in a transition point of sorts, awaiting the fruition of several plans and ideas that are dependent on getting over some bureaucratic, financial and logistic hurdles. During times like these delving into some thought provoking and educational material has the added benefit of distracting me from the inanity of it all. To this end, I searched for some of the seminal books on Evo-Psych, and settled on the aforementioned “The Moral Animal” by Robert Wright.
Published in 1995 the book borrows from and references several sources including the Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (another possible source for my intro to the field of Evo-Psych) though it’s main source materials are Charles Darwin’s publications and life. I would describe it as an autobiography of sorts. All in all, quite the pleasant journey
So what almost made me bail on it?
Audiobooks are quite often narrated by English gentlemen. In this case Greg Thorton. Not a bad choice but can give of a certain air. As the History of Evo-Psych is generally traced to Charles Darwin, The Victorian times were often discussed. Lastly there is the writer, an American born in the late 50’s who published the book in 1995.
As I have been absorbing a good amount of Vlogs on contemporary issues, this trip to the past was a little rocky to begin with. It was a scientific book, but that did not mean it was going to be as nuts an bolts as something published in a Journal. The author intended it to be to be relatively edible (audibly edible? edibly audible?) so some personality was bound to come through. Some morality should have been expected. The field itself does not shy away from the topic, and the writer or subjects within the book had their own ideas of it.
Ignoring the general setting of Victorian times and that of the authors 1995 pre-internet proliferation times, there were mounting conclusions that made I considered to be based faulty, if not outright biased premises. I do not recall the specific situation(s) that almost had me moving on to the next book but I can give some loose examples, of things that should not have been taken personally neither to my self and that of the society I am a part of.
Hypergamy was mentioned (fig i). The context was restricted to marriage. Not even accounting for the laws and social dynamics in 1995 America, let alone Victorian England, it is safe to say far less data was available on the women’s intentions when it comes to relationships and other matters, than we have today.
Men and women are attracted to different things, but status seems to be far more important to women. The book proposed that accounting for Hypergamy, a polygamous society would have more benefits for women as the access to high value males would not be limited to one woman (fig ii). “A woman would rather share a rich man than have a poor one all to herself.” I agreed.
Later the book asserted that divorce was actually more beneficial to Men and they were advocating for it more than women. I strongly disagreed. My contention was due to a mix of the higher though rather hard to pinpoint divorce rate of today, the current preference of women for no-fault divorce over fault divorce and the increasing number of men opting out of marriage (one of the topics evidenced and discussed by the growing number of mgtow). The social landscape during the Victorian Age and to a lesser extent that of the Western world 2 decades ago in 1995 was undoubtedly different than the one today, but I doubt divorce was something most men did, or was met with any form of general social acceptance.
In later chapters, there is a recounting of how the well respected Charles Dickens divorced but chose to keep meetings and relations with his mistress quite discreet in order to avoid the social ramifications. Not to mention the number of people in unhappy marriages, staying together for reasons including, social pressure, religious obligations, or somewhat misguidedly ‘for the sake of the kids.’ (if kids are involved, seek therapy, both personal and couples therapy, but do not just try and tough it out, Kids are more observant than most give them credit for. They notice this things. It can damage them in many ways including them blaming themselves for the problems of their parents.)
Marriage, as a lawful contract between a man and a woman, is far from… Hmm, I am well over 1000 words so I’ll save the rest for other posts, time to wind this up.
I remember being a few chapters in and thinking “Hmm you uppity old Brit, keep your personal opinions out of this and give me some cold hard science!” It was at the start of a walk, an I was fighting the urge to switch over to the music playlist on my iPod Shuffle.* It’s just the narrator though, I had no idea if the author was a Brit. In addition the opinions I heard could have been those of someone centuries ago, written by someone decades ago. I was looking for offense where there was none.
I was looking for science without morals.
May have been much to ask from a Novel of this kind whose subject was the relatively young and often contentious field like Evolutionary Psychology, but there it was. Logic mode was ‘on’ and I was rather put off by the feels, feeling their feely way into it.
Does this happen to you? Do you like your logic served with a side of opinion and sprinkled with some emotion?
- *I am a fan of Audiobooks, Vlogs and Podcasts, as they are a very convenient way to satiate my voracious appetite for information while doing other things. The entire 16 hour book was about 350 MB ( spoken word is lighter than music with instruments and other levels) so A 4 GB Shuffle can simultaneously hold an entire book and hundreds of songs.
- Evolutionary Psychology Journal – I will be looking forward to delving into some of these Journals. If you are interested in Evolutionary Psychology, or science in general do feel free to browse.
- Video of the Post : Love Letters to Richard Dawkins – got somewhat heavy in this post, material wise, so will end on a Light note of sorts. Richard Dawkins reading some Hate-Mail which is more examples older British accents being a good choice to read things. Be advised, adult language and content…contained.