Are men cheaters? Are white people bad runners? It’s more complicated than that
Studying biological anthropology and behavioural ecology makes you really hate populist Daily Mail Science
I nearly punched someone in the summer, which is rare for me considering that the last person I’ve smacked in the mouth was my sister when I was six. She had drawn all over my Ladybird books. I stand by that decision. Anyway, I met a complete **** in August. This is my story.
I was tired, and he was attending the same dinner party as me. Isn’t that how most fights start? Right. Well aside from being such a complete bellend as to talk over a woman studying what he was monologuing about, he was also talking an impressive amount of hideously inaccurate pseudoscience. Imagine my rage.
Ok, so he starts off (he studies geology, the F?) explaining to me that he was a ‘race realist’. Yes, he is that excruciating. What does this mean, according to him? Well, it means he has researched (googled) race (?) and believes that it is scientifically proven that some races (white, sigh) are more intelligent, able and advanced. Blech.
And he is SO smug about it. Oh my god, this is the worst man you will ever meet, I swear. “We need to accept that it is simply a fact that the body is racialised, and so is ability and intelligence,” he says to the table, because at this point I’m refusing eye contact. I might catch stupid. “It’s natural that in colder, inhospitable climates, humans would have evolved to be smarter to deal with that.”
“So are deserts easier to live in?” I say nastily, not bothering to hide the contempt in my voice. He inhales deeply, clearly rumbled in his total lack of analytical thinking.
“Look, you simply can’t deny that white men are more intelligent, able and innovative than the average black man. Statistically the IQ of-”
“Aren’t you making a logical error there, excluding the ANT and cybernetic cultural seas behind knowledge and social memory?” I say, resisting the urge to kick his chair. “Aren’t you massively overlooking contributing factors such as education, resources, mental loads and first category priorities?”
He looks annoyed. “I’m not talking about sociology here. I’m talking about science. You can’t deny that black people are less likely to be doctors or inventors than white people. It’s just race realism!”
“Sorry that’s bullshit,” I say, shouting now. “You need to include social and cultural factors in your data. That’s absolutely the first rule of scientific study. Look at mitigating factors. That’s like studying clouds and refusing to acknowledge they are in the sky.”
He sniffs. “I’m just talking about biology. I get as a social scientist you are going to believe it’s all to do with culture and rituals and tribes.”
I’m used to this sneering attitude, but from a GEOLOGY student I’m particularly furious. I study biology. I study genes, evolution, breeding patterns and cognition. This is my degree. And this here, is a moron. I can’t help it. I need to prod him more.
“And I suppose you are a realist about gender too, huh?”
He looks concerned. He knows he’s fucked with someone who actually knows what she’s talking about for once. “Well, yes. Some things are definitely programmed biologically to make men and women behave differently.”
“Well, men aren’t naturally monogamous. They all want multiple partners.”
I wonder if he can see the glint in my eye, knowing he has walked into a minefield of Madelaine Information. “So pray tell, then, how do you know that is not socialised? Or, if women actually want multiple partners too?”
“Well, men can get multiple women pregnant at the same time, so genetically they want more offspring. It’s in their interest.”
“Well done on getting that far. Now tell me then, why do so many men, globally, avoid pregnancy or demand abortions from women they don’t want long term relationships with?”
“No, no it really isn’t. That categorically goes against your hypothesis. Let me tell you why. Because you aren’t looking beyond biology in behaviour. Sure, we can say this or that gene affects promiscuity. But, crucially, humans breed on a quality/quantity trade off. This is highly dependent on the resources available in the environment. In a good environment, men will want less children so he can invest more resources in them, as he doesn’t have to worry too much about them dying of disease or malnutrition. In a high-mortality environment, men will want more children so one is more lively to survive and do well. We can see the same in how many wives a man takes. It comes down to resources-”
“So, male breeding and the desire to have sexual relations is heavily influenced by environment, and, obviously, culture. In a society where the father has to support the child, that’s going to be a huge factor on who and how many women he wants to have sex with. You have to think about human behaviour alongside genes. Or you miss half the story.”
A pause. For a brief moment, I think I might have gotten through to him. Nope.
“Well, that might be a factor, but some things in gendered behaviour are just biology. A woman for example can care for and teach a baby more innately than a man can.”
“Have you ever tried? Isn’t that a factor?”
“Are you biologically and psychologically unable to change a nappy or cuddle a baby, or, more likely, have you just not been taught to or had the social responsibility to?”
“I’m just a realist. You can believe your wishywashy culture stuff if you want.”