Biological Determinism

One of the more controversial ideas that has evolved out of the theory of evolution is biological determinism. According to some, it advocates that man is enslaved to his genes and his behaviors all arise out of genetic programming. Others argue man isn’t so much enslaved as influenced, and he can override his genetic commands by force of will.

I think it’s a complex topic, made even more complex when one considers the effect of environment, but I tend to side with the former opinion: Man is a computer programmed by his genes (and environment.) People often mock this view, claiming that it reduces people to robots who are spurred to acts by the demands of their unconscious. “Can’t resist… genes ordering me to eat chocolate…” But I think many of our genetic commands bubble up to our conscious self. When one considers biological determinism in the realm of mating and sexual negotiation, conventional wisdom argues that women prefer a mate rich with resources because he can take care of their children and thus ensure the continuation of her genetic material. And you hear women voice this viewpoint all the time, arguing that they want to meet a “rich doctor” or somesuch. It’s not a subconscious compulsion but something they are consciously aware of.

But there are other aspects of mate seeking that I would say do exist on a subconscious level. Why am I attracted to Megan Fox? Because she’s beautiful. But what does “beautiful” really mean. I can’t choose to find this or that person beautiful* — it’s an innate compass within me that I can’t ignore. It struck me today that our sense of attractiveness is a lot like our sense of taste. I don’t “choose” to like French fries, I just like them.

*This may not be entirely true. You probably can reprogram your sense of beauty to some degree. If I was forced to view pictures of Megan Fox while undergoing electroshock therapy I would probably develop an aversion to her features, and maybe other women who had similar features.

Now, scientists theorize there are evolutionary reasons dictating the laws of attraction and taste. The facial features we find attractive generally ascribed a fit, non-retarded person. The classic shapely female figure is ideal for childbearing. (There’s some controversy about this, but we basically don’t want them too fat or too thin.) The flavors we tend to crave — fats and sweets — were rare for most of our evolutionary history, and, when eaten in small quantities, good for us.

Of course, none of this explains why I’m so attracted to “Flo” the Progressive Insurance girl.

5 Responses to “Biological Determinism”


  1. John Saleeby

    “If I was forced to view pictures of Megan Fox while undergoing electroshock therapy . . . ”

    You mean like when I saw “Transformers”?

  2. John Saleeby

    God damn, that is a good joke!

    Hey, Mister Deep Thinker, are you back on the North American continent, or what? Everything is falling apart without your counsel – Al and Tipper Gore have split up, a psycho porn actor is on the loose in LA, and pictures of Miley Cyrus onstage in Portugal are actually pretty hot. I predict mass suicides.

  3. CPR

    And it’s raining toads in Jersey City. I’ll send you a copy of our book soon (just coming off the presses now). You’ll see that we argue that the example you use (women wanting rich dudes) is more complex than you seem to thinkā€”or simpler, depending how you look at it. It presumes nuclear families in evolutionary time, which, as it turns out, is a very common, but unfounded assumption.

  4. admin

    That is a pretty good joke John.

    In regards to women wanting doctors: it’s an scenario mentioned in “This Is Your Brain on Music” with an interesting caveat. The book’s argument is that the type of man a woman wants as the biological father of her child is not necessarily the one she wants as the practicing father. She might want a creative pauper or philandering sports figure to be the actual father, but then needs a stable rich guy to actually care for the child. Statistics, if they can never be believed, state that about 10% of fathers are actually raising someone else’s child.

    Nonetheless, I’ll be interested in your argument about family structure in that era.

  5. admin

    Oh, and, yes, I’m back on the mainland.