Why Young Women Are Stupid (If They Are): A Scientific Inquiry

The Victoria’s Secret catalog mailing list is several tens of thousand times longer than the mailing list of the National Organization For Women. The feminist wheel has turned enough for brave male social scientists like me finally to consider from a scientific viewpoint an issue that has been with us forever.

Here is the issue: Anyone who has ever tried to win an argument with a reasonably well-informed eleven-year old girl and lost knows that something pretty bad must happen – on the mental front – to the females of our species shortly after they reach that age. (A lexicographic irony is that “front” is the French word for “forehead.” )

I won’t affirm that young women tend to be stupid, for two reasons. First, it would offend my young Indian niece, back in Calcutta. (The parenthetical part of the title is in deference to her feelings.) Second, as my super-intelligent wife often states in a an accusatory tone of voice, I am still a kind of closet liberal. This is the same wife who suspects Attila the Hun was kind of a big softie with his silly cut-off heads of his enemies hanging from his saddle. Incidentally, I owe my wife many of my late-life insights about womanhood.

As so often happens in a the Verstehen school of sociological philosophy, my first grasp of the problem came to me during a moment of idleness. I was contemplating my twelve-year old son watching television with his index finger in his nose up to the elbow. The incongruous thought hit me: “In two or three years at most, some pretty young woman is going to think him irresistible!” I started chuckling when the double thought crossed my mind that I was facing a veritable scientific quandary and possibly the seeds of its solution.

Now, to get a handle on the problem, we need to go back a few thousand years, a few hundreds of thousands of years actually. Let’s remember that we, humans, have only known agriculture and animal husbandry for about 10,000 years. Both were discovered or invented in the Middle-East, widely defined, or in India. (An Indian friend of mine keeps telling me that India already had advanced agriculture when my European ancestors were still trying to figure out how to come down from the trees. That is pure slander; my ancestors walked from East Africa; they did not brachiate.) Before that, for as long as there have been humans, and proto-humans, they led a precarious existence.

At the center of this precariousness lied the cave bear. Imagine a carnivorous creature with ten inch-canines standing ten feet tall when irritated and weighing in at one thousands pounds. (That would be the smaller ones.) Our ancestors hanged out near cave bears much of the time for two reasons. First, they used the same caves as the bears to protect themselves from the elements. Second, they soon discovered in themselves a predilection for the carrion cave bears left lying around, like all predators.

With this propinquity, meals where our ancestors were themselves the main course, and close-calls, unavoidably occurred frequently. That we survived as a species nevertheless calls for an explanation. Here it is below. Although it’s somewhat speculative, it’s in full accordance with what we know of the more general forms of human behavior and with evolutionary theory both.

Grandpa and Grandma Caveperson most likely lived in small extended family groups of fifteen and to fifty people. There are good technical reasons for this explanation centered around what semi-nomadic humans can carry and, especially, the number of babies and small children. In close encounters with cave bears, you can be sure there were young males, teen-age boys, who stayed behind to throw stones at the monsters. Probably no one could lob rocks heavy enough, or with enough force, to do serious damage to any bear. Yet, an avalanche of rocks could delay the bear long enough to allow many, or some, women with small children, and pregnant women to scamper away.

This survival strategy poses one problem though: The young rock throwers must have suffered a high rate of mortality. Thus, the very traits of brashness, courage, and accuracy that saved the group at Time 1 were in constant danger of disappearing with those who bore those traits and thus to be unavailable at Time 2.

Something had to compensate for the high mortality among the young rock throwers. That something is obvious: They had to be able to reproduce disproportionately. Do the arithmetic: If one in ten of the wimpy youths dies before siring offspring but one in two of the tough ones, after a short while, the propensity to stay behind and taunt the bears will disappear in the population. That is, unless the surviving rock artists manage somehow to have more than twice more children that their timid brothers and cousins. It turns out that the best solution to this quandary, widely observed in many species, including humans, is female mating choice.

If young human females actively wanted to mate with rock throwers, the right traits could be transmitted down the generations forever. But of course, intelligent young women wanted to have nothing to do with the morons. Accordingly, they reproduced, and their children survived, at an inferior rate. Thus, the traits supporting simple good judgment had a tendency to thin out in the relevant populations.

Female air-heads, who were hot for the delinquents, passed on their genes in large numbers to both their female and their male children. And so on, to this day where we encounter few cave bears. These things are hard-wired. It takes a while for a trait that was useful previously to vanish from a population because it has lost its usefulness. The trait may never disappears if it does not become dysfunctional in the current situation. And this, my friends is why young women would be stupid (if they were stupid).

Scientific note: One condition that would hasten the demise of female stupidity would be if intelligent women had more children surviving to reproductive age than stupid women. There is no reason to believe that they do, overall. By the way, that’s what the phrase “survival of the fittest” means: Having children who themselves have children.

If you are of the female persuasion, Dear Reader, and if my sage observations make you livid, or red with anger, as the case may be, stop and ask yourselves: How many of your girlfriends actively demonstrate their erotic attraction to bad boys?

The Paleo Diet and the Vegetarians

I have been defending the “Paleo diet,” named after the book of the same name by Loren Cordain. Unlike many of its critics, I have actually read the book. I like the fact that it rests on an overall defensible viewpoint based on evolutionary theory while its specific claims are explicitly and painstakingly related to modern research.

The Paleo diet or v “caveman’s diet” simply says that our genetic apparatus cannot have changed much since the spread of agriculture, 7,000, 8,000 or 9,000 years ago (more like 6,000 for people of European ancestry). Therefore, the author argues, we should limit our food intake to what our pre-agriculture ancestors ate: Vegetables, fruits, nuts, and especially fish and meat. Thus, it excludes cereals, beans, dairy products and sugar, among other staples. That’s the general argument. As I have said, there are also specific arguments pertaining to different classes of food that are linked to contemporary scientific research.

I have been observing the Paleo diet, with some systematic cheating, for a little less than a year. The cheating involves two items: wine and coffee. Cavemen obviously had the solace of neither (but they had the thrill of trying to escape giant cave bears). Basically, I would rather be unhealthy than give up either drug. My adherence to the Paleo diet is not a “faith.” It’s completely rational, as the accommodation I make at this stage in my mind with the information available to me. I could turn on a dime on this.

Two things have happened since I started the Paleo diet: First, I have had Diabetes Type II for twenty years. Less than three months after I started, my basic blood sugar number became almost normal. (That’s the same number I have been monitoring for fifteen yeas.) It became completely normal another three months later and has stayed there.* Second, I have lost a little weight without even trying. I keep losing. It’s very little but it’s consistent. (I use to gain a little weight consistently.) There is no mystery about why I lose weight: I seldom feel hungry and when a I do, I am able to cut hunger with ten almonds.

Of course, the coincidence in time of this positive health development with the diet may just be that, a coincidence. This is how I am thinking about it: For twenty years, there are no good news; I go on a specific diet that promises specific improvements; shortly thereafter, I get specific good news pertaining to the improvement the diet promises.

Of course, it’s possible that in addition to positive health outcomes, the Paleo diet is destroying my heart, or my kidneys. As to the first, my Stanford Medical school cardiologist is not concerned. My other doctor, the internist who hates fads has not said anything about danger to my kidneys.

The Paleo diet has not made me more handsome, nor smarter, nor yet kinder, I must admit.

My testimony just remains this, a personal testimony; it’s a truthful one. The critique below is more than a personal testimony though if you believe that the nature of its warriors tells you something about the validity of a particular war.

Of course, the Paleo diet has triggered the anger of vegetarians and “sustainable” agriculture advocates, and well it should have. Sustainable Ag people simply don’t have a leg to stand on. Veggies are apparently tired of simply arguing that theirs is an ethically superior stance. (I believe it is.) There is an article in the June 3 2013 issue of Scientific American that just came to my attention. I surmise, it’s an expression of this anger. It treats the Paleo diet as just another unscientific fad. In the middle of the article, the author uses the following words with respect to our ancestors: “[they] evolved a mutation.” Cut, stop press! Mutations don’t “evolve,” they just happen; they happen all the time. The verb matters, it suggests that a particular mutation appeared in response to something. Mutations are not (adaptive) responses to anything; they are the material on which evolution plays. Natural selection simply retains spontaneous mutations.

End of story; end of reading. The author just demonstrated that he lacks a basic understanding of evolutionary theory, the main material of the view he is criticizing. How about the editors of Scientific Americans, what were they thinking when they allowed this monstrosity? Is there a reason for the laxness? Is there an agenda or is it just an expression of ordinary slothfulness?

This big mistake in a big publication dedicated to the spread of science does not make the Paleo diet right of course. I will await with interest a critique by someone who know what he is talking about.

* I am still taking the full complement of diabetic drugs. It’s a precaution and my doctor, a skeptic, does not seem to know how to phase them out without risk.