Advice, Devolved

Sciencejournalism

Over at mercatornet.com Denyse O’leary brings to our attention a column in The Guardian that is something like a Dear Abby advice column that intends to “shine the cold light of evolutionary psychology on reader’s problems” by way of looking at the behaviors of chimpanzees and bonobos. Denyse writes:

The hand of popular culture is far more evident in the series than the paw prints of common ancestors. In her first column, addressing a woman who can’t decide between two men, Carole advises that “some Darwinists might say” that she her best approach is to commit surreptitious adultery. After all, “A worldwide study of sexual preferences revealed that females feel more secure if they have a mate in reserve. It seems you have the best of both worlds.”

Or the worst, if one or both of those guys find out – historically, it is a reliable way for a woman to get herself killed. And in fairness Carole does warn her. Still, we are also informed, in the next reply that “We have not evolved to stay with one mate for the whole of our adult lives.”

But Carole’s tone changes abruptly when the advice seeker is a guy who wants to fool around. Suddenly, the agony aunt is all a lather of concern for the poor wife, and we learn that “The sentiments of love and guilt are not Christian hangovers, they are evolved, higher cognitive emotions. These sentiments are adapted to best guide us through life.” Whatever the problem is, evolutionary psychology can not only explain it, but explain it within the comfort zone of the glossy women’s mags.

I found Denyse’s observation here to be particularly insightful. I’m starting to get tired of this supposed “cold reality” of evolutionary science. What could possibly be warmer than an all encompassing blanket theory which one can use to snuggle up to all their own personal causes and grudges?

2 thoughts on “Advice, Devolved

  1. @nickhacks: When I view the profile of soenome I’m not friends with (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg), I do not see any Photos tab. That’s been the case since I heard about the story of Zuckerberg’s public albums, and from comments I’ve seen online, I’m not the only one. Also, clicking the link in a public album to Go back to Mark’s photos does not bring up an album list.Are you sure you’ve checked profiles of people who are not friends of friends or in the same network as you? I built the bookmarklet since I didn’t see any Photos tab, and I’m still not seeing one now.

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