Great Quotes
I have always had more dread of a pen, a bottle of ink, and a sheet of paper than of a sword or pistol. - Alexandre Dumas

June 2021 issue

For this issue we return to David Buss. His development of ‘evolutionary psychology’ attempts to explain human mate selection in terms of resource allocation. While the mathematics is seriously wanting, another issue is raised as to what purpose is this theory serving? At a rhetorical level it appeals to three major sources of prestige:

  1. neo-liberal economics
  2. Darwinian theory
  3. social psychology

Neo-classical economics seeks to explain human behaviour on the basis of profit maximisation. Micro-economics was born in the attempt to prove economics a science by importing the latest mathematics. Its founders warned that the theorems related to market behaviour and large numbers i.e. there were more values in life than monetary value an that maximisation was a fair description of large numbers not a predictor of any particular person’ behaviour. Neo-liberal paradygm throws these caveats aside and introduce the financialization of everything. Buss’ approach follows this paradigm and suggest that the marriage/mating market can be mapped by pure financialization. While this approach reduces men to ‘dogs’ and does not distinguish between mating and casual sex, it also has issues with economically independent women. This appeal to neo-classical and neo-liberal theories allows the use of complex mathematics to add credibility to an implausible theory. Some fairly simple mathematics however shows the fallacy of Buss’ key theorems.

Buss’ implicitly appeal to Darwin and so onto ‘science’ is another tactic. Here too there is great legerdemain. Again Darwinian theory is about large numbers, not individual predictors. Darwinian theory does not require participants to follow the theory or to believe in it. According to standard darwinian theory the presence of a characteristic that ensures preferential survival will over time lead to a change in the genetic pool. There is no requirement for the participants to be aware of this characteristics. Since poor people have more children than rich people the characteristic ‘wealth’ is not a signifyer of a preferential supply into the next generation gene pool. One finds it extra ordinary that anyone could be taken in by this theory … marginal increases in wealth cannot have marginal benefits to survivability.

Lastly, Buss appeals to social psychology because this allows one to have recourse to a tradition of ‘unveiling’. Despite what people say social psychology can reveal their true underlying mechanisms.

Buss’ appeal to these forces which have so much power in US can account for his successful propagation despite the counterfactual nature of his theory. Its greatest weakness is that apart from being wrong is that it endorses behaviour. It says to women that having only financial goals is in accord with their DNA and is scientifically justified. This makes religious fundamentalists look honourable. As the neo-liberal consensus reaches its last days, it is well to root out all of branches.

Evolutionary psychology and the mathematics of choice: a critique of David Buss -Part 2