How not to organize a meeting »« Repudiation

Recommendations for cannibals?

Oh, please dear Gauss, not more of this hyper-adaptive crap.

It appears that men’s preference for more curvy women has quite a lot to do with the fact that curvy figures historically have possessed more of the healthy omega-3 fatry acid DHA, which is essential for proper brain development in children.

An article in the August 2012 issue of Psychology Today explains that men “know” something significant about women’s bodies that women don’t. And it all has to do with nature’s mandate to produce children with great survival skills. In fact, women are usually more like men’s ideals than they realize, and losing weight to meet the standard set by the fashion and modeling industries may not make them any more attractive to men.

Well, gosh then…if I were still trying to raise my kids and feed them a healthy diet, I guess I now know which of the herd to cull out and put on the dinner plate! At least, that’s where the first paragraph was leading me.

Look: if you are a woman eating a reasonable diet, if you aren’t abusing yourself with an eating disorder on either end of the spectrum, your kids will probably be fine. If you’re getting standard dietary supplements, vitamins and cofactors, that are routine in almost all standard pregnancy care situations (but unfortunately not routine for the poorest of the poor), your fetus is getting what it needs no matter whether you are slender or curvy. There is a broad range of tolerance here.

Also, in a normal, healthy relationship, men should not and are not judging you by either a conscious or unconscious assessment of how much DHA is available in your blood supply — if they are looking at you like a cut of meat rather than as a fellow human being who would make a good partner in living, you really don’t want to associate with them.

And this — this bullshit — is rank idiocy.

American children rank 31st out of 64 nations in tests of academic ability. The highest scores are in places like Japan, where women have slender hourglass figures and have four times the amount of DHA in their blood.

So…much…wrong. Not only the racism of categorizing an entire nation of women as possessing “slender hourglass figures”, but reducing academic ability to the product of your mother’s sexual desirability and biochemistry…jebus, let’s forget about tests and ability and background education and just let the children of MILFs into Hahvahd.

Also, guess who he cites as the source of this splendid information about men’s ability to assay DHA levels with a glance? Psychology Today. What, not Cosmo?

Comments

  1. Randide, O che sciagὺra d'essere scenza coglioni! says

    If I am reading correctly, I am now justified in my biting fetish. It’s, apparently, science.

  2. Brownian says

    So weird. I totally had a cannibalism dream last night. I wound up gagging, and spitting the flesh out. It was cold, raw, and minced.

  3. ChasCPeterson says

    Pretty knee-jerk post, PZ.
    Skip right to mocking the evolutionary hypothesis and ignore the data that require explanation.

    Look: if you are a woman eating a reasonable diet,

    That paragraph is true but 100% irrelevant.

  4. Millicent says

    Huh. Apparently the broad range of body types I saw amongst people while visiting Japan was just an illusion or something. Weird.

  5. ladyatheist says

    Skinny = sick

    Ergo, don’t mate with a skinny woman whose body can’t provide nutrients and may not even be menstruating.

    Fat = can’t run faster than you can

    :-p

    okay, maybe Fat = thyroid disease or edema

    We didn’t have McDonalds or Ben & Jerry thousands of years ago, so both ends of the spectrum signified disease.

  6. Johnny Vector says

    Let’s see if I have this straight. “Men like curvy women” implies “therefore curvy women must of course be more fit for survival and reproduction”. And I can just ignore things like peacocks and baboon genitalia.

    So let’s see then. “Bananas are delicious and easy to eat” then implies “therefore bananas must be intelligently designed”. And I can ignore things like crabs and artichokes.

    I think I’ve got it! I’m ready for the pop quiz!

  7. nms says

    No, no, no. The reason men prefer curvy women is because of the self-organizing hyperbolic flow of our embryonic sheets. This flow is inimical to the formation of straight lines, which are therefore viewed with suspicion.

  8. Brownian says

    My favourite part about these kinds of articles is that they totally support the typical skeptically-hyper-skeptic’s attitude that every stray thought that goes through their head is a product of evolution, and therefore justified—unless it’s emotion, which Spock never had, and by the way, what naturalistic fallacy?—and culture is just whether or not your ancestors wore breeches or lederhosen.

    Skip right to mocking the evolutionary hypothesis and ignore the data that require explanation.

    Really? This: “Men rate women as most attractive when they have a waist size that is 60-70% of their hip size” requires an evolutionary explanation?

    I hope they did some trend analysis, though I wonder how they were able to random-digit dial the men of Mohenjo-daro.

  9. Brownian says

    Crazy. Two-thirds of all men who drive drive on the right-hand side. This must be the result of evolutionary processes which favoured those individuals predisposed to look left for signs of danger.

  10. robro says

    There is a broad range of tolerance here.

    Indeed. If as I assume the concept “curvy women” is undefined, or at best poorly defined, then it could mean any body shape. As far as I can tell, all women…and men!…are “curvy”. Not a straight line among the whole damn bunch of us. Ipso facto, we’re all sexy mothers.

  11. megs226 says

    I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have people writing articles about how my body should look. Maybe…. maybe enjoy myself more because I wouldn’t be worrying so much about whether or not I’m an ideal mate based on how I look.

  12. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Do I misunderstand this? Are the authors proposing that the alleged higher level of omega-3 in hourglass-women is, in and of itself, a strong-enough influence on reproductive success that evolution “pays attention” to it? Are they proposing the link between levels and body shape are so strongly correlated that men evolved an alleged preference for the shape just because of this?

  13. says

    Ugh. I know enough that there’s a spectrum of preferences for body types, and that humans are a cultural, learning species, so it’s sloppy and naive to assume a behavior or preference is based in a natural selection rationale. There’s plenty of seemingly arbitrary sexual selection out there in the animal kingdom. We’re also a subset from comparatively safe, context-heavy culture where natural selection’s influence is much weaker than it was on the savanna. We’re so comfortable, some of us end up with all sorts of weird fetishes for sexual selection that contribute nothing to offspring survival.

    It sounds plausible that a certain sign of health would trigger instinctive sexual attraction, but since we’re talking about humans, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to separate actual instinctive preferences from learned cultural ones.

  14. Rip Steakface says

    Whatever happened to some straight guys liking curvy women (I’m one of those guys, but it’s obviously not all straight men) because, to be crass, we think boobs are fun to play with? Seems a lot more simple than men being able to magically take a blood DHA reading with a glance.

    I apologize if that was overly crass, it’s just what immediately came to mind.

    And even then, what about gay men? Do gay men like curvy guys? Well, I’m sure some do, but I don’t think it has anything to do with their reproductive ability or their DHA levels. It might just be that different people like different things. Gasp!

  15. Shplane, Spess Alium says

    Sometimes I feel like going in to Evolutionary Psychology so that I can do actual science there.

  16. davidjanes says

    The optimist in me hopes that the blogger citing the article didn’t understand it and it doesn’t quite say what he says it does. The pessimist in me remembers that the article was in Psychology Today.

  17. says

    From the article:

    But that doesn’t mean you should take drastic measures with your weight.

    Oh, how kind of you to reassure me, Mr. Sexist EP Douchebag, that I needn’t take “drastic” measures, just only enough so that I’m fuckable by patriarchal standards!

  18. vaiyt says

    Japan,

    where women have slender hourglass figures

    Hahahahahahahahahaha

    oh wait

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha

  19. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Skip right to mocking the evolutionary hypothesis and ignore the data that require explanation. – ChasCPeterson

    What data? What I see are a handful of factoids without citations.

  20. says

    #6 Johnny
    ‘So let’s see then. “Bananas are delicious and easy to eat” then implies “therefore bananas must be intelligently designed”’
    I thought that bananas were intelligently designed: by Far East farmers
    (far out, man).

  21. naturalcynic says

    And even then, what about gay men? Do gay men like curvy guys?

    Oh, but of course. It’s those large convexities from the pectoralis major and gluteus maximus and those little ripple-like convexities of the rectus abdominus. The same for hetero females, but nobody takes note of their preferences.

  22. davidhart says

    “let the children of MILFs into Hahvahd”

    Okay, off-topic, but is anyone else disappointed that the plural of ‘milf’ is not ‘milves’ (in the same manner as ‘wolf’ or ‘dwarf’)?

    /linguistic nerdery

  23. vaiyt says

    Really, “Evolutionary Psychology” is rapidly going the way of Astrology and Phrenology. It’s tainted. Whoever tries to make real science about how evolution shaped our minds, will have to coin a new name.

  24. vaiyt says

    @27:

    The plural of “dwarf” is “dwarfs”. Tolkien deliberately made it different in his books because, he reasoned, dwarfs would be common enough in Middle-Earth to get a special case. He even used “Dwarrows” once.

  25. Big Boppa says

    I, for one, hope this cannibalism thing takes off. I’ve got a whole bunch of recipes. Some of my favorites:

    Kentucky Fried Chick
    Spaghetti and Mike’s Balls
    Chocolate Covered Aunts
    Sarahbraten
    Corned Beef and Caleb

    And one that’s destined to be a hit with the FTB crowd..

    Eazy-PZ Rice Bake

  26. Johnny Vector says

    Richardelguru:

    I thought that bananas were intelligently designed: by Far East farmers

    Well yes, but I couldn’t find a convenient way to fit that into the parallel structure of my mockingpost.

    Course what it implies is that the evo-psych bullshit is even bullshittier than the creationist bullshit. That’s some bullshit, that hyper-adaptationalist bullshit!

  27. broboxley OT says

    hmm, I thought that female beauty was culturally different to fit local needs. As my friend “brother Tom” described beauty. “Must have broad shoulders to pack a lot of wood and water. Bigger than me to my back is warm in the winter, but not too big so the dogs dont have room on the bed”

  28. RFW says

    Psychology Today, like Scientific American, has devolved from an interesting, informative magazine wherein reports from the bleeding edge were provided to us mere proles. Nowadays, they’re both little more than entertainment mags with all the intellectual virtues of movie magazines from the 1950s (say). It should come as no surprise to anyone that their editors and publishers are interested only in attracting the maximum number of readers, even if as a result their average reader is a knuckle-dragger.

    Indeed, some formerly serious scientific publications are headed down the same path as their proprietors view pursuit of filthy lucre as their first priority. Yes, Nature, I’m looking at you.

  29. Brownian says

    What data? What I see are a handful of factoids without citations.

    I’m having difficulty finding the original article in Psychology Today, though I’ve found a couple of candidates, both written by the same pair of authors, neither in August 2012 as the article to which PZ knee-jerkingly linked states: Do Men Find Very Skinny Women Attractive? and How Men’s Minds Reveal the Wisdom of Women’s Bodies, the former of which opens with this gem of a paragraph:

    Because of our work extolling the great value of women’s fat, we are often asked why then do men find super-skinny models so attractive? The answer is: they don’t. Men don’t find very skinny women attractive. How often do you see a guy ogling the latest issue of Mademoiselle or Vogue? The ultra-thin fashion models whose photos adorn these magazines and who flaunt the latest Parisian designs on runways are quite different from the women who are attractive enough to men that they are willing to pay to look at them, like Playboy Playmates.

    How do you explain those data without invoking the Olduvai Gorge of 1.8 million years ago, hmm? It’s impossible.

    Another triumph for evopsych!

    Next up: why does nobody like soccer? The answer of course is that we evolved to associate larger heads with increased brain size and tool-making ability, which is why we think of American football players with their large helmets as the smartest of potential mates.

  30. Brownian says

    hmm, I thought that female beauty was culturally different to fit local needs.

    Foolish broboxley, there’s no such thing as culture. Everything we do today is because of mate selection under pressure from sabre-tooth tigers.

  31. sonofrojblake says

    the racism of categorizing an entire nation of women as possessing “slender hourglass figures”

    OK, two things on that:

    1. aren’t “slender” and “hourglass” mutually exclusive? Like – Audrey Hepburn was slender, Marilyn Monroe was hourglass?

    2. I spent a week in Tokyo for work, and at 183 cm and 87kg I was the tallest, fattest person I saw for a week. In seven days working and socialising in the capital city, I saw precisely one person whom I could uncharitably have described as “a bit chunky”, and that was a schoolboy who by modern UK standards was of average size. Obviously it’s just anecdotal evidence from just one week in just one extremely densely populated city, but the complete absence of visible obesity was a far greater cultural shock than the unfamiliar alphabets, the racial homogeneity or the food. I spent the next seven days in Bayonne NJ. Yay contrast.

  32. Stevarious says

    Foolish broboxley, there’s no such thing as culture. Everything we do today is because of mate selection under pressure from sabre-tooth tigers.

    Damn you, saber-tooth tigers! So it’s YOUR fault I’m attracted to extremely tall women, even though they are very uncommon!

    I hope you all go extinct!

    …Oh.

  33. birgerjohansson says

    I thought smilodon mostly preyed on mammoths?*

    Now, leopards and lions, on the other hand…

    *Or did they prey on people who looked like mammoths? That might be an evopsych explanation of the cultural stigma on overweight people; If you stand next to them, you will get killed and eaten along with them.

  34. DLC says

    @40 : personally, I’m sure mankind went in panic fear from Tardigrades. It explains why we… um. .. uh, let me get back to you on that.

  35. throwaway, these are not the bullies you're looking for says

    . . . if you aren’t abusing yourself with an eating disorder . . .

    Callous and uncharacteristic victim-blaming phrasing there. It’s more like: “if you aren’t suffering from.” Though the abuse is self-abuse, the impetus is beyond willful control.

  36. Brownian says

    Damn you, saber-tooth tigers! So it’s YOUR fault I’m attracted to extremely tall women, even though they are very uncommon!

    I hope you all go extinct!

    Hoping sabre-toothed tigers go extinct is itself an evolutionary adaptation.

    As birgerjohansson clarifies:

    I thought smilodon mostly preyed on mammoths?

    Meaning that they were direct competitors of early humans for much-needed mammoth fur for clothing necessary to survive in Arctic and subarctic climes.

    Those early humans who did not hope sabre-toothed cats go extinct, or worse, hoped that they might thrive and increased in numbers were less likely to recognise them as direct competitors, leading to opportunity losses such as failing to kill a sabre-toothed tiger or a mammoth when possible via the assumption that mammoth fur resources were not limited.

    So, as I said, everything we do today is because of mate selection under pressure from sabre-tooth tigers.

    It’s all very scientific.

  37. lcaution says

    I hate, hate, hate, hate all of this evolutionary biology/psychology crap. Ever since Darwin, “scientists” have been finding “scientific” justifications for cultural mores and preferences.

    We know zip, nada about the social arrangements of the first human tribes but I kind of really doubt that men had hundreds or thousands of women to choose among so all this stuff about what men like in women and women in men (please explain to me the definition of a “wealthy, powerful” man 100,000 years ago)based on evolution, rather than modern social arrangements, is ridiculous.

  38. footface says

    I know that evolutionary psychology has a very bad reputation, but I don’t know enough about it to understand why. Am I right that the basic idea is just that evolution shapes human (and every other animal’s) behavior, or is it more than that?

    Is the problem that the basic premise is flawed, or that the field’s advocates say things that are flawed?

    The particulars of this article aside, is it inherently silly that selection would favor men who were attracted to qualities in a mate that were correlated with healthier offspring?

  39. vaiyt says

    I know that evolutionary psychology has a very bad reputation, but I don’t know enough about it to understand why. Am I right that the basic idea is just that evolution shapes human (and every other animal’s) behavior, or is it more than that?

    Maybe. In theory. If you clap your hands and believe.

    Is the problem that the basic premise is flawed, or that the field’s advocates say things that are flawed?

    The problem is that we’ve yet to see the field’s advocates say anything NOT flawed. It’s all cause/effect confusion and rationalizations of modern prejudices, all the way down.

    The particulars of this article aside, is it inherently silly that selection would favor men who were attracted to qualities in a mate that were correlated with healthier offspring?

    It is inherently silly that standards of beauty (which we KNOW vary according to place and time) are determined by evolution pressure from our caveman times. It makes absolutely no fucking sense. It’s contrary to easily available evidence.

    What the fuck is “curvy”, anyway? In my country, the typical body type of a Japanese woman would be considered “flat”, not to mention they’re so fucking short.

  40. chrisdevries says

    Wow! So much confusion of correlation and causation in one place! I guess I have to go out and test out the new-and-improved DHA-vision that I apparently have shared with all males for all of my life without even knowing it! Of course, since I have never found women with especially curvy, bosom-y bodies more attractive than their willowy, less well-endowed peers (in fact, the reverse is often true), I should probably see a specialist to get my super-sense re-calibrated.

    It’s papers like this that give Evolutionary Psych a bad name – suggesting that people use unconscious cues to decide who is attractive to them and who is not is such an obvious statement as to render it meaningless these days. But to try and go for specifics without controlling for all of the cultural variables is to fail at science, not to mention common human decency. Drivel like this should be tossed into the circular filing cabinet before it gets remotely close to actual peer-reviewed publication.

  41. says

    Well, the whole thing about more-fat ore-curvy equally more-healthy certainly has evidence in historical records and examinations of stone-technology societies.

    And the fatty-acids are being associated in lab tests with more mental acuity.

    But uhh, what does this have to do with men being smarter, exactly?

  42. nms says

    personally, I’m sure mankind went in panic fear from Tardigrades. It explains why we… um. .. uh, let me get back to you on that.

    Tardigrades could not have significantly affected human evolution, as they only arrived from space very recently.

  43. says

    So is there a like-totally-evolutionary explanation for the apparent widespread need to claim that men “know” stuff about women’s bodies that we don’t know? I have heard this one* several times in bars and mainstream publications in the Northeast of the United States over the past ten years, so I am sure it is universal across all times and cultures.

    *The particular thing that men “know” about women’s bodies that we do not know ourselves can apparently be pretty much anything, although “we look better without makeup” is probably the most common. In which case, I always wonder why the fuck they’re hitting on Goths like me in the first place.

  44. nms says

    I thought smilodon mostly preyed on mammoths?*

    Now, leopards and lions, on the other hand…

    *Or did they prey on people who looked like mammoths?

    This, together with the division of labour, explains the disparity in the prevalence of hair removal between sexes.

    Women gathering pastel pink fruits and berries would remove their hair to reduce the likelihood of being mistaken for a mammoth and eaten, thereby making themselves safer biological investments and more attractive as potential mates.

    Men, on the other hand, were hunters, and could choose to be either hairy or smooth as they preferred. The benefits of not being mistaken for a mammoth by a sabretooth tiger were counterbalanced by the benefits of being mistaken for a mammoth by mammoths.

    I will be appearing on CNN later today to explain my theories further.

  45. raven says

    Is the problem that the basic premise is flawed, or that the field’s advocates say things that are flawed?

    The basic premise isn’t flawed. Our brains are shaped by evolution.

    The execution is totally flawed. It’s all just personal bias, just so stories, and culturally driven prejudices. Our minds are also very plastic and shaped by the cultures we live in 24 hours a day and differ dramatically from person to person and change over our lifetimes as well.

    Separating plastic minds, personal diversity, growing up and older, and culture from evolutionary effects is hard. The evo-psych people aren’t even trying.

    It’s time for evo-psych to join astrology, alchemy, and the demon theory of disease in the dustbin. It’s just not worth reading or thinking about any more.

    This is BTW, the second chance for evo-psych. A few decades ago it was sociobiology. Sociobiology flamed out for exactly the same reasons and few people have even heard of it these days.

  46. Outrage Zombie says

    If cavemen had strong preferences at all regarding curviness it seems to me it would be because a woman with lots of curves is more likely to have access to plenty of food, and is reasonably good at avoiding predators(not having to run off those extra calories) – both things that might mean she is more likely to survive a future pregnancy and lives long enough to help raise some potential children.

    Of course, such a hypothesis doesn’t stigmatize large women nearly enough, so it can’t be scientifically accurate (in spite of it being based on just as much “evidence” as this study).

  47. Christoph Burschka says

    American children rank 31st out of 64 nations in tests of academic ability. The highest scores are in places like Japan, where women have slender hourglass figures and have four times the amount of DHA in their blood.

    And here I thought it was the abysmal state of the American education system doing that.

    WRONG! It’s women’s bodies again.

    But see, Japan has way more earthquakes than the US, so those “slender hourglass figures” have some side effects.

  48. blf says

    Hoping sabre-toothed tigers go extinct is itself an evolutionary adaptation.

    Didn’t sabre-teeth evolve, independently, several (I seem to recall three (3)) times?

    If so, who do we blame for bring the suckers back? Twice.

  49. says

    Christoph
    ‘But see, Japan has way more earthquakes than the US, so those “slender hourglass figures” have some side effects.’

    Sorry that just doesn’t make sense, since it is well known that:
    A) it’s boobs that cause earth- (and boob-)quakes;
    B) Japanese women tend towards small ones;
    C) there is no C.

  50. David Marjanović says

    if you aren’t abusing yourself with an eating disorder on either end of the spectrum

    Orthorexia, the morbid obsession with eating healthy.

    So weird. I totally had a cannibalism dream last night. I wound up gagging, and spitting the flesh out. It was cold, raw, and minced.

    See? See? We’ve told you not to treat creationists as food.

    (Well, we probably didn’t, but we should have.)

    Skip right to mocking the evolutionary hypothesis and ignore the data that require explanation.

    Really? This: “Men rate women as most attractive when they have a waist size that is 60-70% of their hip size” requires an evolutionary explanation?

    It requires an explanation, which is all Chas said.

    Of course, “obviously not pregnant (narrow waist) and wide enough hips to give birth” is an evolutionary explanation. No need to drag fatty acids into it, as far as I can see.

    Do I misunderstand this? Are the authors proposing that the alleged higher level of omega-3 in hourglass-women is, in and of itself, a strong-enough influence on reproductive success that evolution “pays attention” to it? Are they proposing the link between levels and body shape are so strongly correlated that men evolved an alleged preference for the shape just because of this?

    You’re not misunderstanding anything. They’re proposing both of these.

    Whatever happened to some straight guys liking curvy women [...] because, to be crass, we think boobs are fun to play with?

    But why do you and so many other people think they’re fun to play with, as opposed to, say, ugly bags that mostly get in the way?

    Or, rather, why do boobs exist at all? They’re commonly so big that they’re a (slight) hindrance to nursing. For practical things they’re about as useful as a peacock’s tail feathers. Indeed, few to no other mammals pack fat around their nipples; we’re definitely the only primates to do so. That requires an explanation.

    rectus abdominus

    (Musculus) rectus abdominis, “straight (muscle) of the abdomen”.

    The plural of “dwarf” is “dwarfs”. Tolkien deliberately made it different in his books because, he reasoned, dwarfs would be common enough in Middle-Earth to get a special case. He even used “Dwarrows” once.

    Fun is,
    1) -f turning into -ves is not the special case, historically speaking; it’s the regular case. Dwarfs is actually an exception.
    2) Etymologically speaking, dwarf doesn’t end in -f. It ends in -gh, like laugh or trough or cough. That’s why it’s dwerg in Dutch and Zwerg in German.

    I’m attracted to extremely tall women, even though they are very uncommon

    Not over here!

    Is the problem that the basic premise is flawed, or that the field’s advocates say things that are flawed?

    The premise is fine. The field’s advocates routinely make up just-so stories to explain features that either aren’t actually common among humans, as opposed to WEIRD* people, or are much more widespread, occurring for instance in all vertebrates rather than just humans; and they routinely use a 1950s version of cavemen as the setting for their just-so stories.

    Didn’t sabre-teeth evolve, independently, several (I seem to recall three (3)) times?

    Oh, much more often than that. But the Pleistocene saber-toothed cats all have a common saber-toothed origin.

  51. Amphiox says

    A major problem with evo-psych, IMHO, is that the field has managed to, perhaps unintentionally, ingrain a fundamental intellectual laziness.

    The premise itself is reasonable, but to do it properly, you have to suss out all the confounding factors – all the social and cultural factors that apply to humans, and all the broader factors that are general to the larger clades in which humans belong.

    This is HARD. Maybe in some instances not yet possible with currently available investigational techniques.

    Evo psych takes the lazy shortcut and defaults to the easy just-so stories.

    They do it in both directions – they disregard the narrow, the cultural and sociological factors unique to their subject material, humans, essentially discounting the entirety of human civilization as unimportant, and they ignore the broad, they’ll only consider humans outside of the greater context of the larger pictures of primates, mammals, vertebrates, etc.

  52. Stevarious says

    @David Marjanović

    I’m attracted to extremely tall women, even though they are very uncommon

    Not over here!

    How mysterious. I wonder if an evo-psych specialist could explain why I evolved to want to move there? Surely there’s some evolutionary benefit to being compelled to move to the other side of the world to find an ideal mate.