'm currently (still) reading Why We Get Sick - The New Science of Darwinian Medicine
by Randolph M. Nesse and George C. Williams. The book is some ten years old but still incredibly interesting, making many lucid points about how our bodies and minds work in the face of illness.N
ot only dealing with infections, cancer and genetic disorders, they also bring up problems of modern life that may stem from our evolutionary origins, for instance our tendency to over-indulge in sugar and fat. What prompted me to write this post was something rather different, however.I
n chapter 13, "Sex and Reproduction", the authors tackle the various differences in reproductive strategy between males and females, men and women; and how these differences may have shaped certain parts of society today. One of the most interesting points they make is one about jealousy.
Sexual jealousy is such a strong influence on human life that it is institutionalized and regulated by custom or formal law in almost all societies.I
n short, women can always be certain that their children are their own, whereas men can't. While women also display jealousy (and a female has reason to do so, as an unfaithful mate may direct resources elsewhere than their own offspring, hence lowering the fitness of her genes), men consistently show stronger tendencies than women. In almost every society, it is men controlling women's sexuality and not the other way around. The authors list a variety of means people use, from the relatively mild western marriages, to the obscene customs of some cultures to circumcise females. (Although "circumcise", a word normally associated with removing some skin from a penis, completely fails to describe what is done to girls in these cultures: the clitoris is excised and the labia sewn shut.)N
esse and Williams move on to make this point:
Many people seem to think that culture opposes such biological tendencies, but with jealousy, culture and the legal system exaggerate a biological tendency. People who think that laws should oppose our more destructive biological tendencies would presumably want to change the social system in ways that would discourage divorces based on infidelity.D
efinitely food for thought, especially as people, even biologists, are fond of the notion that humans have somehow transcended evolution and their own biology.