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The Authors Forgot About Rock and Roll
June 16, 2010 11:21 AM   Subscribe

An article in the June issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society of the Biological Sciences finds that "differences in reproductive strategies are driving individuals' different views on recreational drugs": namely, that views on sexual promiscuity are more closely related to views on recreational drug use than religion, political affiliation or other predictors. The study suggests attitudes against recreational drug use are an evolutionary attempt to promote reproductive stability.
posted by l33tpolicywonk (21 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Tell that to Gene Simmons.
posted by stinker at 11:34 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Measured skeptical comment I wrote about this:
This is really interesting, but I am not sold on the strength of the methodology. Even if drug attitudes are better-predicted by sex attitudes than by self-reported political conservatism, there's a lot of potential confounders we don't know about.

For example, sex attitudes may just be standing in as a more accurate proxy for underlying social conservatism. Direct political self-identification is less than reliable because it is frequently rehearsed, and its connections to underlying attitudes are contingent and subject to change. The public power of labels like "liberal" and "conservative" actually makes them less scientifically useful. I haven't read the paper, so I can't say quite how important these objections are.
I still haven't read the paper, but on the strength of the abstract and the news release, it sounds like my objections are not really germane -- if the coefficients on the political variables really "go to zero" when the model includes sex attitudes, that strikes me as very convincing.
posted by grobstein at 11:49 AM on June 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course it's still plausible that the connections between drugs and sex are primarily cultural linkages. Like "Hippies <> (Drugs and Free Love)."

I would like to see this study conducted in a wide variety of different cultural settings.
posted by grobstein at 11:51 AM on June 16, 2010


The study suggests attitudes against recreational drug use are an evolutionary attempt to promote reproductive stability.

Evolution does not attempt.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:57 AM on June 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


pedantry
posted by grobstein at 11:58 AM on June 16, 2010


What I mean is that this is less "evolution" than eugenics. It's also pro-family propaganda. Yay!
posted by Sys Rq at 12:01 PM on June 16, 2010


Wow. I mean, I get kind of annoyed when people say "Correlation doesn't imply causation" at everything but this really over the top.

I mean literally everything that can be said about human beings as a group is in some way the result of evolution. Either something that evolved directly or something that happens culturally which is enabled by evolution.

But to suggest that prohibitionism, something that's only been around culturally for a few hundred years is somehow an evolutionary adaptation is just crazy. It's clearly the result of some kind of intellectual thinking and probably (in my view) a dislike of the "kind of people" who they think use drugs. I mean, the original prohibitionists often had a visceral hatred of 'drunks' and it's well known that racism underlied a lot of the bans on other drugs like Opium (fear of the Chinese in California seducing white women in opium dens) or Marijuana (Mexicans. And then Hippies).

Anyway, that drug use would be correlated with sexual promiscuity would be obvious to anyone. People who are driven to experience pleasure are obviously going to be more apt to try both.

But there's no reason to think that "liking pleasurable things" is a reproductive strategy Not everything is "evolutionary". Obviously the underlying mechanisms of pleasure seeking evolved, but that doesn't mean that people's specific need to seek pleasure is some kind of 'sexual strategy' as opposed to, say, a random mix of brain chemicals that has as much to do with hormone levels in the womb and childhood environment as it does with genetics.
posted by delmoi at 12:04 PM on June 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Sys Rq: "Evolution does not attempt."

The study abstract in my second link uses the word "attempt" and, by my reading of that paragraph in relation to the one before it, the object attempting is an evolved reproductive strategy. Eugenics, however, implies a conscious attempt to control the reproduction of others to achieve a certain outcome. The article implies a subconscious aversion to a particular indicator about a potential partner. Animals follow indicators showing a partner's potential genetic worth all the time without being eugenicists.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:20 PM on June 16, 2010


You guys are overreacting to some of the language in the post. You've become obsessed with what you see as evo-psych overreaching and are having trouble seeing what's interesting about these findings. I'm not sure you even read the abstract.
posted by grobstein at 12:27 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why don't we get drunk and screw?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:28 PM on June 16, 2010


Why don't we get drunk and screw?

I second the motion. Shall we put it to a vote?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:42 PM on June 16, 2010


"What are you, high?"
"No, fertile."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:52 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


You guys are overreacting to some of the language in the post. You've become obsessed with what you see as evo-psych overreaching and are having trouble seeing what's interesting about these findings. I'm not sure you even read the abstract.
What do you think is the interesting thing about these findings?
posted by delmoi at 1:03 PM on June 16, 2010


You guys are overreacting to some of the language in the post. You've become obsessed with what you see as evo-psych overreaching and are having trouble seeing what's interesting about these findings. I'm not sure you even read the abstract.

My first reaction to this was, duh! Permissiveness and hedonism as opposed to authoritarianism and ascetism are characteristics of people's approaches to life. To say this is some sort of either consciously derived or unconsciously evolved pairing arsing because it enhances "fitness" is silly in the utmost. So, yeah, overreaching in so many ways.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:06 PM on June 16, 2010


Why don't we get drunk and screw?

I second the motion. Shall we put it to a vote?


Sorry.
Also, unexpected cover!
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 1:17 PM on June 16, 2010


To say this is some sort of either consciously derived or unconsciously evolved pairing arsing because it enhances "fitness" is silly in the utmost.

I don't think the researchers are really making any strong claims that way. They do point out that their model and their findings are consistent with an evolutionary model of moral psychology. But the interesting finding here -- that your preferred reproductive strategy predicts your attitudes toward drug use better than your political commitments do -- doesn't necessarily imply that evolutionary fitness per se determines any of those attitudes.
posted by twirlip at 1:42 PM on June 16, 2010


The article implies a subconscious aversion to a particular indicator about a potential partner. (Emphasis mine.)

The article implies no such thing. All that can be gleaned is that a) people don't want to settle down and have kids with drug addicts, and b) people don't want to settle down and have kids with promiscuous partners. That both those factors for mate selection tend to go together should be no surprise. Mightn't it be possible that people choose against drug users and sexually promiscuous persons because they might tend to make poor partners and/or parents?

(Also: While many animals may choose their mates--consciously or otherwise--purely for the purposes of procreation, human partner selection tends to be slightly more complicated than that. To reduce it to nothing but "evolutionary" selection would be, yes, eugenics.)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:49 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Those who overestimate the risks of drugs and sex will avoid them, those who underestimate the risks will indulge in them. Because risk evaluation is extremely complex there will be people who estimate and assign wildly different risk levels to different categories of activity, but on the average the difference between hedonistic and prudish behavior is nothing more than risk level assignment.

The hedonist routinely underestimates risks (hence is a less desirable child-rearing mate, but probably a lot more fun to be around), and the prude routinely overestimates them (hence is a less desirable companion for anything fun, be it sex, drugs, or even road trips to the museum, but probably a safer parent). Furthermore risk correlates with having something to lose: mostly, that's kids. This above all else the source of middle-age attitudinal shift, when "the broad mind and narrow waist change places". Those with the least to lose, ie those with no children and no "stake" in the world such as houses, jobs and businesses, will shift attitudes the least, on average. Once the kids (and the assets that have mainly been accumulated for their benefit) are no longer perceived to be at risk, the party animal may rear its head again: the mid-life crisis.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:32 PM on June 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


if they mean birth control is a recreational drug than maybe they have a point.
posted by Hammond Rye at 6:20 PM on June 16, 2010


This reminds me of an old article I read in The National Enquirer: "Evangelical Christians tend to have more children than Feminists; therefore, Feminism will soon die out completely, and Christianity will take over the earth."

(this article left out the part about tolerant cultures being more resilient, and intolerant cultures being more stagnant).
posted by ovvl at 7:57 PM on June 16, 2010


But to suggest that prohibitionism, something that's only been around culturally for a few hundred years is somehow an evolutionary adaptation is just crazy.

You forget that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) told us nearly 1400 years ago that alcohol is haram. And that women, outside the harem, must cover themselves, lest by their lewd display, they arouse men to sin.
posted by orthogonality at 10:23 PM on June 16, 2010


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