Punching Darwin’s Lights Out
Story about human sexual dimorphism backfires on Darwin, ricochets onto transgenders.
Men are better fist-fighters. So what else is new? What’s new is a new evolutionary tale that will make some culture warriors angry. This sexual-selection story came from Darwinians at the University of Utah:
Elk have antlers. Rams have horns. In the animal kingdom, males develop specialized weapons for competition when winning a fight is critical. Humans do too, according to new research from the University of Utah. Males’ upper bodies are built for more powerful punches than females’, says the study, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, suggesting that fighting may have long been a part of our evolutionary history.
“In mammals in general,” says U professor David Carrier of the School of Biological Sciences, “the difference between males and females is often greatest in the structures that are used as weapons.”
Aha! So men and women are real after all. The differences are so strong, a transgender man would not be able to punch as good as a real man, and a biological male will always outcompete a woman in activities that involve upper-body strength and stance and fist power.
Twenty men and 19 women participated. “We had them fill out an activity questionnaire,” Morris says, “and they had to score in the ‘active’ range. So, we weren’t getting couch potatoes, we were getting people that were very fit and active.”
But even with roughly uniform levels of fitness, the males’ average power during a punching motion was 162% greater than females’, with the least-powerful man still stronger than the most powerful woman.
So there is evidence that men and women are really different (for those who haven’t noticed). But what’s evolution got to do with it? At that point, the scientists leave empiricism behind and go into their Darwin trance.
“It evolves slowly,” he says, “and this is a dramatic example of sexual dimorphism that’s consistent with males becoming more specialized for fighting, and males fighting in a particular way, which is throwing punches.”
They didn’t find the same magnitude of difference in overhead pulling strength, lending additional weight to the conclusion that males’ upper body strength is specialized for punching rather than throwing weapons.
This makes no sense. Fists are not good for fighting lions and mammoths; a spear would be much more useful. So what is more likely to evolve, something that allows you to eat another day, or something for the rare, occasional cave brawl? Undoubtedly, if the evidence were reversed, these Darwinists would have a just-so story to explain that, too.
Everyone can see sexual dimorphism. It’s all over the place (peacocks being the classic example). Yes, we all know that men tend to be stronger than women with equally active lifestyles (hastening to add that fighting is not necessarily the best measure of worth for either sex). But why must there be an evolutionary story behind it? Maybe they were created that way from the beginning.
The paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology by Morris et al. attributes the difference to evolution:
The results of this study add to a set of recently identified characters indicating that sexual selection on male aggressive performance has played a role in the evolution of the human musculoskeletal system and the evolution of sexual dimorphism in hominins.
Punching the Lights Out of Logic
With this statement, they leave empirical science behind and hallucinate on Darwine. No matter what we observe in people, the Stuff Happens Law will guarantee a storytelling plot. If men sprouted antlers, Darwin did it. If men shrunk to become helpless miniature sperm donors (like some species of fish), Darwin did that, too. If women ate men (like some female spiders do to males), Darwin did it. If women threw better punches, or if men were more nurturing to the young—or anything else—Darwin would be the default explanation. Why didn’t men use their bigger brains to design better traps and catapults instead of punching the lights out of every rival? Maybe they evolved fists to pound clay, and fighting was an exaptation. Or, men could have just left the nest, and let the women “develop” bigger fists for protection. Just-so storytelling is fun! Everyone can do it. Here’s our suggestion: “Darwinists evolved fists to fight straw men.”
Another flaw in the theory is the ghost of Lamarckism. Did male hominins strive to be stronger in fist fights, like Lamarck argued about giraffes stretching their necks to reach the leaves of the trees? Did boys gain their fists by inheritance of acquired characteristics, or the law of use and disuse?
Classic Darwinians will respond that if men didn’t have bigger fists, they would have lost the fight and not reproduced. But that answer says nothing about how strong fists originated. It’s like the anthropic principle in astronomy: ‘If the universe were not fine-tuned for life, we wouldn’t be here to worry about the question.’ That kind of answer is a dodge. The fact is, the universe is fine-tuned, and men are physically stronger than women. Those observations call for an explanation better than ‘stuff happens.’
There’s also a bigger logical flaw in the story. If the evolutionists actually believed it, they would have to confess that fist fights are good. On what basis can they argue that men should learn to live peaceable lives? Under the heading “Breaking a legacy of violence,” one of the authors says,
It’s an uncomfortable thought to consider that men may be designed for fighting. That doesn’t mean, however, that men today are destined to live their ancestor’s violent lives.
“Human nature is also characterized by avoiding violence and finding ways to be cooperative and work together, to have empathy, to care for each other, right?” Carrier says. “There are two sides to who we are as a species. If our goal is to minimize all forms of violence in the future, then understanding our tendencies and what our nature really is, is going to help.”
Nice as this sounds, it is ridiculous for a Darwinian. Why should any man fight what natural and sexual selection made him to be? Look at the morality words: cooperative, together, empathy, right, care. Look at the planning words: goal, understanding, help, minimize. If men are products of selfish genes, they have no choice in the matter. They do what their genes determine.
In addition, fighting and cooperating are equally valid behaviors in Darwinism. No Darwinist can sit with a Yoda complex above it all and judge that the peaceful man is ‘better’ than the fighter. A violent man in 1859 could have punched Darwin’s lights out and then pounded his chest like a gorilla. He would be the evolutionary success, not Darwin. Having demonstrated his superior fitness, the fighter could pass on his genes, and nobody could complain about it. Would Morris et al. be aghast if that had happened? Would they be aghast if a criminal did that to them now?
If fact, one could conclude that Jeremy Morris and his three storytelling accomplices are trying to prove their own fitness by writing this paper. They don’t really mean a word they say. Their selfish genes made them write a paper full of Jargonwocky, signifying nothing. It was all done to attract mates.
More Sexual Contortions
In another Darwin storytelling piece, Andrew Barron at New Scientist announces, “Same-sex attraction isn’t an evolutionary paradox – here’s why.” With this “I am not a crook” opening, Barron shows Darwinism’s ability to explain anything with the Stuff Happens Law, even why natural selection would select for non-reproducers.
An important aspect of recent human evolution has been selection to be proactively social: prosociality. If survival and reproduction depend on being part of a functional social group (as was the case for early humans and our primate ancestors), individuals that are highly prosocial can rapidly integrate into a group, operate better within a group and have greater mobility between groups. Selection for prosociality has resulted in a whole range of traits for greater social awareness and tolerance, better social communication and reduced aggression. This includes an expanded role for sex in social contexts that include adult social bonding, adult play and conflict resolution. That applies to both gay and straight sex.
Oh my, all those millions of years of evolving fists for nothing. Does anybody not believe that Andrew Barron is trying to be politically correct? It’s easy to go with the flow for a Darwinian, because the Stuff Happens Law is so flexible. Another thing that would be harder for him is to explain why aggression is bad, and why tolerance is good. As for cooperation, Darwinism produced both loners and social butterflies. Question: which one is more fit? Answer: neither, because stuff happens.
This is the quicksand pit that Darwinians fall into, if they think about their own theory. But the fact that they can think about matters of fact and morality defeats Darwinism at square one. Thoughts are not matters of physical processes. They are matters of truth vs error, and right vs wrong. Those things did not evolve by natural selection, and cannot evolve, or else they cease to be true.
Creation provides a much more satisfying explanation for male/female differences. We were designed for equally-valuable and complementary roles. Men were designed to be providers and protectors, and women were designed to bear and nurture the young and bring grace and beauty to the world. That is certainly not all: there are innumerable strengths and graces that each gender contributes, many of them overlapping (for instance, in music or some sports and occupations). Neither is more valuable than the other, but both are necessary for a functioning human family and society.