I’m what you might call an ‘evolution agnostic.’ A lot of it makes sense to me, but I hesitate to accept it as indisputable fact (a nod to my unflinching skepticism of human understanding). I know that a number of ultra-conservative evangelicals (many in the Texas textbook industry) like to deny evolution outright; they pit creationism squarely against evolution, as if they were mutually exclusive. I personally think that’s the wrong way to go…these paradigms can be mutually reinforcing, in fact. [More on this in a moment]
I especially enjoy evolution’s take on modern human interaction, particularly between men and women. And here, it’s no surprise that men are more…how should I put this, primitive. Just a cursory glance at your local, run-of-the-mill supermarket magazine aisle tells you all you need to know.
According to David Buss, author of The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating, men are genetically predisposed to crave “variety”
They’ve evolved the desire to be with different women. That’s because it’s very simple for men to reproduce (one act of sex versus nine months of pregnancy for women), so to create as many offspring as possible, they’re biologically programmed to mate with many women. The ‘payoff’ in reproductive currencies [kids] of a short-term mating strategy generally has been higher for men than women. So after thousands of generations, this has forged in the male brain a desire for sexual variety.
What does this mean for unfaithful boyfriends and husbands? YAY! A built-in excuse! “Sorry honey, I’m biologically programmed to want more reproductive currency. Brendan and Katie just aren’t enough.”
At which point, women are genetically programmed to say: “Fuck you, you dirty, no-good son-of-a-whore. I’ll see you in court. I’m taking you for everything you’ve got.”
Charles Darwin would be so, so proud.
Look, a lot of this is nonsense. Statistics show, (though it’s hard to believe sometimes) that the majority of men don’t cheat. In other words, we’re not slaves to our genomes and the above excuse will not fly in modern parlance. Sorry, Tiger.
At best, an evolutionary lens of the world is an amusing way to explain some of the more bizarre phenomena we encounter as a human species.
We humans like to think highly of ourselves. When we see two dogs sniffing each others’ genitalia, we’re filled with species superiority, aren’t we?
But if you think about it objectively, what dogs do makes a whole heck of a lot more sense than what we humans do.
Take kissing, for example. Where did that come from? What function does that serve? An exchange of saliva does nothing but increase the likelihood of bacterial and viral transmission. Like the male nipple, evolution has failed to explain this strange and uniquely human behavior.
Think back to the last time you were on an awkward date or having one of those awkward conversations filled with awkward silences. What do we do in those moments of awkwardness? Our mouths find a way to fill the deadness with some banal activity. Some people hum or whistle. Others occupy their mouths with food while they scramble to think of what else to say. The saddest lot end up saying hilariously useless things like, “So, what did you eat for lunch yesterday? Oh really? How about dinner?” I myself have been on horrific dates where I ramble on and on about my relationship with my mom… JUST to avoid the awkward silence.
[One thing I’ll never understand about married couples: HOW DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING LEFT TO TALK ABOUT?]
Now extrapolate that by a thousand and you might have an idea of what life was like for Adam and Eve. At some point, they HAD to have run out of things to talk about, right? Since they didn’t have anyone to gossip about, or career aspirations to discuss, or annoying in-laws to complain about, or songs to hum to…I’m sure they invented the kiss to give their mouths something to do. It just makes sense in every feasible way. The kiss was born out of boredom and was passed down to us as an adaptive behavior countering the negative effects of awkward silences.
So there it is. Creationism and evolution doing their own mating ritual to give us the origins and evolution of the kiss. What does this mean for me in the 21st century?
The next time I’m talking with a girl at a bar and she starts to blather on about what she had for breakfast, I’m going to stop her and say, “Sorry to interrupt miss, but I believe that this may be a better use of our time…”
But I’ll only do it if she has child-bearing hips.