Re: how many bastards are there, anyway?

Scott C DeLancey (
16 Aug 1996 17:22:51 -0700

In article <4v04vv$>,
sgf <> wrote:
>" What motivation could the women in B and B's study have for
>cuckolding their husbands at arate of one in ten? Matt Ridley interprets
>their case in stark sociobiological terms, citing the work of Anders
>Moller.[3] Moller, a zoologist, has found that the more physically
>attractive a male swallow is, the less parental investment he makes in
>his offspring; female swallows are thus encouraged to find a
>mediocre-looking but caring partner and to cuckold him. Humans may do
>this too, Ridley suggests -- a woman may marry a rich but ugly man but
>take a handsome lover. But what he does not explain is why a woman would
>wish to concieve by her handsome lover. Surely her children would be
>better off, in a society that ultimately values wealth, having the genes
>of the rich man. It may be that people and society are inclear about
>what they value most; nevertheless, it seems unlikely that B and B's
>one-in-ten cuckoo-in-the-nest children can be explained in purely
>sociobiological terms.

This argument seems to assume more conscious calculation than is
necessarily involved. In evolutionary terms, conceiving by a
sexually attractive mate is its own reward--if your descendants
inherit some of this sexual attractiveness, then they have greater
reproductive fitness, so your genes are hitching a ride on the
attractiveness of your mate.
So we don't have to imagine women thinking through the fitness
calculations, and saying,"Well, my sons and grandsons will be better
off with X feature than with Y"--evolution predisposes each of
us to find certain features sexually attractive, and our response
to that is to be interested in them sexually. If what turns us
on also turns many of our conspecifics on, then our attraction,
if it leads to mating and reproduction, itself increases the
reproductive fitness of our line.

Scott DeLancey