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Romantic love “evolved” to prevent infanticide? Can someone please pull the chain on evolutionary psychology?


From Phoebe Weston at the Daily Mail:

Falling in love is one of life’s great mysteries, but now scientists believe this strange feeling could be key to our evolutionary success.

For the first time researchers have found evidence ‘selection promoted love in human evolution’ as it increased the chances of us having families.

Scientists studied the Hadza people of Tanzania, who don’t use modern contraception, and found passionate partnerships were associated with having more children.

It follows previous research that found love may have evolved to stop male primates from killing their infants. More.

From the human history for which we actually have a good deal of evidence (not just from a small, outlier group), “passionate partnerships” were not the main reason people found themselves having children together. It takes a long time and many resources to raise children, including resources provided by many people other than the parents. It was always nice if parents loved each other but whether they did or not, they owed successors to their ancestors.

Only very recently has modern technology enabled people in many human groups to marry and divorce and have children or abort them for romantic love. And it may not last.

It’s a strange world in which so many educated people appear not to even know that. And not to even guess that the tsunami of romantic literature from the past represents an aspiration, not a reality: Most people married the people they needed to marry and had the children they needed to have. If they were lucky. The alternatives (ostracism, loss of rank, banishment, death, children’s deaths) were hardly attractive.

Also, if “love may have evolved to stop male primates from killing their infants,” why did most large, known societies manage to get rid of “male primates” (sociopathic loners?) while following marriage customs that granted very limited leeway for “passionate partnerships”?

Recommended reading around here is Australian philosopher David Stove’s (1927–1994) Darwinian Fairy-tales, which punctures many such myths.

Evolutionary psychology was born and raised in tabloid mags catering to people who suffer from historical amnesia, and it shows.

See also: Evolutionary psychology’s greatest contribution to research is as a line item expense . It would generate more Sokal hoaxes if anyone cared.


“The evolutionary psychologist knows why you vote — and shop, and tip at restaurants”

Back in grad school, I had an international student friend from India. One day toward the end of the fall term, he told me that he would probably be married by the time he came back in January. He didn't know who she would be, but he said his family had been working on it. Sure enough, January rolls around, and Sam shows back up with wedding pictures. His new bride, whom he had never met until right before the wedding, was still back in India, finishing up her medical degree. By the way, Sam was a Christian with Christian parents. OldArmy94
Family size only increased after humans began herding and farming. Agriculture increased the amount of food available and created a situation where increased food production required increased numbers of laborers (e.g., child = laborer). But Romantic Love is VERY modern, and also very Western. There are stories every day about arranged marriages amongst Moslems and Hindus. Romance had nothing to do with marriage for most of human history, and of course marriage is itself VERY modern. Do these "researchers" just make this stuff up after a weekend of heavy drinking? vmahuna
This is nonsense. The Bushmen of the Kalahari, and probably most other hunter-gather folk, have a rule that runs something like "one walks, and one is carried". What this means is that since the guys and gals don't directly associate, um, "cuddling" with the eventual birth of a baby, they use a more practical approach: on any given day a mother may have 2 total children. One of these children MUST be able to walk sufficiently well to keep up with the manpack when it changes campsites. Her second child may be too young to walk continuously for several hours and have to be carried (by the mother). If a second child arrives before child #1 can walk like an adult (and therefore has to be carried at least part of the time), the second child dies. Typically, child #2 is abandoned at the old campsite when the manpack moves on. Other groups have a rule along the lines: your first SURVIVING child MUST be male. So if your firstborn is a girl, she dies. Perhaps by smothering or neglect, but she dies. Even if the aunts and sisters have to "help" the new mom. But there isn't anything like modern "wed for life" marriage. A guy notices that a girl is cuter than the last time he saw her (or a girl notices a guy). They, um, "bump uglies". The Earth Mother then sends the girl a baby. During the previous 9 months, mom noticed another guy who was hot. So she's now snuggling with him. Everybody is cool with that. The Celts had a number of different kinds of "marriage", including 1 Year Marriage. A 1 Year Marriage automatically ended on its anniversary, but could be extended year-by-year indefinitely. Property rights and defense of the woman's person and her offspring are MUCH more important in formal marriages than "romantic love". Marriage for romantic love is VERY modern and VERY Western. Amongst Moslems, the husband never even SEES his wife until AFTER the wedding ceremony. All of these things have worked fine for millennia. vmahuna
Just so. jstanley01
First, I would not trust the accuracy of anything written about science in the Daily Mail. Second, this sounds like an adaptationist account of the origins of romantic love. How do they exclude the possibility that accidental variations in brain chemistry meant that some individuals felt a stronger more passionate attraction to members of the opposite sex. That meant they had sex more often and that, in turn, produced more children than from individuals with less drive. That led to the spread of romantic love throughout the population over time. Seversky

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