[ExI] Left Behind

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Sun May 24 01:43:47 UTC 2009

2009/5/24 Harvey Newstrom <mail at harveynewstrom.com>:
> "Jef Allbright" <jef at jefallbright.net> wrote,
>> The first was a post by Robin Hanson to LessWrong, raising the
>> question among the experts (nerds) there of why masturbation is so
>> frequent when its evolutionary signaling power is impaired by its not
>> being public.
> Ack!  I always cringe when people ask anthropomorphic questions about
> evolution.
> Evolution is not a conscious process that tries to increase reproduction
> rates and the survival of genes.  Evolution is a random mutation process
> with no goals.  It is merely a statistical side-effect that random mutations
> increasing reproductive rates tend to out-complete less reproductive
> mutations.  Therefore, it is a mistake to ask why evolution did something or
> didn't do something.  These things happen randomly.  The real question we
> should ask is if a particular mutation increases or decreases reproduction
> rates.  Rephrasing the question to a non-anthropomorphic form usual
> clarifies the situation.
> In this case, we shouldn't ask why masturbation evolved to feel good.  It
> simply was a random mutation that caused genitals to feel pleasure when
> stimulated.  From that starting point, it is obvious why this mutation would
> lead to both increased reproduction and increased masturbation, since both
> feel good.
> A related question, that Robin may have been implying, is why didn't
> evolution produce genitals that feel pleasure during reproductive sex but do
> not feel pleasure during nonreproductive sex.  This would have required a
> much more complex mutation to detect and distinguish between fertile and not
> fertile stimulation of the genitals.  Statistically speaking, the simpler
> mutation that leads to both reproduction and masturbation would likely have
> evolved first.  Since most animals will not choose masturbation over a
> chance sexual encounter, the later mutation would probably not have
> increased reproductive rates anyway.  It would have required more complexity
> for no added reproductive rate.

And this is also why there isn't necessarily an explanation for
everything in terms of evolutionary psychology.

Stathis Papaioannou

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