[ExI] IQ and beauty

Dan TheBookMan danust2012 at gmail.com
Mon Oct 12 00:14:32 UTC 2015

On Sat, Oct 10, 2015 at 2:16 PM, John Clark <johnkclark at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Sat, Oct 10, 2015  Dan TheBookMan <danust2012 at gmail.com> wrote:
>>  this is not to deny sexual selection.
> Then that is all that's needed, everything else follows logically.  If a
> makes a individual more attractive sexually but in all other areas of life
> (including the ability to live long enough to reproduce) that attribute is
> detrimental then the species is heading for trouble unless the female
> her felling about what is attractive and what is not.

You've again trimmed out context that would shed light on what your
interlocutor meant. I don't believe you want to make others look foolish
here. But please consider that cutting out some of the text in this
discussion makes it appear as if Rafal, Rex, etc. are making lame comments
while you're elucidating matters in a reasonable fashion.

Here, I wrote:

'The literature dealing specifically with the species under consideration,
for one. With regard to peafowl -- the classic textbook example used for
many lay discussions of sexual selection -- I cited field work that
questions some of the assumptions used to shoehorn (IMO) peafowl into
arguments about sexual selection.'

My point was and is not that sexual selection isn't operating anywhere or
doesn't explain anything but that without close empirical studies and some
degree of skepticism, one might all too easily accept that a given just so
story explains it all -- that one has achieved insight because one has
mastered a very simple model and dismisses the hard work of testing whether
it applies to real world examples, such as peafowl and elk.

Let me put this another way. One can easily have a model whereby all
celestial bodies move in circles. And one uses this model to explain all
celestial motion. Thus, when someone sees the orbit of Mars (or if one has
advanced enough equipment, any planet) moves in what seems to be a
non-circular orbit and others report comets and rocks falling from the sky,
one can dismiss them or simply sweep them under the rug because one has
read Copernicus and accepts the circular model, which works well enough and
seems unassailable -- except by data (and other arguments, of course). And
if everyone were satisfied with the circular model (and there are also
mathematical tools to make it stick, of course), then astronomy and physics
would be handicapped, shifted in the direction of justifying the circular
motion model because 'everything else follows logically' from it -- given
its assumptions.

>> It remains to be proved in this example that the enormous antlers were
>> in the environment they evolved under.
> Perhaps I missed it but I can't recall anyone suggesting that clumsy
heavy enormous
> antlers or gigantic gaudy spectacularly un-aerodynamic tails have any
function other
> than finding a mate.

We don't exactly know that the antlers were clumsy for the elk having them.
They weren't exactly observed dragging around clumsy antlers by ethologists
many thousands of years ago. It's easy to speculate that they were large to
intimidate other males. It's also easy to speculate they played a role in
intimidate whatever wanted to dine on the elk. (And the timing seems right
here that either hunting by humans proved their downfall or other changes
in their environment that had nothing to do with having big antlers did
them in. I'm familiar enough with this example to say whether either is
supported by what's known about them.)

As for peafowl, see the work I cited earlier.

>>> I personally have seen very few because the last Irish Elk died
>>> 7700 years ago and I was just a kid at the time. However it is
>>> very common for modern females to rebuff the advances of modern
>>> males and remained virgins, so I think it is reasonable to hypothesize
>>> that things may have been no different 7700 years ago.
>> While I'm no expert on elk, I'd like to know where you got that from?
>> What little I've read and seen on elks leads me to believe, perhaps
>> wrongly, that the males compete with each other for females
> I'm sure they do, but that would still be a form of sexual selection.

Yes, but it's not females then selecting males on the basis of larger
antlers. And it could be the case that a given female would mate with any
available male. So, the antlers may have served more for males to restrict
access to females -- with females not really deciding anything here. (In
fact, I've read of many species where females -- from cuttlefish to
waterfowl -- will mate with any available male -- cheating on the dominant
male, which shows much more complicated interactions here. In such a
regime, and this is simplifying things, it could be that the successful
male is either the socially dominant one -- e.g., the biggest, baddest,
strongest male -- or the more deceptive one -- e.g., one that would likely
back down or lose a fight with the dominant male but manages to get access
to females via trickery. And in these cases as I've read about it doesn't
seem like the females care either way. Of course, these cases need to be
studied more closely to make sure there isn't female choice involved. But
there's no reason to presume it simply to fit a crude model of sexual

>> that the antlers are used in male to male competition.
> I'm sure antlers are used in male in male to male fighting, but if that
> was there primary function antlers would be shaped more like a spear
> and less like a large blunt open hand. Antlers are like padded shoulders
> in a man's suit, they look nice but don't add any real muscle.

This is viewing the antlers as designed rather than evolved. In many male
to male competitions I've read about or seen,it seems often a display or a
low level of non-lethal violence is used to remove competitors from the
running. There might be something more complicated going on here, such as
-- and I'm speculating, but so are you -- a balance between competing for
mates now, surviving for the next mating season, and ending up as a meal
for a predator. At least, this might happen in some species. A way to test
this might be to look at species where males can live through several
breeding seasons versus ones with one breeding season lives. (Though that
wouldn't isolate for predation.)

> The horn on a rhinoceros is much smaller and less dramatic than the
> antlers on a Irish Elk, but it makes for a far better weapon. Apparently
> the female rhinoceros has a better rule of thumb to ascertain fitness in
> the male than the female Irish Elk does.  I'd say the same thing about
> the horns on a Triceratops, they could do more than just look nice.

There could be something else going on here, such as history. For instance,
why don't humans have horns or antlers? Either might come in handy for
intraspecies competition for mates and resources or defense against
predators. Well, it has more to do with humans not descending [closely]
from the same lineage as rhinos and elk.


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