Friday, November 2, 2007

Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters

If someone asked you to define evolutionary psychology, would you be able to do it? I wouldn't have either, but I have a better idea now after reading this book. "Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters" by Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa called out to me because of it's provocative title. It's a Evolutionary Psychology for Dummies handbook, answering questions about human behavior using theories based on this new brand of science. Evolutionary psychology explains human behavior through evolution. Why do men go after younger women? Because they have greater reproductive possibilities, making it possible for men to pass on their genes more successfully. Why are men more violent and predisposed to crime than women? Because their neanderthal ancestors had to compete for mates, making them violent and thus stronger and more appealing to the females. Does the media perpetuate the Barbie image, making women seek after an impossible ideal? Nope, we evolved that way, desiring blonde, curvy, young images on ourselves and others. The media didn't make this an issue any more than our desiring food only because the media bombards us with McDonalds ads.

The authors keep stating over and over again that all because it's true doesn't make it right, that you shouldn't put these ideas into a moral context. The evidence is convincing, but it doesn't excuse bad behavior, or good even. People are more than their evolutionary urges. And the authors don't come across as justifying behaviors, just explaining them. I have my own beliefs on these topics, but I found this book fascinating and thought-provoking, which is really what you want in a book.

By the way, I'm cheating by saying I read this book, when really I skimmed. I read all the theories and introductions, but the book is set up in a question-answer format, so I just picked the more intriguing questions to read. And why do beautiful people have more daughters? Well, that's based on the Standard Social Science Model and a bunch of other stuff that took me a while to understand, so I'm not going to venture into explaining it here. But you should read it, just to have a conversation starter.


  1. It sounds very interesting. Can't wait to stump our librarians with this one.

  2. Fun Post! I will have to take a skim.