Sunday, June 26, 2005

Love or something else?

for me, procrastination is one my favorite ways to revisit 'bonus' questions. these are things that bother me, niggle at my brain, challenge my thinking, or change shape when looked at sideways.

so today, in search of threads where random uberpeople critically evaluate social problems and deconstruct items of interest, I stumbled across this posting on a thread for 'science chix':

"Love. Is it pure fermones, hormones, particular brain activity for pure personal interests of any living organism, or is there something more magical going on?"

my cautious response [to another person's response and] to the initial question was:

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"---, Wrote:
in most other animals, isnt the parents roll just to make sure they survive? and dont we expect more from ours?"

well, nooo. the danger of setting an us-them dichotomy, in this case human-animal, is that you lose the gradations.

yes, there are many animal species where the 'parent' role is to ensure initial survival of their progeny. then there are many many species that survive by producing huge quantities of offspring or eggs with little care and having a small fraction survive to adulthood. but there are also a number of species that breeding infrequently, producing small numbers of young, but where the offspring are cared for for much longer periods of time.

some, in fact, do a much better job than a lot of humans do. usually this is something we only notice when the species become threatened and scientists are faced with the challenge of repopulating an animal that is slow-breeding with a long tutorial phase. elephants come to mind.

with regard to love, the trick is to decide whether to follow your evolutionarily-coded behaviors, 'higher' animal choices or create a happy compromise.

for example, men as a sex tend to seek out women with characteristics of fecundity like youth, beauty. women happily, in some ways, have a much broader palate as they are seeking good providers of any sort. so excellent humor, intelligence, strength etc may all contribute to make a guy 'hot' that, in photographic stills, is not so much attractive. examples: Serge Gainsbourg, incredibly hot and fascinated yet generally believed to be one of the ugliest men of his generation in France. Gary Burghoff, eg Radar O'Reilly, known to be a serious womanizer in spite of being not so nice, slight of frame and incredibly short.

sticking with a pattern defined by evolution and social history works for some people. but most of the healthy long-term relationships i know of, life-time marriages, have something else going. something stronger. this is where the magic comes in...

the chemical buzz dissipates, life is dirty and hard, and growth is sticky and gooey. partly these lifelong couples evince tenacity but also they have committed to actively maintaining and nurturing love. there always seems to be a point in their stories where neither person particularly liked the other, but they stuck it out because they knew they loved each other.

that point, the point of holding fast in spite of not being in like but only in love, is the point where two humans rise above their genetic coding, the animal. note, however, that this is different from staying together because '[insert religion, culture or family name] s don't divorce/give up.'

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this triggered a memory regarding a study evaluating the association between IQ and marriage. to sum up, men with high IQs were more likely to be married and women with high IQs were less likely to marry, specifically there was a 40% drop in marriage rate for women for each 16-point rise in IQ.

ABC news interpreted these results in the following way: "A high IQ is a hindrance for women wanting to get married while it is an asset for men, according to a study by four British universities." the Times Online stated that "Relationship experts say professional men prefer to marry women “like their mum” who will provide the domestic support while they go out to work. Women achievers, however, find it difficult to find men willing to sacrifice their careers to become house husbands."

this is interesting as one of the researchers posited that findings reflected the independence of smarter women with decreased need to 'settle' or be 'taken care of'. does this perhaps reflect an increased intolerance of mediocrity in their partners?

which takes us full circle back to evolutionarily-coded behaviors. are men, as a sex, really unwilling to allow their mates to shine? is this genetically coded, dooming women to cloak their intelligence or else live their lives alone? for that matter, can women really maintain successful relationships with non-dominant male partners without losing respect for them? are the study's findings the result of a couple hundred years of patriarchal society and defined gender roles? in which case, can men and women as a whole choose to not be define by societal gender roles? are the examples we see of non-traditional successes a glimpse into a potential 'brave new world' or are they aberrant outliers?

it is an interesting question. perhaps in another 50-100 years we will have an answer. what do you think?

3 comments:

Jacob said...

I dont think those questions can ever be answered 'cause it's so very hard to quantify and qualify the contrast of animal-survival-behavior and human-beauty love...

but then again I'm cheesy.

red_from_myspace said...

No, the scientists are misintrepreting the data. Smart women don't get married as often as ... other women because they see through the game :D and they hold out for a better deal - or they're smart enough to decide for themselves if they want it.

Eric said...

love of course is a hard thing to define...

-who- we love of is somewhat based on our personalities which are so strongly shaped by the parental/cultural environments we grow up in... that which makes us all unique! but there are certainly some unknown magical sparks (not necessarily chemical-based?) floating around in us too. the fun stuff! this and that and throw in a couple mushysonglonglyrics and that's love. yep. there ya go.

i didn't really like the sound of the interpretation by ABC and the Times.. i'd assume that potentially women with higher IQs have higher self-esteem and therefore less of a need for outside acknowledgment. as the one researcher noted "a decreased need to 'settle' or be 'taken care of'". sounds right.

i don't believe men are genetically coded to slow down their mate's progress... but men have always been the physically stronger sex and manythousands of years of dominance in culture are hard to reprogram. i think if you found a way to negate the physical strength issue and got rid of all prior social learning, you'd see a big change in stereotypical personalities and then overall culture of course. perfect equality! brave new world? yep. that's it! wow! so simple! see.

can women maintain respect for non-dominant males? ...as most things i think it depends on the people involved. ::nod:: but overall as a society though... hmmm..

i want a cookie.