Played by Evolution

The motivations of those who think most harshly of abortion, homosexuality, transsexuals, and so on, are enacting the harshest strategies for species survival and growth of a process they don’t believe in: evolution. Happiness and well-being of actual living individual human beings have nothing to do with it.

Here’s just one example, that I noted today because of its relevance to the Salon article below. There are lots of stories like this about outrageous things said (mostly) by Christians that aren’t big enough for major news outlets, but which are picked up by special interest venues like this one.

LGBTQnation, 20 July 2022: Christian candidate says doctors who help trans kids should be hung “from the nearest tree”

Subtitled: “Alisabeth Janai Lancaster is campaigning for a school board position on ‘Judeo-Christian values and beliefs,’ which for her includes killing doctors.”

This is in Florida. There are many, many stories like this, some of them evidence of wackos like this one, others relatively benign concerning states (Florida) that merely make it illegal to discuss certain things rather than calls for mass murder of those. The wackos are invariably Christians.


Here’s a nuanced piece analyzing the motivations for such thinking. It’s nominally about abortion, but also conservative attitudes in general.

Salon, Jaimie Arona Krems and Martie Haselton, 20 Jul 2022: What really drives anti-abortion beliefs? Research suggests it’s a matter of sexual strategies.

Subtitled: “There’s an interesting evolutionary benefit for some women if the consequences of casual sex are high”

An evolutionary perspective suggests that common explanations are not the genuine drivers of people’s attitudes – on either side of the abortion debate.

In fact, people’s stated religious, political and ideological explanations are often rife with awkward contradictions. For example, many who oppose abortion also oppose preventing unwanted pregnancy through access to contraception.

From an evolutionary perspective, such contradictions are easily resolved. Sexually restricted people benefit from increasing the costs of sex. That cost increases when people cannot access legal abortions or prevent unwanted pregnancy.

An evolutionary perspective also makes unique – often counterintuitive – predictions about which attitudes travel together. This view predicts that if sexually restricted people associate something with sexual freedoms, they should oppose it.

Indeed, researchers have found that sexually restricted people oppose not only abortion and birth control, but also marriage equality, because they perceive homosexuality as associated with sexual promiscuity, and recreational drugs, presumably because they associate drugs like marijuana and MDMA with casual sex. We suspect this list likely also includes transgender rights, public breastfeeding, premarital sex, what books children read (and if drag queens can read to them), equal pay for women, and many other concerns that have yet to be tested.


This turns out to be a fairly particular example of what I see as a broader issue, namely, the peoples’ moralistic attitudes aren’t driven by words in some holy books. Rather, attitudes today, and attitudes of the people who wrote those holy books, unconsciously reflect practices that favor reproduction and thus survival of the species. Or at least in this case above — survival of a particular tribe within a species. They’re doing evolution, even when they don’t understand or believe in it.

This Salon piece does answer one pickle: why would the same conservatives who worry about “replacement theory” and the diminishment of the white race worry so much about the abortions sought mostly by minorities? Preventing those abortions would just expand the minority population and further diminish the white proportion, right? Well, but this piece suggests it’s not so much about the actual population, but by the attitudes between the “sexually restricted” and those who, as perceived, are not.

The broader issue is: if your morality is driven — as it was three thousand years ago among those who wrote the Old Testament — by obsession with keeping the tribe alive, and growing it if possible, you would do everything you could to discourage non-reproductive behavior (homosexuality, even masturbation), and encourage reproductive behavior (even between a widow and her brother-in-law, to take one Biblical example). Happiness of people involved isn’t the issue. Which is why conservatives these days seem intent on making as many people unhappy as possible. They can’t escape the reproductive priorities built into human nature over hundreds of thousands of years living in tribes on the African savannas. Part of a process, ironically, they don’t “believe” in. They are being played.

Human “morality” evolved for reasons. And unfortunately those reasons have mostly gone away in the modern world, full of eight billion of us. Humanity has over-reproduced itself itself and needs to hold or even trim its numbers lest we destroy the planet. This can be explained. But conservatives, by definition, resist change. And so.


Reality is what, even if you don’t believe in it, doesn’t go away. (My slight paraphrase of a quote by Philip K. Dick.)

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