Bookcover - The Red Queen

The Red Queen

by Matt Ridley

Rating: 8/10


Science writers become accustomed to the feeling that they are intellectual plagiarists, raiding the minds of those who are to busy to tell the world of their discoveries.

Chapter 1 - Human Nature

The ability to reproduce is what makes living things different from rocks.

Of Nature and Nurture

Every living thing is "designed" quite unconsciously by the selective reproduction of its own acestors to suit a particular lifestyle.

You are descended not from your mother, but from her ovary.

The Individual in Society

In behavior, as in appearance, every human individual is unique.

How can there be a universal, species-specific human nature when every human being is unique?

The genetic differences between the average members of different races are tiny and mostly confined to a few genes that affect skin colour, physiognomy or physique.

Ours to Reason Why?

The complexity of sexual attraction implied that it is designed for genetic trade.

It is always worth asking the question: Why?

Every living creature is a product of its past.

Of Conflict and Cooperation

In history, and in evolution, progress is always a futile, Sisyphean struggle to stay in the same relative place by getting ever better at things.

That's exactly what David Deutsch means by beginning of Infinity. The capabilities become ever greater in an upwards spiral of growth, but there will always remain problems, caused by the previous generation's solutions, leading to the need to invent new solutions. It's the same in evolution.

Every creature on earth is in a Red Queen chess tournament with its parasites (or hosts), its predators (or prey) and, above all, with its mate.

Marriage teeters on the line between a co-operative venture and a form of mutual exploitation.

To Choose

Anything that increases reproductive success will spread at the expense of anything that does not - even if it threatens survival.

Chapter Summary:

Organisms live in a constant struggle with their also evolving environment, consisting of a lot of other animals, it's like two countries stockpiling ever greater arsenals. Counterintuitively they are in this Red Queen struggle with members of the other sex, essentially, they want different things and try to exploit the other member of the species for their genes good, leading to an arms race between the genders. This arms race shapes the way animals look, and behave. And that includes humans. Humans are the way they are right now, because of this ongoing evolutionary struggle. Even though there is this underlying human nature, culture, which is influenced by this underlying nature, can change aspects of it. As well as individuality, both on the side of genetic changes, as well as on the side of experiential changes. In this regard, humans are somewhat unique, because they can look back at their evolutionarily programmed behavior and decide to overwrite those tendencies, producing new behavior. But even this form of high level intellect, has been selected for in the first place because of the ongoing Red Queen game of evolution, and has been shaped by sexual selection in turn as well. So humans are the way they are, because they evolved that way - sprinkled with some emergent phenomena, properties that arise from that complex dynamic system - such as society, ideas etc. that in turn intermix their effects with the strictly evolutionary ones.

Chapter 2 - The Enigma

From Ladder to Treadmill

What is the purpose of sex?

Why must a baby be the product of two people? Why not three, or one?

Sex is not about reproduction, gender is not about males and females, courtship is not about persuasion, fashion is not about beauty, and love is not about affection.

Pregnant Virgins

Of Sex and Free Trade

Sex is recombination plus outcrossing.

Evolving is not a goal but a means to solving a problem.

Mankind's Greatest Rival is Mankind

We use our intellect not to solve practical problems, but to outwit each other.

Animal altruism is a myth; even in the most spectacular cases of selflessness, it turns out that animals are serving the selfish interests of their genes.

The Rediscovery of the Individual

Book Recommendation - Adaptation and Natural Selection by George Williams

The central question building up - the enigma the chapter refers to is - how can sex confer an advantage to the individual over an individual that is reproducing strictly asexual?

Provocation by Ignorance

The Master-copy Theory

Cameras and Ratchets

Chapter Summary:

Explains the core enigma of sex, namely what advantage does it have for the individual, over simply reproducing much faster asexually? Why don't genes of asexual mutant spread through the gene pool immediately and quickly once they arise? Then an introduction of different ideas of how to solve the enigma of sex:

  • the molecular biologist, geneticist and ecologist approach.

Chapter Three - The Power of Parasites

The Art of Being Slightly Different

If your young are going to have to travel abroad, then it is better that they vary, because abroad may not be like home.

Sex is about creating variety because in a changing environment that variety means a higher chance of having offspring that is extremely well suited to the new environment. And therefore there is a huge benefit to individuals who can have sex. They can have very few, but very good offspring instead of a large multitude of only average offspring.

The Tangled Bank

Yet it is stasis, not change, that is the hallmark of evolution.

Evolution depends on the fact that it fails.

The Red Queen

Survival is a Zero Sum Game.

Red Queen theories hold that the world is competitive to the death.

Parasites are the driving mechanism of a Red Queen theory of evolution. They are the largest hindrance to survival for individuals and therefore the thing most adaptations go towards. Often unnoticed. They are also the reason for sex, since that allows faster reshuffling of genes. Since parasites themselves adapt it is an ever evolving arms race. The Red Queen at work.

Battles of Wit

Artificial Viruses

The notion of a host-parasite arms race is one of the most basic and unavoidable consequences of evolution.

In about ten years , the genes of the AIDS virus change as much as human genes changed ten million years.

Picking DNA's locks

Parasites invent new keys; hosts change the locks.

Sex is reshuffling biological "locks" i.e. binding proteins on cell surfaces. Since parasites adapt so quickly, last generations locks are worthless, so the new generation should get a new set of locks, that's part of the purpose of sex.

The Similarity between Sex and Vaccination

Bill Hamilton and Parasite Power

Computer simulation of two reproducing species can act as a model of the Red Queen theory, the sexual species only outcompetes the other in the presence of parasites.

Sex at Altitude

At higher altitudes sex disappears, because mutation becomes more likely and hence mutation can shuffle genes around, instead of sex.

Sexless snails

Sex keeps the parasite guessing.

The Search for Instability

The Riddle of the Rotifer

Sex is about disease. It is used to combat the threat from parasites. Organisms need sex to keep their genes one step ahead of their parasites. Men are not redundant after all;they are woman's insurance policy against her children being wiped out by influenza and smallpox.

The chapter ends with a very interesting, cliff hanger question: why, if sex is there to prevent parasites to pick genetic protein locks, are there exactly two sexes in most species?! It rules out 50% of the population as potential partners, whereas more sexes would rule out less and less of the population? What's the advantage?

Chapter 4 - Genetic Mutiny and Gender

Why are people not Hermaphrodites?

Just as human society is an uneasy coexistence of free Enterprise and social cooperation, so is the activity of genes within a body. Without cooperation the town would not be a community.

Natural Selection means the enhanced survival of genes that enhance their survival.

The line between a rogue gene and an infectious virus is a blurry one.

Nobody is Descended from Abel

My question if there exists a CRISPR style gene/chromosome has been answered now. And the answer is yes, there are and they are called meiotic drives.

Genes that foil meiotic drivers will spread as surely as meitoic drivers will spread. A Red Queen Race is the result.

In Praise of Unilateral Disarmament

Sex by fusion leads to the organisms having two genders, one that donates the organelles and the other which doesn't. Since genes would wear wars of attrition for being the ones in the new organism, a semistable equilibrium evolves. A 50/50 split of genes which forfeit their organelles (sperms/males) and those which don't (eggs/females)

Safe Sex Tips for Sperm

If your host is going to die, you had better multiply as fast as possible.

Decision Time

Male killer genes are better in fusion sex in a hermaphrodite population but after they killed enough males, female killing genes become popular, hence the sexes start to separate out from a pure hermaphrodite starting population, because of the fight over organelles.

We are stuck with two genders.

The Case of the Immaculate Turkey

The whole species becomes parthenogenic for as many generations as the bacterium is there. Treat the wasps with an antibiotic and, lo and behold, two genders reappear among the offspring. Penicillin cures virgin birth.

Similar example of only girls being born in human family. Probably a variant or parasite! that made all embryos of the women females.

The Alphabetical Battle of the Lemmings

Chromosomes can alter the sex ratio in populations and often have an evolutionary advantage in doing so. Even if the species goes extinct because of it, tragedy of the commons doesn't matter for the single genes involved.

Ways of Choosing Gender

Indeed, no biologist has a watertight explanation of why alligators, crocodiles and turtles employ this technique.

Mystery, why don't birds and mammals choose the genders in such a way that their offspring can benefit from it? I.e. larger ones having higher chance of being male? How does this work recursively? I.e. how is it different if males are generally larger? Which caused which?

Primogeniture and Primatology

Think of it as a competition to have the most grandchildren.

Parents in good conditions have probably male biased litters.

Local Resource Competition Model

High rank leads to a sex bias in favour of the gender that does not leave at puberty.

Do Dominant Women Have Sons?

Selling Gender

You can't breed for subordinate cows. You just create a new hierarchy and reset the thermostat.

Reason's Convergent Conclusion

Chapter 5 - The Peacock's Tale

Much of human nature can be explained by sexual selection.

Is Love Rational?

Males invest less and seek quantity of mates, while females invest more and seek quality of mates.

Males act as a kind of genetic sieve.

Males evolved long tails to charm females. Females evolved the ability to be charmed to be sure of picking the best males.

Ornaments and Choosiness

To Win or to Woo

Females choose; their choosiness is inherited; they prefer exaggerated ornaments; exaggerated ornaments are a burden to males.

Despotic Fashions

Running out of Genes

Lek Paradox - a lek is a kind of display of males for females to choose from, the best male gets the most females, this selection process over only modest amount of generations would thin out the gene pool quite severely, yet this is not what happens - this is the Lek Paradox - the big question is - why doesn't it happen?

Montagues and Capulets

Is choosing cheap?

If the goal is to have the sexiest son in the next generation, then one way of doing that is to mate with the sexiest husband; a second way is to prevent other females mating with the sexiest husband.

Ornamental Handicap

The harder the handicap encountered because of ornamentation the harder it is to fake the ornament while having bad survival genes.

Lousy Males

The solution to the Lek Paradox comes when putting parasites into the picture: parasite effectiveness changes every generation, but the ornamentation shows that the male is immune to the current parasites and therefore the next generation will be good against parasites as well - except if the parasites adapted fast enough, at which point other males would perform better, which again would show in their nicer ornamentation. And the best performing genes would change every few generations, leading away from the genetic bottleneck proposed by the Lek Paradox.

The Symmetry of Beauty

Honest Junglefowl

The female needs to know the truth about the male: his health, wealth and genes. The male wants to exaggerate and distort the information. The female wants the truth; the male wants to lie. The very word seduction implies trickery and manipulation.

Why do Young Woman Have Narrow Waists?

Chucking Frogs

The beauty of a bird's song is inversely correlated with the colorfulness of its plumage.

Of Mozart and Grackle Song

It is as if their brains have a program that says "like eggs" and the bigger the egg the more they like them.

Handicapped Advertisers

Condition reflecting traits will not be the only ones brought to an exaggerated state, but they will be the ones that persist the longest.

The Human Peacock

Mankind is simply not a lekking species.

Chapter Six - Polygamy and the Nature of Man

The connection between sex and power is a long one.

Man, an Animal

The principles I have been trying to establish are better illustrated by aphids, dandelions, slime moulds, fruit flies, peacocks and elephant seals than they are by one peculiar ape. But the peculiar ape is not immune to those principles.

Life is a Sisyphean race, run ever faster towards a finishing line that is merely the start of the next race.

There is no nature that exists devoid of nurture; there is no nurture that develops without nature.

The Point of Marriage

For each gender, the other is a sought-after resource to be exploited.

We are designed for a system of monogamy plagued by adultery.

Mankind is a polygamist and a monogamist, depending on the circumstances. He does what he wants, adapting his behavior to the prevailing opportunity.

When Males Pounce and Females Flirt

Feminism and Phalaropes

Nature is not inflexible, but malleable.

Evolution does not lead to Utopia.

The Meaning of Homosexual Promiscuity

Homosexual men behave like men, only more so; homosexual women behave like women, only more so.

Harems and Wealth

Why Play Sexual Monopoly?

The territory attracts a certain density of females, depending on this, males can afford to monopolize a group of females or even a harem, or have to be monogamous. The surrounding environment is what's driving a species mating system though.

Hunters or Gatherers

People cannot be adapted to the present, or the future; they can only be adapted to the past.

It is the need to outwit, dupe, help and teach each other that drove us to be ever more intelligent.

Mankind has many potential mating systems, one for each circumstance.

Money and Sex

Highly Sexed Emperors

In other words, mating was a trade: male power and resources for female reproductive potential.

Crazy human history, about emperor's that had thousands of concubines, and designing their harems not for sexual pleasure but for conceiving many many children. And stories of the Romans, buying virgin female slaves at a premium, also to get them pregnant. From nowadays perspective it just seems weird. Were those people motivated by wanting to have as many children as possible and not simple "lust"?

The Rewards of Violence

Monogamy, enforced by law, religion or sanction, does seem to reduce murderous competition between men.

If war is something we inherited directly from the hostility between groups of male apes over female apes, with territory merely a means to the end of sex, then it follows that tribal people must be going to ear over women rather than territory.

Rape accompanies human societies and sex is often tied to male to male violence and we can see this in effect in every war that has happened since antiquity.

Monogamous Democrats

The nature of the human male, then, is to take opportunities, if they are granted him, for polygamous mating, and to use wealth, power and violence as means to sexual ends in the competition with other men. It is not an especially flattering picture.

There is nothing inevitable about human nature.

It is a curious truth that the monogamous marriage bond survived right through despotic Babylon, lascivious Greece, promiscuous Rome and adulterous Christendom to emerge as the core of the family in the industrial age.

Explaining the human fascination with monogamous marriage requires us to understand the female strategy as closely as we have understood the male one.

Chapter Seven - Monogamy and the Nature of Women

The Marriage Obsession

The two goals are contradictory only because women are not prepared to divide themselves neatly into wives and whores.

The Herod Effect

Infanticide happens a lot, especially males killing other males children. This might provoke an evolutionary answer from females, namely to mate with more than one male, this way a male can not know if the children are his own and can't kill them easily.

The best strategy for a male Bonobo intent on genetic eternity is to eat his greens, get a good night's sleep and prepare for a long day of fornication.

The Bastard Birds

Why not have his parental care and some other male's genes?

The temptress interested in a one-night stand with a man whose name she does not know is a fantasy fed by male pornography.

Adultery and its disapproval are both natural.

Emma Bovary and Female Swallows

The principle - marry a nice guy but have an affair with your boss, or marry a rich but ugly man and take a handsome lover - is not unknown among female human beings.

Women have the ability to unconsciously change the likelihood if sex impregnates them or not by the timing of both sex and their orgasm during sex. By doing so, they can have more sex with individual a vs. individual b, yet have a much higher chance to become pregnant by individual b.

This is merely a form of the same argument: the typical woman's pattern of infidelity and orgasm is exactly what you would expect to find if she sdfd unconsciously trying to get pregnant by a lover, while not leaving a husband.

Cuckoldry Paranoia

The sexes spend much time apart. So women have ample opportunities for adultery and men have ample incentives to guard their mates or failing that, to copulate frequently with them.

Why the Rhythm Method Does not Work

Women's genes seem to have gone to inordinate lengths to conceal the moment of ovulation.

Women use perpetual sexual availability to seduce philanderers in exchange for gifts.

Silent ovulation is a weapon on the adultery game.

Sparrow Fights

Men deceive their wives about the affairs, not their mistresses.

It is my contention that man is just like an ibis or a swallow or a sparrow. He lives in large colonies. Males compete with each other for places in a pecking order. Most males are monogamous. Polygamy is prevented by wives who resent sharing their husbands lest they also share his contributions to child-rearing. Even though they can't und bring up the children unaided, the husbands pay cheque is invaluable. But the ban on polygamous marriage does not prevent the males seeking polygamous matings. Adultery is common. It is commonest between high-ranking males and females of all ranks. To prevent it males try to guard their wives, are extremely violent towards their wives' lovers and copulate with their wives frequently, not just when they are fertile.

The Green-eyed Monster

In every age and in every place, men behave as if they owned their wives' vaginas.

Courtly Love

Darwinian History

Deep in the mind of modern man I'd a simple male hunter-gatherer rule: strive to acquire power and use it to lure women who will bear heirs; strive to acquire wealth and use it to buy affairs with other men's wives who will bear bastards. It began with a man who shared a piece of prized fish or honey with an attractive neighbor's wife in exchange for a brief affair and continues with a pop star ushering a model into his Mercedes. From fish to Mercedes the history is unbroken: via skins and beads, ploughs and cattle, swords and castles. Wealth and power are a means to women; women are a means to genetic eternity.

Likewise, deep in the mind of a modern woman is the same basic hunter-gatherer calculator, too recently evolved to have changed much: strive to acquire a provider husband who will invest food and care in your children; strive to find a lover who can give those children first-class genes. Only if she is very lucky will they be the same man. It began with a wan who married the best hunter in the tribe and had an affair with the best married hunter, thus ensuring her children a rich supply of meat. It continues with a rich tycoon's wife bearing a baby that grows up to resemble her beefy bodyguard. Men are to be exploited as providers of parental care, wealth and genes.

Cynical? Not half as cynical as most accounts of human history.

Chapter Eight - Sexing the Mind

Men are better at spatial takes than women.

Equality or Identity

Men an women have different minds. The differences are the direct result of evolution. Women's minds evolved to suit the demands of bearing and rearing children and of gathering plant food. Men's minds evolved to suit the demands of rising in a male hierarchy, fighting over women and of providing meat for a family.

Men and Map Reading

Nurture not-versus Nature

Book Recommendation - Self-Made Man and His Undoing by Jonathan Kingdon

Book Recommendation - The Way Men Think by Liam Hudson

Book Recommendation - You Just Don't Understand by Deborah Tannen

Hormones and Brains

The genes that would spread would therefore be ones that responded to signals of gender.

There is ample evidence for genes for altering brains in response to male hormones.

Book Recommendation - Brain Sex by Anne Moir

It would be easy to engineer a society with no sex difference in attitude between men and women. Inject all pregnant women with the right dose of hormones and the result would be men and women with normal bodies, but identical female brains. War, rape, boxing, motor racing, pornography, beer and hamburgers would soon be distant memories. A feminist paradise would have arrived.

Sugar and Spice

Boys are instantly obsessed with dismantling, assembling, destroying, possessing and coveting things. Girls are fascinated by people and treat their toys as surrogate people.

Sexism and the Kibbutz Life

Feminism and Determinism

You cannot say, first, that men and women are equally suited to all jobs and, second, that if jobs were done by women they would be done differently.

Differences cannot be appealed to when they suit and denied when they do not.

There is no general support in biology for sexism about careers.

The Causes of Male Homosexuality

The mentality of sexual preference is affected by prenatal sex hormones.

Why Do Rich Men Marry Beautiful Women?

Men are more likely to be tempted by an opportunity for casual sex than women.

Surely no one has ever seriously doubted that men desire young beautiful women and women desire wealthy, High-Status men?

Male sexual fantasies tend to be more ubiquitous, frequent visual, specifically sexual, promiscuous and active. Female sexual fantasies tend to be more contextual, emotive, intimate and passive.

Ellis and Symon claim the the romance novel and pornography represent the respective utopian fantasies of the two sexes.

Choosy Men

Why do men choose? Instead of being ** promiscuous?

Man's choosiness reflects once more the fact that men does indeed form a pair bond and invest in his young, unlike some of his undiscriminating ape cousins.

That men prefer woman between puberty and their first child, is evidence that mating usually lasts a very long time, even entire lifetimes.

Racism and Sexism

When sex is sold, men are usually the buyers.

Chapter Nine - The Uses of Beauty

If our sexual instincts are so heavily determined by our genes then they have evolved by natural and sexual selection and that means they bear the imprint of design. They are adaptive. There is a reason that beautiful people are attractive.

Beauty is not arbitrary.

Beauty as a Universal

Are standards of beauty cultural whims or innate drives? What is flexible and what endures?

Freud and Incest Taboos

Humans have an innate drive to not mate with people they grew up with. They simply don't find them sexually attractive in almost all cases.

Teaching Old Chaffinches New Tricks

Skinny Women

Thinness has become what fatness was: a signal of status.

Status Consciousness

If fashions are despotic, they cannot be easily changed. The puzzle is how men stopped liking plump women without depriving themselves of eligible offspring by doing so.

Why Waists Matter

The relatively brief period during which women have hourglass bodies - from fifteen to thirty-five, say - is a sexually selected phenomenon. It owes more to competition to attract men than to any other biological need. Men have been unconsciously acting as selective breeders of women.

Youth Equals Beauty?

The Legs That Launched a Thousand Ships

Males tend to find average faces the most attractive, merging the faces of multiple photographs into one creates a face that is more attractive than each image that went into it.


Men consistently place physical features above personality and status when considering women; women do not when considering men.

People mate assortatively for height. Men seek shorter wives and women seek taller husbands.

It has been calculated that every inch is worth $600 a year in salary in modern America.

Poise, self-assurance, optimism, efficiency, perseverance, courage, decisiveness, intelligence, ambition - these are the things that cause men to ride to the tops of their professions and, not coincidentally, these are the things women find attractive.

Body language matters for male sexiness.

The Fashion Business

Fashion is not about an abstract ideal of beauty, just about standing out.

The Folly of Sexual Perfectionism

If, for most of human history, beautiful women and dominant men had more children than their rivals, which they surely did because the dominant men chose beautiful wives and together they lived of the toil of their rivals - then in each generation women became that little bit more beautiful and men that little bit more dominant. But their rivals did too, being descendants of the same successful couples. So standards rose, too. A beautiful woman needed to shine still more brightly to stand out in the new firmament. And a dominant man needed to bully or scheme still more mercilessly to get his way.

Beauty cannot exist without ugliness. Sexual selection, Red-Queen-style, is inevitably a cause of dissatisfaction, vain striving and misery to individuals.

We measure our relative desirability from other's reactions to us.

Chapter Ten - The Intellectual Chess Game

The Ape That Made It

We need some qualitative leap from ape to man, some difference of kind rather than degree, that transformed the human mind in ways that for the first time made the biggest possible brain the best possible brain.

The Myth of Learning

Book recommendation - The Adapted Mind by Leda Cosmides

There is a deep structure that is universal to all languages and it is programmed into the brain rather than learnt. j#M##3## Nothing ####could be more "instinctive" than the predisposition to learn a language. It is virtually untea##chable. It is hardwired. It is not learnt. It is - horrid thought - genetically determined.

Hobbes's vindication means nothing because instincts combine with learning. None of our instincts is inevitable; none is insuperable. ##################### is never based upon nature.

Nurrture is not Necessarily the Opposite of Nature

If we choose Environmentalism, then we are espousing a universal human nature that is as blank as a sheet of paper, awaiting culture's pen, that humans a#re therefore perfectible and born equal. If we choose genes, them we espouse irreversible genetic differences between races and between individuals. We are fatalist and elitists.

The truth is, fortunately, that we are an inextricable and flexible mixture of the two. To the extent hat we are the product of the genes, they are all and always will be genes that develop and are calibrated by experience, as the eye learns to find edges or the mind learns its vocabulary.

The Mental Program

Book Recommendation - Syntactic Structures by Noam Chomsky

We learn mathematics and a vocabulary of ten thousand words, and what people's characters are like. But this is because we have instincts to learn these things, not because we have fewer instincts that bats or cuckoos.

The Toolmaker Myth

Book Recommendation - Man the Toolmaker by Kenneth Oakley

For a million years these people made the same dull hand axes. Yet their brains were already grossly large by ape standards.

It is simply unnecessary to be capable of philosophy and language to be able to dig tubers from the ground. Baboons do it just as well as women.

The Baby Ape

Neoteny - human adults look like baby apes because they develop a lot slower, hence the brain can also grow much bigger.

The Human brain is almost as costly an invention as sex, which implied that its advantage must be as immediate and as large as sex's was.

Language is a design imposed on neural circuitry as a response to evolutionary pressure.

Gossip's Grip

The key feature that rewarded intelligence was the presence of other human beings.

The faster mankind ran - the more intelligent he became - the more he stayed in the same place, because the people over whom he sought psychological dominion were his own relatives, the descendants of the more intelligent people from previous generations.

Gossip is one of the most universal human habits.

Social problems alone can not be the driving advantage selecting for intelligence since other animals have those to. But a big part of human intelligence is devoted to social problems and reading other people's minds. That's what psychology is about, and even more what most novels and plays are about. Condensed forms of human drama show the kinds of social problems people solve and how they do it. Shakespeare and co. were all very adept but unconscious psychologists.

Wittiness and Sexiness

The way the brains of human beings have got bigger at an accelerating pace implies that some within-species arms race is at work.

Dance, music, humour and sexual foreplay are all features unique to human beings.

Obsessed with Youth

Neoteny can lead to women having a selective advantage if they develop slower, because then they will look younger longer and have therefore more descendants - then the increase in intelligence would be a mere side effect of the larger brain size that happens because of the extreme neoteny.

Sexual choosiness is required, but why do individuals choose certain partners in the first place? Because extended parental care is# needed, why? Because children are born prematurely. Why? Because children have bigger heads. But that's the effect we have been trying to explain, the argument is circular. But:

Evolution is circular.


It is a disquieting thought that our heads contain a neurological version of a peacock's tail - an ornament designed for sexual display, whose virtuosity at everything from calculus to sculpture is perhaps just a side-effect of the ability to charm.

Epilogue - The Self-Domesticated Ape

Mankind is a self-domesticated animal; a mammal; an ape; a social ape; an ape in which the male takes the initiative in courtship and females usually leave the society of their birth; an ape in which men are predators, women herbivorous foragers; an ape in which males are relatively hierarchical, females relatively egalitarian; an ape in which males contribute unusually large amounts of investment in the upbringing of their offspring by provisioning their mates and their children with food, protection and company; an ape in which monogamous pair bonds are the rule, bit many males have affairs and occasional males achieve polygamy; an ape in which females mated to low-ranking males often cuckold their husbands in order to gain access to the genes of higher-ranking males; an ape that has been subject to unusually intense mutual selection, so that many of the features of the female body and the mind of both sexes are designed for use in competition for mates; an ape that has developed an extraordinary range of new instincts to learn by association, to communicate by speech and to pass on traditions. But still an ape.

We will never quite reach that goal, and it would perhaps be better if we never did. But as long as we can keep asking "why?", we have a noble purpose.

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