Friday, October 22, 2010

Genetics, Attraction and Natural Selection

For those following my reading list lately you'll know that I've been on a genetics kick lately.  I've also been enjoying what I'll refer to as "The Study of Why" lately. The original questions started for me last year and each topic that I've learned more about has usually peaked my interest in another area, which leads to more reading and more questions.  I'll start by saying I should have called this post "random things I've been thinking about lately", but that did not have the same ring to it.

Last year I started investigating a few of the pickup artist titles like David DeAngelo who says that "Attraction Is Not A Choice" and that there are certain things men and women are hard-wired to react to, and if you learn these things you can tip the scales in your favor.  He's not the only one that says this, in fact most of the male focused dating books, guides, websites etc, out there say something very similar.  I will give David D some props though, because his course material really focuses on bringing all of the areas that he's studied to put backing behind his words, and he mentions them in his courses. One of his selling points is that he's done the hard work for you and read a bunch of books so that you now won't need to take the time needed to read them. Therefore you can take what he's saying for the truth, or better yet, investigate further and draw your own conclusions based on what you find. Being a curious cat... I chose the latter.

It was David D that mentioned Matt Ridley's "The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature" which turned out to be a great book!  I'm so happy that I took the time to read this book because it led me to want to learn more about genetics and led me to Bruce Lipton's "The Biology of Belief". More about this great book in a bit but first let me dart off in another direction for just a second.  It's just a quick rant, stay with me...

As I was surfing yesterday I seen an ad claiming something similar to David D's "Attraction Is Not A Choice" statement and I had to do a bit more digging to find out if they backed up their "training" with as much research as David D seems to do.  Long story short, no they didn't.

This really frustrated me because I know that there are a lot of people buying these e-books and DVD's hoping that they'll learn the "secret" to attract a woman or get a date and they're just being served up information that they could have found elsewhere if they looked and without the need to pay for it.  This, of course, had me questioning "Well, what's the big deal?  This is what everyone does to make a buck, this is what the whole commercial industry / capitalism is based on - convincing people that you have what they need and for a small price you'll give it to them."

I guess there is nothing *wrong* with this, I just think it's important to note that for any program out there in the self-help category it's very unlikely that the concepts you're paying for are new ideas.  If you take the time and do the research you'll be able to find all the same information and perhaps even more thorough information on the topic. Start at your local library...  :)

Ok - back to the program and point of this blog post.  Based on the reading I've been doing on the first topic in the post subject, Genetics, I'm finding that - yes, we are passed on traits at conception from our parents, but these traits are just that - portions of our parents genetic make up, fused together to create our own unique genetic footprint.  Genes can't think for themselves, they can't make you do things, and environmental influences like things you learn and choices you make will have a far greater impact on your physical appearance.

Sure, we may end up with "our daddy's chin" or "our mommy's eyes", but just because your father is thin, doesn't mean that you will be thin.  I don't believe that we get only the best genes from our parents, although it is fact that we get an equal part from each parent, and they got an equal part from each ot their parents. And with scientific advances through the years we can tap into our DNA to find out / prove our genealogical lines.

This leads me to believe that our genetic make up may play a role in a small portion of our physical appearance, but I don't think it will be tied at all to what we find attractive.  I'm still researching information to prove / disprove this statement.

If our genes don't hold the key to why we find some people attractive and others less attractive, what does?  Are the extrenal environmental influences the things that give us the understanding of physical beauty?  Is it those Victoria Secret and Calvin Klein ads that are influencing our determination of beauty?  Perhaps it's all the commercials that tell us that we're not perfect and need to work on ourselves to be better?  All of those external resources adjust our own body image, the picture we have in our own mind of ourselves and what we like and dislike about ourselves. If the key for understanding beauty lies in the mind, it's a learned concept, this means that it can be modified / adjusted, which makes sense.

The analysis of beauty is not something new, there are many others that have looked deeper.  Although there are some new ways that science looks at it based on what has been referred to by society as beautiful, such as facial analysis like this one.  I scored a 5.75 out of 10.  I'm looking for a good source to start researching overall beauty analysis more for myself, so if you know of any - please leave a comment and let me know.

"The Red Queen" was a great source for telling more about what men look for and what women look for in a potential mate and contrasted the human species rituals against other animals.  It really is an interesting read and I do understand there is more to attraction than just physical beauty.  Most of the pick up artist material focuses on the other things that women find attractive such as wealth, status, personality and protective qualities.

Now I find myself wondering about Natural Selection and how natural it really is...?

Natural Selection basically says that only the best genes will survive and procreate and that will evolve our species in a good way.  I don't know about this - I have to believe that there are plenty of great people out there with fantastic genes that don't procreate.  It has me wondering if procreation is the only thing that passes along your influence on this world or is it any type of creation? Beethoven didn't leave a parental legacy, although he was not the only son in his family, does this really mean that he was a victim of natural selection? Are those the type of genes that we want to weed out? I can't believe that - and that is the reason I need to learn more about natural selection.  Again - if you have any good sources, let me know. The movie "Idiocracy" has a funny look at natural selection gone bad. 

I am also researching and understanding the power of belief and how truly believing something can make it a reality, even in situations when science says that it shouldn't be real.  In "Biology of Belief" various situations are offered up as proof of this... from a simple concept to understand like firewalking, where people walk across a bed of lit coals, some of them getting burned and some not.  Those that believed that they would be ok and not be burned, come through unscathed, even though science says that this should not be possible.  Another more complex example might be found in the use of sugar pills to treat a variety of illnesses which worked just as the regular medicine did when the patient was lead to believe that they were ingesting the medicine needed and that it would work.  A third more powerful example may be the scenario where three patients who believe that they need knee surgery, have a procedure done, but one of them is just opened up and no actual corrective surgery action were performed.  All three patients recovered in similar manners.  The one that had no real surgical work done walked with a cane before the surgery and went back to performing normal life activities including physical activities they enjoyed before the injury.  Can the mind and ones beliefs be this powerful?  Yes - I'm believing they can. In fact, many, many books I've read this year include the concept that truly believing something is the first step to achieving it.  The trick is that you can't fool your subconscious... so we may need to start there if we want to truly believe. I'm completely fascinated by this area of science and as of late (2000 and later) there have been some great advancements to prove theories and I will be digging deeper into this in the future.

Let me try to tie what I've rambled about above together in some way.  At this point, I believe that genes may control some aspect of our physical appearance, but I'm not clear on how much versus how much is controlled by external sources as we live our life.  Physical appearance is one of many things that may attract someone to someone else, but what is beautiful and how much do social pressures play into our decisions on who we end up as a potential mate?  Lastly, if there are good genes out there from good people that don't pass them along, is that truly due to natural selection?  Is natural selection truly based on the best/strongest survive or do the folks that survive evolve not only through genetics but through what has been left behind by all of humanity?

I know, I know ... I'm a wild man...but lately, these are the things that have been on my mind.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Leave a comment, recommend a book or video... or just tell me to "simma down na!"


jadecanton said...

I love the way that you take what other people have probably thought about many times and break it down like you do. I am not a good blogger and so I love to read other peoples take on things :)

Nadon said...

Thanks Jade, I appreciate the comment!