Evolution, Political Opinions, and Muscles

When creationists write about — and always criticize — Social Darwinism, they inevitably select what they see as undesirable activity and then attribute it to Darwin’s theory of evolution. They never attribute such behavior to evolution itself — the existence of which they deny. They blame it on Darwin personally, notwithstanding that he never advocated any of the social movements they associate with him.

It never matters to creationists that racism, eugenics, genocide, communism, and “ruthless” laissez-faire capitalism — for which they claim Darwin’s theory is responsible — all preceded Darwin’s existence. Facts don’t matter to creationists. They blame Darwin anyway.

What? You have a question? We hate interruptions! Well, okay, go ahead. You ask: How can creationists blame Darwin for both communism and capitalism? We don’t understand it either, but they do. See this from the Institute for Creation Research: Darwin’s Influence on Ruthless Laissez Faire Capitalism.

Besides blaming Darwin for humanity’s dark side, creationists attribute humanity’s better attributes to their peculiar views. So to them, if something is bad it’s Darwin’s fault, and if something is good it’s because of their religious and creationist beliefs. It’s rather simplistic, and it totally ignores the consequences that evolution itself may have had on what we call our human nature.

The creationists are as whacky about “social Darwinism” (a field we regard as pseudo-science) as they are in understanding the actual science. The result is that we rarely pay attention to “news” about the social consequences of Darwin’s theory — except to ridicule the creationists.

But today we found an article in London’s Daily Mail that seems related to all that, although it’s really not. The headline is Men who are physically strong are more likely to have right wing political views. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Men who are physically strong are more likely to take a right wing political stance, while weaker men are inclined to support the welfare state, according to a new study.

Researchers discovered political motivations may have evolutionary links to physical strength. Men’s upper-body strength predicts their political opinions on economic redistribution, according to the research.

Makes you think, doesn’t it? Okay, all you hollow-chested left-wingers with pencil-thin arms, and all you broad-shouldered conservative, muscle-bound brutes, pay attention as we proceed with the article:

Professor Petersen and Professor Sznycer [Michael Bang Petersen, of Aarhus University in Denmark, and Daniel Sznycer, of the University of California] hypothesised that upper-body strength – a proxy for the ability to physically defend or acquire resources – would predict men’s opinions about the redistribution of wealth. The researchers collected data on bicep size, socio-economic status, and support for economic redistribution from hundreds of people in the United States, Argentina and Denmark.

Their paper is in Psychological Science, but you can’t even access the abstract unless you’re registered. So phooey on them. Let’s keep reading the newspaper article:

In line with their hypotheses, the data revealed that wealthy men with high upper-body strength were less likely to support redistribution, while less wealthy men of the same strength were more likely to support it.

So what? All that tells us is that if someone is wealthy, he’s unlikely to favor redistribution. We could have guessed that. The article continues:

Professor Petersen said: ‘Despite the fact that the United States, Denmark and Argentina have very different welfare systems, we still see that – at the psychological level – individuals reason about welfare redistribution in the same way.

We could have guessed that too. Come on, guys, get to the good stuff! Here’s more:

In all three countries, physically strong males consistently pursue the self-interested position on redistribution. Men with low upper-body strength, on the other hand, were less likely to support their own self-interest.


Professor Petersen said: ‘Our results demonstrate that physically weak males are more reluctant than physically strong males to assert their self-interest – just as if disputes over national policies were a matter of direct physical confrontation among small numbers of individuals, rather than abstract electoral dynamics among millions.’

That is interesting. There may be a genuine pattern here. But what about the ladies? That’s coming up:

However, the researchers found no link between upper-body strength and redistribution opinions among women. Professor Petersen argued that this is likely due to the fact that, over the course of evolutionary history, women had less to gain, and also more to lose, from engaging in direct physical aggression.

Also, at least in our limited experience, women have other ways to get what they want. One last excerpt:

Professor Petersen [said]: ‘Many previous studies have shown that people’s political views cannot be predicted by standard economic models. ‘This is among the first studies to show that political views may be rational in another sense, in that they’re designed by natural selection to function in the conditions recurrent over human evolutionary history.

So, class, what did we learn from this? Anyone? Anyone?

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “Evolution, Political Opinions, and Muscles

  1. Our Curmudgeon asks

    So, class, what did we learn from this?

    We learn that

    1. The Daily Mail is a a worthless rag, on occasion little better than the WND. We do have some good papers in the UK (think Telegraph or even, for international coverage and the arts, the–gasp!–the Guardian), but the Mail ain’t one of them….

    2. Our Curmudgeon must have installed a replacement for his broken Retard-O-Tron

  2. What do we learn? We learn that it’s possible to get a grant to study almost any hair-brained idea.

    On the other hand, maybe I should quit working out before I become too conservative.

  3. Ooh ! Ohh!! I know!!!

    Wealthy guys spend a lot more time working out in the gym?

  4. That a Sean Hannity-Rush Limbaugh tag team combo would be a juggernaut?

  5. Finally! Someone has explained why Karl Rove, Dick Morris, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Christ Christie, Mike Huckabee and every man on Fox News are in such fine physical shape!

    Oh, wait…

  6. To be fair, this study does explain why Ann Coulter’s Adam’s apple is bigger than mine.

  7. How can creationists blame Darwin for both communism and capitalism? We don’t understand it either, but they do.

    And so have I for 15 years. I do remember noticing the apparent contradiction about 20 years ago, but once I started following their antics it all made sense.

    First I need to mention that I now make it a game (the only thing that stops me from completely losing interest in this topic) that any time a fellow “Darwinist” uses the word “creationist” I try to guess which “kind” he/she has in mind – activist, scammed rank-and-file, young earther, old earther who accepts common descent, etc. Other than parroting some of the same long-refuted anti-evolution sound bites the only thing those “kinds” have in common is a radical, paranoid authoritarian ideology. It’s a mere “historical accident” that makes most of them vote Republican and call themselves conservatives. If they – the activist subset at least – got everything they wanted the national debt would be far greater than it is. Not many evolution-deniers truly think pi = 3, but “creationist” math is even more bizarre than that. For example, in Discoveroid math, 4.6 billion = 6000, or whatever # you like in between.

  8. “So, class, what did we learn from this? Anyone? Anyone?”

    We learned that Curmy must be able to bench press 300.

  9. Our Pope retiredsciguy speculates:

    Curmy must be able to bench press 300

    Sorry, but your newly-acquired Papal infallibility is slipping. Olivia attests your conclusion here is flat-out wrong.

  10. retiredsciguy says: “We learned that Curmy must be able to bench press 300.”

    I could do that when I was six years old. Now, with but a mere twitch of one of my mighty Republican arms, I could smite you all.

  11. Megalonyx says: “Olivia attests …”

    When she described you as atrophied, I didn’t realize until now that she was also describing your brain.

  12. As a science teacher, I always told my students that stating just a number without specifying units was meaningless — and here I’m guilty of committing that sin myself. I will now correct my mistake. I meant to say grams — 300 grams.

  13. Since the topic of this post is political beliefs, can Curm or anyone here explain why creationist and talking eggplant Rep. Louie Gohmert (who, you’ll recall, blamed the Aurora shootings on atheists, and called a Hate Crimes Bill a “‘Pedophilia Protection Act”) just told AG Eric Holder “The attorney general will not cast aspersions on my asparagus!”


  14. To be fair, Darwin also spoke much of cooperation. “In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” Granted, I have just played the same game as many elite do, by cherry-picking from his work, but isn’t that what most of the world’s ideals are built on, cherry-picking to find a philosophy that suits your cause?