3 Minute Monday
Next Monday 16th January I’m releasing an exclusive 2 hour episode with the one and only David Goggins.
He’s only done two podcasts for this most recent book – Rogan’s and mine which makes this episode even more special.
You might want to hold off until 10am CT/4pm UK for the YouTube version of this one to go live.
Or just listen and then watch it again twice in a day.
This week I learned about proximate and ultimate reasons for human behaviour.
“Natural selection favours certain behaviours but doesn’t necessarily favour us having explicit awareness of why we do what we do.” — Dr Tania Reynolds
To properly understand human behaviour, we must understand both ultimate and proximate explanations.
Ultimate explanations are concerned with why a behaviour exists, and proximate explanations are concerned with how it works.
Put another way, proximate is the more immediate “reason to” do a behaviour – sex feels good and gives you pleasure and love.
Ultimate is the “reason why” the behaviour was shaped that way by evolution – it creates offspring who continue your genetic line.
Although the behaviour here is the same, the explanations are based on different sets of factors incorporating physiological versus evolutionary motivations.
The reason this is particularly interesting to me is because of some responses I’ve seen to discussions I’ve had about evolutionary psychology.
For instance, I told Andrew Schulz that a non-negligible contributor to the reason the body positivity movement gets so much intense support from skinny women is because it reduces skinny women’s mating competition from bigger women by encouraging them to eat themselves out of the dating pool, which means less competition for potential partners.
Some women, perhaps unsurprisingly, took issue with this explanation.
I can see why, it’s a rather ungracious characterisation of the support for body positivity.
“No guy, you’re reading into it too much, I don’t think about that deeply at all, I just want to support my friends.”
Crucially, the proximate and ultimate explanations aren’t at odds with each other.
Indeed they very much live in harmony, just at different levels of perspective and abstraction.
Here’s some other examples.
Why we like fats and sugars in our food.
Proximate – it tastes good.
Ultimate – it provides ancestrally rare, energy rich, high calorie sustenance which should improve our chances of survival.
Why we like symmetrical faces in our partners.
Proximate – they looks attractive.
Ultimate – symmetrical faces are genetically harder to create and indicate better quality genes would be passed on to our potential offspring.
The reason TO and reason FOR these actions are not counter to each other.
Now revisiting Dr Reynolds’ quote – “Natural selection favours certain behaviours but doesn’t necessarily favour us having explicit awareness of why we do what we do.”
One problem with having the veil of ultimate-explanation-ignorance lifted from our eyes is that it makes us feel less agentic, less in control of our own desires, more cynical, contrived and manipulative.
I don’t mind preferring partners with symmetrical faces, but as soon as I realise that this preference is essentially my desires being puppeted like evolution’s marionette, it feels less virtuous and self-chosen.
The answer to this discomfort is to find humour in it I think.
You have to laugh at the absurdity of being a sovereign creature who feels like they have their own will, but is being largely driven by millennia-old preferences to help you survive and reproduce.
“Ultimately happiness comes down to choosing between the discomfort of becoming aware of your mental afflictions, or the discomfort of becoming ruled by them.”
This week’s upcoming episodes:
600k Q&A – I answer questions about the most overrated thinkers in the world, whether I’ll invite Lex Fridman on the podcast, my best advice to someone in their 20s, whether it’s possible to have a well meaning conversation about the Left without calling everyone woke, where I buy my t-shirts from and more.
Michael Malice – Malice’s new book The White Pill is a serious monster and we get to dig into the brutal history of anarchism, soviet-era communism and the best & worst of human nature.
Dr John Barry – does the world of psychology have a bias against men? What are the differences between male and female psychological make ups? Really great episode.
THINGS I’VE LEARNED
People are having more children out of wedlock.
“The number of babies born to mothers who are unmarried or not in a civil partnership has overtaken the number being born to mothers in such relationships for the first time on record.
Britain’s ONS reports 624,828 live births registered in England and Wales in 2021.
This includes 320,713 live births to women who were not married or in a civil partnership when they gave birth – 51.3%.
Compared to 304,115 live births to parents who were married or civilly partnered.
It is the first time since records began in 1845 that more babies were born to mothers who were not in marriages or civil partnerships.”
Marriage is the structure that supports raising kids.
No marriage – I can understand.
No partner – I can kind of understand.
No kids – I can also kind of understand.
Partner, kids, no marriage? I do not understand.
Girlboss mode has problems.
Among over 11,600 US employees, women reported being less satisfied with their jobs when they reported to a female boss, whereas men showed no difference in job satisfaction based on their supervisors’ gender.”
h/t Tania Reynolds
Beware of Mastery Lock-In.
“The problem with getting good at a game, especially one with big rewards, is you continue playing it long after you should have outgrown it.” — Naval Ravikant
How To Stop Reading A Boring Book.
100 pages minus your age is the rule.
If you’ve not wanted to take a picture of a passage by then and aren’t super gripped by it, then put it down.
The less time you have left on earth, the less space you should have for boring books.
Some clips from the Goggins episode will be live on YouTube this week too.