Sexual selection: "Sex, mutations, and marketing" and "Sex differences in physical violence"

Speakers: Geoffrey Miller and Vibeke K. Ottesen


Geoffrey Miller, Associate Professor, University of New Mexico
"Sex, mutations, and marketing"

Vibeke Kennair Ottesen, Criminologist, Centre for Forensic Psychiatry, Oslo
"Sex differences in physical violence - a product of sexual selection"

Open discussion

Abstract of Geoffrey Miller's lecture

Evolution happens because DNA copies itself very accurately, but not perfectly. Copying errors called mutations arise; a few are helpful but most are harmful. To minimize the number of harmful mutations in offspring, sexual reproduction and mate choice evolved. Animals choose their sexual partners for various 'fitness indicators' - sometimes physical ornaments such as the peacock's tail; sometimes mental capacities such as human language, creativity, humor, art, and music. These traits evolved not just for survival benefits, but because prehistoric men and women both favored them as reliable signals of good genes, good brains, and good mental health. In this talk I'll review the theory and evidence concerning these 'mental fitness indicators', and their connections to the evolutionary genetics of intelligence, personality traits, moral virtues, and mental disorders.

Finally, I'll discuss how modern humans try unconsciously to display their fitness indicators through conspicuous consumption. The nature of human trait-display is now being shaped mainly by the culture of marketing, and the more clearly we understand this, the more leverage we have for improving society.

Abstract of Vibeke Kennair Ottesen's lecture

One of the greatest puzzles in current criminology is the cross cultural trend of an overwhelming overrepresentation of men compared to women as offenders of violent crimes - an overrepresentation that grows as the severity of the violence increases. Unknown to most criminologists and other social scientists is that principles from modern evolutionary biology concerning the process of sexual selection hold the key to solving the puzzle of why sex differences in physical violence exists in our species. Not only do the principles for sexual selection explain why such sex differences exists, they also guide predictions concerning the extent of and under which social conditions the sex differences will occur. In doing so, an evolutionary informed approach to understanding the sex differences in physical violence outperforms the mainstream theories in current criminology.

This is a joint event with the Department of biology at the University of Bergen.

Published Feb. 2, 2012 3:25 PM - Last modified Oct. 14, 2012 3:35 PM