Fisherian runaway

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A popular sex icon: Zyzz, died young of sudden cardiac arrest from too much steroid use to make himself look hyper-masculine. He was not a reproductive success.

Fisherian runaway is a mechanism by which sexual selection leads to exaggerated physical or behavioral traits (ornamentation), to the extent of maladaptiveness and reduced population viability,[1] or even extinction.[2][3] The name derives from the originator of the concept, Ronald Fisher, the 20th century British statistician, geneticist, eugenicist and racialist.

Fisherian runaway is a popular meme in the manosphere used to argue women's mate choices may be maladaptive, resulting in excessive emphasis on superficial courtship and selecting exaggerated anti-social traits that incite male competition. Fisherian runaway is often misunderstood to refer to exaggeration as a lifestyle choice, but it actually refers to an evolutionary process over many generations. However, sexual preferences evolved this way can motivate extreme body modifications like breast enlargement, hormone supplements and bodybuilding.

Explanation[edit | edit source]

"The females may be dull looking, but they're very picky." A peacock courting a peahen

Positive feedback[edit | edit source]

Fisherian runaway is a selection process occurring over many generations, in which the one sex (either male or female) becomes more choosy about a heritable trait for the sole reason that it will make the offspring more attractive. As the the choosiness for the trait increases, the selective pressure to prefer the trait increases too, forming a positive feedback loop. In response to the increased choosiness, the other sex evolves to enlarge, overcomplicate or beautify that trait in efforts of becoming more attractive, eliciting super-stimuli in the opposite sex. The exponential nature of positive feedback loops exerts a strong selection pressure that the resulting exaggerated ornament may reduce mobility and increase vulnerability to predators and to sudden environmental changes. The result is strong selection for and sexual attraction to a trait only because it is attractive to others (l'art pour l'art), not because of any other survival value, i.e. the trait bears no advantage regarding strength, health, ability, morality or overall "good genes".

Since females are more choosy in many species throughout the animal kingdom (including humans), the males tend to be more ornamented.

Initiation[edit | edit source]

Positive feedback loops in sexual selection can be arbitrarily initiated when a trait is slightly correlated with fitness, for example when it is associated with viability, objective aesthetics (aesthetic sexual selection), or when a trait is similar in appearance to already attractive or otherwise valued objects or body parts.[4] For example, women's breasts may have evolved to mimic their buttocks because the latter was already a sexually attractive body part before humans developed upright posture, and then Fisherian runaway may have lead to breasts becoming increasingly larger and increasingly attractive to men.

Over the course of the positive-feedback process, the initial correlation with fitness of the trait in question may lose its importance.[5]

Beauty[edit | edit source]

Feedback loops like Fisherian runaway may have played a role in the evolution of beauty. Beauty could have evolved simply by aesthetic sexual selection, i.e. mate selection favoring objective beauty (simplicity). But feedback loops as mentioned above may have exaggerated aspects of it, leading to increased sexual dimorphism and amplified and narrowed the attraction to specific kinds of beautiful physical traits. This also stabilizes the phenotype, making it harder to adapt to environmental changes. Any sort of sexual dimorphism, whether behavioral or ornamental likely tends to get reinforced by such feedback loops because sexual dimorphism is inherently attractive.[6]

While it is not proven that feedback loops were involved in shaping human ornament, or just sexual selection without feedback, it is certainly plausible, especially considering the importance people place on good looks. It could explain why people undergo great risks and costs merely for improving their looks, e.g. by surgeries, diets or steroid intake (see Zyzz's photo). It could also explain the phenomenon of being stunned by someone's appearance, as well as "love on first sight" and oneitis.

Intelligence[edit | edit source]

Miller suggested strong positive-feedback processes in sexual selection to have given rise to higher human cognition, which he regards as too advanced and exaggerated for the necessities of human survival. Much of male courtship may consist in eliciting super stimuli in women's brains by cognitive performances such as poetry, dancing, art and humor.[7] See also beautiful behavior.

Examples[edit | edit source]

Animals[edit | edit source]

Despite there being debate on the role of sexual selection causing extinction without other factors present, everyone agrees that, combined with environmental factors, sexual selection can and does cause "evolutionary suicide" or extinction due to runaway selection.[8] Theoretic models suggest extinction cannot happen due to sexual selection without sudden environmental changes and as long the ornamented individual bears the cost.[9] Certain species have been theorized to have gone extinct partly due to runaway female sexual selection. A prominent example is the Irish elk. Female Irish elk selected male elk with larger bodies as well as increasingly larger antlers. Some recovered antlers measure 9 ft (2.7 m) across and weigh over 90 pounds (40 kg). The extreme nutritious cost to grow such huge antlers, coupled with the burden of such a heavy load, were more than the males could handle, particularly as their food source density decreased during environmental changes.[10] Natural selection would have favored males with smaller bodies and antlers for their lower nutritional needs and superior mobility, however the sexual selection pressures were strong and the ornament has become so fixed in a positive feedback loop, that it ultimately caused extinction.[11]

Humans[edit | edit source]

Even though human females are more choosy in accordance to Bateman's principle, both sexes are ornamented. Women have permanently swollen breasts,[12] an hour glass shaped body etc., men have a V-shaped upper body, more toned muscles, beards, very large penises compared to other great apes, and various other features.[13] Both sexes have clearly defined hairlines and very clear skin. None of these features have survival value besides being good looking, so they're likely sexually selected, likely mostly by aesthetic selection common to many higher animals,[14] and possibly by feedback loops like Fisherian runaway and sensory bias,[15] leading to exaggeration and strengthened sexual dimorphism.[16] Though dominant and masculine features like large beards and a deep, intimidating voice may also serve the intimidation of other males.[17][18] The fact that men have only reproduced half as often as women[19] suggests the most dominant men were primarily involved in selecting women's ornament.

Female mate choice[edit | edit source]

Sexy son hypothesis[edit | edit source]

The sexy son hypothesis was also proposed by Fisher and considers runaway sexual selection of men's looks and sexiness. It simply states that the positive feedback loop can make women so attracted to male ornament that women will choose a very good looking male regardless of other considerations such as morality or paternal investment, because the male's ornament—which is partly heritable—confers on their offspring a potential reproductive advantage.[20] This is particularly staggering in women, otherwise coy, engaging in casual sex with men way above their league (i.e. getting pumped and dumped).

Since women heavily depended on men's provision, only a tiny percentage of men is good looking enough that they can skip women's typical coy waiting time (around 4%, compared to 60-70% for men choosing women).[21] Women would also much more readily forego using a condom with a good looking mate.[22] Of course, men also more readily copulate with sexy women, but men have less parental investment and hence do not need to care as much about such considerations (as evidenced by men's much higher inclination to copulate with a random stranger, i.e. lower standards for casual sex; men are also more choosy when they actually have to provide). Hence, for women, copulating only based on sexiness has more drastic implications, hence people care less about the "sexy daughters" phenomenon. However, arguably, a similarly risky strategy for men is raping a sexy woman (to produce sexy daughters as a promising vehicle of their own genes). Both are irresponsible and socially parasitic as they depend on others investing in the offspring (in modern societies via taxes). Engaging in alpha fuxx, beta buxx, the woman risks not being provided for. Engaging in rape, the man risks death and exile and also won't provide for the offspring. But provided some do engage in these strategies, may mean such sexual strategies have evolved because better looking offspring can make up for these risks on average (in terms of evolutionary fitness).

It is disputed to which extent male choice can actually result in a positive-feedback process for selecting female ornament (sexy daughters),[citation needed] but the strong attraction to large female breasts suggest otherwise.

Is female mate choice maladaptive?[edit | edit source]

Various members of the manosphere claimed that the increasingly dimorphic beauty standards that men are expected to adhere to in a harsher modern dating environment may be the beginning of a Fisherian runaway or intensification of existing ones. They say women are increasingly choosing the men with the most sexually dimorphic traits: cartoonishly large muscles and frame, with no selective attention paid to traits like loyalty, intelligence, etc.

This also results in an even higher competitive environment among men without physically sexually dimorphic traits. Due to behavioral traits also being sexually selected, they claim men will also become more psychopathic and disagreeable to win female attention, exaggerating character traits which many see as incompatible with modern civilization. There is indeed some evidence that dark triad traits are currently being sexually selected by (at least Western) women,[23][24] and that criminal and anti-social men often have more sexual partners and reproductive success.[25][26][27] Some view this data as evidence of the beginning of a process of fisherian runaway selection. Research on sexual selection theory by Puts (2010) suggested women's preference for highly dominant men may have partly been a result of sexual selection.[28][29]

The originator of the concept of fisherian runaway, Ronald Fisher, had a teleological view of evolution where he saw natural and sexual selection as being united in driving evolutionary 'progress' towards a higher form of life. He invoked fears of runaway selection leading to the decline of societies, warning that selection for what he saw as more frivolous qualities such as wealth alone would result in negative social outcomes.[30]

Men's rights activist Warren Farrell in his book, The Myth of Male Power, warned women that their preference for and encouragement of, "hunter-killer", "star quarterback", type men could cause the extinction of the human race with the arrival of nuclear technology. He also claimed that since civilization and the industrial revolution dark triad traits have become maladaptive, as the traits which foster a healthy society have switched from might-makes-right individual brutality, to cooperation, intelligence, empathy etc.

Discussion[edit | edit source]

Good genes[edit | edit source]

Good genes hypothesis or Zahavi's handicap principle claims exaggerated ornament is a costly and hence a reliable signal of other desirable traits. For example, a peacock with a very large tail would be easy prey (which is costly), and thus would most likely have other good traits that make up for this handicap (good genes). There is, however, little supporting scientific evidence. In humans in particular, beauty and ornament is not strongly correlated with health at all (only weakly), and even less with cognitive ability, though people strongly perceive them to be.[31]

A computer model created by Chandler et al., found evidence that traits initially spread by runaway selection can also become indicator traits of "good genes". They also found that these ornamental traits could serve as indicators of "good genes" even when they didn't function as costly signals, contradicting Zahavi's handicap principle. They concluded that runaway selection for ornamental traits and selection for indicator (honest signal) traits should therefore be viewed as complementary mechanisms that serve to reinforce each other.[32]

Political dimension[edit | edit source]

Topics related to sexual selection are subject to political controversy, especially since female scientists are involved (or their white knights) and they do not want to portrait female choice or behavior as maladaptive. Especially Fisher's "sexy sons" has a (arguably justified) slut-shaming undertone, which would seem politically incorrect and prone to self-censorship. Throw in the women-are-wonderful effect and you get "good genes" also implies that women select the "best" men, so their sexual freedom is justified and good.

Further, considering women's secondary sexual characteristics as means to conspicuously advertise themselves implies that they signal nubility, which however occurs long before reaching legal age. Teenager pregnancies are thought to incur a significant cost in modern society, hence any theories to this extent are prone to be shunned politically.[33] Arguably, female herd mentality and hysteria has contributed to creating a moral panic about these matters.[34]

This may explain why there as been substantial academic rivalry between the Good Geners and Fisherian's camps. Ultimately, this is sexual conflict materializing in intellectual conflict.

Extinction[edit | edit source]

There is disagreement whether sexual selection alone can cause extinction, but combined with environmental factors like sudden ecological changes, sexual selection can potentially cause an "evolutionary suicide".[35] Base sexual preference is thought to be able to potentially increase, but also decrease population viability, i.e. make the species more likely to go extinct.[36][37][38] However, there has been little support of highly sexually dimorphic mammals being more endagered.[39] But the runaway selection of the most exaggerated members alone, arguably cannot cause the entire species to go extinct. However, together with environmental factors, runaway female selection has played a role in extinction, for example in the the Irish Elk.[40][41] There are scientific models that show under a stable environment, a feedback loop can develop where male intrasexual competition leads to a linear increase in size dimorphism, outstripping the ability of the environment to to support this increased size.[42] Theoretic models suggest extinction cannot happen due to sexual selection without sudden environmental changes and as long the ornamented individual bears the cost.[43]

Fisherian runaway sexual selection[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Encyclopedia of Ecology, By Brian D. Fath, page 316
  2. The evolution of sexual strategy in modern humans: an interdisciplinary approach by Collins, Kendra Marie,
  3. Moen et al., 1999
  4. Fuller, R. C., Houle, D., & Travis, J. 2005. Sensory Bias as an Explanation for the Evolution of Mate Preferences. [Abstract], p. 444
  9. "Sexy to die for? Sexual selection and risk of extinction" by Hanna Kokko and Robert Brooks, Ann. Zool. Fennici 40: 207-219. [Abstract]
  10. The evolution of sexual strategy in modern humans: an interdisciplinary approach by Collins, Kendra Marie,
  11. Moen et al., 1999
  15. Fuller, R. C., Houle, D., & Travis, J. 2005. Sensory Bias as an Explanation for the Evolution of Mate Preferences. [Abstract]
  40. The evolution of sexual strategy in modern humans: an interdisciplinary approach by Collins, Kendra Marie,
  41. Moen et al., 1999
  43. "Sexy to die for? Sexual selection and risk of extinction" by Hanna Kokko and Robert Brooks, Ann. Zool. Fennici 40: 207-219. [Abstract]



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Other theories

Timeless quotes on womenFemales are socially ineptWomen-are-wonderful effectGynocentrismPolitical correctness‎Virtue signalingApex fallacyClown worldFeminismSexual revolutionFemale hypoagencyFemale solipsismHalo effectAntifragilityTriggeredScientific BlackpillScientific Blackpill (Supplemental)