Male success strategies

24/08/2012 § Leave a comment

With an increasing part of my work involving simulation modelling (I have a paper with Chris Schilling at the upcoming NZARES Conference), I’ve been paying more attention to the complexity/evolution literature. Origin of Wealth (Beinhocker, 2007) was a good introduction, but I’ve also just been browsing the lit and the web to pick up bits and pieces.

Then, the National Review publishes this mash letter. The American Prospect takes it down from a political perspective, but I can’t help thinking of it in evolutionary terms. Well, they started it, with their ‘conventional biological wisdom’. I don’t care about the candidates; I’m more interested in why this journo would write such a piece. I mean, admiring that someone is an alpha-male-ne-plus-ultra is, to me, the equivalent of admitting defeat. You’re admitting, ‘hey, he’s bigger and stronger than I am, and he’s going to get all the food and mates and I’m cool with that.’

That got me thinking about this journo’s own evolutionary strategy — what’s his angle? Searching around, I stumbled across this fabulous summary of male strategies from the lab of Dr Barry Sinervo at UC Santa Cruz. I ended up on the Wikipedia page for the common side-blotched lizard, which has a rock-paper-scissors arrangement. It has three kinds of males; each one has a strategy that dominates one other and is dominated by the third. The three types can be distinguished by their throat colours, leading Wikipedia to explain the strategies:

[They] can be summarized as “orange beats blue, blue beats yellow, and yellow beats orange”.

According to Dr Sinervo and Wikipedia, the proportions of lizard types are relatively steady over time, suggesting that each strategy is effective.

This takes me back to Kevin Williamson at the National Review. Maybe he’s got a strategy for survival, after all. He’s pumping up the big, testerone-laden orange-throated lizard, talking smack about the blue lizard. All the while, he’s got his own strategy: sneak in while no one’s paying attention.

You’ve got to watch out for those yellow lizards.

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