Monday, January 23, 2006

Love is real, real is love

Inexpert evolutionists believe that romantic love doesn’t exist, that it is just about sex and delusion. It is unselfish and we need to be selfish in order to survive, they claim. They are wrong.

The Anti-Science brigade (can’t say Creationists since evolution does not eliminate the possibility of a creator God) argue that if the evolutionary theory is correct, then love cannot exist. It is also an irrational state and therefore, one might think, the dominion of organised religion. They are wrong.

Love is real and belongs to us all. It happened something like this:

Once upon a time, when people paired off to make babies, all anybody could think about was physical indicators of fertility and the sort of genetic heritage that would allow potential offspring to physically survive and reproduce themselves. All we cared about were waist to hip proportions, distribution of bodily hair, indicators of youth and vitality. We were a very shallow bunch indeed and not getting very far at all. Even sex wasn’t all that good as we only had one position.

One day, an ape creature was sitting on a rock – we’ll call him Johnny. Johnny was a troubled young man who was full of ideas about the world around him but nobody to express them to. Alas, there was no language back then and all his peers were interested in was hunting wildebeest and getting laid. He was lonely even when surrounded by other ape creatures. So lonely in fact, that he sang a sad little song to himself. It went something like this;

“Ug, ug ug ug ug.

Ug, ug ug ug ug.
Ug! Ug ug, ug ug ug ug

Ug, ug ug ug ug.”

As he was singing this last melancholic line, a bright-eyed female approached his rock. We’ll call her Jane. Poor Johnny was fed up of women as back in those days, they were only ever after one thing.

“Ug ug,” Johnny said, in the nonchalant tone that he had adopted for members of his own species. But as he was about to turn away, he noticed a flicker of comprehension in her eyes.

“Ug?” Jane asked, scratching her head. For she too had had these feelings that perhaps there was more to life that sex and wildebeest – much as she enjoyed both.

“Ug ug,” he explained. “Ug ug ug ug.”

“Ug ug ug!” Jane exclaimed and the two of them fell about laughing at this joke, the hilarity of which has long since been lost amid the shifting sands of time. It was very funny. I guess you had to be there.

And so the two ape creatures sat there talking all day long. Of course they hadn’t got any sort of language, but being a tad brighter than your average bipeds, they were using tone of voice, facial expression and hand gestures to get their message across.

It was getting kind of late, so Johnny suggested that they head back to his cave for a coffee.

Jane pointed out that they were on the wrong part of the continent for coffee, even if they could work out, within the space of an evening, how to process the seeds of that plant into a stimulating hot beverage. As you can imagine, without language, this took the best part of an hour to get across.

Johnny averted his eyes and twiddled his thumbs as if to say, “I know, but I just invented the euphemism.”

...Years passed and Johnny and Jane never did run out of things to “talk” about. When their children were born, they inherited good communication skills both through the genetic legacy of brain architecture, but also through having parents who encouraged good communication. And when these children grew up, they were looking for partners who had something to say for themselves and in turn, produced good communicative children.

Language and love thus developed concurrently. Love is, in reductionist terms, sexual attraction based on a person’s ability to communicate. Call it personality or whatever else you like - that's really what it is.

In order for love to exist, we must have developed the ability to communicate well, but in order for language to exist, we must have nurtured these abilities over many generations, thus we must have been the products of predominantly loving relationships and this somehow gave us the edge over those not-so-communicative ape creatures who made sexual selection on purely physical attributes.

Why? Possibly we make better parents; standing upright gives us a relatively narrow pelvis, meaning our offspring must be born very small and vulnerable – it is literally years before they can be left alone, so at some point pair-bonding needed to become long-term. Love might have helped. Or it could have been that good communicators were better in crises which involved team-work or problem-solving. I don't know everything, I'm just making it up as I go along.

Of course, we must not over-romanticise our genetic heritage or our current nature. We didn’t abandon other types of sexual attraction – look at Keanu Reeves. Exactly. Plus our most romanticised version of love is not necessary the optimal reproductive strategy; in the most primitive of circumstances both parents need to invest in one offspring at any one time, but both men and women may optimise their chances of reproductive success through deception and betrayal.

Perhaps one of the big mistakes we make culturally is to assume that there are only two types of sexual relationship; casual, purely sexual relationships which are entirely shallow and thus illegitimate and permanent love relationships where some mystical rite or institution ensures that both parties remain happily in love for ever and ever and ever.

The whole business is far more complicated than that, but for today I just wanted to argue for love's existence.


marmiteboy said...

I've been thinking along the same lines today Goldfish and was going to do post on it but instead I'll comment here. And yes, I and a big softy and an incurable romatic.

I believe in love. It is there, you just have to be lucky enough to find it. I dream of having someone to love who loved me back. How great would that be? To have someone to care for you and be there for you in the same way that you are there for and care for them. I'm not talking about being stifled either. I'm talking about the type of love that means you get a hug when you're down without having to ask for it, the kind of love that runs you a bath and rubs your aching back when you are tired. The kind of love that laughs along with you at the same things. The kind of love that takes your breath away with just one glance. The kind of love that misses you whan you're not there, but who knows when you need space and isn't upset by the fact that you need to be alone sometimes and above all the kind of love who is a friend too. It definitely isn't just about sex. I know believe me. Although it would be a welcome addition ;-)

Anonymous said...

Wow! what a great respones Marmite. I've never had anything lie that in my life! It all sounds, dare I say it, foreign to me. Mind you, I really wonder if that's the kind of love my parents have *Justin muses*

Oops! least said, my practice my "confidentiality" skill, lol.

I loved the post, so funny. I knew exactly what Johnny and Junae said "ug ug UG uuug" LOL.

It's a brilliant way to describe the emerging emmotion of real love from bestial love.

The Goldfish said...


Poor Marmite's description is beautiful, if rather idealised. Taking someone else on also means taking on their problems - which doesn't always mean a problem halved. And of course you have to keep working at it all the time.

I have to say though, I am going through a right mushy phase at the moment so despite my better judgement Marmite's description reads about spot-on.

marmiteboy said...

I am known for my mushiness so I am.

You are right though, and I do realise it's not all a bed of roses. And I also realise that a problem shared is not always a problem halfed. It might well be doubled because the other person may have a problem too. But the idea of emotional support appeals to me. You've have described AJ as your rock. That's love that is. Being someones rock and being seen as such by the person you are supporting as such.

Sage said...

I'm a mix of mushy and logical. I know and relish in the feelings marmiteboy describes, yet I can't help seeing some kind of evolutionary or chemical reason behind these feelings. But who really cares if what you've got going is smoking!

I agree that love is on a continuum of levels, not just either casual or romantic. Maybe we need more words to describe the range, or we need to change the connotations of the words we use (I'm thinking "fuck-buddy" here).