A remark on the biology of gender or, why do women menstruate?

Many have wondered: why is it that women menstruate every month? This seems like rather poor design, but upon reflection, this is really user error.

Indeed, until very recently, women had their menarche (onset of menses) at around 16 years old, and generally had their first child by their early 20s. After that, women had children as frequently as biologically possible (every two years) until the onset of menopause (which was earlier then than it is now). Of course, many of these children did not survive to adulthood (even in upper class families), and death in childbirth was the leading cause of death among women. Still, the effect of this was that, by and large, only young women menstruated, greatly impeding the marketing of female hygiene products (not coincidentally, the industry exploded in the middle of the twentieth century).

Aside from menstruation (or lack thereof), the lateness of childbirth leads to other problems:

  • Generation gap. Much has been made of the disconnect between parents and children. This has many causes, but one of them is the great difference in age.
  • Parenting difficulties. In the days of yore, women transitioned from being mothers (pre-menopause) to being grandmothers at around the age of forty to fifty, and helped their children bring up the grandchildren, which almost eliminated the “what the hell do I do now???” phenomenon all too well-known to modern parents.
  • Empty nest syndrome. In the past (and in many traditional societies, such as those in India and the Middle East today), there is no such thing as the empty nest: several (anywhere from three to five) generations live together, and older people are never alone, and are always there to help with the youngest generations.
  • Birth defects. These increase dramatically with mother’s age (incidence of Down’s syndrome, for example, goes from 1 in 1500 at maternal age of 20 to 1 in 44 at maternal age of 40).
  • Demographic collapse All the advanced Western societies (with the notable exception of Israel) are reproducing at below replacement level. This is quite obviously due in large part to starting later (also to women working, which is closely related, see below).

To summarize, although it is not the goal of this author to judge, it seems clear that from the standpoints of both mental and physical health, the feminist revolution has been a disaster. The question is, then, who benefited from it? Not the women (though many women will surely disagree). Instead, the ingestion of women by the workforce was the first (and most expensive) example of (onshore) outsourcing:

Indeed, technological advances made it possible for women to work outside the home, and back in an age when families survived quite reasonably on one salary, it was reasonable for women to use their spare time to make a couple extra bucks. They (remember, all statements here are statistical) did not care so much about pay parity with men, and were just looking for a bit of pocket money. For industry, it was an opportunity to get high quality labor at a low price. Of course, the process snowballed with disastrous effects. Not just those described above, but also economic. Indeed, look at the following chart of inflation-adjusted household income (by the way, the government is known to underreport inflation):

Inflation adjusted household income

Since in 1968 most households had a single earner, and in 2018, the vast majority have two earners, we see that (look at the “median” line) that the there has been no economic benefit to household from having both adults work. In other words, we have all been sold a bill of goods, and have had our societies destroyed by demographic collapse and family dysfunction.

Nothing like progress (yes, this state of affairs is absolutely nothing like progress).

A follow-up to Hill’s paper or – is free speech dead in the West?

Things seem to come in bunches, and just (under) three weeks after Ted Hill’s Quillette.com article, and much discussion in the various blogs (Tao’s, Gowers’ and others) an even bigger fight has broken out.  Alessandro Strumia, a theoretical physicist at University of Pisa gave a talk at a “gender equality” conference at CERN where he cast doubt on gender equality in physics.  The result was that he was instantly booted out of CERN, and the Rector of the University of Pisa announced a disciplinary proceeding against him. The reader can read the slides (which, by the way, were immediately removed from the CERN repository, in a misguided attempt to send this work down a memory hole – that trick never works these days where information travels with blinding speed) above (click on “talk”), and decide whether or not Strumia is actually Hitler.  The reader can also make up her own mind as to whether she (or he) agrees with Strumia’s analysis. This writer would be doing the reader a disservice if he tried to make the reader’s mind up for her/him.

A remark on Hill’s work on the Greater Male Variability Hypothesis

Many of us are now familiar with the sad tale of Ted Hill’s encounter with censorship. The article has has caused a furore, and has been discussed at some length in a number of blogs, among them Terry Tao’s, (Sir) Tim Gowers’ in Mathematics, and also in some blogs by self-proclaimed experts in evolutionary biology, among them Reed Cartwright’s and Lior Pachter’s. Cartwright proclaimed the paper “hot garbage”, and Pachter could not wait to agree, and produced several pages of “debunking” of the paper, while also spewing pages of absurd accusations against Igor Rivin (the handling editor of the paper) [to his credit, Pachter stopped short of claiming that Rivin was actually Hitler].

While there is much to be said about the wisdom of trying to justify the unpublishing of a paper peer-reviewed in the accepted way and accepted, this is not the goal of this short post. Instead,  this writer was troubled by the question of whether the paper was, in fact, “hot garbage”. A short session with Dr Google revealed the Heterodox Academy post of a year or so ago (the post was occasioned by the famous Damore memo). While the Heterodox Academy article is very interesting in and of itself (it is mostly concerned with the data supporting the GMVH), what was most interesting was the comment by Rosalind Arden (a researcher at the London School of Economics), which I am taking the liberty of giving in its entirety here (I hope Dr Arden looks kindly upon this pilferage):

Rosalind

What is interesting about this post is that Dr Arden states that the explanation Hill proposes is, indeed, the front-runner in the evolutionary biology community. I then looked at the paper by Rowe and Houle, which, in the framework of the Life History Theory, develops the biological underpinnings in some depth. The paper, as Dr Arden mentions, is in under the rubric of the Lek Paradox. The Lek paradox is the following: in many species, males put on group “plays” (“lek” means play in Swedish) and the more spectacular males get to mate with the ladies, but mate is pretty much all they do, and do not participate in the raising of the offspring. The paradox is that the traits responsible for their good performance should, one might think, become more and more exaggerated (reducing variability), but they do not. Instead, variability increases. The short explanation (in this context) for the lek paradox is that these traits are actually a burden on the animal in other ways, so going too far would actually impede the survival prospects of the animal involved. Variability, however, is just the ticket. In any case, the paper is very interesting, once one gets past the jargon,  and seems to be the culmination of a long search by the authors and other researchers in the field.

In any case, the conclusion is that far from being “hot garbage”, Hill’s model is very sensible (indeed, more than just sensible) from the evolutionary biology perspective, and since the biologists did not actually state an explicit mathematical model, is clearly a contribution to the field, though, perhaps not quite as great a contribution as Hill thought, given that the mechanism is not new. I think that the hot garbage (or at least the egg) is covering the faces of Professors Cartwright and Pachter, who really should be ashamed of themselves.