From Darwin to Eternity

Evolutionary moral psychology.

Why Does Morality Focus So Much on Sex?

People often question why so much of morality is focused on sex. Evolutionary science provides an excellent answer. Read More

Psychology is a false

Psychology is a false paradigm, and all psychologists wish to push their morals/values onto the masses.

What even gives psychologists the right to push morals onto society? Science is meant to be descriptive and not prescriptive.

That would be why the

That would be why the socially conservative types generally disapprove of state welfare programs; it decreases the need for paternal investment by replacing the father with the state. That then requires society as a whole to pitch in and provide resources in place of the father, which is where the fiscal conservatives will have a problem. The state welfare program lets the father, who ever he is, off the hook at the expense of everyone else except the actual parents. The father gets to skate free of obligation, and the mother and offspring still get provision without the mother having to do anything to earn it. And since you get more of whatever you are willing to pay for, you then get more fatherless children because you're paying women to produce them.

IN MY EXPERIENCE...................................

In my own personal experience, as a woman raised in a very restrictive religious environment, morality focuses on sex because it is easy to focus on and lecture about, and requires little actual effort emotionally or psychologically. Those "standing on the moral high ground" feel like they are achieving something when in fact the real problems are being ignored. Domestic violence, sexual abuse by religious community leaders, abuse of the vulnerable in the community, racist attitudes and wide spread selfish, self seeking behavior by people in power who do not want to deal with the negative impact their behavior has on those around them, because that would require effort, emotionally and psychologically. This article simplifies (too much in my opinion) a very complex problem in human society. Morality preachers are simply one group of people saying "we are better than you because we do things better than you". Very different to those people who try to live their lives according to a moral code that respects others rights to choose their own path in life.

I think you're confounding

I think you're confounding the reason behind morality existing in the first place, with how it gets used as a weapon or excuse. Morality at its base is about social control, because you can't have animals living in groups without some way to control their behavior. The article appears to be focusing more on the base reasons for morality, and why so much of it is focused particularly on sex. Maybe it's because most people can grasp that group living isn't possible unless murder and theft are strongly discouraged, but sex is something pretty much everyone is going to do, and that makes it trickier to control. If you don't control it, society gets overrun with expensive babies that no one wants to support, and if you control it too far, you get rebellion from the group.

not really

"If you don't control it, society gets overrun with expensive babies that no one wants to support . . ."

This isn't really true, though, is it? Affluent, Western countries have low birth rates, including the countries that take good care of children. A lot of European countries have birth rates below replacement levels.

But human morality didn't

But human morality didn't evolve in "Western countries". Human morality evolved in small tribal groups with little education and no birth control; more like modern third world than modern US. It's not like a few control freaks stood around one day over beer and made up morality and imposed it on the rest of the world. It's evolved behavior, and is based in the necessity of social animals needing rules for interaction to keep them from killing each other.

The only way you can allow free reign sexually in small subsistence groups is if you just decided that infants are expendable and you can let them die if people don't feel like feeding them. And lumbering pregnant women require more care, too, while contributing less, so it's like freaking welfare in a society that doesn't have any extra.

Science has changed the need for morality...............

Contraception and condoms stop pregnancy and the spread of STDs. The need to abstain from sex to prevent pregnancy, (and so prevent the burden of caring for infant and mother on a community or family) is no longer socially necessary. That is why when growing up in the religious environment I described about, I considered all adults to be idiots. If the church just made contraceptives available to all woman and men, sex would not longer be an issue or a problem, because pregnancy and STDs could be prevented and people could have sex without the guilt. Except that those who liked to stand on the moral high ground would then actually have to make the effort to deal with the real problems ................... but that would take emotional and psychological effort ................too much like hard work. So the religious fundamentalists just kept preaching about sexual abstinence to feel like they are achieving something without actually doing anything useful.

The hole in that idea is that

The hole in that idea is that contraception and condoms are widely available, and yet people still often don't use them. There still are STDs and there still are unintended pregnancies. I think the morality has simply shifted from "Don't have extramarital sex" to "don't have unprotected sex". And even with birth control properly used, pregnancy STILL can happen. The morality may have shifted, but it hasn't been removed.

and the hole in that idea is ...................

In countries where the use of contraception (such as European countries) is considered socially responsible and is widely available, (and where sex is considered to be a healthy adult activity) STDs and unwanted pregnancy rates are steadily decreasing and are low compared to the USA. In the USA morality preaching politicians have attacked Planned Parenthood (limiting access to contraceptives to those most in need, the people who cannot afford to feed their children); have made contraception appear unacceptable by allowing morality preaching employers to remove it from health insurance and religious leaders preach that "God will find away" to parents who are struggling to feed their current children and who would benefit from the use of contraception. Meanwhile, the morality preaching politicians ignore the real problems facing the USA.......... because that would take emotional and psychological effort ...... so much easier to appear to be doing something by preaching morality while actually achieving nothing.

And it's STILL a moral issue,

And it's STILL a moral issue, because people STILL don't properly use contraception, and babies and diseases STILL result even when they do. Adultery is also STILL a moral issue. You can complain all you like about things that you don't agree with, but sex was and is a moral issue because the people enjoying the sex aren't the only ones dealing with the consequences of sex.

Every time my tax dollars cover another welfare queen squeezing out puppies, that's a MORAL issue.

thank you

Congratulations, you have just shown your true motivation with the last comment, thank you. I will leave other readers to drawn their own conclusions about you from your comments.

Humans used to be tribal, and

Humans used to be tribal, and when a woman has a baby and the father doesn't support it, the rest of the tribe get stuck with that support. That's how it BECAME a moral issue in the first place. The people enjoying the sex aren't the ones stuck with the consequences. It's like you committing a murder and your whole tribe has to go to jail for it. How do you think reality works outside your little fantasy world?


So what is the point you are making? If a baby that is made is whose parent or parents don't have the proper means to take care of it, that it should just starve to death? Leave it in the wilderness to die? From what I know of welfare, by the way, is that the WILL go after the father and even issue court ordered paternity tests, so it isn't like Welfare is handed out with no stipulations or that the State takes the place of the father without a fight. I will admit, the welfare system in America should be overhauled but the holier then thou attitude does nothing to help the situation.

There also is, again, the fact that conservative groups limit the birth control education/options of the most disadvantaged groups, mostly. But no, just tell people to stop from preforming a very powerful and important biological urge. How wise and noble.

First you'd have to back up

First you'd have to back up and think about the topic of the blog post. Why does morality focus on sex? The reason morality focuses on sex is because when unprepared people bump uglies and make an unplanned, unwanted infant that they have no ability or intention to care for, the society around them is stuck with the decision to either throw the infant away and let it die, or raise it at their expense, and most people aren't monstrous enough to throw it away. The result is that society gets stuck with a high bill and the parties responsible for the screw-up skate out of their responsibility, and are likely to repeat it. The people stuck with the consequences aren't the ones making the mistake, so the people likely to get stuck with the bill put all sorts of social pressure on people to not make babies they aren't going to provide for. Since people usually don't know whether any particular bout of sex is likely to result in offspring, they try to prevent the sex until two people are married. That's also why historically, families with girls were more alert to sexual shenanigans, because they're more likely to get stuck with the expense of the unwanted kid.

father's influence is not just monetary

If anti-promiscuity moral rules are calibrated to past environments in which male parental investment was essential, then these rules may become more relaxed as male parental investment becomes less essential in some of these environments (due to, for example, women becoming more powerful economically).

What makes you so sure male investment is less essential? Massive amounts of data indicate that the chances of pretty much EVERY social pathology -- crime, school failure, chronic unemployability, promiscuity, homosexuality, alcoholism, drug addiction -- are vastly higher among the fatherless, even controlling for SES. It appears that, totally apart from his economic contributions, there is some kind of socializing/stabilizing influence from a father, that women just *cannot replicate*, or, at best, cannot do nearly as well.

And no industrial society, however productive, will be able to afford the social-welfare costs of fatherlessness forever. Sooner or later we will either repudiate the sexual revolution and go back to the old rules -- or, we will collapse.

It's not just about logistics

A lot of the discussion here assumes sexual morality in its traditional form is redundant in the modern world e.g. if the child bearing and support issues can be managed. The practical benefits of monogamous relationships are only one of the issues. Sex is not something most people are able to participate in without emotional investment. Sex is not some mechanical activity, like eating. Like it or not, the fact is adultery, promiscuity, incest, pedophilia, bestiality, prostitution et al can cause serious psychological and emotional damage and societal ills. Attacking religions that preach against these behaviours is simply shooting the messenger.

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Michael Price, Ph.D., is a lecturer at the psychology department at Brunel University, West London. He is also the co-director at the Centre for Culture and Evolutionary Psychology.


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