Is Modern Human Evolution a Social Construct?
Darwin believes that creatures, including us humans, adapt and evolve accordingly to the changes in our surroundings. Natural Selection as Darwin calls it, is every living creature’s struggle towards survival in this world. Taking this concept and applying it in a more contemporary setting such as a high school classroom, we see an ecosystem where societal trends govern the lifestyle of children. Mainstream media manufactures a definition of acceptable, ostracizing children that deviate from the norm, branding them as “weird” and “unacceptable,” leading these children to be bullied. Thus people change to adapt to these standards chosen by the society, in order for them to survive and be welcomed. However, this example is seen in a very magnified perspective, and a way to see it through retrospect is to see how societal trends affect sexuality.
Darwin’s view on sexual selection when see through a contemporary context is very much relevant to the issues on feminism and sexism. Sexual selection influences evolution in a much greater scale than we think. Just by observing animals, we see how most of their actions and habits are influenced by their method of mating. Not only does sexual selection affect physical attributes among creatures, it also affects preferences and abilities. Darwin realized this and in his words he says:
“Courage, pugnacity, perseverance, strength and size of body, weapons of all kinds, musical organs, both vocal and instrumental, bright colors and ornamental appendages, have all been indirectly gained by the one sex or the other, through the exertion of choice, the influence of love and jealousy, and the appreciation of the beautiful in sound, color or form and these powers of mind manifestly depend on the development of the brain.”
Given this thought, we can see how it is difficult to attain a certain level of equality among genders. However, I say this not in contradiction to the thought of feminism, as feminism argues the social, political, and economical equality among genders. Rather so, I believe that equality cannot be attained in a physical and mental level, as we are not biologically and physically made alike, therefore although we can be treated equally, as feminism suggests, a man cannot act the same manner as a woman, the same way a woman cannot act the same manner as a man.
In the 21st century, social trends have dictated much of our personal lives, and now we must question the extent of its influence in our humanity. Changes however, do not come overnight. Even if the entirety of the world decides that we start changing our views on sexuality, we do not simply wake up biologically and physically different. Social trends, if it exists long enough, could certainly affect us as humans, although it would take generations before actual significant change is seen.
The question of how much of how we act can be traced to biological differences is an interesting one, and one that I unfortunately don’t know much about. It is certainly true that males and females differ physiologically and hormonally, and it would be surprising if this didn’t have any influence on how we think and act. But social factors start to affect us very quickly after we’re born, as babies soak up how others interact with them. It would be so hard to tell just what of how we think and act depends only on biological differences; you would have to do a horrible experiment where you raised children by robots or something, so they had no sense of social expectations whatsoever! And the social influences on children in terms of expectations for males and females only get heavier as children get older (I start to see this happening amongst kids in middle school, though I expect it’s happening earlier too). So even though there probably are biologically-based differences between how men and women think and act, I wonder if it’s even possible to know the nature and extent of those, and how much of what we think might be inborn could be due to social influence. That’s my current thought on the issue, anyway, since I don’t have data. Happy to hear what you think, Kurt! Or others who want to comment.