Having a Bad Argument Day

Here is an article by Oliver James in which he tries to argue for environmental explanations of sexual proclivities, in particular the male preference for very young women not to say girls, rather than or in addition to genetic ones. This is surely an idea for which a case can be made, but James makes a hash of the job here. Take this passage for example:

Evolutionary psychologists regard these facts as grist to their mill – youthful looks are a signal of fertility: get a young wife to get more children out of her, blah, blah, blah, ad nauseam. But they could just as well be explained by the fact that, whereas men can reproduce at any age, women’s clocks are ticking, so potential mothers are always in much shorter supply than potential fathers.

Er…am I missing something? Isn’t his alternative explanation at least arguably every bit as much of a ‘genetic’ or evolutionary one as the first? Aren’t they in fact the same explanation, worded slightly differently?

And then this one:

Men may be sex maniacs, but they are not completely thick. They can work out that if they want to have a baby, a pensioner is not likely to be much help; their attraction to youth could be a rational decision rather than a genetic script.

Same again only more so. One, attraction to youth can still be both a rational decision and hard-wired, and two–the research that shows men preferring young women across cultures applies to all men, not only the ones who want to have children. Has Oliver James never met or heard of a man who in fact doesn’t want children but is still more attracted to young women than to old ones? Surely he can do better than that…

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