In this chapter we have found one of the hidden evolutionary benefits to human kindness: the reproductive advantages it brings through mate choice. Our ancestors favored kind, fair, brave, well-mannered individuals who had the ability and generosity to help their sexual partners, children, step-children, and other members of their tribe. They were sexually unattracted to cheats, cowards, liars, and psychopaths. Is that really so hard to believe? Darwinians have searched so hard for the selfish survival benefits of morality that we have forgotten its romantic appeal.
Does this reduce our noblest ideals to a crude sex drive? Emphatically not. When our ancestors were favoring kindness, they were not looking for fake kindness, strategic kindness, or short-term kindness. They were looking for the real thing— genuine concern for others. Because of the power of sexual choice, they had the power to evolve it. Human altruism is not an evolutionary paradox. It is a sexual ornament.
Clearly, sexual choice does not account for all of morality. Kinship and reciprocity, too, were very important. And I have barely alluded to many other virtues, such as prudence, temperance, justice, courage, faith, hope, mercy, compassion, friendship, gratitude, patience, and humility. Sexual choice may have favored some of them, but other forms of social selection were undoubtedly powerful as well. Different selection pressures probably interacted in different ways to produce each moral adaptation, and it will take decades to sort them all out.
Some may be unhappy with attributing a sexual function to human morality. But we must remember that a sexual function is not a sexual motivation. This theory does not claim that we are only virtuous when we want sex; rather, it suggests that moral emotions, judgments, and reasoning were favored during courtship between our ancestors. Their sexual choices were not satisfied with a few tokens of romantic generosity. They selected instincts to provide for the common good even at high personal risk. They selected principled moral leadership capable of keeping peace, resolving conflict, and punishing crime. They selected unprecedented levels of sexual fidelity, good parenting, fair play, and charitable generosity They helped to shape the human capacity for sympathy They helped to make us reasonably agreeable, sincere, and socially responsive. It is a remarkable achievement for an evolutionary process that began with amoral bacteria, and unfolded through pure genetic self-interest right up to the moment when each of us was conceived.
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