BECOME THE MAN WOMEN WANT
13th of July 2014

Matt Ridley Interview

Introduction:

Matt Ridley is a world famous zoologist and best-selling author of The Red Queen, The Origins of Virtue and The Rational Optimist. His books have sold over a million copies and been translated into 30 languages.

In this episode Tucker and Matt discuss pheasant mating and “peacocking”, the characteristics that women value in men, what guys need to focus on, and how guys can cultivate certain traits to become more attractive to women.

Podcast:


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Key takeaways:

  • Human evolution has shaped our psychology and our instincts, such that a lot of our behavior can be explained through the lens of evolutionary psychology.
  • Women value men who can not only be intelligent, caring and sensitive, but who can also be strong and aggressive at the right times – a “tender defender”.
  • Men value health and youth much more than women – women are attracted to males who can be “dominant” in some sort of sense – not just physically, but being a leader, being confident, and being admired by other men.
  • Every man that is successful and confident and accomplished had to start somewhere. They weren’t always as successful and confident as they are now.
  • Linguistic fluency is attractive to women – someone like George Clooney who can speak eloquently and smoothly. In fact, being good at anything is attractive to women.
  • At certain points in life, women are just as interested in short-term relationships as men are.

Links from this episode

Matt Ridley’s Bio:

  • BA and DPhil in Zoology from Oxford University
  • Author of 7 books including The Red Queen, The Origins of Virtue and The Rational Optimist
  • Wrote for the Economist for 7 years as science editor, Washington correspondent and American editor
  • Also a Tory peer in the UK House of Lords, a Viscount, and former Chairman of Northern Rock bank
  • Married to neuroscientist Anya Hurlbert
  • Brother-in-law is UK Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Homepage and blog (blogs primarily on the topics discussed in The Rational Optimist)

Major Works:

The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature

  • This book “champions a Red Queen theory for the evolution of sexual reproduction: that it was invented to keep changing the genetic locks so as to remain one step ahead of constantly mutating parasites.” (source)
  • Good summary of the book here
  • We are attracted to, and behave in order to attract, mates of high reproductive potential
  • Human intellect – virtuosity, individuality, inventiveness etc. – are all traits designed to increase sexual attractiveness (as in The Mating Mind)
  • Some discussion of peacock’s tail as a counter-signal: a large tail is an impediment to survival, and yet the male has survived, indicating fitness
  • Discusses adultery, homosexual promiscuity (males acting out male tendencies, unburdened by female pressure for monogamy)
  • Men want to acquire wealth and power to attract mates – wealth and power are a way to achieve genetic eternity.
  • Women pay attention to cues of wealth and power, men pay attention to youth and health.
  • Men think women care more about male physique than they do, women think men care about status cues more than they actually do.
  • Intelligence primarily used for deceiving and detecting deception.

The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation

  • “argues that the human mind has evolved a special instinct for social exchange that enables us to reap the benefits of cooperation, ostracise those who break the social contract and avoid the trap of being ‘rational fools’.” (source)
  • NYT review here
  • Builds on the ideas of The Selfish Gene (Dawkins) and The Moral Animal (Wright)
  • Argues that groups operate best at a size of about 150, the limit at which humans are capable of knowing which members of the group they can trust
  • Tit-for-tat behaviour conferred a survival or sexual advantage and therefore was passed on through generations.
  • Vindictiveness and vengefulness confer advantages through making others less likely to cross you.
  • Similarly, generosity and the reputation it breeds makes people more likely to trust you and deal with you.
  • Book also argues in favour of a libertarian stance – smaller government and private and freely exchangeable property rights will lead to socially cooperative behaviour

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

  • Modern application of classical economics
  • Argues that cultural evolution, via free trade, commerce, free enterprise and “creative destruction”, will inevitably and inexorably lead to increased prosperity.
  • We improve when we trade, and we trade when we trust each other
  • Trade leads to specialization which leads to improved technology and productivity gains, increasing wealth
  • The ‘optimist’ element refers to Ridley’s optimism on increasing living standards, health, decreased poverty, and the belief that the free market will find a way to solve problems like climate change

Further reading

 

Audio Transcription:

Tucker:
So what I actually want to start with is, I understand it, and correct me if I’m wrong, you have kind of an interesting history. You started your PhD in zoology at Oxford, right?

Matt:
Correct.

Tucker:
And your field of study was pheasant mating, is that correct?

Matt:
Yes, I was working in an ornithology research group that was specifically focused on birds, and I chose to try to understand why most birds are monogamous and most mammals are polygamous by studying a polygamous bird, if you see what I mean.

Tucker:
Right.

Matt:
So a bird like a pheasant is very unusual. Because it’s quite clear that the males are mating with a group of females. Successful males are, and unsuccessful males – not at all. Which is very much more like a mammal system. It’s very much common in mammas but it’s relatively rare in males. And I was really trying to ask why is that, what explains that? What explains the mating system of the pheasant, what’s going on, what is it that females are trying to get from males, and what are males trying to get from females in the pheasant.

Tucker:
Well, that’s super interesting. So what did you find about pheasants?

Matt:
I marked pheasants and I radio tracked them. And what I found was that successful males essentially were the ones that were occupying the best combination of habitats. And the females were keen on being gregarious when feeding. And this enabled males to monopolize females. And what females were getting from the relationship was essentially mate guarding. In other words they were able to feed in the open without being harassed by other males. And they could get on with feeding because he spent his whole time with his head in the air looking for either predators or rival males. So essentially it’s a protection racket, if you like. A group of females is after some kind of protection by a strong male that can head off other males and can keep an eye out for predators while they maximize their feeding rate, when they are conspicuous in the open.

Interestingly, where they are nesting is in woodland usually, and curiously I discovered they don’t nest in the males’ territory in the woodland. The males’ territory is always along the woodland edge, bit of an open ground next to a bit of a cover and soon as they are in the cover, they will move to not even the adjacent male but the one beyond that usually, before they made a nest. So they were very much interested in separating themselves from each other when nesting but congregating in the favorite males’ territory when feeding. So I took that as an attempt to avoid being parasitized by other females when nesting. As they are very good at laying eggs in each others’ nest. But if you want the other short version of the argument made, which is that the reason a pheasant mating system looks more like a mammal mating system than a bird mating system is because they are basically mammals. That is to say, they don’t fly very much.

Tucker:
Right.

Matt:
The whole point of a pheasant’s life is to avoid flying. Flying is a emergency response for escape. Waste a lot of energy. And you are better off not doing it if you can. So they are essentially living in two dimensions. Like most mammals. Which enables the male to monopolize a group in a way which simply wouldn’t be possible with a bunch of birds moving around in the canopy of woodland or something like that.

Tucker:
That’s super interesting.

Matt:
Just get back to the more basic point is the young pheasant is called nidifugous – that is to say they leave the nest straight away and feed them self. So there is no benefit to a female in monopolizing a male and having one male to herself to feeing the young, because that’s not needed. Most birds, the male is there to help feed the young so the female is very keen on picking an exclusive male. And if you don’t need that, then you can instead decide to go for the best male.

Tucker:
So that’s super interesting. Now as I understand your history, this research lead you to human mating? Like from pheasants you kind of went into human mating and evolutionary psychology? Is that correct?

Matt:
Well only as a writer. What happened was, after my PhD I became a journalist. And after some years of that I decided that I wanted to write a book about the evolution of sex, which as a subject I was particularly interested in the origin and the evolution of sex and sexual behavior, and in particular, by then, the “sperm competition theory” had become an interesting feature. And so in writing a book about where sex came from and how it evolved, I couldn’t resist straying into the territory of mating strategies in animals. And obviously it then because obvious to me that the lessons we were learning about why animals and birds behave the way they do, could be applied to human beings. And the literature that was then emerging on that subject on the evolution of human sexuality, which was the title of Donald Symons’ book, was really very striking.

And yet there was huge resistance to it from human scientists who were saying no, no, human beings are driven by learning, not instinct. All their habits are acquired, not developed. And therefore any lessons you can learn from animals are wrong. And that seemed to me so blatantly foolish. That many of the principles of evolutionary biology were obviously applicable to human beings. And so that became very much the theme of certainly the second half of my book of “Red Queen”. So it was only in writing the book, I never did actual research on human behavior.

Tucker:
Right. So the book you are talking about, the “Red Queen” is super famous. I read it in college and it became sort of a, I don’t want to say classic, but it became almost like one of those books you can’t not read if you are in a field, anywhere even adjacent, to biology, psychology, sort of anything. Let me ask you, it’s kind of funny you say like people are resistant to that now because in 2014 the idea of someone would say oh no, no, no, humans are only reacting by learning, not instinct, it’s like almost laughable now. Do you ever go back and think about the debate you got in with the “Red Queen”? There aren’t even debates anymore. Everything you said is basically right and you won all those debates over time.

Matt:
I think that’s right. I don’t think I personally necessarily won them, but the principles behind evolutionary psychology, the idea that humans, uniquely among animals, don’t make use of instinct when developing their behaviors and have to start from scratch and laboriously learn everything that they do without any prejudice or bias towards what they will learn and they run the risk therefore of learning all the wrong things, you know – this seems to me so mad as a theory. Yet it was inherited form the nature-nurture wars which eventually managed to exempt human beings from any evolutionary approach to behavior or even indeed genetic approach to behavior. And I later wrote a history of the nature-nurture argument, so how it’s become so polarized and how in particular how resistant to evolutionary arguments human science had become. I think you are quite right. That now looking back, we wonder what the fuss was all about. What could possibly be wrong with the idea that you know, if males are larger and more aggressive in pretty well every mammal species, the fact they are larger and more aggressive in humans is a coincidence?

Tucker:
No.

Matt:
It just doesn’t seem very plausible.

Tucker:
Right. It’s exactly right. Funny, I thought to me about this all the time, oh yeah you know like, you have to understand sex from the concept of humans were primates and you kind of move up to animals first and primates and you kind o move up from there. Most people now they don’t even blink twice at it. They are like, “oh yeah, of course”. The idea that you can’t think about that or that’s wrong is like it’s kind of cool now, I guess it would’ve been really hard to, I can’t even imagine having those arguments, 30 years or something, yeah.

Matt:
It’s 21 years since the book came out. It’s a long time. And I’m surprised to find out that it still sells. In fact it sells even better these days than it did to start with. There was a slow start for that book. And to some extent the book worked because it sort of tapped into common sense among many people. And it was only the great experts who said that “you couldn’t use biology to explain human beings”. And I was very struck by how people would read the book and write to me and say “you know, this is exactly right. This makes me understand what’s going on, it must be”, but I was riding a wave of interest in evolutionary psychology at the time that was a relatively new science. People liked Leda Cosmides and John Tooby was for relating approach. And people like Geoffrey Miller, and myself and others were starting to, and Robert Wright. Geoffrey came a bit later. It was really me and Robert Wright in that sense. We were starting to popularize this science. So we were very lucky to be in on the beginning of a recognized piece of scientific research.

Tucker:
I love the Red Queen. Let’s talk about one of my favorite sort of examples. I learned about sort of, it’s an iconic revolutionary example but I learned about it from the “Red Queen”. Which is the peacocks’ tail, and what that means to sexual relationships. Can you summarize? I know it obviously, but for our listeners, what does the peacocks’ tail mean?

Matt:
Funny enough, this is where I did actually a little bit of research myself, original research. Because I was in India working on a different project. And I was able to observe peacocks in the wild and note some aspects of their behavior, which turned out to be very different from what was reported in the books. And I did a small study of a group of peacocks living in a garden in England. And I saw that they were a lacking species. A lacking species is a one which the male actually congregate. The male with the smallest territory near the middle of the displaying area is the one that tends to get the most mates. It had been told that it’s sort of a herein species where the male would round up a group of females. But that’s not the way it works, essentially there’s not pad bound. Which means no group of females to males, it’s just that the females visit the display areas and choose one of the males. Now what Charles Darwin hypothesized, a century before was that the peacock tail has grown so enormously large and elaborate because females are choosing males with large elaborate tails. And this was known as “sexual selection theory”. But a particularly female selection version of sexual selection theory. And it’s fallen out of favor in between and it came back into fashion in the 1980s with the work of other scientists. Particularly on Widow Bird and other species showing, if you exaggerate it, the size of the tail of a widow bird this was, I forgot the name of the guy who did that. If you exaggerated the size of a feature of one of those sexually selected species. It was more likely to achieve matings with females. So that’s as far as Darwin had gone. But why? There was a big argument going on in the 1980s about whether this was the cause, the tail was an indicator of good genes in which case the female was doing the rational thing of getting a male who was disease resistant or in some other ways very fit in order to get the genes to the offspring. And this was a species in which the females didn’t want anything else form the male. Didn’t want feeding of the chicks or anything like that. She just wanted the best possible genes because that was the only point of being selective. But there’s another aspect to the theory, which I had preference for which I still think is part of the story – although I think good genes argument is still around – that once females start selecting on the basis of tail size, then any female who doesn’t select on that basis is going to produce a male that’s not attracted to other females.

So there’s a sort of a tyranny of the majority here, you’ve got to follow the fashion. If you want, you can call this the “sexy son” hypothesis. You got to be able to produce a son who has the features of this. And this is why you get these extraordinary exaggerations of the certain features of the plumage of birds in stronger sexually selected species where females are being very choosy. Because in birds of paradise or any other creatures, it doesn’t matter what feature is exaggerated. It might be a different feature in each species or it might be the elaboration of the song or something like that. But you get a runaway selection towards the most extreme version of that feature that the male can grow. And so the one with the biggest tail probably has the best genes, but it’s also is most likely to produce a son who is most attractive to females. That’s really what the females are after.

Tucker:
Right, exactly. So I want to point something out, I know it’ll be obvious to you, but there are lot of people who kind of like hear about evolutionary psychology second hand. And they think the peacocks’, you are going to laugh at this. They think the peacocks’ tail is about showing off. And I’m not kidding about this Matt. There are guys in America who will go out in clubs and wear these ridiculous outfits and they call it peacocking and they justify it by saying “oh, this is what animals do in nature. You show off and you attract women”. And I look at them and like “dude, you don’t understand anything about this. It’s not about showing off, it’s a counter signal that’s saying your genes are so good that you can support this wasteful display”. That’s what a peacock is doing. And now it kind of makes me laugh because it’s sort of like these people have no idea what they are doing, and they dressed up like idiots and girls look at them like they are idiots, which is what they are. I don’t know. It makes me laugh. It’s like basic kind of idea if you understand evolutionary theory.

Matt:
Let me interject a couple of points. One is that human beings are clearly quite unusual among mammals and somewhat different certainly from peacocks in one respect, which is that males are involved in bringing up offspring. When that happens, obviously the most successful strategy for a male might be to mate with only one female and focus on helping her bring up her offspring. And if that’s the most successful strategy then mating is wildly possible and not involving yourself at all with bringing up offspring. Which is truly most birds for example. The male gets involved in bringing up the offspring then the thing that females are going to be looking for is quite different from what a peacocking man would do.

Tucker:
Right.

Matt:
They are going to be looking for something much more nurturing. But of course we also then discovered through genetics, that even in species where the male does play a huge role in bringing up the offspring, and whether there’s monogamous , the male is not worse also, going out and finding other opportunities to mate. And the female is not at worst of finding a superior male genetically speaking. Cuckolding the one who’s bringing up her offspring. And this is basically sperm competition theory. That was discovered once we were able to use genetic fingerprints and find out in a swallows nest some of the off spring are not fathered by the male that who’s raring it. And so there’s a tendency in species where males nurture the young, not human beings. For females to prefer kind, helpful, caring males, but also to have a slight instinct that they quite like a really rough wild male occasionally as a short term mating relationship.

Tucker:
Right. I mean that’s what you see in human beings. You just see women that value the whole thing. They value human who are sensitive, and intelligent and caring. But they also value, in the same men a lot of times men who are strong and can be aggressive at the right time, specially externally aggressive to threats, in psychology, it’s called the “tender defender”, I’m sure you know. I don’t have to tell you that.

Matt:
I haven’t heard that expression.

Tucker:
That’s what Geoff Miller called it. We’ve been working on the book and he called it the tender defender. You know the combination of agreeableness and aggressiveness in human you see.

Matt:
Geoffrey wrote the Mating Mind and made the very strong argument, which I had also touched on in the Red Queen, that the degree of peacock-like selection could explain the human brain. The enormous human brain and particularly the use of the human brain for singing and writing poetry and generally being thoroughly sort of creative and imaginative. And for this being attractive to women – people who are clever and funny and linguistically adept tend to be attractive to women. Why should that be? Perhaps there’s a bit of a sexual selection tendency going on there. If that’s’ attractive to women, then other women should also follow that fashion so that they can have sexy sons.

Tucker:
That’s exactly what my question was going to be. When you were talking about run away selection with peacock tails, my question was, do you think runaway selection in combination with some other factors created human intelligence?

Matt:
Well I think it’s very likely that it may have well have done. I think Geoff Miller made an extraordinary strong argument for this. And sometimes you hear people say, “well hang on, a peacock has a tail, but a peahen doesn’t”. So if something is sexually selective, then you’d find it in one gender. You would not expect the female to have a large brain if the brain was sexually selective. Actually that’s not true. Sexual selection can work on both sexes at once. And we know that from Sea birds finally enough, where a lot of Sea birds like Puffins, grow very colorful covers on their beaks during the breeding season. In order to display their genetic fitness to the other sex and they cast this colorful thing off in the winter when they don’t need it. And the interesting thing is, that both sexes produce identical, you can’t tell the difference, between a male and a female. So mutual sexual selection has been shown both in laboratory and in models to work just as well. So it’s not impossible that a female would be interested in a males’ mental creativity and vice versa.

Tucker:
Right. And it also requires I think the other argument that you kind of implying is that women will have to co-evolve to be able to detect cheaters, and do all those sorts of things. So it makes sense that a female would evolve intelligence as well. Let me ask you, what do you think about “sperm competition theory”? Because I was a big fan of Robin Baker’s work when it came out. I think I read his book right before or right after I read “Red Queen”. And I know a lot of tenants that come under attack in the last few years. So, what are your general thoughts about sperm competition theory?

Matt:
Well to me one of the most powerful arguments for sperm competition theory is the physiology and anatomy of the great apes. If you look at the difference between a Gorilla and a Chimpanzee, the male Gorilla is roughly four times the weight of the male Chimpanzee. But the testicles of the Chimpanzee are roughly four times the weight of a Gorillas’ testicles. But yet it’s gorilla that’s herein polygamous. It’s the gorilla that has a bunch of seven or eight females to mate into it. The male gorilla does. So you might say “well, hang on the male gorilla is going to need a lot more sperms because he’s regularly mating with all these females”. But actually it turns out what determines the size of testicles is not how many females you are mating with. But how many other males each female is mating with. Because producing in large volumes of sperm is very important when other males are also mating with those females. So that the competition between the males happens not as in the case of the gorilla, between the individual males, but inside the female between different sets of sperms. So I do think you cannot explain as if it were the very large testicles of Chimpanzees without resorting to sperm competition theory. So certainly there’s no question, this co-relation between testis size and degree of female promiscuity, is a very interesting discovery and a one that works across species.

Does it apply in human beings? Is sperm competition going on in humans? Well teasingly, humans turn out to have these unstrangely, intermediate testicle size that implies there’s probably more sperm competition than in gorillas, but to as much in Chimpanzees, it is a but similar to gibbons which are monogamous but also with a certain degree of promiscuity. So we seem to be an intermediate species in some sense. And of course the bonobo is the species where the male-male competition is largely repeated out. Because competition between males happening entirely level of sperm to sperm competition rather than male to male competition. So I think there is sperm competition shaping human behavior and anatomy but not terribly strongly. Because we do tend to have much less. For sperm competition theory to be really strong. You got to have females deliberately mating with more than one mate every time they are trying to conceive. And that’s pretty unusual in human beings.

Tucker:
Exactly. So let’s start to guide this a little bit back to actionable sort of things for young guys. One of the things that you talked about a lot in the second half was the “Red Queen” are things that kind of guys and women don’t understand about the other sort of sex, the other gender. So for example I think you talk pretty extensively about men don’t understand what women find attractive. For example men will think that women really care about their physique. Well they kind of care, but not really, right? So what should guys really focus on if we are looking at it from a perspective what women actually care about. You know what I’m saying? What are a couple of things that the guys should focus on, they really don’t understand, they need to focus on.

Matt:
Well it’s sort of clear that youth and health are really important when men are choosing women. And it’s much less clear that’s true for men. So you are right the physique and so on, is not by any means nearly as important to women as it is to men. What is important does seem to be some combination of kindness and intelligence and strengths of character as well as strengths of physique etc. So I think what is clear is to be a dominant male in some form is attractive to members of the other sex. And that dominance can show up in the form of you know, sort of physical self confidence, in desertion, but also just being admired by other males, showing some kind of leadership. So I think if I was talking to myself at the age of 17, I would say “just be confident”. That is actually attractive in that respect.

Tucker:
Let me ask you this question if you are cool answering this because you accomplished so much in life. And it’s easy for you to sit there and say be confident because you’ve done so much. But if you were talking maybe even to the 17 year old version of yourself or maybe one of your sons or one of your sons’ friends and they are looking at you and thinking, the gap between me and him is so vast that it’s sort of unreachable. What would you say to that person like to a 17 year old person when they but yu know, “Mr. Ridley, how do I become confident?”

Matt:
I don’t really know the answer. It’s the kind of thing that you can spend a lifetime trying to understand and you don’t really know. You know be yourself is the thing people always used to say to me. I didn’t really know quite what they meant and I didn’t know what myself was, etc. But you know, I think, don’t underestimate your own abilities. Don’t be too scared of, I think a lot of young men are extremely unconfident. I certainly as, in that age. Not just in their sort of mating abilities as it were, but in everything and are relatively unprepared for understanding how much they can achieve in life. And when you look at a modern technological lifestyle, and watch what people by the age, 30, 40, 50 are able to achieve from the prospective of 17 or 18 is very daunting for both sexes actually. Goodness, I just could never know how to do this kind of things, I wouldn’t know how to begin to hold down that kind of job or whatever it is. So I think it’s not just for mating, but for everything. To say “look, take it a step at a time, and you could be just as good as most of today’s adults”. And aim high. Because actually inside every, extremely accomplished, bullshitting smart ass of a man who’s successful in mating and in other features, that is a vulnerable idiot like yourself.

Tucker:
That’s actually a really good point. Let’s tie this into your most recent book. Which is one of another favorite of mine, “The Rational Optimist?” So you obviously, even the book is called the Rational Optimist. So clearly you are very optimistic about the future of the world and of sort of people. If you were talking to that same 17 year old, and let’s say he says “okay I get it, like I need to do little things, step by step and then maybe I can grow into something you know”, big and developed and confident. Then what if he said “Mr. Ridley, what should I do? What field should I look into?” What would you say, specially based off your last book what would you advise a young guy or girl to look into field wise or what skill should they develop etc.

Matt:
Well hard for me to say because although I’m optimistic about the future, I’m not at all good at forecasting exactly what shape the future will take. Not as anybody, one of the striking thing is how wrong we are in the immediate future. Nobody saw social networking. I remember a rash of books ten years ago saying that the internet was lead people to being very anti social. Well look at what the internet is used for. It’s used for rampant social connections actually. Most of the time. So it’s very hard to look into the future. It’s very hard to understand the future. And exactly which professions are going to be most successful in the future apart from the lawyers, I can’t really tell. I think the one thing I would say is, first of all, don’t believe the grownups who go around saying “it’s all going to be a disaster and by the time you are 25, 30 years old, we are going to be living in ecological deserts and everybody will be starving”. Because that’s what they said to me in 1972. And I believed them and I was wrong to. The degree of pessimism about the future is always there and is always wrong. Because actually what we are doing through economic growth is making it easier to solve environmental problems, not harder.

Tucker:
So well let’s actually go back to something we were talking just like a second ago. You said sort of, we are talking about intelligence, right? And I think a lot of guys, specially young guys, young intelligence guys think that women only like you know, assholes like you were saying before bullshitters or athletes, right but the reality is, women I think really do like intelligent guys. So what traits in your experience have you seen intelligent guys display that make them attractive to women? Do you know what I’m asking?

Matt:
I think being linguistically fluent is surprisingly attractive to females generally. In other word to speak fluently, to speak with a wide vocabulary and to flow very well. I mean, take George Clooney. What is it about George Clooney, I mean sure he’s got a dimple in his chin and he’s got dark hair and he’s got a regular features and all that. But you know, he’s extraordinarily attractive to women. He’s been sort of top of their list for a couple of decades in terms of sort of if you want to make a joke about who you’d like to run off with among women, George Clooney is often mentioned. And I always noticed, every film role he has is basically one of a chap who just talks very smoothly. He’s never lost for words, he can talk his way out of any situation. His sentences are well rounded, his vocabulary is large, his voice is strong, and you know I’m thinking of the character in O Brother Where Art Thou or something like that. So that’s also the character he is, I think his linguistic fluency is generally attractive to, which is a pity because I’m not particularly linguistically fluent myself when I talk. I’m not bad at writing but…

Tucker:
No, I’m the same way.

Matt:
This is the Cyreno De Bergerac point, that a man who’s just not very good at expressing himself goes to a man who is, but he’s hideous to look at, he says please can you help me seduce a women?

Tucker:
I think the point though is that both of these types of intelligence work very well. You may think you are not George Clooney and you aren’t, but maybe you have this amazing beautiful and ridiculously intelligent wife. So clearly you are doing a few things right. Even if you can only write you know,

Matt:
Absolutely you know, I was incredibly lucky in that respect and you are absolutely right about the beauty and the intelligence of my wife. So thank you for pointing that out.

Tucker:
My only point is you don’t have to be verbally proficient, I think it’s the best way to go but if you are only a good writer, and if you are only good with certain other things, being good at almost anything is attractive to women. That’s, I think it kind of ties back into your point about confidence. The way you get confidence is the same way your get girls to be attracted to you. You have to be good at something you know, and the way you get good at is, by starting small and practice,

Matt:
Yes, and that comes back to the theme of the Rational Optimist. Which is that specialization and exchange is sort of the secret of human progress. And what you should do in this life is set out and be specialized and good at producing something. Specialization is not the way we go in terms of how we fill our lives. We are very diverse in what we do as consumers. But as producers to get specialized and be good at something, even if it’s chartered accountancy or something, is on the whole rewarding strategy but in terms of being financially secure. But also in terms of being attracted to women. So it’s probably right. Find what you are good and do more if it,

Tucker:
Aright. Become good at a skill. You don’t have to find your passion just pick something you like doing that other people need and then go do it. So let me ask you it might just bet the question you just answered actually. But if you were to take like an 18 year old or something like that, and he would’ve said, Mr. Ridley, given your wide breath of experience in both evolutionary studies and biology and markets and everything else, I’m just starting off, what are a couple of things that you can tell me, that will really help me make really smart decisions? Both about women in relationships and about my career. What are maybe one or two really good take always you would give that guy?

Matt:
Well one, grownups aren’t as smart as they pretend. So don’t be intimidated by other people who seem to know the answers. Because actually very few people are really as confident or as smart as they seem. And I mean think and the other is as you say, find what you are good at, do more of it and be confident in what you do. Notice by the way just parenthetically that our conversation is straight, almost entirely onto the topic of what men should do to be attractive to women. Now that’s understandable given the word men are not good at understanding women and nobody’s understanding women, and so on. At least in our agenda. But one of the things that struck me about my book the “Red Queen” was that an awful lot of women like my book. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met women who said “this book was very helpful to me, because it helped me understand a mating game, it made me understand what men are after, but it also made me understand what women are after”. So there was almost more of a need out there for books like mine among women, than there was among men.

Though all your questions are tending of being a lot of young men out there, you don’t understand the mating game, there was something about explaining evolutionary psychology, explaining the men are always going to be different. Women need reminding too. That men are not just like women, they are never going to be able to turn a man into somebody who tears up at the sight of a baby or around a baby in quite the same way or whatever. So I think the gender difference is exist and are legitimate was one of the things I was able to straight the world off. I get the impression, but a lot of women in the 1990s felt that they were being told that they have to behave more like men. Because that’s what feminism was pushing them towards. And actually, no. They should be more confident in their femininity and they should not expect men to behave like women and they should not be expected to behave like men. So gender difference is quite important I think to people.

Tucker:
Yeah. I absolutely agree. Women need just as much education as men do. But I feel like Geoff and I are both men, and it would be patronizing for us to tell women about sex even though there’s plenty to tell. I feel like, and also specially in America, it feels like guys way more lost than women. Like there are so many guys out there who literally have no idea where to start with women, whereas, I think you understand this very well if you are a woman, you can be lost, guys are going to pursue you anyway. You know, for the most part.

Matt:
Well that asymmetry, that men will hold ask as it were, to go out with women much more than the other way around, is of course a classic case where this was thought to be a purely cultural thing you know the tradition was the male proposed and the female disposed. And this was a purely cultural event whereas clearly it’s not. Clearly in some cases even a very confident and outgoing woman who is very interested in a man will, maybe make signals, but will still prefer to have the man make some of the first moves. You know that does run very deep in psychologies, and not surprisingly because it’s roughly the situation in most other animals too. It’s just that although females will signal a choice, it’s still very much the male has to display and say “I’m interested” and the female will say okay then, and then everybody’s happy. But there’s a degree, I think that was another point tat’s worth explaining to people it’s perfectly natural, perfectly biological and perfectly ancient and evolutionary for males to make the first move.

Tucker:
Alright. So I know your time is very valuable. I just got one more question and then we’ll end on this Mr. Ridley. What do you think that men should know about women that they don’t understand? Just in general. Like what’s one or two things that you learned either through your research or through your writing or something else. That guys don’t know that they should know.

Matt:
That they are really interested in shoes and shopping.

Tucker:
I think they might know that.

Matt:
They probably know that. Probably women are interested in both long and short term relationships I think that’s something that’s emerged from people like David Bassets’ work etc. And then you know they are also interested in you know, experimenting to find out who the best person is, they are not always, frantic to settle down with the first male, that’s something that I was surprised by. I assumed the moment one showed interest in a women, one will have to commit for life which was a slightly different Victorian approach. Which I think is no longer recognized to be true, at the beginning of life.

Tucker:Yeah, I know, absolutely. I think it’s very clear with both research and my personal experience. Women are very sexual beings. They express sexuality in a very different ways than men do. They tend to be much more discriminate than we are.

Matt:
Absolutely.

Tucker:
Alright Mr. Ridley, I want to thank you so much for coming on and giving us your time. This is very informative and we’d love to have you back anytime.

Matt:
Thank you very much indeed Tucker. It’s been enjoyable talking to you I don’t think I’ve made a lot of sense, but I’ve tried.

Tucker:
No, no, you make a lot of sense, I promise.

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