As more and more men find this blog and the larger Manosphere community, I’ve noticed many young guys are learning the conclusions of Red Pill theory without actually piecing together the “Why?” behind it all.
For example: why do women chase sex with assholes, but want to settle down with nice boyfriends? Why does acting aloof make you more desirable? Why are men who dress with a bit of flair perceived as more attractive? You know these observations are true, but can you explain why they’re true?
It can be useful to read superficial advice about tactics, i.e. how to look and act like an alpha male, but I believe it’s more valuable to internalize the scientific and logical foundations of Game and The Red Pill. You’ve been raised with self-sabotaging beliefs about how men should think and behave, and those beliefs are hard to just shake off on a whim.
What you need is a completely new understanding of the rules governing social behaviour, a new mindset, and a new paradigm through which you can interpret sex and dating: the paradigm of Evolutionary Psychology.
A Brief History Of Evolutionary Psychology
Once upon a time, some smart people realized that typical human behaviour may have been partially shaped by our Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation (EEA). Much like, you know, every single other organism on the face of the Earth.
Early pioneers of what was then called Sociobiology were harassed, intimidated, shouted down in lectures, and had fire alarms pulled at their conferences by proto-Social Justice Warriors infuriated at the crimethinkful implications of this new idea.
The battle raged in academia for decades, but as evidence and good arguments mounted, it became impossible for all but the most stupid and/or disingenuous academics to ignore it. By now, a truce appears to have been signed in which the core precepts of Evolutionary Psychology are accepted as too obvious to deny, but gauche to bring up in polite company. The early pick-up artist movement adopted Evolutionary Psychology as one of its foundational pillars, furthering the deeply uncool reputation of the field.
The purpose of this post is to offer an introductory reading list on the subject of Evolutionary Psychology. I recommend you work your way through it from top to bottom; the order is based on a combination of quality, importance, and accessibility.
Sperm Wars, Robin Baker
Sperm Wars is a fun and accessible book that explores evolutionary theories of human sexual behaviour through narratives paired with short explanatory chapters.
I often recommend this book on my blog, for a few reasons. On a personal level, it was one of my first introductions to the subject, so I will always gratefully associate it with that crucial mind-altering explosion of clarity I experienced while reading it as a clueless teenager. More importantly, I think it’s the most effective book for enticing men to start a lifelong habit of reading great books. If your mind isn’t currently open to knowledge (when’s the last time you read a real book?) Sperm Wars is a crowbar that will open the first crack in your willful ignorance.
I guarantee you will not get bored reading Sperm Wars, and you will get tremendous value from it if you aren’t already familiar with the many ways evolutionary psychology can enhance your relationships with women.
The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins
But the man used to enjoy a good street fight, and The Selfish Gene is a brilliant exegesis of the theory of evolution at its most foundational level. The Selfish Gene transcends the unscientific navel-gazing just-so stories that characterize EvPsych at its worst, and delves into a unified theory of replication, reproduction, and descent with modification, taking the theory of evolution as far beyond mere biological organisms as you care to go.
Anyone interested in the ideological evolution of our society, and the political implications thereof, would do well to think hard about Dawkins’ infamous final chapter on memetic evolution. This may come as a surprise to younger readers, but the word “meme” can be applied to more than just silly kitten pictures and unclear photos of blue/gold dresses.
If you’re a natural reader with no shortage of focus and willingness to push through some occasionally dense (though always fascinating and articulate) prose, I recommend you start with The Selfish Gene, as it lays a theoretical foundation that every other book in this list builds upon.
(Aside: Below is an excellent video which avoids the use of Dawkins’ coinage, probably because he’s speaking to a generation that associates ‘meme’ with cats and dresses, but nonetheless does an excellent job of describing the concept. I find it gloriously appropriate that the word Dawkins invented to describe the evolution of ideas, has itself evolved into a horrific and shallow version of itself.)
The Moral Animal, Robert Wright
The Moral Animal is one of many fine pop-science books that explore the implications of evolutionary psychology for human behaviour. It’s a very good popular introduction to Ev Psych and I’ll always have a fondness for it since it was my first introduction to Evolutionary Psychology as an academic discipline, after reading the mostly-narrative Sperm Wars.
More than any other book on this list, The Moral Animal covers the ethical implications of our primal nature, and the origins of morality as an adaptive construct. Basically: if our conception of morality is just a fitness-enhancing tendency to conform to group norms which ultimately has no basis in objective morality, why shouldn’t I go kill a nun right now?
The Moral Animal didn’t offer anything I took to be a satisfying answer – just some hand-waving and nice feelings – but it was nonetheless interesting and well-written throughout, hence it’s place in the top three of this list.
The Mating Mind, Geoffrey Miller
Why do humans have such big brains? Our over-sized skulls make childbirth dangerous, use 25% of our bodies’ energy, and generally force humans to be soft, slow, sensitive, poorly-armed prey in a faunascape of much tougher competitors. Intelligence can be useful, but only to a certain point. It’s not like we need brains capable of writing sonnets, composing symphonies, and covering chapels with photo-realistic frescoes.
The human soul, from a survival perspective, is a complete waste of resources. The lion has her teeth, the cheetah her speed, and the turtle her shell, but mankind seems to have dumped its biological character points in a costly but mostly useless gaming console.
In The Mating Mind, Miller argues that humans evolved our big, impractical, calorically expensive brains for reasons unrelated to survival. Rather, our brains serve the same function as male peacocks’ tail feathers – counter-signalling. Basically: only a strong and healthy peacock could possibly survive with such a big, useless tail. So, female peacocks who desire the best mates will pursue the most encumbered, whose survival in spite of themselves is a credible signal of underlying genetic fitness.
Miller argues a similar mechanism is responsible for the existence of brains capable of humour, art, music, rhythm, and complex thought. Our brains are the result of sexual selection, which can be completely arbitrary, rather than natural selection, which is concerned entirely with our actual ability to survive and reproduce. Our brains, like the peacock’s tail, exist not in spite of their high cost but because of it.
In humans, unlike peacocks, the sexual selection effect cuts both ways. Rather than a simple Males Compete Females Choose (MCFC) dynamic, both human sexes are obligated by our evolutionary signalling equilibrium to dump resources into their mostly ornamental brains. This paradigm is called Mutual Mate Choice (MMC), and it has some interesting implications. Here’s Geoffrey Miller in a short publication, Mutual Mate Choice Models as the Red Pill in Evolutionary Psychology:
Thus, MMC usually maximizes variance in “mutation load” across individuals, and maximizes the strength of the general genetic “fitness factor” that seems to underlie some of the variation in intelligence, personality, moral virtues, mental health, and physical health across people (Arden et al., 2009; Prokosch et al., 2005). The result of MMC is that we end up living in a species with the lowest level of genetic equality that any mating system could possibly produce (Miller, 2010).…Ideologically, MMC models can sound like they naturalize neo-Victorian family values of slow courtship, careful mate choice, voluntary eugenics, long-term monogamy, sexual fidelity, and paternal duty. Thus, MMC threatens to impose a sort of puritanical buzzkill on the pop psychologists devoted to the MCFC “men are promiscuous, women are monogamous” mantra, and on the pop anthropologists who champion the “people are bonobos” mass-promiscuity model. They might not wel-come such a stern Galtonian party-crasher.…MMC is the toughest Red Pill to swallow because it leaves us stuck right here in the same old monogamous Matrix, with no sexually liberated Zion in sight, and no consolation other than a deeper understanding of how we came to be here.…
[MMC]will also require the ideological maturity to accept that heritable individual differences have been important targets of male and female choice for a very long time, that some current inequalities arose as unintended genetic consequences of our ancestors’ mutual mate choices, and that such inequalities might persist as long as human mate choice remains consensual and free.
This Geoffrey Miller sure does sound like an interesting fella!
So what’s he up to now? Unfortunately, he’s taken a leave of absence to focus on a very promising side project: Ripping off the Manosphere, watering it down to PC-pablum, and partnering with former author Tucker Max on The Mating Grounds, a dating advice website for the mass* market.
(*Current stats for The Mating Grounds as of this writing: 268 Facebook Likes, 178 Twitter Followers, 98 YouTube Subscribers.)
Whatever he’s doing now though, Miller has nonetheless produced and popularized some interesting and important ideas in his earlier years, and The Mating Mind is an excellent book. Check it out.
The Red Queen, Matt Ridley
The Red Queen overlaps with both The Moral Animal and The Mating Mind, but takes a much more speculative approach to the links between our Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation, and modern-day manifestations of behaviour. Ridley incautiously and aggressively posits theories about how natural and sexual selection has shaped human behaviour, as if he just dropped a few tabs of LSD and started writing down whatever came to mind.
This may sound like criticism, but it’s not. The Red Queen is upfront about the speculative nature of most chapters, and Ridley specifically claims that, in his estimation, half the theories in this book are wrong. The result is a book that is refreshing in its willingness to throw ideas around.
The Red Queen is best read (as its position on this list suggests) after you’ve had a good introduction to the theoretical background of Evolutionary Psychology. Treat this book like a conversation with a friend and evaluate some of the more far-fetched “just-so” stories on their merits, and it will be an enjoyable, informative, brain-stretching read.
The Paleo Manifesto, by John Durant
I’ve read a dozen books about Paleolithic health and nutrition, but The Paleo Manifesto is by far the best. In addition to being a fine introduction to the theory and practice of Paleolithic health, it also outlines a fascinating interpretation of The Old Testament as an allegorical history of mankind’s transition from hunter-gatherer tribes to agricultural civilization:
Like a dream upon awakening, we struggle to remember life before literacy, life before herding and farming, life before the Fall. But if we step back from the fine details and take in the broad contours, the biblical memory of the Fall has the following arc. We lived in the Fertile Crescent (Genesis 2:10–14). We lived in harmony with our habitat (Genesis 2:8–25). It did not require much effort to procure food (Genesis 2:8–9). We didn’t wear clothes (Genesis 2:25). Then we did something wrong (Genesis 3:6). As punishment, men had to start farming, which was hard (Genesis 3:17–19). We had to eat bread (Genesis 3:19). As punishment, women had to bear more children, childbirth became painful and dangerous, and women fell under the dominion of men (Genesis 3:16). We built the first cities (Genesis 4:17). Our nature now clashed with this new habitat (Genesis 6:5–7, 6:11–12). Agrarian civilizations struggled with famine (Genesis 41), lawlessness (Exodus 20), large-scale warfare (Numbers), and disease (Exodus 7–11). Over time, urban farmers eating plant-based diets displaced hunters and herders eating animal-based diets (Genesis 3:17–19; Genesis 4:2–17; Genesis 25:23–34). Step even further back, and these early herder-farmers had a memory that goes something like this: Life was good. We ate something we shouldn’t have. Now life is bad. It would be a decidedly brilliant set of cultural rules that would help a tribe of herder-farmers adapt to life in the early Agricultural Age, and its most important new habitat: the city.
Durant also interprets the Mosaic precepts of cleanliness as instructions for avoiding food poisoning and microbial infections, far in advance of our overt understanding of the germ theory of disease. Mosaic Laws regarding hand-washing, food preparation, burying the dead, monogamy, and sexual restraint during menstruation may have helped Israelites succeed and thrive in post-agricultural close-quartered urban settings throughout recent history. Strident atheists like Richard Dawkins would presumably scoff at the silly Jews washing their hands and burying their dead, simply because a magic sky fairy (snort!) told them to, but The Paleo Manifesto transcends the contemporarily fashionable disdain for all things biblical, and the result is the most interesting book in the genre from the past decade.
Why We Get Sick, Randolph Nesse and George Williams
If our bodies have been fine-tuned by millions of years of evolution, why do they consistently fail us in horrific ways? Why do we degrade with age and develop acute conditions that cripple our ability to survive and reproduce?
Why We Get Sick is a fascinating exploration of the evolutionary rationale for illness and disease. The common principle throughout this book is that everything our genes do requires tradeoffs between various evils, and risk-reward calculations by self-interested genes unconcerned with our happiness and quality of life.
One example: Sickle Cell Anemia (SCA) occurs when a person is born with two copies of a certain gene, and the result is an early death and very little chance of reproduction. So, why does this particular gene exist at all? The answer is that one copy of this gene actually confers a survival advantage in the form of increased resistance to malaria. The result is that rather than dying out, the frequency of this gene strikes an equilibrium in which the expected survival benefit of increased malaria resistance is equal to the expected reproductive cost of an early death from SCA.
I’ve previously written that similar processes may underlie the link between Autism and spatial reasoning skills, which would explain a non-causal link between Autism and delayed fatherhood.
Why We Get Sick is not a book with a lot of practical applicability to your life, but it you’re the sort of curious person who finds these topics interesting, Why We Get Sick is a must-read.
The Evolution Of Desire, David Buss
The Evolution of Desire is the most practical popular book on evolutionary psychology for men who wants to have more success with women, covering many of the common Red Pill paradigms such as dual mating strategies, lover/provider roles, and what cues women follow to classify men as one or the other.
It’s not one of my top recommendations, but it’s definitely a worthwhile addition to your library once you’ve made it through the rest of this list, especially if you’re struggling to understand women and dating.
The Mystery Method, Erik Von Markovik
In the late 20th century, groups of men on primitive internet message boards discovered evolutionary psychology and its applicability to the seduction of women. They called themselves pick-up artists, and if you’re not interested in their findings, you are simply not a curious person.
Erik Von Markovik (aka Mystery) was one of the most prolific and respected members of the early pick-up community, and The Mystery Method was his Magnum Opus. If you can overlook the occasional anachronistic reference to the pre-internet dating landscape (printed photographs, using telephones for voice chat, and not a single reference to Tinder) this book is a comprehensive and still-relevant breakdown of the application of Evolutionary Psychology to practical seduction and dating. It’s also interesting [like Neil Strauss’s The Game (Amazon)] from a historical perspective, as an insight into the origins of the Pick-Up Artist community, from which the Red Pill/Manosphere is a descendant.
If you want to be more successful with women, and people in general, you need to do more than memorize lines – you have to develop a more complete understanding of what causes human behaviour. You will never find this knowledge if you only look for it in shallow waters – blogs, Twitter, internet forums.
Learning tactics has its place, but a few good pick-up lines will never replace a lifetime of de-masculinizing indoctrination. If you don’t understand the true foundation of human psychology, you’ll always be a confused imposter doing his best impression of an alpha male.
The nine books in this post will teach you to discern the logic behind male and female behaviours which currently strike you as confusing, irrational, self-defeating, and counter-intuitive. They will give you the tools to minimize unpleasant surprises, and steer social interactions in your preferred direction.
If you want to be more confident and successful in your social life start from the top and work your way through this list. As a bonus, you’ll be a wiser man, with a better understanding of the world around you, and a bit more fun at dinner parties.
Readers: How has reading about evolutionary psychology improved your life? What are the most important unanswered questions in EvPsych right now? Can you suggest any other books deserve to be on this list?