Tag Archives: age

Private Truths, Public Lies And The Age Of Abundance

Years ago, I spent my mornings talking to an exceptionally smart Canadian teen on the internet. She loved to entertain her virtual friends by taking her clothes off. When I asked her why, she said that it was a pleasant experience for everybody concerned. But, the last thing she wanted was her mother knowing it. One day, she said that she was depressed. She said that she felt bad about being a harlot over the Yahoo Messenger. I knew this before she said it because I knew enough about human nature to be suspicious of such claims. But, the internet is the best teacher I can think of. 

A decade ago, I loved reading the Orkut scrapbook of a 16 year old girl who shared her nudes for everybody to see. I was a silent spectator who enjoyed her conversations with men who entered her space hoping that there is so much that is possible. She was wise beyond her years—smart as a whip. When we once talked, she said that I should have known her horrible reputation. Her language skills were excellent, unlike that of men who stalked her. When someone called her a snob for being a grammar Nazi, she said, “When I was in middle school, I used to read high school textbooks. Nobody ever helped me.” Years later, I heard that she killed herself at UC Berkeley, where she was studying Physics. Without the internet and social media, we would not have known much about the inner worlds of outliers like her. If we knew more, she would have….she would have, well, survived.

The internet tells us that we are all so similar and so different at the same time. Nothing is more important to morality than deep insight into people who are very different from us. Moral refinement is the fountainhead of human progress. The most prosperous societies are where morality and fairness are valued to the largest degree. If moral refinement is the fountainhead of human progress, this outweighs everything else that the internet gives us. I argue that this is the most underrated fact about the internet. This is an extraordinary claim. But, one day, the internet will be celebrated for this, more than for anything else.

The internet makes us human.

Philosopher Michael Huemer thinks that political ignorance is greatest problem that we face. Huemer believes that political ignorance is a graver threat than crime, drug addiction or even world poverty, because political ignorance is at the root of everything else.  He is wrong. Our moral failures are often a form of politicking. But, political ignorance does not explain everything. It is our poor understanding of ourselves and that of other minds that prevents us from solving much of our problems, including political ignorance.

If you are discerning enough, your Facebook friend list is probably a more diversified portfolio of human beings than your school or office will ever be. The best blogs say more about the inner workings of the finest minds on earth than any newspaper or magazine ever will. When the best minds are unguarded, what ensues is an unusually high supply of intelligent conversation—-and extraordinarily perceptive writing. This is why the internet is very important for moral refinement.

Now, many believe that, on the internet, no one will see the real “You”. In fact, the truth is the opposite. Over 5,000 years ago, the written word did not even exist. Aristotle would not have had much success in those days. But, this does not mean that “Nicomachean Ethics” is misleading or that Aristotle had quite a different personality when he wrote. Aristotle is remembered for his philosophical works, and not for being a wife-beater or for “not holding the gods in honor”.

Moral refinement of mankind would not have been possible without great literature. But, in a world without the written word, Aristotle’s greatest talent would not even have been a voice that people could recognize. To see the “Real Aristotle”, his contemporaries probably had to separate the “Aristotle who did not hold the Gods in honor” from Aristotle, the great philosopher. We face no such dilemma today. There is near unanimous agreement on the criteria Aristotle should be judged on. But, if the written word did not exist, Aristotle’s place in history would have been the same as that of the savages of his time. On the internet, we make finer distinctions. In the future, people will find it obvious that people were so undifferentiated before the internet. Before the internet, there was nothing but a heap of moral uniformity. For the same reason we celebrate language and literature for how far we have come today, one day, the internet will be celebrated for making people morally distinguishable.

The age of the internet is the age of abundance. This is indisputable. But, of all things we find on the internet, what matters the most is the abundance of moral perspectives. What matters the most is the abundance of knowledge about the inner worlds of people. Without knowing much about the inner worlds of people, we would never understand their moral beliefs.

In the real world, we see people. We see how they dress, walk and speak. But, their inner worlds are closed to us, and often to themselves. But, ultimately, their hidden inner worlds drive everything that they do. Hidden motives influence what people do, regardless of what they say publicly. Hidden assumptions almost determine their political and moral beliefs. But, if these motives and assumptions are hidden, often even to themselves, how do we know them? There are no substitutes for introspection, reading and hard thought. But, these are still not enough to know what other people hide, even from themselves. There is no better guide than the internet because people tend to be frank in their virtual lives. Unguarded.


Facebook, Twitter, Instant Messenger, Blogs. Yes.

Frankness on the internet may seem suicidal. A brewing revolution will always be invisible to everybody, but the most perceptive. When people underestimate the price of speaking their mind, many will. Speaking one’s mind will slowly become the norm, tweet by tweet. The price of speaking one’s mind will fall, tweet by tweet. One day, people will find it hard to believe that many of the most obvious truths about human nature were once private truths that no one spoke of.

Summers is not entirely to blame for his social ineptitude


“Summers’s inability to get outside his own head landed him in fatally hot water. It reached the boiling point following his appearance at a conference sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research on women in science, which was held in Cambridge in mid-January 2005. There he suggested that the relatively small number of women in tenured positions in the physical sciences might in part be attributable to a lower frequency among women as compared to men of innate potential for doing science at the highest level. Aware that many women would not take kindly to these words, he was careful to leave open the alternative explanation that in the past many talented women had been strongly discouraged by their teachers from ever trying to master top-level mathematics and sciences.

Summers’s remarks might have gone unnoticed outside the meeting were it not for the presence of my former student, now a professor of biology at MIT, Nancy Hopkins. Over the past decade she had worked tirelessly and effectively to improve the working conditions of women scientists there. Before Nancy’s highly visible efforts, the salaries and space assignments of women at MIT were notably unequal to those of their male counterparts. But Nancy did not challenge Summers at the meeting. Instead she instantly bolted from the room, later saying Summers’s words made her sick, and soon appeared on national TV attacking him and setting off a firestorm of feminist anger. It did Nancy Hopkins no particular credit as a scientist to admit that the mere hypothesis that there might be genetic differences between male and female brains—and therefore differences in the distribution of one form of cognitive potential—made her sick. Anyone sincerely interested in understanding the imbalance in the representation of men and women in science must reasonably be prepared at least to consider the extent to which nature may figure, even with clear evidence that nurture is strongly implicated. To my regret, Summers, instead of standing firm, within a week apologized publicly three times for being candid about what might well be a fact of evolution that academia will have to live with. Except for the psychologist Steve Pinker, no prominent Harvard scientist voiced a word in Summers’s defense; I suspect the majority were fearful of being tarred with the brush of political incorrectness. If I were still a member of the faculty, the number of tenured scientists standing visibly behind the president in this matter would have literally doubled. But that would not have been enough to put out the flames. Apparently desperate, Summers soon contritely proposed a $50 million kitty to recruit more women to Harvard’s senior science faculty. The women-and-science firestorm by itself did not lead to Summers’s dismissal late last February as Harvard’s president. It was merely the culmination of hundreds of more private displays on his part of disregard for the social niceties that ordinarily permit human beings to work together for a common good. While academia almost expects its younger members to be brash and full of themselves, these qualities are most unbecoming in more seasoned members of the society, and generally fatal in leaders. Reading up on a topic the night before and then appearing at conferences with the bravado to suggest that one knows more than those who have spent their careers thinking about the issues at hand is no way for a president to act. Summers’s non-age-adjusted IQ, moreover, at age fifty-one is likely 5 to 10 points lower than when he was a twenty-year-old wunderkind. Harvard’s longstanding mandatory retirement age of fifty-five for academics was never a matter of arbitrary ageism but a recognition born of experience that as academics age they live more by old ideas and less by new ones. Summers, still acting as if he were the brightest person in the room, was bound to offend people who knew better.

It may be, however, that Summers is not entirely to blame for his social ineptitude. His repeated failures to comprehend the emotional states of those he presided over might be indicative of the genetic hand he was dealt as a mathematical economist—the very cards that endowed him with great quantitative intelligence may also have disabled the normal faculties for reading human faces and voices.

The social incapacity of mathematicians is no mere stereotype; many of the most brilliant are mild to full-blown cases of Asperger’s syndrome (the high-intelligence form of autism), perhaps the most genetically determined of known human behavioral “disabilities.” Like exceptional math aptitude, Asperger’s occurs five times more frequently in males than in females. The reason why must remain a mystery until further research shows how genes control the relative development and functioning of male and female brains. If Summers’s tactlessness does, in fact, have a genetic basis, much of the anger toward him should rightly yield to sympathy. No longer can his upbringing be blamed for failing to instill in him the graces of the civilized individual. In any case, all discussion should stop as to whether his dismissal was unduly precipitous—it was in all likelihood overdue. Whether those prominent individuals who promoted his candidacy should hang their heads in shame, however, is less obvious.

          —James D Watson, Avoid Boring People

Do You Understand James Watson?

Rosalind-Franklin_2581518kI like novelistic autobiographies. James Watson’s “The Double Helix” is one of the most entertaining novelistic autobiographies I have ever read. He does not hesitate to question the motives of other scientists, and expose their pettiness—their manipulativeness. But, of course, a sentimentalist might claim that their motives weren’t as twisted as he claims them to be. Passages like this are typical:

“It was increasingly difficult to take Maurice’s mind off his assistant, Rosalind Franklin. Not that he was at all in love with Rosy, as we called her from a distance. Just the opposite—almost from the moment she arrived in Maurice’s lab, they began to upset each other. Maurice, a beginner in X-ray diffraction work, wanted some professional help and hoped that Rosy, a trained crystallographer, could speed up his research. Rosy, however, did not see the situation this way. She claimed that she had been given DNA for her own problem and would not think of herself as Maurice’s assistant. I suspect that in the beginning Maurice hoped that Rosy would calm down. Yet mere inspection suggested that she would not easily bend. By choice she did not emphasize her feminine qualities. Though her features were strong, she was not unattractive and might have been quite stunning had she taken even a mild interest in clothes. This she did not. There was never lipstick to contrast with her straight black hair, while at the age of thirty-one her dresses showed all the imagination of English blue-stocking adolescents. So it was quite easy to imagine her the product of an unsatisfed mother who unduly stressed the desirability of professional careers that could save bright girls from marriages to dull men. But this was not the case. Her dedicated, austere life could not be thus explained—she was the daughter of a solidly comfortable, erudite banking family.”

Now, did you understand this passage? Yes? What was he getting at? No answer? You probably did not, even if you believe you have understood. Let me try to interpret.

“It was increasingly difficult to take Maurice’s mind off his assistant, Rosalind Franklin. Not that he was at all in love with Rosy, as we called her from a distance. Just the opposite—almost from the moment she arrived in Maurice’s lab, they began to upset each other.”

This is a fairly common psychological profile. As a writer put it, “Most people with Asperger’s are fairly ordinary people and are not necessarily either incredibly brilliant or completely socially clueless. However, there is a not infrequent form of high functioning Asperger’s whose hallmarks include various kinds of specialized intelligence in a person who, despite their brilliance, simultaneously lacks the basic ability to read basic social cues and to conform to “normal” social standards and expectations. If you have ever known a person like this, you know that part of their repertoire of survival skills is an uncanny ability to get under your skin, into your thoughts, and win a place in your life, even though they are so supremely difficult and hard to deal with. Lisbeth is just like that in the way she captures Blomkvist emotionally, to the point that he can’t stop thinking about her, even though there is no rational explanation for why he would want to remain involved with her.”

“Maurice, a beginner in X-ray diffraction work, wanted some professional help and hoped that Rosy, a trained crystallographer, could speed up his research. Rosy, however, did not see the situation this way. She claimed that she had been given DNA for her own problem and would not think of herself as Maurice’s assistant.”

People with Asperger Syndrome never see any situation quite the same way others do. As Tyler Cowen observes, “A focal point refers to something we all can coordinate around without having to talk about it or plan it in advance. You might say if your boss invites you to present at a meeting of the company’s board of directors, it is focal that you wear a tie, even if no one tells you to. At Google headquarters casual dress usually is expected and thus they have a different focal point. Most generally a focal point is a commonly understood social expectation. The concept of a focal point makes me recall the words of Jim Sinclair, an autistic who writes on the web. He informs us: “DON’T TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED. Don’t assume you can interpret the [autistic] person’s behavior by comparing it with your own or other people’s behavior. Don’t assume the person can interpret your behavior.” In other words, many common focal points are harder for autistic people to use and alternatively autistic focal points can be harder for nonautistics to use. When it comes to picking up on commonly understood focal points, the  performance of autistics is below average in many contexts, as they find it harder to pick up on many unstated social conventions. This is one of the most common complaints you will hear or read from autistic people and it stems from the fact autistics perceive the world in different ways. But it would be wrong to conclude that autistics are incapable of having focal points. We are in fact seeing social conventions or focal points evolving among autistics, most of all with the assistance of web communication. For instance there is now a fairly common understanding, or focal point, that a meeting or good-bye among autistics will not be preceded by a handshake. Many autistics do not enjoy this form of contact, and some hate it, so why do it?”

“I suspect that in the beginning Maurice hoped that Rosy would calm down. Yet mere inspection suggested that she would not easily bend.”

I think Watson is being charitable here. Passive aggressive people do not pounce on someone the day she walks into an office. This is partly because they would come across as too obvious, and partly because they want to convince themselves that they have done their best they can. Yes. Humbert Humbert tried really hard to be good. Really and truly, he did.

“By choice she did not emphasize her feminine qualities. Though her features were strong, she was not unattractive and might have been quite stunning had she taken even a mild interest in clothes. This she did not. There was never lipstick to contrast with her straight black hair, while at the age of thirty-one her dresses showed all the imagination of English blue-stocking adolescents.”

“By choice she did not emphasize her feminine qualities.” 

Simon Baron-Cohen had speculated that Asperger is perhaps merely an extreme male brain.

“Though her features were strong, she was not unattractive and might have been quite stunning had she taken even a mild interest in clothes. This she did not.” 

Simon Baron Cohen observes, “Aside from this, he was not particularly interested in dressing up, or in assuming pretend identities, and so on. Again, little interest in imaginative play, with all its creative variability, is another marker of autistic spectrum conditions in toddlerhood.”

“There was never lipstick to contrast with her straight black hair.” 

141201_SCI_JimWatson.jpg.CROP.promo-mediumlargeAs a recent study noted, female faces have higher contrast. You can appear more feminine by increasing your facial contrast:“In a study published in Perception, Russell demonstrated the existence of a facial contrast difference between the two genders.By measuring photographs of men and women, he found that female faces have greater contrast between eyes, lips, and surrounding skin than do male faces. This difference in facial contrast was also found to influence our perception of the gender of a face. Regardless of race, female skin is known to be lighter than male skin. But Russell found that female eyes and lips are not lighter than those of males, which creates higher contrast of eyes and lips on women’s faces. By experimenting with an androgynous face, Russell learned that faces can be manipulated to appear female by increasing facial contrast or to appear male by decreasing facial contrast. “Though people are not consciously aware of the sex difference in contrast, they unconsciously use contrast as a cue to tell what sex a face is,” Russell said. “We also use the amount of contrast in a face to judge how masculine or feminine the face is, which is related to how attractive we think it is.” Given this sex difference in contrast, Russell found a connection between the application of cosmetics and how it consistently increases facial contrast. Female faces wearing cosmetics have greater facial contrast than the same faces not wearing cosmetics. Russell noted that female facial beauty has been closely linked to sex differences, with femininity considered attractive. His results suggest that cosmetics may function in part by exaggerating a sexually dimorphic attribute to make the face appear more feminine and attractive. “Cosmetics are typically used in precisely the correct way to exaggerate this difference, ” Russell said. “Making the eyes and lips darker without changing the surrounding skin increases the facial contrast. Femininity and attractiveness are highly correlated, so making a face more feminine also makes it more attractive.”

“At the age of thirty-one her dresses showed all the imagination of English blue-stocking adolescents. So it was quite easy to imagine her the product of an unsatisfed mother who unduly stressed the desirability of professional careers that could save bright girls from marriages to dull men. But this was not the case. Her dedicated, austere life could not be thus explained—she was the daughter of a solidly comfortable, erudite banking family.”

Mothers have an uneasy relationship with their attractive and brighter daughters. They cannot stand them growing up in a more affluent, enlightened world. Their daughters are everything they couldn’t have been. A man of Watson’s intelligence could not have missed this. Observe that Watson speculated that the unsatisfied mother “unduly stressed”, not that she “stressed”. Why would a mother do this? Sexism was supposedly in its heyday in the 50s and 60s of the US. Wouldn’t a mother stress the desirability of following her into the jaws of monogamy? An unsatisfied mother would do this only if a professional career would NOT have made her daughter happy. Watson, a broad-minded scientist who urges everyone to understand individual differences could not have missed this. And if Rosalind Franklin had Asperger Syndrome, if she had an extreme male mind, she would have seen things differently, and would have gotten there without an unsatisfied mother’s prodding.

So, What was he getting at, without even knowing it? Rosalind Franklin had Asperger Syndrome.

As he later said in an interview:

He smiles. “Rosalind is my cross,” he says slowly. “I’ll bear it. I think she was partially autistic.” He pauses for a while, before repeating the suggestion, as if to make it clear that this is no off-the-cuff insult, but a considered diagnosis. “I’d never really thought of scientists as autistic until this whole business of high-intelligence autism came up. There is probably no other explanation for Rosalind’s behaviour. “She showed great insensitivity to Wilkins. DNA  was his problem and she just thought she could take it from him. She was clueless. John Randall [the British physicist who led the King’s College team that included Wilkins and Franklin] told her DNA was going to be her thing and she took it from Maurice. But fair play should never have allowed Rosalind to do it. So she was either not a nice person, or just clueless. I think clueless. When you knew her, she wasn’t nasty; just awkward. Francis didn’t think Rosalind was a great scientist. That was Francis at his most honest. The truth was she couldn’t think in three dimensions very well.”

Now, tell me. Do you understand Watson? When you read this passage, did everything that crossed his mind cross yours? If it didn’t, do you really understand him? While you claim that Watson should be punished for his “racist” views, remember: Everything you enjoy is a gift from geniuses like Watson—An unintended consequence of everything they accomplished. What else could they have accomplished if you had let them reach what they wanted, if you could understand them? If only you could understand them. Remember, You are not so smart. It is a very valuable form of humility, to see this. Perhaps, the only one there is.

Real Women Get Raped

Real_Men_Don__t_Rape_by_Kissing_ConcreteWhen I read in a news report that a court said that forceful sex on post-menopausal women is not rape, it was obvious to me that they were misinterpreting the judgment. When journalists hear something bizarre, they do not have the brains to know that they are probably misinterpreting what they heard. Now, it seems that the court said that consensual, rough sex is not necessarily rape. This is, it seems to me, a legitimate distinction.

From Scroll.in:

“There is no reference to menopause anywhere else in the judgement, and it does seem like a complete outlier, with no real inference being taken from it. One could interpret the court’s assertion of it being simply a way of establishing age or health, but it shows no evidence to suggest that menopausal women are, say, more vulnerable to forceful sex or more likely to have gastric reactions thereafter. The rape law does feature different punishments for women who are pregnant, where menopause would be relevant, but that is a question of sentencing, not conviction.”

What has menopause got to do with this? Now, feminists often claim that rape has nothing to do with sexual desire and that we should not tell women how to dress because it is vulnerability that makes women susceptible to rape. But, is this true? If this is true, post-menopausal women would have been raped more often because they are very vulnerable, and physically weak. This doesn’t seem to be the case. Men rarely rape post-menopausal women. From the “The Natural History Of Rape”  by Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer:

“There is no question, however, that rapists primarily target females of fertile ages. This pattern is seen in every available set of data on female rape victimization. Thornhill and Thornhill (1983) tabulated all the major US data sets available at that time on female rape victim ages. They also commented on several additional but more limited data sets from other industrial societies. They concluded that young women are greatly overrepresented and that girls and older women are greatly underrepresented in the data on victims of rape. The authors cautioned that these data were based primarily on reported rapes and may thus have been biased. However, numerous later studies indicate that both reported and unreported rapes show the same age pattern. One national study of reported and unreported rape included a representative sample of women and older and found that percent of the victims (at the time of the rape) were of ages 11-29, only 6 percent were older, and 29 percent were below 11 (Kilpatrick et al. 1992). However, these data were not broken down by the nature of the rape (which was defined broadly to include any sexual penetration, by finger, object, or penis, of mouth, rectum, or vagina), nor were data collected on the proportion of the victims under 11 who were exhibiting secondary sex ual traits (e.g., estrogen-facilitated development of breasts, buttocks, and/or thighs). 

Men’s evolved sexual psychology is predicted to be more sexually motivated when the latter traits are present. Meeting this prediction, Studies in which data on the ages of female rape victims under 15 are broken down by year show increased rape victimization with increased age (Hursch 1977). The increasingly early age of menarche in Western females (Barber 1998) contributes to the enhanced sexual attractiveness of some females under 12. Also, the youngest rape victims are raped in proportion to their occurrence in the population: child (defined as under 12) rape victims comprised an estimated 16 percent of US rape victims in 1992, when females under 12 comprised 17 percent of the US female population (Langan and Harlow 1994). Another large study of reported and unreported rapes and other sexual assaults in a representative sample of US females 12 and older—the National Crime Victimization Survey Report Of data for 1993 (Perkins et al. 1996)—showed that population-based rates were highest in the age range 16-24 and next-highest in the range 12-15. Rates decreased in each higher age range after 24, and there were few cases in which the victim was older than 50. A similar study for 1994 (Perkins and Klaus 1996) revealed exactly the same pattern, and earlier National Crime Victimization Survey Reports show the same pattern. In analyses of data on attempted and completed rapes for the years 1973-1982, the ages of female rape victims ranged from 12 to 96, the median age was 21, and 92 percent of the victims were 40 or younger (Felson and Krohn 1990). The average age of female victims of robbery and rape (28) was significantly younger than the average age of female victims of robbery only (35)—that is, when the victim of a male robber was young, the robber was more likely to rape her As Greenfield (1997) found when he reviewed more than two dozen data sets maintained by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the same pattern—great overrepresentation of adolescent and young adult female victims—is seen in all available data sets involving only rapes reported to police or involving ages of victims of imprisoned sex offenders. Data on female rape victims’ ages during wars (across societies and over considerable time spans) also show that most were young. 

Rapes and other sexual assaults of males by males constitute only about 1-3 percent of sexual assaults, but data show that these sexual assaulters also prefer youthful features in their victims (Perkins et al. 1996). This pattern is likely to be a by-product of men’s evolved preference for young sex partners (Symons 1979; Quinsey et al.1993; Quinsey and Lalumiere 1995). 

We are not claiming that the available data on rape victims’ ages are perfect depictions of rapists’ sexual desires. (Presumably, rapists weigh benefits and costs and select victims accordingly, just as other people select from available options in sexual and non-sexual domains of life.) Nor are we claiming that the data are without bias. Rape probably remains significantly underreported, even in surveys that strive to obtain the highest degree of accuracy.1S There is some evidence that young women, relative to post-reproductive-age women, are more likely to desire to keep a rape secret (Thornhill and Thornhill 1990a). Thus, it may be that young women’s rapes are most subject to underreporting and hence even more disproportionately frequent than the studies based on reported rapes suggest. And false accusations (Kanin 1994) may bias the data on purported rape victimization if such accusations are a function of age. Despite these concerns, however, we are safe in concluding that young adult females are vastly overrepresented and that female children and post-reproductive-age females are greatly underrepresented in the population of rape victims. This pattern has been shown so many times, across so many settings, by so many methods, that it is established beyond any reasonable doubt.”

Many a philosopher has died when his child was born

“Part of the tension of marriage lies in its fulfillment of the woman and its narrowing and emptying of the man. When a man woos a woman he offers to give all the world for her; and when she marries him he does; he must forget the world as soon as the child comes; the altruism of love becomes the egoism of the family. Honesty and innovation are luxuries of celibacy. Where the highest philosophical thinking is concerned, all married men are suspect. It seems to me absurd that one who has chosen for his sphere the assessment of existence as a whole should burden himself with the care of a family, with winning bread, security, and social position for wife and children. Many a philosopher has died when his child was born.”-Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche anticipates research on genius, productivity, age and marriage:

Despite the fact that he died at age 20, Galois made a large number of significant contributions to mathematics. (His work was integral to Andrew Wiles’ celebrated proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem in 1994.) Galois was involved in an affair, and the woman’s fiancÈe challenged him to a duel. The night before the duel, Galois stayed up all night and wrote down all of his mathematical ideas on paper. (It is due to these notes, written on the last night of his life, that many of Galois’ ideas survived to the posterity.) From other comments written on the paper, next to a series of mathematical notations, however, it is clear that Galois spent the night, intensely thinking about the woman over whom he was to have a duel the next morning. Something compelled this young man of 20 to produce so many brilliant mathematical ideas in one night and then go to a duel the next morning, ready to kill or be killed over a woman. It is my contention that the same psychological mechanism was responsible for both. If the age–crime curve and the age–genius curve have similar shapes, and if marriage has the desistance effect on both crime and genius, then it is highly unlikely that social control theory of criminal behavior and desistance (Laub et al., 1998; Sampson & Laub, 1993), or, for that matter, any theory that is specific to criminal behavior, can hold the whole key to why men commit crimes and why they desist. Following Daly and Wilson (1988) and Kanazawa and Still (2000), I argue that a single psychological mechanism is responsible for making young men highly competitive during early adulthood and then quickly making them desist after their marriage in later adulthood. It is my contention that both crime and genius are manifestations of young men’s competitive desires to gain access to women’s reproductive resources, which, in the ancestral environment, would have increased their reproductive success.