The pioneer of criminology was a man named Cesare Lombroso, an Italian Jew (a leftover remnant from the Roman days), who had two central theories: 1) that criminal behavior originated in the brain and 2) criminals were an evolutionary throwback, a more primitive type of human. Lombroso felt strongly about the rehabilitation of criminals, at the same time believing in the death penalty for “born criminals”. Though, with new advances in criminology and new insights to the brain, it looks like Lombroso was right with his theory of born criminals.
Why are you 100 times more likely to be killed on your birthday? Why are children 50 times more likely to be murdered by their stepfather than biological one? Why do some parents kill their children? Finally, why do men rape not only strangers, but also rape their wives? All of these questions can be answered with evolutionary psychology.
Evolutionarily speaking, antisocial and violent behavior wasn’t a random occurrence. When these actions occurred tens of thousands of years ago, they were because resources were being acquired from these actions. Thus, we can see some modern criminal acts as resource competition. The more resources one has, the easier it is for him to pass his genes on to the next generation (a big driver for violence). In turn, women are more attracted to males who can provide resources and protection (those who were more antisocial and violent). This also explains these prison romances, in which women get into romances with murderous criminals since they are attracted to the violence (protection) and resources (theft).
The mugger who robs for a small amount of money is increasing his odds of resource acquisition. Drive-by shootings in violent neighborhoods increase the status of those who survive the shootout. What looks like a simple brawl over nothing may be one attempting to increase social dominance. All of these actions have evolutionary causes. What drive these actions are our ‘Selfish Genes’.
The more successful genes are more ruthlessly selfish in their struggle for survival, which then drives individual behavior. The individual behaviors that occur due to our selfish genes may be antisocial and violent in nature, which in our modern society is frowned upon. The name of the game is ‘fitness’. The amount of children you can have in your time allotted on Earth. This is all that matters to our genes. Even those accomplishments you think of, such as completing college or attaining mass amounts of capital all fall back to fitness. With that, increasing your fitness and ensuring your genetic lineage passes on to the next generation is greatly enhanced.
Biological fitness can be enhanced in one of two ways. You can have as many children as possible, giving little parental care to each, or you can have fewer children but show more attention and care to them. This is known as r/K Selection Theory. Rushton’s r/K Selection Theory compliments Dawkins Selfish Gene theory in that the r-strategist is maximizing his fitness by having as many children as possible, while the K-strategist increases his fitness by having fewer children in comparison to the r-strategist but showing more parental attention. There are, however, instances in which humans kill children, whether it’s a mother killing a newborn baby or a stepfather killing a child. What are the reasons for this?
The risk of being a homicide victim in the first year of life is highest in the first year of life. Why? Canadian Psychologists Daly and Wilson demonstrated in inverse relationship between degree of genetic relatedness and being a victim of homicide. Daly and Wilson discovered that the offender and victim are genetically related in only 1.8 percent of all homicides. Therefore, 98 percent of all murders are killings of people who do not share the killer’s genes.
Many stories have been told about ‘wicked stepparents’ in numerous myths and fairytales. But, as we know, a lot of stories have some basis in reality. Children of stepparents are 40 times more likely to suffer abuse at the hands of a stepparent. People who are living together who are unrelated to one another are more likely to kill one another. Even adoptions are more successful when the adopting parents view the child as genetically similar to themselves.
In this study carried out by Maillart, et al, it was discovered that for mothers, the average age of offense for filicide was 29.5 years for the mother and 3.5 years for the babe. Bourget, Grace, and Whitehurst, 2007 showed that a risk factor for infanticide was a second child born to a mother under 20-years of age. The reasoning for this is simple: at a younger age the mother is more fertile, and thus, more attractive to potential mates. The older the woman is the more sense it makes to hold on to the genetic investment since it’s harder to make up for the genetic loss late in her reproductive life.
Genetic relatedness, fitness, and parental investment show, in part, why filicides and infanticides occur.
Raping Your Wife
There are evolutionary reasons for rape as well. The rape of a non-relative can be looked at as the ultimate form of ‘cheating’ in this selfish game of life. One who rapes doesn’t have to acquire resources in order to attract a mate, he can just go and ‘take what he wants’ and attempt to spread his genes to the next generation through non-consensual sex. It’s known that rape victims have a higher chance of getting pregnant, with 7.98 percent of rape victims becoming pregnant. (News article) One explanation for this is that the rapist may be able to possibly detect how fertile a woman is. Moreover, rapists are more likely to rape fertile women rather than infertile women.
One rapist that author of the book The Anatomy of Violence, Adrian Raine interviewed said that he specifically chose ugly women to rape (Raine, 2013: 28). He says that he’s giving ugly women ‘what they want’, which is sex. There is a belief that women actually enjoy sex, and even orgasm during the rape, even though they strongly resist and fight back during the attack. Reports of orgasm during rape are around 5 to 6 percent (Raine, 2013: 29), but the true number may be higher since most women are embarrassed to say that they orgasmed during a rape.
Men, as we all know, are more likely to engage in no-strings-attached sex more than women. This is due to the ‘burden’ of sex: children. Women are more likely to carefully select a partner who has numerous resources and the ability to protect the family. Men don’t have the burden of sticking around to raise the child.
Men are more likely to find a sexual relationship more upsetting in comparison to women who are more likely to find an emotional infidelity as more distressing. This data on Americans still held true for South Korea, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands. Men are better than women at detecting infidelity, and are more likely to suspect cheating in their spouses (Raine, 2013: 32). Unconscious reason being, a man doesn’t want to raise a child who is not genetically similar to themselves.
But this begs another question: why would a man rape his wife? One reason is that when a man discovers his spouse has been unfaithful, he would want to inseminate her as quickly as possible.
There has never in the history of humankind been one example of women banding together to wage war on another society to gain territory, resources or power. Think about it. It is always men. There are about nine male murderers for every one female murderer. When it comes to same-sex homicides, data from twenty studies show that 97 percent of the perpetrators are male. Men are murderers. The simple evolutionary reason is that women are worth fighting for. (Raine, 2013: 32)
A feminist may look at this stat and say “MEN cause all of the violence, MEN hurt women” and attempt to use this data as ‘proof’ that men are violent. Yes, we men are violent, and there is an evolutionary basis for it. However, what feminists who push the ‘all sexes are equal’ card don’t know, is that when they say ‘men are more likely to be murderers’ (which is true), they are actively accepting biological differences between men and women. Most of these differences in crime come down to testosterone. I would also assume that men would be more likely to have the ‘warrior gene’, otherwise known as the MAOA-L gene, which ups the propensity for violence.
The sociobiological model suggests that poorer people kill due to lack of resources. And one reason that men are way more likely to be victims of homicide is because men are in competition with other men for resources.
Going back to the violence on stepchildren that I alluded to earlier, aggression towards stepchildren can be seen as a strategic way of motivating unwanted, genetically dissimilar others out of the home and not take up precious resources for the next generation bred by the stepfather (Raine, 2013: 34).
Women also have a way to increase their fitness, which a brunt of it is through sexual selection. Women are known to be ‘worriers’. That is, they rate dangerous and aggressive acts higher than men. Women are also more fearful of bodily injury and more likely to develop phobias of animals. In these situations, women are protecting themselves and their unborn (or born) children by maximizing their chances for survival by being more fearful of things. This can help explain why women are less physically violent than men and why those murder stats are so heavily skewed towards men: biology.
Women compete for their genetic interests with beauty and childbearing. The more beautiful the woman, the better resources a woman can acquire from a male and this will ensure a healthy life for the offspring.
Evolutionary psychology can help explain the differences in murder between men and women. It can also explain why young mothers kill their children and why stepparents are so abusive to, and are more likely to murder stepchildren. Of course, a social context is involved but we need to look at evolutionary causes for what we think we may be able to simply explain. Because it’s, more often than not, more complex than we could imagine. And that complexity is our Selfish Genes doing anything possible to reproduce more copies of itself through its vehicle: the human body.