2014 in Review

These were the ten most read posts of 2014, with #1 being the most read. As I look for patterns, I think they fall into three categories: War, cooperation & conflict; Evolution & plasticity; and Sex, love & relationships. You know, easy uncontroversial topics. 🙂

As always, nothing on this site would be read if not for you all. Thanks to everyone who visits here, particularly for the regular readers (you know who you are), and for your comments and sharing these posts. Happy New Year!  

10. The Kindness of Strangers (Nov 27)

An in-class academic exercise suggests that we are always somewhat dependent on the kindness of others, regardless of our own disposition as cooperators or defectors.


9. Civilian Casualties Are a Feature, Not a Bug, of War (Jul 20)

Although we often think of war as a contest between competing militaries, data suggest that since the Second World War, 67% to 90% of casualties occur among non-combatants. I wrote this to help contextualize some of the conflicts occurring in the summer of 2014.

War deaths 2

8. The Biology of Forced Displacement (Aug 16)

People displaced by war face long-term health consequences. To me, this was probably my most important post of the year, though it never quite took off as I had hoped. If you’d like to share it now, it would be appreciated.

Height of Laotian adults, by number of times they were displaced by war.

Height of Laotian adults, by number of times they were displaced by war.

7. A Chain of Ancestors (Nov 16)

We are all links in a chain. Imagine your mother is standing behind you, your grandmother behind her, and so on. The first modern human in that chain of ancestors –200,000 years ago – would stand about six miles back, the first hominin about 180 miles.

A chain of ancestors stretching back in time.

A chain of ancestors stretching back in time.

6. Desire and Celibacy (Jun 25)

A look at people who have chosen celibacy for various reasons and durations – World Cup players, Gandhi, clergy. People have long held ambivalent views of desire – as a source of pleasure and connection, but also as disruptive and even harmful.


5. Paleo Hookups & Archaic Lovers (Jan 23)

Genetic evidence shows that various Pleistocene populations interbred, including humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans. Is it possible to know whether these could have occurred in pair-bonded relationships, or in short-term ‘hook-ups’? The highlight is probably John Hawks’ graphic.

Who interbred with whom in the Pleistocene. (Figure by John Hawks).

Who interbred with whom in the Pleistocene. (Figure by John Hawks).

4. Did Pairbonds Evolve to Be Asymmetrical? (Feb 7)

Why did pair-bonds first evolve in humans? Can we know whether males or females had a stronger incentive to pair-bond? Who falls in love quicker – males or females? Do the evolutionary origins of pair-bonds matter today, or have we moved beyond this? 

Australopithecus afarensis ("Lucy"), out with her date. Source: AMNH.

Australopithecus afarensis (“Lucy”), out with her date. Source: AMNH.

3. Darwin, Oversimplified (Jun 20)

A look at some of Darwin’s views on race and human (in)equality. Many people unfairly assume Darwin was a racist. Historians Desmond and Moore suggested otherwise, and that Darwin was concerned with the unity of humankind. “This notion of ‘brotherhood’ grounded his evolutionary enterprise.”


2. Lessons from Models of Sex and Love (Mar 31)

An attempt to summarize a wide range of research on the complexity of human romantic relationships. This was the 2nd most read post, and I put a lot of work into it. It’s not perfect, but I’m still learning.  I’m biased, but I made a couple of graphics that I think are pretty good.  “There are many ways to put a human life together, including for sex and love. Each path has tradeoffs.”

Love Models


1. Developmental Plasticity & the “Hard-Wired” Problem (Jun 10)

Surprisingly, this was the most read post of the year, by far. It argues against overly simplistic notions of genes as the only component of our biology. Genes are obviously essential, but organisms are plastic and are inseparable from their environments. “What is inherited is DNA. Everything else is developed.”

The internalization of externality. Source: Sierra Club.

The internalization of externality. Source: Sierra Club.


One thought on “2014 in Review

  1. My most read post by month is always one i wrote about an article looking at lion predation on giraffes. Turns out that unexpectedly people do a lot of googling for “lion eating giraffe”! Happy Christmas 🙂

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