Flexible Love, at Any Age

The New York Times runs a series of short videos titled “Modern Love” (does David Bowie know about this?). The latest installation is narrated by a 71 year-old woman who describes the experience of falling in love at her age, comparing it to her younger days. She talks about differences in preparing for dates, perceptions of the concept of ‘soulmates,’ the sense of urgency, jealousy, ephemerality of life and relationships, and the pain of loss. Pretty thorough for a 2 minute video.   

To me, the most interesting part is that love really can strike at any age, illustrating the gap between proximate and evolutionary levels. Evolutionary hypotheses for the origin of pair-bonding (and love) often highlight some function related to reproduction. Robin Dunbar  summarized four possibilities: 

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On Marriage Equality

I wrote this about a year ago: Human Nature, Humility, and Homosexuality, and thought it was worth putting it up again today, given the Supreme Court cases on Marriage Equality being heard today and tomorrow.    

Earlier this month, Lech Walesa, former President of Poland and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said that: “They (homosexuals) have to know that they are a minority and adjust to smaller things, and not rise to the greatest heights. A minority should not impose itself on the majority.” Walesa is not American and his ideas are not relevant to the Supreme Court hearings. But his words elicit two thoughts: first, a Nobel Peace Prize does not confer immunity against illogical bigotry (who knew?). Second,  it exposes the fallacy in the argument that human rights are dependent on numbers, and that those in the minority should ‘stay in their place.’ 

I have an old, dog-eared and annotated book of quotations from M.K. Gandhi that my wife gave me about 17 years ago. I still look through it from time to time. Among the quotes, one seems appropriate here: 

“I do not believe in the doctrine of the greatest good of the greatest number. It means in its nakedness that in order to achieve the supposed good of 51 per cent the interest of 49 per cent may be, or rather, should be sacrificed. It is a heartless doctrine and has done harm to humanity. The only real, dignified, human doctrine is the greatest good of all.”

Human Nature, Humility, & Homosexuality

And, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” -Lennon/McCartney

Is that true?” – Chris Farley



Steve Silberman pointed his Twitter followers to a piece in Salon about the biography of Maggie Gallagher, the point person for fighting against same-sex marriage in the United States. Toward the end of the article, it quotes Gallagher on her views on homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and human nature, where she makes an analogy to Communism:

“One of the lessons I learned as a young woman from the collapse of Communism is this: Trying to build a society around a fundamental lie about human nature can be done, for a while, with intense energy (and often at great cost); but it cannot hold.”

The author of the article, Mark Oppenheimer, then writes this about Gallagher:

Same-sex marriage is just a big lie, she believes, like Communism.  It is weak at its foundations, like the Iron Curtain. It may get built, she seems to concede — in 10 years, or 20, there may be more states that recognize same-sex marriage, more shiny, happy couples raising rosy-cheeked, well-adjusted children, children who play with dogs and go to school and fall from jungle gyms and break their arms, children often adopted after being abandoned by the heterosexuals who did not want them or could not care for them — but in time (big time, geological time, God time) the curtain will be pulled back, or it will fall. Because it has to. It cannot be otherwise.” 

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Choice, Obesity & the Irrational Ape (Homo insensatus)

What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility.

……………………………………………………………………………………. – Albert Einstein

Another irrational ape (imitating Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’)

Jonah Lehrer has written another great piece about our irrationality in decision making, and our emotional responses to avoiding loss. He writes:

From the perspective of economics, there is no good reason to weight gains and losses so differently. Opportunity costs (foregone gains) should be treated just like “out-of-pocket costs” (losses). But they aren’t – losses carry a particular emotional sting.”

Others have noted the importance of emotion involved in decision making, and how it affects our ability to intuit how our choices will make us feel. When someone suffers damage to the prefrontal cortex of their brain, both their emotions and decision-making abilities are impaired (Bechara et al 1997). What this suggests is that emotions and reason are linked, rather than oppositional. They inform each other. This all fits in with Dan Ariely’s view of humans as “predictably irrational.”

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