Inexpert evolutionists believe that romantic love doesn’t exist, that it is just about sex and delusion. It is unselfish and we need to be selfish in order to survive, they claim. They are wrong.
The Anti-Science brigade (can’t say Creationists since evolution does not eliminate the possibility of a creator God) argue that if the evolutionary theory is correct, then love cannot exist. It is also an irrational state and therefore, one might think, the dominion of organised religion. They are wrong.
Love is real and belongs to us all. It happened something like this:
Once upon a time, when people paired off to make babies, all anybody could think about was physical indicators of fertility and the sort of genetic heritage that would allow potential offspring to physically survive and reproduce themselves. All we cared about were waist to hip proportions, distribution of bodily hair, indicators of youth and vitality. We were a very shallow bunch indeed and not getting very far at all. Even sex wasn’t all that good as we only had one position.
One day, an ape creature was sitting on a rock – we’ll call him Johnny. Johnny was a troubled young man who was full of ideas about the world around him but nobody to express them to. Alas, there was no language back then and all his peers were interested in was hunting wildebeest and getting laid. He was lonely even when surrounded by other ape creatures. So lonely in fact, that he sang a sad little song to himself. It went something like this;
“Ug, ug ug ug ug.
Ug, ug ug ug ug.
Ug! Ug ug, ug ug ug ug
Ug, ug ug ug ug.”
As he was singing this last melancholic line, a bright-eyed female approached his rock. We’ll call her Jane. Poor Johnny was fed up of women as back in those days, they were only ever after one thing.
“Ug ug,” Johnny said, in the nonchalant tone that he had adopted for members of his own species. But as he was about to turn away, he noticed a flicker of comprehension in her eyes.
“Ug?” Jane asked, scratching her head. For she too had had these feelings that perhaps there was more to life that sex and wildebeest – much as she enjoyed both.
“Ug ug,” he explained. “Ug ug ug ug.”
“Ug ug ug!” Jane exclaimed and the two of them fell about laughing at this joke, the hilarity of which has long since been lost amid the shifting sands of time. It was very funny. I guess you had to be there.
And so the two ape creatures sat there talking all day long. Of course they hadn’t got any sort of language, but being a tad brighter than your average bipeds, they were using tone of voice, facial expression and hand gestures to get their message across.
It was getting kind of late, so Johnny suggested that they head back to his cave for a coffee.
Jane pointed out that they were on the wrong part of the continent for coffee, even if they could work out, within the space of an evening, how to process the seeds of that plant into a stimulating hot beverage. As you can imagine, without language, this took the best part of an hour to get across.
Johnny averted his eyes and twiddled his thumbs as if to say, “I know, but I just invented the euphemism.”
...Years passed and Johnny and Jane never did run out of things to “talk” about. When their children were born, they inherited good communication skills both through the genetic legacy of brain architecture, but also through having parents who encouraged good communication. And when these children grew up, they were looking for partners who had something to say for themselves and in turn, produced good communicative children.
Language and love thus developed concurrently. Love is, in reductionist terms, sexual attraction based on a person’s ability to communicate. Call it personality or whatever else you like - that's really what it is.
In order for love to exist, we must have developed the ability to communicate well, but in order for language to exist, we must have nurtured these abilities over many generations, thus we must have been the products of predominantly loving relationships and this somehow gave us the edge over those not-so-communicative ape creatures who made sexual selection on purely physical attributes.
Why? Possibly we make better parents; standing upright gives us a relatively narrow pelvis, meaning our offspring must be born very small and vulnerable – it is literally years before they can be left alone, so at some point pair-bonding needed to become long-term. Love might have helped. Or it could have been that good communicators were better in crises which involved team-work or problem-solving. I don't know everything, I'm just making it up as I go along.
Of course, we must not over-romanticise our genetic heritage or our current nature. We didn’t abandon other types of sexual attraction – look at Keanu Reeves. Exactly. Plus our most romanticised version of love is not necessary the optimal reproductive strategy; in the most primitive of circumstances both parents need to invest in one offspring at any one time, but both men and women may optimise their chances of reproductive success through deception and betrayal.
Perhaps one of the big mistakes we make culturally is to assume that there are only two types of sexual relationship; casual, purely sexual relationships which are entirely shallow and thus illegitimate and permanent love relationships where some mystical rite or institution ensures that both parties remain happily in love for ever and ever and ever.
The whole business is far more complicated than that, but for today I just wanted to argue for love's existence.