January 28, 2009

Jason Caffey seems to have won the Darwinian lottery of life. In two ways in fact. The first is that Jason Caffey won in his own inheritance of genes. Genes good enough (allied with a great deal of sweat and effort of course) top get him into the NBA for near a decade:

Caffey played nine years in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks.

The second way is that he’s managed to pass on those genes, or rather some share of them,. to an impressive number of others:

An Atlanta judge has ordered the arrest of former NBA player Jason Caffey. Jason who used to play for the Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, and the Chicago Bulls, is accused of failing to pay more than $200,000 in child support and legal fees to Lorunda Brown and her lawyer. Lorunda has a six year-old son with Caffey; she is one of eight women and her child is one of ten children fathered by Caffey.

Ten children by eight different women? That’s certainly a success by the limited standards of Darwinian thought. Or at least success in one of the available strategies. For as Darwin pointed out, the game of life is to have as many descendants as possible, to spread one’s seed. That the successful strategies differ for men and for women is one of the things that provides the tension to life. Alpha males such as Caffrey might succeed by impregnating as many women as possible but women (to say nothing of beta males like myself) do better by having fewer and paying greater attention to their upbringing, investing more in each than opting for a scattergun approach.

It’s also worth noting that in this, the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth, that we have a legal system expressly designed to make sure that those alpha males don’t in fact get the opportunity to pursue their strategy without censure. Child support is, after all, a way of making sure that the greater support that maximises a woman’s reproductive success is available, whatever the strategy the male is following.

I will admit though what I really like about the story is precisely that line “ten children by eight different women”. Whatever the truth or not of Darwin’s theory we as a society don’t in fact act as if it is the be all and end all of life. For we have not just that child support requirement, we also have quite a social constraint about that sort of behavior: not just deadbeat dad behavior, but that sort of spreading the seed around behavior.

A strict reading of Darwinian texts would lead us to the thought that Jason Caffey’s a winner for having all these children. As I say, whatever Darwin said, that’s not in fact the way that our society views someone who has that number of children by so many different women and most certainly not the way we view, or treat, those who won’t follow through with the support. So whether Charles was right or wrong we have evidence that we don’t in fact live in a Darwinian society.


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