How to use the Biblical Framework over against the pagan world system. Unbelief does not endure because it doesn’t fit the universe the way God made it. Paul in Athens. Pagan tactical and strategic use of language. Questions and answers.
Note:The text for the Love Article is included at the bottom of the transcript.
© Charles A. Clough 2000
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 5: Confrontation with the King
Chapter 4: The Death of the King
Lesson 139 – Framework vs. Pagan Worldview – Critique of Love Article (cont’d)
10 Feb 2000
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Tonight is going to be a little different than we usually do, it’s going to be more of a laboratory session, feel free to raise your hand and interact because I want to use the foil of this article as a teaching device on how to use the doctrinal framework over against the world system. It’s a classic instance of coming to a self-consciousness about … where is the conflict here, what’s going on. One of the things we’ve emphasized in the past four or five years in this class is that it’s not an exegetical class, it’s not the verse by verse approach, nor is it a straight doctrinal class. It’s a framework so that you can think through the acts and words of God down through time, starting from creation and going on to the end. This is the way God sequenced His revelation, the way He taught, the way He is teaching the human race. That sets us up with an organized framework that’s not a theologian’s framework, it’s just that’s the way God did it historically.
We’ve emphasized that the issue in biblical Christianity is thinking God’s thoughts after Him, not feeling God’s emotions after Him but thinking God’s thoughts after Him. Yes, there are emotions, but the center of action of Scripture is to think the way God wanted Adam to think, and to think the way the Lord Jesus Christ thought. To do that we need the Word of God; the Word of God is the vehicle of His speech to us. There are certain technical terms the Scriptures use, and I want to begin, before we get into the article, reviewing some tactics and some strategy, some approaches. So I’m going to spend a considerable amount of time on the introduction before we get into the article, because what I hope you carry away isn’t the article. The article is incidental; the process is a good vehicle for teaching what we’re trying to teach. What we’re trying to do is learn how to use the doctrinal framework of Scripture in actual combat with the world system.
The Scriptures have a term that they use consistently from the Old Testament into the New and it’s basically a label the Word of God places on unbelieving thought. That word is “vanity,” it isn’t a very potent word in today’s English, it used to be but it’s no longer used very much. “Vanity” is a translation of a Hebrew word, hebel, in the book of Ecclesiastes it’s expounded in excruciating detail. In the New Testament it’s mentioned several times. If you look carefully in Romans 1, if you look carefully in Ephesians 4, if you have a concordance you can look it up and you’ll see it occurs again and again. It’s a label and it connotes something. What it says is that fallen creatures still carry the design of God and therefore still think, and because we still think, because we still carry the design of God, we think falsely. We don’t stop thinking, we think in a perverted fashion, and that’s called vanity.
It’s called vanity with a connotation that it’s a lot of hot air and bologna. It carries the image of knowledge. Paul uses it, they have a form of knowledge but it isn’t really knowledge; knowledge falsely so-called, he says in 2 Timothy. Vanity is a judgmental label to expose the chaos, the unsubstantial structure of the perversion of the truth. The physical picture is given in James with breath, what is your life but a breath; it doesn’t have the negative connotation in the moral sense there, but it’s the idea that it doesn’t endure. Unbelief doesn’t endure because it doesn’t have an abiding structure because it doesn’t fit the universe the way God made it, ultimately. It is a profound perversion of things.
We want to recall a term that we’ve used again and again in coping with this. It occurs throughout the Scripture, it occurs throughout the whole series of lessons that we’ve done the last four or five years. I have a term for this, it’s a technique of faith, and my term is strategic envelopment. What I mean by that is that in spiritual combat one or the other agenda calls the shots. One or the other side plays a tune and the other side dances to the tune. The game is whose agenda is controlling the game. It doesn’t necessarily mean one totally overwhelms the other; it just means that one dominates how questions are asked, how things are phrased. By and large in our society secularism, the secularist form of unbelief totally calls the shots.
The culture has been strategically enveloped for at least 30-50 years by unbelief, not in the sense of individuals. It’s that the culture has been strategically enveloped so that no matter what the issue is, I picked this article deliberately for you to read and think about and we’ll discuss, because it’s a classic case of taking a topic that everyone is interested in and talking about, but all the while we’re talking about that particular topic we’re enveloping the whole system, so after you’re done you can’t think about that topic any more without thinking about it embedded in this system of thinking. It’s a clever tactic and the idea is no matter what it is, in this article it’s love between the sexes. It could be business and investing. It could be sports. It could be any topic of life; it doesn’t have to be this. But the question is whose frame of reference controls the discussion.
I’ve warned you several times, because I myself have been involved in discussions with people and you’re always in a discussion in your own head, in a dialogue, soliloquy, in the book of Psalms, David is always talking to himself, so you talk to yourself. The point is that in all these conversations we have we’re either being enveloped or we are enveloping. We are passive or we are active, and the problem is you get tired in this world, you get tired in life, you get fatigued out, and it’s precisely when you’re tired and when you’re fatigued that you go passive, and you allow the system to envelope you. Strategic envelopment is very important and to show how Paul uses strategic envelopment, I’ll take you to the classic evangelic missionary address that he makes.
In Acts 17, Paul goes into the heart of the intellect of the Greeks. He is in Athens; here Paul under the guidance of the Holy Spirit collides with the fountains of the thought that controlled much of the ancient world. When he goes in to Athens and he starts to speak, he seizes the moment and deploys a strategic envelopment around the Athenians. Watch how he does it. In verse 22 he begins the discussion. “And Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects,” and of course they must have thought he was freaked out because these were the secularists of their day, and for Paul to come in and say that “you are very religious” must have struck these people as…say that again, what are you saying? Why are you saying that we’re religious, we’ve given those things up, those are the myths, those are the superstitions, we gave those up in Plato’s time, nobody holds to those things, I mean, we talk about Zeus and we talk about Mount Olympus but we use those metaphorically, that’s all we mean. Paul says no you’re not, he says you’re very religious. So immediately in verse 22 Paul analyzes his audience in biblical terms. See what he’s doing? He’s not permitting them to self-analyze themselves and then sit down with a mutual discussion of our differences. Rather, Paul has already seized control by putting them inside a biblical frame of reference.
Then he goes on to say,  “For while I was passing through and examining,” notice the verbs in verses 22-23 he’s being open-minded and scientific, he’s walking through, he’s making observations, he’s not just dictating, he’s going around with his eyes open, he’s interacting with the data, but he’s interpreting the data within a biblical frame of reference. So he says, the main verb in verse 22 “I observe,” I’m not walking in here with my eyes shut, I have my eyes open, I see you people, and here’s what I see. Then he says in verse 23, I “was passing through and examining the objects of your worship,” and the verb tenses here show that he spent some time doing this. So he’s looking at the data, he’s not data blind; he’s not some religious nut who isn’t interacting empirically with things around him. “I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship,” and I found this altar. Then he makes another assertion at the end of verse 23, [“I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘To AN UNKNOWN GOD.’] Having done that observation, having done that study and investigation he goes on and says “What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.’”
Right there he’s automatically seized the initiative; he is enveloping them with his own frame of reference. He says you’re stupid, saying it politically correctly, politely and courteously, but he’s saying you’re spiritually ignorant and I’m here to enlighten you. Notice he’s not saying I’m here to argue the case for Christianity. He is arguing the case for Christianity, but what I’m saying is that he’s not permitting the philosophers to set up the frame into which he’s going to fit Christianity. It goes back to that illustration I’ve used again and again, where somebody wants an interior decorating job in their home and the guy shows up with a bulldozer, and he’s going to totally redo the house. That’s what Paul’s doing here. He’s totally redoing their philosophical house.
Then in verse 24, he drops the real bomb. Verses 22-23 has been the analysis, now the source of the analysis is quite clear, and he flies the flag. Here’s the banner, he’s not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, and right up front he produces the issue that agitates every living human being down to the balls of their feet, deep down into our hearts, he lays it out. “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands,” he starts with the Creator/creature distinction, and then he begins to draw his conclusions. So once again [we see] strategic envelopment using the Creature/creature frame of reference.
To show you that the Scriptures consistently do this, if you look in the margin you’ll notice that Acts 17:24 is quote from the Old Testament, Isaiah 42:5. If we had time we could go to Acts 14 and there he does the same thing to a pagan audience, and he begins quoting from Exodus 20:11. How does God identify Himself on Mount Sinai? I am the God who brought you out of Egypt and what else did I do, so that you do not work on the seventh day? I created the heavens and everything that is in them in six days. God identifies Himself, and it’s that verse of all the controversial verses that Paul had to trot out of the Old Testament he trotted that one out and plopped it right in front of his audience.
I want to emphasize this role of strategic envelopment and the Scriptures say this again and again, not just Paul showing it. In Deuteronomy 6:7 this was the norm and the standard given to parents with regard to children’s education. It’s a very interesting teaching method for children; a whole teaching methodology can come out of this. It says, “and you shall teach them” what? all the commandments of God, the Bible, “and you shall teach them diligently to your sons” and the rest of the verse goes on and shows how they do it, it says you will do it because you “shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” That doesn’t mean that he’s telling Bible stories all the time. The Hebrew indicates you will talk in terms of them when you sit down, when you are out working, the idea being that whatever the subject is you envelop it in the divine framework as a reference.
So if you’re discussing labor, you can discuss labor, fine, but you discuss labor inside of a biblical frame of reference. You may be out planting plants, farming community, you teach putting seeds in the ground, cultivating the earth; you’re not just talking about seeds in the ground and cultivating the earth, that’s just “marble” knowledge, that’s just marbles. You connect it with the design of the seed, with the way God wanted fruitfulness, and God has done this, and the earth gives forth weeds, and it gives forth weeds and resists us because we sinned and God has made the earth to revolt against us. That’s making it not just a lesson in botany; it’s a lesson to show that as a matter of fact the Scriptures inform us in everything. That’s Deuteronomy 6:7.
In Colossians 2:8, a verse we’ve gone through several times but we remind you again, this has to do with strategic envelopment, watching who’s enveloping who. I always think of a big amoeba slurping something up. That’s why I draw this diagram that way because in my head that’s the image I have of this. An amoeba assimilates everything that’s [can’t understand word/s] and the idea here is that that’s encapsulated. Notice there’s an imperative mood verb at the front of verse 8, what does that verse say. It says don’t be taken captive. What’s that mean? You’re enveloped, that’s strategic envelopment, don’t allow yourself to be strategic enveloped. How are you strategically enveloped? How do you avoid doing this he says? He says when you do it wrong, when you are passive and you allow yourself to be strategic enveloped it’s because of “philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world,” and there he employs a Greek technical term called stoicheia, this Greek word was used by the philosophers to refer to earth, fire, water and air.
What were those four things I just listed? What functions did they perform in the philosophy of the pagan world? What would they be analogous to in our day? The elementary particles. That was as far as they could push things back to, those were their basic categories. Everything else came out of earth, fire, water, and air. Everything else came out of that. Those are the basic building blocks. What Paul says is that’s the way the flesh usually likes to think of the universe. It always likes to go back to elementary things, and the universe is built on these elementary things. But then he says instead of thinking that way and allowing yourself to be taken captive because once you do this, you set in motion something that crushes you. It’s like standing in front of a rolling car, all of a sudden the brakes release and the thing starts rolling over you, you’re captive to this thing.
So he says don’t do it that way, instead “according to Christ.” He pits stoicheia against Christos. Why does he do that? Because stoicheia are the elements of the world, fire, air, water and soil, or whatever you want to say. What is Christos? We studied the virgin birth and what doctrine do we associate with the virgin birth? The hypostatic union. What is the hypostatic union? Jesus Christ is undiminished deity and true humanity united in one person without confusion forever, doctrine of the hypostatic union. Jesus Christ, then, is the Creator and the creature, all that doctrine is combined in one person. That’s the starting point, says Paul, the Creator/creature, that’s where you start. You don’t start with atoms, you don’t start with fire, you don’t start with water, you start with the Creator/creature distinction, and everything else is built from that. So do you see the whole thing here? Strategic envelopment is very much related to the starting point; it’s related to the basics, it’s related to the foundations on which you stand.
One other thing while we’re on strategic envelopment, out of this, if we are to permit the control of the discussion, out of strategic envelopment comes certain implications. According to Genesis God’s account of creation defines certain great truths. When we have been studying these truths what were the doctrines we associated with creation? There were three; all three are critical in analyzing this article: the doctrine of God, the doctrine of man, and the doctrine of nature. What did we say about man and nature over and against God? God is the Creator, this is the creation. We have the Creator/creature distinction. So we automatically have one major truth already; we have the Creator/creature distinction. But we also have another one, and that is man… who is man? Man, in the Scriptures (man and woman together) is not just nature. What is it that separates man and woman … it’s absolutely critical to understanding the fight on this article and the logic behind this article. It doesn’t start with romance, it starts in creation. What is the categorical difference between man and woman and everything, whether they’re apes, whether they’re fish, whether they’re atoms, in nature? What is unique about man that is not shared by any of the creation? I have created man in My own image!
Is there any other image of God in creation other than man? Negative. So man is picked out as being unique in all of creation because he has the image of God. Primates do not have the image of God. You say well anatomically they seem to be similar. Yes, they seem to be similar but now we get into a corollary of strategic envelopment and I’ve not coined a word for this but I’m going to try. Remember back when we dealt with this, I said that often times you’ll hear people say when the Bible says God is angry that’s an anthropopathism. What do they mean by that? They mean that it’s an expression from our anthropogenic experience, and it’s an “anthropopathism.” In other words, we experience this passion, emotion, and we attribute it to God. I warned you that’s not the way to go. The Bible doesn’t say God is in man’s image; the Bible says man is in God’s image. Which way is the thought going, from God to man, or from man to God. If I say that man is in God’s image, who’s primary? God is, and man’s but an image. But if I say well, that’s an anthropopathism, blah, blah, blah, it’s an anthropomorphic image, blah, blah, blah now I am saying man is primary and in terms of man I’m going to define God.
What I’m going to say is get used to top-down thinking, not bottom-top thinking. You’ll see it in the article tonight. Get used to thinking from top down, and by that I mean God makes man in His image and it means things we see in ourselves correspond to the nature of God Himself. We went to excruciating detail, if you look at the notes, I said this isn’t just limited to our conscience. Our bodies functionally are analogues to God Himself. Jesus didn’t get incarnated in a lion; Jesus got incarnated in a human body, because the body was made for the incarnation.
Man is different from nature in this: not only is he form, shape, etc. but what are some of the analogies between man and God. One of the key ones is God is sovereign, and what corresponds to God’s sovereign in man? Human choice, human responsibility. So sense of responsibility, and tonight I’m going to use the term “free will.” Not “free will” in the sense that it’s totally and absolutely free in a philosophic way, I’m just using the word in the next little tidbit. This is critical because we’ll see this come up in the article.
Nature, dogs, cats and everything else can be viewed in terms of stimulus response, dogs, cats, animals and everything else—stimulus response, stimulus response, stimulus response. Can you blame the dog for responding to a stimulus? No, but in man, how is this picture not correct? If we are in God’s image and we have this that corresponds to this because we’re in His image, it means this is fractured, and instead we have stimulus, we do have response one, response two, response three, varied set of responses, and in the middle between S & R [sovereignty & responsibility] we have something called choice or free will. What we have said here totally argues against this, we are in total collision right from the title we’re wrong, we’re going at each other totally different. Man cannot be viewed as an analogue with animal behavior. To view man and analyze man’s behavior in terms of animal’s behavior is to buy into something that denies this. Man is not part of nature, he is made in God’s image, he shares responsibility, he shares free will, and dogs and cats don’t have it. Man has it. That’s why what is true at the end of history? Why can God hold us responsible and judge us? Because we have free will. That is the difference; that marks us and sets us apart from nature.
Said another way, just to make the point before we go any further, man is not a product of his biochemical brain state. Your hormones and your brains do affect you, absolutely. But they don’t totally affect you; if they totally affected you, you couldn’t be held responsible, you would be a biochemical machine. Nobody holds biochemical machines responsible because biochemical machines just respond. This is fundamental, this is absolutely fundamental to a Christian biblical view of man. Sadly we have people in the medical profession even who claim to be Christians and still don’t seem to understand this, everything is just a biochemical fight, and whoever has the best chemistry, the viruses or medical science, wins.
Let’s move to number two; we’ve talked about strategic envelopment, now we’re going to learn one other tactic before heading into the article. I’m going to call this the tactical use of language, the tactical use of language to infiltrate hearts. Language is a very, very powerful tool. There are some very sobering things in Scripture that speak to the issue of language and words. Turn to Proverbs 1 I want to show you some of the vocabulary the Scripture insists on using.
Proverbs 1 …background for this term for language and how we have to watch it. Notice the parallel. A lot of Proverbs is written in synonymous parallelism. Verse 23 is synonymous parallelism. Synonymous parallelism is a great Bible tool because it teaches you how the Holy Spirit expresses Himself through language. In verse 23 it says “Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you,” this is wisdom speaking, the teacher, this is a teacher personified, the teacher is going to teach the student, and the teacher says to the student, “Turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my Spirit on you,” parallelism, “I will make my words known to you.” Aha, now look at what we’ve got here in Scripture. Spirit and words. Words are not marks on paper. Words are not sounds coming out in Greek or English or Spanish. Words can be marks on paper, they can be noises coming out of our mouths, they can be gestures. There are all kinds of things that can be words, so I’m using words in a larger context here.
Words have meaning, and one of the all-time great mysteries is how does a human being attach meaning to words? Mortimer Adler, one of the associate editors of Encyclopedia Britannica once said that we all perform our greatest intellectual act by age six; never in the rest of our lives will we ever perform such a fantastic intellectual task as what we accomplish by the time we are age six. What does he mean? We’ve learned language without knowing a precious language. Nobody understands how we do that. Philosophers have debated this for ages. How does a child attach meaning to a language and communicate. You and I can’t communicate if we don’t share common meanings. Where do we get the common meaning from? If your ideas are just running around in your head and my ideas are running around in my head, how come our ideas fit together? Why is that? Nobody has come up with an explanation apart from this. Behind words there lurks the spiritual reality of meaning, and it’s used again and again in Scripture.
Let me show you some verses. These are so important. As I went through this article I realized that we need to look back at Scriptures so we get a grasp of some of these tools. Turn to 1 Kings 22, a time in Israel’s history when the northern kingdom, which was the apostate kingdom, solicited the help of the southern kingdom, and they wanted to know whether they should go out and fight the enemy. In verse 6, “Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men,” how many, count them because the number here plays a role in what I’m going to show you so get the number in mind. Is this one counselor? No, this is four hundred counselors, about the size of Congress. Jehoshaphat, the king of the south, wants a prophet of the Lord, because he doesn’t trust these clowns in the north. So they look around, [verse 9, “Then the king of Israel called an officer and said, ‘Bring quickly Micaiah son of Imlah.  Now the King of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting each on his throne … and all the prophets were prophesying before them.” Finally there comes a prophet, it’s Micaiah, verse 13, the messenger went to summon Micaiah.
Verse 14, “But Micaiah said, As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me,” I will say to you, “that I will speak.”  When he came to the king, the king said to him, ‘Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?’ And he answered him, ‘Go up and succeed, and the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.’” He (the prophet) is being sarcastic here to the king.  “Then the king said to him, ‘How many times must I adjure you to speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?’ ” Doesn’t that sound sincere? The prophet goes on and says you’re going to get creamed. [17, “So he said, ‘I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep which have no shepherd.’ And the LORD said, ‘These have no master. Let each of them return to his house in peace.’ ”]
Verse 18, “Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?’” He’d just got through telling the guy, tell me what the Lord said. So the prophet tells him what the Lord said; now he blames the prophet for telling him what the Lord said. That’s what I love about the Old Testament, it’s so real. Micaiah then describes the vision that he saw, and he says,  “And Micaiah said, ‘Therefore, hear the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD,” this is one of those strange meetings that I believe God has down through history … just think what you could do if you had CNN cover these meetings. “… I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left.
Verse 20, “And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that.” They had a discussion in the angelic counsel.  “Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’” Notice how many spirits? ONE, “a” single article, single noun! 22] “And the LORD said to him, ‘How?’” Now look at verse 22. “How?’ And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of” how many of his prophets? Now isn’t this an interesting phenomena, we have one, singular, spirit, affecting the words of four hundred people, one spirit, “all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and also prevail, Go and do so.’ ” The Lord says go ahead, do it.
This is a phenomenon in Scripture, it’s a spooky kind of thing, but what I’m saying is the tactical use of language to infiltrate hearts. Language is what separates man from the rest of nature. Have you carried on a conversation with your dog recently? You can talk to him, etc., but I mean real understanding conversations about concepts of right and wrong. You may want to because you get so furious at times, but it doesn’t do any good because the dog doesn’t have a conscience. You have language, the dog doesn’t. It separates. God have has language too. Language is the linkage; it’s the characteristic of the human race that links it with God and the spiritual matter.
Go to the New Testament and see where this strange phenomenon again occurs. 2 Corinthians 11:4, I’m not trying to get everybody all spooked out here, but I’m simply saying that we don’t know a lot about what we’re talking about in language and lurking within language itself are spirits. Language becomes a vehicle and a tool for spiritual infiltration. Notice how Paul speaks of false gospels, he says, “For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted,” why does he link all three of those sentences together if they’re not intimately related, Jesus, spirit and different gospel? What he appears to be saying is that language carries spiritual power with it, and when we absorb a false teaching we have absorbed the spirit of the false teaching. That’s how dangerous language is; this is not an innocent little game that’s being played here. When we come up against the spirit of this world, we inevitably must become self-conscious, focused and alert on the language and conflict, how meanings are carried, etc.
Let me give you some simple every day illustrations of the tactical use of language, first in a non-serious way that everyone uses this in conversation, just to show you how this works. Let’s suppose that you’re in a conversation with someone, and they say the following sentence: Well, even she could learn something that simple. It appears that what we’re talking about is whatever this thing is it’s simple, “even she could learn something that simple.” That’s the overt sentence, but what’s being carried along in that sentence? There’s something else. It’s a judgment on this person. That sentence has been loaded. We all know how to be snotty about it; it comes natural with the sin nature. But there’s a good example of a sentence that appears to be talking about an object but it’s carrying something along with it. And when you’re the object of that kind of conversation, you feel very uncomfortable. You feel like something’s wrong, someone’s got an attitude about me. But sometimes you can’t put your hand on it. Watch the language.
Let’s try a second one. If you really wanted to lose weight you wouldn’t eat so much. This looks like it’s just a dietary health discussion. Is it? What’s the implication “if you really wanted to lose weight?” What’s the implication? That you don’t, so we put a little snotty remark in the sentence. We appear to be discussing a health issue, but embedded in this is a slam that this person doesn’t care about themselves. There’s something else in that sentence, “if you really wanted to lose weight you wouldn’t eat so much. In other words, it’s within your capacity to solve that problem and you’re not. Watch this, because it appears on the surface that the language is only talking about health issues, but underneath it’s talking about a lot more than that. It’s talking about a person’s attitude; it’s talking about a person’s capabilities. There are all kinds of things embedded in that sentence.
Third sentence, this is even has more things in it, watch this one, “well everyone understands why you act the way you do.” Look at that one, take it apart. “Everyone understands why you act the way you do.” What’s the baggage in that sentence? The fact that “everyone understands,” now this is so obvious, I mean, you’ve got a real problem here, and it’s obvious to everybody around. Also it’s saying you’ve got an obvious problem; so you’ve got a problem and it’s obvious. Another thing, isn’t there a hint in the way this sentence is constructed that whoever this is addressed to should be very grateful that everybody understands them. Everybody is being so gracious to them, see. All I’m saying is I’ve given you three illustrations of sentences that appear at first glance to be talking about something, but actually carrying all kinds of stuff with them.
Now let’s turn to the article. The men and women who write these are professionals, they know how to write, and they pick their language very, very carefully; page 42 of U.S. News & World Report. What do you notice about the title and the subtitle? Here we go, the tactical use of language. Think about the two things we just got through talking about: strategic envelopment and tactical use of language to infiltrate ideas. “It may be a many-splendored thing, but romance relies on Stone Age rules to get started.” [blank spot]
“Romance relies on Stone Age rules,” let’s look at that one. This is slow going but I want you to observe something. What’s wrong with a lot of hymnology in evangelical churches today, where we just sing stuff and never even think about the lyrics of what we’re singing? If language imports things with it, what are we doing if we don’t think about what we’re singing? This is why if you go back in church history the classic hymns were very carefully thought out and they were intended not just to be sung quickly.
If you take, for example, some of Charles Wesley’s hymns, you could have a devotional out of the hymn. You could sit down with a piece of paper and take that hymn apart stanza by stanza and get an awful lot of beneficial stuff out of it. Then when you sing it, it means much more because the singing comes out of the understanding of the lyric. Music is like all art forms, it’s to enhance something. It’s not the main vehicle. The art is an enhancement of something; music is an enhancement of the hymn. That’s why in the Scripture when hymns are spoken, very rarely do we have hymns mentioned in Scripture, in Deuteronomy 32, you’ve got a hymn also in the book of Revelation. We don’t have the music but we have the lyrics. Why’s that? Because it’s the lyrics which are the center of the issue.
In this article we’re saying okay, let’s pull apart that subtitle. “Stone Age rules,” what does that carry with it? [someone answers outdated]. Okay, outdated, Stone Age. The word “Stone Age,” let’s look at that for a moment. Not only is out dated, he could have used “old-fashioned rules” but he didn’t. [Someone says something about going back to evolution, we evolved in the Stone Age]. Exactly, so by using the Stone Age when he could have just said “by old rules,” by putting this in here now all of a sudden here comes strategic envelopment. Now we’ve set the whole discussion, right in the subtitle, the discussion is now what? We started saying the discussion is about love and romance, but immediately when you see this in the subtitle, what’s happened? Bong, strategic envelopment, from now on everything’s going to be discussed inside the evolutionary frame of reference. There it goes, and we haven’t even got through the subtitle and we’ve already surrounded the whole topic with a framework. From now on the rest of the article it’s all going to be an evolutionary viewpoint of love and romance.
What else is true, notice something else about it. Look at the word “rules.” If it’s Stone Age, if it’s past evolutionary history and after all you know, Darwin made it as a theory, what does the word “rules” do for the authors, as far as the certainty of the evolutionary position? He doesn’t say according to Stone Age theory, he uses the word Stone Age rules. Aha, rules, in other words, this is fixed truth, everybody is agreed on this, except a few religious people on the right that have a problem with this, the normal people would understand it, this is truth. So in a devastatingly clever subtitle we’ve already had evolution put in our face and declared to be absolute truth. Having done that, let’s go on and discuss love and romance.
And no sooner do we get to the article than we all of a sudden are face to face with this. I just love articles like this because I always say that if you want to learn unbelief go to artists, go to people that really know how to express it, learn it well, if you’re going to go to the gutter go to a good one and walk through it and then you get immunized against trivial stuff. So we go through this and we have a guy in a singles bar watching behavior of guys and gals, a nice place to learn. He’s an accomplished anthropologist, and head of a center in a university. There’s no perversion too perverted for an academic not to follow. So here we have a man, probably on a federal grant, spending time in singles bars for twenty years, and he comes to the delightful conclusion that “people don’t trust one another at first.” I just love this one, the issue is… now look at this, this is hot stuff, this is the center of the discussion of love and romance, “the issue is: How do two bodies get close enough together to procreate?” This is the center of the issue, and by golly, the rest of the article is all about that, isn’t it? From hormones to anatomy to everything else, how do we get two bodies together to procreate? That’s the big stumbling block, that’s what those hormones have to do, have to get those two bodies together.
I spent a lot of time saying there’s a difference in the Christian worldview between men and nature. Are we denying that God uses sex? No, so what’s the problem here? The problem is right here, you cannot use animal behavior of the stimulus response to act as a model for human behavior where you have choice. So we are in fundamental disagreement here. The analogy that this Givens guy is providing us is built wholly on the assumption that sexuality in human beings is identical to sexuality in the animal kingdom. Why does he say that? Look at the subtitle, where do we come from, what is the continuity between animals and man, there’s continuity, it’s not that the primates reproduce after their kind and men produce after their kind, but it’s that given enough time primates reproduce and they produce men, there’s a Continuity of Being.
This guy, given his frame of reference, is this a wrong statement of the issue? I mean, if I were a student in class I would just love to write a paper on this one; I’d have fun with this one because I could come to the naturalist teacher, the secularist teacher, and say as a man, standing up, as a white male in the class, I could say well, when we promote sexual behavior on this campus we’re just carrying out evolution, getting two bodies together to procreate. And I’d try to say it just so it would hackle, but they couldn’t attack me because I just learned it from you professor, wasn’t that in lesson three of the class? So I’m just drawing a conclusion, surely you’d want me to think for myself, surely you’d want me to draw the proper conclusions from the content of your lessons, and that’s the lesson I’m drawing from on what you say.
The article goes on, look at this delightful sentence, “Flirting, for example, has rules that cross cultures and countries, based on gestures that seem anchored deep within our evolutionary history.” Excuse me, what gestures; do monkeys do this kind of stuff? What gestures have we learned from our long “evolutionary history”? But this is where that infiltration is occurring in the sentence because it looks like when you first read this sentence the discussion is flirting, but notice as you plow into your sentence your mind is reading those words, it’s assimilating the words and by the time you reach the period at the end of that sentence what has happened to flirting? It’s been enveloped inside an evolutionary worldview. They beat this thing to death in this article.
Notice the next one, this even gets more intriguing, “And those gestures, scientists are now discovering, follow codes of attraction and beauty that may be millions of years old. Those codes, in turn,” now this is the sentence that gets me, think of a code. If you go down by the NFA, these are the top cryptographers, code breakers, in the world. Most of them are PhD mathematicians. Why is that? Because codes are very complicated; codes are extremely complicated, they require the best and brightest minds in our culture, and then we have this sentence, “codes have evolved.” Has anybody here written computer codes? Do you ever have computer codes evolve on you? Did you ever see one evolve? My experience with computer codes is they devolve, especially when I write them. Here we have some reporter and he’s talking about codes. He uses the wrong metaphor, he’s using a metaphor of complexity of mathematical structure and he’s trying to argue that somehow, gee, they just evolved, and they “point us—like Cupid’s fleet arrows—toward the healthiest mate. Why? Because attraction to a healthy person gives us our best chance to have babies and pass our genes to the next generation.” Wouldn’t that make a wonderful wedding conversation, to have this couple in front and say will you please pass your genes on to the next generation.
Then it says, “Though true love may be deep, complex, and sculpted by individual psychology, that first tug of desire has a face and shape driven by that need to reproduce. After all, the name of the game of life—in the long run—is to move your genes into succeeding generations.” This is serious stuff here, by the time you’ve waded through this far into this article, what’s happened to the love and romance? I don’t see anything romantic about this.
I want to point out that this tactical use of language is getting very serious in our culture. I don’t know whether you heard about what happened in Kansas last summer where one Christian woman … one Christian woman suddenly realized they were having meetings around the state discussing science standards, I think she taught her kids at home and she decided I think I’d better go check this out. She goes into the meeting and it’s totally this stuff, everything is evolution, evolution is the grand frame of reference. Now wait a minute. Who’s paying for this? I think every April 15th I pay for some of this stuff, so I think I have a right to say something.
And she did, she got on the telephone, and she started calling people across the state of Kansas, and to make a long story short the Kansas board of education this summer said that in the state of Kansas we will not accept evolution to be taught in the schools as absolute truth. They weren’t saying don’t teach evolution, they were just saying we are not going to teach it as absolute truth.
Well, you should see the firestorm of explosive vitriolic from the press, the media, the governor, the colleges and universities over this simple thing. All they said was, we just want it taught as the final truth, you got a problem with that? Everybody says let’s be humble about it, we don’t know everything, but we know one thing, the Bible isn’t true. You can always tell when a bomb hits the target by the screams in the enemy camp, and this lady and her fellow cohorts must have dropped the bomb on exactly the target that the other side feared.
More recently, through Dobson’s Focus on the Family, now it turns out there is a teacher, a biology teacher in the state of Minnesota, who is being hauled up before the grand inquisition because in the state of Minnesota in order to teach biology you have to pass a litmus test, do you or do you not accept evolution as fact? And if you don’t accept it as fact you’re not emotionally prepared to be a biology teacher in the public school system in the state of Minnesota. Thankfully this is a Christian who is not going to be a doormat for someone else, and is taking the case to federal courts and filing a discrimination suit. More power to her.
But this is the kind of stuff that goes on. This stuff is all over the place, and it’s amazing that we can’t talk about something like love and romance without carting in underneath 852 pounds of garbage trying to make us all view this particular subject matter in the light of an evolutionary frame of reference, whose major agenda is what? If we believe in the evolutionary view of the universe, what does it effectively do for the sinner? Stimulus response, it removes responsibility, I don’t have to be responsible to a Creator.
Let’s conclude by turning to the front of that article, and just imagine that if in the subtitle where it says “It may be a many-splendored thing, but romance relies on Stone Age rules to get started,” just imagine if in place of “Stone Age rules” the following was substituted: “It may be a many-splendored thing, but romance relies on the Creator’s design to get started.” Now what have we done to the article. With just a few words … just a few words in one sentence, look at what we’ve done. We’ve totally altered the worldview.
So when we read in Paul in Colossians 2:8, beware lest you be “taken captive by philosophy and vain deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the elements of this world, rather than according to Christ,” that we adhere to these things.
Next week we’ll finish this article and resume our study on the death of Christ, but we want to work our way through it and I hope we can get some good discussion on some of the other things, toward the end of the article pay attention to what happens.
Someone says on the Discovery Channel, everything they discuss is evolutionary. Clough says: The thing you want to remember is that back when we were talking about not just creation, but talking about the civilization after the flood, myths, etc., I said that every culture, including highly technical modern cultures have what we call culture myths. And every civilization has always had culture myths and culture myths are ways that the populous have of framing the picture that they are talking about and the evolutionary stuff that you get is the culture myth of our time. It’s the way that (quote) “educated people” discuss things; it’s the intellectual content of all discussions.
Question asked: Someone else says something: Third comment made: Clough says: But see, what the Bible speaks of when it talks this way of vanity, remember at the beginning of the lesson that one of the hallmarks of vanity is that finally there’s no substance left there, and where the Scriptural frame of reference hasn’t controlled, and isn’t controlling science and technology, you’d better watch out. It’s fortunate in one sense because where Scriptural norms and standards don’t hold technology accountable what you often have is lying and deceitful research.
One of the things I observe in science today in my own field, meteorology, is that a lot of research is not research, what it is is chasing grants, and in order to chase grants you’ve got to create a problem that you can solve. So there’s stuff like ozone holes, there’s climate change, if you don’t give us a $50,000 grant to study this, the Florida Peninsula is going to be under water by the next century, so there’s this playing on fear and manipulation of stuff that goes on. Graduate students are being used by PhDs to do research and then they don’t get any credit for it, the PhD gets the credit for it. All kinds of insidious stuff goes on. Believe me, the academic campus is just as immoral as any other place. [Can’t understand word/s] say the military is immoral. Well, it’s not as immoral in my observation as what I’ve seen on the college campus.
The point I’m saying is that without standards everything falls, and one of the horrifying things, in 1991we went to my 30th reunion at MIT and at that point that was when the genome project was just starting, and there were some fascinating lectures by one of the men who was fundamental in all the genome project, mapping the human gene, and he basically said in a thirty minute talk, he raised the issue of what’s going to happen with life insurance, what’s going to happen with health insurance, can you get health insurance if they read your genes and you’ve got a propensity for this disease and that disease. He surfaced all the problems and then said we don’t have a solution.
Well, that’s because they don’t have any ethical framework to solve their problem anyway. What’s scary, even more so, is that in Genesis what does it say about reproduction? It says reproduction within kinds, so what do we have today. In the interest of the food industry to keep food from decaying in transit, now we’re taking genes of salmon and sticking it in corn because salmon can survive in cold, and they want the vegetables to survive, so 30% of the corn already in America has been genetically manipulated.
We have other kinds of things going on, now Monsanto a big chemical company getting into seed production; they just got their wrist slapped, thankfully for the internet. The internet has a lot of uses because it mobilizes people quickly to an issue. Monsanto was suddenly surprised after investing millions of dollars in terminator seeds and what is a terminator seed? A seed that will never reproduce itself, so farmers each year have to come to Monsanto to buy the seed, and they can’t keep the seeds from their crop because their seed is no good, it’s called terminator seed, and they were going to biologically engineer the seed to self-destruct at the end of one year, then everyone can be dependent on Monsanto Chemicals, all over the world, big profits.
Then we have the people who are talking about embedding the chemicals of pesticides in the vegetables. So now when we eat food … it used to be if you didn’t eat meat, at least you didn’t get the stuff, now you can’t even eat your corn because you’re eating pesticides inside the corn. Then they wanted to breed some vegetables to be resistant to herbicides, so they could put the vegetables out and spray the whole place with herbicides and keep the weeds down. Now they’ve discovered gee, you know what’s happening? The vegetables are cross-breeding with the weeds and now the weeds are becoming resistant to the herbicide. Duh!
By the way, in all of this, it’s interesting; do you know who is alert to this? The Europeans. They don’t buy American food. But when you read about it, you watch your newspapers, the story that we’re getting in our press is that those nasty Europeans, they’re just boycotting American farm produce just for the heck of it, and they’re just trying to cause a trade war with the United States. That’s the spin that comes off in our newspapers. That’s not true, [someone] was over in Germany, they won’t touch American stuff because they can’t trust it, you know, what are the Americans putting in this package now? That’s why they’re not buying American produce. And who’s got all the cancer?
This is what’s going on, and it’s all this unethical, insensitive, I mean, if you were a creationist, really heartfully and thoughtfully, would you sit there and think about … first of all, you’d be fascinated with the DNA design, I think it’s great, there’s a lot of positive stuff coming out of DNA research, talk about a generation that has the revelation of God stuck right in its face, it’s ours. No generation has ever had access to getting down into the very blueprints of God Himself in this kind of thing. But you’re warned by the Scripture. What does the Scripture tell us? That we’re to subdue the earth, with wisdom. Where do we get the wisdom from? From the Scriptures.
What did God say? I have created every seed, every bearing seed to reproduce after itself. He didn’t say to put salmon in corn for crying out loud. Those are different kind, you don’t mix the kinds. But creation is just never even thought about, there’s just this mad rush because first of all if all seeds and all animal life has come by sheer chance, why can’t we add and improve it? That kind of motivation is easy to rationalize if you think in the first place that it all came by chance. It’s just a game that got thrown together, no respect for it; why not play with it, maybe I can make a better version. Why not?
But if you’re a creationist you look at things differently and it affects the way you operate professionally, in every area. We, as Christians, we’ve got to think through these frame of references. It’s getting critical in our time. We’re the only people left any kind of a framework. We are! We are the only people left with any kind of an anchor in our society. And we’re increasingly going to be looked upon as the weirdoes, but on the other hand we have things going for us. It’s one of those things when I go into the article next week I want to show you, how you can turn an article like that right around in a positive way and show the gospel effects on it.
Question asked, something about relationship which is what we have with God is a relationship, romance isn’t relationship, if that’s what they’re trying to do away with …: Clough replies: But their worldview forces them into that position because once you accept evolutionary position … what we spoke about relationships, why does that play a role? Because we’re made in God’s image and you said it, the anchor of all relationship is vertical; it’s between God and us. We’re going to go into this, think about Ephesians 5, when Paul talks about marriage, you know, at every marriage service we trot out Ephesians 5 and say it’s a type of what? Christ and the church.
At the end of this article I want to see if you can catch where we can go with this, a little further out, and just think about it. How do we strategic envelop their position when they say the main object of life is to be fruitful, to multiply, basically, they don’t use those words but they talk about survival, pass your genes on and survival of the species. There’s a fragment of that that’s partially true for another reason. Can we think through, looking carefully at the Genesis 1 text, looking at Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5 and pull those three passages together and use it to say now here’s what you’re looking at. Here’s what you’re looking at in the romance side, and here’s the real explanation of what’s going on, and here’s why it’s designed the way it’s designed. And this also will explain this, this, and this that you’re trying to explain, but better than you because, like she pointed out, they can only explain the biological, they can’t explain the higher functions.
Statement made, something about I think the subtleness behind this article is to do away with the relationships, to say it’s an unnecessary part … Clough says: It’s not essential. But the thing we have to see is that the conclusions they’re coming to are not alien to their own position. That’s why I want you to read the article, it carries out this thing that the Kansas state … everybody is upset about it, not teaching it as a fact, but when you do teach it as a fact, how do you avoid the conclusions of this article? Think about it, if you’re going to accept evolutionary worldview, then don’t you have to go along with this article? I think you do. If you read the last page, think about what happens on the last page of the article.
Title: Why We Fall in Love
Highlight: It may be a many-splendored thing, but romance relies on Stone Age rules to get started
Author(s): Josh Fischman with Jia-Rui Chong and Roberta Hotinski
Citation: February 7, 2000 p. 42-48
Copyright © 2003 U. S. News & World Report, L.P. All rights reserved.
Article Text: The woman in the spaghetti-strap dress has the attention of not one but three guys at a cocktail table. Head tilted to the side, her hand reaching up to brush back her dark hair, she’s talking and laughing, and the guys are laughing along with her. Except for one. He’s heading up to the bar to buy her a drink.
“She’s doing very well,” says David Givens. “The head tilt, showing the bare arms—these are all signs of approachability.” Givens, sitting about three tables away in Havanas Club—Spokane, Washington’s hottest bar—is watching with a practiced eye. An anthropologist and head of the Center for Nonverbal Studies in Spokane, he has been in and out of bars and lounges to watch people flirt for over two decades now, driven to answer one basic question about the survival of a species. “People don’t trust one another at first. Heck, fish don’t either. So the issue is: How do two bodies get close enough together to procreate?”
They flirt. Eyes try to connect with other eyes across a room. People move closer, and then attempt opening lines that, however clumsy, somehow work. He buys her that drink; she laughs at his joke. She studies his face. He guesses her intentions. Someone summons up the nerve to ask for a telephone number, and later the nerve to dial it. “Hi. We met the other night, and I was wondering . . . .” A date: a bite of lunch, a cup of coffee, maybe a movie. They talk about where they work, where they live, about shared friends, shared interests, shared values. And perhaps another date.
And then the talk flows more easily, the laughs come comfortably. He talks about his family, she about hers. Evenings out and parties at friends’ become shared memories, and a growing familiarity gives way to fondness. To liking. Even to love. And to promises to have and to hold, forever and ever.
This is all well and good. But beneath love’s ineffable mysteries and majesty, there lie some basic principles of biology and genetics. Mother Nature casts her strong shadow over much of that initial activity that sparks the cascade of events leading to love. Flirting, for example, has rules that cross cultures and countries, based on gestures that seem anchored deep within our evolutionary history. And those gestures, scientists are now discovering, follow codes of attraction and beauty that may be millions of years old. Those codes, in turn, have evolved because they point us—like Cupid’s fleet arrows—toward the healthiest mate. Why? Because attraction to a healthy person gives us our best chance to have babies and pass our genes to the next generation.
“You cannot talk about beauty without talking about health,” says psychologist Devendra Singh of the University of Texas-Austin.
Men, for instance, have been drawn to certain-size hips and waists for more than 20,000 years. Artie Butler, a 28-year-old Los Angeles cop, for instance, admires the intelligence and self-esteem of his fiancée, Janel Lenox, a 29-year-old schoolteacher. But her figure made a big first impression. “She has a very small waist, small arms, big butt, and nice long legs,” he says frankly. “I love the waist area.”
Butler’s reaction, researchers contend, has some deeply rooted biology behind it: that waist and hip size is better linked to having babies than is a less curvaceous figure. Women, scientists reported several weeks ago, seem drawn to tall men, who in turn father more babies than shorter men.
So, though true love may be deep, complex, and sculpted by individual psychology, that first tug of desire has a face and shape driven by that need to reproduce. After all, the name of the game of life--in the long run--is to move your genes into succeeding generations. Millions of years ago, human ancestors had to find a mate to do this without help from Internet dating services, DNA analysis, social clubs, or village matchmakers. All they had to go on was outside appearance. Men looked for signs that women would have healthy children, such as fat around the hips that could nourish a pregnancy; women looked for signs that men had good genes, such as height or a strong build.
A case of immunity
Eugenia Kang, who just graduated from Harvard, didn’t see much of this when she met Joe Herger, who is a year younger and had been chasing her since he hit campus. “When I first met him I had no impression because he was just some freshman volleyball player,” Kang remembers. “No” impression isn’t quite accurate. Herger really made a bad one. He was drunk and handcuffed to another guy at a college party, and dragged them both over to talk to Kang. Bad move; it took him until last year to really get her attention. By that time, says Kang, “he was older and better looking. He was working out, not the skinny freshman anymore. And he was more mature.” So, she says, she “chased” someone for the first time in her life.
What Kang probably started chasing, according to Randy Thornhill, a biologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, were hormonal changes to the body, and the disease-fighting potential these hormones reveal. After all, mating with a creature who produces sickly children, or who dies before raising them, is a fast trip down an evolutionary dead end.
Birds, with their elaborate plumage, actually figured this one out long before humans did. Pretty feathers take a lot of energy to grow and maintain; the most famous example is the peacock’s tail. Naturalists have asked: Why bother? This is energy that could be used for finding and eating food, for instance, or fighting off disease. To use it to grow a long ornamental tail—well, you’d want something pretty big in return.
That return comes in the form of more opportunities to mate. It works because the tail is not just a demonstration of beauty but of toughness. The bird is saying to potential mates, in effect, “I’m strong enough, and have a powerful enough immune system, that I can fight off parasites and fight for food even while dragging this huge tail behind me. So I’ve got the genes that would make for a great mate.”
Showoffs, sure. But people do essentially the same thing, says Thornhill, author of the forthcoming book A Natural History of Rape (Page 48). In humans, hormones can mark a strong immune system, particularly the male sex hormone testosterone and the female sex hormone estrogen. But since hormones cannot easily be examined for potency, people have to look for outer signs. In men, testosterone leaves its mark on the face. Adolescent boys with the highest testosterone levels, Thornhill has found, have bigger chins and craggier brows as adults—think John Wayne or Jack Palance, think the opposite of Woody Allen. So like the peacock’s tail, the craggy face is sending a message about the robust constitution of its owner: His immune system is tough enough to withstand infectious assault, and probably other kinds of assault as well. These would be good genes to have in your baby.
Testosterone is also linked to muscle buildup, a signature of the transition from boy to man—something Kang picked up on—and an obvious evolutionary advantage. Height is a similar feature: Last month researchers reported that out of about 3,200 men, once confounding elements like education and age were accounted for, the taller men were much more likely to have children.
What men notice is when estrogen starts creating a womanly figure, chiefly by depositing fat around the hips and shrinking the size of her waist relative to her hips. The magic proportion, according to Austin’s Singh, is a waist that is between 60 percent and 70 percent of hip size (Page 46). The reason this particular waist-to-hip configuration is attractive isn’t certain, but Singh suspects it’s because of a strong evolutionary connection between that body type and fertility. Millenniums ago, food was an irregular commodity; you had to catch as catch can. So when scarcity overlapped with pregnancy, fat on the hips, rear, and thighs was invaluable, especially during the third trimester and when nursing. Even today this waist-hip ratio is one of the best predictors of a successful conception.
Daozheng Lu, a 61-year-old technology researcher in Tampa Bay, Fla., remembers that his wife’s shape made a big impression when they met in the mid-1950s near Shanghai. “She basically looked healthy,” he says. “A lot of the girls in China at that time were very skinny.” But Li-Lo Hsu, soon to become Li-Lo Lu, was more well-rounded. And her first impressions of her future husband? “He was pretty handsome. He was taller than me.”
Double your pleasure
Another outside clue to the genes within is symmetry: a good match between both sides of the face as well as arms, hands and wrists. In several studies, Thornhill and his colleague Steven Gangestad have found that both sexes think symmetry is stimulating. Again, the researchers theorize that it is a sign of a strong constitution. Two copies of a gene are usually better than one, should one copy turn defective; and this idea of a backup carries out to eyes, hands, and arms. Symmetry is so important that women, apparently, can not only see it but smell it as well. The New Mexico researchers found that women, at the time in their monthly cycle when they’re most likely to conceive, rated T-shirts that had been worn by symmetrically faced men as smelling more attractive than other shirts. (Men, reinforcing their reputation for insensitivity, had no nose for symmetrical women.)
The evolution of attraction has an interesting twist, however. Women, though drawn to symmetrical and testosterone-marked males for mating, prefer other facial types when it comes to raising a family. Researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland, found that women—except when they are most likely to conceive—rated male faces as more attractive if they showed feminine features: a smaller jaw and bigger eyes, for example. Such guys, the researchers speculate, may be more likely to stick around and help raise a family. Women, evolutionary psychologists argue, spend more of their energy in pregnancy and have fewer mating opportunities than do men. So to make the most of things, women may want both the hardy genes for the family tree and the responsible behavior of someone who will help it grow.
This is, apparently, what Laura Bernstein felt she got in her husband, Stan Ikonen. When the East Coast public relations executive met the Texas firefighter, she was turned off by the fact that he was a hunter. But she was attracted to his cowboy image, and also because he was bright and responsible. And at age 51, 14 years after they met, she still is.
Men take almost the direct opposite approach. Victor Johnston, a psychobiologist at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, found the heart-shaped face, small at the jaw and wide eyes, combines elements that are particularly desirable to men. This is because of men’s historical mating habits. Over the Internet, Johnston had people vote in a kind of “face breeding” program that took the most popular female faces in categories such as attractiveness and youthfulness and merged them to form composites. What he found was that beauty—that heart-shaped face—overlapped with youth most often around age 22. That’s during the peak fertility years, Johnston says, and it’s no accident. Fertile women give men the best chance of passing their genes down the line. So it makes sense, from the long-term view of evolutionary success, to be most attracted to fertile youth.
Getting into someone’s genes
It also makes sense to get some genetic diversity into the family tree—it gives creatures from guppies to people a better shot at beating diseases that decimate one genetic blueprint but can’t knock out a slight variation. Inbreeding, on the other hand, lays bare that vulnerability. And again people seem to have evolved ways to spot mates with healthy genetic differences without calling in the DNA analysts.
Carole Ober, a geneticist at the University of Chicago, has studied one group that should be especially prone to inbreeding: the Hutterites, a close-knit religious community in South Dakota, all descended from 64 founders. She examined genes that make up the group’s immune systems. Surprisingly, couples showed many more differences in these genes than one might have expected given the small starting population and close contact of the present group. That’s good for group survival, because couples who did have close matches on these genes also had higher miscarriage rates. Swiss researchers, also studying immune system genes, found women were most attracted to the scent of men whose genes were most distinct from their own.
And indeed, people may be led by the nose to make these genetic choices, Ober thinks. “Odor is really important for kin recognition in rodents; that’s been proven,” she says. It’s not just smell. Odorless chemicals known as pheromones, wafting from one animal to the nose of another, strongly affect sexual behavior. It could be true in humans, too. That notion got a big boost when Ober’s Chicago colleague, psychologist Martha McClintock, finally discovered pheromones in humans in 1998. One of these compounds lengthens the menstrual cycle; the other one shortens it. It’s the first clear sign that humans use chemical communication that can affect sexual activity. In animals, pheromones determine which hamsters mate, which male elephants dominate others; female monkeys in heat even release a pheromone that works as an aphrodisiac. McClintock cautions that pheromone effects in people are not likely to be as strong or clear-cut, since human behavior is more complex than that of lower animals. But chemical effects are doubtless there; that, Thornhill suspects, is how women are able to sniff out symmetry.
Women—and men—also need to sniff out something else about a potential partner: danger. No matter how attractive the plumage, approaching someone who will thwack you in the head is no way to ensure the future of your genes. And that’s where behavior comes in, to signal safety as people begin to get to know one another.
“Courtship is like a never-ending series of permissions that you have to get, all the way down the line,” David Givens says as he strains to be heard above the pounding beat in Havanas Club. One person signals a little interest, the other person doesn’t rebuff, and the first person then tries a stronger signal to see what happens. The key is that both men and women need to appear harmless.
That’s how it was for Gordon Arnold, a banker in Plano, Texas. He felt completely comfortable with his wife, Julie, when they first met. The couple, both 56, remember quickly reaching a sense of ease with one another. It wasn’t a total accident. On their first date, Gordon particularly recalls being quiet because he didn’t want to dominate the conversation and scare Julie away.
There are several signals about safety that remain constant from Spokane to Bali, and from people to apes, indicating their evolutionary importance, Givens says. The shoulder shrug is a prime example. The reflex is a sign of uncertainty, part of an age-old startle response intended to protect the vulnerable neck. A chagrined Bill Clinton did it on national television when he apologized for his illicit relationship with Monica Lewinsky, the anthropologist notes.
A tilted head uses some of these same muscles and nerve circuits. Both gestures, using muscles and nerve circuits that can be traced back through millions of years of animal history and seen in animals today, are signs of withdrawal, not what you’d see in a prelude to an attack. Nor is holding your hands palm up, as one of the men talking to the dark-haired woman in Havanas does. The gesture is controlled by neural circuits found in anatomy as simple as fish brains and spinal cords, so it even predates palms. It’s a muscle reflex that bends the body and neck back, away from danger, Givens says; as those muscles contract they also rotate the forearms and palms up.
The signals run from the hands down to the feet. Givens, who consults for corporations, asks, “Have you ever looked at a boss talking to employees? Look at the feet position. His are pointed out, which is a gesture of dominance, while everyone gathered around him has feet pointed in.” The same foot position showed up on many videotapes Givens made of men approaching women in bars, in parks, in restaurants.
What goes on without words can even overcome verbal faux pas. “Rude Rudy” is what Ellen Slingerland called her husband when they first met—though she did it behind his back. To his face, the Philipsburg, Pa., cartoonist voiced a vigorous analysis of Shakespeare, which led Rudy, a geologist, to call her stubborn and opinionated. She decided he was condescending. But her first impression of him, sitting in the shadows on a porch, an intriguing, mysterious intellectual, never left. And he liked her flamboyant gestures. So they went out again, and again. That was 18 years ago. “We met, we hated each other, and then we got married,” says Rudy.
Mind over body
Still, despite all this foot shuffling and symmetry sniffing, people are not total prisoners of ancient instincts. There are a wide variety of couples out there. And the reason is that a lot of personal experience gets layered on top of all this biology and pulls people in different directions, says psychologist Ayala Malach Pines of Ben-Gurion University in Israel and author of the recent book Falling in Love: Why We Choose the Lovers We Choose. “Parts of our romantic code are shared with other cultures and people. But parts are very individual.”
Early experiences, in particular, seem very powerful. In Pines’s surveys of American and Israeli couples, more women than men described their partners as similar to their fathers. And men described their partners as similar to their mothers.
And today’s technology allows couples to sidestep the physical world completely--at least for a while. Ronni and Bruce Keller met in a chat room on the Internet. Bruce, 34, struck Ronni, 30, as “naively honest,” a pleasant contrast, she says, to her ex-husband. And he found, by chatting online, that “it’s a lot easier to open yourself up, to put yourself out there.” Chats turned into phone calls, which turned into actual visits. Last August it all turned into a marriage for the Las Vegas couple.
This should give hope to those without lantern jaws or the perfect proportions of waist to hips. “People bring different things to the mating market,” Thornhill says. “You can compensate for looks.” A man who doesn’t look as if he stepped from a Marlboro ad can, for instance, show he’s a good, caring partner, with all the evolutionary advantages that entails. The same is true for a woman without those extra-wide eyes. The trick is to somehow pack those sentiments into initial contact. And remember that things like symmetry have their limits: Supermodel Cindy Crawford has a beauty spot, but it’s on just one side of her face.