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President Obama's Testosterone Levels
UPDATE: Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow riffed on this topic in an August PODCAST available for listening online, titled "Evolution and Infidelity"
On the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration, I find myself reflecting on what has become my primary prayer these days: that he and Michelle both know, and that those in their support circles know, the following:
1. As I state in my book, Thank God for Evolution (TGFE), "There is a well-established link in mammals between gains in status and elevated levels of testosterone. Either can cause an upswing in the other" (page 161). Given this, as President of the United States, we can expect that Barack's testosterone levels will be higher than ever and will most likely remain sky high for his entire presidency. This means, among other things, that his 'inherited proclivities' or 'unchosen nature'—his biological instincts—will inevitably lead him to be more risk taking and to think more about sex than ever before. This is natural; nothing wrong here.
2. Evidence suggests that testosterone levels in women who are in his presence will also skyrocket—meaning women that he interacts with will be more likely to take risks themselves, be unconsciously flirtatious, and some will not be able to (nor want to) avoid fantasizing about him. Connie, my wife, has even begun calling him 'the sexiest man alive'. This is natural too; nothing wrong here—provided he and his team are not shocked by this turn, and thus are prepared to calmly deal with it.
3. Integrity is not a solo sport; it's a team sport. An understanding of our evolved brains (and thus of our inherited challenges) can be a terrific support in staying the path. I discuss this in chapters 9-12 of TGFE.
4. Deep-time, evolutionary wisdom will also be necessary to move our country and our world forward in healthy ways. I discuss this in chapters 14-17 in TGFE.
I suspect President Obama knows all this, of course. At least I pray he does. I also pray that he puts in place the structures of support and accountability to make it easy for him to stay in impeccable integrity. Without such support, it won't be easy, even for an unimpetuous man like him. Especially because women will now be throwing their panties at him—and not even realize they're doing it.
P.S. (from my wife, Connie Barlow): On Sunday, January 18, I did a guest sermon at a Unitarian Universalist church in Tampa. I had been scheduled to speak there more than six months ago, but given the timing, I threw away my sermon and spent the entire 20 minutes on the topic Michael raises above. I began by reading from Martin Luther King Jr's final speech, and I mentioned John F. Kennedy. These were great men, I said, but they lived in another time and they both died young. Would they have been considered great in the kind of world we find ourselves in today? Then I recited the sorry list of sex scandals that felled politicians in 2008 alone. I followed that by reciting Jimmy Carter's 1976 faux pax: "I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times." Oh for that level of self-revelation to be our worst scandal today! Anyway, I then presented the science of our evolved brain and how this understanding can assist us in getting real with the challenges that are not of our own doing. My dream is for President Obama to have a tight group of peer-level men with whom he checks in on a regular basis—and for press conferences to begin each time with this simple question: "Mr. President, have you checked in with your men's group this week?" And then on to politics. What an example this would set for all the politicians, indeed all the men, in our nation!
SEE: Social competition and testosterone level, from Chapter 3 in Joshua S. Goldstein's War and Gender (2001: Cambridge University Press)
PREVIOUS POSTS OF MINE ON THIS SUBJECT (Evolutionary Psychology, Neuroscience, Instincts, and Integrity):
Religion and Self Control - January 2, 2009
"I'm a Human With Mismatched Instincts" - October 1, 2008
Sex and the Olympics - August 29, 2008
There's Nothing Shameful About Accountability - August 11, 2008
Lizard Legacy Bites 3 More Alphas - March 24, 2008
Evolutionary Morality and Ethics - January 16, 2008
Zoey 101, Brain Science 101 - December 27, 2007