[SCENE: Small, suburban house on the Pleistocene savannah, maybe a million years ago. Looks suspiciously like somewhere in mid-twentieth-century America. There may be white picket fences. ANCESTRAL WOMAN, dressed in a fetching floral summer dress, is doing some ironing. The playful voices of ANCESTRAL BOY and ANCESTRAL GIRL drift through from outside. Enter ANCESTRAL MAN, stage left.]
ANCESTRAL MAN: Hi, honey, I'm home.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: And about time! These kids are driving me up the wall. I'd have kicked them out to play earlier, but, well, you know what the lions are like at this time of year. And that two-faced bitch from the watering hole was gossiping about my new flint hair curlers again, and -
ANCESTRAL MAN: Okay! Enough! I get it! [He takes off his jacket and loosens his tie.] I've had a hard day too, you know. At least you're lucky enough to live in a society where men do all the providing and women raise the kids. Just don't ask me about mammoth, okay?
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: ...the hell were you hunting mammoth?
ANCESTRAL MAN: Because I Am A Mighty Hunter, and it sounds so much cooler than hunting voles.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Well, there's that. [She takes the proffered bag, looks inside, sighs. Turns to yell out of the window] Kids! Dinner's in half an hour!
ANCESTRAL MAN: And I'm starving. [He sits down and begins to read a newspaper.]
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: You could always, you know. Help.
ANCESTRAL MAN: Hey, now. I do the providing, you do the nurturing. That's how our entire society works. Why, just think - a million years from now, human nature will have been permanently shaped by the way we live today!
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: [Fetching a blender from a cupboard, not really listening] Hm, yeah... I think the children need more fruit and vegetables in their diet.
ANCESTRAL MAN: Obviously their societies will be very different, but their brains won't have had chance to change. And since our behaviour is entirely governed by specific programs hardwired into those brains, they'll have to work with the same programs we've got!
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Mammoth seven days a week can't be good for them -
TOGETHER: You're not listening.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: [sighs] I'm sorry, honey. Carry on. Programs hardwired into our brains?
ANCESTRAL MAN: And there's one of them! You see how you were more concerned with nurturing, while I was more interested in abstract speculation, scientific endeavour and logical thought processes? That's because I do all the cool, interesting and competitive stuff that requires real thought, while you raise babies.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: And here's me thinking that's some kind of pseudo-Victorian 'men have access to higher thought process while women are all sweet and cuddly' argument.
ANCESTRAL MAN: Nah. Program, hardwired. It's the same with all other aspects of our behaviour. See, in our society, men are pretty much the sole providers while women just bring home a few mushrooms occasionally.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Yes. Can we talk about vegetables? Just for a second?
ANCESTRAL MAN: I'd rather we didn't. The best card I've got there is the generalisation about men hunting while women gather, and that would make you responsible for bringing home most of the food, which sort of screws up the point I'm trying to make.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Ah, right. So, providers?
ANCESTRAL MAN: Yes. You see, the reason men are inherently more competitive, courageous and rational -
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Wait, now. They're what?
ANCESTRAL MAN: - is because these are traits we're born with, designed specifically for the people who do all the providing and therefore need to think! See?
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Uh, well...
ANCESTRAL MAN: It's okay. People in a million years won't have figured it out either - they'll be asking questions like 'Why the hell are men getting paid more?' and trying to put the blame on their own societies, rather than looking at ours!
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: And our society is, after all, the default setting for humanity.
ANCESTRAL MAN: Precisely. And this doesn't just explain why I'll get promoted over you in a million years, either. It's the basis of all interaction between the sexes.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Go on...
ANCESTRAL MAN: See, you need a man to provide for you and our children, and to protect you against marauding sabretooth cats and so on. I need a woman to bear my children and nurture them. So, while you're looking for a man who's a good hunter -
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: - you're looking for a woman who's a good gatherer?
ANCESTRAL MAN: [Pointing at himself] Provider, see? You just do the nurturing. So I'm looking for a woman who's young, attractive, healthy and capable of bearing and raising children.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: That's it?
ANCESTRAL MAN: Sure. Why else would the standards of female beauty be exactly the same now as they will be in a million years? Program! Hardwired?
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Right, right. So, you were saying?
ANCESTRAL MAN: So, since our society is based around a nuclear family structure, you'll be looking for a man who can protect and provide for your every need on a long-term basis. That's why women in a million years' time will all want rich men.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: They will?
ANCESTRAL MAN: Program. Hardwired. It's a legacy from our society now, where the women always go for the richer men that are higher up in the hierarchy.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: ...right.
ANCESTRAL MAN: But you're probably cheating on me.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: I am not! Who told - I mean, how dare you?
ANCESTRAL MAN: Logic told me! Ah, you women and your intuitive, irrational thought processes. See, you're programmed to look for the best genes to combine with your own, so your optimum strategy is to sleep around and pass off the resulting kids as mine.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: And you're cheating on me?
ANCESTRAL MAN: Of course. The best strategy for me is to spread my genes as far and wide as possible, and just cross my fingers about how many of them end up in babies that grow to adulthood.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Well. Nice to know.
ANCESTRAL MAN: It's the way of the world. Just like in other primate societies, women always go for the more powerful higher-status males and the strongest, richest men always get the girls. Really! Our society seems so civilised on the outside, but deep down, it's just a seething mass of sex and violence.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Y'know, I don't think primatology a million years from now is really going to support that simplistic a conclusion about relationships between the sexes. Chimp societies definitely don't work that way, and as for the bonobos -
ANCESTRAL MAN: Again, you're not exactly being constructive.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: I'm fed up with getting all the shortest lines.
ANCESTRAL MAN: But you can't argue with my conclusions. Human behaviour is governed by programs created for the society we live in now: nuclear families, strongly-marked hierarchies, rich and poor individuals, men who provide and women who nurture. And this explains why, in a million years, men will get paid more and women will be gold-digging whores. It's genetic. And anyone who thinks that people's lives and expectations might be significantly shaped by their societies in the future is just kidding themselves. We should run our societies based on the way they already are, since that's obviously basic human nature, and entirely unchangeable.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Is that, um, perhaps getting a bit too close to the is/ought fallacy?
ANCESTRAL MAN: [Sighs] More like taking the is/ought fallacy home and introducing it to your parents.
[Long silence. They stare at the mammoth slowly cooking on the fire in front of them.]
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: You know, I'd like to live in one of those real hunter-gatherer societies. The ones where people live in small communities rather than nuclear families, so nobody has to worry about getting a specific partner to provide them with specific things. The ones where labour's divided up between the sexes, and there's no real hierarchy or concepts of wealth. I don't know why, I just...
ANCESTRAL MAN: Get the impression that they'd cope far better in the Pleistocene savannah than we do?
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Yes.
[Another long silence.]
ANCESTRAL MAN: It wouldn't work, you know.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Because the conclusions drawn by large portions of evolutionary psychology tend to be based on naive, poorly-researched ideas of prehistoric society that rarely specify anything more than 'during evolution', entirely ignore the role played by nurture, pay little attention to the idea of adaptability being one thing that's always going to be useful for human brains, reduce all human behaviour to the level of genetic reproduction even when the connection's clearly tenuous, and come up with some pretty iffy and often misogynistic conclusions that seem to be based far more in justifying contemporary society and the speaker's own place within it than explaining the limitations and capabilities of human behaviour?
ANCESTRAL MAN: Well... you could say that. But, see, you're a woman. You're more emotional. That's why you're letting your idealistic, head-in-the-clouds nonsense about hunter-gatherer societies cloud your perception of the Harsh Truth.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: Which is?
ANCESTRAL MAN: That that the default setting for humanity is the gender roles and domestic arrangements of the worst stereotypes of 1950s suburbia.
ANCESTRAL WOMAN: White picket fences and all.
Taken from someone at metaquotes, who stole it from eye_of_a_cat