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Jeffrey Epstein & Friends | Psychology Today

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Jeffrey Epstein was put on suicide watch last month.  Then he was taken off, and found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York.  It wasn’t the first time a sexual predator has been put on suicide watch.  And it won’t be the last.

Jeffrey Epstein owned 9 East 71st Street, the biggest house in Manhattan.  It was a present from Leslie Wexner, the Victoria’s Secret mogul who made him the man he was.  There was a picture of a woman holding an opium pipe and fondling the skin of a lion, a larger-than-life sculpture of a naked African warrior, and a life-sized girl doll who hung from a chandelier; there were sex toys and lubricating oils.  

Girls from nearby schools in Manhattan were allegedly brought over by his pimps, paid hundreds of dollars for a massage, promised work on the catwalk, and coaxed into having sex. Some of those girls lived in.  Virginia Roberts, who was 16 at the time, called herself Epstein’s “sex slave” after 1999.  She serviced her benefactor, and she serviced his friends.

Other children were abused in Palm Beach.  Early in 2005, when Virginia Roberts was all of 21, a 14-year-old girl’s mother called police about a child molester in Florida.  Soon afterward, detectives had reports from 5 others about sexual encounters; there were 36 known underage victims by the time Epstein’s plea agreement was signed.  US Attorney Alex Acosta let him off after just 13 months.

Some women were flown down to the US Virgin Islands.  Epstein boarded them on his Boeing 727, the “Lolita Express;” and he renamed his private island “St Jeff.”  Those 72 acres, more or less, were the site of an estate with a Japanese bathhouse, a lagoon and a helipad.  There was a temple covered with a gold dome, but Hurricane Irma blew it off.

Other women were destined for Zorro, where he planned to impregnate as many as 20 women at a time. As reported in the New York Times last week: “He hoped to seed the human race with his DNA by impregnating women at his vast New Mexico ranch.”  He made donations to the eugenicist Worldwide Transhumanist Association. He wanted his head and penis to be cryogenically frozen.  

Epstein’s contact list was full of the rich and famous.  It included President Clinton, who flew on the “Lolita Express.”  It included Prince Andrew and President Trump.  It included businessmen: Ronald Perelman of Revlon, Tom Pritzker of Hyatt, Mort Zuckerman of US News & World Report, Nathan Myhrvold of Microsoft. It included Stephen Hawking!  It included Nobelists Gerard t’Hooft, Frank Wilczek, Murray Gell-Mann and David Gross. It includes the AI pioneer, Marvin Minsky, and the theoretical physicist, Lawrence Krauss.

Epstein had other contacts at Harvard.  Alan Dershowitz, the lawyer, defended him. George Church, the geneticist, has apologized for being in the same room.  Martin Nowak, the group selectionist, was promised $30 million, got $6.5 million, and won’t be giving it back.  When the Boston Globe ran an article on the dinners that Epstein had hosted at Harvard, it pictured Dershowitz, Larry Summers, Steven Pinker—who is also apologetic—and the theoretical biologist Robert Trivers.

Bob Trivers wrote his classic paper on “Parental Investment and Sexual Selection” back in 1972, for a volume called Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man, 1871-1971, in honor of Charles Darwin.  He argued that access to the more parental sex will be competed over by members of the opposite sex.  As he put it: “Where male parental investment strongly exceeds that of the female (regardless of which sex invests more in the sex cells) one would expect females to compete among themselves for males and for males to be selective about whom they accept as a mate.”  In some species, females compete for parental males.  In many other species—including most mammals, most primates, and us—males compete for the parental investment of females.  He made no moral judgement about either outcome.

Steve Pinker has written eloquently and prolifically about evolutionary theory, and its application to our own species, in a number of books, not least his magnum opus on How the Mind Works.  He has been explicit about the nature of our sex differences.  And he has been explicit about our ability to find “better natures.”  In his words: “A connected and educated populace, at least in aggregate and over the long run, is bound to be disabused of poisonous beliefs, such as that members of other races and ethnicities are innately avaricious or perfidious; that economic and military misfortunes are caused by the treachery of ethnic minorities; that women don’t mind to be raped.”

There have been sexual predators in history since history began.  But none of them bothers me as much as Jeffrey Epstein. He targeted very young women.  And with many of the same assets—islands and Manhattan townhouses, social connections and money—he seduced some of my friends.

Most meteorologists don’t study the weather in order to cause flooding. Most seismologists don’t study earthquakes hoping to make buildings collapse.  Epidemiologists don’t cause epidemics.  They all want, as a group, to cure diseases, avert geological disasters, and keep us all on high ground.

I don’t study evolution—and nobody I know studies evolution—in order to exonerate the promiscuous.  The end of differential reproduction is despotism.  I want us—and everybody I know who studies evolution wants us—to move in the other direction.  Toward greater egalitarianism; away from despotism.

We want to get at the root causes of injustice.

Not to aid or abet it.

But to end it.


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