While the geneticists are telling us the old Nature/Nurture debate has been made obsolete or been solved, depending who you talk to, I just went ahead and solved it. Part #7

Now that’s a long title, but it’s a great Tweet, isn’t it?

This is convergence, this little essay, for me this is where all the major threads in my mind come together: the ancient classic dialogue, human behaviour, child discipline, and yes – even trolling.

OK, that wasn’t bad, but this is just the bullet point brainstorming stage right now.

  1. A note about “things”
  2. A note about the “Nature” thing
  3. Trolling and narrowing the argument
  4. The “Nurture” thing, the Abusive Ape Theory
  5. Warrior society’s fears, head on, a lethal mutation (too late, we already have several)
  6. Liberals’ fear of science, dark hints
  7. The “Deep Roots of War” thing
  8. Self-actualization

Whups, turned into a Table of Contents. Maybe that’ll work.

 

  1. The “Deep Roots of War” thing

 

Antisocialization is going on today.

If you get the idea in your head like it’s in mine and look around, it’s everywhere, every bit of punishing going on, every deterrent, every bit of gossip . . . it’s a good life if you don’t weaken, so we design everything to keep us strong. Even the “positive” things in life are often so because they exist to oppose some bad thing, it’s a good life if even positive things don’t weaken, if positive things fight for their existence. Evidence is not scarce if you know what you’re looking for, right now.

But I think we all agree, a thorough understanding means knowing where this stuff comes from, how it starts, and this takes us to evolution, development and to evo-psych and its just-so stories. Now, this is a tough row to hoe for me and my theory. I know, the world is full of things and traits that we have no story for, and it often turns out that despite the lack of a story, the thing nonetheless exists – but with human behaviour at least, we want a story. If you can’t come up with a single scenario in which what you’re describing might actually occur, well, that’s a bad sign, isn’t it?

I had a few images, child beatings with more hair and no clothes, some I don’t know, poetry, I guess, “Lucy, that noble little savage, bouncing her babies off the walls of her cave,” but that’s the full-blown behaviour, that image, not some developmental stage.

There are lions and chimpanzees eating one another’s children, there are lions and chimpanzees sending children flying in simple fights, stay out of my food kind of thing – and then there are humans, laying on the pain when not in the heat of the moment, not in protective modes, neither killing and eating the child nor simply competing with it for present concerns, but rather laying on a beating with a view to future concerns.

I’ve said, abuse increases abuse, violence, crime, and somewhere in the deep past (as in the present) it would have meant an advantage along exactly those lines for those groups practising it over those groups that didn’t, but here is where we lack a good just-so tale, for the change. How would such a thing begin? Scientifically, I don’t have a lot of love for this first guess: failed infanticide. I mean, metaphorically, it’s a gift from God! In English, I get to say that at some point human groups differentiated between animalistic eating of children and the humanistic beating of them instead, and that is low level, early humanism in the moral sense, a species of upgrade. I suspect that the blood libel charge of baby eater goes back just that far, to this differentiation, baby eaters and baby beaters, but just how far that is, I can’t imagine. We, the second group, scorn the first, ostensibly for their brutality, but they are gone, and we remain. They were the ones who weren’t tough enough, and we scorn them because we feel if we became them, if we ceased abusing our children, we would be next on the extinct hominid list. How far back? It must have been before the pastoral revolution, I think, because that seems to me to have required some antisocialization, some desensitization about the trapped creatures, but perhaps long before, perhaps this was going on when all the other human groups appear to have been replaced, Neanderthals, Denisovans, etc.

As to how it began, however, perhaps that is to be found in some science detail, and not up here at theory, one of the gene functions that responds to abuse will have a date or something. I don’t know.

Maybe if I can’t find a way to imagine a hominid experimenting with child abuse for a meaner troop, then maybe the advantage I’m assuming isn’t it, perhaps it’s not so straightforward a group effect, perhaps I shouldn’t be thinking about the group at all. It seems so clearly a group-reinforced behaviour in my own life, though! Does that weirdness happen, then, a group-reinforced behaviour for something other than group needs, for some advantage to the individual? Of course, that’s the evo-explanation for groups at all, that members are advantaged, so individuals made stronger by abuse . . . against who? If it’s against one another it’s a Red Queen’s game. Come to think of it, if it’s a group competition thing, it’s still a Red Queen’s game, one of those things, we beat each other just as hard as we can simply to remain in place, in détente with the other groups.

Hey, that was new, maybe! And by definition, these sorts of evolutionary arms races have their drivers in evolved, biological functions on both sides already, in this case, humans being selected for along a vector of aggression against other humans in the same process. Perhaps like some other things, colour in sexual displays, the game was a tiny, random thing at the beginning, and the rules over time produce fantastic results in certain circumstances and environments. Perhaps I don’t need my just-so story after all, which would be terrific, because even for actual scientists with actual facts at their fingertips, those just-so stories are often their downfall.

I’ll just drop that hint, baby eaters and baby beaters, and remind you that I don’t like it either. As science, I mean.

So, for me, and I’m always willing to project it onto everybody else too, the shitty thing about this Deep Roots of War idea is that you know they’re saying “this is reality. This is the way it is, this is what we’re made of.” Like, “period. This is your hardware. Your civilization, your morals, are a dream.” Right?

Again, many haven’t caught up yet, they’re still laughing at Lamarck, unaware that his comeuppance began decades ago. I’m here to tell you it’s complete, and the Deep Roots of War creature is not some condition forced upon us by anyone but ourselves, each other. The static view behind the idea historically, the DRW, – can I use an acronym? It’s getting tiresome – is it’s our nature, and fixed, and what? No-one wants it? It’s our “nature,” but we all agree it’s bad and most of us, at least on our good days, live in conflict with these base natures? “Everything’s changed now, we don’t want that anymore,” maybe that sums it up. We don’t want it, but that’s the hardware.

This attitude has been adapted for conversations about evolution, but clearly, “hardware” is no longer the model in any such conversation. We look to our deep, newly discovered past, an exercise and a view with evolution written all over it, to say “this is our nature,” a statement of stasis. The truth is, when a trait persists over time, it simply means the problem the trait is an answer for has persisted also and our natures are simply a snap shot of our adaptations. Our adaptation for group aggression persists because we have it and so does the other guy, the conditions for the adaptation are still in place. It’s an interesting situation, because it’s not like a temperature limit or something, the condition is us. We can almost talk to it, but we are subject to it nonetheless. Pending, I’m not sure, consciousness or something.

Is it only intuition?

Is it one those stupid, illogical leaps, or a schizotypal one for me to say we are the DRW guy because we want to be, that faced with your aggression, I will willingly choose to be? It’s not all conscious, of course, and in a dangerous world where we’re talking about survival adaptations, we don’t have as much choice as we might like about those issues especially, but on the few occasions when life does permit us a choice? The depth of the DRW might be rather meaningless if we’re creating ourselves that way in every generation and every minute anyways, right up to the here and now.

The DRW, human antisocialization, the warrior society, this is adaptive, because everything is adaptive, but this is a technology too, and a little more sophisticated than chimpanzees sharpening sticks, the payoffs are so far removed from the behaviour – by a generation! Talk about delayed gratification – as to be nearly undetectable, well, at least by us, the ones in the process. But that is a project, a long term one, and that is my evidence to say, we are this because we want to be this, this we feel is our path to security in the world – to be such a security threat to the other guy that he thinks twice before planning a raid. To be human is to behave as though the best defense is a good offense. But that is not the end!

You don’t get to be that just because you “want” it. Your base wants are giving the rest of us ulcers. Me saying we’re not “stuck with” the DRW, that we are the ones always bringing it along, that we like it, this is not the answer, the stormtrooper answer, well, just go for it then. The “want” is still the problem. I mean, most folks know it, it’s just that then we can find ourselves in these other conversations where it becomes an us VS them thing, “they” want it, while we have risen above it or something . . . this is all kitchen table talk. Where the rubber meets the road, is do we want what child abuse produces? Do we want children that have “learned their lessons?” This is when these choices are made, a generation ahead of the war they have to go and fight.

I’m saying we want it, because we’re getting it and we’re in charge. We shouldn’t want it, it’s messing with all of our other desires, this is not an excuse or a justification, and by the way, how could it ever be? Are we all toddlers? Our “natures,” a cry of “I want it?” When did that ever justify anything anyways?

There is some ‘splaining to do to reconcile that when we are not talking about our own immanent murder, we really don’t want that. I don’t. I know we don’t, this conflict is inside us, our better desires against our baser ones, and those baser ones posing as surrogate for our basic ones. If we survive, in some wonderful sci-fi future, maybe we can match up our better dreams with our basic needs and cut out the middle man. That’s sort of what this DRW fellow is, our NRA rep, and he’d like to be indispensable. He sure doesn’t want us going straight to the factory and seeing how humanity gets made.

Hmmm . . . not sure this one’s done, but it’s getting a bit long . . .

 

Jeff

Feb. 27th., 2018

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3 thoughts on “While the geneticists are telling us the old Nature/Nurture debate has been made obsolete or been solved, depending who you talk to, I just went ahead and solved it. Part #7

  1. Jeff/neighsayer February 28, 2018 / 11:07 am

    Hey – ” . . . these sorts of evolutionary arms races have their drivers in evolved, biological functions on both sides already, in this case, humans being selected for along a vector of aggression against other humans in the same process.”

    That is another way to state “tournament species,” is it not?

    So if leveraging abuse (antisocialization) is a competitive Red Queen’s tournament, a way of selecting for fighting prowess (propensity + practice = prowess…), then we might look to see the roots of it, “natural” analogues of it more among the tournament sorts of species, and not perhaps not against the less so. I know the large primates we study the most now are that sort, and we see plenty of abuse among them. It’s hard to see if they do it, as we do, “for future considerations,” though. It’s not how it sounds listening to Sapolsky.

    Hey, that’s more “writing” than I planned to attempt today.

    Jeff

    Like

  2. Jeff/neighsayer February 28, 2018 / 11:20 am

    except now I’m thinking about lions. Every young male lion knows he’s getting the boot and what’s going to happen if he doesn’t get the hint, and perhaps there is some long-burning resentment and antisocial rage that brings him back in his prime to seek revenge, upon his own former king or someone else’s, a need so strong many fight their final fight to have it. We can talk about “aggressive genes,” but that’s a novel, right, a social tragedy. Surely a pride fully represented, as many adult males as females, would be the most formidable pride around, but a bunch of get along sort of males in one pride, surrounded by hungry, competitive ones, perhaps not.

    So in lion society, the social is divided into a lot of prosocial ladies and children and some seriously antisocial males, and that is one of these tournament species. Does it make the case for antisocialization theory? It’s raw, direct. No mimic meme, no “spankings,” just exile or death. Can we ask those lion boys if they’re happy about “society?”

    Jeff

    Like

  3. Jeff/neighsayer February 28, 2018 / 11:28 am

    meaning, in the case of lions, antisocialized males would seem to have the effect of producing strong alpha male protectors, a group benefit from brutalizing individual members

    Like

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