Original Piety

As opposed to original sin, I mean. It’s not about piousness.

Fight or flight is an important choice, clearly important enough to find a central place and a lot of real estate in the decision-making organ.

It occurred to me today, that whatever decision we make when faced with this choice, we hope we are clever and make the smart choice, the right choice, and when we have made it through the crisis, then we know that we indeed have – I mean in a biological conversation. Perhaps if we find ourselves alive after a battle but regret perhaps having killed many folks to insure it, perhaps we suspect moral issues, but if our grandchildren are discussing it, at least they know we made the “right” choice, or this conversation doesn’t happen.

For good or ill, there is a lot of wiggle room when you’re talking about binary judgments like good and bad, right and wrong, all four of those words can mean almost anything. Goose VS Gander, Us VS Them, Friends not Food . . . indeed these value words can mean their own very opposites and we know that and we don’t even blink; we navigate, somehow. That’s exactly where I see trouble, and exactly what I am hoping clear up a little.


A creature that more often hangs back, or runs, we call cautious.

One that more often fights, we call aggressive.

This was today’s idea: a cautious creature values caution as wisdom, and if you ask an aggressive creature what constitutes wisdom or intelligence, he will tell you, “aggression.” I’ve said it elsewhere, as creatures, we exist in the second category.

I am, however, no determinist!

Behaviour is not a gene, and aggression, I repeat, is a choice, and we choose to encourage aggression, we are that aggressive creature who says that, “aggression is the smart choice.” The best defense is a good offense, right? Wait!

This is not a purely Nurture argument.

We encourage it in Nature, in our hardware.

Punishments, pain, deprivations, inequalities of stress and work . . . these sorts of abuse are not Nurture, not “just talk,” just data, none of that. They operate on our bodies and on our genomes. I’m saying, even as they find genes “strongly correlated” with aggression, that these alleles are not as God created them six thousand years ago, there is no hardware aside from behaviour and choice, “Nurture” changes our Natures.

We have some leverage on our Natures.

Maybe I can guess your loudest objection: there is no damned Nurture. Right? Nurture  all you like, our nasty Natures remain as they are, right?


There isn’t in the positive way that modern liberal types might like, I’ll give you that. But let’s back up a step – I like doing that, it costs one a sense of progress, but it seems diligent, feels like building a solid base – and ask one more time, what is Nurture? For today’s talk I think it’s an attempt to direct – redirect, or misdirect, perhaps – our Natures. Is that fair? An attempt to teach something we’re doing, that perhaps isn’t simply in line with our Natures? Something we choose to add to our toolkit and our lives? Stuff we’re not born knowing?

Ooh, I feel really close to something.

I think that stuff is the mean and ugly and nasty and all those kinds of things, I think that is the stuff we’re not born knowing. For evidence, if not proof, I offer that Nurture exists just fine if you simply stop insisting that it must be something positive. If you doubt the power of Nurture, abuse some children and see how many are unaffected along a vector of mean and nasty and all that.

That makes for an aggressive creature.

Now this is all fun theory and all, I love to live thinking I’m negotiating with God about Life and figuring out what we are and what we’re up to, what could seem more important? I think this conversation is where the action is, and I pray that if I affect the world in any way that it is in this conversation right here. Having said that . . .

The Nurture I describe, this antisocialization, this negative Nurturing, this isn’t theoretical at all. This is the world, look around you. And so, this mean, nasty, ugly thing is not our Nature, but what is produced through the power of Nurturing, which has been defined as consisting of exactly that which is not in our Natures.

This is not us.

This is something we think we need to be, and evolution says that at some point, we really did need to be this, so we became it – but evolution and everything else says we need to be something different now. And we absolutely can, because as I’ve just shown, this is not our Natures, this mean, ugly, nasty father-raper is not us. Morally, it’s worse, of course! That we work so hard to become him, apparently by choice . . . morally, we are not looking good in my paradigm here.

But there is nothing determined about it; we never could have gotten here in a deterministic world, and that is where the most realistic hope for us and this world I have been able to find seems to be.

It’s all upside-down and backwards to everything we usually say on the subject, but human beings are upside-down and backwards and we require that sort of an explanation.

So there it is.



Dec. 9th., 2018

21 thoughts on “Original Piety

  1. Jeff/neighsayer December 9, 2018 / 12:14 pm

    . . . I know I’m not right in my head, but twist and turn compensate as I might, whether I’m up or down, and over years now, this is the philosophy of the age right here, I THINK . . . I feel if I could write it somewhere where it won’t get erased or written over, if I could get it published and into libraries, if I had some hope it doesn’t die with me, I think I’d be done, retired, and I could relax, die sort of satisfied when I do, and relax and enjoy my time until that hopefully far off day . . .


  2. Jeff/neighsayer December 9, 2018 / 12:41 pm

    biology, genetics can give us the exact history of the development of these alleles and perhaps some signature exists for epigenetic activation, or phenotypes to indicate it . . . this would be the personal psychological biography of our species, perhaps, the rise and fall of these controllable genes . . .


  3. Scarlett December 12, 2018 / 2:38 pm

    Math tells me all things are predetermined if you have a big enough brain but tbh physics says bugger off it’s not.

    I used to think that it was more nature than nurture that made us what we are then I grew up. The first instinct is to run, submit and hold your hands over your head not to engage. You’re right, violence is a choice and it’s something you learn despite your natural instinct to avoid pain.

    Upon victory you have a kind of satiation which I guess is like orgasmic reward, though it’s more sinister and why we have the haves and work fors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Scarlett December 12, 2018 / 2:57 pm

      Slightly obsessed ya think 😉 Have you ever read Carl Sagan’s Contact? Or seen the Film? I feel like her some days looking for pattern and math in static and dandruff on people’s shoulders.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jeff/neighsayer December 12, 2018 / 2:59 pm

        I have not. totally what is going on for me, the ol’ kidney is trying to make sense of everything, the pattern seeking module is running the store

        Liked by 1 person

        • Scarlett December 12, 2018 / 3:06 pm

          I think we are built for pattern recognition and in some ways that’s why we are so good at what we do but I wonder if the larger questions – is that going to hamper us?


  4. Jeff/neighsayer December 12, 2018 / 2:57 pm

    and I appreciate you addressing the meat of it too. I’m trying to reduce it down, and I can see that it’s not as good as it felt to me writing it. It’s going to take a little longer to get it down to anything like E=MC squared. The best version of “Nurture” means what we want it to, coaxing out something good that was in there, at least potentially. I haven’t dealt with that variable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Scarlett December 12, 2018 / 3:04 pm

      I was told – it might have been Kyle – that if you write anything over 1,000 words no one will read it, but I think now days write for you and to hell with the likes. I find the process better than the results in blogging but it has hampered my studies I like to over explain and make jokes – not a popular way to most science reader hearts.

      In a lot of ways that Equation did great PR for the discipline but it also makes people think there are simple answers, that all things are inter related, often I have cause to think that unification theory is a waste of time or a product of human chauvinism.

      If I might be so bold – you are dealing with something quantifiable (cough) and you can prove your theory too, what I face I think might not only never be knowable – if it is it’s generations past our brain capacity.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jeff/neighsayer December 12, 2018 / 3:29 pm

        Ha! Yes, I have a few followers, but two commenters. That last bit, that was exactly the calculation Robert Trivers made (a Biology giant) in high school. He was a math whiz, but he knew anything new wouldn’t materialize for hundreds of years in the real world, so he switched to biology

        Liked by 1 person

        • Scarlett December 12, 2018 / 3:38 pm

          My best friend chose marine biology, she’s doing her masters out on an Island on the lower part of the Great Barrier Reef, I chose badly I could be lying on a beach now after a morning dive ans studying something I can see that has behaviour I can directly observe – but oh no I had to pick the opposite! Still, I have a lab coat, even if my ‘lab’ is a bunch of computers and some device that’s hard to explain to people at parties.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Scarlett December 12, 2018 / 3:42 pm

          More the relationship/behaviour/function of those, new particles have been cropping up with disturbing regularity which makes any research disturbingly inaccurate. I did get a stint out at a new large array in butt fuck nowhere which was a lot of fun and very rewarding but it was in imaging/optics my input was mostly mathematical, and in the sorting and presenting of the data so it wasn’t that useful for where I am leaning. Still it was a real thing and it worked so I have a big tick next to my name and something to put on my CV that looks good.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Jeff/neighsayer December 12, 2018 / 3:33 pm

        I realized late that piety isn’t the opposite of sin, that would be innocence, but that’s good, Original Innocence I should hold out until I get it right.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Scarlett December 12, 2018 / 3:45 pm

          I find it hard to get my head around innocence/sin it’s my big problem with religion the idea that in this life you should limit your experience and enjoyment. To my non-deistness your article hasn’t diminished by not using the word innocence.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Jeff/neighsayer December 12, 2018 / 3:50 pm

            yeah . . . maybe there’s something better. Something along this line sounds more positive that Antisocialization Theory . . . dunno yet . . .


            • Scarlett December 12, 2018 / 4:04 pm

              Probably works better for Americans and the general population I realise here where I grew up is quite a secular place.

              Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff/neighsayer December 14, 2018 / 2:43 pm

      I guess I have, my whole thing says that positive meme isn’t it at all


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