That is not going to be the final name for this idea – but maybe. It does put me ahead of the Aquatic Ape Theory in the dictionary of good ideas that got ignored, so there’s that. The one I really like is Murphy’s Law of Nature, but I’m saving the filename and the title for when I finally get it down in a form that works for anybody. I still like Antisocialization Theory, too – I swear to you, this idea works in all jargons and disciplines, but the Abusive Ape Theory might be the label that most hints at the idea within.
Quite a few of the primates abuse each other, of course. I heard Sapolsky say he would never choose baboons for friends, that they are total jerks, and chimpanzees show the same sort of hierarchical structures with structured lines of abuse to match. Other social predators seem to do this, lions and hyenas and wolves – these self-abusing species are a fearsome list indeed! It may be too soon to suggest it about dolphins and crows perhaps, but there are hints that these creatures may have a dark side for one another too. I can’t speak to social insects, or fish, but folks are studying them, perhaps we will see. I think it’s safe to say that the species who treat one another with violence are not otherwise or generally docile, with the possible exception of the Tasmanian devil, which apparently when plucked from the melee for tagging and health checks by researchers are calm and easily handled. There’s always one, isn’t there? Well, scavengers, not predators, maybe, the devils, but there are probably some social hunters that break my rule.
I don’t care. Rules are rules, the fact that it is possible to break them doesn’t invalidate rules generally, despite what the NRA trolls would have us think. The rule: nasty, dangerous, aggressive social creatures are nasty, dangerous, and aggressive to each other, too.
It would appear the two go together in social animals, predation and abuse. Certainly they both employ the same skillsets and share many of the same rules, and fighting is fighting – and this is where the Abusive Ape Theory would like to direct your attention: abuse is not “prosocial behaviour practiced on in-group members” as opposed to the antisocial behaviours we use on the out-group. Abuse is antisocial behaviours practised on the in-group. Saying, “well, at least you’re not dead,” while it does make the experience of abuse sound relatively benign from some scientific distance, calling a beating “prosocial” is not explanatory. These are antisocial forces at play here.
This is an argument against any who still hold with ideas about group dynamics, that we treat the out-group and strangers badly and treat the in-group well – that is going too far. It may sound like opposites, but this is only a fixed disparity and not an inverse proportion. We treat the in-group badly and the out-group very badly – that is the truth of the function, and those two boats rise and fall together on the same tides. The harder things are at the border, the harder things are at home, and vice versa. This because as all of us good scientists know, this is not Psychology Today after all, there is no nurture; this because as we all know but somehow cannot process, there is abuse.
I expect this line of talk finds some resonance among the psychology-minded people – but I am coming to believe that the evolutionary scientists are blind to it. Punishment is a conscious selective pressure we apply to reach our conscious goals, they say, it wouldn’t be pressure if it didn’t hurt – but I don’t hear any more about the hurt, same as when talking to a parent about spanking. They only care when the hurt is avoided, when the deterrent works and the behaviour is modified – they can’t seem to care about the hurt. This is technology, applied science: the by-products do not interest them.
By-products like arsenic and carbon dioxide and pain.
It is exactly this non-caring that abuse has been proven repeatedly to produce, basically the most replicable finding in social science – blind to it, completely. I swear, I have asked a few real luminaries, famous science authors, what about the pain, the trauma, and they appear to not understand the question and direct me to read their explanations about modifying behaviour, like any hockey mom. We shouldn’t be allowed to do anything in the world until we’ve had our psychotherapy, and maybe especially we shouldn’t be allowed to direct humanity’s accumulation of knowledge, either as a parent, pundit, or world-changing scientist.
Really, we can bring this conversation right home, right back to the farm where we grew up or the one on television where we think we did, it’s a straight up, old time cliché gender role thing: Mom says you need to learn something, but when Dad is giving it to you in the woodshed, he confides that everything may not be not right about that, but that this will toughen you up.
From what I have been able to glean, biologists are on the Mom side of this ideological rift, behaviour regulation and ignoring the collateral damage, and I am your Dad, telling you the awful truth.
I won’t hit you, though!
Just because it’s the truth doesn’t mean I endorse it. Awful truths need to be changed or destroyed. As I told you all a few weeks ago, you are tough enough, by an order of magnitude. I don’t want to be thickening your calluses or pissing you off any further.
There is an irony, sort of, or it would be if that isn’t just exactly how these things work, that Mom is about the world of surfaces and things, conscious behaviours in this conversation, while Dad is about the psychology, the nurturing, the changing of personalities, whereas in an adult secular conversation we associate nurturing and psychology more with the ladies’ side of life and men with things, money, cars and footballs.
This, I guess, because among the uninitiated, there is nurture, so everything is backwards.
The Abusive Ape Theory is about your Dad’s truth, and it will take up between a quarter and a half of every pie chart showing our knowledge about ourselves, when we get one right, because, one more time, as I said a year ago in one of my favourites,
Abuse is in our DNA.
Maybe that’s the label I’m looking for.
Feb. 15th., 2019
I know. I spelled it right in the text, LOL