More on WAR, Chapter 12

Sounds like our elites and the generals have exempted themselves from some basic selection, pick bad fights and losing and going on to breed nonetheless. I hear the story, how these functions turn to that . . . it’s too many steps, too many things, several functions and none of it works unless I think aggression is automatic . . . that’s all very weak, I don’t have an argument, it’s fine, I guess.

The fact that more battles are lost by the initiators than before doesn’t mean anything, does it? I mean who won the battle, where the border is drawn, the outcome of the battle – this changes society not at all, still two warring groups same as before, still generals and grunts, still the same social situation for the general population – unless one nation loses all, all the generals are winners after, same as before, the class war they are always winning . . . war is Hell. Who won and who lost is just about the least salient thing about it, at least in terms of science.

I think he’s telling me that this is the trend of modernization, just what I said: war serves a purpose, win or lose, “winning” the war hardly matters – sometimes that’s what complex means, that the basic idea is lost, that basic understanding won’t apply? Today and going forward, war will just be a constant grind at the borders, no winners or losers, just constant threat, to keep us in our left hemispheres, keep the adrenaline pumping and don’t give anyone a chance to think. I am not satisfied that the supposed purpose is nothing other than the elites’ egos, than their commitment to blind confidence because it had always worked before – something tilts the conversation towards war, something tips our deliberations to aggression beside that the aggressor wins, aggression logically precedes, it’s a chicken and egg thing, if you weren’t being aggressive before, how did you learn that it’s a winning strategy?

Again, EP, of course we want to win – I mean you’re going to fight, the fight is assumed – but it’s somehow worth talking about, the genius question – would you rather win – or lose? Science, donchaknow. Put down the sword and ask me, I’ll tell you: I’d rather not fight; I win some, you win some, we share this fish. How is that supposed to catch on if you think the fight is sacred and not to be questioned or avoided?

Bah. I’m not comfortable, I want to put this chapter behind me, get on with the wrap-up.

But that was a central thing there, that my antisocialization idea is what tilts the arguments, what makes us an aggressive creature so that aggression is foundational in our minds, and violence appears to be some default, you know, where for evil to triumph all that is required of good men is to do nothing.

Certainly the entire central theme of this book, the proactive aggression of simple war ambushes, and of aboriginal society executions, besides affecting conscious life and plans also antisocializes us, threat does that, you’re a different creature living under it, even if you don’t get selected out – and you matter more if you don’t, if you were affected by this fear and passed that effect on to your children.

I’ve been on about spankings, but lethal conformism is an abusive environment as well, no kidding. Again, I think we have discovered genes for it, and are exploiting ourselves, pressing the environmental buttons on purpose, and selecting for it. So in a way, all of this EP stuff is a branch of Antisocialization Theory, the Selection Department. An aspect of how we are engineering ourselves.

I’m stuck on it. For me, this, in all the infinite data points and all the theories and ideas, everyone sometimes thinks they know what the world needs, in all of it, this is my cause, what I think is the linchpin of it all, the social control, the threat, the spanking: it changes us emotionally, attitudinally, as I said above: when you live under threat, you have to get used to it. You have to start thinking it’s natural and inevitable.

I think it would be worth a try, to remove the threat – social control, punitive abuse, morality basically – and then see if we can think better things. It’s me plan.

Bit of a long shot, sure.




July 27th., 2020

Modularity, or Same Ol’ Circuitry

No, not like that, not still the mean old ape-man.

You know I think we’ve been the meaner one since we invented ourselves, that that was the point, but that’s not the point this time.

I’m thinking on a much shorter timescale this afternoon, generations, the brief history of human knowledge. It will still be too familiar from me, I’m sorry. What it is, is I worry that we don’t really evolve in our thinking from mother to daughter, I mean is my brain so different from my father’s as to produce a completely different bunch of thoughts? Here’s the repetition:

Adaptive is the new innate, it’s not built in, we chose it – but all things being equal we’re stuck with it anyway, whaddayagonnado, maladapt?

Evolution is the new creation, we aren’t “born sinners” anymore, we’ve been upgraded to “evolved to maximize our resources” instead.

Cultural, societal is the new . . . what? The new primate hierarchy? The new doing what you’re told?

What I’m after is we probably don’t gain a new, heritable circuit for every new thought, and both these iterations of human origin stories and their associated languages probably come from the same neural circuit, so that conflation is not so much it as it is simply different interpretations of the same synapse-firing networks. It occurs that our neural networks may need to work interfacing with the world whether or not other ones are able to report or interpret that action, articulate it. Likely, all of our word constructions are textual and verbal interpretations of activities the nature of which we cannot know, as Kant (that dweeby f@#k, as someone on Twitter said recently) said. If there is progress this way in human thought, then we hope it’s in that the new language gets closer to it than the old language did.

And yes, it would, it may, perhaps it does, but again, same circuit . . . so we hope to perhaps bring different circuits to the same problem . . . I’m not sure, certainly change is possible and even happens, but if we grow up with one interpretation and try to learn another, we are always probably engaging the same circuit, and so falling back to some sort of conservatism, if we learn the new words, we end up dragging them back into the old meanings. Ah. Takes me back to my parenting blogging days.

Consequences is the new punishment – when it manifests a good old fashioned pat on the bum, you know it’s the same circuit with a new name.

It’s a bit of a “we’re not so different, you and I/we are all the same” argument isn’t it, and yes, surely it’s the same one all the good science folks make; under the hood, we’re the same colour, same components. True when we’re talking about a few generations forward or back as well, I think.

Huh. A sermon after all.

Be careful out there.



July 26th., 2020

Reactive Aggression, and the Other Kind – Updated

Ah! I’ve cracked it!

The point, the salient thing about “reactive aggression” is not so much that it is a reaction and a response, an answer, but that it is aggression now, immediately. Again – it’s a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron . . . never mind, I won’t be dragged into that. Science requires new terms and sometimes they are off-putting like that, no biggie. As I say, I’ve found the meaning anyway.

I’ve elaborated upon this elsewhere and I shall certainly continue to, but I mean here, as opposed to proactive aggression which is a system whereby we create and store our aggression for later.

I asked myself at an early age, something apparently no-one ever does at any age, “what is punishment,” and what I have come up with is that it is everything they say except they mostly never say anything about it that matters, anything beyond the explanation we get as toddlers. It is those things, but it also simply something that hurts, something that offends, that frightens, makes us angry and even drives us mad.

Maybe it isn’t so obvious now, we have developed a thousand skillsets and a hundred ways to go crazy, but it seems to me that among the post- chimpanzee/proto humans a few hundred thousand years back, being hurt and scared and angry probably made for a more violent, more aggressive, more risk-taking ape-man.


Italics, July 30th

 . . . a more reactively aggressive ape-man, you would think, I mean if you were me. I’ve seen hurt, scared, angry people, we get more reactive.  I keep getting further and further from this book, it’s starting to sound like a huge crock. Proactive aggression often as not means proactively winding a bunch of men up, sending them into a stressful situation and accessing all that reactive aggression Wrangham says we selected out.

We didn’t shed reactive aggression, we suppressed it, demoted it. We repressed it, and we pool it, socialize for use in the conflicts – we surrender it to the state or the group. If you react aggressively to people, use your aggression for your personal space,  you go to jail/get executed in the past. If you bite it back, hold it in, you remain free, but your leaders own that reaction now. It will be used for the group, if we’re talking about the past, maybe just for the leader in the present. This is antisocialization Theory – and we had better learn it because the generals and the rich seem to know it.


Logically, it does us also, but as I say, it’s hard to see. This, to me, is psychology, to ask what created the beast, not only what sets him off, but what winds him up.

I’ve cracked that too, what is wrong with EP generally, seems to be that their psychology starts with the beast and his bad attitude and proceeds from there, like the religions and the scriptures start with the word of God and proceed fairly logically from there.  Bam! I’m sorry, but there are parallels and we are all only one person each, “parallels” that are within us are just the same things in different words. Our arguments follow the same format: “adaptive” takes the place of “innate” and “cultural” takes the place of “learned,” and Evolutionary Psychology and its aggression takes the place of Original Sin, we use it like an initial condition. That’s not really psychology.

A discipline-specific meaning?

Or a conflation? Again, to posit “proactive aggression,” like that, in the form of a noun . . . we are treating it as some initial condition, despite the proactive label – or maybe “proactive” means it’s a choice, only a choice, just we had this idea, no psychology there? Of course psychology is concerned with why we make choices. Bear with me, please, I am trying to express something new to me also.

It stared on page 260, I had a reaction of my own upon reading “Whether the much shorter history of complex warfare also affected our evolutionary psychology is unknown.” It jarred me, and honestly, I’ve been complaining I couldn’t find the psychology in EP, but here it was and it was . . . backwards.

I’m trying to figure out how we can think our way to war or how it is we can’t think of ways out of it, I am trying to employ psychology to analyze why we do such things, and Wrangham’s concern is not why we do it, but only how war affects us, affects our psychology after the fact of the war?

You know what, I’m not finished digesting that myself yet.

I will grant, it’s possible I have cherry-picked this point, but it does seem to impact on my perception that EP lacked the P bit, and psychology is a blade that points every which way. Of course the changes in the minds of war’s victims and the operation of the mind of the warrior are both the province of psychology, we can all be psychologists and ignore different things. My idea here is that what we call psychology, maybe the evolutionary version, ought to be the study of how one becomes the other, how victims become warriors. I mean really, the other way around is simple, they lose a fight, they get hit with some flying sharp object or bludgeon, they lose friends and family . . . how we become victims is not the mystery, is it?

How we become warriors, this is my puzzle. Again, perhaps I’ve cherry-picked this bit, but it does also explain why the ladies and nice guys of psychology react so strongly to EP. Perhaps I am in the best position to clarify that, I’m not really in either camp on this, I find both camps lacking – but good news, I have the solution, the answer to put us all on the path of righteousness.

So, reactive aggression is when we respond immediately, sure, to proactively teach someone a lesson about messing with us, but the point is reactive aggression means in real time, interactively, in the present.

Proactive aggression, first, it’s all of it, even if, as they say, action precedes consciousness, it’s still the brain giving the attack command. Second, I’ll say, oh, damnit, shut up brain, this is not the time to question how often even lethal proactive violence is actually selective, I mean, there is still the selective conundrum, you can’t really cull the cullers, because you’re one of them, but even without that, how often are the victims of executions virgins? Surely they are not all culled in childhood, I’m saying just because you kill people doesn’t mean you’re making selections at all if they have already spread their seed around, and of course this is the Selfish Gene, isn’t it, that’s what groups are for. You can kill all day long and not really change the gene pool, I think. But I digress, selection is not my area, I’m sorry.

OK, the trauma of it may affect the survivors and their genes – and I will ask you to notice what I just did there, seriously demoted selection and promoted trauma. That was Wrangham’s concern too, don’t get me wrong, he said straight up “how complex war affected our evolutionary psychology,” that’s close enough, he credits trauma. I will apologize, I was saying that EP is nothing but game theory, no psychology at all, but it has some, just not enough. Again, I hear the echo of original Sin, I hear “aggression” as a noun and an initial condition and psychology applied after that when it needs to be explained as a reaction and a response to threat and abuse, not as some kind of First Cause.

I’m sorry, but I really like the analogy with religion. I’m guessing that is a problem all over the place, at the edge of our sphere of understanding, the analysis ends and “Here be Dragons,” some initial condition we just have to accept to have anywhere to proceed from. “Human Nature,” “Here be Dragons,” tomayto, tomahto.

We need to apply the psychology more liberally, on both sides of these equations. We are stuck with our limitations, but we can move our sphere, bring ourselves closer to these truths and further from something else, something perhaps more immediately destructive, like the Original Sin suite of ideas.

I wonder if anyone notices, I’m winding up again, and that thought seemed to me to be inspired, a schizotypal leap, dizzying. It’s a sort of a high-wire act – I just hope it’s not an act. I’m afraid of becoming one of these idiots that thinks he’s the superman, because I’m alone and I am starting to wonder if my difference of opinion with the world doesn’t reflect a different gene or a mutation. It may be true that I didn’t get my share of the beatings, that as the last of four, Mom didn’t seem to have the heart for it (depression), and also I didn’t need to be told much, I grew up saying I saw it with my sibs and cousins and I got the idea and never invited abuse, I am a moralist, always my own policeman.

Is it possible my own abuse alleles were not activated? Is that why punishing just doesn’t make sense to me and it apparently does to everyone else?

There is somewhere I am trying to get to, I am trying, a few years now, to imagine a diagram, the broken tree of science and knowledge, to show where this partial application of psychology to human origins has left a hole, a terrible gap where we carefully avoid abuse and victimization in our story, we are still talking about selection and calling it psychology in our origin story – while the entire field of psychology floats, un-anchored in science, somehow disconnected.

This, I know I’m repeating myself, this is the proactive aggression that requires more study, the kind that leaves living, breeding, damaged victims. And if EP is not the study of damage in our development, again, not quite psychology, or not enough psychology in that for me, I’m afraid.





July 25th., 2020

Racism as AST, a Case Study

Going to carry on from a previous effort, “Expedient Racism,” another angle has occurred to me upon waking up and managing to find something that seems worth pondering or expressing. So, carrying on about all the sorts of discrimination. There is something wrong there, that every group is a cause and all the forms of hate are seemingly separate, individual battles . . . it seems to suggest we don’t mind the basic idea. This form is bad, that form is me, even if we acknowledge all these versions are bad, somehow, the general, umbrella idea of discrimination and hate is safe, unassailable. We all reserve the right to refuse service on some basis, don’t we?

I think we all see this, it’s maybe not worth talking about, we don’t try to end all hate and anger, we need those or something, but we all feel our demographic should be exempt, some of us feel many, even all groups should be . . . but today’s wake up idea is that maybe sometimes there is something more specific.

I’m old, I’m looking back on my life, forgiving my younger self for not knowing what is going on. I’m from Mount Pleasant in Vancouver, a very multicultural place, but I’m white and I think people from all over the world, people of all colours are guilty of this one: as a kid, along with at least some of the kids around me, I used the terms “jewed” and “gypped.” It means bargaining and winning, right? Taking your money. “He gypped me!” kind of thing.

If I had ever seen a Roma or a Jewish person, I didn’t know it. It is entirely possible I said that  crap in front of some of them, at school or something, but the point is, it’s a cultural racist meme, harmful and wrong, and to be stopped, of course.

But today, I was thinking that when we say that we are complaining about salesmen and businesspeople, about profit and capitalism – that’s our culture. White salespeople and CEOs rule the world, but when I complain, my complain word is some other race, some poor folks mostly on the other side of the world? What would be the matter with complaining that this swine just capitalized on me? I mean, no-one likes getting ripped off.

This is my point, this is the technology of antisocialization.

My group, white north American settler, giving all my hard earned money to companies, my rent, my food, my everything, and as far as I can see they’re mostly white and north American too, but the oppression of poverty and limited funds, the negative emotions associated with the struggle with giving my little money to billionaires, there’s nothing to be done, I can just hold those feelings, try to improve my position, but don’t rebel – I’ve been jewed out of my money.

Store those feelings, and earmark them for an other, the Roma, the Jews – this is antisocialization theory. We abuse our own and keep a reservoir of anger about unfairnesses at home, from our own people – for use when it suits. The whys are not yet ironed out, but I promise you this is the human way.


When your people make their living off of you, that’s exploitative, abusive. When our caregivers discipline us to teach us right from wrong, that is child abuse, and when we are punished as adults, this is also abuse, and generally comes from our own society. Reasons for the punishments do not negate the abuse, it must be a genetic decision that we all think it does, that we all operate this way, it’s sort of amazing. It goes like this: “I didn’t hurt him! I did it because . . . ”

That’s a yes. If you did it because something, you did it. You’ve even said so.

All these things happen all day long, this is the business of our lives, abusing our own and othering, this is warrior society, this is how and why the wars happen, why life is generally a struggle, even for the only animal capable of working together to make the pyramids.

Trouble is, like any addict, we think the problem is the solution. Law and order! Abuse. Morality, in a word: everything is wrong except hurting each other “to teach.”

I thought there would be a fanfare or something when someone solved that. Ah well, solving a puzzle is its own reward, I suppose. My personal trouble is life is never the same again once you see it. I thought we wanted an answer to this; I didn’t know it was supposed to be rhetorical.



July 24th., 2020

on War

On War


Chapter 12, one to go, and an afterward. As said previously, unedited, not holding back. When I’m ready to be taken seriously, I’ll let you know.

Gonna quote Wrangham:

“Given the pervasive effects of coalitionary proactive aggression, its origins and effects are core issues for understanding our social evolution. There is no anthropological consensus about where it comes from.”

  1. We’re back!

It’s always opposite day for me.

The world of anthropology knows everything except how it began, while I think I know what creates it and just worry that I can’t figure out how to put an end to it.

He says there is a school that says it is not an adaptation – meaning, I think, in these conversations, not a necessary thing – that it’s an invention of culture of or the dominants in the culture, he said “unconnected to our evolutionary biology.” It’s the innateness argument in new words, isn’t it? An adaptation is innate and cultural things are not – at least that’s how it feels to those of us on the Left of things. If the violence is built in, then some folks will say it’s what we’re supposed to do.

I don’t fear “biological determinism.” I look out my window and fear a population always ready to implode or explode into war, and always looking for an excuse. I don’t think humans have “an ungovernable drive for aggression,” I think we are governing it already in that we guarantee some in every household. It is entirely governable, and I for one think doing just that is a great idea, I just don’t think we’re doing it very well yet, as I say, we’re doing it backwards. But that proves we can do it!

He says that’s what we fear,  that someone thinks it’s a license for the worst stuff, but then he sites some grand folks who, upon learning just how old and integral it is to human existence, react better, and step up their efforts towards education and the mitigation of strife, which admittedly seems the more rational response, and if the rational one were the more common one, no worries. Truth above all, of course. The political concerns only matter if we are choosing between fictions, and dangerous truths must be processed, worked through and not denied, or life is a lie.

I’m not so far Left that I think our awful lifestyle is “unconnected to our evolutionary biology.” Whatever. I can help both sides, I think. It’s half and half, or both. I invented several terms for it, but I think here it’s a known one, “adaptive fiction.” It looks and feels foundational to us, no doubt. Threaten to take it away from anyone, tell a general he’s not allowed to spend his soldiers, tell a parent not to spank their kids, you’ll see it. They are shaken and ready to fight for it like you’re taking their very lives. Any person you meet is ready to defend it, to fight to keep proactive violence as an adaptation, as innate, as absolutely necessary for life.

The fact that they all think they have to makes it . . . interesting.

There is a large bunch of folks out there defending heterosexuality and breeding as though it were some house of cards that might fall also, and if that’s not innate or adaptive, what is? I think the logic is that you defend what is necessary and being anti-gay may indeed be straight up adaptive, and that sounds bad, because maybe proactive aggression is also then – but being anti-anything means we have never left the proactive aggression argument. We are discussing the legitimacy of proactive aggression, so arguments about rules and control and who deserves some proactive aggression are all pending whether we want to employ it at all. Again, “adaptive” doesn’t mean incurable, and it sure doesn’t mean right. That would be one of those education things.

Just because I think some humans should continue to breed doesn’t mean I accept your argument that anything should be done about people who don’t. On the issue of proactive aggression, coalitionary and otherwise, I’m opposed to it!

I know it’s hard to get that across, proactive aggression, in the context of punishing, seems beyond debate, seems to precede debate.

Either way. Straight up adaptation, or adaptive fiction (adaptive lie), I’m trying to make a case that it’s more of a problem for us than it is adaptive at this point. Unfortunately, us self-domesticating, self-selecting sort of took us out of the world, which is supposed to be doing the selection. We have removed the checks upon our selves. We selected for something unsustainable.

I’m jumping around, but this is still next: like a feud, once it starts, it’s self-perpetuating, this proactive violence, may regional conflicts are older than their combatants. It’s possible, even likely that the search for the cause and the origin will produce an answer and still not provide a solution, of course. The mystery of initial origins, we can liken that to starting something rolling and then after that we talk about momentum, or again, innateness, adaptiveness . . . I don’t think I’ve found the creation moment, the first cause.

I absolutely think I see how we keep it rolling, even in peacetime . . . and I think I’m offering more reasons and more explanations to adaptationists, who are today’s innatists, and they do not want or need them, they have their explanation why it’s just there already and to be worked around and mitigated. I get it, they’ve found a thread of hope, something to work towards, that’s not so easy. It’s just that it’s not enough. People have known that and been doing that for thousands of years already, and it’s not working, I’m sorry. I mean, it has had success, but the wars keep coming.

They are not interested in how we make this tragic innate behaviour more and more innate every generation, how we are still making this adaptation, almost consciously. We’re stuck in the same model: what we are, what we used to be, it’s creation and original sin again, and it’s rules and education again . . . they keep telling us the old debates aren’t relevant, but they keep never going away. Sigh. That’s what happens in arguments where both sides are equally wrong; truth will out, but you have to let it into the debate first. If one side had the advantage of veracity, you wouldn’t expect an eternal debate.

Always, always, in this conversation and especially in this document, I keep sliding from his coalitionary proactive capital punishment straight past law and order to spanking, and I know I look confused. I see it as all one thing – which is not so different from confusion, sure. I’m in this long conversation with myself about punishment, that’s the common denominator of my conflation or confusion here, capital punishment, spankings, all punishment – but I am going to draw a line between punishments that are capital and those which are not. There is a deep connection and a big crossover, but capital means selection, and that side of things are well covered by the EP folks, the adaptationists. To my mind, Wrangham’s suggestion that “proactive aggression requires further study,” means the other kind.

Selection is one conversation.

Abuse is the other.

People understand “punishment” as a force they can bring to bear to affect outcomes – and like throwing a hundred thousand gallons of fossil fuel at the moon landing, overwhelming power and damn the costs – we, as a species, do not count the cost. It’s magical thinking, and it means we turn a blind eye to it, and a blind science eye to it. Social control, the brutal dominance of the tyranny of cousins, the patriarchy for our entire existence, and we are not abused, but “have a moral sense.” Costs and benefits, they say, costs and benefits!

I am here to say: you give a lot of ink to the benefits of it – count the costs of punishing. They are the cause of war you’re supposed to be looking for, and you’re in denial, like every parent saying “sure, we hit each other, but it doesn’t hurt us,” and then explaining how punishment works because it hurts us so we avoid it. But it doesn’t hurt us. OK, so he has a lot of wars, but he’s learned to read! EP sounds like an angry mom in Walmart.

There is an entire branch of science missing – and the adaptationists, the selection-oriented have stolen the name!

So it’s all one to me, spankings and “moral” executions, but definitely it’s the non-lethal stuff that interests me, that I think is falling through the cracks of life and academia . . . I think where I’m going now is perhaps that EP is not wrong, that nothing in life is so simple as they’re just wrong, they’re only wrong if they act like they’ve got it all. Their data is OK, their story isn’t flat out wrong, it’s just that there are more things under heaven than are dreamt of in it. They’re just missing it, same as everybody else. No blame, their caregivers made bloody sure they would, that’s the tricky part of the whole thing.

I think we have selected for genes that support this denial, somehow – adaptive lie, as I said. When something works beyond all expectations, that’s the magic of DNA, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, this is not something new from me, part of my argument with the world. This is self-domestication, the dark side of it, perhaps, but this is me agreeing and offering support for the theory of self-domestication in humans, because when something has a massive negative effect on the world, that something must be real.

I said both sides of the Hobbesian-Rousseauvian divide were wrong, that was the more salient thing in that paragraph, but truly, they’re both right also – and I think I can make sense of it for both, for all. I’m a little delusional, but audit as I might, distrust myself as much as I can, this still seems real – I don’t deny, I am having some personal issues, so help me, prove me wrong! To me, the pain of moral abuse should be what EP is about, pain is what psychology is about, not selection. To discuss the killer’s “adaptations” and ignore his pain – is insane. If this is psychology, you’re trying to help the disease by declaring it non-existent.

Oh no, starting to see some of my least favourite tropes – that means it’s time to publish something, fight back a little before I can continue reading. Really folks, mad as it is, I’m giving this every drop of myself. There is a whole lot of the world, even almost the entire fictional world, that I cannot bear to look at right now. I’m using it all for this.

Take care out there.



July 22nd., 2020

on Overwhelming Power

Chapter 11, two to go!

This, my sort of Live Tweeting as I read The Goodness Paradox, by Richard Wrangham, on the first pass . . . I’m not holding back. I plan to do better after a second read.

. . .

I guess it’s all still selection, all lethal “proactive violence,” which again, I’m sad no-one’s solved it all yet, but I still see room for the absent issues of non-lethal proactive aggression, maybe. It still feels like evo-psych world, and – I thought I was halfway through, I’m almost done, most of the back half is indexes. I think – I think – the roots of our morality are these, if I hear him correctly, not sure I agree it’s all of it –

That somehow we got the idea to gang up on the alpha and dispatch him, basically that all the big males, to improve their chances and lives agreed to a truce and power sharing. This gang, more powerful than any alpha by definition, found they could deal with everyone this way, and when everyone learned to internalize their fear of the gang and its rules, that this is what becomes our “moral sense,” (as though there were such a single function thing, like a popcorn maker, taking up evolutionary counter-space that could hold a multi-function thing, but that’s not important right now) our guide to what is “right” or “wrong.”

I find this validating, it came to me as a young man that “guilt” may be nothing more than straight up fear of reprisal, that it’s a euphemistic concept.

That’s not bad. We have ideals, and I believe the job is to project some ideal of “right” and reach for it, and I have not yet learned enough science to believe that even our projections must be limited by our evolution, I mean do we really have alleles for rocket science? Can we not imagine things beyond our programming? I’m saying I can find a way to accept the biology that supports our limits in our moral orientation, but I need to believe that we can at least imagine something better to hope for, to work towards. Sometimes it sounds like we think the worst version, the most basic, is the “real” one. We are trying to create one, any “moral systems” will be artificial.

It looks like the alpha was a participant or an agent of chaos, I think this is the alpha Wrangham is saying is gone. The gang is more powerful, its “alpha” power is worse, but the act of creating and having the coalition, this is . . . directed, planned, the chaos was removed? The alpha’s pleasure is chaos, but the gang’s pleasure has a filter, it must be a common pleasure to the men? This, at this stage, counts as direction? It’s the birth of inequality and privilege, I suppose, I imagine there was an improvement in quality of life for the gang members’ families. Three hundred thousand years ago we dropped primate castes and invented human classes, no alpha, but a ruling class? It is easy to imagine how it would have the staying power.

As logic of selection stuff goes, it’s better than most. It sounds like EP, sounds male, only male killing matters, but it’s not easily dismissed.

I worry there is no puzzle here that needs me, that this argument is good enough that no-one is going to think that anything is lacking in it. I’ll keep trying of course, it still rankles. I’m afraid my AST and the other side of the genetic equation – that the allele is the support for an environmental situation and we create our environmental situations – may only be additive, and not deemed essential to understanding. As I say, I shall keep at it; I’m not satisfied yet.

It’s Monday, I’ve missed church, sorry.


July 20th., 2020

Partial Book Report

I’m struggling, I’m “reading”

“The Goodness Paradox,” by Richard Wrangham.

Reading in quotes, I’m stalled at the halfway point. But I’m writing as I read, a sort of Live Tweeting, because this really is the crux of all human matters for me, the puzzle I am sort of spending my life on.

I expect, I plan, to change my mind by the end, and hopefully write an entirely new report when I’m done – but It has me stalled, in the doldrums and I’m not thinking as much as I’d like, or writing – so here’s my first take of the first part. Frankly, I’m suspicious, it’s a bit dramatic – and truth to tell, further reading has dampened my excitement.


From a month or so ago.



Ah, five pages in and we’re pushing one of my favourite buttons, “peace at home” and “war abroad.” I’ve objected to this before. It may be the obvious thing, but it’s not the instructive thing, this supposed inverse relationship. Were it that simple, wouldn’t the other end of it also be true, and peace at the border might be expected to indicate a melee at home? I understand there is a disparity – but that’s all it is, don’t go talking about opposing forces, trade-offs.

There is reactive peace at home, perhaps – and well, it’s not all reactive at the border either, is it. Wait – or is it? The border is exactly where some other is getting into your space and skirmishes are exactly what are supposed to stop it . . . it’s just that reactive thing, but at group level. Interesting. I fear the two sorts of aggression are intertwined and interactive with each other, sharing causal streams. They’re right, it’s complicated. Border violence sounds like the very definition of reactive violence, but we plan for it, make budgets and whatnot . . . I suppose in the real world, everything will be some combination of the two?

Peace at home/war at the border, or prosocial at home/antisocial at the border – have anthropologists not seen the news, never heard of a madman killing his own people? What warring nation is all loving “at home?” I know we’re not talking about nations here, but small groups of hominids – but no, not small groups either, humans, individual ones. You are not antisocial “out there” and loving at home, or your dad wasn’t. If you are warlike, you have little interest in producing loving, affiliative children, and if you are a peacemaker in the world, you probably don’t abuse your own kids, that’s how it is in the real world, professors.

There’s an inverse relationship, I’ll allow that, but not between in and out of doors  – the more a person or a society have of one, the less they have of the other, everywhere. Violence breeds violence and love breeds love – they do not, repeat not create each other. Again, this is real life, not . . . mythology.

Oh, a brief history of the rise of the Noble Savage idea! Thank you. He offers it as support for the peace at home/war abroad meme and gives examples in New Guinea and elsewhere and again in North America in the early 1600s, where the idea began, Noble Savage. I, however, see something else. Let’s just back up, I’ll paraphrase, “Europeans saw the peace the aboriginals had among themselves” and stop right there.

This impressed the Europeans by itself because Europeans do not enjoy this peace among themselves. Life at home for nations of empire is training for the war at the “frontier.” Having said that, I do not imagine that the aboriginals are not rough enough on one another in their uncontacted state to toughen them up and aid in the border battles – but clearly it was not obvious to the Europeans, perhaps they were not as constant about it as white people seem to be.

Hey – he quotes Davies, I read his book too, the somewhat misleadingly titled “Evolution of War!” Davies made examples of some African nations, but did not make the distinction Wrangham has here, between contacted and uncontacted tribes. I came away with a terrible view of Africa and only learned later that all of those nightmares were observed after the Europeans disturbed the existing systems and armed some of the peoples. That book is nearly a hundred years old now, 1929.

Wrangham talks about the scourge of domestic violence and gives some awful statistics about violence against women, but still says, bad as it is, the apes are far, far worse. He says war, however, is another matter. During war, we kill far more than any ape. What is missing from this synopsis of the disparity, war abroad and peace at home of course, is children. Do we not count as domestic violence until puberty?

I wonder, I’m sure he’ll get to communication and such.

I’ve just been invaded by the thought that a single instance of proactive violence at home may have as much power to inform a whole troop of humans as well as many more instances would inform a company of chimpanzees, chimps aren’t as keen as we are on messaging. That the chimpanzees require more frequent reminders about who is in charge, and . . . this has perhaps always been the challenge, trying to express something like this, that if the violence is less frequent but carries more power, is it really a reduction? Social power? Informative power? Emotional? Some kind, all of them together, maybe.

Far easier to terrorize and control humans than chimpanzees.

I suppose I think that we have simply shifted the injuries from the skull to the mind? It wasn’t from exactly this direction, but I have had thoughts before that seem to lead me to us having a genetic sensitivity to abuse, that abuse really means more to us somehow than it does to the apes. Environmentally controlled gene expression, specifically abusive, threatening environments . . . it’s my theory that we have discovered these genes and are nurturing them, growing them, almost consciously. All we would have to do is abuse one another, if they exist . . . and haven’t we already identified some, so they do? This book is focusing me somehow, I’ve never been able to say that quite so clearly before.

Seriously. “Sensitivity to abuse” seems like the last piece of the puzzle right now, solves the problem of the world’s apparent self-healing, of Pinker’s professionally researched optimism, which seemed to cut of all dissent. Splendid. Seriously. Such genes would evolve as a natural aversion, all right and proper, but then if you keep selecting for it but don’t give them a way out perhaps it becomes something else . . . ? Last piece of the puzzle to the paradox, I think.

I know! I don’t really believe it either, but I keep hammering at it, and well . . . that’s why I am begging so hard for someone to check me.

As a personal aside, I hate it when I feel this brilliant, all cannot be right with me. But if that’s true, still, perhaps there will be something, some small thing to salvage from this. I’ve spent four years trying to audit away a previous epiphany that arrived during something of an episode back then, and it’s holding up, through ups and downs. Well, it’s the same one really, it’s just unfolded a little more, is all. There is a part of me that thinks I stole some fire, and that worries that I’m not making it back.



July 5th., 2020