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

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