The Twin Studies Got it So Wrong

Sometimes, when you learn a new thing, a new principle, a new scientific principle, some of your existing “knowledge” needs auditing, updating.

A classic case in point pretty recently, is the Rat Park story, where the classic study showed rats to be subject to addiction and opiates to be addictive to some huge percentage of them – but that on a more recent re-visit to the study, the basic environment was considered, the bare, concrete and steel sterile environment the original test was run in proved to be a large part of the puzzle, that when the rats had the semblance of a better life, the drug’s addictive power was lessened.

I’m a classic crackpot, a one trick pony. I have a single new principle I spend all my time on, Murphy’s Law of Nature – the idea that Nurture is real, it’s just not positive. The idea that abuse is a form of Nurture that has always and forever produced actual results. The idea it audits today is the twin studies, and the apparent victory of Nature over Nurture that they have been touted as.

Spectacular phenotypic results, right?

Separated twins, raised thousands of miles apart having very specific common behaviours, magic! Beware of magical results in science. Multiple Personality Disorder you would only believe if you believed in magic, in the transmigration of souls – what were all the “personalities” supposed to be? What I want to say about the reported results of the twin studies is this: it is absolutely first year biology that phenotype is genes AND environment, simple arithmetic, that the folks writing these studies up swept under the rug – yes, two and two equal four, and here’s your four – but one of the twos was really a one, or a three!

You can tell me the different household was a different environment, but four minus two equals two. You had another two there, your “different environments” weren’t, not in a way that actually affects what you are testing for later, period. Science troll boys – save your breath, I won’t be turned from this. You got it completely backwards, in the most basic sense.

But you have proved something we need to know, exactly that, that human child-rearing is the same, the world over! All the differences we argue about don’t add up to anything! If there’s anything good about it, we all do it – but, Murphy’s Law of Nature, there really isn’t, it’s the bad stuff that matters – and if there’s something bad about it, we all do it. This is what I’m always trying to say.

 

Jeff

Sept. 15th., 2019

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Your Outsize Cranium

I believe the usual theory about why humans are so different goes to this outsize brain, isn’t that right? I’m going to talk about that although David Suzuki made a point in the Nature documentary about the latest Tyrannosaurus data that bird brains are very dense with neurons compared to ours and that the amount of real estate your brain occupies may not be as indicative of processing power as we think. He said birds are very smart, and the apparently small-brained dinosaurs, especially predators, were likely also quick on the draw. But we aren’t suggesting we outsmarted birds or lizards, just the other ancient chimps, so the volume of sand your cranium can hold is probably meaningful. I guess.

The theory of that, as I understand it, at least in our current, rather male and war-centric origin story is that the selective pressure for that brain to grow so was nothing other than us, other people, or other groups of people, and our conflicts with one another. A Red Queen’s game to be sure, all of us driving up our hat sizes to stay competitive, just to stay in the race, running in place.

So what comes next is a dualism.

On the one hand, our conflicts are sort of boundless, everything is in play, so to speak, and so these expensive organs have adapted to use everything, meaning, as Steven Pinker points out (within his job description, I think) that we have a sort of any purpose processor, we can plug many sorts of problems into it and work on them – in theory, even if said problems are not specifically evolved for, like all the new things we have brought into the world, for better and worse. It ain’t universal, of course, but somewhere on the path to that. Perhaps all the real estate is for that module, as Pinker put it, but I don’t think he said so specifically, I don’t think we know that. Do we assume it? I guess.

On the other hand, fighting is fighting. On the other hand, if conflict grew this thing, then maybe that’s all the damned thing does. That’s what selected it, that’s what grew it, fine, that’s all in the past, we say, Pinker says, maybe.

But surely that’s not what the bloody thing is for! Is it?

What I’m saying, what I’m always trying to say is, if it is, if that’s what it’s for, then we need to know that and factor that awful setup into our thinking. Conflict isn’t what is going to get us out of the present mess and it’s never going to get us to a better way of life, not the first tiny step towards the utopia if we just keep letting it do what it was made to do, if that’s what it was made to do. Plus –

What if, and this does seem the most likely, what if they’re both true?

What if all that real estate is the free-floating, general purpose processor, and it’s just us choosing to use it for almost nothing but our fights?

Wouldn’t that be a sad state of affairs. Well, wouldn’t that have been a sad state of affairs, I mean. But what if we had the choice?

 

Jeff

Sept. 15th., 2019

 

If that were what it was for, or if we believed that, if that was all we used it for, then I suppose intelligence and fighting skills would all look the same to us, aggression might appear intelligent, duplicity might, treachery might – anything that wins a fight would be “smart.” Of course anything that didn’t would be “stupid.”

I get it. Letting yourself be killed probably counts as stupid.

Problem is, all peace is in that category. Peace is going to require some surgery, we have to separate your libido from your amygdala – and your aggression from your intelligence.

 

Jeff

In the Beginning

A neat little “just so” package that couldn’t possibly be true, except . . .

I think AST may have a suggestion as to how we began, how we got on this path to what we’re calling civilization, between three elements, the organization of group animals into hierarchies with the dominance of the alphas, AST, which describes the technology of abuse (including the technology of punishment and the human “moral” framework), and finally, perhaps a foundational case of Trivers’ evolved self deception.

The primate alpha starts the abuse, to establish his privilege, and his victims, stressed, hurting, or simply hurting socially, turn and take their hurt on someone they can, and so the abuse, like the stuff of plumbing problems, flows downhill in a champagne fountain of cortisol – I believe this is Sapolsky’s description of the average baboon troop, in my own words, of course. I think we see similar stuff in the chimpanzees and I think most folks think that was us at some point – even those who don’t think it’s still us today, that is – so that was the first condition and the first bit of science, biological dominance behaviours and deflection, and the resulting abuse-sharing pyramid scheme.

At some point, the champagne fountain of stress and pain becomes entrenched, and this is where maybe we engage the rationalizations, the self deception – “I meant to do that,” kind of thing. “No, I didn’t beat your ass because I’m a subordinate and the boss beat mine! I did it because I’m the alpha in our relationship and I say it’s good for you.” You know, prepare you for adulthood, when the boss’s kids do this to you – “my” idea, not clearly the boss’ agenda. And then this whole, species-wide crap about how it’s good for you, how you’re “spoiled” without it. So, that was the third condition, us lying to ourselves, and maybe the effect among these causes, to some degree, the baboon volcano of fear and violence that encompasses us all and starts with some alpha swine over-prioritizing himself and ends with us all explaining to our kids, “no, this was my idea, and this is good for you.”

I meant to do that.

Despite the lies we tell regarding why we do what we do and what effects our actions can have, though, there is and clearly has to be an actual reason or several that we do these things, a powerful reason this behaviour took our species over and won’t let go, and I have ranted almost endlessly trying to make the point that we antisocialize ourselves in service of conflict, of crappy old game theory. And I’m agin’ it. Whenever I’m reading some description of nasty old nature, I always think I’m hearing approval, advocacy for violent selection processes – not what I’m trying to do at all, I think I’m describing hidden, secret nasty old nature, not to say roll with it, but to say this is the trap here, the invisible fence, this is what we need to break out of.

Which comes first, the selection for abuse, or the cover story, I can’t tell. One would think they happen together, but perhaps there have been and still are places where no pretense of “good for you” is even made, times and/or places where “good for me” was all you got. So I think, in terms of causality and history, the deceit is the latest element, the modern, perhaps liberal adaptation we apply over our antisocialization – making people “good,” teaching them “right from wrong.” Surely your liberals beat their children to make them non-violent, at least that’s supposed to be the plan. So now they think that what was always a single purpose technology – violence and desensitization in service of the troop’s warrior goals – now they think it’s a magic wand, violence and desensitization in service of whatever we say! Nothing simple and understandable here, cause matched to an effect, no – we apply a single stimulus and get whatever result we wanted, is this a great country or what.

I liked Wrangham’s synopsis of capital punishment as an evolved way to deal with tyrants – we should try it sometime.

I mean it sounds great, but I’m not sure we ever did, not regularly, at least. The alpha sets the tone and it permeates everything in our lives, this human lifestyle is his. There have almost certainly been some shining examples, but the mainstream evolution thread here is the dark side, I think we should admit that before it’s all over, any minute now. Warrior society is where we all have Stockholm Syndrome and appear to love the randomly violent alpha (a predator of sorts) and if a bunch of reasonable men want to kill him, they’re going to have the whole world to go through first.

All I’m saying, and I can’t believe it’s taking me so long, and why it seems so strange from my angle or something, is that the baboon pyramid of abuse is very much still in effect, and it is still the major cause and effect loop in human society. The punishment/morality function we insist upon is a minor thread, as lovely and as fictional as Wrangham’s control of tyrants by majority action. Understandable sort of error, we’re trying to make the best of a bad situation, trying to salvage some good from the trauma. By the by, the only example that comes to mind is Julius Caesar, maybe the French Revolution – how many alphas have been taken down by their lessers in history? That’s the next alpha’s job, isn’t it?

My idea to call AST a condition, the second in our list, goes like this: AST is the practice of physical and social abuse in order to activate physiological and psychological genetic changes towards aggression. This I believe to be a species-wide phenomenon that supports our lifestyle of group conflict, making us all mean enough to defend the homeland and crazy enough to attack the enemy’s homeland. It is therefore, at present, a Red Queen’s race, with every human group basically as tough and murderous as the next, but one for survival, and therefore an important evolved function which manifests as systems of crime and punishment, rules and penalties – naughty steps, timeout rooms, prisons . . . hey.

It’s good for you – I mean if being tough is good for you, if life is a fight and only the tough survive, then some abuse is good for you, some practice at least, some practical knowledge, knowing how to fight – but it’s not all good, is it? I wouldn’t object to simply knowing how to fight, being able, I sort of hoped my kids would take an interest for their self-defence but they had zero interest, maybe because I tried not to abuse them or even punish them. I think though, antisocialization is an emotional process, a “strong” fellow who can fight and defend is generally one who started by wanting to hurt people, a trait perhaps present in us all by default, but certainly mostly enhanced by pain and abuse. My point here though, is this is what “good” means in contexts of child-rearing or adult attempts at behaviour modification, in conversations about law and order, crime and punishment –  antisocial, wanting to, able to fight. It’s what “spoiled” means – an early childhood free of abuse means that kid will never be the willing, driven, snarling soldier he might have been. Some things you just can’t teach.

This is what it means in reality, I mean, whether we know it or not. We punish someone – apply some legal and scientifically defined abuse as a deterrent – and they get “better.” They don’t always get better in a good way, don’t always stop breaking rules and such – but they get better the other way, desensitized, tough.

OK, I’ve lost track, giving my usual definitions, where were we?

It starts with random violence, maybe random alpha violence, then to deflection, and then to the straight up leveraging of abuse to produce aggressive soldiers, and finally to some upside down situation where we’re still employing that technology, still leveraging abuse to toughen our kids and criminals – but all this pre-existing structure is at odds with our modern, so far only ostensible desire for peace on Earth – so we just say “makes you good” – a word with no content whatsoever, a simple value judgement with no references to the how or why of the situation. Don’t worry, it’ll be “good.” You’re going to “love” this.

Again, it’s all good as long as we need these tough little psychopaths to protect us from all those tough little psychopaths, I guess. We have been stuck in this game forever, and despite that humankind is starting to have higher goals, this layer of self deception, this widespread conflation of what “good” we achieve with our morality of pain and coercion keeps us at the warrior society stage forever.

 

 

Jeff

Aug. 31st., 2019

Your Biological Goals

Some thing I keep losing, the thought I never get around to somehow, is this, for the warriors, for the Nazis: what I’m saying, AST, the conflicts, the wars – these are the goals, the goals of your biology, they are not a means to any end, the journey is the destination, the middle of the war is the victory this function seeks. The goal isn’t racial purity – who needs a Nazi soldier in a pure world? Then who would you kill?

The goal is the fight, eternally.

Many of us already grasp that one of Nature’s goals is not ours: maximizing your breeding. Many humans find their lives improved by getting free of that primate drive to whatever degree they can, I certainly have, and getting free of that will take some reason to exist away from the warriors of the world – but why can’t we see that’s the attitude to take with our natural urge to conflict as well? I mean, we think we do, and we do have some little success at it from time to time – but this is where I come in, where Antisocialization Theory comes in, what do we try to stop the fighting, punishments and abuse? And when that’s not working, then what, more of it?

I am objecting to this idea of morality as I acknowledge it: this is the stupid, violent behaviour we have that we have been calling morality forever. It doesn’t stop the fighting; it is the fighting.

Racial purity is the most impossible, most evolutionary uninformed concept ever voiced, the opposite of evolution, which is variation – so it’s an adaptive fiction, just keeps us in the fight. The purple ones hate the orange ones and the orange ones persecute the green ones  – the point isn’t which colour is better, even for the racists. The point of the ideology is life is a fight, we need to be fighting and killing somebody, and skin colour is such obvious and easy criteria, like God gave us team uniforms.

They want to choose their victims by race, we say “racist.”

They want to persecute LGBTQ folks, “homophobic.” (I have issues with aggression labelled as fear, seems the homophobes chose their label themselves, but it makes the list with its Newspeak name.)

I swear to God, maybe y’all don’t see it – but you are arguing about who we should persecute and kill all day long and the selection process is not the point, the point is by doing so you’re still allowing that we must kill somebody, like the haters are allowed to hate, they’re allowed to go on their rabble-rousing missions until we all decide, wait, no – save those folks. We like them.

You wanna be a wild, snarling animal like you portray your targets, fine, but don’t pretend there’s any end to justify the means – the means are the end, warrior life is a warrior’s goal. You blaming some “them” for the wars as you sneak off to your secret Nazi terrorist training camp? Biology fools us all.

You hear it all day long from the bad guys, we “don’t like,” “the bible says don’t” – and apparently for them, the rest doesn’t need to be said. Of course if you “don’t like” someone you have to kill them! This is what a core belief is, the one everyone has so you can never even know it’s there. We just argue about who gets the treatment, and honestly most of it is “my group shouldn’t get the treatment.”

No-one needs the treatment. I’ve often wondered why there isn’t a coalition of everyone not white and male among the resistance, among the complainers of the world, but as usual, AST brings answers where other theories obfuscate: we all think someone needs to be killed, so no-one is arguing against that, as such. No argument against war and genocide on principle, just who shall it be next? For instance, a lot of decent folks think that’s the solution for Nazis, I mean you can’t talk to the bastards – yes, I’m trying anyway. But seriously, even the nicest of us must hold this belief, because I don’t ever see anyone saying don’t ever kill anyone, ever, for nuthin’.

The real war is the struggle between the war and peace crowds and as long as we’re at war, the soldiers are winning against their own peaceful people. Admit it. If you’ve ever thought that far ahead, you know your war isn’t ever supposed to end. A nation built on war doesn’t retire and live in peace.

 

Jeff

Aug. 29th., 2019

Rule of Rules: the Unseen

There is a great, empty space in our minds, and it’s right in the middle of everything. It’s a place we cannot enter, but we must go to all the other places, so we’re always going around it, unaware. We live in curved space, we say, there is no straight line to anything; the quickest route is always an arc, around this unspeakable void in the centre of everything. The straight route is just around the next corner, always.

Of course, this meme works for many scenarios. The forbidden place can be the loss of God to an evangelist, the unconscious to an analyst, etc. I think to evolutionary biologists and many psychologists, when they must insert this void into their writings – a “black box” exercise, the trick of gleaning what you can from observing a thing in a system when the thing’s function is unknown – I think, to these modern scholars it is “aggression.” It’s a variation on the Man’s sinful nature theme, an unexplained, blanket value judgment right in the middle of our earnest attempts at understanding, science, psychology, everything.

Two paragraphs, that’s all the tension I can build, I don’t make you wait. I’ve worked it out, or I worry that I have, I mean, I’m not happy with my answer either, but I also haven’t changed my mind since yesterday: it’s abuse, or rather the mental and emotional pain of abuse. I’ve looked at rules and punishments, and while I understand the concepts of deterrent and control, the narrative about civilization and majority rule (as recently expounded/expanded by Richard Wrangham), I also understand some things that should place all that in some perspective.

First, the same suite of scientific thinking about humans and their origins that includes this majority morality places us as still being that proto-hominid, that ape, just under our skin, and all the glory of modern civilization, in another but parallel conversation doesn’t add up to spit, it’s a veneer and we are constructed of the same wood as chimpanzees. To talk about our moral accomplishments is an odd, puffed up stance that fits better in church or politics than in science.

Second, I did a thought experiment along the lines of one of Kant’s (OK, the only one I recall, the first part of the book I haven’t finished. He’s tough) about time and space where he decides that he can imagine space empty of things, but no things not in space, or time passing without anything happening, but nothing happening without time passing while it does, and so space and time to Kant were properties of the mind, since his mind could not operate without them. My point, the analogy is, rules and punishments are endlessly variable – “Thou shalt not kill” has its correlate in many times and places among nearly all people when thou shalt absolutely kill or be shunned, reviled or killed yourself. In a less extreme and more accessible vein, different societies have different rules, and things forbidden in one place can be ubiquitous elsewhere, some societies generally are more permissive than others – but all have rules, all have punishments.

No one rule is sacred, though some are more universal than others, and no penalty is sacred, though we say they all are, they change, new rules are created with new technologies, etc., – but we can imagine a completely alien set of rules and we perhaps cannot imagine a society with no rules at all. We can perhaps imagine a completely foreign set of punishments to go with a given set of rules – but can we imagine no punishments at all? Wow, I started the Critique nearly forty years ago, this analogy may have figured hugely in my approach to this.

Mama, can this really be the end?

No. Rules serve a purpose, one we all know – but no particular rule serves this purpose, none are indispensable, yet the purpose exists, so we are able to accomplish it with a set of rules that I assume I’d need some proof to call random, but that can certainly be variable, enforced with a set of penalties that are, shall we say, also an opportunity for some human creativity. So here’s the game: pick your rules, pick your penalties, we don’t care which ones, but you have to pick something from each bin. What does this accomplish, when we’ve ruled out the contents of any given rule?

The first, easy biology answer is of course, dominance. If the content of the rule doesn’t matter, then it’s who writes it, and who forces it upon whom, and clearly, that is absolutely what’s going on, all over the place, no question. The discriminating aspect of rules are all about our human groups, about who has to follow the rule and who doesn’t or who is forgiven and who isn’t.

But don’t even our most egalitarian dreams have rules and punishments, don’t our socialist or democratic fantasies about majority rule still include some built-in idea about rules and punishments, like time and space? Even in our utopian dreams, remove the alpha, the king, we still need rules, right? He was just taking advantage of our older habits, using the rules to his advantage. So, dominance, yes, but not being in that game myself, I don’t place a lot of priority on it. Again, perspective: we ain’t all alphas. That the minority dominants enjoy the situation doesn’t explain why you I and Kant can’t imagine no rules at all, ever. I think, when the excrement has flowed downhill, and the alpha’s bad mood today reaches the zeta man-ape and he turns to beat his wife and/or children for it, I think to call the zeta’s reactive violence “dominance” isn’t right, he’s defined as lacking it, and punching down is not how you acquire dominance, that requires punching up, to climb the ladder. To me it makes more sense to define these transactions as happening at the more basic level, not some highly developed concept of social dominance as much as just the cause and effects around social and physical abuse. A by-product, if you will, if you want to fit this into a worldview about civilization, about organization and dominance. Yes, he learned the rules, and yes, he knows his place.

My concern is that his lessons pissed him off.

And that, I worry, is the deeper point of them. Rules come and rules go and penalties are subject to changing times and to whom they are applied, but there must always be some set of rules and somebody must be penalized – the details don’t matter. You all know this. Here’s a story, names forgotten to protect the innocent (except mine, so it’s all knowable).

In my kid’s elementary school, some kid wrote some nasty gossip in the girl’s bathroom, and people had ideas about who did it but no proof, the school wasn’t bringing in handwriting experts to prove the matter. It was probably kid A, but there was a strong case about for kid B doing the deed knowing it looked like the work of kid A. Honestly, I can’t remember who got the punishment, a call home, maybe a suspension, I was already anti-punishment, I didn’t want to see any child punished, but they picked one and punished – knowing they had a fifty-fifty chance of punishing the right kid – actually something less than fifty-fifty, because there were other possibilities besides the main two kids. A message had to be sent, no crime goes unpunished! This function was served, despite that justice had less than an even money chance.

Even the perpetrator is interchangeable! Just so long as someone gets hurt. Dominance, sure, that principal over those kids, grownups generally over kids – but really, only an even money chance, if she got the wrong kid, a case can be made for the guilty kid’s dominance of everyone there. If she got the wrong kid, it was pure abuse for that kid, the whole world of grownups throwing in with the other kid’s dominance. Of course if she got the right kid, then the principal’s (and adults’ generally) dominance and the child’s experience of the penalty are all things we all agree with – but I submit we have still pissed that kid off. She may learn the lesson, but another kid may learn the same lesson in a nicer way, and if so, these kids’ life histories will be altered in different ways (statistically), both have the lesson’s knowledge, but one has a distasteful experience and memory. Deserved, didn’t “deserve,” this is not the point, the changes are the point. A different society, different set of rules, different crime, maybe a whole different “deserving” dynamic – same changes, this is the point. Doesn’t it sound like some white kid version of a super-villain back story, the unfairness?

What affects us is pain, not some long-winded construction about what the pain is supposed to accomplish. Pain is simple. Any idiot can cause pain and make changes in the world, especially if they’re actually trying to cause it. I know I’ve caused plenty while trying not to, but if I had been trying all these years, I think I could have done worse. I’ve been working all this out for myself and finding concepts I thought I had to name – I said “mimic meme,” and I switched to the generic sounding “useful fiction,” but if I’m talking biology, I’ve just heard “adaptive fiction,” so I guess that’s the term. At some point, though, at some level, if our adaptive fictions are pervasive enough, they become our adaptive truths, self-fulfilling prophecies.

I want to call this rule, that there must be rules and penalties and so pain, regardless of the particulars, one of our foundational adaptive fictions except that once we have adapted to it so completely, “fiction” doesn’t quite get to it; if it is inescapable in the human world, a case can be made that it’s an adaptive fact. If it’s our rule, and we make the rules, then this rule is factual enough for you, something like that? I think in reality it’s a fiction, just maybe not for us.

But it will need to be if we’re ever going to take the next step.

 

Jeff

April 28th., 2019

About the Abusive Ape Theory

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.

 

 

Jeff

Feb. 15th., 2019

 

That old fave: https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/07/03/biology-buries-the-lead/

I know. I spelled it right in the text, LOL

People of Earth, Part 2 – Conservatism

Well, you haven’t exactly been quiet, but you haven’t been @ing me about it, so I’ll take it. If you recall last week’s episode, we were talking about what a tough, stubborn, psychotic hammerhead you are and that if you’re not, it’s all you dream of being anyway, like that’s everybody’s answer for everything and not the whole bloody problem. So this week we’re going to back up one step and go over your stupid head to the whole warrior society.

The fact that you all think this stuff, worship this toughness, that means this is what you are allowed to think, this is what everyone is allowed to think, and in fact it’s assumed: you don’t actually have to articulate it to yourselves, and that is a test for a core belief. With this unarticulated but assumed at your cores, all you have to do to access this meme, to leverage it, is nothing. Passive voice, vague insinuations will lead you to what you believe in your sick heart, and harmless rhetoric turns wordlessly to violence, to the fight. What can you do in the face of a world of threats, known and unknown, but hope to be stronger?

Warrior society is human society, because if one human group goes warrior, the rest go warrior or they’re gone. Many, many peoples are gone, and many not just yet, so qualify it thus if you must: viable human societies are warrior societies.

That is the same idea in different words: if you wish to be a viable human group, in this bunch of groups, you worship toughness and there are no late starters. This is a hard truth for the hawks and the Nazis of the world, the players in the game of theory, or theory of games – but it was only a hard truth in our aboriginal state of much smaller groups, wasn’t it? This is a group-level truth and it represents our limitations, the place where ideas of universality go to die. The warmongers who would convince us of this level of truth are simply making a living off of their insight and stalling human progress towards the global problem solving we need to be doing.

To make it political, I believe this arrangement is what conservatives are defined by conserving; the progressives will say it’s their own power and the conservatives will say it’s institutions and so civilization, but I believe the word is fluid and really references this unconscious or unstated reality of the warrior society. That this is the definition explains why there are two ways for a thing to be, conservative or radical and little room between the two, because fighting is something you either do or don’t do. You warrior or you don’t – and you do, so mostly conservatives rule, with or without free elections. When a socialist or an actual liberal politico says the ultimately vague “do something,” their supporters can insert all manner of compassionate programs – but it’s vague so as to also access what the conservatives mean when they say it.

When a conservative says, “do something,” though, you know you’re in warrior society. You know they are talking about hurting someone. Generally, this is what is meant by “rhetoric,” someone subtly and unindictably leading you to your own warrior instincts. Isn’t it about time someone did something about it?

How would you like it, Trump starts saying somebody needs to do something about you?

I keep bringing myself back to this, through some sort of grammatical algebra, I feel I’ve shown that every verb is a battle and every noun is an enemy: my opponent is never going to do anything! That’s enough, right? You get the picture, or at least the feeling?

So conservative is default, sort of, humans stuck in the very middle of time, fighting their eternal wars, nurturing their eternal genocidal dreams, as God made it, world without end . . . and as such it is self proving and perpetuating, and the fact that so many just  feel it in their bones is exactly the same as so many young men feeling it in their bones to join the army or the police or the skinheads and fight for something. I’m telling you, I know it feels right. I’m saying the fact that it feels right is so wrong, a terrible wrong foisted on all of us and you not least. Please, sixteen to twenty-five is a very volatile time, try to ride it out. Your feelings, those feelings are bad news, “natural” or not. So, conservatism is closer to the human default, the warrior society – humanity 1.0, the basic, proprietary package that comes with your hardware, with rudimentary, bare-bones versions of all the good apps. If it feels right, well, it sort of is what you were made for.

This way of looking at life explains why conservatives seem to be stingy regarding education for the masses, since their platform mirrors the human default mode of operation.

For the rest of us, those who maybe aren’t winning in warrior society, or those who are but remain unsatisfied, that’s just not good enough. We have seen some glimpse, somehow had the insight that things can and must be improved. Some of us would like a rest and to try not doing anything for a change, see what that’s like.

 

Jeff,

Feb. 4th., 2019

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2019/01/14/people-of-earth/

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2019/02/06/people-of-earth-part-3-liberals/

AST and Me, an Introduction

I have no education, high school and reading. My family was very into popular psychology and self-help stuff, Alice Miller was all the rage in the years before I had my kids, childhood abuse stuff. We had plenty of abuse ourselves, sexual stuff.

The psychology wasn’t enough for me, I felt like things were simpler or maybe just worse than that mindset seemed to think. I saw no clear line between “punishment” and “abuse” is the main thing; I had an insight, that if they look the same, maybe they are the same, despite that the person doing it said they were completely distinct. Don’t they all, right?

I went into marriage and child-rearing with just that simple view and determined I would not punish or discipline and therefore would not be revisiting my abuse on anyone. It looked very good, for a very long time, it really did seem that things were backwards from the way people talk, that whooping your kids causes the bad behaviour and not the other way around. It was exhausting having toddlers and never taking the short cut of hurting or scaring them, but things only got easier after that and we had no behaviour issues at all. Life looked idyllic.

(Things went bad for me when they were grown, but I think that is a personal psychodrama, stuff aside from discipline or the lack of it.)

When my youngest of the two daughters was seventeen, I read a few Pinker books, the Nurture Assumption, and the Sapolsky book, the Zebra one, basically discovered biology, and it blew my mind, as it can do, as it famously did to Trivers, I like to think. I also like to think, ‘like Einstein,’ I had two streams of info that needed to be reconciled, ‘Blank Slate’ psychology and biology, nurture and nature.

I had spent years defending my ultimately coddling child-rearing and was amazed at how my ideas weren’t getting through to the people around me and the parents online, amazed at how what looked identical to me – discipline and abuse – couldn’t apparently be seen by most people, at all. I argued, don’t do that, because it damages them . . . and at some point, it struck me.

The damage is the point.

What we call crimes and misbehaviours are basically just war behaviours, and all the “negative outcomes” associated with “abuse” would be positives in a war situation. Violence, mostly. You want that in your soldiers. (I don’t want that. Those books were mostly ones that the alt-Right love. I am not with them.)

From a parenting POV, from psychology, all the negative outcomes of abuse are accidents or something, people “losing control,” “going too far,” while the good outcomes are supposed to be from conscious, controlled discipline. Well, the kids can’t always tell the difference, and my biology insight was, their genes and their hormones probably can’t either, and so biologically there is no difference.

So now I think the abuse, and the effects of abuse are the true function, and all the “discipline” talk is one of Trivers’ self deceptions.

We discipline our children, to damage and desensitize them, to make troopers of them. The “accidental” negative outcomes are our biologically evolved strategy to make ourselves tougher, in the arms race of our group conflict. At the extreme end, we abuse and torment to make amok men and berserkers, and at the invisible end, we beat our future accountants to make sure they vote for a “strong” leader.

The biology, of course is our responses to abuse, in real time, as well as some Lamarckian evolution, that we have alleles triggered by abuse – and we pull those triggers ourselves. We also select for them.

So this is my global, grandiose thing.

The damage IS the function, in fact Murphy’s law applies, right? Do something sweet for kids, they won’t grow up how you want, but abuse them, and you will see changes. “Nurture” as a real function, is damage. We can change people – but only in one direction. It’s only positive nurturing that no-one has been able to find.

I’m grandiose, I feel I’ve found nurture when no-one else has, and I feel that if this Murphy’s law of nature is true, then it sort of proves our “innate” selves to be good and kind and our nastiness to be an overlay we apply almost consciously. Or at least enhance almost consciously.

My detail arguments aren’t comprehensive, I know, I only have answers for stuff that was in the Nurture Assumption or such. It’s this overview I feel is something. I have tried to be honest, tried to account for everything I’m aware of in the world, and I think this idea fits into the world generally, I don’t think there are famous scientific principles I’m violating with it . . . on the other hand, such a sweeping thing becomes unprovable for all sorts of other reasons . . .

Where I’m stuck is of course, what to do with this knowledge? It’s rather large to change. Any family that stops it is maybe going to see their kids chewed up and spit out. I am worried about my own kids this way. All I can seem to hope for is to get it out there and hope the world recognizes it and slowly all starts to change.

If it were possible to do anything about it, I would think this idea – I’ve been calling it Antisocialization Theory – would be the first best idea humanity has had, since ideas about evil human nature took hold, at least. I wonder if this isn’t the Fall right here, that we discovered the magic power of abuse.

Jeff

Feb. 3rd., 2019

 

AST – The Part I Forgot to Tell You

 

The Nature VS Nurture debate is settled, or at least fragmented into many smaller, more sensible questions, and it’s pretty much all Nature, I do not wish to argue the point – but I wish to answer the untreated side of the question, the “wrong” side, the nurture assumption. Not just that, though, not only why we make some assumption about influence, but what is it that we do in our attempts to influence. Just because your attempts don’t “succeed,” don’t make your kid love the things you hope they will, doesn’t mean they don’t do something.

Is that implicit in the victory of Nature?

That our nurturing, if it doesn’t make number one son want to take over the store, then must do nothing at all?

That is where abusewithanexcuse.com and “Antisocialization Theory” come in – I don’t think I’m really arguing with anyone, I just think I’m working in this area here, this corner just past “the nurture assumption is wrong,” where everyone turns back. This is where I see that parents and children alike spend all day long trying to influence children and everyone else, by all sorts of means and methods and to suggest that “they’re wrong” to try, because the nurture assumption is wrong is something no-one ever said to any parent anyway, even if we talk about it on paper. I am saying what we do all day in the attempt matters and that is where the helpful science would be.

This is where the book by that name had left me: the nurture assumption isn’t true, people spend all day every day working away at an assumption that isn’t true . . . for nothing? Thousands of years, and no-one noticed, no exhausted parents noticed, all that work and it’s for nothing?

I accept the negative expression of it, with caveats: parents do not create the traits they say they are trying to create in their children. I do not accept that their trying all day simply does nothing and doesn’t require a positive explanation, what it does do, why we do in fact do it. This is the question I am answering, the question Antisocialization Theory answers. I didn’t know I was looking at one of the smaller, more sensible debates around Nature VS Nurture, I hadn’t heard terms like “directed evolution,” or “conscious evolution.” Those couple of alt-Right science bibles I read were still laughing at Lamarck – which, come to think of it, sounds very close to just laughing at evolution now, doesn’t it?

Both those expressions go too far. Directed by whom? Conscious – a whole species, this one? But it’s close. I think I am a sub-category of the Directed Evo crowd, maybe.

 

Jeff

Jan. 29th., 2019

Safety and Security and Nature Metaphors

Sure, in that order, too.

Safety, I want to say is a state of not having to worry. Safety would be the certainty that one could fall asleep out of doors and wake up intact, so, in a time and a place where unreasoning predators have been banished, and the human beings around you practice a live and let live attitude and have enough to eat that you are not seen as a resource they must exploit. Some lucky few in the history of our species have enjoyed this state, mostly the wealthy and well guarded, to be sure. I think this is my vision of the liberal utopia, and while it’s mostly been a privilege item, I believe this is the liberal vision that we hope to extend to all people.

Something like that. I want to define safety as again, not even having to worry, because all who can touch you are friendly or at least reasonable.

Security is best stated as the proposition that it’s a good life if you don’t weaken, meaning that the only measure of safety available in the world doesn’t rise to my definition above, because any safety requires the ability to fight. Security I define as détente, as deterrent, a peace only possible because we can damn well war as good as they can, a peace and safety where we’re afraid of our own, our fathers, our leaders, because their first priority becomes antisocialization, making sure we can fight. True safety under this arrangement of deterrents is only possible when all your enemies are dead, and so that is always the extreme dream at the far end of thought for those whose livelihoods depend on keeping us “secure.” I’m sure all involved are conscious of the self-perpetuating nature of this game, that our defenders are their attackers and vice versa, but what way is there to get off of this wheel?

One way to view the many nature metaphors we hear, capitalist and anti-capitalist imaging about wolves and sheep being almost all that come to mind, it’s so prevalent – might be as a form of nostalgia, meaning we often look to nature or to the past for solutions, it being very good and Earthy wisdom that there is nothing new under the sun, that things weren’t always so strange and bad as they are today, and things were “better back then.”

I haven’t pondered the conservatism of that attitude, the details of why we think it so much, that the past was better – but that’s where I want to stop the world and get off of that train of thought and onto a new one.

I think morality, a better life, the possibility of getting off of the security hamster wheel, these things aren’t in our past, and I don’t see as the other critters that walk, swim, crawl, etc., have a roadmap to them either. It’s something I say in nearly every blog, I think, but I’m trying to dedicate this one to just this proposition: we need to invent this good stuff. No, we didn’t just have it a minute or a few centuries or millennia ago, and no, the chimpanzees aren’t going to teach us what “altruism” is. This stuff only exists in our heads; if we want to see it in real life, we have to invent it, we have to envision it, plan it, build it, make it all happen.

The utopia, nobody’s utopia is going to be found in our animal past. It’s not hiding somewhere to be uncovered, it’s waiting to be built. The search for the “roots of altruism” is driving me spare. To explain it with costs and benefits is to explain the very opposite: altruism is doing something for someone else, by definition, and all these definitions alter the experiment, like quantum stuff. The choice to do something for someone else is invisible, just in someone’s head, a fleeting thought that comes into existence and fades out without a trace, as thoughts do. Steven Pinker said as much somewhere, that much of what humans do they do with this free-floating “thinking module” that can apparently be applied to any sort of problem, including hypothetical and future situations that no particular evolutionary past might explain. Surely this module of the brain evolved for material purposes, but it’s what does math and all sorts of abstract stuff that isn’t all mission critical for every human, and this is the part that we must use to create our moral world, any utopia at all, ever.

Now, I know there’s a lot of thinking, a lot of philosophy says we can’t.

I also certainly understand that asking seven and a half billion people to simply do better is no answer at all. I’m not arguing against people not knowing everything and making mistakes and screwing up their lives and maybe the lives of many others before they learn more about things, that is clearly as inevitable for us as it is for all else that walks, swims and crawls through the muck. I think I’m in the big game, in the conversation, and I’m arguing that at least our educators and public figures could stop with forever siding with our baser selves, could stop with forever with this nature nostalgia, with this myth that we ever did figure out how to live and just forgot or something. With this myth that somehow whatever we’re already doing and have forever until yesterday is somehow supposed to change things for the better. A return to a natural state is not the goal, it can’t be, Elon Musk wants to go to Mars, for one thing, and if I had to guess who was going to get their way, him or me, well.

If we try to build a moral world, a rational world, the most good for the most people and the least evil, it ain’t back in the garden.

I think we’ve proven that we can destroy this place, so it seems less impossible that we could manage it, doesn’t it? No-one would have dreamed we could accomplish that a few centuries ago, and look at us and our bad selves, now right at the precipice! We could if we understood enough to want to, if we understood that this nasty ape “following his heart” is really what got us here, that being “social,” and reinforcing one another’s natural evolved feelings is not the path to the utopia but the eternal path to war.

It is my personal stance that the “unreal,” invisible world of our thoughts is where some rationality may be found, and that morality will require rationality, but that we must learn to separate the social from the cerebral. One example of such would be not ever saying things like “my country, right or wrong.” It’s the right or wrong part we need to start focussing on. Not so much the “my” bit, the social part. Being social is what makes us secure, of course it is.

But it doesn’t make us safe.

 

Jeff

Nov. 28th., 2018