Workarounds

Not motivated today, this will be short and bitter.

(Update: motivation showed up to derail this. Now it’s middling long and bitter.)

Been reading or listening to Trivers talking about the awful issue of what are called “honour killings” of women in some cultures, families making examples of their own daughters to enforce family or sect marriage rules. This, at the very first glance seems counterintuitive to social theory and relatedness, parents killing their offspring, but he makes the case that the practice thrives where all the families and so daughters are so related to one another that relatedness rules are actually held, and parental genes are not actually lost, copies are everywhere and your nieces carry as many of your genes as your daughter. So one’s own children are discounted, to employ the evo/economic terms used in this awful sort of conversation, not worth more than the neighbors’ daughters, hereditarily speaking.

If the example works, then the kids marry the cousins like Dad says, and this genetic situation stays intact, and the Dads can maintain their dominance by the most brutal means, even over their own children, with “no genetic conflict.” Bob didn’t say anything that sounds so glib, I don’t think. He’s trying to help these women.

What he’s uncovered is a workaround, one of the human technologies for us implementing a system of ubiquitous abuse that no other creature seems to be trying, and if social relatedness theory is the “natural” order of things, then finding a workaround, evolving a way to abuse and even kill our own offspring – I know everything is “evolved,” everything is “natural,” but isn’t this a natural, evolved phenomenon that clearly works against nature, against a bigger, better nature?

A workaround, for nature?

That’s not different than saying a workaround for reality. You start creating workarounds for that, this is where you are going wrong! No?

This is how social realities are our realities. We have worked around reality and nature so well that we are not safe around our parents – again, not a mainstream situation in nature, not the real nature. Real nature is more like Bambi, isn’t it? Mom loves you, never beats your ass (and dies young, predated)? I’m trying to imagine a backstory like that for myself, it would be a happy sort of memory. Ok, I did. I don’t remember Mom whooping me, but she was pretty normal, I’m sure the other kids got it. I do remember her walking away a couple of times, probably in the worst of circumstances.

Bob speaks my language.

I’m from Vancouver, and I like to half joke that I only feel at home when it rains, but somehow I feel closer to home when I’m reading Bob too. It’s workarounds I’ve been sorting through too, right? I harassed the poor man until he had to answer me, and when he asked for the short version, I said parents beat their kids to make soldiers of them, and he said “sounds whacky to me,” and I have since figured out he meant relatedness, and where I was maybe mostly wrong was I was missing the workaround.

It’s the children’s group, the teachers at the schools, other adults, the police . . . we have plenty of people to abuse, intimidate and maybe kill our children for us. Residential schools, boarding schools, military schools. In the aboriginal style village, maybe the children’s group has third and fourth cousins – and they can sure enough beat you into conformity if your parents won’t, but when communities get larger, opportunities multiply. In this way, our children can be toughened up, hardened and sharpened for war or crime without all of us having to deliver the beatings personally and suffer the relatedness conflict directly and personally. Of course, our antisocialization works better and is more thorough when it’s everyone in society getting their kicks in, and it’s not just some personal battle between you and Dad.

Having said all that, though – Dad is part of everyone, and it’s not whacky to say he’s getting his kicks in too, that there are clearly workarounds at the personal level too, so my time of chastisement about this is over, Bob. Maybe not all of them, but, yes, parents beat their kids to make soldiers of them. Not saying consciously.

Not saying they all join the army – many are gang soldiers of some sort, many are ruthless capitalists, there is no shortage of battles to join. I say this with more confidence now, knowing that conflicts with relatedness theory are not any sort of deal-breaker for Bob, that in fact, therein lie whole fields of study.

I will say, Antisocialization theory lacks the genetic clarity of the honour killing theory. Cloning all your tribe’s kids so you can make examples of a few and maintain a rule of terror, that’s got clarity, no kidding. If there are identifiable genetic pieces to my puzzle, evolved abuse, alleles that respond to an abusive environment, I sort of assume all humans have them; I don’t think there is going to be a breeding explanation.

I’m afraid it’s the war explanation, the damned game theory explanation: this is a group level phenomenon. We abuse for the dominance or survival of the group. It’s a trade-off, a workaround. We sacrifice everything, even our children, for the war effort. I’m talking about inter-group conflict, and we’ve seen it with the chimps and humans of all sorts, whole groups wiped out. If genes enjoy a greater survival among a group at all, then those genes’ existential threats are only threats to the whole group, why wouldn’t an adaptation exist for that survival critical problem, or any number of adaptations?

Our gene-groups are living in competition with one another, one on one at that level, so to speak, and we see one on one competition among large organisms producing all manner of weaponry and defense and adaptations, some creatures grow enormous during these tournaments, some quick and devious – evolution produces variety.

So why not one mammal that has developed a workaround for mammalian nurturing to enhance its weaponry?

There is some love, something that brings a social animal together, some safety that we assume starts or keeps group creatures in their groups, some prosocial benefit, safety from predators mostly, to be sure – but there is some hate, something that limits group size and stops the growth of the prosocial network – I’ve just learned in Folly of Fools that xenophobia looks like an adaptation for parasites, that every region, maybe every group has its parasites and its adaptations to them, its immunities, and it doesn’t have them for the parasites a distant stranger carries with them, so no strangers!

That seems reasonable, but avoidance would be the thing then, and perhaps not aggressively seeking these other-infected neighbors out, exposing ourselves to their blood and fluids – and eating their brains to gain their powers, LOL. Wait – double laugh maybe. If they have toxoplasmosis, maybe you really do gain their fearlessness doing that! Perhaps there is parasite avoidance along with parasite seeking. I mean, sexual attraction sure seems prone to be full of parasitic wishes, if it’s not what it’s for, well it sure works, boy howdy. So, no, xenophobia is not an adaptation for parasite avoidance – damn, I have to go back and check if that’s what he said or if I interjected that – but parasite preference. Again, avoidance would mean flight, not fights.

Fights would be more like parasite acquisition raids!

If that is a possibility, parasites both pushing us apart and pulling us together, then I’m going to imagine that as a lot of interesting detail that for all I know cancels out and my antisocialization adaptation probably still works with entirely different suites of parasites and human genes anyway. Microscopic stuff is interesting and important for how it affects us, but lots of stuff way up here at talking level affect us too, or we wouldn’t spend so much time talking about those dirty, infected neighbors.

Oh my God, he must have said that, I am busting my hero as an evil evo-bro. To be clear, the point he was making was different, it was that there is a direct correlation with parasite load and number of (isolationist?) religious sects, that in the tropics, where parasites are more numerous, so are religions, and I can’t complain about that – this generalization, xenophobia as an adaptation that perhaps was a more casual observation, and I’m going to read it again, but I’m not even sure he suggested that it works to keep away foreign parasites, only that perhaps it is why we try.

But again, surely, if xenophobia has you going to their land, seeking them out, drinking their blood, stealing their food, livestock, women and children and raping who you leave behind and alive – are you really trying to avoid their parasites? LOL. I suppose acquiring a new parasite and acquiring immunity to it happens together, if at different speeds, but if immunity  can be viewed as a “power,” then maybe there is something to this head-hunting ideology after all, eat them, gain their immunity. Aboriginal wisdom, Good Lord.

Busting your hero is supposed to be your bar mitzvah, right, a triumph, not a sadness? I know, a rare case, a casual lapse and not the point of the thesis. Low hanging fruit.

Impossible not to think of it as a Freudian slip, though, some sort of ugly bias. I may owe someone on Twitter a most humiliating apology. What was the previous theory?

Oh yes, human groups limited by the law of inverse squares, that beyond your third or fourth cousins, we stop recognizing our own genes and start seeing the majority other’s genes instead, that family resemblances fade as genetic interest fades. I seem to be missing the part where lack of interest becomes an intense interest in eating them, though, that “lack of interest” equals hostility, that is an unconscious bias I am trying to understand and combat – same one contained in the perceived slip discussed above.

So, back to my search. There is some hate also, that ensures our safe human group is not one safe, global human group, some trade-off we make for the group that makes it so that where the love isn’t, hate is. The safer we are within the group, the more dangerous it becomes to step outside of it, what seems a normal, perhaps infantile, prosocial desire for safety immediately becomes a murderous kind of security, a scorched earth sort of policy.

I don’t take it for granted. Brutal, violent nature is not obvious to me.

What has been granted? What is obvious? Anyone who has ever experienced ten minutes of peace with another human being knows that it’s possible, that conflict is not necessary and obvious. I am slowly asphyxiating, turning blue waiting for the oxygen of a science for which our initial condition is not one of senseless, automatic, unstoppable violence – one of Christian Original Sin, basically – some science where that perception warrants an explanation.

I mean, of course we think that’s the background for everything, we would think that, we’ve been antisocializing ourselves for maybe five million years, we’ve been making a point of nurturing and growing the genes that think exactly that – but intelligence doesn’t start with us. If you want to understand the world, you need to take a better perspective than yours! You have to imagine what would happen when the particles collide when you’re not watching, when you’re not part of the action.

 

 

Jeff

Oct. 27th., 2019

Jeff

Oct. 27th., 2019

The Sunny Side of Life

It’s waiting for us.

It’s out there, the utopia, Jesus’ heaven on Earth, a better way.

Enough of us seem to think so, that it seems we have a gene for that, to use a twentieth century expression, for thinking so, at least. Questions abound, always, what does this statement of biology indicate? That we think it can exist – or the other part, that we think it exists “out there,” forever? Is that idea, it’s out there, a condition or an ingredient for something, the main reaction itself, or the by-product, the residue of some other interaction?

If it’s the first thing, a beginning, or a place to start, what brain process is it working to enable, that is perhaps not quite happening? If it’s the last thing, well, wishing for a better place, that is the residue of abuse. What was the middle thing again? Oh, God forbid. If that is the function itself, just to have the thought and then get back to work, just a happy fantasy, provided by your genetics to balance out the apparent failings of this world here . . . if that’s all it is? Wait, “all?” What am I saying?

Sigh. Well then, I guess I’m happy to have it, aren’t I? Aren’t you?

Thank Darwin! How hard would life suck without that? Eesh!

Tease me, please! All the mercies are not small. Hope, built-in with your DNA is no small thing, and give it up at your peril! The road to Why Bother is littered with the most miserable of corpses. I’ve always tried to prepare myself, always tried to be open to the idea that it’s possible that there is no better way, or that we’ll never find it if there is, but I am not “open” to knowing that for sure!

What’s the point in that?

I, were I your intelligent designer, have just worked out that you need this possibility in your programming, and I would not cut that corner: that’s yours, you keep that. I’m keeping mine, is the point, it’s one of my sacred cows, a premise for me.

If it’s not the case, well, science requires proving the obvious too. There’s still value in it. If it’s silly and we would be further ahead to grant the point and do the serious work of care and treatment in this nasty old world, well, I don’t think I’m taking a lot of people away from that, and anyway, you can still think this and do that. But granted, someone else is going to have to do any thinking involved in that, I’m off on this other thing.

But the dream is not the end, take heart! Yes, I’ve made an old time philosophical case to show we have the thought, that we would need it, true or otherwise, but that does not prove the reality cannot be, same as paranoia is not proof of safety. Just because we need the thought whether it’s true or not doesn’t prove it’s not. In fact – if we have a built-in meme that doesn’t care whether it’s true or not, if that’s true and necessary, then that suggests a function that must operate at all times, or under all circumstances, doesn’t it? In either condition! We need to think the better way is out there, even if it really is, because, well, what’s the point in an interactive world if you don’t know it is, or rather, we use deception sure, but the basic function of this organ is to perceive the world at least in some of the ways that it really is, and it wouldn’t what’s the word, exist, if it didn’t succeed at it to some degree.

Seems that change and hope are not always apparent looking outward, and that would be enough to give the idea of a better world an evolved reason to be. I’m just saying, if it’s true, if things really can be better, that doesn’t making thinking so dangerous or costly, matching thought to reality, that’s still the plan most of the time for an organism that enjoys viability! Of course, the basic version of this gene is, you need to think it to get you out of bed or get you in there not alone, to keep the ol’ genes alive and marching into the future and wow, put it that way, it doesn’t sound less deterministic and humancentric than the Bible, does it? Never mind!

Focus.

Anyhow, even the conservatives, even the Bible people, even those apparently committed to a static world as God made it and denying our power to affect things such as climate or war, even they have this meme, a utopia, even a sort of a map. Crazy as it is. Either there are many versions of the allele for what the utopia looks like, or there is no specific utopia allele at all, just the feeling that it’s out there and the urge to invent it.

Warning: employ some of your evolved, built-in hope: “not impossible” is likely to be as positive as it gets. I’ll try, but I’d have to be fooling myself, I think.

And again, take the mercies, none of which are small when you need them. If I prove to myself the utopia really is impossible, you won’t see this blog and this conversation never happened! Couldn’t hurt to have a go, right? Can’t dance and too fat to fly, as Mom used to say. I loved Mom, but she used to say some awful stuff, don’t we all.

OK, to it, what brings me here today.

So we have the gene for the urge. Do we have the genes for the utopia?

My entire blog has been an exercise in turning that question upside-down and saying: we have the genes for Nineteen Eighty-Four and we should stop selecting for them and activating them, and that feels like an answer to me, but I’ll grant it doesn’t to everybody. If you read me, you know, I think my version is the question we have in front of us now, and if we answer that, then maybe we’ll be in a better position to take the next step and start talking about positive things. But I suppose I should have a foray down that road, see if we can see around the first corner.

I always liked the following Tom Waits lyric –

Don’t you know there ain’t no Devil, there’s just God when he’s drunk?

But it seems my philosophy has taken me the other direction, it seems I see a world where there ain’t no God, just the Devil when he’s feeling sorry. Ah! There’s my way out of this!

Of course, we created both those entities. That is entirely up to us. I love Tom, but I’m tired of that world, his God must be wasted twenty-four seven. What, prithee, is the upside of assuming only good things about people or gods and then spending all your time trying to explain the discrepancies? Some folks are always selling, always spending their time on polish, improving the appearance of things that maybe require real, deep repair work. I don’t mean Waits, it’s just a meme. I mean the thought he voiced, not the particular individual voicing it, I mean something rational, thought-related, word-based . . . don’t get social on me now!

Sorry, the current pet peeve, taking me like a seizure. It’s not the person, it’s the thought. Don’t be listening to the mob, talking about people, specific people or groups of people! Don’t you know crowds are famously stupid? Find the smart few and listen to them talk about ideas, you know, like school and church – teachers, readers! Not your crowd of friends, talking about people! You know this, but we manage not to, but you know this and when you talk to me, I am going to hold you to it: crowds are stupid, yours too. Of course! A committee is a creature with six or more legs and no brain – so how smart is your crowd? How smart are the millions on social media, then?

You know this. You owe humankind that you act like it.

“Social” isn’t open-ended, it isn’t global. When you allow your people to talk such rubbish, when you go with the local flow, you are being social, prosocial with the folks around you and antisocial with the folks around you, and antisocial is where the power is because as I say every week, we have abuse-controlled genes – again, sort of assuming we don’t have the equal and opposite ones, because, well, empirical and anecdotal observation over six decades almost, I won’t lie. But maybe they’re in there. Maybe there are other reasons things appear, uh, one sided.

Wait – is my “genes for” meme wrong? Is it more like versions of genes, meaning we activate the mean version of a bunch of genes, that genes have two sides? If this is how things are, then there is no search to make, they’re right here, or right here buried, and if we managed to create an environment that touched those genes the other direction, then perhaps I would be having to wonder if it were possible to ruin a person instead of wondering if it’s possible not to.

Ouch. The truth hurts, so I guess that’s the case, or at least it’s my belief that it is.

Hey – do I do writing backwards?

Isn’t Hemmingway laying down a lot of personal pain and experience and it works because we all have those feelings . . . and aren’t I laying down global truths and having personal feelings about those instead? Trying, I mean, trying for truths and trying for universality . . . trying to be . . . “global-social?” Trying to transcend groupness, trying to find a “social” that isn’t largely antisocial. I don’t say “them” or “they” much, do I? I’ll plan to do so less, whatever that answer is. I know it’s usually “us” or “you” . . . hmm. OK. Maybe when I say “you” I’m often only addressing some version of “my people,” some group I feel I have a right to talk to or criticize. I’ll try to be more aware of that, I bet I’m failing that way. It’s supposed to be the universal “you,” but I suppose I complain about memes from here, about Christianity when a global version would be “religion,” like that. It’s xenophobia to specify some distant group when I need to talk about a group, though, so it’s not clear how I’m going to change that. Groupless language doesn’t exist, that’s one way to express our whole problem.

So, I haven’t gotten anywhere here, spent fifteen hundred words setting it up, then an obvious, single paragraph answer that adds up to my usual prescription, stop activating the worst versions exclusively, then maybe we’ll be able to stop fighting and talk about some positive future . . .

Don’t you know there ain’t no Devil, there’s just Darwin when he’s abused?

That’s better. Like I said, if I had proven there is no God, just the Devil hung over, we never would have had this talk. The versions of genes thing certainly echoes any psychological take on the situation, that when you take one option, the road not taken disappears, that I feel a need to search, because it is my cover-up in the first place, the answer I seek is written on a post-it note on my forehead, never to be seen looking outward. We have turned off our better natures, the genes we seek are the ones we have made invisible.

But it does mean they’re there!

Right?

It’s not no hope, right?

 

Jeff

September 29th., 2019