No Room in the Warrior Society

. . . for a boy who won’t fight. I thought I read it in The Nurture Assumption, Judith Rich Harris, but I can’t find it. It may have been in one of some shorter papers I’ve read by her, or one of Steven Pinker’s books, I’ll keep looking, but it was in one of those very popular science books, so the idea is out there. If it was in anything I’ve read, then it wasn’t one of those author’s own papers originally . . . I’ll have to find it to cite it, won’t I? Anyhow, I think the story was in support of the Nurture Assumption’s main idea, that parents do not create child culture, and she describes how in some straight-up forest warrior society, that warrior training occurs in boyhood and timid, won’t fight sorts of boys are abused and goaded into fighting. Those that never do, in this group, according to these anthropologists – Mead? The Yanomamo? – those that never return the blows, are killed as the logical end of the process of fighting them to make them fight. I believe it was the author’s punch line I’m paraphrasing in my opening. No room for weak links, we might need you some day.

Not that I think it would have helped, but I wish I’d had a man around to tell me that fifty-some years ago. Between that and a little info on inherent family conflicts, maybe I would have had a chance not to believe everything Momma tol’ me.

I’ve been a good boy, tried hard and mostly succeeded, but by women’s standards, abused women’s standards. In the boys’ culture of game theory, in the warrior society where I’m supposed to be a man, I am useless. I mean, I passed the tests, the boys’ tests, when I was little, I was a fearless little Irish terror for a while there, but that ended at the beginning of puberty, apparently. The fights I got into after I was twelve or so, I never had any interest in, and I talked the fellow down when I could and avoided him if it seemed like the encounter was destined to imprint the warrior life on my pretty young face. I absolutely let fear rule my life, I switched high schools once and wound up giving up school entirely after that. There were other reasons, but that was absolutely one of them. I just realized something.

I never fantasized winning the fights I avoided.

I mean, I fantasize fight situations, I’m a man, I run little simulations, I tell myself that if some badass walked in my door to do me in, that I would have a chance, a plan – but I don’t think I have ever had a daydream where I won a fight against these bullies from my life. Realism may be a factor, I really had zero chance, size, experience, and everything else would have been a hundred to one sort of a thing. My only chance would have been to surprise them with a knife or something, and even then, size and experience. Plus, these dudes guaranteed had switchblades of their own – and experience. But to never fantasize a thing like that? My gonads aren’t working, right? I lived in terror, changed my life – but I wouldn’t want the fight even if I knew I could win it. It’s not like I’ve been going around getting into fights I think I can win either! Are we there yet?

No room for me in this world, is what I’m saying. No room for a man who won’t be a man. Maybe I was nine or ten when I stopped fighting, it was one my childhood experiments, I guess I thought I’d try to unload on someone.

There was this Zeta (I better look that up too) juvenile male, the one everybody seemed to unload on, it seemed that everyone beat this kid, I don’t know why, but he was my age, nine, ten, and he looked like The Battler already, anything that was going to flatten out or break on Rodney’s face already was, you know? This is certainly an unfair characterization; it’s a childhood memory and I know I’m using Rodney now for my own ends. I’m sorry, Rod, if you’re still out there. All I really remember is his wide forehead and hard, sharp nose – he kept his chin tucked, I guess. I’m not happy with my impulse in this story, all I can say is, I’m happy it only happened once.

I decided I would unload on this kid, that I would give beating someone up a try, see if I liked it or something. I don’t think I thought “unload” at the time, that’s how I see it now, having taken from schooling from the Master of Stress, Dr. Robert Sapolsky. I found him after school or something, cornered him and started throwing punches at him, hurting my hands on him and then I just had this WTF am I doing moment right in the middle of it and I stopped, apologized, told him I had no idea why I was doing it and I think I promised him he’d have no more to worry about from me. I think I also realized at that moment that he was five times tougher than me, and to this day I count myself very lucky he didn’t turn the fight around and give me the stomping I deserved.

It looks like deep wisdom to me now, Rodney, you schooled me, let he who is without sin, kind of thing. You were a huge influence on my mind and my life – is it Brown, Rodney Brown? White guy, Mount Pleasant Elementary, around 1970? I was a fledgling bully for a second there, and my first victim was an experienced one, a goddam expert. Maybe I’m giving too much credit, but the last guy in the world who had any obligation to be modelling peace for anybody accepted my apology and that was the end of it, which, in hindsight was Mandela-esque. I don’t know how life’s been or if you’re still out there, but you sure did right by me, even if I’m romanticizing your agency in the matter. You probably had fighting back thoroughly beaten out of you, no doubt what made you so attractive as a victim, right?

You hear that? Me, thanking Rodney and the Academy for my pacifism?

Truth to tell, I lost track a little there, memories intruding; I was supposed to be complaining about my low-T, not bragging, but that’s it, isn’t it? I’m talking about the downsides of my own attitudes. I have a low testosterone attitude, and proud as I may be of it, society doesn’t reward that sort of thing – just abused terrified women like to encourage that sort of thing, for obvious, understandable sorts of reasons, that don’t help me in my situation at all. So here I am today, with a fuzzy, half-formed consciousness of the origin of my passivity, and I know it exists for someone else’s survival strategy and is almost certainly detrimental to my own, meaning my morality is the morality provided for me by abused and fearful women, it’s all based on the idea that men are beasts or something and all their desires should be denied, me and mine expressly included – what are my options?

I’ve said it before: I looked at something I oughtn’t to have. Having questioned punishing, and so force and dominance, all of that, I don’t really think I have the option of just changing my mind, I mean it’s not a change of mind, it’s a learning thing. I am not going to just start trying to dominate anyone (sorry – it’s coming up soon, I mean I can’t start exercising any traditional male power in my family now, having never done so before. I found myself with no place in my female household, and standing up and demanding one wasn’t going to get me one the same way just complaining and asking didn’t), bring the people around me around to my way of thinking, like some young man who simply believes in himself, simply believes he deserves to and should dominate anyone. Even if I need some control to mitigate my own stress, even so, my having some share of dominance may be a biological need for me, I have seen the downside of that sort of attitude in the world, and it is no longer available to me. It always comes back to Bluebeard for me, you’ll never get any killin’ done if you go around thinking all the time – this is a piece of social sort of advice that I simply cannot take. I assume Sapolsky has come to the same conclusion, he seems to be a genuine fellow, despite of, or because of his revelation that he and all his famous professor author peers are alpha types.

In practical terms, it means the MRAs and the howl at the moon sorts of men’s retreats are exactly the opposite of what I’m looking for, save your invitations to the brotherhood. More importantly in my personal life, because those guys are not going to be part of it, it means I didn’t and can’t sit my girls down and tell them how it is going to be, I cannot make anything happen, despite that it seems to mean that the right thing isn’t happening, despite that all our lives are destroyed because an adult has supported a child’s decision rather than making an adult one themselves. I know I’m talking about both of my kids’ parents, I know it was an immature sort of decision of mine to abstain from my male power, a shirking of the responsibility for that power . . . should I have been normal? Should I have dominated my girls, which is normal, to make sure something like this could never happen to me, that I would get voted off the island and my kids would somehow have been used to do it? You know what it means, right?

Maybe my kid would have been domesticated, maybe when her teen conflict came up, she’d have toed the line and submitted, stayed home and in school – and maybe not. How much of the choice I didn’t make is right and proper and works for our goals, and how many of those folks’ kids simply move out into poverty? In those terms, I can’t and couldn’t make a different decision either. I had given up the option to act like a man and put my foot down about anything at the start of the child-rearing experience. That wasn’t going to be a solution at this late juncture, in fact, the girls all seemed to think that’s what I was doing already, or that I was getting ready to, and so any manly thing I might attempt would only prove their case; I did raise my voice a few times and it was over, they feared things were going to get worse and they had me leave, “to get better and then come back.” They’ve made it clear that they feel my attempts to communicate with them as manipulative and aggressive, so for me to prove I’m not trying to hurt them, I am left only the option of never speaking to them again – and I am very committed to proving it to them, so there we are. I love you girls, and to prove it, I’m going to do what you say and take half our money and leave forever.

(To my mind, that is sort of the fatal, mountain to climb to forgive sort of a sin, that they cut off communication with me. It was clear to me immediately that both there was nothing to “get better and go back” to, I’d given away my spot and my voice was forbidden, and that “getting better” from this, being abandoned by the family during a breakdown, wasn’t the most likely outcome. I begged them on this basis, to deaf ears. I know, they were scared, and if I have to tell you that knowing it was their fear, my wife’s fear that was the matter helped me not a fucking bit, then welcome to the second level of the conversation. You may defer to her fears if you wish, they have nearly killed me, and the outcome is not yet assured.)

I’m not looking for sympathy and I’m not trying to recruit anyone to my side of my divorce fight, I’m only laying it out to demonstrate what happens to a man who won’t play the dominance game, a man who recuses himself of authority, a boy who doesn’t fight. OK, there is something under my skin. We’re invisible too, boys who don’t fight. Life sucks for us because we are like Pit Bulls, it’s not what we do, it’s what we can do – I recused myself from the rewards that a strong man receives, but recusing one’s self from the liabilities, that doesn’t seem to be in my power. My soon to be ex-wife never seems to have understood or believed me that that is what I am, despite that I am the only man she ever heard of who wouldn’t so much as “pat a kid on the bum,” as they say.

All men must be treated as armed and dangerous, we must all be muzzled, apparently, and a life of good behaviour doesn’t change that. I gave it up for nothing, a liberal principle, and my daughters are as fearful of men as they were evolved to be, as though I had beaten them spare. There is a whole lot more to it, mostly just more reasons why they couldn’t have felt otherwise and maybe more of me saying I couldn’t have thought otherwise, a lot of reasons why I need to find a new way forward. Men are indeed dangerous and I worry that by responding to my ouster with passivity and obedience, I am teaching my girls a lesson that will get them hurt the next time they attempt it with some more regular fellow. It was an experiment, my life. It was looking like a spectacular success until suddenly it was over.

I hope the results can help someone someday, because the cost of this experiment was the quality of life for all of us.





September 15th., 2017


Knowledge of Good and Evil

            A Question for Bible Scholars


            An Answer for Everyone


Someone who knows the ancient Hebrew, the ancient Greek, someone help me. Is this a possible matter of interpretation or translation? I refer you to the very second Book, Genesis Two, and

“. . . the tree of knowledge of good and evil . . .” and “. . . the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

My train of thought has brought me to a mindset where a very small tweak to that bit of scripture might have tremendous explanatory power. What if – and yes, only a “just so” story without some support from ancient language experts – but what if the original idea was more like “. . . the technology of good and evil . . .” – like the knowledge of how to work with good and evil?

I’ve said it elsewhere recently, I know.

I also said this was the original sin, gaining this knowledge – or perhaps rather, developing this technology – and if it’s a technology, is it a sin to turn evil to good? It makes more sense to me that our first sin was the other technology, that we learned to turn good to evil, to turn sweet little babies into soldiers, creating warrior sorts of human groups like the ones who wrote those early Hebrew scriptures. Hmmm. Perfect segue, rare for me.

The technology in question is child abuse, and the data is in: rough treatment in childhood makes for rough adults. This is available knowledge today, out there, poised for the hundredth monkey to pick it up, and all before I made a penny off it of course, but here it is again, for free: childhood is rough in the warrior societies, that is an equation: rough childhood = warrior society. “Warrior society,” though, just what is that, really?

Google the term, you’ll see references to American aboriginal tribes, maybe the Samurai culture, maybe you’ll wind up in Klingon space.

What you won’t perhaps see is any reference to white people, to our own WEIRD selves. Apparently, the peaceful societies of England, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Genoa, Venice, etc., mowed down every “warrior culture” on the planet without being warriors themselves. Amazing, isn’t it? Those warriors didn’t know how to fight! It’s a good thing our Christian “religious society” came along to teach them, huh? I guess if I can scream it with sarcasm, I can also just say it.

“Warrior society” is a racist term.

It’s one of those things “they” (people outside of our group or in another group) have and “we” (people in our own social group) don’t. “They” are a warrior society, “we” just desire security. They are a warrior society – one dimensional, all they do if fight – while we “stand to defend” all that is right and proper, all that other stuff that is what we like to say we’re really all about.

If the world has “warrior societies,” then we all are, or those of us who are not are feeding the crops of those who are, game theory one-oh-one, right? They all are, they all must be. Otherwise what’s the narrative – “we used to have all these warrior societies, but we killed them all and now we’re all peaceful?” If you eat predators, you’re a super-predator; if you kill warriors, you are a super-warrior.

You got a border, you got an army? Then “you’re a gangster now, and there are no late starters” – Carlito’s Way. Particularly if you win the wars, you are a warrior society, again – this is real life, not some evolutionary amateur hour. I’m sorry – “you,” I said? I’m sorry, it’s “we, we, us – white people, Europeans.” We are a warrior society, in fact, human societies are warrior societies. And this is why we know in our bones that children must “be taught right from wrong” – because of that lowlife warrior society next door, that we have to keep kicking their asses forever, because the fools never learn. Damnit. I wish I could say “irony” without ruining it, but, well . . . there it is. (“Ian Malcolm,” Jurassic Park.)

It’s not about smarts so much either, aggression is not intelligence and violence is not intelligence. It’s not about smarts, because if you can slaughter an entire continent of warrior societies and still tell yourself you’re a peacemaker, or an “information society,” or some crap, then you’re a great bunch of warriors, but let’s face it.

You’re not too fucking bright.



Aug. 1st., 2017

A Scientific Foundation (for the Gentle Parenting Movement)

So that’s it then, I’m at the end of it.
The gentle parenting movement – a generic term, not sure anyone’s identifying this way – is largely an emotional response and it seems to restart in every generation. It needs a basis in science, and here’s a secret: if it gets one, it will reign sovereign over all parenting ideas to date because it will be the only parenting idea that ever did get one. OK, that’s not strictly true in a few senses, and even when it’s all laid out we’ll still have options, choices to make, but I’m jumping ahead. We need some science to back us up; I’m afraid a good heart and psychology hasn’t been enough.
When our stories our all told and the old view is unscratched, they are going to hit us with the gotcha question of why, why be so patient and gentle, what is the harm of a “pat on the bum?” This has been difficult to answer, and I’m sorry, our answers haven’t convinced them. Not only that, they don’t convince our kids to do it our way either: if the authoritatives of the world are keeping score, then they are winning a blowout, a no contest. Their story took over the world long before any of us were born. Another secret: science will back them up.
Surprised? Me too, let me clarify. Science will back them up, but it hasn’t yet, as I declared off the top. It will, but they don’t know about it yet, no-one does. My science will make sense of what they are doing, show the punishing parenting behaviour to be logical and biological – and it will show us the options we may have. Back to the question, why? My science, my answers:
Antisocialization is why, our false origin stories are why, and the write-protected status of this behaviour shows it to be terribly important by the near universal unconsciousness of it insured by an obfuscating social meme, the “consequences” rationale. Short version: our punishments do not “control” some default wildness or violence, quite the reverse. Antisocialization Theory shows humans to leverage abuse and our epigenetic options for it to enhance our own violent capabilities and impulses. So, here’s what we can say when they ask why: humans do that to create violence, and we do not wish violence for our children.
It’s what we’ve always said . . . but it’s been, I’m sorry, a belief system. Now, maybe for the first time, we’ve got a capital “T” Theory.
I am amazed, honestly. I never imagined I could build a story to support half of the namby pamby things the psychology and heaven on Earth types imagine, but that’s how it’s worked out. Original sin, even a biological, Darwinian version of it, is false, backwards. The logic of AST proves that we know ourselves to be born lacking aggression and we have found a way to solve that problem. That’s almost funny, that aspect, because today we have this low self image, we imagine our natures to be worse than our dreams because we are born violent, lustful, uncontrolled, when in fact, AST shows that we began this punishing behaviour in the past because we imagined our natures to be worse than our dreams because we were too passive, not violent enough to survive some competitive aboriginal situation.
But again, I’m at the end. It’s been nearly a two-year diversion where I was compelled to take a stab at answering the question, “why not spank our children” with more than blank slate, built-in naïve psychology, and again, surprised and amazed myself, success beyond my wildest dreams.
It remains to be seen whether I’m re-inventing the wheel with it, whether anyone’s doing this sort of work. I keep asking various luminaries if they have heard of this sort of work, and no-one’s suing me yet, so, I’ll carry on.

June 7th., 2017

Consequences. The “Mimic Meme.”

I’m searching for a term, and I must apologize to any readers who have suffered through this with me: Dawkins’ “meme” is not it, that’s only part of the concept I require. Sorry to admit this, but I finally looked it up yesterday: Dawkins’, Blackmore’s, Dennett’s memes are simply ideas and such imbued with a life of their own with us as their environment. It’s about transmission and propagation, the suggestion being that ideas and such can be viewed as propagating themselves, and the analogy is with genes, and how our genes propagate themselves. If anything, what I am trying to articulate actually runs counter to that. If I’ve been impossible to understand it’s because I’ve made a terrible error by misappropriating the “meme” concept. My “meme” will show us to be the active agent in its transmission – even if we don’t know it. But the concept I need to give a name to is something like a “mimic meme,” a successful, dominant wolf meme that propagates itself in the guise of a sheep.
The “consequences” parenting social construct is certainly a dominant meme, nearly universal. It’s the idea that we can alter minds and behaviour with punishments, and that we must, or at least should, that it’s “how we learn.” Wait, too soon, too specific. A simple example of the mimic meme:
. . . researching . . .
Stop that or you’ll go blind? Wait, what’s the real reason? *
Ah. Maybe in other religious injunctions, like pork.
It’s not kosher or halal to eat pork, and one is to understand that some patriarch delivered the law direct from God, and so, many people in the Abrahamic traditions don’t eat pork (or other things), based on their religion, so maybe “God’s people don’t eat pork” is the meme that stops them – but we think there’s a real world reason too, the one that the religious injunction is situated on top of, when I was young it was worms, trichinosis. I’ve since read somewhere that the shade on pigs was government libel and slander, that nations have no use for pigs, they can’t be managed and used as easily as goats or sheep, that pigs were private, poor peoples’ livestock and the campaign against them was part of a (an Egyptian) government promotion of more industry friendly animals during their massive foreign labour building projects. These are all memes, and the truth of the matter may be none of them, but it shows the idea, a cover rationale – authority, God says, or identity, God’s people don’t – that has the effect of keeping pork out of mouths, and a real-world effect, people not getting worms, sheep taking over the world, that results from it.
Does that work?
Now that must be a known thing, certainly that story is a known one, so the concept must have a name already, right? If anyone knows it, please, remind me. It’s something like evolutionary convergence, isn’t it, where memes take completely different paths to produce the same effect? I need the word to say that these memes are true and these ones are merely expedient. I think the relativism around these ideas has all memes as expedient and truth as an irrelevant ideal, but we still need a word to differentiate the ones we’ve seen through from the ones we have not yet pierced.
I think maybe “mimic meme,” for now, pending my future education.
Or maybe I’m coining the term right now, in real time. I keep thinking I’m decades behind in all this, but as this latest error shows, sometimes I’m giving academia too much credit; I thought Dawkins’ meme was something more complicated than it really is, I assumed he was way ahead of me. As it really, is, the “meme” idea is now a no brainer, a basic building block of understanding the world. So, for all I know, the mimic meme really did need naming, I mean if the basic “meme” did. I keep letting my low self esteem get in the way of my low esteem of everyone else, but logically, just because I’m slow doesn’t mean everyone else isn’t too. Maybe the world really is in such a pitiable state that a nobody like me can have something to contribute.
So. On the off chance, here’s the mimic meme concept: sometimes we have a bogus story to explain our behaviour that is unrelated to the behaviour’s actual function, and as long as the behaviour is maintained, so is the function, despite our ignorance of what is really going on, of what in the function is meaningful. Read your Bible, remain worm free.
Ha! Now they’re coming up for me, and if “because I said so” isn’t the model for all of the mimic memes to follow, then . . . well, of course, “because I said so” isn’t what we’re supposed to learn about touching the stove or stepping into the street, of course it isn’t the real “reason” not to do those things, but it’s intended to have the same effect as the real reasons, namely keeping us away from the stove and the street. That’s a mimic meme for kids, I guess, because it’s one we learn our way out of as we grow up, or mostly, anyways.
But the consequences mimic meme, that’s one we don’t apparently grow out of.
It’s at the heart of what I’ve labelled Antisocialization Theory, my grand unification theory of abuse. Here it is again, one iteration of the text of the consequences mimic meme:
We can alter minds and behaviour with punishments, and we must, or at least we should, that it’s “how we learn.”
One observable effect of this meme is that humans beat their children, in an organized and social way. (Oh, shut up, we do too. At least we have been doing, for a long time. If there are epigenetic changes in response to abuse, and there are, then abuse has been around for a long time, it’s in our genome.)
The true function – “bio meme?” I can’t start that yet, can I? – would have some same effect, that we beat our children “regularly,” as per the old political trap/joke, in this case. All that remains to dissect this entire mimic is the true function of these beatings, in evolutionary terms – and what other kind are there – the reproductive advantage to our genes. This answer I deem to have been hidden to date, rendered invisible by the mimic meme sometime in our past. The trick of the mimic meme is to make it so . . . you can’t get there from here.
But you can get there from psychology, from social science.
Come over to the office, stretch out on the couch, and tell me: how did zees beatings make you feel?
Ah! That was it, the very instant, did you feel it? That was the moment in time when social science first had the creeping thought to stop playing coy, stop running for real and see what happens when that dirty boy, biology, catches her. I fancy that I, like Einstein, have reconciled two incompatible lines of thought, that I can see convergence, where social science and its subjects have their place in the biosphere and geneticists don’t need to avoid talk of the agency of entire organisms.
Back to Earth, or almost, social science has some pretty robust data regarding statutory abuse, and much of it includes parentage too: the documented effects and costs of child abuse appear to be safe from the attacks of the geneticists, at least from the attacks I’ve read, and I think we can pretty much agree: the parental/caregiver effects that we do see and see the science to match them with are the effects of abuse, of what we term the damages of abuse, all of the varieties, physical, emotional, cognitive, etc., etc. There are things that look bad about this “damages of abuse” meme also, and I have written and will continue to point out the things that look bad from my particular point of view about it, but we can just face this, can’t we: you beat a human child, especially regularly, and social science has established that there will be effects. More later, this is huge, but this is what we need to carry across our cognitive dissonance back to the social/biological conversation we’re having about the consequences mimic meme: documented effects of child-beating, which have always been, since Gershoff, Durrant, et al., increased incidence of: developmental problems, cognitive problems (poor grades in school), addictions, violence, crime, self harm, and all manner of disorders.
There is a confound, that what is “statutory” is not peer reviewed science, but it’s also clear that more children are beaten than there are parents busted for it. In a discussion of science, we all need to know we’re talking about biology when we say “beatings” and not law, that it’s a physical definition of “beating” I’m using and not some higher-level abstraction about it, including the threshold required for action by the law. The truth behind these statistics is better than the statistics can ever be. So now, again, the reproductive advantage gained from this human behaviour, from these clearly “negative social effects?”
Here I will respectfully suggest that “increased incidence of violence’’ is only a bad thing for your enemies generally, and that this is where the advantage is to be found: not so much in the mate market as on the battlefield.
This increase played out most tellingly in our species’ developing situation, with our little human or proto-human troop in sometimes violent competition with the neighbors, and plays out forever in our aboriginal, hunter gatherer groups and today in our larger, more complex ones. From long experience, and I hope not to insult anyone, but I feel the need to stop and remind us all at this point that we’ve said nothing new, nothing extraordinary here, in fact nothing controversial. This is all still in the realms of ‘everyone knows’ and ‘scientists know.’ Let’s recap.
1. We all know the “consequences” meme, humans raise their kids with it
2. The meme has us all hitting our kids (maybe until now)
3. Hitting kids has known effects, among which are antisocial behaviours, violence, and crime
4. Persistent, selected for behaviours (meaning, humans hitting their kids, documented since at least the Bronze Age) should have a net reproductive advantage, or be tied to one
5. There is a majority consensus among scientists that something in that scenario, our long, aboriginal group competitions was what created our outsized craniums and all that goes with it
I imagine the ways in which “aggression” gives organisms a reproductive advantage are well documented, so that I shouldn’t have to show how “an increased incidence” of it (by any other name) would bring an “increased incidence” of its advantages. Suffice to say, we have probably not out-competed the rest of the apes by being nicer than them, and deep roots of war or not, there have been battles and many lines have not survived. Never mind the apes, there are at least five human species that have disappeared just in the last fifty thousand years, and those are only the ones where we’ve found the bodies. And yes, for the biologists, it does suggest a tournament sort of mindset, groups in competition, driving one another to be stronger, by any and all means. Including, and this is the central thing here: creating abuse where there was none in order to leverage our epigenetic response to it. The deep roots of war thing is not a given, it is an option that we exercise.
I’m not sure anyone has considered this piece of the puzzle, our conscious, very much active role in creating our own natures in this way.
I’ve seen it the other way around, war causing stress, causing an horrific documented rise in abuse of all sorts, parental included – as though something other than humanity were imposing this war business on us, as though culture created Man, as though the causality in it all were exactly backwards, as though the chicken came before the egg. Which, by the way, is not a riddle to a biologist, to someone who believes in evolution, someone who knows that there weren’t always chickens.
It seems self evident to me, that the increased violence and antisocial feelings and behaviour are the most likely relevant effects that the consequences mimic meme supports and camouflages by having us beat our children “to teach them manners.” To point out the disparity, what the mimic meme means, note that if one beating doesn’t create the manners we wanted, and if ten doesn’t either, then our consequences don’t work to teach manners – but to keep trying is not pointless, not to the true function. The kid may never say his ‘please and thank you’s, but if you persist, the true function will be accomplished, at least at a far greater frequency than the false one. **
Again, the true function being to produce antisocial feelings, much of what we WEIRD folks today think of as our damage, the negative outcomes we associate with abuse. To understand it, we need to imagine our evolving proto-human and aboriginal situation, the one we evolved in and for, before we found a way to live among thousands and millions of strangers in relative safety. I found the clue in The Nurture Assumption, something Harris had gleaned regarding primitive warrior societies, that while making her point about the children’s group being the relevant social group, where society is taught and learned, she told of how passive boys are teased and goaded to fight, to the point of being killed if they never do fight back. Aboriginal warrior society groups are small, and all the men are warriors, there are no resources for slackers. Violence is always the cure for a lack of it, and fight or die as a passive kid will have to do, there are no slackers and the tribe is strong.
That’s not the consequences meme in action, but it proves the point that abuse is how you make a soldier of a human who isn’t one, or enough of one, and that is antisocialization. It works straight up like that too, it doesn’t require self deceptions or unconsciousness, it only requires the beatings. The mimic meme, that just prevents us from stopping it even when our goals have changed, keeps the behaviour safe from tampering by our fickle, conscious minds. (Probably for the solid reason that just because my family, my group sees it and decides to stop – and I did in fact – doesn’t mean the neighbors all had the same insight at once. This would amount to a lethal meme mutation, perhaps.)
I am imagining that our goals are changing, have changed, at least most of ours. I think it’s time, since many of our goals are moving already, to examine in what realm and direction it is we are hoping to move. I know my personal parenting goals changed long before I had worked out what the “normal” parenting practises were in support of. I offer this insight, my view, for knowledge, for posterity, not because I have a plan for us, not because I think we should change what we’re doing now, but just to put it out there, get it into our heads, and maybe in small ways, maybe a little more often we start to remember that abuse in any measure is to make us soldiers in some measure, and that it really isn’t necessary to show a kid how the toilet works.
Maybe when we see the horribly antisocial act of some criminal, we can stop imagining that society did not nearly intentionally mandate that the criminal and all of us be antisocial to some degree, and consider that rather than that our parenting and social efforts upon them have failed, that our conflicting efforts to antisocialize them have simply succeeded too well. I’m sure a case can be made for the selection of berserkers, that until we WEIRDs took over, they had their place in our aboriginal societies, in our warrior cultures.
When a better meme inhabits our minds, things will begin to make sense. I imagine, if the idea can even get started (it’s probably a lethal mutation, so possibly unlikely), then we’ll have a better idea what to do about it in another generation or two.
I feel I’d be somehow lying to us all if I don’t address this about it, the non-viable mutation aspect.
This stuff is dangerous.
I’m not a hundred percent sure of this, but the existence of this pervasive meme suggests it’s something that we at least think is mission critical, that our child-beating behaviour is something we have set up and then built this protective cover over, because it’s a survival mechanism, one we at least think we shouldn’t have access to, like we think elected officials shouldn’t have the power to change voting laws. Any human group who thinks to stop doing it is at dire risk from the neighbors who have not, we think, so the human groups who are still here to talk about it have locked that door and lost the key. Forbidden fruit, this sort of self-knowledge? Perhaps. Again, an obfuscating meme that protects a behaviour that controls for aggression – and this is what I’m trying to describe – there is some lifetime achievement Darwin hubris award for the fellow who messes that up, isn’t there?
OK, fine. I’ll do it.
Hold my beer.

June 7th., 2017
* I guess biology does offer one. We say “stop that or you’ll go blind,” and if any of us do stop, then even more young ladies get pregnant, maybe.
** insert a rapidly growing list of epigenetic effects that function based in adversity of environment in childhood, and the general idea of genetics and epigenetics somewhere in here. I’ve considered it as a given.

The Abusive Ape Theory, in Pill Form

I’m a moron, because it took me my entire fucking life to figure it out, but I’m going to see if I can fit it into a tweet.

The “consequences” parenting construct is the child-rearing model for warrior societies, possibly meaning for human societies, albeit with exceptions. The efficacy of our consequences has always been debatable, but the evidence of the effects of abuse are clear, and it is these effects that human parents can and do create in our children. This is the power of nurturing and of parenting. This process I call antisocialization, our socialization to the dark side of things, our fears, our hate, and our violence. The truth behind the “consequences” social meme is that we are self-actualized warriors, that we discipline our children for reasons that some of our fathers told us: we deem ourselves to be too nice, and we have learned that abuse toughens us up. In genetic terms, we have learned to operate our own epigenetic levers, the ones that respond to adverse, abusive environments. Antisocialization Theory says that Christian Original Sin is a part of the “consequences” social construct and that in reality, humans know themselves to be too nice by our natures to compete with the neighbors, that indeed, we are born sinless.


May 19th., 2017

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Six – Abuse

What I offer as the child-rearing paradigm for groups in conflict is rather bare-bones, I wanted to go after the core of it; I really think to change anything we kind of have to change it all, all the way up from the bottom, because everything is what it is in relation to everything else, and you can’t really change anything if there are connected things that aren’t allowed to change also. Truth to tell though, there are a lot of other ideas around the central metaphor, in supporting roles, like the previously mentioned Christian original sin, one of the theories we have come up with to explain the necessity of the consequences. Others theories attempt to explain why sometimes the causality in the meme pans out and sometimes it does not, ideas about the differences between consequences, discipline, punishment, and abuse.

They’re pretty much all rubbish, I mean, these hypotheses pretty much only make sense within the paradigm, within the paradigm’s special rules of logic.

From AST, all of those things are the same, and so the differences don’t explain anything big. It’s what’s common that explains the big things. The central idea of AST means that the worst, most despised and illegal of the four – abuse – is the operative one anyways, so the differences disappear. Inasmuch as the other three words include a measure of abuse, then that is the degree to which they serve the primary function of antisocializing the recipients and what marks the gradient between them is something secondary or further downstream. It’s not about the education value either, they simply appear to be the euphemisms required by the meme, really bringing no added value, none of the additional specificity we would expect from synonyms.

I hope this point isn’t unavailable to a possible reader who hasn’t bought in yet, one who doesn’t like AST so far and identifies with the consequences, uh, approach, that each metaphor has its application and its prerequisites. Per the consequences meme, the results of our methods are positive things, the kids get ‘better,’ whereas with the AST or the ‘abuse meme’ perhaps, the results of our methods are what negative experiences produce most immediately and simply: stress, and pain, and the need to pass it on. The rule that positive things ensue from ‘discipline’ while negative things follow from ‘abuse’ requires that the two causes be different animals, even opposites, and this arrangement is stressful to support because the two things can appear identical to the naked eye.

So AST says it’s all one thing, abuse, meaning negative experience, by any other name. The other terms, I think we can pick one to reference, let’s say ‘punishment,’ and postulate the meme’s meaning: so what is punishment?

A technical sort of definition is this: it’s the imposition of an aversive by an authorized person to modify a behaviour, but that’s the logical kernel only, the principle of deterrent. What is it we think we’re doing when the deterrent has failed, when we are bringing the consequences? I’m afraid I must seem to be hurling accusations here, because my theory is we don’t really go that far, we don’t really break it down and we don’t really have a concrete idea of the mechanics of it. It’s always one of those things, ‘logical’ within the meme, something like ‘it hurts, so you learn’ – the “so” in there appearing to provide the causation. So how about if we speculate about it now, if we really haven’t before?

I have a pet theory, although  I don’t suppose it’s critical to AST.

We think we’re hobbling our miscreants.

It’s something like it, right, at least analogous? When we specify and administer a punishment for an unwanted behaviour, we seem to think that we are able to inhibit specific behaviours, like we can break a leg to cure running away, we hope we can break something, hurt something to make the behaviour, uh . . . unavailable in the future. Further to that, it’s a mental leg we’re hoping to break – that is to say, something in the brain.

It’s a thought, some idea like that would seem to be behind our discipline – again, if ideas were, or if those ideas were the salient train of thought. It’s not that far off, either, so close that the confusion is pretty forgivable. We do indeed break something in the brain with this abuse, it’s just that the process isn’t as surgical as we hope; we’re breaking more than just the part required for one-off, individual behaviours and I’m afraid the damage is a little more general than that. So, rather than our hoped for conditioning against certain behaviours, what we get is this general antisocialization. This is why antisocialization theory holds the effects of abuse to be the true and evolved function in human lives, because while the ostensible goals of our punishments are often unrealized, the antisocialization is accomplished in a reliable and understandably causative way.

Another way to say it is, if the true point of our discipline is to antisocialize, to make us all meaner soldiers, then abuse has always been the point and no distinction need be drawn between the “positive” practices of discipline and consequences and the “negative” experiences of abuse. By AST, it’s all abuse, and so we have crossed the line from nurturing (prosocializing) to damage (antisocializing) with the first pat on the bum. From a parenting perspective, while there is plenty of work to do, the question of what is discipline and what is abuse disappears. Truth is simplicity, in a sense, sometimes. I know I’ve been pussyfooting around it, but that’s the message.

When we punish our kids to make them better, better means antisocial, pre-configured for conflict, that’s the kind of better “consequences” gets us. When we bring it too hard or our kids just get some sort of unlucky, the damage we see, the madness, or crime, violence, self-harm, etc. that we see is not something going unforeseeably wrong, something happening in a new direction, this is simply more antisocialization than we wanted, simply too much of this “good” thing.

It’s simpler, when you get it, almost a single force or a single principle to replace two sorts of knowledge we’ve had to compartmentalize to get on with, the apparently opposing “principles” of the socializing influences of structure and discipline and the damaging influences of abuse. And it seems pretty straightforward what we’d do if we saw it, if we really let it sink in.


Mar. 11th., 2017

Here’s the whole series:

and a bonus nipple-twister:

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Five. Unintended Consequences

OK, the blog I decided was part four for logical order, I wrote that a month or two ago, but I wrote part three over the last few days. Things took a sudden turn for the dark there, I’m afraid, so if you saw the one about what we think we think about ourselves before and have also just come here with part three freshly in mind, I apologize for it, especially for the emotional slap at the end. That was uncalled for, but what can I say? I’m not editing it out, it’s me. I am uncalled for. It probably cost me most of my potential buyers there, though. I don’t know why I do it, why I must make listening to me even harder than it is, why I so badly need not only to be appreciated, but at my worst.

I’m sorry. This one will be different, I think.

I know I’ve turned the common wisdom over with this, the causality goes from ‘discipline to make us civilized humans as opposed to wild animals’ to ‘abuse to make us crazy and violent beyond how we are may have been in the wild,’ and sure, that’s on the dark side of the spectrum, but let’s turn it over a bit, try some different angles. AST is a giving the devil his due sort of idea, but what if we take it on and then argue, see if this devilish idea can survive giving God his due.

I’ve said the point of human adult on child violence isn’t that the child learns better how to live indoors and not break dishes, that it is rather the effects of abuse that made us tougher and more successful than the other apes and other human species, but we do mange to get on indoors and not break things, and we do show more emotional range than may be required if war and conflict were all there was to being human, don’t we? So the existence of the meme may guarantee the ‘consequences’ get dished out, but looking at it the other way ‘round, the sense of the meme kind of insures that we spend a lot of time driving our kids and speaking to them, giving instructions and commands. From AST, in the coldest, economic, evolutionary psychology terms you could say these are primarily excuses for the abuse that we need to compete with the abusive neighbors and their kids – but all those lessons, perhaps a sort of unintended consequence of our warrior code was that all that teaching and talking took on a life of its own. All that learning may have been of less immediate, survival level importance than the antisocialization lessons, but we have studied and we have learned because by the metaphor by which we are raised, we know what happens when we don’t get our homework done.

AST describes the same world, but the causation is flipped: they didn’t give us the strap to teach us math, they challenged us with math so they could give us the strap! Bad news is, we got the more visceral, biological lesson, and we’ve been antisocialized. Good news is, we learned math. Oh, no, I know, it sounds dark again, and just backwards, same world with a bad attitude, but it’s not. From the existing place, the metaphor of consequences, things don’t make sense. From the existing place, the metaphor of consequences, all we understand is the part about the math and we don’t understand what it is we do and how we create ourselves in a violent vision of how we need to be. It means we can never really understand abuse or conflict, and that’s a bit of a big deal. I’ll try to make the case in the next part. For now, we’ll let this one stand as having said that our human civilization seems to be a secondary effect, a sort of unintended consequence of our self-antisocializing ways, and of course, I don’t think anyone thought becoming technical and civilized was a goal, I don’t think Bill Hicks’ version has been positively peer reviewed. I think science assumes our bizarre behaviour to be an unintended consequence of something or other – so maybe it’s of this antisocializing thing.

It’s not out of line with the general idea that we are the most complex challenge we face and so that it is we that have been the evolutionary pressure that produced this large bubble of a brain and skull, is it?



March 10th., 2017

Here’s the whole series:

and a bonus nipple-twister:

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Three

I think perhaps a creative recap first, a summary with some adjustments.

I plagiarized Dawkins’ idea of the meme, the social construct or metaphor (but there, I’ve cited him now, sort of. Honestly, I thought I’d simply deduced it myself in this instance, but “meme” was Richard’s word and concept. I still confess to plagiarism only jokingly and with respect. I think the idea is so clearly a great and true one that no-one gets to own it for long. Part of the logos now, Richard, congratulations and sorry about the money). I imagine Dawkins came to the same conclusion as I did regarding these memes: they are goal-oriented demons and the impartial, universal truth is rarely one of their goals. I then tried to describe the meme that our child-rearing seems to exist within, and expressed it as follows. I wondered, and I asked:

what is the goal of this meme – what must happen and how consequences make it happen and about how what must happen might never happen without our consequences -? What happens because of this story?

The first thing that jumped out at me was that believing it brings us a sense of control, that this is what the meme offers us, and this seemed to take us to the next link in the chain, what does this confidence, this sense of control mean, what happens because of it more than its opposite? That would seem to be that we bring the consequences with something between bias and faith, and so I thought, perhaps the consequences themselves are the most salient thing, the thing the meme ultimately supports, or rather the effects of our “consequences.”

Which are?

I said elsewhere recently, what we’ve proven to date regarding the effects of parenting generally, including parental discipline, are literally nothing good, meaning nothing, or bad things. The desired qualities of parental efforts do not show up in adult personality testing, that’s our nothing, after a hundred years of searching, as per Rich Harris. What we do have for evidence, however, is the bad things, as per Elizabeth Gershoff and Joan Durrant, for a good start.

Evidence from the dark side is overwhelming, good evidence of what we call the negative effects of physical punishment and abuse. These documented effects, increased incidence of violence, crime, addiction and self harm, and poor grades and cognition, these are what we are left with as the real, measurable effects of what adults can do to children. All that is required to complete the calculation is to realize that if positive parental nurturing counts as “parenting” despite a serious dearth of evidence, then negative parental abuse must also count as “parenting” and if it could be, then it surely would be even if it carried only a small portion of the evidence that we know it does. Also stated elsewhere recently – “Parenting” is defined as a positive influence but stubbornly refuses to show up that way in the testing.

Socialization researchers, there’s your proof, just step over to the dark side, we’ve got piles of the stuff out back.*

I know we don’t like it, I know we all need to think we have a positive effect on our children, but this is the data. My boss explained it to me once, that it doesn’t matter that I fudge my timesheet, that the reality of what I produce for the company and the data I provide them for their micro-management of me do not match. In conflict, the reality is not considered, only the data. That is the data that the accountants must use if they are to justify their positions, so the official story, the politically correct, phony paper version of reality is what moves the world. The only data is the data we must work with. If it were science, if there were any chance that the truth of my timesheet really mattered to anyone and might change the world for the better, I’d worry about it, maybe pull up my socks. But in this case, the data that abuse is what parents can do to leave measurable effects on children is not pulled out of my or anyone’s backside. This is the data, and it’s real.

I know, I hate it too, I would love to think I had a positive effect on my children, but there has been a reversal in our motives. The humanist gains we have made place us at odds with our aboriginal behaviours; it seems that what our “nurturing” does for us is produce these documented effects, increased incidence of violence, crime, addiction and self harm, and poor grades and cognition . . . that’s what it looks like today. This is what warriors look like in peacetime, and that is what has changed: we’ve specialized, we aren’t all soldiers and many of us today have more peaceful goals. (Maybe what I left out of the list of effects, depression and mental illness, maybe these are exactly what we may expect for an organism raised to be a warrior but in that way benched for life.) This is sort of a new problem, maybe inside a few hundred thousand years old, that big bunches of humans for whom this propensity for fighting is less of an asset and more of a liability exists, and perhaps it’s a very new problem that they have begun to outnumber the warriors.

The consequences meme is the child-rearing model for groups in conflict, this is what I’m saying:

. . . what must happen is people must be antisocial enough for fighting the antisocial neighbors, and how consequences make it happen is by hurting and maddening people in childhood and about how what must happen might never happen without our consequences because however rough, tough, and unreasonable people were before, they will be more so after the consequences . . .

This is my answer, this is the goal of the current (and evolved) paradigm for parenting: it means we bring the consequences, and the kids grow up crazier, tougher and meaner than they would otherwise have done.

Kind of the opposite of what you tell everyone, isn’t it, Mom?

Whoops! That wasn’t the artist that time. Who gave that bitter, pissed off little child victim a microphone? I guess we’ll just wind it up there, hope to cut our losses. Have a great day, Folks.




March 7th., 2017


*Monty Python, “The Life of Brian.”


Here’s the whole series:

and a bonus nipple-twister:

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part One

I can’t commit to one thing or another.

Art or science, I mean. It’s a self image thing, I know I don’t have the education for science, but I also can’t compete artistically, so . . . so I’m afraid I abuse them both, using one as a hedge against the other, doing disservice to all. We’re all special, though, right? I like to imagine that I rule in my field – it’s just that my field doesn’t, what’s the word, exist. If it did, I figure I’d be the go to guy, the SME, subject matter expert, and science or art be damned, just so long as someone listens to me. I can’t tell. Was that about even, half funny, half pathetic?

At this age, having studied this non-thing for much of my adult life, I have at last produced at least a name for it: Antisocialization Theory, or AST.

Having said that, perhaps I’m not using the term ‘theory’ in it’s most concrete way. It’s more like an attitude, or an environment in which to theorize, a framework. Now, considering the incumbent attitude or framework around the issues that AST addresses, namely child discipline and child abuse, criminal justice and social engineering, we may wish to de-loft AST even more, because what AST would replace isn’t scientific theory either, or even a loose collection of scientific observations, really, it’s only a meme, or a loose collection of memes. What AST offers is perhaps not quite science, but a new metaphor, and considering the traction hard science lacks in the areas looked after by social science, a new metaphor is possibly the better and more powerful thing anyway. The old metaphor is certainly powerful, if not in its success then at least in its failure. What am I defining as our present metaphor about child discipline and child abuse, criminal justice and social engineering?

Talk to me about spanking, or if not, about “consequences,” that is the current story we tell ourselves.

I’ve heard it so many times online and IRL and I’ve argued against it from a powerless, ghost in the machine sort of a stance for so long that I can’t bear to type it for you. Go ahead, you tell me. I’m afraid if I say it I won’t be fair about it. But that story, about what must happen and how consequences make it happen and about how what must happen might never happen without our consequences – I knew it, see? I’ve got an attitude about it, I’m sorry – that is the current metaphor among proponents of any sort of discipline of children. That is the prevailing metaphor for parenting. If it’s not where you live, then never mind, consider yourself exempted.

I’m not sure if that demographic would enjoy their central parenting idea described as a meme, or even ‘not scientific,’ so I’ve decided to try to make the case that one, metaphors are all we have in these areas, and two, that as such they are sort of irrefutable in the sense that general rules of logic do not really work within them, that these sorts of schools of thought or social constructs are specialized sets of logical rules for the mode of operation established through the meme. The point is one I feel every time I make some point that seems bold and logical to me and see it crash unheard and unnoticed on the rock of the old paradigm. I’ve felt it from the dullest and the brightest folks imaginable, my ‘logic’ and yours cannot hear one another. Yes, me too: the “consequences” story lacks causality for me, the conclusions simply don’t follow. Having said that . . .

Despite that we all must think we’re right, that we are dependent upon our own brains and faculties and so there is no percentage in thinking we’re not up to it, the overwhelming numbers of people living the consequences narrative arrayed against me in this clash of metaphors have convinced me to treat it as a fair contest, a level playing field. They – you – might be right. Or, it may simply be a matter of that metaphors aren’t right or wrong, they’re just preferable or not, they’re just taking us closer to our goals or not – in which case it’s the goal that is the sanity test for the meme. The point of that sentence was that reality is not a check for the meme; who needs a metaphor if it’s identical to reality? Metaphors are for when the reality is either unknown or unfriendly to our goals.

In the case of the prevailing child-rearing metaphor, I think I can lay out clearly that it’s the latter, that in other contexts, when speaking from the other of our two faces about it, we do indeed know this reality. That only one side of our personality knows it means that one side is at odds with the goal. I want to leave us with this question for now, having spent this entire blog merely trying to set up the context for it. Again, for this meme, fill in the generalities for yourselves –

. . . that story, about what must happen and how consequences make it happen and about how what must happen might never happen without our consequences . . .

 – what is the goal?

I know, everybody knows, but please, indulge me. Write your answers down (use the reply button, I promise not to be confrontational about it) if you’re following me, if you’re following this train of thought. It is far too easy to rationalize our way out of this little trap I’m setting when it all takes place between and so behind our ears, in the privacy of our biologically motivated minds.

Damnit, look at that, will you. The artist has chloroformed the philosopher and taken over again, apparently dosing himself in the process. Sorry folks, all I can do is switch off his microphone. Next time.


March 5th., 2017

Here’s the whole series:

and a bonus nipple-twister:

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Four. Human Nature – or Let Me Tell You What We Think of Us

OK, look. I just know it’s wrong, OK?

I have a sense for these things, I have a sense for the thought behind the thought, where someone is coming from, and as a writer, I know that half the battle is always about what you don’t say. There’s a world of literature in the space between sticking to your point and flat out omission and there are many ways to misdirect. Having made these claims, I know my internal moral sense is not science. I know I need to make a case. Sorry – what’s wrong, right?

It’s the ‘genes are traits’ stuff, or the ‘genes are behaviours’ meme that the science kids are championing. Besides anything deeper, right off the top, there appears to be a serious mismatch between the question and the answer: it’s a problem when nouns are provided as explanations, generally, or at least it’s a problem for me.

When we search for an answer, it’s a cause for something that we seek – and we might think a cause would be something that happens, not so much something that simply exists – but often what is given is only a complex sounding thing. If it fails to illuminate, sometimes it can mean that we don’t yet understand the noun, even to the point that we don’t understand that it is one, that the answer we are offered is not a verb, not an action, a motion, or a process at all.  Of course, processes have names and can be referenced as nouns, but therein lies plenty of opportunity for obfuscation, and a certain percentage of listeners will never stop someone to ask them what the word means. History has a list of such things, notorious to the modern atheist, scientific mind, and they include royalty, divinity, infallibility, destiny, fate . . . religious sort of “things” like that. Closer to today, one might list soul, self, mind, morality . . . all nouns, all things, with no description of what’s happening.

“Genes,” as an answer, shares this property.

Having said that, today I’d like to start with ‘consciousness,’ although it’s not really the topic, because it goes to our natures, because, ‘consciousness’ of what, exactly? I’ll be honest. This isn’t my first time through this document, and in the end, I’m not debunking consciousness or our natures: My real target noun is ‘aggression.’ I wanted to say that once, but let’s leave it in the background. By the end of this, all will become clear.

Humans have consciousness; this is a recent fallback position for the common sentiment that was once perhaps that humans have souls, or divinity, along with the idea that we alone of animals have it. The idea has failed, fallen to human testing of apes, dolphins, crows and maybe more animals, tests that show these creatures pass tests that human babies don’t or something. But I don’t disagree generally; we have an outsized share of it, probably in all of its aspects. If consciousness means awareness of self, then I imagine that the less lofty sounding aspects of it might be attention paid to self or self-involvement. Half of what we do is navel gazing – well, half of what some of us do is. Of course, when we’re looking back through history, anything there is to read came from the sort of introspective person that does. Half of the history of human thought consists of navel gazing, of people wondering just what it is that people are and just what it is we should be doing.

It’s a question that there is no getting around.

If you’re ever wondering what to do with yourself, or are given any sort of choice, then it helps that you know what you are – clearly, that is the function of ‘consciousness.’ Having no concept of one’s self could get us into all sorts of trouble, even fights we don’t win. So, consciousness is certainly a human trait, but not solely or absolutely, and neither is consciousness absolute when we see it, either: we may have consciousness, but we do not have full self-knowledge, meaning we know enough about ourselves not to wrestle grizzly bears, but not so much that we know what to do with ourselves in our spare time. I think we all agree, determining what human nature is and the search for self- knowledge and consciousness are the same. We’re a social animal, we have a lot of policy sort of decisions to make for one another, and so it matters what human nature is, it matters just what it is that we are. Wait for it, though . . .

. . . failing that, it matters just what it is that we think we are.

And it has failed so far, so what we think we are is going to be the best we have to work with. Consensus regarding what we are has failed at least, so this is the state of things. To the degree that we behave consciously and rationally at least, we behave predicated on what it is we think we are. We behave largely biologically and tribally, and unconsciously to be sure, but to the extent that we plan our behaviour, to the creation and evolution of public policy, laws and institutions – and to the creation of parenting books –  in that much, we base our choices on what we think we are, on what we perceive to be human nature.

No surprises there, right?

Some think we are as God made us, some as evolution has sculpted us, some think we are born loving and good, some that we are naturally selfish and aggressive, some that we are unformed until the world forms us.

If I’ve forgotten anyone, I’m sorry.

My experience living and reading in the largely Christian West combined with my interest in punishment-free childrearing led me to think the consensus in those regards was this: we think some dilute version of Christian original sin, or that evolution means children are untamed, and so we spend a great deal of energy controlling, deterring and punishing children in our efforts to “civilize” them. It was cultural, I thought; most folks have never heard of Augustine or original sin, but it was difficult for me to understand the control and punishment of human children without postulating some negative default condition that the adults were combatting, without thinking that the parents seemed to be postulating one. That idea satisfied me for a time; it was true enough, close enough for television, or rather, psychology.

It wasn’t close enough for science though.

Again, most Western folks don’t know or care for Augustine or Paul (neither do I, don’t get me wrong), and at any rate we were all sinners in the Old Testament as well, right from the start: God created the heavens, and saw that it was good, the earth, and saw that it was good, the beasts, birds and fishes and saw that they were good. Then God created man, woman and knowledge, and saw that it was not so good, for the rest of the book! My apologies if that is not funny . . . it only means that at least the Jews and the Muslims will have some version of ‘all humans are sinners’ in their lives too, not just the Christians.

Notwithstanding, parents don’t speak in the same terms as we navel gazers do. When I can say ‘we beat our children because we think if we don’t they will naturally turn out wild or evil’ in the context of parenting, I can get away with it, but of course, chaos theory rules all and the truth is very different. I was wrong: it’s nothing like original sin, not even close. That’s what we think we think, but we really don’t. Let’s back that up: so, if we did think that, if we did think that we assume our children to be biased towards wildness or evil, and so we try to discourage that with deterrents and punishments, then there may be more to discover regarding that narrative.

First, when did we start to think it, and why?

Leaving aside the religious believers for whom there is no evolutionary past but only a moment of creation for now, it would seem to be a story that requires the trappings of civilization like possessions or human hazards like fires and weapons, reasons why the children cannot be wild and uncontrolled. However, like many guesses about the past, it’s bound to be a chicken and egg kind of a thing: does this story have us as a self-hating ape that beats its children because it thinks they’re evil, evolving with time and becoming human? Or do we postulate a sort of reverse evolution, where we found ourselves evolved, super-complex human adults whose babies still appeared to stubbornly arrive as wild little apes and so needed to be civilized individually, by force if necessary?

The first option would seem to have support from Sapolsky and his baboons, but the final many years of his Keekorok troop might seem to prove the idea itself as at least not always true, perhaps lending weight to my idea that we only think some such thing by default. (An accident wiped out the ruling cabal of alpha males and the troop became far more prosocial, even making converts of male baboons that moved in.) There certainly seems to be an entrenched system of abuse that creates and supports baboon social structure and hierarchy usually; clearly primate abuse predates humanity. Most people don’t know much about that, though, so although it may be part of a scientific explanation, it probably has no bearing on what human parents generally think. I don’t suppose anyone has taken the next step in this train of thought and no-one has perhaps asked that question before: did we evolve from a punishing ape, or did humans invent organized punishment? If no-one has considered the origin of this human behaviour before, perhaps that is a clue that it’s a behaviour we rationalize from our culturally Christian (or culturally Jewish or culturally Muslim) selves, perhaps we are lazily falling into seeing our child-rearing from the religious POV where it didn’t begin, it simply is, as though it always was.

I don’t think anyone takes this model this far, but if pressed, I imagine any advocate for it would think this human practice is a modern one: for the religious, everything is some sort of modern, and for the evolutionist, perhaps they think they are contending with their children’s wild and primal natures, perhaps they assume that we’re born a little too natural. It gets murky fast, when you don’t trust yourself, when you have to guess at your own motivations. Of course, we started this discussion saying that our very natures are unknown, so in this conversation we have to admit that our motivations are also mysteries. So, as to when did we begin to think it?

I’m afraid it’s stumped me within this paradigm.

For the ‘why’ we must examine the other side of the coin. A discussion of what we think our natures are perhaps requires some look into the other concept, what we think nurture is. Why did we begin to think there was something bad about us by default, and what made us think we could change it?

First of all, it’s a positive sounding word, nurture, but that isn’t the primary meaning. I think nurture is best stated as the software side of our house, that it isn’t concerned with hardware and biology but thought and speech, with what we think and what we do. To what extent our lives and inner lives affect us and our choices: that is the nurture principle, at least the version of nurture that seems to be opposed to any notions of hardwired traits and behaviours in the classic old debate. It’s a little jarring to say and hear, but when we are beating our children, we think we are operating in the nurture sphere, hoping to change minds and therefore behaviour.


In the march of scientific progress, nurture is taking a beating these days. Nature in the form of biology is showing all manner of visible proofs, while nurture cannot seem to show any. Nurture is safe, of course; it can’t be destroyed, because we are all aware of some time in our lives (perhaps daily) where we learned something and therefore changed our behaviour. We know it’s a force within our own selves and our lives, so we can’t very well imagine that teaching our children has no effect; it’s another article and another subject, but those who suggest any version of ‘nurture is not real,’ such as ‘parenting doesn’t matter’ are just plain wrong, as Steven Pinker said too. It’s not a bluff. I have the arguments ready, but I’m trying to stick to talking about what we think, and what we think we think, not about scientific truths just now. We may get there, but let’s not hold our breaths.

(Now that I’m learning a little biology, now that ghost in the machine ideas are working their way out of my thoughts, of course there really is no division to be made between our hardware platforms and our software, turns out, thought, speech, emotions – these are all physical phenomena, neurochemistry. That slides the entire nurture world back under the ‘nature’ umbrella. Nurture is just post-birth nature, meaning the environment or just simply the world, but it’s still a useful distinction in one way: at least we’re highlighting the difference between the things we do and the things we’re consciously trying to do.  We can still talk about it. Words are tools to hold things, not the things themselves.)

The nurturing idea, as it applies to childrearing is deeply set. I find myself casting about for a better, more manipulative way to say this, so I’d better go the other direction and de-fang it instead: I have the sense that we must have felt like we proved it to ourselves at some point, and we seem, as Judith Rich Harris said, unable to seriously question it.

OK now. Here’s where I hope I stop parroting other folks.

If the nurture assumption is hard to shake, if it seems self-evident or we have the sense I suggest, that it’s been proved already, then the narrative, our story should account for it. How do we imagine we proved it?

I mean, nurture generally, not a question. I think we’ve all told our kids not to leap into traffic and most of them didn’t, so it’s case closed, great job. I’m looking for something more specific, though, something that would cause this division in our minds, some experience of ours that places nurture somehow in opposition to our natures, or nature generally, perhaps – at least something to justify this endless, insoluble argument. Plus, of course, I’m talking about childrearing, our guesses about our own natures and how those impact our childrearing. That aspect of nurture, literal nurturing, childrearing, complete with deterrents and punishments seems to be something we don’t ponder, something we consider time-honoured and proven, so again: proven how?

Well, to back up again just a little, what have we proven today regarding parenting? Amazing to me that any answer this short could be true: nothing good, literally.

Of course, that needs a little explaining.

As so lengthily and painfully pointed out by Rich Harris and others, parental influence is impossible to detect in people’s adult personalities. We think that half of the variability of our traits is genetic and about half cultural or environmental, but that almost none of the environmental side is attributable to parents or parental efforts. I have questions, like is it personality parents affect or something else, but for now, I’ll go with it: ongoing and historical efforts to demonstrate parents’ influence have turned up squat. We keep trying, because as I pointed out before the nurture principle can’t be non-existent, but so far it hasn’t worked out, there is zero scientific evidence for parental influence.

One assumes that parental efforts are for positive things, though, so perhaps it’s fair to say that positive parental influence hasn’t shown up in the lab. Negative influences from parents, however, the effects of abuse or neglect, that is another matter, there are mountains of evidence for that. So not only do we have no evidence for anything good our parents do for us, but a world of proof for the bad. The evidences for negative outcomes correlated with physical punishment and abuse are myriad and robust – and it’s mostly family stuff, so we even have decades of genetic data, it’s not going to be useless for the lack of that either. So: zero proof of positive influence from anything parents do, deterrents, punishments and abuse included, as contrasted with all of the evidence pointing to the negative environmental power of some of those same things. There are a lot of very nice parents out there – and no evidence of their good influence, only of the damages incurred by the less nice parts of the children’s lives. So perhaps we ask ourselves this regarding the plot we are pitching ourselves.

If we’re telling ourselves that we believe that without our nurturing, our children will be bad or wild, then how do we continue to believe it when we see that the science says all we can do is mess them up? It seems pretty counter-intuitive; I mean, what kind of idiots do we take ourselves for? How do we explain it to ourselves except by using the obvious strategy of simple cognitive dissonance, I mean, of course? I realize, what else can we do with that information but ignore it, live with the conflict pending further discovery?

Are we there yet? I’ve lost track, what was the question again? Oh yes, why would we think that we think children are default some sort of bad and that we do what we do to make them better?

Whoops, that was close. I almost said it that time. I’ve tried to make the point that this proposition is part and parcel of the self-evident nurture idea, and that the nurture assumption is so strong, that we must think we proved it. I then wondered how so, and stated that we have not, even today proved it in a positive sense, but that we see the proof daily of the negative power of what adults and parents can do. Interestingly, today, this proof of the negative power of parenting is split off, and it’s become a popular meme for the biologists to say that parenting doesn’t matter. Tell that to abuse victims, is my answer. But still, somehow, this proof is not a proof today. “Parenting” is defined as a positive influence – but stubbornly refuses to show up like that in the testing.

Perhaps this very phenomenon, abuse and damage was our proof of the nurture principle in parenting in the beginning though, perhaps there was a time when beating our children was new or rare, and it was these real-world effects that proved to us that what we do matters. I have an idea, learned in grade school, that the most beaten of the children are out there beating the crap out of the less beaten ones, and I don’t think that needs a lot of mental lawyering to reconcile with the statistics of abuse. I didn’t see the advantage of it, the tough families in the city where I grew up. Sure, they beat everyone and if one couldn’t then his older brother could, but I figured they’d all wind up in prison, live short, thug lives – maybe in a more primal, aboriginal situation though, you want your family group to be the ones who win the fights around the neighborhood.

If so, if this was perhaps the first thing we ever tried to beat our children into doing – going out and terrorizing the neighbors – that works! The statistics of abuse tell us that that is the one thing that beatings do succeed at teaching, so if that was our maiden voyage into child-sculpting, then the first test worked perfectly . . . perhaps that was our proof. And – fair enough, sort of. That may place the timing of the development of this behaviour before modern times, because we have wiped out at least four other homos in the last fifty thousand years and those are only the ones where we’ve found the bodies.

So, with that perspective, let’s review that sentence, where I almost gave it away:

Why would we think that we think children are default some sort of bad and that we do what we do to make them some sort of better?

Just a few more little tweaks: it turns out that the ‘sort of bad’ that makes sense of it is sociability, that ‘what we do’ is beat them far more regularly than the other animals, and the ‘sort of better’ we’re talking about is meaner, tougher, being the sort that wins fights. So again, one more time:

Why would we think children are nice and sweet (which is a sort of bad in a warring sort of aboriginal environment) and so we beat them (which humans do a lot) to make them tough, mean and nasty (a sort of better in a competitive world of male-bonded primate troops as well as traditional human societies)?

Because that doesn’t clash with everything else we know about violence and abuse today, for starters. Because human (and all mammal) babies are clearly sweet and loving, for good reasons, they’re helpless. Because, isn’t that what your dad told you behind the shed? He was toughening you up, and Dad was a lot closer to the aboriginal, biological truth than the authors of parenting books.

Again, this is a conversation with too many layers: I’m not saying we just aren’t mean enough by default for life on this planet, only that we think so, and so because this is our core belief, we beat our children to make sure they’re as mean and tough as the neighbors, who we assume are beating theirs.

I really am not advocating for a version of human nature, my own version, or some Noble Savage, hippy-dippy version where we would all be sweet as pie and it would be the end of war and strife if we only stopped creating all of our species’ aggression, or any other one. I am advocating for a version of a core belief, advocating for what I think it is we believe or believed about what our nature is. I may be saying that abuse makes us mean (and crazy. Did I say that? Crazy, too), but I haven’t stated what I think our default level of mean, sans abuse, may have been – except that to say, whatever it is, however aggressive an ape we might be if left unabused, that with abuse, we are more so. I am saying that this core belief, that we think we are nicer than we need to be, has exponentially more power than the other story, the idea that we are born overly wild or aggressive, to bring a good deal of our thinking in line with reality, because this story makes sense of our rather unique punishing ways. Not only that, but I’m saying that this story’s genesis chapter seems to provide the proof that the nurture side of the old argument has been lacking in the minds of the biologists, because it is nothing to show that the power of a parent to alter a child is undeniable on the dark side of the parenting coin.

Our true natures, though?

I think we’ve been looking at it all upside down since perhaps sometime in the middle ages and sideways since there have been some number of comfortable, secure (OK, rich) people, like since ownership and possessions beyond your flint and spear, and so I think we haven’t had much of a chance at this puzzle, in fact, we probably haven’t made a true start yet. With this better first guess, I’m hoping we can make a better start. There is a ton of epigenetic information becoming known, much of it regarding abuse, and I think this better autobiography may help us to give it all another level of meaning.

It doesn’t mean we’re uncovering a core belief of ours that is objectively true, only that this is what we think is true. The difference is our response to the first perceived problem of our default nastiness – the dishing out of punishments to change it, makes no sense, while our response to the second perceived problem, meaning our perceived lack of aggression – the dishing out of punishments and other abuse, makes perfect sense and is corroborated in every way in many other contexts. I don’t hope that everyone will find this as revelatory as I do, but there are a few implications.

The original sin idea is dead wrong, backwards. We don’t think we’re inherently bad. In fact, we structure our entire lives around a core belief that we are loving and friendly by default and we spend our lives trying to rectify that perceived situation. Yes, I mean child-rearing and “discipline” today, still doing what it did for our ancestors far better than what we hope it might do for us today.

With all this mad, modern culture around us, we may think we have to guess or deduce our natures, or even discover our core beliefs regarding our natures, and this has been the answer we tell one another, or at least this is the answer I was born into, among the great unwashed of poor white North American culture in the latter half of the twentieth century, this opaque, plausibly deniable sort of Christian original sin. It’s going to be more difficult to picture how we could make such an unconscious error in a more primal state, so much closer to or still in the natural state, predators all around . . . if beatings calmed and civilized our children, one would think that would be a deadly mutation in rough, violent nature and would be quickly selected out.

I’m only saying why I can’t imagine our usual narrative playing out at all, so that as far as I can see there just may be no sensible when or why to it.

That answer again, that we figure we’re born uncivilized and they try to beat the culture into us, masks the true one, the deeper and nastier one, that it is the actual effect of our punishments and abuse that we experience, and the actual effects that make it a selected for behaviour. Being the scariest phenotype possible has been known to have its reproductive advantages. We’re like the Alpha Male species in a tournament sort of genus and I don’t think there’s any denying that our genes are out-competing those of the rest of the great apes.

This logic makes this deeper core belief at least sane if not correct, because it describes a true function with expected results. The core belief we thought we had, some form of original sin is not our true belief, and neither is it objectively true, while the core belief exposed here – that we could be meaner – is borne out by all the evidence of abuse’s negative outcomes, ‘meanness’ and violence being the point of half of them.

All of the available evidence points to the truth of that, that we could be meaner, who hasn’t watched people grow up and get meaner as they do? That’s called normal development. In the other sense, however, as in ‘I could lose a few pounds,’ that we should be meaner, perhaps half of us can’t imagine thinking about our babies today in that way, but I don’t think we really could see ourselves the other way either, believing that beige sort of original sin and that violence was the cure for it.

It makes for a bit of irony. If you’ve come this far, you may as well follow me all the way to farce: what we have here, what we are, is an adult that tells himself he thinks his children are born to be bad, so he beats the sweet, helpless little dears until they are violent enough to function as an effective soldier for the troop while telling himself he’s the agent of all that’s good and proper, the defender of civilization and his babies were the bad ones! Again though, sort of true, if you need soldiers, babies are maybe a “bad” choice. Ha.

It’s pretty much that we’ve just gotten “good” and “bad” all mixed up, all switched around. I hope that this is a step towards an improvement in our self-awareness, that the “good” we create with our discipline is perhaps not the sort of good we’re all looking for anymore.   In fact, in many ways, biology (behaviour?) doesn’t care what we think. It’s still working, like it must have since it began: we beat our children, and we win every conflict we enter into, at least some human does, and it doesn’t matter in that function whether we know why we do it or not. All that talk about why we got whooped, that was for the other narrative, the false one. Really, it’s to make berserkers of us.

Literally all of the evidence says so.



Jan. 20th., 2017


July 16th., 2017

Here’s the whole series:

and a bonus nipple-twister: